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Interview: Kissy Sell Out

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From his weekly Radio 1 late night show to his 4am appearance at Melt Festival last summer which was in my top three sets of 2010, it is fair to say I am a massive fan of Kissy Sell Out. With the release of his second eagerly-anticipated album on the horizon and a recent epic set at Snowbombing, TNS caught up with the electro maverick.

Kissy Sell OutTNS: A lot of your childhood influences are quite rock and metal based, I wondered how that translated into the type of electro you now play and remix?

Kissy Sell Out: Well it's all about dynamic you see. I take lots of little things from specific genres. From grunge music I like the quiet loud dynamic and I love the melodic-ness of the distortion and stuff, I think it's really powerful and when I was younger I used to think that was so f**king cool, you know? Something I took from the Aphrodite and Mickey Finn style jungle tunes was the cutting. I think you can still hear that in my tunes now. Another thing I took from bands like Sonic Youth and Swans was the lack of repetition. One of my most inspiring albums was Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth. It's just an amazing album cos there's no repetition at all. Some of the tracks are called things like The Sprawl, the point being that the track just completely goes off on one and you completely lose sight of what the track was originally about and I just love the fact that so many of those tracks have such strong hooks but yet those hooks only happen once during the six minutes, and the point is it's all about the journey, and the journey is exciting. I think this is what my problem with house music is. With a six minute house tune it's just the same thing over and over again, and you just get repetition all the way through, whereas I love the journey and I love that something can be completely different by the end of it. You'll hear that in a lot of my earlier tracks like my Sugarbabes remix, you'll notice that the end doesn't sound anything like the start of it, cos it's supposed to be a kind of adventure. I think if you can pull it off, you keep people entertained. That's why I'm an electro DJ. When electro became more prominent in 2003 and 2004, I became very interested in it, because I loved the fact that people were openly saying that they were inspired by rock music and wanted to play dance music, cos that's entirely how I felt. And I thought that was so fucking cool. I love how people started moshing at electro gigs. Now I think people will mosh to nearly anything, music has moved on so much in the last few years, it's strange to think it was only a little while ago that just putting a guitar on a dance tune was a completely ridiculous idea and no one had ever done it before.

So you’ve just dropped new album Wild Romance, tell us a bit more about that, what can we expect?

Without sounding too arrogant about it, I definitely think it's the best thing I've ever done, and I really, really believe that. When I did that first album I was just a kid at an arts school, who thought he was gonna be a graphic designer, and all of a sudden I was making records for celebrities and stuff. It was such a rocket ride cos I was so naive, and although I think my first album is great at what it is, it wasn't something you could play in the nightclub, it wasn't something that united people and you could drop in front of anybody. Whereas what's been so lovely so far with the new album, touch wood, is that on the one had it has that extraordinary element of classical instruments and stuff, with incredibly complicated melodies, and there's no repetition in it. It's a perfect link really between my radio shows and my DJ sets, which felt like a better thing to try and give fans, rather than try and give them a completely new type of music to listen to. I've obviously got a bit of a Kissy formula these days, and I think it's nice actually making music to that formula.

And any info on who you've been working with or who's going to feature on it or do we have to wait till we get our hands on it?

Haha, actually there were a lot of people lined up, like legendary dance people, and I won't necessarily name who they were, but the reason they're not on it is because I got so in the zone making the album that it got to the stage that the tracks I had to send off to the people I was working with on them, I kinda didn't want to sacrifice them cos I was kinda doing alright actually and it was a nice feeling and I couldn't be bothered to wait for other people you know? I was so in the zone that I had two weeks when I brought all of the ideas from the last year and a half together. So some tracks like the opening track took about 7 months to do and when you hear it you'll see why! It's done with cellos and oboes and like violas and stuff, and it's an incredibly complicated piece of music. It's called Something Extraordinary, just because I liked the idea of starting the album with something extraordinary. But then there's other tracks on it, like track 2, that is a garage track that we did a live PA with Cobra on at Fabric, and Cobra did that acapella in two days. There are only three arguably vocal tracks on it, it's basically an instrumental album. I actually ended up doing a lot of the vocals myself. They're not like singing vocals, they're like MC style. And a lot of them you'd never think was me in a million years cos it's done on melodyne which is basically autotune. Then there's an American rapper, Oh Snap, who's on one of the tracks, he does a lot of ghetto booty tunes, I play them on my radio show a lot. And we've done a brilliant ghetto booty drumstep tune that's 165 bpm and he did the acapella for that in America over night, and the singing bit on that tune is actually me, and I can't sing to save my life, it's all done on melodyne! San City High, the label, because it's all about unsigned artists and putting your first record out, and I'm so proud of it I really am, I'm so proud of my whole team. They're like my brothers and sisters now, and I'm such a fan of the people on there. One of my favourite bands in the whole world is Art vs Science, and to be able to put a track out for them has made me so proud. And same with Zed's Dead. I think they are some of the best dubstep producers out there, in fact just some of the best producers out there let alone dubstep, and to put that track Rudeboy out was a real pleasure, which is why I did my own remix of it.

That actually leads into my next question, I was gonna ask who your hot picks are from the label to watch in 2011?

Let me just finish my point first. What I was saying is, because that's how the label runs by taking inexperienced artists who are really talented, originally unintentionally cos I kind of had to, but I've actually been involved in a lot of the mixing and mastering of all those records, not all of them, some has been more than others, the Zed's Dead one was just a mastering thing, but I'm so used to working with other people's tunes that it gives you a slightly different perspective so that when you come back to your own tunes there's that element of it on my album. All of the tracks on my album are so fucking loud, when I was mastering the remixes we've had of my album tracks it was hard to make other people's remixes as loud as the originals were cos they weren't engineered quite as complexly. Sorry, I've slightly lost track of what I was talking about there! I will move on to your next question now though!

So this summer, what's festival season looking like for you?

Well I know I've been late announced on some of them and to be honest I don't know all the ones I'm doing yet but I'm not even thinking about that just yet cos I'm focussing on this tour. That's only because the way I think about dates is that I only think about the next one, cos I believe you're only as good as your last gig. Having said that I saw this morning that Wakestock is confirmed so I'm looking forward to that. And then of course you've got Glastonbury as well.

What about Ibiza, are you an Ibiza fan and will you be there this summer at all?

Yes I am. Ibiza dates for me always get booked very last minute. I've always had a fantastic time in Ibiza. Ha, actually one of the first nights I played in Ibiza, and there's a video of this online somewhere, I was playing the Space terrace for Groove Armada, and I opened up with 2Unlimited ‘Get Ready’, and it was so funny because the Space terrace was rammed out, everyone expecting me to play minimal and I opened with an air horn and 2Unlimited and you can see there's this wave of people thinking...surely not...hang on...and then everyone is like fucking hell he really is, alright, and hands go in the air, it's honestly one of the funniest things you've ever seen! So anyway, to cut a long story short, I've always had a great time in Ibiza and always really look forward to playing there. It's one of the craziest places to go partying and stuff.

What's the craziest thing you've seen someone do at one of your gigs?

Well stage diving is quite a crazy one, cos I've never stage dived myself, which is mainly because I'm scared of hurting someone actually! I've got very good at projecting myself quite well, and I love talking to people, I'm very sociable and always have been but I don't necessarily have the self confidence that maybe a lot of people think I have. It's more that I've learnt to deal with it because of things like the record label when I've been representing other people and I've had to stand up for them and stuff, but the stage diving is a perfect example of something that I would never do, cos for me it just feels wrong to jump on a load of people and make them hold my weight! A load of people have done it at my gigs though and it's cool, I think it's f**king rock and roll, and I love it when people get up on other people's shoulders and stuff.

Finally, what track do you have in your collection that you take out to play now that you think you'll still be playing in five years time?

Well I guess the traditional DJ thing to say would be "my album of course, it's the best thing I've ever done!" And actually that probably will be what I'm listening to in five years time, but right now I think it's impossible to say, I mean every track in my DJ set is remixed for my DJ set, and music wise I've always just followed my heart. If I genuinely like something, I just play it. Some DJs I find will do a set and there will be one tune that really sticks out, what I try to do with my DJ sets is play just those tunes, and it takes me days of practising every week to get to that level. To give you an example, if someone takes a 30 second snap of you DJing and puts it on YouTube, you wanna make sure that any 30 second snippet of you DJing is gonna be as good as any other 30 seconds, and if you think of it like that then every track has got to be as strong as the others. And I feel exactly the same about my album, I wouldn't want you to be able to find a 30 seconds where it's boring or you didn't quite get what the track was about. Sorry man, I haven't really answered your question there but it's a difficult one!

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