Critically acclaimed DJ and producer Tchami had plans to full-throttle through his biggest year yet.
Seven years after revolutionizing modern electronic music with the invention of his own subgenre, future house — a hybrid of deep and progressive house sounds underscored by modulated basslines — the Parisian artist announced plans to finally unveil his highly anticipated debut album, Year Zero, via his label, Confession. In February, the chart-topping juggernaut released the album's first two singles, "Proud" and "Ghosts," and kicked off a 26-date North American tour to promote the forthcoming LP.
Tchami made it through eight stops before the pandemic halted his run.
Instead of prepping to headline at festivals like Ultra Music Festival, Coachella Arts Festival, and EDC Las Vegas, Tchami has spent the last three months working on music while quarantined in his Miami residence.
He moved to the Magic City in 2014 in search of a central jumping-off point for his globetrotting tour schedule that saw him take center stage at international festivals including Creamfields, Tomorrowland, and South West Four. With geographical proximity to music hotspots becoming an eerily moot point for the isolated late-night specialist, Tchami is still grateful he chose to make a home in Miami among its open-minded music fans and talented art scene.
"Miami feels like home to me, not as much as my city back in France, but I love Miami," he explains. "I moved [here] because I got the feeling that my music was well-received here in the U.S. There is certainly an art scene here that is growing more each year, and there are lots of stories to be told through music."
Tchami is brimming with stories to tell through his music. "Proud' and "Ghosts" are fueled by plaintive poetics of love and loss that showcase the sound sculptor's hallmark, vocal-forward studio work while setting the stage for a sonic evolution toward even more progressive, ethereal records.
"Before [Year Zero], I didn't feel that I had much to say on an album format," he says. "I allowed myself to grow by adding more influences into the album. My process has always stayed the same — playing with textures and samples, building a melody with bass, and adding layers on top with vocal bits — but the sounds have grown."
His patulous production shift is reflected in the second double-single release off of Year Zero, "Born Again" and "Buenos Aires," which drops on Friday.
"Born Again" is a groove-oriented floor-filler that takes Tchami's uncanny bassline-bending abilities to new heights, while "Buenos Aires" is a breezy, filter house number anchored by a vocal sample from American funk band Zapp's 1983 track "Heartbreaker" chanting, "I don't care what the people say/I'm gonna love you anyway."
"I will go wherever I have the most fun," Tchami says of the production method behind his forthcoming album. "I'm not on a mission to maintain the sound of future house, because it's not a genre in the first place. It's more like a way of thinking about music."
On top of his original outputs, the beatmaker shares production credit with DJ Snake on "Get Low" and "Turn Down For What," with both singles surpassing over a billion streams to date. Similarly, Tchami's musical prowess made headlines last week when the pop anthem he coproduced for Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, "Rain On Me," went viral on TikTok and garnered 10.2 million Spotify streams in its first 24 hours.
Tchami began working with Lady Gaga in 2014 as a coproducer on her third album, Artpop. He most recently coproduced four tracks off her Chromatica album, which also releases on Friday, including "Rain On Me" and "Stupid Love."
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"I am a producer before a DJ, so whenever I work on someone else's project, I try not to bring the Tchami sound forward," he explains. "I am 100 percent at the artist's service, my mission being to contribute to and tailor the best music for them. My experience working with Lady Gaga and her team has been nothing but smooth and productive, to say the least."
In April, the producer who typically shies away from social media launched the "Lost Files Challenge" as a vessel for sharing his unfinished tunes and surprising fans with a special gift during these isolating times. He invited fellow electronic acts like AC Slater, Wax Motif, and Dr. Fresch to play along and contribute their own hidden treasures from their archives, which spread like wildfire and trickled down to other artists like Noizu, Hooders, and CURBI. Tchami hopes to aggregate these records as an official release that raises money for charity.
Between running his Confession imprint, debuting new material from Year Zero, unearthing forgotten work-in-progress audio files, and basking in the viral success of his pop coproductions, the Miami transplant has maintained an active work schedule despite his tour's cancelation. He looks forward to getting back in the studio with songwriters he's been working with on the forthcoming LP and taking a more collaboration-heavy approach to his productions moving forward.
"People need to find boxes to fit in, and I do that when it comes to various other things, but not with music," Tchami explains. "I just make the music I like to hear, it's a sonic photograph of what I'm into at that specific time."