CrossFit hero by day, newbie DJ God by night, and a Give-You-Life Coach 24-7… it’s rising nightlife star Coach Chris!
Thotyssey: Hello Chris, thanks for chatting! So we’re in the Spooky Season now… do you like this time of year?
Coach Chris: I do! My “boyfriend sweater” collection is extensive (not ex-boyfriend’s sweaters, but sweaters I would wear and cuddle in if I had a boyfriend in this weather), lol! I also love the change of season from the chaos of summer to the more introspective version of myself in the fall / winter.
Besides DJing, you’re a CrossFit coach! Is it hard to get out of those snuggly sweaters and into sweat mode?
Lol, thankfully it’s not. Coaching and fitness are very much the forces that ground me when the nightlife world can be so crazy and fun. Coaching and DJ’ing are actually very similar; I like to think I’m taking a group of people who are putting their trust in me, and shepherding them to a better version of themselves… or showing them a good time. Whether it’s teaching someone at the gym or making someone dance, my ultimate goal is for you to leave your time with me hopefully having learned something and enjoyed your time. I like to put smiles on peoples faces.
So are you called Coach Chris in both worlds!
Coach Chris is what they call me in the gym and at the party (and honestly most of my friends at this point call me Coach). It’s how we refer to instructors at the gym, and when I started playing parties and was asked what to bill my name as, it seemed like a good name. It has all this kind of queer jock subtext behind it, which I also love. Like, who hasn’t had that coach / athlete fantasy? Just me? Cool.
Tell us a bit about where your from… and was fitness always a part of your life?
I’m from a little town called Floral Park, on Long Island. Fitness really only became a part of my life during college after I had transferred home for school. My CrossFit coaches became my role models; they were the first group of adults who were not only badass humans, but were the first people that I felt didn’t judge me for who I was, but for how I acted in the gym. It didn’t matter that I was gay, all that mattered was that I worked hard and was a good person.
What about music?
Music was always my escape. I was the kid that used to lead the Macarena and Electric Slide at my block parties in front of the DJ booth. I have these very specific music memories growing up (listening to “‘Believe” by Cher, the Spice Girls, hearing “You Don’t Know Me” by Armand Van Helden). I think it was a way to turn off the world, where I felt like I didn’t belong. I could listen to my music without being judged, and could create a dance floor of my own design in my head. I still listen to music the same way. When I’m out dancing, it’s one of the few times when I can run on autopilot. I don’t have to think, I just let my body move.
Now being the one playing music, I try to approach each set with that thought in mind. It’s an honor and wonderful responsibility to have someone entrust their fun and their evening to you. My goal is always to make people dance, and maybe teach a lesson and tell a story along the way. We all show up to the party / dance floor with our worlds on our shoulders. If I can give someone a few hours of escape, joy, or inspiration, then I’ve done my job.
What would an unfiltered Coach Chris dancefloor sound like?
I love a Soaring Diva Vocal! It gives you something to hang on to and connect with. I considered myself a disco queen, so there’s always groovy music intertwined with some heavy hitting bass. It’s been fun to be able to play more diverse parties, and play music that’s a bit more underground / kunty.
I think something that also needs to be stated is what an unfiltered dance floor would look like. If there’s a cross I will die on, it’s that dancing and going out is for everyone… all genders and expressions. It’s fun to be able to bring my female / non-male identifying friends out and show them that they are welcome on my dance floor. This divisiveness that exists in nightlife is kind of sad; we’re stronger as a community when we work and dance together.
Have you had a favorite DJing moment yet?
Definitely playing Horse Meat Disco for Labor Day. I’ve been cutting my teeth on that party since I was a baby who had just moved to NYC. It’s really where I came of age, and actually where I’ve made a great deal of my friends by sharing a dance with a stranger. I remember walking into Output for the first time (RIP) and being so intimidated by not only the boys, but by everyone’s ease and comfort being there and being sexy while dancing to this beautiful music. I worship the Horse Meat guys for their ability to keep a genre alive, and for teaching the children the message. They’re one of my biggest inspirations and idols.
So to be asked to play for four hours in a newly opened room at the Knockdown Center all to myself was pretty special. I put a lot of work into that set, in that I wanted every song to have a meaning, purpose, and message. It was very much an homage to my life in NYC. How times change–how I’ve most certainly changed–but one of the few constants has been the music and the communal ritual of the dance floor. It was really beautiful to see so many faces I knew there, and to see them getting their life to my music put the biggest smile on my face. I ugly cried at the end of that set; it felt like a celebration and release at the same time… and hopefully the people that were there felt the same thing.
Mel is that girl. She is a star already… and if you don’t know her yet, you will. She was an absolute gem, and that music video was such a kiki. It was great getting to know the group of boys she assembled and the end product was so camp. Her music is this great blend of pop that touches on the queer experience of being a millennial f@ggot. It’s fun shit you can dance to, which we all need. In short, Mel 4Ever is my girlfriend.
It most certainly should be. Ricardo is major, and it’s been so fun getting to know him. I get to lean into this sleazy, sexy side of music that I love to play. Disco got its start at places like the Ice Palace on Fire Island and the Continental Baths on the West Side in the 70’s. I’m a music geek, and love the history of it all. One must know their references and pay their respects to those that have come before you and paved the way.
I want to pay homage to those men who may have listened to some of the songs I’m going to play in a similar scenario. I often think about that lost generation that gave us so much, that are no longer with us to enjoy it. So I’m really looking forward to celebrating them and keeping their memories alive, and playing some down and dirty deep cuts to teach the kids some lessons.
Yes indeed. I think drag queens are just queer angels on Earth in stilettos and lashes, and Madame Viv truly is a divine creature… and a dear friend. I love how that party is structured with an incredible hour of amazing drag performances, sandwiched between two sets of music. Viv is always pushing the boundaries of what a performance can be, and I’m always excited to see just how big her hair is going to be that evening. She does a wonderful job of recruiting diverse drag talent as well; that has opened my eyes to what drag should and can be.
I also get to play with one of my NYC DJ idols, Tedd Patterson. Tedd is a G. I believe I saw him for the first time at “Battle Hymn” a few years ago where I felt like I was a student and he was the teacher, just up there teaching lessons and serving beats.
What else is coming up that the children need to know about?
I’m playing “Love Prism” on December 3 for my DJ father Ty Sunderland. He was the one who really encouraged me to start playing music, and when I was apprehensive he literally put my name on a party… so I had to take that first leap of faith. Love Prism was the first party I ever hosted and then played, so it holds a very special place in my heart. When I die, scatter my ashes at 3 Dollar Bill.
I’m also playing Horse Meat Disco Presidents Day weekend on February 18 for Round 2. The first time was so major; I’m already digging for new music, and straying to playlist for it. It’s going to be a journey.
Wonderful! Okay and lastly… what’s your best advice for a baby DJ who wants to make it in NYC?
I still consider myself a baby DJ. I think I have been given opportunity because ever since I started going out, I was at any party to add something to the vibe and really enjoy the music–not the drugs, not the boys, but for the joy that comes from dancing to good music with good people.
Play music because you want people to dance, and you want them to leave your set / party a better person. Stick to yours guns. Don’t get caught up in feeling like you have to play some genre because it’s cool or act like an asshole to seem like you’re better than anyone.
The same lessons my mom taught me as a kid still apply. Be nice to people. Welcome them always. If you see someone who may be alone, introduce yourself and have them join you and your friends. Make room at the table for everyone. A hug and a smile go a long way.
And remember, If the music is right, reality is tight!