No Limit: Channel Tres Interviewed

“It's just about me being myself, not being what other people want me to be…”

Each and every era is left with the remnants of its defining producers, commanding the essence of nostalgia. Up until this point, there has been a distinct quality in the recurring drum patterns ruling the dance, or the more sample-based melodies whittling their way across the spectrum of radio frequencies, dominated by a handful of rhythmically gifted individuals. It feels like these times have come to an end. Today’s sound is a free for all, and Channel Tres knows this.

Speaking to Clash on a Zoom call during some all-to-rare down-time, he sums up this current creative free-for-all. “I think people just want to have fun and see people being themselves. The world is open right now and you can do whatever you want… we just gotta believe you, you know?”

The Compton all-rounder – he’s a vocalist, producer, DJ, and more besides – embodies this shift pretty neatly. First landing on the scene in 2018 with debut single ‘Controller’, the 31-year old’s slick and sexy take on house music blurs all lines between its regional tropes and offsprings. Adopting the disco bounce of Chicago, whilst opening its arms to the more gritty storytelling of hip-hop, it’s a soulful fusion that can equally soundtrack a top-down road-trip or an impromptu Thursday night’s afterhours. Exactly for this reason, Tres yields the ability and ease to merge forces with Disclosure on one day; and Shygirl or Gus Dapperton on the next. Tyler, The Creator had never commissioned an official remix of one of his tracks – that is, before he heard Tres’ re-imagining of ‘EARFQUAKE’. That cannot be taken lightly.

As far detached as religion and the arts may seem, it’s an amalgamation of the two that first sparked Sheldon Young’s musical inclinations. Eventually developing an ear for the drums, keys, and guitar, it is amongst these spaces where he discovered the incomprehensible powers of song. 

“Church, for Black people… I don’t know how it is now, but growing up it was very artsy. We did plays, poetry, I was a director – it made me an arts kid. You learn about the spiritual effect of music, things will move you to tears… words will move you and chords will move you.”

Nevertheless, it’s a balanced diet of the greats, alongside the West Coast edge of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur and Ice Cube that immersed the youngster into a rich sonic landscape. You can hear it, too. At first listen, breakout single ‘Weedman’ extends past its no-nonsense G-Funk grooves, mingling with Channel Tres’ deep baritones. It’s a quirky snapshot of adolescence and the lengthy prowl for… well, as its title probably suggests: marijuana. “I remember before weed was legal, you had to have a weedman. Out here the weed man is always late. It was detailing that process of when I was 17, I would spend days looking for him and it has an underlying dark tone because it speaks of addiction.”

Fast forward to 2022, things are slightly different for the southern Los Angeles native. Fresh off of a milestone-worthy Coachella performance, the multi-disciplinary is starting anew, quite literally. This year’s EP ‘refresh’ proved a cathartic sense of release, stripping back the craft to its foundations of straight production, no vocals. “I was going through a certain period of my life where I had to change a lot of things. Just my living situation, the way I was moving in the world… I didn’t like it. When I first started making music, I would just make beats to put a mark on a certain chapter in my life, give it a title and make some art behind it.”

He pauses, before adding: “I hadn’t done that in a long time…”

It’s a seductive collection of tracks, running wild and free in its creative process one last time before entering debut album mode. Channel Tres doesn’t seem to feel the pressure though, preserving an indifferent approach to his upcoming, full body of work ‘Real Cultural Shit’. “It’s just about me being myself, not being what other people want me to be. My music has a purpose but I’m not gonna sit here and try to fucking make my music have this deep ass meaning when it’s just real cultural shit, meaning it’s really the shit I’ve been through in my life.”

Nevertheless, the contrasts between the ecstatic ‘Just Can’t Be Enough’ and the downtempo glaze of ‘No Limit’ point towards a sparkle in Tres’ ambitions with his new material, particularly in its live execution. The album is clear in its intentions: “the music is made for a band to perform…”

For those who have followed Sheldon Young’s trajectory: this is a turning point. Now ready to embark on his first headline tour, ‘Real Cultural Shit’ lurks around the corner in anticipation. Across an industry clouded by egos and facades, the forward-thinker remains firm in his core, artistic principles. The stakes are high, but Channel Tres’ dreams soar higher.

Closing, he tells us: “I believe that music comes from life and art is life…”

Words: Ana Lamond
Photography: Jack Mckain

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