- Grain Belt Beer
- Pan-Am 1
- Gate City Savings And Loan
- Hart Ski
- Crystal Sugar
- 76 Trombones
Thes One, born Christopher Cesar Portugal in Torrance, California, on October 18, 1977 to an American mother and Immigrant Peruvian father, is one half of the well known hip hop duo People Under the Stairs (or P.U.T.S), serving as a vocalist/MC, producer, engineer and business manager. He has produced and engineered 6 albums for People Under the Stairs that have scanned in excess of 100,000 units in America alone since 2000, as well as countless remixes and singles for other artists across the globe with numerous appearances as guest vocalist. As a business manager, he has coordinated and managed 21+ successful world tours for People Under The Stairs and co-founded independent, artist run label Tres Records. He also designs and builds recording studios and custom gear. His musical aliases also include Lord Radio.
Born Christopher Cesar Portugal, Thes One grew up in San Pedro, Ca. He was first introduced to hip hop at Peck Park childcare, where older councilors would paint graffiti in the empty public pool and play the now defunct AM radio station 1580 KDAY. While attending high school in Los Angeles, Thes One met Michael Turner (Double K), and the two began working together as what would soon become People Under The Stairs.
Upon graduating from Loyola High School in 1995, he applied to Berklee School of Music in Boston for a BA in Audio Engineering but received a writing scholarship to USC, where he was chosen for the prestigious honors English program. While there, he received the Seibert Fellowship for poetry, acceptance to the Golden Key Honors Society and walked in 1998 Magna Cum Laude with Dean’s Honors.
While Studying at USC, he began recording music with Michael Turner as People Under The Stairs, and in 1997 they performed their first in-store appearance as a group at the now defunct Beat Non Stop record store on Melrose. That year they also took a trip to the bay area, and upon returning, wrote and recorded “San Francisco Knights”, one of the group’s most popular songs to date.
OM YEARS,FIRST FOUR ALBUMS
In the spring of 1998, months before graduating and using his student loan funding, Thes One released the first P.U.T.S. 12” entitled The Next Step pt. 2. 250 of the original vinyl run were made until the stamper was broken, at which time an additional 200 were made from a different master without the secret bonus track Live At The Fishbucket which appears on first run b-side. In the late summer of 1998 the group independently released their first album entitled The Next Step, which he produced and engineered in its entirety.
After famously selling out of the vinyl 12” in 7 minutes, the shopkeeper at the now gone Mr. Bongo’s record store in London called Chris Smith, label owner of Om Records and urged him to get in contact with the new group out of LA. Chris Smith contacted Thes One initially for one song for their compilation series Deep Concentration and Mushroom Jazz, but upon hearing the tracks they were working on, offered P.U.T.S. a 4-album deal.
The deal was signed in 1999 and P.U.T.S. left for their first world tour in August 1999, initially as support for the Deep Concentration project but later that year in Europe as a Solo Act with local openers. Though unconfirmed, it is rumored that visual artist Banksy was the booking agent/promoter for the first P.U.T.S. tour in Europe.
The second People Under The Stairs album, Question In The Form Of An Answer, was released in June 2000. The lead 12” single, Youth Explosion, sold the full run of 15,000 copies pressed in it’s first month, and was not repressed in order to promote the second and third singles The Cat and We’ll Be There – each of which went on to sell it’s 15K run. The album was critically acclaimed for it’s eclectic and diverse range of beats rooted in Jazz and Psychedelic Rock and P.U.T.S. continued with another set of world tours to support the record, this time adding Japan and Australia to their routing.
Following the release of the second album, Thes One began to coordinate strings of successful world tours for PUTS culminating in performances at the UK’s famous Glastonbury Festival in 2001 alongside Kelis and successful shows at the Reading, Leeds and infamous Essentials festival in London where the group was joined with Biz Markie, Ice T, Jeru, Masta Ace and De La Soul on the final Sunday of the festival.
In between managing tours and performing, Thes One began producing and engineering the third People Under The Stairs album, which would be released in June 2002 as O.S.T. (Original Soundtrack). Critically acclaimed for it’s broad musical influences and dead on hip hop sound, songs such as Montego Slay and Acid Raindrops quickly became favorites and helped solidify their dedicated worldwide fan base. As well as producing People Under The Stairs albums, Thes One completed remixes for many artists as well as library music for a few television pilots which were not picked up. 2002 also saw PUTS embark on their first national US tour as support for Deltron 3030.
The group continued to tour relentlessly through the 2004 release of their Or Stay Tuned album, their final release on San Francisco based Om Records. The album was labeled an EP due to contractual issues but was considered by many, including the group, to be a full-length contribution. The group continued to tour the globe, spending, at times, 7–8 months of the year on the road.
In April of 2004, Thes One was approached by friend Chikara Kurahashi (of Giant Panda) and was asked to co-found and help start a record label using his connections and knowledge of the record industry. He agreed, and to help get the label off of the ground, turned over a series of 12” projects and one album, Lifestyle Marketing as well as the concept for the Bloquera project. The first twelve inch release on the newly formed Tres Records imprint was Thes One’s Noonen 12”, an ode to the music of the movie Caddyshack, followed by Doin’ It with Raashan Amad. Thes One also brought artists Lightheaded (whom he signed when they opened for PUTS in Portland) and DJ Alibi to the Tres Roster. In May, 2004 he coordinated the Bloquera project, a trip to southern-most Baja California to record an EP and shoot a video on Super 8. Following this trip he began executive producing and mixing the Fly School Reunion album for Tres Artists Giant Panda.
Thes One continued to tour with PUTS through 2005 and began production on the next PUTS album, Stepfather. He inked a deal for the group with local Los Angeles label Basement Records and coordinated the elaborate deluxe packaging with long time friend Joshua Dunn of design team Secret Pizza Party. Stepfather (2006), PUTS fifth full-length release, was met with critical acclaim and presented a more modern and personal direction for the group. Consisting of Thes One’s turn towards left of center rhythm’s and modern soul and disco, it was his most ambitious production yet, though songs like Tuxedo Rap seemed, at first listen, a simple return to hip-hop’s disco rap roots. The group toured the album in the US throughout that year, taking then unknown rock-rap group Gym Class Heroes as opening act with them.
Throughout 2006 and 2007 Thes One continued to tour as a member of People Under The Stairs and tour/business manager, expanding the groups presence throughout the world through festival dates in Japan, Australia, Europe and the US.
LIFESTYLE MARLETING LP
In March 2007, Thes One released his debut solo instrumental album Lifestyle Marketing. It is a 2-disc concept album of instrumentals made from Herb Pilhofer's Music That Works series; a demonstration album originally released in the early 1970s in limited numbers that showcased Pilhofer's musical compositions for radio & TV commercials, industrial films, and other projects. The first disc is Thes One's album; the second consists of some of the original tracks from Music That Works from which Thes One's album was made. The first single off the album is the 10" release 'Target' b/w 'Grain Belt Beer'.
STREET DREAMS MOVIES
In 2007 Thes One also spent the year writing, performing and recording the original 5.1 score for “Street Dreams”, a dramatic feature film starring Rob Dyrdek and Paul Rodriguez Jr. slated for release in 2009. His first full-length feature score, he enlisted the help of long time friend and musical collaborator Kat 010, drummer Alex Newman, DJ Mekalek and Violinist Paul Dateh.
In 2008, Thes One secured a deal for People Under The Stairs with upstart label Gold Dust media, a subdivision of K7 records worldwide. Following this, Thes One organized, planned and funded the video for “The Wiz”, a song to be released on Fun DMC and shot entirely on location in Sydney Australia with director Matt Bird. Featuring innovative underwater filming and a massive helicopter shot, the video received critical and fan praise alike and helped pave the way for the successful release of Fun DMC, PUTS’ 6th full length release. After years of producing and engineering the complicated Fun DMC album for People Under The Stairs partly in studio and partly on location in South Central Los Angeles in Blewfoot’s backyard, the album received worldwide acclaim and noted a marked turn in the groups sound back towards the modern funk of early 80’s Los Angeles. Following a nationwide tour in support of the album, People Under The Stairs celebrated their 10 year anniversary in December 2008 with a sold out show at Los Angeles’ historical El Rey theatre.
In February 2009, Thes One booked, managed and performed as a member of PUTS in their first tour of China, selling out shows in both Beijing and Shanghai (in excess of 800 people). Amongst many confirmed shows for the year, PUTS is slated to play the Coachella Music Festival and Bonaroo Music Festival in 2009.
Thes One began producing hip-hop beats with a modified cassette deck and a Gemini phrase sampler in a pdm-6008 in 1989. He credits the Gemini sampler for defining his loop based production style and still uses the pdm-6008 in his studio to monitor vinyl. Self taught as an audio engineer, He would meticulously read magazines such as Home Studio Recording and the Handbook for Audio Engineering. In 1992 he began looping music on a Tascam 4-track, and after working numerous jobs, he saved up money to buy a brand new Akai MPC-3000 in 1994. Aside from an SP-1200 and a Roland VP-9000, He still uses the MPC-3000 as the primary production tool on every song, and has worked with Bruce Forat to modify the analogue side of the machine. Oftentimes defined by the jazzy sound of his earlier work, Thes One's sound and influences can largely be attributed to his massive vinyl collection. Specializing in local Los Angeles pressings of rare funk, soul and rock, he has spent the latter half of his life searching for the lost and forgotten music of his hometown. With a collection of over 10,000 pieces, he has been quoted as saying that he is not defined by his collection, but the influence in his music is undeniable.
Often thickly layered with samples, one defining feature of Thes One's work is that it never sounds choppy, but rather like a reconstructed piece of music. A fan of filtering pieces of music, his work is often underlined by layers of resonant loops with sharp filter q's. His earlier work was often critically classified as derived from the golden era of New York production, with jazzy loops and horn samples coming together to create the sonic landscape, but his later work showed more of an individual progression and closer ties to the modern soul/funk sound of Los Angeles. He has stated in interviews that he prides himself in the fact that he has tried to use different drum sounds for every beat he has made, whether released or unreleased.
Starting off with cassette decks and pro-sumer equipment, his studio evolved over the years. At the point that it is featured in the book Behind The Beat, the photo shows an Adat-XT and an Allen & Heath GS3000 alongside his MPC-3000. This appears to be taken shortly after OST was completed. In 2004, shortly before his first feature in Remix Magazine, he acquired a Neve 5316 (Baby-V). In 2008 he commissioned Steve Firlotte of Inward Connections to build a custom console based on the API 500 series format. Thes One's original idea was to have a stripped down 500 series line input mixer, the console soon blossomed to an 86 slot 24x4x4 mixer. With Steve's design, Ian Gardeners physical design and Thes One advising and testing, the console later became the commercially available Tree Audio 500, though Thes One still owns and uses the protoype/001 serial number unit.
Thes One's beats can be heard on various shows including Run's House, Rob and Big, Entourage, Girlfriends and various others.
Thes One competed on The Price Is Right under his birth name. He was chosen for Contestants' Row and won on his first bid, playing the Shell Game. Interestingly he won, among other things, a record player. Video of the appearance is included on the bonus DVD included with Stepfather as an easter egg.
Thes One has gone on record buying missions to India, Egypt, Peru, Mexico City, throughout the US and various other countries to augment his collection.
He Battled Will.I.Am at the Rootdown Soundclash beat battle
Thes One Presents Sound Clash at the Root Down (P-Vine Japan, 2004)
Mithai, Wedding Gift CD (2004)
Lifestyle Marketing (Tres Records, 2007)
Wonderful Radio (TBA)
Street Dreams (Berkela Films, 2009)
Back On The Block Remix, Pete Rock & CL Smooth (Boot Leg Recordings, 2001)
Noonen (Tres Records, 2004)
The Next Stets: Stetsasonic (Kajmere Sound Distribution, 2004)
Doin' It (feat. Raashan Ahmad of Crown City Rockers) (Tres Records, 2005)
Target (Tres Records, 2007)
SELECT GROUP DISCOGRAPHY
The Next Step People Under The Stairs (PUTS Records/Om Records, 1998)
Question In The Form of An Answer People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2000)
O.S.T. People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2002)
Or Stay Tuned People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2004)
Stepfather People Under The Stairs (Basement Records/Sony Red, 2006)
Fun DMC People Under The Stairs (Gold Dust/K7, 2008)
Carried Away People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2009)
The Next Step People Under The Stairs (PUTS Records, 1998)
Youth Explosion People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2000)
The Cat People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2000)
We'll Be There People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2000)
Jappy Jap People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2002)
O.S.T. People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2002)
Acid Raindrops People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2002)
Yield People Under The Stairs (Om Records, 2004)
Tuxedo Rap People Under The Stairs (Tres Records, 2006)
Pass The 40 People Under The Stairs (Tres Records, 2006)