Christopher Santoso, 32, is a graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design who moved to Chicago in 2014 to get closer to its footwork scene. He produces dance tracks under the name Please, runs the label Issa Party, and cofounded the Smart Bar series Relate.
As told to Leor Galil
My parents really encouraged music making and the act of playing an instrument. I started pretty early with piano, viola, and guitar. That got me into production—around 14 I had my first DAW, which was Cool Edit Pro.
My mom wanted me to start out on piano, and I gradually got into string instruments. The viola was a random pick—I just thought the name was cool. It’s got a bit of that midrange tone that most string instruments don’t have, so that’s something that really stood out to me. I gradually got into guitar because of punk-rock music.
There’s this venue called the Warehouse in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The owner of the place, he used to be in a new-wave, postpunk band, and he started this all-ages venue in the middle of nowhere, Wisconsin, which I happened to be in, and that’s what really fueled my interest in the music scene and music in general. It was quite fascinating having that outlet there to have a way to connect with bands, and later get me into electronic music.
There weren’t really people to show me the ropes as far as music goes, so I had to look for and search and dig through the Internet using Kazaa or Limewire. Those were my means of finding new music, and those helped guide me.
At first I got into the emo scene, and then I gradually got into more postrock. I was listening to bands like Isis, Converge—you name it. I was interested in making noise, ’cause I was in a band at the time. I couldn’t play the guitar as well as I thought I could. I couldn’t shred, so I would improvise by making loops. The band members weren’t really impressed by it. They were like, “Oh, he’s just making noise.” It really made sense later on—and currently, in terms of me being an electronic music producer.
[In high school] I was a bit of a loner. I spent most of my time in the computer lab just making music by myself—putting together songs and trying to figure out how to mix and master. That gradually changed in college. Some college mates were really big into techno and house, and were showing me the ropes. After college I started getting into production. It was around the time that the recession was happening—it was a hard time to find a job. But I was able to freelance and save up some money for Ableton. I started listening to DJ Rashad at the time, and that played a big role in making me want to pursue production full-time.
The final semester of my time at MCAD, my friends and I were screen printing our final projects. So we went out to smoke weed, and [my friend] was just like, “Man, I’ve gotta show you this music.” And he showed me DJ Rashad, and I was like, “What is this music?” I’d heard the term “footwork” before from the band Salem. I’d looked at Rashad’s music here and there, but it wasn’t until he released volume one of Welcome to the Chi—that really got my attention. I was like, “Man, if I could meet him and pick his brain—if he’s cool with that—to understand this music.” I wasn’t able to achieve that dream because he passed away. I was in Detroit at the time, because my brother was living there, and I was going back and forth between Chicago and Michigan to find work.
- A recent Issa Party mix by Lupay
I run a record label called Issa Party. I have this mix series called the Next Wave, and it’s meant to highlight artists in Chicago and around the world. I also produce under the name Please. Most of my music is footwork, but I do produce club, house, and other types of stuff. My label is the platform where I try to serve the community as best as possible.
- This 2019 Boylan EP is the first Issa Party release.
Boylan was nagging me, like, “Put out an EP, put out an EP.” And I was just like, “What do I do? I guess I’ll start a label to put out Boylan’s EP.” And then that kind of became something even bigger. That led to me releasing for Heavee, Traxman, my friend Steamroom—who’s based out of North Carolina. Myself with Chicago rapper Ziptopher—he’s based in LA now. I keep busy.
It really is a platform that serves particularly Black and POC artists. Chicago, from what I know, has a history of labels screwing over the artists and not being equitable or transparent with costs. I try and make it the best possible platform for those types of people.
- Issa Party put out Composuresquad’s debut album last month.
Life happens. Sometimes I’m not able to go to events, but I’m still staying in contact with the community, recognizing who has established precedent for the music. Actively going to dance events is something I’m hoping to do after this pandemic, because it would be nice to see the dancers. I try and make the music for the dancers—like Teklife, Beatdown House, everybody in the footwork community. It’s all for them.
- Christopher Santoso released this EP as Please in January 2021.
I want to leave a legacy that serves the artists, and I don’t want to discredit myself at all, or the music that I make. I think I’ve contributed a lot to the scene, in regards to giving people platforms, in regards to trying to make timeless tracks—things that people can listen to, reflect on, and connect with. If a track helps you with a depressive moment, I see that as a success. Also leading me to connect with other people too, I think that’s pretty important. v