[Interview] A Rescued Pup, A Live Electronic Duo, A Demanding Tour Schedule – Hear The Story Of CHKLZ

Posted by on April 25, 2024

In 2023, the Phoenix New Times honored CHKLZ as the Best Dance Artist, a title that only scratches the surface of this duo’s compelling journey in the music scene. Comprising DJ iLL Choppo and LeMarshawn Jean, CHKLZ is a electronic dance duo with a dynamic narrative of community and creativity sparked by a serendipitous rescue of a small white dog named Charlie, or “Chuckles,” on a hot Fourth of July.

The duo’s name, CHKLZ, chosen by LeMarshawn Jean, cleverly stands out while hinting at their approach to music—a playful yet thoughtful fusion of live elements and electronic influences. DJ iLL Choppo’s background as a seasoned drummer infuses their music with a rhythmic richness that transforms each concert into a unique, energetic experience.

Their musical journey is characterized by independence and an extensive touring footprint that includes performances across the USA, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and Costa Rica—all achieved without the aid of an agent. This independent streak brought them a surprising twist at Alberta’s Friendzy Fest 2023, where a last-minute schedule change put them in a prime nighttime slot, this jolted their music profile and leading to more festival appearances and headline gigs.

CHKLZ is also revisiting their musical roots with an upcoming remix of “White Wine Spritzer” by Okilly Dokilly, blending their early heavy metal elements with their current upbeat house influences, which only exemplifies their evolving sound.

Their story is more than a tale of accolades or a sequence of events; it’s about making real connections through music, celebrating inclusivity, and carrying the joyful spirit of Chuckles wherever they go, proving that sometimes, the best stories are those that feel a bit like home.

These boys have a story to tell. We chatted with them on a variety of subjects, see the full interview below.


CHKLZ seems to have a strong community focus. How important is that community to your identity as artists?

A: It’s everything to us. Community is at the focus of everything that we do. In this community we all identify as “Doggies” because anyone from anywhere and any walk of life can be a “Doggie!” In this community, we look past even modern labels to make sure all always feel welcomed in our pack!

Without a strong community, we have no relationships and no career. Our community is the lifeblood of our ecosystem. And within that community, our strongest focus always has been, and always will be, inclusivity.

We feel that music needs to create community and unite people, not divide them socially. I have never been in “the in crowd” my whole life, always feeling like I have been going against the grain because I speak and play from only from the heart! I never wanted to be carbon copy of anyone.

I also got bullied and made fun of often growing up because I was always willing to be myself in nature. It bothered me sometimes back then, but as I grew out of caring about what other people think, I look back and realize all of those moments built me to whom I am today. And those memories serve as a main focus of our communal intentions to make people feel joy about who they are and where they come from. That what makes them unique is what makes them beautiful, no matter what walk of life people come from. And we believe that whole heartedly about our identity as artists, without question.

How do you ensure that every fan, new or old, feels part of the ‘Doggies’ community at your shows?

A: We always do our best to check in with our audiences at our live sets. We like to make sure the Doggies are letting loose and having a great time at our shows. We also arrive early and stay late to make sure to connect and thank them for coming to our shows. And our shows will also include some fun audience pawticipation. Sometimes we do stuff like a group howl or barking session, you know fun stuff.

What role does inclusivity play in your music and performances?

A: It plays a vital role. When we release music, we want the lyrics to speak to the human experience. We select songs based on this. We write our lyrics based on this. We write and find remixes that we feel have strong messages of social inclusivity and make sure to use them in our live sets. We don’t just pick songs because we think they are “cool.” We carefully curate the Groove Fiesta to speak and inspire the soul of the listener, whether that be us performing live or in our songs worldwide.

How do you balance the demands of international touring with personal life?

A: It can be really crazy at times. So much work all day everyday. My Pawdner Rizla travels with us almost everywhere. When we travel, her and I make sure to work in time to have fun and do something in the cities we travel to. It doesn’t happen every time, but quite often we figure out a way to do something non-music related on the road to keep things fun and not just about music.

Also, while at home, we make sure to try and spend as much time as we can with our Chihuahua, friends, and families. Rizla and I also work really hard on maintaining a routine as a team, and we find that really helps us stay balanced in our very busy lives.

Rizla and I both have work we do entirely remotely while touring as well, so we can help offset touring costs with other sources of income. We worked hard to find all of these avenues to make all of this traveling work. Is it a grind? Totally! However, being in control of our lives and where we go and all of these amazing experiences we have had make all the extra efforts worth it. It keeps us inspired and it’s amazing that we keep getting these opportunities to keep the touring going.

We also love to spend time in nature and take small trips to recharge regularly. And we have a date once a week (unless we physically are not in the same place) to keep our personal lives alive and well. It’s crazy a schedule, but we see committed as a team to making it work and so far so good! And we have been pretty steady touring for the last 2 years.

Can you share how your experience at Friendzy Fest 2023 impacted your career?

A: Friendzy Fest was truly an amazing experience. It was the first time we got play a larger international festival in a proper night time slot. It was a surreal moment as we were on the main stage bringing our Groove Fiesta alongside some heavy hitters and artists that we admire and look up to.

And we were so well received. It really gave us the confidence that we can play alongside anyone, anywhere and hold our own with the big dogs doing it our way. It also really pushed us to believe further that we are definitely not just performing to fit in. It showed us that we really had our show and our vibe at festival level. And we couldn’t be more pumped about that thought as we move forward in 2024 and beyond.

What has been the most unexpected source of inspiration for your music?

A: On the 4th of July in 2015, I found a little white dog underneath a truck on the I-10 and 16th St off ramp in downtown Phoenix. I saw some movement underneath the truck and I thought to myself, “Is that a dog?”

She immediately came over to us and basically asked to be picked up. Her with sweet little eyes seemed so desperate when I walked over to her in the crosswalk. We took her with us and took her in.

The name CHKLZ (pronounced Chuckles) was born from our little white dog Charlie. We called here “Chuckles” as a nickname because she was a little girl “Chuck” just wasn’t going to stick.

She quickly became an instant source of inspiration one night sitting in my living. Our entire theme and language is “Doggies!” And it’s because of her. LeMarshawn Jean suggested we spell it this way to be different and stand out. And what a great decision that was looking back today.

That dog changed my life and existence. Prior to having Charlie in my life, I can confidently say I wasn’t in the best spot in my own existence. The dog forced me to change my ways and increased my focus. It really is a “who rescued who” situation. I think without that chance encounter with that little dog, my life might be very different and I thank higher beings every day that we were able to connect. She changed my life.

And because of her, we found new approaches and new inspirations for music that I have been trying to compose since the early 2000s. And even though we had to say goodbye to her in October 2022, she still remains our muse and her spirit will live on with us forever. There would be no “Whaddup Doggies!” without her. She is our brand!

What has been your strategy for growing your audience without an agent?

A: Network, network, and network some more. I (DJ iLL Choppo) do so much digging for shows and new opportunities for us. I also keep spreadsheets for shows to keep order. And now that we are few years deeper into our project, better shows are coming along. However, I really believe that is because of the relationships we have cultivated over the years through effort and dedication.

How do you keep your shows fresh and engaging for repeat attendees?

A: We are always doing new things on the fly with our live elements. No two shows are ever the same. We are also constantly finishing new music and adding it to our live shows. We have even finished tracks for shows less than an before showtime before and decided to add them for that night. And we really love taking chances to keep things interesting for both us and all of our attendees.