Artist Spotlight: Christos Schrader
If you’ve ever been to Hufnagle Park for a Jazz Band concert, a TKE or Kappa Sig Super Saturday, then you’ve heard Christos Schrader thumping on the bass. Christos, also known as DJ Operator, is a multi-instrumentalist hailing from Wyckoff, New Jersey who has had a constant presence within Bucknell’s music scene. Campus Vinyl had the opportunity to sit down with him this week to pick his brain and find out what he’s been up to lately:
When did you start doing music?
In the sixth grade after I saw School of Rock. Basically, there was a kid a couple of years older than me down the street who played bass, so within a week of seeing that movie I rented a bass and never looked back.
You’ve played in a number of groups on campus... what groups were you in and how has that affected your style?
After a brief stint with a band that didn't really pan out freshman year, I joined the Truck Bed Band after meeting the guitarist, Adam, in a music composition class, and we've played at pretty much every Kappa Sig Super Saturday since then. House Party was always our biggest and most fun gig, so we were pretty bummed (as was CV) when it got cancelled this year. Last year, I also joined Log Cabin with four of my TKE brothers, which has been a blast because I've played pretty much every instrument I can with them, and it's awesome being able to jump around rather than focus on just bass. Other than those two, I play in the Jazz Band and Orchestra, both of which rehearse every week and play a couple gigs a semester. It's cool for me to be able to balance out my rock bands and production with stuff like that, because the music is generally a lot more complex and difficult, and always inspires me to try new things in my composing. I've also played the occasional one-off performance with other groups, like the country band at Fall Fest last year or Nate Fanzone's Senior Recital. One of my favorite things about being in college is being able to throw myself into such diverse musical endeavors and constantly be thrown out of my comfort zone.
So I play in one of those bands with you and know you’re a pretty talented at multiple instruments and genres, can you tell us a little bit about that?
In 7th grade, I started playing in a punk band and found that I had a lot of ideas that I have trouble getting other people to understand, so I felt constrained by that. I started learning different instruments and how to record using Logic. By 11th grade I was playing piano, guitar, bass, upright bass and programming synthesizers a tiny bit. I was recording all this weird-ass music that would come to me in the middle of the night and sort of stopped playing video games and focused on that.
Overtime, as my tastes in music tastes changed, so did my music.
So what kinds of music have you written, and what are you currently most into writing?
I started out with ska/punk infused rock and then got really into reggae and that lead me into dub, which got me into more electronic things. I slowly grew into dubstep and house and did that for a while, but wasn’t very good at it because I didn’t have the patience to produce modulated basslines because it wasn’t like picking up an instrument and playing; there was less of a performative aspect to it. So overtime, I gravitated towards things that were more like live instruments and creating electronic sounds for live performance. For electronic music my two biggest influences are Bassnectar and Pretty Lights, but I got really into trap as well. I’d say my sound has become a chill, jazz-infused trap vibe.
You have a senior recital coming up, right?
Yes I do! Basically, the traditional senior recital is whatever classical instrument you play, you take that and perform a series of different pieces, sometimes with accompaniment. That’s something I’ve always been terrible at and haven’t enjoyed at all, so I set out to do the exact opposite of that.
I took a lot of the music I’ve written over the last four years and composed an hour-long performance that is an amalgamation of everything I’ve drifted in and out of in my musical journey. It basically flows like a DJ set, but with live instruments: I’m using guitar, bass, drums and keys, with an electronic aspect that uses sampling from a laptop.
Who are your biggest non-electronic influences?
My three biggest are probably Charles Mingus, the Doors and Sublime.
You’re about to drop a new EP...what kind of new sounds are you incorporating and how was the process of creating it?
When I first came to college, I was enamored with completely electronic sounds, and I got really into synth and got away from live instruments with the ultimate goal of combining the two. I feel like this year I’ve finally managed to do that. There’s one track on the EP called “Mind Games” that is completely original with no samples, featuring funky guitar with arpeggiators and synthesizers, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m excited to keep doing this, and next time I release and EP I’d like to have it be completely original with less reliance on sampling.
Other than that, there are three remixes: the first is of The Flaming Lips’ “Silver Trembling Hands”, which is a borderline edit; I didn’t change to much, but the things I did change make it its own sample. It's something I did over a short period of time in a burst of creativity. The other two are remixes of “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole that are refurbished versions of shitty arrangements that I did earlier in my college career that I never released because I didn’t feel that they did justice to the originals. Now, I feel like I’ve finally found my own unique sound and then managed to make remixes to those two songs that have that sound, and have life to them. Hopefully other people will dig them too!
Look out for Operator’s latest EP, scheduled for release on April 16th!
What are you’re plans post-graduation, and are you planning on still making music?
I’m not sure what I’m doing for a job, but I’m going to be making music until the day I die-- that’s the one concrete thing I can say about my future.
To find out more about Christos, and to keep updated on his music, check out the links below for his Soundcloud, like his facebook page and follow him on Twitter!