In Conversation with DJ S.K.T
Interview by Maya-Rose Torrão
Londoner Stephen Kenny Tempest, who goes by the moniker DJ S.K.T, has been working the DJ desk from the tender age of 12 and has decades of experience in making electronic music across a span of genres, including experimental bass, deep house, tech-house and soulful house. DJ S.K.T entered many prestigious under-18 DJ competitions when he was just starting out and placed in the top ten for many of these, boosting his career from a young age and giving him the edge to take his craft further than he had before.
DJ S.K.T has been going from strength to strength since his early start in music and with a new weekly residency on Kiss FM can now count tastemakers such as Annie Mac, Pete Tong, Danny Howard, Mistajam, DJ Target, MK, Roger Sanchez, Amine Edge & Dance and Idris Elba among his legions of fans. Although DJ S.K.T is well-known for his exceptional remixes, it is his original track, featuring vocalist Rae, ‘Take Me Away’ that is one of his biggest triumphs; snapped up by Atlantic Records, the track soon broke into top 20 of the UK Singles chart. After this massive breakthrough into the mainstream house scene, DJ S.K.T once again proved his versatility by returning to his underground club roots with the ‘Dirty EP’ on Defected, which was heavily supported by the likes of Hannah Wants, Sonny Fodera, Tensnake, Pete Tong and BTraits.
Listen to DJ S.K.T’s latest single, released earlier this month via Armada, ‘When She Dances feat. Karen Harding’, below.
We caught up with electronic music lynchpin DJ S.K.T and chatted about wild fans, adapting to the digital revolution and exciting future releases.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts? Why music?
I’ve always been into music from a really young age. For me it’s a form of expression as well as a passion.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
It could be either. Sometimes I go into a session with an idea in mind – that could be a sample idea or just a bassline riff that’s been stuck in my head. Other times it can be about the sound, I might sit down for 20/30 minutes just playing with synths until I come across a sound or a pattern I really like and then start running with that idea.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I listen to a vast array of music from House & Techno to RnB, Soul, Reggae, Jungle ect. I really believe having all that musical influence allows you to bring different aspects of genres into your own sound.
What’s on your current playlist?
A lot! I listen to a lot of underground music from unsigned artists I discover online, again it could be anything from House & Techno to RnB and Hip-Hop but I always believe listening to new music and listening to the new production values in that music is important to keep pushing the boundaries myself as a producer.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
Playing out in clubs and festivals is always an amazing experience knowing that people have come to listen to you, your sound and have trust and faith in what you do. Having that allows you to really take the crowd through a musical experience. I also think interacting with fans is really important – showing as much appreciation back as possible.
What has been your most memorable fan experience?
There’s been many and some crazy ones too! I met some people last week that had jumped the festival fences just to get a picture with me knowing they’d get chucked out after – I thought that was pretty cool (but am not encouraging it!!). Seeing people in crowds with banners is always amazing too!
You’ve been travelling and playing some really exciting gigs this year – what’s been one of your favourite shows so far, and why?
I’ve been really lucky to play at some of the coolest venues across the world and have had some amazing moments! I just came back from Valtifest in the Netherlands – it was a really crazy festival where you entered and felt like you were in another world with all these strange creatures dancing around, people on stilts, everyone was dressed up and everyone was just there to have a good time. I was pretty stressed going into the gig for personal reasons but as I went in, it felt like all the world’s problems had been left at the front door. Playing to such a massive crowd out there that knew all my music and really appreciated me being there felt amazing and humbling!
You’re well-known for your mesmerising collaborations – if you could collaborate with anyone in the world, living or not, who would it be?
There are so many but one that comes to mind at the moment is Aretha Franklin.
Tell us about your latest release on Armada… how did that collab come about?
Me and Karen have worked on several tracks and I really wanted to try something different by adding a trance or euphoric element to the production. I made the instrumental with her whilst in the studio and the track just came together really naturally!
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
Yeah most definitely. I ended up getting to the semi-finals of the Technics DMC under 18s U.K. championships and that was the first time I had played out to a room of about 1000 people… it was scary as hell but once I got into it, had the crowd going and really got into my zone, I came off the decks thinking “yes, this is what I want to do with my life”.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
My electronic cigarette! And a charger just in case it’s battery is low!!
Any emerging, unknown or upcoming artists on your radar?
There’s loads at the moment, a few that I have found that I am releasing material from on my label Stashed Music. In this industry, I think it’s really important to give back so I am constantly trying to help artists, give them tips and help them become better.
What gets your creative juices flowing? What gets you in the mood to create music?
I guess the main factor is mood and energy… I don’t ever go into the studio thinking “I want to make something like this…” depending on how I feel, if I go into the studio and I’m energetic and positive, I’ll usually come out with something sounding uplifting and happy. If I go in with low energy or if I’m in a bad mood, I’ll usually end up coming out with something aggressive or very brash sounding.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I’m mainly “in the box” – I don’t use that much outboard gear, although it depends on what I’m working on. I have a few Korg Volcas, maschine, a few Roland synths that I use which do produce an amazing sound! I’m still on logic 9 and I still use the same monitors that I’ve used for the last 15 years but I think if things are working for you how they are then that’s cool.
Any side projects you’re working on?
I do co-write and have done some additional production as I love that side too. Nothing I can say or announce at the moment but watch this space!
You’ve been DJing since you were just 12 years old, which is an incredible feat – how have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
The whole DJ world has changed and exploded over the last 15 years. When I first started, everything was vinyl and mixtapes. I would press releases on vinyl and take them to shops all over London who would listen to the tracks and place an order. I think in this industry, you always have to be adaptive. As vinyl was starting to die out and the whole “MP3”/digital revolution started happening it was kind of an end of an era but then I had to look at how I could capitalise and get music out there on MP3 platforms.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
I’m working on the finishing touches for another single for Armada. I also have a release on BigBeat/Atlantic in October which I’m excited for. With Stashed Music, we are just finishing off our ADE sampler which I’m going to try and put a track on if possible. If not, I may even drop an EP on Stashed towards the end of the year. Apart from that, most of this year I have just spent concentrated on making new music and really building towards having a massive year next year! We’ve now got some really exciting music finished and I have a lot of great studio sessions and collabs I’m working on so watch this space!
Listen to DJ S.K.T‘s first release on Stashed music from the end of last year, ‘Rush’, below.