On top of everyday stressors, today’s social climate and current pandemic make anxiety inevitable. Finding an escape from the stress has become an important practice for most individuals alike. Steven Shapiro, or ChaosCanine, as Instagram would know him, has become this escape for hundreds of thousands of people, enough of which to secure him a spot as Calm’s designated eye-catching video. If you’ve ever scrolled through social media and stumbled upon a beautiful sunset shining into a guitar, where the camera captures the oscillations of the strings, you’ve seen ChaosCanine before.
Although not the first to invent the inside-the-guitar video trend, ChaosCanine’s precision as a musician, love for nostalgic soundtracks, and passion for bringing his followers stress relief has made him one of the most notable guitarists on Instagram today. Still only 18 years old, Steven is only at the beginning of his career as a musician. He tells us there are more than just social media posts on the horizon, as he taps into his perfectionist side to write his own music.
We had the chance to speak with Steven about his journey to where he is now and what he has in store for the future:
First off, I’ve gotta ask, what’s the story behind the name Chaos Canine?
I didn’t just want to be another personal music page like “steven.guitar” and I always thought alliteration would do the trick. One day I was literally in algebra class and decided on “chaoscanine”. It doesn’t really have an inherent meaning to it, it’s just kind of what I thought sounded nice. My friends were actually pushing for something else like “chubby chihuahua” but I didn’t go for it haha.
I noticed that in a lot of your music you incorporate some video game music – what’s the backstory, are you a gamer?
Yes absolutely! One of the biggest things about video games that appeals to me is the soundtrack. Without the soundtrack, so many games would just be so bland, you know. Like playing Pokemon, and you enter your hometown for the first time, and you hear literally that town theme song, and it just elevates the experience so much. Music is a huge part of the nostalgia that comes with a game – and nostalgia is such a powerful and beautiful thing that I love tapping into. But to answer your question more about my personal life as a gamer – I play a ton, my two favorite right now are Pokemon and Minecraft.
Apart from video game soundtracks, what other type of music do you listen to? What are some of your influences?
I listen to a ton of movie and TV soundtracks actually. I find them so interesting because it really ties the whole atmosphere together just like in video games. When you’re listening to something and you feel like you’re in the show is a super cool phenomenon. I love Studio Ghibli’s soundtracks. Outside of soundtracks though, I love lo-fi and jazz fusion a lot. I used to play in a jazz fusion band when I was in high school.
I know you write a lot of your own arrangements/ covers – have you ever written original pieces?
Yes! I have definitely written a lot of original music and I have producer friends from the lo-fi community who I’m excited to work with because I feel like I’m a very lo-fi oriented person. A lot of my writing has a relaxing vibe inspired by the scenery and aesthetic vibe near me so I think we’ll have some cool stuff coming out.
What’s your musical backstory?
I was always a pretty hyper kid when I was little. I used to bang on desks with pencils in my classes and my teachers always got soo annoyed with me that they eventually had to talk to my mom about it when I was 9. But that banging actually paid off because one time I was banging on my own dining room table, and my mom said “oh my god he actually has some kind of like rhythm…” I asked for a drum set, but she wouldn’t let me have one because it would be too loud and annoying so I just got a guitar instead! I kept playing and eventually left my private school for a performing arts school. It just felt right. I’ve been in a couple bands since then and am still trying to learn new instruments all the time. I love the oscillating string instruments and am hoping to have a couple more under my belt soon!
Did you always have this vision of what your social media account “chaoscanine” could be?
I definitely had a vision for how I wanted it to go out but it took some pivoting throughout. In the beginning I was mainly posting things like full body videos of myself playing guitar on Youtube, however, I found that Instagram is the quickest way to grow – a lot quicker than Youtube. I was always confident that with enough playing and consistency I would get on some algorithm and luckily my first video actually did pretty well.
Yeah, on Youtube. On Instagram it didn’t do well at all, but I wasn’t trying for it to do well on Instagram. I just kept making videos and began pivoting my videos to be Instagram oriented content. I began connecting with lots of music pages, pages I’m still friends with to this day, and the growth was pretty much exponential from there. Once a couple of my posts hit the explore page I started gaining followers.
Was there one moment that really spiked your growth?
The one thing that completely came from left field was that the page 9gag reposted my first inside-the-guitar video I ever uploaded. I had 20,000 followers at the time and they reposted me to all of their accounts which had like 40 million followers. I immediately got like 30,000 followers in a night.
What did it feel like when that was happening?
Well my phone was actually broken at the time of the first big 9gag repost. I remember I answered the 9gag DM, my phone broke, and when I finally got it back I had missed all of the overnight follows. Either way I was super excited because 50k was one of the biggest milestones I was looking forward to and it just happened so unexpectedly.
Was it hard at the beginning – before that?
Oh, for sure. I’ve always been a very big perfectionist so I was making sure my early content looked good, but I started trying even more when I started to follower growth. Time to take it to here, and then time to take it to the next level. From there, I saw I was having an impact on my followers as they asked for tabs and told me how my videos made them feel, which motivated me even further.
Any advice for other aspiring musicians?
Man everything’s changed so much. I remember when I started out it was a completely different landscape. I know everyone says this, but being genuine and doing something you actually enjoy is extremely important, but you also need to understand that video and audio quality are important factors on social media today. Especially in today’s day and age you have to have to be the whole package. It’s more than just being a musician now. You have to be your own social media manager, stay connected, and create a detailed brand. Moving into this independent artist world, where more and more people are finding success without labels is awesome, but it also puts a lot of pressure on the artist to focus on so many dimensions rather than just their music. People need to tap into their inner passion and self-motivate to really excel in this new environment and stand out from the crowd.
So what’s the plan now? Any original tracks coming out?
I definitely plan on creating with some of my musician friends who have already started putting out their own tracks, but what I’ve mainly been working towards is posting more content. I’ve been a perfectionist with a lot of my posts in the past, so I always take a little while to post something new, I want to change that.
What about in 5 years?
Five years is a long time. It’s very nerve-wracking to think of five years. For me thinking of tomorrow is already enough. But for five years I think my dream goal is to be making original music with my friends in the community, continuing my page, building more relationships and making content for other people. If I could just grow my page and try to positively affect and influence as many people as I can I would be so happy.
For your followers who don’t really know you and have never seen you, is there anything you’d want to tell them personally?
I mean you know what, one of the biggest reasons I never wanted to show my face is just cause it’s never been about me. At least I’ve never tried to make it about me, I always try to let the music and art speak for itself. So I guess if I had one thing to say to the people who wanted to get some kind of input from me is just like, I hope that the art that I’m making for you guys is doing its purpose, and it’s doing its job, and it’s making a positive impact.