Before Dawn of Chromatica, the remix album of Lady Gaga's 2020 crying-on-the-dancefloor pop masterpiece Chromatica, came out this September, much speculation had been made about who would be involved and what the reinterpretations might sound like. So when a snippet of "Sine From Above" leaked online and sounded like two space robots crashing into each other headfirst while engaging in angry fornication, the internet understandably went aflutter.
Some were delighted by the clip's hardcore sensibilities, others mortified. Chester Lockhart, Mood Killer and Lil Texas, the three artists responsible for the reimagining of "Sine From Above" began receiving both praise and death threats. A Little Monster found Lil Texas' nudes (he happens to be very muscular and covered in tattoos) and leaked them to the public. But one thing seemed inescapably clear: excitement to hear the full song had reached an all-time high.
Related | Lady Gaga: Life on Chromatica
Now, at last, the album is out, and allow me to state on the record: it does not disappoint. Some remixes work better than others, but none go quite as hard as the aforementioned trio's "Sine From Above." As Lockhart eloquently explained in our interview over Zoom, "I could feel it in my taint," referring to the song's thrashing beat.
Speaking with this creative team, I was surprised to learn the chaotic story behind putting the remix together. They had one single weekend to create and submit their final mix to BloodPop, one of the main producers behind Chromatica who's also largely responsible for bringing Dawn from fan-fantasy to Spotify reality.
Read on to hear my conversation with the three artists, who in addition to talking about the experience of creating this mix were eager to discuss Lady Gaga's formative impact on all our lives, SOPHIE's undeniable influence on modern electronic music, waiting to hear back from Elton John and much more.
Can each of you introduce yourselves?
Chester Lockhart: I'm Chester Lockhart, allegedly. I'm a performance artist, creative director and a full-time Dorito enthusiast.
Mood Killer: I'm Mood Killer. I'm a musician, in the loosest sense of the word. And a video artist. And a troll, maybe?
Lil Texas: I'm Lil Texas, an electronic musician and DJ.
How did you all come to this project? Who got involved first?
Chester Lockhart: It was a Friday night in July. It must have been 8 PM.
Lil Texas: You called me at 11.
Chester Lockhart: Yeah, I called you then. I was getting ready to go to a friend's party that I went to for 15 minutes, because I'm scared of people and COVID. As I'm leaving, Mike [BloodPop, producer] texts me. He and I are good friends, and he texts me, "Hey, can you talk on the phone?" He never wants to talk on the phone, he only texts. So I was like, "Oh, what's going on, are you Ok, what's happening?" And he goes, "I'll just tell you. Can you, Mood Killer and Lil Texas remix 'Sine From Above?'" I was like, "Um, yeah, obviously, let's fucking do it." He goes, "Great, it has to be done in two days and turned in on Monday morning." So I went, "Ok, sick." And I got in a car and called Mood, and was like, "Moodicus. What are you doing? Do you have any free time?"
Mood Killer: You were like, "What are you doing this weekend?" And I was like, "Oh, I don't know, I have this and that." And you were like, "No, you're remixing 'Sine From Above.'"
Chester Lockhart: So then I called Sam [Lil Texas], who I've never spoken on the phone with in my life.
Lil Texas: I was like, "What the hell?"
Chester Lockhart: Sam and I, we text, and we've done an interview before, but I've never called him and I was like, "Hey, if you're free this weekend, we need to do this immediately." And so they were very down, obviously. We were all like, "Ok, this is comical, how this is happening?" That's how it all started.
That's absolutely insane. So you had that weekend, and who contributed what? It's an amazing remix, let me say that. There's a lot of moving parts.
Mood Killer: Credit to Chester for architecting some of the structure in there. I think Chester was like, "You're doing Elton." I was like, "Yes, I'm doing Elton!" I feel like it just organically fit our vibes, too, in terms of the structure. Chester's is the first minute and a half. I'm the section after, the Elton, and then Texas rounds it out by bludgeoning us to death.
Lil Texas: Yeah, Chester really took the lead. Respect. I was like, "God, you really handled this so well." Calling us, getting us together, the stems. The whole process was led up by Chester taking point on it. So I had two days; Chester went first, and then Mood would do their thing Saturday or Sunday, and then I would be ready.
Mood Killer: Right, because we were each needing to hear the part before us in order to really know.
Lil Texas: Exactly. So I was mulling it over for two days, writing the song in my head for two days. This is what I'm going to do, these are the kicks. I knew it was just going to have to fire. They set me up, so...
Chester Lockhart: I went to my friend's party and it was also the first time I had seen people since all of lockdown. It was a lot, going through my mind. You know that meme where there's the person in the corner, and they're like, "They don't know I have IBS, or whatever." I was that person sitting at the party, saying "They don't know BloodPop just asked me to remix 'Sine From Above.'" I was freaking out. I was having COVID anxiety and I just left. I went home and then I got the stems that night. So I flew through it overnight, to get all my stems to send to Mood to then send stems to Sam. It was very wild.
Mood Killer: It came together. It was really fast and stressful, in the best way possible.
Chester Lockhart: So stressful.
Lil Texas: The week when we waited on Elton [John's approval], which is also hilarious, that was fucking stressful. I was freaking out when you told me that. Like, "Oh, god. I already told a bunch of people about this." It's going to be really bad if they're like, "Just kidding, we're going to pull this."
Chester Lockhart: The reason that we even had to do it so fast was because at that point they were saying they wanted the album to come out end of July. And then a lot of scheduling things happened, so at the last minute it then got pushed. We were all just sitting there like, "Is this ever going to fucking happen?"
So did you have contact with Gaga or Elton directly for this?
Mood Killer: Not directly, but they heard it and approved it.
Lil Texas: We got that feedback pretty early on: "Gaga loves it."
Chester Lockhart: BloodPop texted me: "Gaga looooves your remix." I was like, "Ahhh!" After we turned it in so fast, Mike [BloodPop] was so pleased with everything and messaged us all separately just saying, "This is so great."
It's so funny that you had to do it all in two days even though it ended up coming out months later.
Chester Lockhart: Months later, literally.
Mood Killer: There's so many moving parts on that thing, I'm actually just amazed it ever came out. It's truly wild. Wrangling an army of artists to make something like that happen is an impossible task. So I really give props to BloodPop and props to Lady Gaga, because they've made some alchemy there.
Where did your inspiration come from for the final remix, and how did any initial impressions of "Sine From Above" and Chromatica as a whole impact that?
Mood Killer: Mike [BloodPop] showed ['Sine From Above'] to me a few days before it was coming out, showed me the album, and the two tracks that really stuck out to me were "Alice" and "Sine From Above," because I was like, "This is a crazy song." The ending part... which, the ending drum and bass thing, it was so cool seeing Sam's take on that. The whole album is so incredible. I've been listening to it a lot because of all this and going back to it to relive some of that. Because it was also such a crazy time. It was there for me in a way that I really needed.
Lil Texas: What BloodPop and Chester had said was, "Just do what you did on 'Ram It Down.' [with Dorian Electra]" But it was really cool, because it payed homage to the original, [which] speeds up to 150 [beats per minute] and does that drum and bass part. So I was like, "Ok, let's push it to 175. Let's distort the break a little more, let's roughen it up, and the kicks [drums] I used were tried and true hardcore kicks. They weren't softened for anything. That was the whole thing: let's really do this the hardcore way.
Chester Lockhart: Come on music theory. I think it all worked too because the song just gets crazier and crazier and crazier as it goes along. It starts off with a lot of energy and then it goes into clown circus demon territory magician. And then it becomes fully guillotine, just chop your whole head off at the end. And that's what a song should be.
Mood Killer: The three of us were really intent on punishing the listener.
Chester Lockhart: It's so true. And listen, based on the reaction to the snippets that leaked, they were punished, I think, at first.
Lil Texas: Oh, yeah. Super divisive, I think. But that's what we want.
Chester Lockhart: It so speaks to A) my reaction to Chromatica. I think it's her slickest and most cohesive album. I was a Little Monster; in 2011 I had floor-to-ceiling Lady Gaga posters in my room. It was over. I wore my "Telephone" shirt every day. And the thing I've always liked about her, being the gay mainstream pop star, is referencing so many underground things like... Born This Way and The Fame Monster had so many homages to Eurotrash, really Eastern European dance music and Gabber and things like that. I love that the way this all came together was such a, "Do whatever the fuck you want, just push it." If you're going to make something, make something new and exciting.
Mood Killer: She's just such a symbol, she's such an icon. 2009 me is dead. Died. In the ground. I feel like we all wanted to approach it this way, of like, she really was so groundbreaking in that era when she was coming up. I was so inspired by how out there and experimental she got. She was fearless and she liked to piss people off. That is truly the spirit of Gaga, to just completely go for it, just go psychotic and go completely nuts, in the best way.
Lil Texas: [A friend on mine] put it pretty well: "An artist like Gaga can do your typical remix album and get all the big name EDM guys. The big guys. And that's so not the approach they took. They went in and found all the people, who, looking at the other artists, are all people I tremendously respect for pushing, walking up to the line and walking over the line.
Chester Lockhart: Even when you see the cover art, it's like, "This is so fucking sick." Like Sam said, to be on this album with so many people who I listen to all the time, as artists, friends and people I respect... There are so many different approaches. Some are pop and some are more experimental. Letting Arca do whatever she wanted on "Rain On Me," which is the biggest song, I think it was so incredible, and the way she sampled her own music...
Mood Killer: I'm obsessed with "Fun Tonight," that [Pabllo Vittar] remix. And they got so many of these people from the fans. BloodPop was like [on Twitter], "Who do you want to see on it?" I just think that's so cool. I think the BloodPop/ Gaga collab is such a strong force of nature. And she's so cool, she has it in every way. Now she turns around and she's doing a jazz album, and she's starring in House of Gucci. She's got her makeup empire... it's honestly mind-boggling. She's, what, 13 years into her crazy career and still at the top.
When you went in and began to remix, did you have an idea or concept, or were you just trying to make cool sounds?
Chester Lockhart: I really loved the through line of the original album. I loved how many orchestral moments there are and I loved the use of imagery in the lyrics, so initially, when I was on my way to this party, I was thinking, "I definitely want to utilize lightning and thunder noises, and I definitely want to incorporate the strings and those elements." But also I just want to make it slap, because I'm obsessed with distorted 808 sub-bass type shit. So that's all in my mind; I love her more industrial sounds. Born This Way I would say is my favorite album of hers and I love a lot of the songs on ARTPOP. I was really inspired by the beginning of "G.U.Y." I wanted that same feeling at the beginning of the track. There's something very stark and you know you are in for something intense.
Mood Killer: I love how minimal your part is, Chester. And that "G.U.Y." thing is so true, that's one of my favorite songs of hers, for sure. The lightning sounds hit me so hard, and the plucks.
Lil Texas: I used your stem, Chester. It's so good. It's funny, because I sing the song in my head. It's catchy. And Mood, I sing your part. Out of all of them, I'm always singing Elton John in my head.
Mood Killer: Saxophone vibes. I've been obsessed with saxophones and circus music. I was spiraling making my part, totally, fully spiraling. I took some mushrooms, I'll be honest. I had six different ego deaths. I kept being confronted with my own bullshit, you know? Things that were keeping me from working on it, things I was putting off, all this... like, this is crazy, am I going to crack under the pressure? This sounds so crazy, but I was praying to SOPHIE. I was literally praying to SOPHIE, and crying and just missing her. Obviously, her presence is all over the remix album. It's undeniable; she's part of the fabric of our scene and the industry, or whatever — our corner of it. And then after I had the spirally bits, I feel like I was able to focus and bring to it all the things I love about music: Trolling, stupid jokes, whatever heinous noises that cling clang in my head-vibes.
Lil Texas: It's interesting that you say that, because I felt like when I heard your part, Mood, I was like, "Oh, they did exactly what they wanted."
Mood Killer: I did exactly what I wanted. I was like, "Fuck it."
Lil Texas: Being so associated with EDM and that whole thing, I always have this initial tendency to let it, you know, fit the mold. I went back a couple times throughout that weekend where I was like, "BloodPop reached out to me because he wants Texas. He wants that sound." So I can't back down or do anything to change that sound.
Mood Killer: You have such a unique sound, though. Distinctive.
Chester Lockhart: It's so full. Visceral. I also feel like a lot of the sounds that you used in your song "Louder," which is my favorite track of yours–
Lil Texas: Kicks!
Chester Lockhart: There you go. It was so fucking pounding, I could feel it in my taint.
Lil Texas: I used those exact kicks for the Gaga remix. I was like, "I've got to bring out the big boys, let's do this."
Chester Lockhart: Before I forget, speaking of what Mood was saying, I think I saw something on Twitter — by the way, I left Twitter because of the death threats. But someone said, "Seeing this album as a fan is so great, because it's so clear SOPHIE's immense impact on music in general, especially through these artists." I thought that was so true, because even if the style is different, so many of the sounds and the forward-thinking-ness and the ability to use electronic instruments in a different way is inspired by SOPHIE's impact on this underground electronic music scene over the past decade. I think that's really important to make note of. Everyone here is a huge fan of hers and she's an idol to so many of us.
Anything else you wanted to touch on regarding this remix, and do you want to plug any other projects you have coming up?
Lil Texas: I [am] making a ton of music. Honestly, what I have to say is I'm truly honored to be a part of this. A lot of people pin me as this, like, EDM bro, you know? That happens to do hardcore. So being on a record with all of these people who have inspired me so heavily is truly an honor. Shout out to the Little Monsters, being crazy as hell and leaking all my nudes. It was great. I hit the kid up and said, "You really just broke the law, right?" He was like, "Oh my god, I'm so sorry." I said, "Just leave it, dude. You're helping me." Shout out to the Little Monsters.
Chester Lockhart: As I said before, enormous Lady Gaga stan. In my teenage years I was really very lost, for a lot of reasons, and I found a lot of myself through this very kooky, odd woman who was an idol to me, and made me feel I could be different and that was Ok. Ten years later, to be a part of a project of hers, it blows my mind, I literally cried about it. Any time I questioned whether I wanted to be alive, or questioned myself, I'm glad that I stuck through it. I'm so grateful to BloodPop for reaching out to us for this. And coming up, I'm directing Rina Sawayama's Dynasty Tour. It's going to be very slapping and cool.
Mood Killer: I'll plug my recent single, "Happy Birthday." ["Sine"] just came together so well and I'm so grateful for that chance being taken on us. And, obviously, our queen Gaga, she's everything. And I'm so grateful for the haters. They give me so much life. They broke my brain, in a way. There's so many people threatening to stab me.
Lil Texas: I didn't get as much of that.
Chester Lockhart: Because people were looking at your nudes.
Lil Texas: That's true.
See you all at the Chromatica Ball in 2032!
Photo courtesy of Lady Gaga/ Team Rolfes