As some of you may have noticed, we have a big soft-spot for Dirtybird Records affiliated DJs here at MassMusings.com. Kyle Watson is no exception as his hit “The Clock” from Dirtybird’s “7 Days of Dirtybird” release in late-2014 caught our attention and brought the South African-born DJ some well-deserved stateside notoriety.
Kyle is renowned for his keen understanding and application of music theory in his production and has received avid support from high profile DJs and producers like Pleasurekraft, Chris Lake, Justin Martin, Shadow Child, Dusky and many more. Having been trained from a young age at classical piano, Kyle’s strong foundation in music has helped propel him to the forefront of the recent tech house movement in South Africa, the UK, and the U.S.
Recently Kyle has had the opportunity to work with some other labels that we love here at Mass Musings including Bunny Tiger and Medium Rare Recordings. His latest release off Bunny Tiger, “So Alive” is an absolute banger that’s sure to get dance floors from Johannesburg to San Francisco grooving this summer.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of working on the interview below with Kyle. It’s clear that he has an immense passion for what he does and it’s always refreshing to hear artists with such a unique and fun perspective on the music they produce and perform. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did and I can’t wait until we can get Kyle to America for a show! Make sure you check out some of my favorite Kyle Watson songs at the end of this article.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed.. Americans can be a bit lost when it comes to understanding other cultures. With that being said, could you tell us a little about your upbringing in South Africa?
My mother used to wake me with a traditional African dance at the crack of dawn, before sending me to milk the cows and feed the chickens, and once that was all done I jumped onto my elephant for the ride to school… But seriously, I grew up in an awesome family who always supported me in what I wanted to do. My parents gave me the freedom to express myself and make my own decisions (except when it was study time, then I had to study).
Is there anyone in particular that you give credit to for your introduction to music/musical theory?
My father 100%. He bought me my first music production software which is where this all started. He’s a musician himself so whenever I had questions about the industry he was there to answer them and give advice. I still call him to ask for advice!
How’d you get into House music?
I made my first beats in a program called eJay. One of the genres you could make was house, and I found myself ignoring all the others and just focusing on that. Once I realized that I enjoyed house music, I started buying dance compilations and mix CD’s and it became all I ever listened to. It snowballed from there.
How do you think your understanding of musical theory applies to House music?
Nowadays it’s so easy for anyone to make music, the problem is a lot of the people getting into it don’t have that musical theory behind them. Having that knowledge means you look at music in a different way instead of making things that just sound ‘cool’. You pay attention to things that work well together instead of just throwing a whole bunch of elements into the mix and hoping for the best. I seriously can’t stress enough how important it is that the new guys get some of that knowledge under their belt, so often there is huge potential that’s let down by a lack of basic music theory.
It seems like you started out in the Electro House scene but have gravitated towards Tech / UK House since then. What triggered this transition?
Yes, back in the day I listened to a lot of electro house so naturally I was influenced heavily by it. Then the whole fidget movement came along. I loved the way it didn’t take itself too seriously, with the structures and the sounds. As I started writing more it just felt natural to move in a smoother direction as I got bored of the whole buzzy bassline thing. I also think it’s a move to a more mature sound. That’s not to say there’s no space for a noisy little number every now and then.
In 2009, you brought your music to the UK from South Africa and since then you’ve been getting bigger and bigger on both the Beatport charts and in the underground music scene… What’s played the biggest factor in your success?
There have been a few things, internationally I think the releases on Ultra, Gruuv, Get Physical & Dirtybird have been super important. All were huge achievements for me and naturally when you release on record labels as big and established as those, things are going to start happening. I’ve also had some recent success on local radio which has really helped push my sound this side of the world.
We’re big Dirtybird Players here at Mass Musings.. could you tell us a little about what it’s like to work with Claude, Justin, Ardalan, Worthy, etc.?
Well I’ve only had a chance to meet Justin & Ardalan in person (hopefully I’ll get to meet the rest of the crew someday). They are some of the most down to earth dudes in the industry! Barclay (Claude VonStroke) is great too, I’ve only chatted with him over email a few times but he was so quick to give me feedback on my music, and helped me get it to a point where it was worthy for a Dirtybird release. It’s not often you get to deal with guys as cool as they are that are on their level.
What is your favorite club to play? Why?
Truth in Johannesburg is where I hold my residency in SA, and it has the most receptive crowd I have ever played to. I play there at least once a month, and it’s where I always test out my new music. If it gets a reaction, you know it’s a winner! Besides, it’s been going for over ten years and in South African terms that’s a long time.
Could you tell us a little about the balance of being both a Producer and a DJ? Does one drive the other? Do you enjoy one more than the other?
They feed each other. I write music, I get to test that music out on the weekends. When I see people’s reactions, it makes me want to write more so I can show it to more people. I became a DJ because of my productions, and I got into producing because I love writing music!
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played so far?
Last year I played a festival here in South Africa called Oppikoppi, which is pretty much the biggest and most relevant music festival in SA. It was hands down the most memorable show of my career. The crowd was amazing, the sound and visuals were amazing. It might not have been intimate, but you could taste the vibe.
What are you listening to right now? (Tracks? A particular artist? Album?)
I listen to pretty much anything, to be honest I don’t listen to that much house music in my everyday life which might sound weird. Right now I’ve got Alexisonfire, I Am Legion and The Black Keys all on rotation in my car. Anything but the radio! [Editor’s note: Amen, Kyle!]
Is there anything you’re looking forward to in 2015? Shows? New releases? Collaborations?
Absolutely, I’m getting the chance to tour Brazil next month for 6 or 7 dates which I am super excited about! My collaboration with fellow local act Pop Art just got released on Bunny Tiger and is getting some really nice feedback so far. Plus I’ve got a radio single lined up for release, so this year looks like it’s gonna be a good one!
Now for some fun stuff…
You’re a 90’s kid (just like us) what’s your favorite 90’s jam?
Do you believe there are Aliens out there?
Of course! There’s no way we can be the only ones… (cue X-Files theme tune)
On a scale of 1 – 10, rate these questions…
Best set of questions I’ve ever been asked. 10. You guys are rad. [Editor’s note: Why thank you, sir! You’re rad!]
In 10 minutes a penguin will walk through your door wearing a sombrero… What does he say and why is he there?
‘Hello. I’m from Mexicold.’
Alright last one… If we came to your house for dinner, what would you serve?
Homemade pizzas so you guys have to do all the work. Or pasta. Sometimes I can boil pasta.
Thanks for reading guys! Below you’ll find some of my favorite Kyle Watson tracks. Enjoy!