Only sixteen months ago, French producer Tchami quietly dropped "Promesses," featuring Kaleem Taylor, as an online release on Fool's Gold Clubhouse. The track, his first original, struck a chord immediately thanks to an aesthetic that is at once deep, upfront, catchy and progressive. Since then, Tchami's become the de facto face for "the future house sound" worldwide through a string of tracks and mixes that bridge the gap between clublife and festival stages. Last week, the re-release of "Promesses" on Ministry of Sound cracked the UK Singles Top Ten and Tchami was announced to the world-at-large.
Fan conversations about what "future house" entails have been bordering on pedantry ever since that genre definition flew out of Tchami's hands and to places he never intended. Once and for all, we decided to let the man himself clear it up: "Future house was not meant to be that narrowly oriented of an idea," he explains. "In my mind, future house was meant to be 'any kind of house music that hasn't been invented yet,' so I never considered it as a genre. I guess people made it what it is because my music was specific and leading to build a bridge between house and EDM, which isn't a bad thing."
As Tchami leapt out of the underground, 2014 unleashed an army of pretenders upon his aesthetic. Festivals world-round were populated by his frequency-modulated, mid-heavy basslines, and everyone from Martin Solveig and GTA to Liam Payne of One Direction have taken a crack. Suffice to say, the rinsing process is well underway.
This perpetual cycle of simulacra in modern dance music isn't something that seems to bother Tchami, though, who looks at the whole process with a near zen-like fatalism. "I don't fear it," he says. "I just know it will happen. This is the normal evolution for everything you can experience. The beginning is always exciting and full of hope. The only things that could prevent a genre from dying are the artists bringing maturity and complexity through an apparent simplicity. House music in general is full of mature-minded artists who understand the culture—I count on them to take it to the next level with me."
Still, that doesn't mean Tchami's not aware that every fresh-faced kid with a DAW and struggling producer looking for a quick fix are coming after his sound. "I make sure that I stay in a positive state of mind," he says. "The only answer to a problem is to create a solution. So I create new music."
Tchami's knack for forging new sounds and digging out choice underground acts is exemplified in his MIXED BY from last year—which remains one of THUMP's most popular mixes of all time. His process for discovery is pretty similar to yours and mine, though. "I find music mostly on SoundCloud," he admits. "I'm also closely listening to what's happening in the UK. They have their own world which has inspired me a lot, as much as hip-hop of the 1990s and 2000s or early 80's funk. Of course, I've been listening to Daft Punk and everybody around them in that era. The French scene is a constant inspiration for me. To be honest, DJ Mehdi was the artist with whom I felt really connected—still today. Now, I listen a lot to artists like Point Point. Their vibe is really refreshing."
As distinctive as Tchami's sound is his personal aesthetic. We've been trying for months to unravel the mystery behind Tchami's name, assumed on a traveller's excursion to Africa, and what he's trying to communicate with the clerical collar he sports while performing. Never quite an open book, Tchami did give us some further insight. "I don't want to be misunderstood on this one," he begins. "Like many people, I am a spiritual person, so the outfit I am wearing is reflecting my spirituality. There is no joke or mockery in this. Music is about sharing something deep with each other. I hope that what I'm wearing is leading people to listen to the music in a different way. I just want my music to make people feel good and hopeful for their own future."
One thing we can clear up definitively is how to pronounce the guy's name. "I just want to let them know that the "T' is silent," Tchami laughs. Funny as it may be, the name on the underground's lips for the past year has now entered mainstream relevancy, and while the rest of the world rushes to re-create his magic, Tchami's already on to the next one. "I just want to stay in my zone and connect people with my music," he says. "I'll keep doing it as long as I have something to express."