On The Record: Higher Concept
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
For Chris Chartier, aka Higher Concept, bringing quality dance music to the masses is an ongoing, selfless process.
The tech house producer’s affinity for sound of the highest caliber combined with his team player mentality makes him not only an asset to Asylum Afterhours and the club’s label, Asylum Confidential, but the entire landscape of Hawaii electronic music.
While ultimate sound satisfaction is hard to come by, Chartier said striving for clean, audible excellence should always be the goal. His expertise for sound design gives him an almost unfair advantage in the studio and on the decks.
“The creative process is different with everyone,” said Chartier, who once spent 23 consecutive hours in the studio on a single track. “I get influenced by what my friends play which subconsciously interprets itself in the studio. I also write off of emotional feelings.
“I fuse all different types of music into my sound, techy, organic, intelligent beats … I start a track differently every time.”
When he’s not in his own creative zone, Chartier can be found working as one half of DOZEGUISE with Darren Zane, or concocting melodic blends as a member of production trio Gravity & Light with Jimmy Lee and Loic Tambay. Chartier said his own projects and working with colleagues hold equal value and are just a part of the common goal shared by all artists under the Asylum Confidential imprint.
“Frequency is the key, trying to hit people with something they can feel,” said Chartier, who has played dates at Chicago’s famed Spybar nightclub and at Los Angeles nightlife staples Avalon and Dim Mak Studios. “The best way is to start with a tone then add a synth and slowly build the groove from there.”
Away from the studio, Chartier is in charge of all the technical aspects of the sound and equipment at Asylum Afterhours. He has had to make sure that the sound system was in perfect harmony and to the liking of big names like Dubfire, Justin Martin and Juan Atkins. He recently added engineering and mastering duties for Asylum Confidential to his growing list of responsibilities.
Since the Kakaako afterhours club opened its doors five years ago, Chartier has witnessed a growing demand for underground electronica. Three straight years charting on DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs list validated their beliefs.
“The type of music we play is meant to be felt sonically,” he said. “Sound quality is the most important thing, it really makes the experience what it is.”
While his efforts often go unnoticed by club patrons, if the mood is right and the dance floor is jumping, club co-owner and label founder Willis Haltom knows Chartier’s expertise is a big reason why.
“He is a mad scientist behind the scenes making sure the sound is correct,” Haltom said. “The DJ booth is the best I’ve ever heard; (it) matches the floor perfectly. The feeling of the way the music hits you on a proper, nice and tuned sound system is indescribable sensory overload.”
This month marks an anniversary of sorts for Chartier. It was on July 25 last year that his “Night Time Kiss” was played on John Digweed’s world renowned “Transitions” radio show. While having a song he worked so diligently on premiere on international airwaves will remain high on list of accomplishments, the responsibility of elevating the standards of dance music for Hawaii and the world never stops.
“I’ve put in so much time there is no turning back,there is just something about controlling the vibe and the experience people have that’s really rewarding and such a good feeling,” he said. “I want to see our label take off and do showcases at festivals worldwide. (We) just have to keep working hard and staying positive, focused and keep the distractions away, (that) is the key.”
Catch Higher Concept Fridays and Saturdays at Asylum Afterhours and at eleven44 in Chinatown every third Friday.
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.