I first encountered Chris Conde at the Homeless 3:16 show, an Unofficial SXSW event hosted by MC Homeless in 2018. After a brief chat at that packed show/party, the following day I was able to catch his set at a related event, where we were both, in a surreal touch, supporting Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys. Conde had presented a rapid-speed set of technical rhymes over noisy electro-influenced production, accented by unironic voguing and a self-awareness in banter that only the seasoned performer can convey. We would cross paths a half-dozen times in the coming 24 months, and our conversations to follow coupled with some research helped flesh out who he is, and his artistic lineage.
For now over a decade, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and vocalist Chris Conde has been actively playing shows across the United States, featured everywhere from small clubs to large festivals. Matching abrasive punk antics with hardcore-rap presentation, Conde’s music harnesses industrial textures while delivering admirably acrobatic hip-hop lyricism. Ultimately, Conde’s aim is to communicate his journey of self-acceptance as a queer person and recovering addict, so that his listeners might connect with the universal theme of hope, and then on to self-actualization.
Tell us about the continuum between your “first” release Growing up Gay, and the more recent Conde Digital.
Growing up Gay was my life thesis. Like if I was able to only put out one record ever, that would be it. So the themes were basically hope, healing, overcoming adversity, and learning how to love myself. Conde Digital sort of goes further into this place of healing and highlights some of the more embarrassing or shameful things I was struggling with, like struggling with depression or learning how to be in a relationship, or financial woes. Every song on Conde Digital is about dealing with those uncomfortable emotions.
Live performance is (I assume) an enjoyable arena for you, having caught you live 3 or 4 times. You are not afraid of queering what can be perceived as hetero-normative spaces, tell me about the importance of that practice. You take a confrontational and punk-rock approach.
Because LGBTQ people are still barely getting a seat at the table in modern society, it’s important to inform people that we exist in forms and aspects of it. We are firefighters, football players, musicians artist and hardcore rappers. Everytime I make myself visible as a queer person from the stage, I help destigmatize the culture and help us all seem more human.
You have a long relationship with both folk-punk and noise-rap from your nascent years, tell us about that journey.
It’s funny because people think I do have a folk-punk background. In a roundabout sort of way I do I guess. But I grew up listening to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Cradle of Filth. Like when I was thirteen, I would pop in E 1999 Eternal (Bone Thugs-n-Harmony album, released by Ruthless/Relativity, 1995 – ED.) on my CD player and then listen to Cradle of Filth’s Midian. So, eventually in like 2004 I got into artists like Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom and Jose Gonzalez. So while I was writing raps I sort of took all these influences and morphed them. When it comes to noise-rap, I’ve always loved industrial textures and rapping over not-hip-hop beats, so when me and my friend Angel Marcloid of Fire-Toolz started making noise-rap in like 2009 it just felt right. She sent me harsh noise/power-electronic sounds with a weird beat and I just rapped over it. It’s on my first EP called Twisted Kite Strings. I may re-release some of those songs. It’s weird though, I don’t identify as noise-rap or folk-punk. I guess I’m an artist and my medium is hip-hop and that’s just the easiest way to digest my music because it goes in lots of different directions.
What is your preferred setting to deploy a Chris Conde show? What setting and mindset(s) make you feel comfortable to perform your music?
I like to mix it up, but I’m all about reading the room. Do the kids wanna mosh or are they chilled out and looking like they want to take a nap. I try to adjust my sets that way. But ideally I love to just unleash aggressive beats and loud-ass raps on an audience.
You have been a full-time writer for years for a music/arts weekly (SATX Current), and recently were moved to freelance status due to Plague.
If you feel comfortable, tell us about that transition. What are your feelings, what are your plans.
Covid-19 fucked shit up for lots of people (laughs)! I guess I happened to be one of them. Going to freelance isn’t a terrible thing. I loved being able to write as much as I did. But, I’m all about embracing change. I’m sort of ADD that way like, “Oh- shit’s gonna be different for a while, tight.” But yeah, as far as plans go I’m just trying to figure out ways to make money at the moment. I’d love to write for Rolling Stone and Hip-HopDX eventually, but I trust I’ll fall into what I’m supposed to when I’m supposed to.
Do you record at home? If so, let’s nerd-out. What do you use to record, and what mind-set do you need to be in to record or write lyrics?
I don’t really record at home. I mean, in a way I do. I use Garageband on my phone to write beats and record demo raps. It’s a great arena to get ideas out. But then I usually go to my friend Dillon’s house to record vocals because he’s got a great set up and knows how to capture what I’m doing. He’s also a sick rapper and goes by D.R.O., check him out when you can. As far as lyrics, I try to write as often as possible, but I’m so undisciplined with that shit. I usually only write when I’m trying to finish a record. But I don’t really need to be in any sort of mindset. I do like five minutes of stream-of-consciousness writing before I actually start to write though, to get all the bullshit out of my head first.
Many of us are sequestered at home presently, what are you doing aside from music to make yourself feel good? Any favorite Books/Television/Film/Lighting Effigies on Fire?
Haha! if I had effigies to light on fire, I would. I’m actually learning a lot of songs actually. I learned some Sade and Beyonce recently and I kinda just want to learn more, I don’t know. I write so much music that I want to learn other people’s songs at the moment. I also have been going live a lot on Facebook and playing so that’s been fun. But yeah, other than that I’m cooking a lot which has been fun and just doing video calls with friends and catching up with people.
You have some heavy sounds and vocals on your last 2 projects, and I don’t want to project influences on you…what (if any) are your Industrial/Noise-Rap/Metal influences…or if they aren’t influences, what do you like?
To be honest, I mostly listen to Atmospheric Black Metal and Post-Doom. I love artists like Chelsea Wolfe, Alcest, Schammasch, and Brutus. Really atmospheric shit that’s super heavy. It’s like what depression would sound like (laughs). So I don’t know. I think I’m super influenced by Nine Inch Nails and you can tell I’ve listened to Eminem. I don’t listen to Em at all now really, but he definitely had a big influence on the technicality side of what I do.
There are younger folks in the indie-rap milieu that feel emboldened and empowered by folx like you, F. Virtue, and others. What advice might you offer rappers/producers/djs who have a queer-forward leaning to their music or presentation?
I’d say just to keep it real always and not try to force anything. Tell your story because it’s unique to you. Your own experience, strength and hope is going to help someone else get through some shit in their life, so it’s important to tell our stories especially as songwriters.
You have not been shy about touting sobriety. Self-care is a personal topic, but if you feel comfy, tell our friends about the personal importance of staying sober for you and your art. A lot of folx are struggling at home, and they could be emboldened by your perspective.
I’d be dead if I didn’t get sober. It took getting desperate enough to reach out to a friend after trying to get sober for almost a decade. So, this thing is precious to me. I couldn’t do it alone, and I really don’t know very many people who claimed to have gotten sober on their own, so chances are, if you’re reading this and wanting to get sober, the odds of you doing it on your own aren’t high. There’s no shame in asking for help, when it comes to staying alive.
I like to get old-school, give us some shout-outs of the homies, crews, labels, and friends and people you want to big-up.
Ceschi and the entire Fake Four family, I’ve never felt so loved and accepted than when I’m surrounded by this crew. My queer artist homies in San Antonio – what up joto’s! All the homies, Chisme, my mom, Enongo AKA Sammus, the other label I’m on Atypeek (France) – thanks for everything, and to everyone who’s ever bought a Chris Conde shirt, CD, concert ticket or just said “Hi”, I appreciate the support.
On December, 6 2019 Fake Four Inc. Released Conde Digital, a five song EP produced entirely by Moodie Black, which is available via Fake Four’s Bandcamp page as well as all major streaming services.
If you want to donate directly:
Venmo – @chriscondetherapper
Cash app $chrisconde666
Paypal – [email protected]