“You’re standing right now with nine delegates from 100 gangs. And there’s over a hundred more. That’s 20,000 hardcore members. Forty thousand, counting affiliates, and twenty thousand more, not organised, but ready to fight: 60,000 soldiers! Now, there ain’t but 20,000 police in the whole town. Can you dig it?“
Cyrus, played by Roger Hill, delivers his inspirational last speech as New York’s armies of the night meet to discuss taking control of the city in Walter Hill’s cult 1979 movie, The Warriors. Minutes later this spokesperson for the streets has been murdered, the scene descends into chaos, and the eponymous crew from the film title are framed. Cue a 90-minute battle through back alleys, hench hangouts and subway stations as the anti-heroes try to reach their Coney Island home turf alive.
It’s the sort of cinema that’s easy to watch. It features a load of gangs in different uniforms, like the sports kit-wearing Baseball Furies, the Hi-Hats with their top hats and painted faces, and the roller skating, dungaree clad Punks, to reference but three. Plus there’s that razor sharp soundtrack, and a silky-tongued radio DJ-turned narrator who says things like “all right now, for all you boppers out there in the big city, all you street people with an ear for the action“. The epitome of purebred stylised entertainment, that Chris Manik decided to theme his stunning debut album around the movie is not too surprising for anyone who has seen it.
Said LP, Armies of the Night, dropped in May via Josh Wink’s Ovum, at which point we selected it as one of our Choice Cuts, mainly because it’s an intoxicatingly immersive meld of old school edged, plodding on a balmy night house, timeless synth funk, hip hop inspired instrumental breaks, acid soaked tech, and disco tinged cuts that leaves little to complain about once you’ve finished the 17-track journey.
Three months after our review ran and we’ve soundtracked half of our summer with the CD, recommending its contents to any and everyone, and so understandably wanted to learn more. As such we tracked down the 25-year-old native New Yorker ahead of a recent gig in the Balearics for a Skype about making one of the best records you’ll hear all year, his forthcoming EP on Hot Creations, a new band he’s starting, and, of course, why he loves The Warriors so much. Read on for more.
So, how are things with you today, what have you been up to?
“Good- I just flew into Ibiza. Playing a gig tonight at Sankeys which I’m looking forward to, mos def.”
Cool, and is this your first time over in Ibiza this season?
“Yes first time. I played two weeks ago at Channel Zoo with Matt Tolfrey, which was top notch. That was a day party and then I am doing tonight too.“
And how are you finding the island- as good as expected?
“It’s really cool for sure. Nice vibes here. I think I’d like to come back next year with my girlfriend and spend some more time out here, try and get some sun on my white ‘studio warrior’ skin.”
So, what else has summer had in store for you- there was a date at Sonar, right?
“No, I actually didn’t play that as there was a last minute change of plans and I really needed to stay in New York to get some studio work done. It’s been a crazy summer man, in a good way.
“I started my tour on July 1st in Toronto, then San Fran, and LA (with the Culprit family), which was great. That went right into my EU tour, so now I have been touring non-stop here in Europe for 4 weeks or so, with dates in Budapest, London, Ibiza and at Tomorrowland festival in Brussels.”
Sounds like you have been busy, anywhere in particular stand out from the European dates?
“Each time I play London it’s always top. I really like the parties there. I’m going back this Saturday to play with my bud Lee Foss and then in the evening I am up in Leeds for the final date on the tour.”
OK, obviously with you mentioning Lee Foss there’s the Hot Creations release coming up. How did that come about? What should we expect?
“Basically, we started chatting as he had been playing some of my more vocal and funky stuff like Good 4 Me on Poker Flat and Hold On on Ovum. Then I sent him some new music earlier this year, and both him and Jamie [Jones] really liked it.
“The EP is called House Of Flies and should be out in the next couple of months. The sound is very much deep, dark yet fun and just good dancefloor stuff. I am quite happy with the record as a whole and it will be on both 12” and digital. Jamie and Lee are playing it a lot too.“
Of course there was your rather special Ovum album in May. Now the smoke has settled how do you feel about that?
“I am really happy with how it came out and glad people appreciate it being more of a story than random club tracks pinned together. Josh [Wink] is awesome to work with. He is really down to earth, and after they had released two of my EPs it was natural to have Ovum be the destination for my debut album.“
What was it that you were trying to achieve with the LP?
“Well, it was just to showcase my ability as a producer and storyteller mostly. To show the world how I grew up, introduce them to Queens, the other flavours inside New York City, and just sort of bridge the listeners into my world really. Hence the skits and the intros and various genres and sounds you find on my debut album. That’s definitely what I wanted to have come across on the record, and also to tie in with my favourite film, The Warriors, via the album art and various samples scattered throughout the music.“
What’s the connection then? You’re just a big fan of the movie?
“Yeah it was one of those films I saw and just really liked every little detail. You know that time period in New York was such a different world than today. And although I wasn’t even born around then I have always been into history and retro stuff and I am a very nostalgic person, so I really liked to see this sort of comic book depiction of a very real and former New York City. Also, I was a fan of the actors and have some memorabilia from the film. I also named my LP Armies Of The Night as an extra nod in that direction. The original soundtrack is pure class from Barry De Vorzon.“
There’s a similarly warm, analogue, and arguably retro edge to some of your album tracks too.
“Yeah. Ever since I was a kid I loved film soundtracks to be honest. And this is one of my favourite soundtracks for sure.“
So would that be something you’re eyeing up for the future- movie scores and such like?
“Yes 100 per cent. I really would like to get involved in that. It has always been a goal of mine, and I’m a very visual person too so I believe I could do a good job pairing music to video and composing music to accompany visuals et cetera et cetera.“
What’s your own musical background then, how did Manik come to be?
“Well I started by playing trumpet when I was 12. That was my very first music theory experience. Then I moved to piano and keyboard as I got older when I attended college in New York at Oneonta State. I also studied the music business end of it then in school. Pretty soon I was messing around in the studio and that was that. Although my first time working on a beat was probably when I was like 13 or 14, making hip hop in my bedroom and dad’s office after school.“
And how is everything in New York at the moment? Everyone keeps saying how good the party is out there right now?
“Yeah it really is. I would compare it to how the London scene is. That’s like how it is for us here in the US. There are a couple of really good parties here in the States, Culprit in L.A. being top notch as well, and here New York City is really representing right now you know, it has really come back in terms of quality over the last couple of years.
“And of course, besides myself, we got the Wolf +Lamb family coming from Brooklyn and then Matthew Dear has been living here for a while too. The scene is thriving and it’s cool to be a part of that.“
In terms of your own productions then, how did the first tracks get noticed and then picked up by the respective labels?
“Well I think my stuff just had a different approach and people appreciated what I was doing in the studio. Eventually I started to pass my music out to likeminded individuals with solid brands and families, then things just snowballed from there.
“I like to release my music with people I feel share the same vision as me, and are part of something greater than just the music. Like the camaraderie and family aspect to the scene, they are important to me.“
Fair enough. And, finally, what else is coming up this year?
“Loads of stuff for sure. I am just wrapping up my EU tour this weekend, then I head back to New York next Monday, where I’ll be back in the studio as I have a ton of remix work and studio work in general to do.
“I also have a new podcast coming soon on New York’s own Autobrennt so keep an eye out for that. Then in the fall I have two original EPs coming out on Hot Creations and also on Culprit. I also have another music video to be filmed in the next month or so, and on top of all that lots more remixes coming your way before I’m back on tour in mid-to-late September across Europe.
“Oh and then I am starting a new band project that I am really excited about. Things have been hectic but that will get going soon enough. It’s a side project that will be quite cool.“
A band eh? What’s all that about then?
“Yeah I can’t get into too many details yet, as it’s all still being worked out, but there will be roughly three people involved, with a vocalist as well. It’s more of a song-based thing with totally fresh music so I’m looking forward to starting to write for that too.
Manik’s album, Armies Of The Night, is available now on Ovum Records, while his forthcoming EP for Hot Creations, House Of Flies, will arrive in autumn.