Chris Keyloun, affectionately known under the moniker ‘Coach Chris’ amongst the NYC queer community is a multi-hyphenate born out of exploration. Though relatively new to the medium of mixing, he’s DJ’d at some of New York’s biggest LGBTQIA+ events including a Pride 2023 cross continental tour that will eventually land him a spot DJing at NYC’s hottest headlining event: Horsemeat Disco at Knockdown Center.
He tethers between multiple spaces: in the daylight a coach and trainer at CrossFit Union Square in NoHo. By sundown, he’s throwing down full throttle mixes of Spice Girls deep-cuts in basements filled with carnal gestures and synthetic smoke. Attending a ‘Coach Chris’ set feels like somewhere between an intimate conversation and 3AM at a packed house party hosted by that ex-boyfriend of your college roommate. He’s somewhere between everyone’s friend at the party and an untouchable pneuma on a pedestal. ‘No Requests!’ he’ll playfully remind you without once letting his gaze leave the turntables.
Taking a peek behind the veil of his aesthetics, an apparent chiseled archetype, there’s a young gay man exploring the depths of his empathy through the power of output; The act of giving parts of yourself away through the medium of music, all in hopes that maybe one day it’ll come back to you.
In celebration of Pride Month, Coach Chris sits down with Senior Brand Manager Chester Huynh on the process, hiding in the shadows just to find the light, and of course the Spice Girls. A special playlist has been curated by Chris and will accompany this interview. Play it while you read, play it on your private dance floor.
01 - What is your earliest queer memory? I remember always being infatuated with watching my mother get ready. I feel like lots of gay boys love to try on their mother’s heels but I remember always watching my mom get ready for work or getting ready for when they had a wedding and she would put on these heels,…and then the makeup, the jewelry. The whole nine yards. And I think what it really boils down to, it’s that she had this pride in appearance thing. Which I love and I’ve always remembered. I would try on her heels. Like a lot of young gay boys do for some reason but I remember they just made me feel powerful and elevated.
There's this transformative power, right? I mean, honestly, our mothers were for a lot of young queer people like our first exposure to drag?
Definitely what it is. It was like that armor. I also have this very specific memory of being really into my sister's Barbie dolls but in a very specific way, I love the way their hair looked underwater. I was always into very visually appealing things.
Aesthetics, which almost sounds…so corny and cheesy, but I think it has to go back to this appreciation for really pretty and beautiful things. What it all boils down to is I was always into things that were shiny. But also just that aspect of a suit of armor and the pride of that appearance. You can put on all these shiny jewels or the clothes or the way hair moved underwater and it was all visually - Beautiful.
Totally, but what I find really interesting, usually, when you're asking somebody about a queer memory, it's about sexuality. It's usually like I remember ‘liking a boy in the playground’ but for you, both examples are really tied to memory of the women in your life. Like, maybe your queerness wasn't immediately shaped by the outside world, but it started from inside your home?
It's absolutely that. The women in my life were never the ones that made me feel different. They always had this attitude of giving the middle finger to what was expected of them, and I think that really resonated with me.
02 - That person from that early memory, what would they say to you now? DJ Coach Chris; playing some of the biggest shows at New York Pride '23. it’s a big moment, what do you say to that person then + there?
I think he would also say and this is something I really believe in, I think he would tell me to never miss an opportunity to go out and dance and have a good time.
Even at five. She knew how to have a good time.
Even at five she knew how to have a good time, girl. Yeah.
And so what is the man who's playing some of the biggest shows during pride…what is he saying to that five year old?
Find the things that you love. Know that you're always going to have pushback. Whether it is from your family or friends and even if the community isn't around you, you need have to have some blind faith. At some point you will find the people who get it the same way you do. Sometimes you're gonna have to, charge blindly through whatever is in front of you.
03 - How are you celebrating?
Celebrating by being as authentic as I can be. And being the best friend that I can to those that support me.
04 - What song is unforgettably about ‘queer joy’ to you?
I wrestled with this one so much. The song that I always came back to was, it’s a 90’s song, a group called Olive and it’s called “You’re not alone”. It's a beautiful song, It's sounds like a heartbeat monitor at a hospital. The vocals and lyrics are simple, which I think is important when it comes to creating a song that touches a large group of people. These lyrics really do the question justice: “It is the distance that makes life a little hard / Two minds that once were close now so many miles apart / I will not falter though, I hold on to your hope / Safely back where you belong / And see how our love has grown”. It’s one of those songs I find myself closing my eyes to and having a moment with.
Yeah, I'm sad you didn't go with Firework by Katy Perry but…
A really close second.
05 - What is so sacred about the dance floor? Maybe why it's so sacred for so many queer people is the fact that it’s a space where they can exist as freely or as close to freely as possible?
Absolutely you can hide in the shadows a little bit, but you can also show up and stand under the light and be exactly who you want to be.
06 - Hottest moment on the dance floor?
I mean, we can call it “hot.” It was in the middle of a Saturday at Honcho Campout. Afternoon sun. Everyone was dancing and sweating and getting down. And it was almost carnal how much people were dancing and it was amazing to experience.
I was with two of my really good friends, and I just remember turning to them, literally I'm just saying ‘I'm having so much fun’ and then the DJ started playing The Spice Girls and I did that gay squeal that just sometimes comes out of you?'
Just a large gathering of queers, sweaty bodies and all, under the sun moving their bodies to Spice Girls. At the exact perfect moment.It woke up that 5 year old that used to dance to ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ on his bed when no one was home. Shoutout to the DJ Sister Zoe for the moment!
Spice Girls? That's hot.
It was so cool. And I’ll never forget it.
07 - Tell me about the process: where does it start, how do you keep it going, what do you think about for a closer?
A lot of times it comes from; what music do I want to play? I never want to be one note and I never want to get stuck in some of these easy ruts. It's easy to play music fast and it’s easier to get complacent.I’m also someone who gets very bored with playing the same music often. So there's always this constant search or treasure hunt for new music. Then I also think of waves of genres, and almost emotions. You have to play with the crowd, not at them.
You start slow. It’s almost like an essay, you're trying to build people's trust, you're trying to warm them up. A little bit like foreplay. Then you take it up and whatever that is, is up to you…you also have to understand as a DJ…like…people are doing substances. (Laughs)You have to know, all right they're probably starting to feel a little loose, it'll feel good or whatever, and then you can use that energy as some weird scary manipulation. And then you take it higher!
The set that I'm playing on Sunday, I really want to take it into this ‘dream state’ with high energy. But before all of that, i want it to begin in a darker space. I think my job and my intention at the end of the day is to take everybody's hand and then together, make it on to the other side.
What do we think about when we think about a sick closer?
Yeah. I love something out of left field. Where it's like, my God, I haven't heard this song in 20 fucking years…or at least right now that’s where my mind is headed. It’s such an honor, there’s always a balance between giving people what they want, and then giving them something they didn’t know they needed.
08 - How do you heal?
I heal by dancing. I need to remind myself never to get TOO serious with it. It's okay to go out and dance and be one with the crowd. That's what got me into playing music. One of my idols, Kim Anh recently said she started playing music as a way to not feel so lonely while going out. It was and still is the same for me, playing and dancing are ways for me to get things off my chest without having to speak.
09 - What does the present feel and sound like to you, in this moment?
The present to me is quite carnal. I want you to move and exorcise any demons or whatever is heavy on your heart or mind at the moment. We’re all experiencing life in somewhat similar ways, and I think the dance floor is reflecting that. I love that people show up to parties wanting to be taken on a journey. They want the broad brushstrokes, but also the minutiae. There is this ever present feeling of hope on the dance floor, which I find to be its most beautiful quality. There’s a chance of love, of movement, of reckoning. It is the opposite of stagnation.
10 - What is the perfect song to end the night with, why? ;)
You know what? It's my favorite song and I think it's actually the perfect answer for this question because It's the song when I'm sitting in the car with my friends at 6, and I go on Soundcloud…it’s a remix of a Fleetwood Mac song. ’You Make Loving Fun’ by Christine Mcvie, Rest in Peace.
It’s super “sexy” not lazy. It also touches on the hopeless romantic that lives in me. Like that scene in Say Anything when John Cusack brings the radio to the window. I’ve always wanted someone to hold me and bop back and forth to it. I’m sure that will happen someday. All of this to say, it’s a reminder that love will save the day and life will go on