Kingdom is an artist that is hard to define; while he doesn’t quite fit into one genre, his music encompasses elements from all across the musical spectrum; from R&B to hip-hop to house to 808-driven post-err’thang bass, he has developed a large fanbase due to his impeccable releases & legendary DJ sets.
As the North American face of Night Slugs, it was no surprise earlier this year when he announced the launch of Fade To Mind, a sister label to the London institution. Kicking things off with an irresistable EP from NGUZUNGUZU, Kingdom has quickly become a dude who has to wear a couple of crowns. Producing, DJing & running a label, he’s easily one of 2011′s standout personalities in underground dance music.
Recently Kingdom swooped into Victoria for a sub⎹div/Innergroove jam at Lucky Bar. The set was a perfect way to round up an amazing year of shows. Moving through ravey techno to his signature r&b sound, there are moments in a Kingdom set that can only be described as apocalyptic-trance-trap. Murky, eerie fucking beats, spliced with a strange, alluring sexual tension that so few producers know how to harness. Dude is a boss DJ.
Amy Kirtay grabbed some face-time with the Fade To Mind honcho. In case you missed the Vic show, no need to fret; Kingdom will be headlining the Vancouver sub|division 2 year celebration on Dec 10th. Be sure to get all the info off the event page.
A big thanks goes out to West Olson Photography for the photos of Kingdom during his Victoria show. Big ups!
Amy here and I’m siting down with…
I’m Kingdom, representing Night Slugs and my new label Fade To Mind. I live in Los Angeles, I lived in Brooklyn for a long time as well. Yeah…
Stellar. Dreama just came out last month. From your perspective hows the reception for the EP been?
It seems like it’s been pretty good! People seem into it and it seems like a lot of people were posting about it. It’s really interesting to see people writing about it. It’s just four songs and each one presents a very different environment in a way. So it’s just fun to see people describing it since there’s R&B influence, there’s grime influence, there’s like a vogue house ballroom type track.
I did start working on some of the songs up to two years ago, so to me if feels like it’s been too long or that the songs have been siting around for too long. Some of them were songs that actually started a couple of years ago when I was working on That Mystic and we ended up not putting them on That Mystic because they didn’t fit but they ended up fitting into this project better.
If funny because I was going to say that I recognize some of the tones and the sounds in it and was curious if they’d just been tracks you’d been siting on and waiting to use in the right capacity.
Yeah, well and in a lot of my production there’s a kind of leap frog effect where I’m constantly going back to old edits. I make alot of mix tapes and I often do edits or special blends for my mixtapes so I might go back and grab a new instrument that I added to a track for a mixtape and it’ll end up on a track. Or I’ll make a rough draft like my song “Take Me”, which was on my EP right before this one, that was actually an instrumental that I made a couple years ago and just revisited it and changed it. So I’m constantly going and copy and pasting things.
You kinda touched on your production style – it’s very unique and has allowed you to bridge a lot of fans across the music spectrum. With all the elements in your music (R&B, Garage, Hip Hop etc), what kind of musical influences did you have growing up that lead you to this point?
Hmm… let’s see. I was into dance music and R&B very young; I always was attracted to an R&B or soulful vocal. My brother was a rap aficionado and he was always into the newest west coast gangster shit when that was really popular and I was influenced by him a lot on that.
But also just TV commercials. Not gonna lie, when I was a little kid the commercial dance “snap” and Crystal Waters, the stuff that as Americans thats kinda the dance music we got to see on MTV… it was kinda commercial dance. So there is a little bit of that cheesy rave stab in me from that.
That was all my early years and then as soon as I had a more formed musical opinion I was definitely listening to Jungle and to trip hop and alot of early rave hardcore stuff. And at the same time, the late 90′s early 2000′s, when Aaliyah, Timberland and Missy were doing their thing so that was a big influence too.
It’s evident when you listen to your music. And with all these elements that we’ve been talking about, your music seems to defy traditional genre boxes; what do you think about genre labels and do you think they do more to hinder or to help?
Hmm…well they’re clearly needed because if there were no categories in iTunes it would be a huge mess. And the end of the day, I’m fine with people tagging me with what they want – I don’t try to get too stressed out about it even if they wanna call me Dubstep I don’t really care. I don’t feel limited to it and I don’t use a very small group of instruments anyways so I’m not worried that I’m just going to be stuck in this genre forever. But I do think that genres can get very exclusionary and it can get too narrow.
I mean you can really make a career out of a genre if you wanna go for it. Like there’s almost, in a way, possibly more fast money in doing a genre, so I think it can help a lot of people. Maybe if it was clearer as to what kind of music I made, maybe I would even be playing bigger shows or something… but it doesn’t interest me as much. In terms of me feeling free to do what I want and free to just not be in some kind of closed scene, I’d prefer not to.
Ya I think it can be a fast progression if you wanna take that route but if you really want to focus on the music and expanding yourself as an artist it’s not a good idea.
And you also touched on this earlier, you run Fade To Mind. I’m curious how the label fits with Night Slugs because at first glance it almost seems to be a bit of a counterpart in the branding and a bit in the style. Can you explain that?
Sure. Well my friend Will and I decided we wanted to do a label and started it with the idea of giving NGUZUNGUZU a really nice platform for their music since they’re close friends of ours. I’d been pretty unsure about the idea of doing a label; I have my hands full just doing my own stuff but Bok Bok, who’s one of my best friends and has been a total mentor to me and taught me so much. I saw him build Night Slugs from just a party. I played at their second party ever when they didn’t have any plans to do a label, so I saw him build it from just a small party that had a small group of people attending it into a full brand and an identity and a sound. The way he organized it, I felt like it wouldn’t have made sense to try to get Mike Q and NGUZUNGUZU to get on Night Slugs as well; we kinda needed our own American version.
Once we started talking about a label, and there were time constraints in trying to get the NGUZUNGUZU release out, we were like “well lets just do the logo like Night Slugs, lets just do the cover format like Night Slugs but lets make it different.” Bok Bok designed the template and the logo but then I’m adding all the photographic kinda collage elements on top of it.
But I basically felt like as a grassroots, homemade kinda group of friends type of label I felt like “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” you know. I liked Bok Bok’s format and he was happy to teach me the format and although our progression is moving slightly differently, just to get it started he was a big inspiration.
I’m hoping in the future once I get all set up we’re going to do more stuff where our artists are interacting and collaborating on releases. We’re already doing parties together – Bok Bok and Girl Unit played at the first Fade To Mind event in Los Angeles. We did a party and it was a bunch of artists from both labels on one night and it made perfect sense. We had a lot of people there, there was a line for hours and it was the type of party where we are actually all close friends. NGUZUNGUZU, Bok Bok, Girl Unit, myself actually socialize and trade music and stuff so to have it [a show] just be people that really know each other in one event; it was magical. We wanna do more stuff like that.
Bringing the whole family together.
Both labels complement each other really well but have their individual avenues. When you’re choosing music to release on Fade To Mind, what are you looking for?
There’s a lot of factors. I get a genuine feeling from certain music. I dunno if its just a knee-jerk reaction based on the sound pallet or something, I don’t know exactly what it is but I wanna feel like the music is deep, that can be an expanded definition of deep but I feel like I can somehow tell that the person really ment it when they did it [the music]; there’s no irony and it’s not a joke, it’s not something they’ve just started doing.
I wanna feel like the person’s really entrenched in their own universe; there’s certain sounds that they’ve been obsessed with since they were kids and are just keeping with what they really do. And that means that hopefully they’ll have a long career cause they can keep staying with what they really believe in, they’re not gonna follow trends or whatever. But I’m also just obsessed with syncopation and dischord and strange melodies and people who scavenge for sounds in weird places on the internet. So I’m always looking for just like a messed up take on a weird sound pallet and new rhythms.
There’s alot of types of music that people can rely on that they know will make people dance but as time goes on we’re going to need to find new kinds of music that will make people dance… so I’m hoping that we can change what people will club to. People can club to different types of music.
Ya, increase the variety for sure. And that’s actually a good segway into my next question…I know you used to run a club night in NYC and you’re currently throwing some Fade To Mind parties, how involved are you now that you’re the head of the label and also producing heavily yourself and are you going to continue to do nights like that?
Yeah I mean we have this party in LA that we’ve been doing, we did just two… so it’s not fully on a schedule yet but about every other month at this place called Los Quobos in Los Angeles, so that’s going. And then I wanna do events in New York but I have trouble finding a venue that I really work well with there; that’s one of the reasons I moved is that I was just like “where’s the club?” I feel like me and my crew are doing something really interesting and people will come, but people that run venues in NYC don’t get it. They’re not even tuned into music enough to know that they should treat us with respect and it’s a little bit difficult there with the clubs because the real estate costs are so high.
But we wanna go back to New York and do some more venues; at this Brooklyn electronic festival we did a showcase but it’s all case by case. I wanna make sure I have a good line up and a good venue and then we’ll do a party, we’ll do a party wherever. But yeah, the club is definitely an important element of it and I have alot of friends that do visual arts too that I wanna integrate. A lot of people say that but it’s not going to be body paint or like projections of girls or something – it’s gonna be unique takes on bringing the visual into the club.
That sound boss. Sooo… what are you listening to!?
Hmmmmm… that’s really hard. It’s been less and less recently R&B lately, maybe cause I’ve been touring more and especially since R&B has changed so much in the last couple years it’s become alot more electro and dance influenced. I like the idea of electronic music and R&B fusing but it’s gone in a very commercial direction so there hasn’t been as much new R&B that I’ve been into. But that’s my around-the-house day to day music that I listen to, alot of R&B and singing and stuff like that.
But the last thing that really stuck out to me was this singer called Jhene Aiko. She put out a free mixtape that everyone can download and I think it’s the best R&B that’s come out in the past couple years. It’s on the Aaliyah tip, like pretty laid back and introspective stuff. And then aside from that alot of Jersey Club like there’s young club producers out there like Nedis and DJ Slink and the Brick Bandits Crew and they do everything from just randomly remixing whatever Kelly Roland song but then they also make really weird inventive tracks. Like DJ SLink has this track where he recorded the sound of a phone vibrating on a table and when that comes across on big speakers it kinda has a bass-effect to it but it also does sound like a phone vibrating. They’re doing crazy stuff.
But generally I listen to alot of my friends stuff; Jam City (I love so much), Bok Bok and stuff like that.
For sure. So other than a new album and a tour that you’re currently doing, what else is going to be keeping you busy through the winter?
There’s not a ton, I really need to buckle down, I mean I have my new EP out so I basically need to work on the next two or three Fade To Mind releases. And I need to get things on a little bit of a tighter schedule cause NGUZUNGUZU came out, then there was a break where I had to work on my project and tour. Mike Q’s release is out now, but I need to buckle down. The next couple artists are going to be new artists, so they don’t have as much of a foundation. Like this guy Gramino, who lives in Finland, we’re going to release a few tracks by him. He just makes the craziest, really fast stuff that’s like a mix of Grime and Rave. So working at getting his stuff out there. But yeah, mainly just Fade To Mind over the next few months basically, get some new releases out.
We’ll watch for that then. Thank you very much!
You’re welcome, thank-you!
To get more of Kingdom, be sure to come down to our 2 year celebration in Vancouver at the Waldorf on Saturday, grab all of the info here.