Interview: Five minutes with KID BE KID

Berlin born and raised KID BE KID has released her groundbreaking debut single, ‘Blood’ on 14 February 2020 via SPRINGSTOFF. This track is featured in her EP, Lovely Genders which is due on March 20th. Little can prepare you for what will come within this EP as the avant-pop and tri-hop artist croons and sighs, growls and snarls into the mic, leaving the listeners comfortably unsettled.

The artist has a following in the Jazz community through her performances amongst some of the greats at the Fusion Festival (Kate Tempest), Festival International de Jazz de Montreal (Norah Jones, Jacob Collier, Melody Gardot), Elbjazz (Jamie Cullum, Kamaal Williams, Jason Moran). She also performed in song and speech at the European Hip Hop Studies Conference.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Is there an option for me other than art? I don’t think so. I don’t like compromise. I know what I want. Luckily, I’ve found the right profession 😉 Something tells me that I have something to say – and that I can carry people away and touch them. My audience often tells me that they are “inspired” by my concerts, and that is the most beautiful thing for me. It has been a decision between art as a hobby and art as a profession because art as a hobby would mean that I wouldn’t have enough time to go really deep. I decided to put all one’s eggs in one basket and become a professional. At that time I thought I was a singer and songwriter. Today I find myself a singer, beatboxer, pianist, composer, and producer. It’s endless fun to be able to realize myself as an artist in so many different fields.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

What came first? The apple or the apple tree or the core of the apple? There is the idea. Then there’s a sound to it. Then there’s a new idea that develops from the sound. That changes the sound and we’re into the next part of the song. There is an idea again, which comes from the first part and takes place on another level. Its sound develops from the first part or breaks the first part. And when finally all 129 tracks are in the project like in “SLIDE”, we have an arrangement in front of us, in which there are so many details, that it’s not clear anymore, what was there first. Production is so complex.  There are all possibilities. But when we talk about pure composition, the idea is always in the foreground for me. The sound is there to make the idea come true. A big idea sounds good on my little pink Casio keyboard. Although, when I think about it, without sub bass nothing can be good ;).

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Keyboard instruments are just what I hear in my music. I have two great pianists as guests on the song “Slide”: Julia Kadel from Germany, who released with Blue Note and is touring internationally and Simon Denizart from Canada, who manifested his “hell of a talent” in three acclaimed albums, as well as numerous festival and club appearances. Both play in their very own way and are actually only alike in one thing: expressiveness and passion. Ok, those were two qualities. In the production, I sample parts that they have recorded and put them into the song where I like it. We all play at the same time, where every melody, every chord gets its own place in the mix. We jump back and forth between rhythmic levels, communicate with each other. We confuse the listener, who can bob his head either way, never being sure where to go next – like a holiday in a future city of many floors. It is beautiful, exciting, eerie, dark, light and above all surreal. Simon and Julia had already internalized my quintuplet-polyrhythms because I had already played the song live with them before the production.

What’s on your current playlist?

I am one of those people you cannot talk to on the train because they always have headphones on. There’s almost always this playlist on Spotify called “Backseat” that I created and keep updating. It’s named after the song by Little Simz – the first song I added to the playlist.  I simply love her music. She also speaks to me as a person on the whole. In “Venom” she pushes her incredible rap skills to the limit. I don’t rap, but I play with rhythm. And she definitely has rhythm. Otherwise, the playlist also features some songs of Frank Ocean, who inspired me in terms of production technology and also writes unique arrangements, I would say that some of them have something brilliant. Also playing is Flying Lotus, who I love for his craziness, and who, even if in the past more than today, uses wonky and special rhythms for his beats. IAMDDB beguiles with her loose vocals and coolness, Aphex Twin made it into the playlist with his classic “Windowlicker”, Noname and Mac Miller represent the more chilly but by no means boring Hip Hop faction, Dorian Concept unpacks synthesizer soundscapes and of course has to be there, Ama Lou, Noga Erez, Kaytranada and even Anderson Paak are there. Thom Yorke and Radiohead have also found their place with rather new songs – I admire them for creating something new again and again seemingly without wanting to please. All in all, there are artists running who, I think, have found their own voice.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

Since people usually don’t take chemical drugs at my concerts, I would say naturally trippy. At least that’s what they tell me and what I feel in the room. Of course, I’m flattered by that. I love to kidnap my listeners. They are usually surprised at first, have to check three times if everything is really live, then stumble over rhythmic modulations a few more times and finally jump up. I do not moderate a lot, I just make music. I perceive everything, sound, light, the people in front of me – or around me. I especially like concerts in which the audience stands around me. Although I don’t really talk to them, it’s a shared experience where energy is exchanged and that’s the best way to feel. I feel very close to the audience. I am grateful to them for listening attentively and being open. My audience has to be a bit like me: find the mainstream boring, look for something new, like surprises and deal with emotions. In summary, I would say that I actually have no clue, because every mensch is so different, how can I judge the chemistry with a complete audience? Some will hate it and some will love it. Some will dream and some will analyze. Some will hear more and others will look more. Some will have a good day and some will have a bad one. I just hope they’re on a wave with me at one point: “We’re all beautiful.” (“Lovely Genders”). I mean: Let’s respect each other in our diversity. Where there are strengths – and everyone has them – we have to look at them and help them to develop.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

Beatboxing replaces the drum set or the drum computer in my case. This alone creates a very special sound aesthetic.  Instead of playing and recording a bass drum, a snare, a highhat, a tom, and a cymbal separately, a single sound source in front of a single microphone produces all the sounds that occur in a beat. On top of that, I usually sing the vocals simultaneously – even into the same microphone. This creates a beat-vocal sound similar to sampling. The vocal phrases sound like they are sung at the same time as the beat. In reality, I use the consonants of the words directly for the bass drum, snare or highhat of the beat and put the vowels of the words in between. This results in quasi mini-small, barely audible interruptions of the words – the typical KID BE KID sound – as if sampled from vinyl.

An absolute private label is also the splitting of my voice into several tones. This does not mean overtone singing, but a singing technique that creates friction on the vocal folds instead of a single even one. This technique is actually not a technique for me and I do not practice it. The sound is simply created little by little, especially at concerts, and because I like it, I like to let it happen – less planned than more intuitive. Especially at emotional points, this sound bubbles out of me.

The fact that I play everything live at the same time, i.e. singing, beatboxing, piano and synthesizer, gives me the possibility to initiate very spontaneous but also very homogeneous changes of rhythms, melodies and chords as a sound apparatus with only one brain as information transmitter. A band has to communicate first and can then try to jump between different rhythmic levels, to change together or to work consciously polyrhythmically or isorhythmically. I can control everything very directly, which gives me incredible freedom to decide where to go at the moment. Suddenly the groove changes to quintuplets, these are divided into groups of four and instrumented as a new beat. At the same time bassline and chords can change or stay with it. If one person plays all the instruments, but without loops, then a very unique groove is created. 

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Lots of coffee, then brushing my teeth so that it doesn’t smack in the microphone, then lots of cables, a grand piano, several synthesizers and small keyboards, a few microphones, an audio interface, my computer, mobile phone in flight mode and go! All this next to my bed. I wouldn’t call it a recording studio directly. Like many other artists I turn my room into a place of creative work. And I like it that way. There’s no time pressure because I don’t rent an expensive studio. I can take the time I need to get into a creative flow. During the Lovely Genders Recordings, it was over thirty degrees in Berlin, I ran into the bathroom every twenty minutes and wet my hair and T-shirt or took a cold shower. Or just recorded half-naked. I tried to start early before it got too hot and then continued late into the night. When the deadline for completion came closer at some point, I continued working at thirty-five degrees. Actually I’m really lame at these temperatures, but the motivation was so high that I kept on working on the instruments. I usually forget to eat in the studio and then only sporadically push fast food in between. I usually eat in my free time and then I eat really well and a lot. The day in the studio usually ends with tired eyes and an awake head that has worked so much that it doesn’t want to stop working. Then I know that I should switch off for the day.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

There were many specific moments in my life where I thought that this is the thing to do. It always seems like enlightenment to me from time to time that what I am doing is what I want to do. I doubt the structures of the music industry or my ability or anything, but not that it is what I want to do. That is reassuring.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

My brain. My soul.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

All the geniuses from my backseat playlist.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Music. Being on the road. Have had a good sleep. Listening to a good concert. Walking around with music in your ears. Walking in the city. Lonely hut on a mountain. Love. sorrow. Feelings. And basically just start, the flow comes already while doing.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

There is a grand piano, the analog synthesizer MophoX4, a Korg Volca Keys, a Nord piano, a SM7b Mic, 2 Mics for the grand piano and for recording and producing the software Reaper. That’s it. Very rarely the KP3.

Any side projects you’re working on?

Loop Motor. This is me – again solo – but this time with loop station. It’s mouth-made electronic music, the hyperactive side of me. Music that makes people dance. Spontaneity. Imperfections. One mouth, one voice, and a loop station. As a live loop artist I continuously beatbox, sing and sample myself. By doing so, I create music seemingly electronic but coming from only one source – my mouth. One hundred percent live on stage Hip Hop, Neo Soul, DubStep, and Drum’n’Bass are created. I send my beatbox, vocal bass lines and harmonies through effect pedals, producing massive tracks to dance to.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

I did not join the industry. I claim to make art. Looking at the videos from two years ago, I have definitely refined my craft, if I watch the video of “Monument” now. 

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

One hundred percent passion. An EP produced with love. New videos. International concerts. But please don’t expect it from me. That sounds like pressure to succeed. Look forward to it and celebrate with me! 🙂

Famous last words?

We. Are. All. Beautiful. All. Of. Us. Period.

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