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Phonica Mix Series 118:
Chris Cruse

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We are straight outta the bank holiday here at Phonica and right back into business with another killer mix in our Phonica series from one of our all time favorites of late; Spotlight Records and Panorama Bar regular Chris Cruse.

Chris has been a predominant figure in the queer dance scenes in America and in Europe over many years having represented his mainstay party, now label, Spotlight from L.A., the Club Toilet Crew from Detroit and now residing in Berlin the last couple of years where he holds down regular slots at the city’s major clubbing institution Berghain / Panorama Bar (most notably the party Snax which takes place there). Chris has dug deep  and worked hard with these residencies to showcase the queer roots of house, techno, disco, and other forms of dance music.
For Phonica 118 Chris takes us on a heated, hot and heavy club ready mix which would get anyone out to party. We sat down and had a lovely chat with Chris about his mix, his approach to DJing and what he has got up his sleeve for the future.

Hey Chris, thanks for joining us! Can you tell us about your mix and what the idea behind it was? 

Hi thanks for having me! It’s been a minute since I’ve put out a studio mix, so I really loved digging in and putting this together. I’d say this mix is something for the girl on the move. It’s to get creative juices flowing. If you’re not sure if you want to go out tonight, maybe this mix will tip your decision to turn it. It’s a more hypnotic side of house, and it’s a little bit horny. It’s tight, but it bounces. Light and fun. I also enjoyed playing with vocals here as a texture, almost as if they’re bits of percussion. They’re there for emphasis, or to call up some of the other tracks — but they aren’t really full songs with lyrics or chorus.

Can you tell us a bit about how you usually approach recording a mix or a set? 
For a studio mix, I always think about what situation I’d put it on for. A hot tub under a full moon? A morning coffee? A bike ride? A hookup? Being specific with the setting helps me pull and focus tracks. I also get a lot of pleasure piecing together tracks from different genres or eras that might not seem like they would go together. Whether it’s a mix or set I always pack key tracks that I’m in love with or will give us a moment, and build to them with the rest of the tracks.

What are your preferred methods for finding new music—do you still enjoy digging around in dusty crates, or do you prefer to buy online? 
I definitely still love to dig in dusty crates. One record in this mix I found for a couple £ last month in London. So much music never made the jump to the streaming services or digital download sites — even stuff that was pressed to CDs. There’s so many gems. Berlin has great shops too, and in addition to digging I’m always checking out how they organize their records. Online I have really extensive and nerdy Discogs queries, and end up discovering a lot from there. I love when I can pick up the order from the seller in Berlin and see what else they’ve got in their collection. And honestly, not even trying to suck up here, but I always check Phonica’s newsletter and recommendations.

What is your dream setting for a DJ set? 
An underground warehouse with a tuned system, loads of people who figured out the address, sunlight coming through the cracks and the fog.

What has been one of your most memorable sets over your career? 
Playing b2b with Honey Dijon in the Garten at Berghain for Pride. Only the outside was open because it was still kind of Covid times, but everyone was determined to celebrate. Halfway through our set the skies opened up and rain just dumped on everyone. Instead of leaving or looking for shelter, everyone stripped off their clothes and kept dancing. It was so wet and muddy, and everyone was splashing and whipping their hair around.  After 20 minutes or so we had to stop because there was thunder and lightning nearby, but I’ll never forget that scene.

What do you have up your sleeve for 2024?
I worked with Honey Dijon to help curate the music showcased at the Stonewall Visitor Center in NYC, opening in June 2024. We filled a jukebox with 100 pre-1969 7″ records that evoke the spirit of queer joy and the activism of the time. It feels like a very direct extension of my Queer Maps project, which gives insight into the history of over 1000 LGBTQ+ places in my former home of Los Angeles.
My label Spotlight Records will release the soundtrack / score for Bruce La Bruce’s new film The Visitor, which is by Hannah Holland and features Josh Caffé, Jonjo Jury, Joy Joseph, ROY INC, and Ghost Culture.
Some remixes and original music from myself are also on the way.

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