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‘From the minute I wake up, I listen to gabber’: Chippy Nonstop is club music’s queer trailblazer

Following the release of her debut album, scene legend CHIPPY NONSTOP talks sonic evolution, crafting community online and the future of clubbing

25 May

Chippy Nonstop is a bit of a powerhouse. 

Alongside making music, the DJ, rapper, vocalist and producer has spent the last four years running Intersessions, a collective and workshop series aiming to get more women, trans and non-binary people behind the decks. Inspired by her own experiences as a woman of colour on the club circuit, she’s determined to make the industry more safe, accessible and fun for people like her. 

Whilst the last year has been quiet for many, Chippy truly has not stopped: earlier this month, she self-released her debut album with dj genderfluid. Big in both sound and attitude, it traces the steps of a night out, from getting ready with the girls to crashing on a friend’s couch. Determined to have full creative control over her work, Chippy has also mixed, performed and directed a full album megamix video to accompany.

She’s Toronto-based after famously being deported from the States in 2015, but in general has travelled a lot in her life. It’s something you can hear in her sound and style: “I’m Indian and, growing up, I lived in Africa and the Middle East so there’s so many different sounds that inspired me,” she says, “I still feel like I’m using a lot of those sounds as inspiration, and honing it into the techno side of things. I’ve put out projects in the past where I sing in Hindi too. I think they all trickle in a little bit.”

But while travelling is on pause and she’s finding time between it all, we spoke to her about sonic evolution, crafting community online and the future of clubbing.

gal-dem: You started making tunes when you were a teenager, why did you decide that now was the time to put out your first full-length record?

Chippy Nonstop: When I first started, I didn’t know what I was doing. I put out EPs but I was just kind of figuring my shit out. I knew that I didn’t want to work for anyone or be controlled; only now am I able to self-release a record and produce my own videos. Putting out an album independently costs money! I wasn’t in the place financially or emotionally to put out music independently, but now I am.

Now that you’ve been able to release an album, does it sound like something you would’ve made in those earlier days?

It’s definitely evolved. Because I’ve been DJing so much, when I think about making music now, I think about the intro and how it’ll blend well when someone’s mixing it, technical stuff like that. It’s definitely still really playful and fun though and, lyrically, I probably would’ve done this project earlier.

“On the forefront the music industry is changing, but it needs to change behind the scenes too”

You bring together all sorts of genres from house, techno and DnB to garage and pop – was that influenced by missing the club this year?

Anyone who knows me will know that from the minute I wake up, I’m listening to gabber and fast music – I don’t listen to anything chill at all! I obviously miss the club so much but here in my apartment, I live like I’m in a club. I have my equipment here and I’m literally listening to even harder music than I was listening to before quarantine! So quarantine didn’t really change my perspective, I think I already knew what I wanted to make before. 

How does it feel releasing such a club-orientated record in the current state of the world, with no tours or parties?

It is kind of depressing putting out a really clubby record but it is also great seeing people’s reactions, like ‘OMG I can’t wait to hear this in the club!’ When I made it, I thought about how it flows: the beginning is really cutesy, getting ready with your girls at home, looking in the mirror, gossiping. Then it gets a little darker, travelling to the club. And then you’re there and it’s dark, pounding music. You party for a bit before it goes into the comedown of the night and you pass out on your friend’s couch. 

And ready to start it over again!

And then you start all over again! That’s kind of what I wanted the feeling to be: even if you’re not in the club, it can be that whole night for you.

“Moving so much, I would create communities on the internet and just talk to people online, which transitioned really well for me when I was more into music: no matter what city I go to, I know I’ll have my queer community, my brown community to have my back”

The internet is such a great way for music to traverse different places, cultures and scenes. As a teenager, your whole scene felt like it had such a big Internet element: the sounds, the clothes, the language. How has the internet influenced your style and where you’re at now?

I feel like the internet is definitely my biggest influence! Moving so much, I would create communities on the internet and just talk to people online, which transitioned really well for me when I was more into music: no matter what city I go to, I know I’ll have my queer community, my brown community to have my back. Even sonically, the internet really changed the way I think about making music: I want to inspire and make people feel more upbeat in a time like this.

A photo of Chippy Nonstop, staring up at the camera. She has pink streaks in her hair and is wearing a camouflage top.

You’ve been on the scene for a while now, has the industry changed much since then? Have you noticed a shift since setting up Intersessions?

Yes! When I first started, there were not that many girls around me, but now you go out and it’s mostly girls and queers killing it. But also, I don’t really know because my bubble has changed so much: I was around a lot of men at the beginning of my career, but now I pretty much don’t know one straight man! 

One thing that hasn’t changed is the bookers of big EDM festivals: they still don’t know how to treat women and queer people once we are there. They’ll book us for the diversity card but they don’t understand that we need different kinds of safety measures and considerations. So, on the forefront it’s changing, but it needs to change behind the scenes too.

What do you hope to see from parties and promoters when they resume?

In recent times, I have only been playing within community events and everyone booking me there is a queer woman or a queer person. So, to those people: let’s go and take over and we can throw our own festivals and do our own thing! To the other people who want to bring us into their spaces, just be more conscious of who you’re booking and their needs.