A while back I chatted to world-renowned producer, DJ, radio presenter and record label chief Kissy Sell Out about his new album ‘Wild Romance’, forming his own Electro Speed Garage Mafia and dropping some classical music in his sets.
How’s it going?
I’m fantastic! I’m a bit sniffly- I haven’t had hayfever for years, but my body has suddenly decided that I do have it. But, it’s so sunny its worth it!
You played at [Manchester venue] Sankeys on your ‘Wild Romance’ tour, as well as having residencies there before- what is it about the place that keeps you coming back?
It’s got a lot of heritage to it, and I know I’m quite young as DJs come and go, but I’m quite respectful of that. I’ve never had my own night or residency before so I jumped straight onto Sankeys when they offered it. I think it’s a very special place for me and I love the crowds that turn up. Manchester’s a great place anyway, any place you play here is pretty cool, but the crowd that come to Sankeys, you know, they come from far and wide to go there and they just want you to give it to them, and I love it!
How has the recent tour different from your previous ones?
The tour just gone had this production element to it in terms of having a huge set of sophisticated lights, which I think is great because, say last year, I did some really massive gigs with Manchester being one of them, and I was quite aware I couldn’t just go back and just DJ, because I’m already using 4 decks and mixing classical music, speed garage, baseline etc., so I guess you start to think about other ways in which you can make sure the crowd and the audience have a great time.
You said in an interview that a while back, you became aware you were just playing one record after another every 3 minutes and wanted to develop beyond this- was this tour a development of that thought?
For me now, my DJ sets are something that I practice every single day and I try massively hard. I have upped my game a lot in the last year and a half, so I’m totally content with my DJing, which is why its an honour for me to have this extra production element. Its great to have something extra, something a bit bigger.
The new album ‘Wild Romance’ seems more like an album for the dancefloor rather than having the live band element that your last one had. What made you want to make that change?
The funny thing is that I think the first album is the one that’s different. With this new album, the reason that I’m so excited about it is that it feels like the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve never said that before about anything I’ve made before. I think that I have a much greater understanding of what I am, what I sound like and where I belong now, and thats mainly because of the people that come to see me at my gigs who I’ve learned a lot from- learned a lot about how to work the floor and stuff.
On the one hand this new album is quite out there- we’ve used classical instruments and some of the melodies are incredibly complicated- but the other 50% of it is really really banging baselines, and it works in a nice way. My records have always been essentially dance records, but they have been quite openly obscure, because I guess I’m that kind of guy.
One of the things that comes out of the new single ‘Homesick’ is as well as having a dancefloor vibe also has a pop sensibility to it with the vocals.
Maybe- I don’t there’s much chance of a drumstep tune getting onto the Radio 1 playlist or anything, but it is one of the tunes that has proper singing on it whereas the album is predominantly instrumental. There’s lots of little MC spots, and a lot of it is me. There’s one track which I did with MC Cobra, and the new single ‘Homesick’ is done with Oh Snap!, who are both very familiar faces and names from the radio shows, so I like the idea that the audiences will recognise the voice. I can’t sing to save my life, so there’s a bit of singing on ‘Homesick’ from me, which only sounds good because it’s been AutoTuned!
Having mentioned collaborations, if you could form your own ‘Kissy House Mafia’ who would you put in it?
Can we not call it the house mafia? I hate house music! Maybe we could call it the ‘Kissy Electro Speed Garage Mafia’? I don’t actually have much interest in doing any collaborations with any other artists in the foreseeable future for one specific reason: it’s because I’m such a big fan of other people’s music, and that’s something really important for me to keep my feet on the ground. I always want to buy other people’s music. I never want to get into a situation where I’m ‘on the same height’ as some of the people I absolutely adore. Even though there’s DJs I idolise, I don’t really want to make a record with any of those people because i’m too much of a fan. I don’t want to tell them what to do, I just want them to do their thing.
As someone who has their own radio show on BBC Radio 1, is there any tips or advice you would give to people wanting to do in radio?
I was talent spotted on the back of the records that I was putting out more than anything else, so the only advice I could offer really is to have fun and to do a great job, and people will start noticing. I certainly never expected to ever have my own radio show, and actually I never wanted one- I grew up as the teenager who desperately wanted to be a DJ and a record producer, so I never thought in a million years that I’d get a radio show. I guess that’s where the energy, the pace and the wackiness comes from on my radio show, because right from the start I treated the first one like it was the last one I was going to do, and I still do that now. It’s the same as the live gigs: you’re only as good as the last one you’ve done.
How do you find the time to balance being a radio DJ with being a producer and a live DJ?
I don’t sleep much to be honest with you, but then again I’m having so much fun, I don’t want to go to sleep! Even when, you know, a train or something’s been cancelled in Amsterdam, and I’m sitting there in the rain with nobody to talk to, and the cashpoint won’t take my card or something like that, I’m still smiling inside- I’m always smiling. I’m quite lucky to get this opportunity so, you might as well make the most of it. I don’t understand how anyone could ever get to have some of the opportunities I’ve had and not be making the most of them. I suppose the design aspect does catch me out sometimes as I design everything- all the artwork for the record label (San City High). I love doing it, it is quite a cool thing to do, but that’s the thing that usually makes me lose a lot of sleep.
How do you feel when playing sets to people who aren’t necessarily into dance music, say at more ‘mainstream’ events like Radio 1’s Big Weekend?
Something like Big Weekend does make me a bit nervous as, it not being a dance festival, people aren’t there to see the electro speed garage thing- they’re there to meet Chris Moyles. I don’t plan ways to necessarily win over a ‘mainstream’ crowd. I work so hard on my DJ sets and on my shows so I think the best type of DJ set you can do is where the crowd go absolutely crazy- like, pinging off the walls and stuff- but you’re playing music to them that they’ve never heard before. I think there’s a real art to that, it’s something really difficult to do, and it’s something that I practice so hard at doing.
There a few moments in my DJ set where I play something that I guess you would say is quite ‘cheesy’, but it is meant to be a joke. If you hear me play something like ‘Mr. Boombastic’, it is a joke! I like that kind of thing where I might be, say 15 minutes into a DJ set and I play something like a piece of classical music. People look at me a bit confused, but I know there is a baseline coming, I know what I’m doing- it’s just supposed to be a bit of a joke! I don’t really know that much about mainstream music. For example I don’t really know what Tinie Tempah’s new single is, so I guess that technique will be the thing in my armoury to draw people in I suppose!