Chippy Nonstop and Kish Lal talk Intersessions, being visible in your beliefs and more

Chhavi Nanda, better known as Chippy Nonstop, has been hyper visible on the internet for almost all of her adult life. It was all about #YoungKloutGang in Twitter’s heyday five or so years ago, and Brittany Scott, @BOYTWEETSWORLDX and Chippy dominated the timeline. They were all perpetually living the messy lifestyles that epitomize millennials now— from twerking on stage with Diplo to sneaking into EDM festivals, they were who everyone wanted to befriend and ultimately emulate. Chippy’s career began to blow up when tracks like Kicked Out Da Club and Money Dance gathered momentum, with many members from #YoungKloutGang making cameos in her videos. She was and still is part of the first wave of internet celebrity party kids.

In 2015, upon returning from a successful Asian tour, Chippy was stopped at LAX by a customs agent and told she was not allowed into the country and that she was being deported. Her options were to either go to India, where her parents are originally from; or she could go to Canada, where she holds a passport. Vancouver was the cheapest and closest option, so Chippy lives in Canada now.

What followed was a highly publicised deportation that was covered on the Fader, Noisey and even Gawker. It was shocking to her fans but to Chippy, who was only 23, being forced to leave the only home she had ever known and start an entirely new life in Canada, was terrifying. It’s a surreal, worst-case scenario type story and even now when Chippy speaks about it, it feels surreal— “Sometimes I’m talking about it and I think “did this even happen?” because it sounds like a story that didn’t happen to me.”

Two years on, Chippy Nonstop has established herself in Toronto with her new endeavour Intersessions that looks to equip women, femmes and non binary people with skills that will help with their burgeoning DJ careers.

We spoke for an hour on the phone about Intersessions and its importance, but more importantly how despite fighting an uphill battle, we continue to push against a system designed not to work for so many people. “We are fighting and we are pushing but straight men just don’t genuinely care. Not only care because it adds to their image or their profit looking like someone who’s progressive.”

This week as part of Face The Music’s program, Chippy Nonstop will be bringing her Intersessions workshop to Melbourne along with teachers Brooke Powers, Mz Rizk and Kish Lal (that’s me). And as we spoke about her trip to Australia, her 46 hour trip to Melbourne and briefly touched on her deportation, it became clear, true to her name that nothing can really stop Chippy Nonstop.

Was it a bit of a slap in the face when you landed in Mexico and you got the ‘Welcome to the USA’ from your phone carrier?”

[Laughs] I was like okay wait. Am I doing a layover in America right now? It was so funny, I screenshotted it.

Oh gosh that’s so rough.

I’m used to it. I get so many messages that say “So when are you coming back?” or “Can you come to play in Texas” or “Can you come play here?” If you’re DMing me on Twitter, you should know by now that I cant come.

I see you tweet about this so often and get so frustrated on your behalf that two years on, you’re still being asked these questions or especially when you tweet about people trying to give you tips on how to get back into the country.

It was really public! It was on the Fader, Noisey, even Gawker posted about it, random people I don’t even know posted about it. Some guy who apparently hates me so much but I don’t think I’ve ever met him in my life, took credit for getting me deported. He said that I stole a bunch of things from him, but I don’t know him, and he keeps posting “I got Chippy Nonstop deported”. He’s a weird promoter… His name is Shaun something but you know, those type of promoters. Why do they exist?

If you have haters it means you’re doing really well though right?

[Laughs] Let the haters make me famous.

In more positive news, you’re coming to Australia for the first time.

My flight to Australia is literally going to take me 46 hours because I couldn’t book any flights that go through America. It’s fine I’m just going to take a Xanax.

46 hours is inhumane. Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing when you’re here?

Every time I think about Australia, I imagine people getting extremely fucked up and going to festivals.

Wow, I mean you’re not wrong.

And I think of –it’s because I go to Asia a lot– but I think of going to festivals and drinking a lot of alcohol and popping prescription pills and getting really fucked up. Everyone says they’re annoying, but when I’m on vacation that’s the vibe that I like and I can understand that it can be too much if its all year around. Besides that, I’ve been told I’ll really like Melbourne and the scene so I’m excited about that.

I get told that Toronto and Melbourne are really similar all the time, but I’ve never been myself.

I’ve been told— wait are you the one that told me this? [Laughs] But someone told me that the layout of both cities are set up the same.

Oh so you won’t get lost when you’re here?

I still get lost in Toronto so… [laughs] I’ve only been there for a year! I’m excited for the warm weather because it’s freezing in Toronto.

I’m really excited about you bringing Intersessions to Melbourne, how long have you been doing these workshops for?

It started in Vancouver about a year and a half ago. Myself and my friend Rhi Blossom, Shy Daughter, D. Tiffany—who lives in Melbourne right now did the first one then I moved to Toronto a few months later, so I did it in Toronto. I hit up a few people online to be teachers, like I usually do. When I went to Toronto, it did so well and then I kept getting hit up to do it around the world. I just continued doing it, from Mexico City, Europe, trying to plan one for India right now and one in Sydney too.

It’s really cool its blown up to where it’s at in just over a year.

There’s a lot of people involved. Other than curating all the teachers, I hit up 3-5 people in each city and they bring attention to the program, so because there are so many people involved it’s picked up really quickly.

I think it’ll be especially important in Melbourne because the dance music scene here, compared to the rest of Australia, can be really pretentious and hard for femmes and non binary people to break into.

That’s what I imagine in my head.

There have been a few cool initiatives to encourage women and non binary people to DJ but they haven’t lasted. I’m hoping Intersessions inspires a movement when you’re here.

I hope so! I’m there for a while too. I think for some reason when someone comes from somewhere else and brings attention to a problem, people take notice. And since I’ll be there for three weeks it’ll give me some understanding of what the culture is and how other DJs interact with each other and just the whole vibe of everything.

What does a typical Intersessions workshop look like?

It depends on the demand of each city. We have between 3-6 teachers and we start off with a 45 minute panel and we speak on different things– not just things that affect women, queer folk or people of colour – but things that are really technical. Often times, femmes and women are doubted on the technical side of things. Sound guys are often like, “Do you even know how to plug in your shit?” So it’s a lot about the independence of plugging in your own equipment. Then we also hit on, depending on the city, for example in Vancouver right now there is a fentanyl epidemic, so we did a training workshop on how if someone overdoes this is how you take care of it. We’ve also done self defence classes. Then after the panel, we break into groups and there are 3-4 different setups of all the different types of equipment— a CDJs set up, a Traktor or Serato setup and a vinyl setup, and there’s a teacher at each station. Then all the students go to each of the stations and walk around and then the teachers explain everything on the equipment and everyone gets to play, so it’s kind of like a giant back to back set. People ask questions, network and just hang out without any pressure. If you don’t feel like playing on the equipment, you don’t have to. If you fuck up, no one’s going to judge you. It’s just like getting contacts, starting a Facebook group and getting comfortable. I’ve been to workshops where there have been a lot of dudes and I haven’t learnt anything because everyone already knows everything and everyone is there just to prove that they know everything. It’s made me feel so uncomfortable and inferior.

It’s so easy to niggle at that part of women, femmes and NB people’s brain that says “I’m not good enough to do this.”

Exactly, and then you make so many excuses for why you’re not good enough and you never do it again. We’re hoping we create an environment where people don’t feel too intimidated or too scared, which is also why we like to have teachers at different stages of their careers, so it’s not a super famous DJ teaching you all this crazy shit. It’s all different levels of people, different genres and hopefully one person that you can relate to.

This makes me feel a lot better about teaching at Intersessions because sometimes I have that insecurity even now that I’m not good enough, especially not to be teaching.

I’ve listened to so many different people explain how to use CDJs in the past year and everyone does different things— and that’s good! You’re not going to learn everything overnight, so little tips here and there are really helpful. Once you get the basic technical knowledge down, it’s up to you to develop a style from there anyway.

People ask you about your highly publicised deportation a lot.

Everyone should know by now [laughs]. I’ve spoken about it so much that it feels like reciting a speech. Sometimes I’m talking about it and I think “Did this even happen?” because it sounds like a story and didn’t happen to me. Everyone I meet asks me about it too, so I have this condensed version I tell. It’s so weird that I’m telling this story all the time.

I only have one question about it— you have eight years remaining on your ban from the US, when that’s over will you go back?

I don’t think I’d ever go back to live, but my parents live there, my brother lives there. I would love to tour there, the majority of my fanbase is there. One time I got a message from someone saying “How could you just leave your fans?” because people thought I left by choice. All my best friends live in America and I don’t really miss anything but my friends and playing there. Nothing really compares to playing there because I’ve had fans for a really long time— I’ve been making music since I was 17 so it’s different because I have a personal connection to a lot of people there.

There’s been a huge push forward in the last five years for fewer white men on lineups and with that has come an influx of people like yourself pioneering DJ schools, workshops and collectives. As someone who has been in the scene during that time, how have you seen it change?

I don’t know if it’s because I’m in this bubble of the world right now, so I mostly meet a lot of strong talented women, femmes and people from the LGBTQ community, so I don’t know if I’m surrounded by more people pushing forward and saying “Fuck this.” I just don’t think men care enough still. We are fighting and we are pushing but straight men just don’t genuinely care. Not only care because it adds to their image or their profit looking like someone who’s progressive. I think people in our community are doing the right thing, I just don’t think straight men give a fuck. Men don’t give a fuck because it doesn’t affect them and whether they do or don’t pay attention to what’s going on, they’ll be fine.

And I say this, I’m friends with a lot of white dude DJs and they’re talented and they’re confident in what they do and I see that they want to care but they ultimately really don’t care— and I don’t know if they ever will. Maybe in a few years if they have a daughter then they’ll care. Except there was this guy at Red Bull, not to talk shit on Red Bull because they’ve helped me so much, but there was this guy at Red Bull London who hit me up to help with Intersessions. He told me he had a daughter and didn’t want her to grow up in a world like this, so I told him if he did the workshop to have me involved. Then he went ahead, took my idea and did his own Red Bull workshop without involving me. So I don’t think that even having a daughter has an effect. I think the majority of white men are selfish and are off in their own worlds without compassion for the issues around them.

And even though I work twice as hard– wait not even twice, just so much harder than most of these guys winging it, I’m still getting shit for being talkative and saying what I want. So for example, I’m playing this show in India and Ten Walls is on the lineup and I was getting shit for playing that festival. Firstly, I didn’t know he was on the lineup and people were upset I was on the lineup with him because he went on that homophobic rant. Secondly, would I say no to a festival because he’s on it? It’s the promoter’s responsibility to not book him and not mine. Is that the weight I need to take? It’s kind of crazy as the only woman on the lineup I need to take the weight of the homophobic person who ranted? That’s kind of crazy to me.

I think when you’re outwardly political or you’re visible in your beliefs, especially when you’re a woman or a femme or a person of colour, people expect you to be absolutely perfect, and are held to a higher standard than others and it’s unrealistic.

Exactly. The world has already not been built for me and there’s only so much I can do as one woman. I recently got in so much shit for playing a show in Halifax for this promoter who was apparently a misogynistic white guy in a reggae band. You know what? I’m playing this to get the cheque and there are some things I need to do to have to survive. There are of course certain things I won’t do, but there are also things I need to do for my wellbeing so I can pay my rent [laughs].

People forget that in the hyper woke corners of Twitter.

Yeah and I have no family home to lean on, it’s always going to be me and I always have to be able to pay rent and live somewhere. And do you hold a white man to those standards? No. He can go on with his life never speaking on anything, helping anyone, making a shitload of money without any weight on his shoulders—that’s insane to me.

You’ve done so much over the past few years, from rapping to DJing and now Intersessions. Do you feel like you’re at your final form or is there more to come?

I was actually thinking about that today and was talking about direction and life. I’ve been winging it for so many years. I first started music after someone asked me to be on their song and just doing it. Then I learned so much and kept learning about it. Everything has been a coincidence and even Intersessions kind of happened for me. I’ve never really planned anything and gone through with it, but I do want to produce, sing and make my own album entirely. I don’t like to be static so I think I’m going to evolve.

Words by Kish Lal
Image: Supplied

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