Lucky Paul is not your usual faceless electronics producer. In fact he had to have his arm twisted to even consider releasing music with his label Somethinksounds, who are getting ready to drop his second record: Elephant Island, later this month. The Berlin based producer moonlights as Feist’s tour drummer and being wary of the potential pitfalls of the recorded music industry, he was in no desperate rush to release a record just for the sake of it. Which most definitely puts him against the grain. Having enchanted us with ‘I Thought we were Alone’ and the upcoming ‘Elephant Island’ (where Stravinsky meets Burial) as well as fascinating us with tales of trips to India and Korea to study traditional music, we had to sit the man down to find out some more.
Hey Paul. I know you have travelled extensively to learn music. Tell me about your experiences in Korea and India.
I lived in Varanasi, India for a month with the Mararaj family. They have been musicians through the generations for the last 500 years. They have lived in the same house for that whole time and passed on their family’s music in there. They are born into it and work very hard, hours and hours a day for their whole lives. It was an amazing experience where I got to see music and life in a whole other light. Korea was much the same. I studied for seven months there with Bae Il Tong, who is just as devoted to music as the Mararaj’s. He lived by a waterfall for five years and sung into the water for 15 hours a day, living off mostly berries and plants. Having to endure the cold winters, he built himself a small hut out of branches and leaves. This was all to understand nature as closely as possible and its relationship to music. Studying with someone like that for seven months was a life changing experience for me.
What exactly did you study?
In India I mostly studied North Indian classical tabla. My interest wasn’t directly connected to that, but as I had studied tabla drumming earlier as a teenager, I knew the technique so it was a good place to start. My primary goal was about living the way they do and trying to experience music and sound the way they do to. In Korea I studied Pansori music, which is like an ancient Korean blues or operatic style of music. It is really stripped back, utilising just a singer and a drummer while at the same time being incredibly powerful and emotionally charged. The drumming is full of space and is all about supporting the singer as intimately as possible with just a simple drum. The singing is really intense and loud, it takes a whole heap of energy. Traditionally the pieces would go on for several hours. So, as my teacher Il Dong recommended, I studied mostly singing with him as opposed to drumming. That was strange for me having never really sung, but I learned a great deal about what I wanted to learn and had an intense musical experience I will always be very grateful for.
What was your original inspiration for going?
I have always been interested in different approaches to music (music therapy, free improvisation, devotional music). Different ways of seeing its purpose all together. In the west we tend to see music as primarily a form of art or entertainment whereas in other parts of the world, music is seen as many other things. So I set out to experience these different approaches.
I hear you were busking when you first came to Berlin. What was the music like?
I had spent a few years learning and developing a setup where I could make beats on the fly using things like looping pedals, samplers and homemade synths. The idea was to make live, improvised music with this crazy setup and see where it took me.
How does your study in India and Korea and then with busking influence what you are doing now?
It’s all pretty subconscious. I definitely don’t set out to make some weird new fusion of any kind ie Flylo beats meet Korean Opera all tied in with a homemade synthesizer and an Indian sound. So it’s more in the ways I hear and feel music that these things influence me. The studies in the east definitely solidified my thoughts and practices on the importance of the body and focusing its energies in the creation of music. Busking taught me to put myself out there, not to care too much about what people think and to commit to that moment’s inspiration. I try to bring these things into what I do as much as I can.
So were you making music before you came to ‘electronic’ music so to speak?
I was always playing in bands as a percussionist or a drummer. But my introduction to creating pieces of music were always electronic.
What influences your lyrics – specifically Elephant Island, is it about Shakelton’s trip to the Antarctic?
That’s a question to ask Mara! [vocalist]. I really had nothing to do with the lyrics, except when we were making the track, my homemade synth I made from a lunchbox was making some icey kind of sounds that might have made Mara think of Antarctica. But he wrote all the lyrics and came up with the melody. Mara is awesome! So far, none of the songs I have released have been my lyrics I make the beat, the singer does their thing then I get all nit picky on sonic details and arrangements.
Were you following much electronic or dance music before you started making it?
I used to make a living playing percussion with DJs in my hometown Auckland, so that was really my first main experience of dance music. I wouldn’t say that I followed it very closely though. My interest in electronic music came from J Dilla and his genius sense of rhythm. I’d never heard electronic music sound so human before.
What influences you outside of music?
Everything. I try to find music or inspiration in everything I experience. Nature, art, animals, yummy food, life situations; good times, bad times.
What music influences you?
I try to stay as open as I can, so its hard to pinpoint. No doubt the sounds I have been releasing have stemmed from the LA beat scene then moved to more of a James Blake side of things. Now I seem to be getting more interested in great songs that have stood the test of time. Music that makes people dance. And free improvisation!
You held out before releasing your first music with Somethinksounds – how come?
I went to Berlin to busk and try live off music in a very DIY manner. I loved the feeling of it being so grass roots. I would burn a cd-r, print off a cd cover, play music outside, people would hear me, then give me money for that cd. I’d then go buy food with that money to keep playing music and stay alive. The food I bought with that money always tasted so good because I knew I had earned it by putting love into something. The stories I’d heard about the industry effecting the way artists worked, damaging their passion for [making music] concerned me as I felt I was on to a good thing and was happy to stay on it. So it wasn’t about Somethinksounds, it was about joining the music industry in general, signing a record deal, playing that game, getting on the machine, selling my soul to the devil, etc,etc…
And so how is it working with STS?
On hindsight Im so glad I chose to do it. No way are they the devil!! Making music as well as you can is a full time job. Getting music out there is a full time job. If you try to do everything yourself, one of those two things will suffer. They are a young and new label and any lack of experience they may have, they make up for it in sheer passion for music and determination in getting it heard. I love what I see as an almost punk diy attitude they have to slamming into the industry and making their mark with eclectic original music. Super happy to be a part of it.
Last year the 2 Bears were responsible for one of my biggest tracks of the year, the unforgettable 4×4 work out ‘Be Strong’. Now they have announced they will be releasing a remix EP with the likes of Dj Sneak and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs reworking tracks from the forest dwelling duo’s second E.P
Southern Fried Records released the Curious Nature EP, the second from the 2 Bears aka Raf Daddy and Joe Hot Chip in 2010. The label is now releasing a 5-track remix EP, with reworks from Dj Sneak, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, rising house talent Midland as well as Supabeatz and Gingy.
Highlights come courtesy of the Sneak and TEED, with both tracks destined to spend the next 6 months destroying dance-floors across the globe.
Curious Nature EP Remixes is available on Southern Fried on 14th February.
Popularity has forever been a bizarre concept, and often a social stigma – one that I have never really understood. The dynamics of such a variable are worryingly uneven and fragile. You only have to think back to your school days and dissect some of the characters in your own story to wonder just what it was that made ‘Tommy’ the almost illiterate thug popular but ‘Matthew’ the surprisingly intelligent and worryingly musically talented so un-popular. And me… well let’s leave me out of this and get back to the issue in hand.
Popularity within music is just as unquantifiable, and as a music journalist it would be obvious to point the finger at my peers as responsible for the popularity and success of musicians. But I’m not completely sure it is all our doing. The so-called Hype Machine is to blame but the components of the machine’s intricate mechanism is made up of musicians, retailers, distributors, journalists, socialites, mover, shakers and bloggers. A huge number of components make that machine work, not just journalists.
Kidkanevil is one of the rising figures in contemporary music, who has been dealt a short straw when it comes to popularity. For years he seems to have been the quiet kid in school, doing well, working hard, neither being the most popular nor the focus of victimization. However, more recently, upon the release of his 3rd album Basho Basho, it seems Gerard Roberts has graduated, blossomed and is now one of the most popular kids in school. One of those that has earned his place, not like the aforementioned ‘Tommy’.
Kidkanevils first two albums were in my opinion great works of music – contemporary compositions of modern soul, hip-hop and RnB, which at the time were slightly out of favor. If you go back to those first two albums now, you will quickly see just how talented and accomplished Kidkanevil really is. Working with artists as diverse as Andreya Trianna, Lateef The Truth Speaker, Jehst & Sir Smurf Lil’, Yarah Bravo, Bonobo, Justin Percival, Taprikk Sweezee, Kissey Asplund & Blu, he created two albums which, relatively speaking went somewhat unnoticed.
Kidkanevil then released Basho Basho to critical acclaim and a generally great reception worldwide that has seen him booked in far-flung places such as Japan, Switzerland and Singapore. Basho Basho is an instrumental album that is geared more towards the beat movement of future bass that is so en vogue at the moment.
I caught up with Gerard to discuss his new-found popularity and success, his other project Stateless and all things Kidkanevil related.
Hi Kidkanevil, can you tell us your name, age and city of birth?
Dr Lao, 2600, Tokyorkshire, Leeds era.
Where do you currently live?
Tokyorkshire, South London era.
Growing up in Leeds, you spent many years honing your craft as it were. Do you think moving to London contributed to your recent rise to ‘fame’?
I think it helps, yeah, seems like it. I don’t really leave the house much either way, though – so it’s hard to tell.
Does either city make for a better inspiration?
Better is the wrong word really, just different vibes. I find inspiration in both. I do think London has a unique sense of urgency about it though which can be equally invigorating and exhausting.
It could be said that, although you are now on your third album, success and acclaim has only just come your way. Why do you think that is?
From my perspective it’s just been a gradual building process. I’ve never really fit anywhere that easily I guess, so it takes time. Everything prior to Basho Basho was practice to me, finding my musical voice and learning my craft, Basho Basho is the first time I’ve felt happy and comfortable with my work. It actually feels like my true debut. But in terms of some kind of recognition, I think it mainly comes down to it just being a better piece of work than my previous efforts. Its release coinciding with RBMA didn’t hurt either!
I’m quite surprised at that, as in actual fact, your earlier two albums have a much more accessible kind of sound, centered in RnB and Hip Hop with some interesting collaborations. Why do you think they slipped under the radar?
Well the first album was a pretty low-key release on a new label, I guess. Mostly old beats straight out the MPC. The second was more of an EP to me, I don’t really think of it as an album. I made it really quickly just for fun and practice to be honest. I think after that I felt like I’d got to a point technically and musically where I could make some kind of attempt at a serious album, something I could be proud of. I have mixed feelings about my earlier work, I’m a pretty severe critic of my own stuff. So I really put everything I had into the Basho Basho album in the hope that I might actually like it a bit, haha. Which I do actually, so that’s a relief! None of my releases have ever had a significant budget behind them either, so it really comes down to whether the music is good enough to make an impression. I’m just getting to a point now creatively and technically where I think my music’s getting there, and Basho Basho was the first installment of that journey. Everything prior to that was like the training level. Gotta get your ass wupped a few times before your ready to fight Bison.
Basho Basho is an instrumental, electronic, beat driven album – which on paper you would assume would be much less commercial. Yet, it is what has been the success of you. Do you think this is strange?
I don’t think I’m operating at a level where the ingredients that make something ‘commercially accessible’ or not really come into play. It’s more about just making something dope. There’s also a sense of it being a real beat maker era right now, which hadn’t fully bloomed when I was dropping my early shit. It seems there’s more of a movement and fanbase for just beats now, so I think Basho came along at a better time. There’s more of a space for me now I guess, something like that. I tend not to think about this stuff too much! As soon as a project is done I’m onto the next one and try not to look back. My only game-plan is to keep getting better at my craft and art, in the hope that one day I’ll fulfill whatever potential I may have.
What was the catalyst for the creative redirection in your music?
Oh man, I don’t know. It just felt like the right time to get serious if you will. I wasn’t that aware of a redirection as such, its just natural progression and development from my perspective. The first 12” I ever put out had a short beat on there called ‘Advance Math’ for example, which sounds not dissimilar to the Basho stuff. I always intended to do an instrumental album too, actually my first album was gonna be, but then I kept getting opportunities to work with people I didn’t want to turn down. I’m not sure I had the confidence at that point to go ‘No, this is gonna be instrumental’. I felt ready this time around for some reason.
I view this all in a very long-game frame of mind. My only real interest is to create something truly great one day, and to do that I have to learn and grow, and that’s what you’ll hear if you listen to everything I’ve released so far. I just follow wherever the inspiration leads. Perhaps it wasn’t so much of a redirection in my mind as an arrival at the next stage; I’d been working to get to this point. In terms of a catalyst though, the most direct influence for the Basho album was Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman Of The Dunes. It just clicked with my mood and imagination perfectly. That was the core reference point so I didn’t get too lost in my own bubble.
Can you tell us about Stateless, who makes up the band, the idea behind it and the direction you want to take it?
Stateless approached me years ago originally to do some cuts, but then the singer Chris heard my beats and started writing songs to them. Which was pretty novel for me coming from a hip-hop background. Next thing you know we’re signed to Sony with a 5-album deal, stuck on the shelf because they didn’t really get us. That first album just sounds really compromised and confused to me. I contributed what I contributed to it, but I’d never listen to it, it’s not me. I put it down to a learning experience. Shit was 4 years old by the time it even came out, crazy. So it’s a bit of a fresh start now with the new Ninja Tune album, which I’ve been much more heavily involved in. Stateless was always about potential for me, and it seems like we’re finally starting to fulfill that, which is a good feeling after all the crazy industry shit we’ve been through. It feels good to finally make the album we wanted. I’m really proud of it, definitely some of my best work personally.
Where does KidK stop and Stateless begin?
Depends which beats of mine Chris runs off with! There are two sides to the Stateless process I guess. There’s Chris writing to my beats, and then there’s Chris and Justin writing songs that we later produce. With my own stuff I just get lost in my bubble and do whatever I feel. It’s two separate projects really, but there is cross-pollination. I learn a lot from those guys, they’re all crazy talented.
I hope you don’t mind me saying, but it sounds like Stateless is the bridge between the older KidK sound and the newer more beat driven sound. Would you say that’s fair?
I don’t mind! I’m not sure really, like I say I tend not to think about it too much. I think they’ve both just evolved naturally. Some of the beats on the Stateless album actually began as demos for my second and third albums, but ended up gravitating to the Stateless project instead. I guess it’s all a bit too messy in reality to draw too many clear conclusions from. So maybe, I dunno!
What’s next for KidK and Stateless?
Stateless’ album Matilda drops in February, with remixes from Rustie, Midland, Dark Sky, Om Unit, Falty DL, Blue Daisy and Slugabed so far, followed by touring and all that shenanigans. With regards to my own stuff I have a Raymond Scott beat tape album about half way finished, an EP with Foreign Beggars, a heap of remixes and a pretty special collaboration project with Daisuke Tanabe in the works, who is one of my favorite producers. Then I guess I’ll make a new album.
Finally, What are your 5 desert island albums, and 5 tracks?
Man, there’s no way I can do tracks, too hard!! I’ll take a shot at albums thought this will have changed by tomorrow I’m sure. Ok…
1. Slum Village – Fantastic Vol. 2 – Probably my favourite full album of Dilla’s production. I will never get bored of it, ever. It’s just so unbelievably good, genius. Changed the way I heard beats.
2. Arvo Pärt – Für Alina – The most beautiful piece of music in the history of the universe!!
3. Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury – Finest street poetry, incredible minimal beats, pretty perfect really – too many sick lines.
4. Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz – my album of the year, magnificent.
5. Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach – Money Jungle or Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain – One of these is my favorite jazz album, but I can never choose. I’ll smuggle them both in, f*ck it.
Make sure you also check out our Slices feature with Kidkanevil taken fromSlices 3-10: