In conversation with South African house producer Kyle Watson
Image: Time Consuming Tick Tock
Interview by Arnold van der Walt
South African producer, Kyle Watson, has been one of the biggest rising stars of the electronic music scene in recent years. He recently released his ‘Into The Morning’ album, containing tracks that sees the dynamic producer flex his muscles by combining a host of different styles on a single record. Currently signed to German house label, This Ain’t Bristol, Kyle Watson’s latest record has seen critical acclaim across the board. He has performed on some of the biggest stages around the globe including sets at esteemed festivals like Dirty Campout, Lollapalooza, Electric Forest, CRSSD, Kaballah, and ULTRA, just to name a few. His rise in fame has seen him remix some of dance music’s biggest acts such as Rudimental, ZHU, Oliver Heldens, Justin Martin and Malaa. He recently finished his fourth tour of the United States, before heading back to his home country of South Africa. In December he’ll be embarking on a tour to Australasia, taking his music to fans across the globe as everyone can appreciate his bass-driven house style.
It’s clear that Kyle Watson has a special place in fans’ hearts no matter where they’re from. His latest album ‘Into The Morning’ will have you dancing into the morning as each track feels stronger than the last. Experimenting with his own sound, Kyle Watson truly shines on his latest record, delivering one of the most eclectic sounds in house music today.
We sat down with Kyle Watson and spoke about his latest album, the South African music scene and recording the sounds of pasta.
Hey there Kyle Watson! First things first, we’re massive fans of your bass-heavy tech-house style, but to those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
Hey, thank you! It’s bassline-focused house music that contrasts smooth melodies and vocal cuts with gritty bass sounds.
Having been part of the South African (and global) music industry for a while now, is it still challenging constantly bringing out new music? How do you stay motivated/inspired?
I think it’s easy to keep putting out music, but it’s very very difficult to keep putting out GOOD music that stays relevant. Sure, it’s challenging and I put a lot more pressure on myself now than I used to. I listen to a lot of pretty diverse music, and all of it inspires me in some way. Also everyday life, not that long ago I was cooking pasta; the pot lid was making this weird sound so I recorded it and it ended up finding its way onto my album. Inspiration is everywhere!
Speaking of bringing out new music, you recently released ‘Into The Morning’, an album which saw you delve into your diversity as a producer. What was the creation process behind this like? Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
The album was so much fun to put together – you could call it a very rewarding challenge. I had never experimented before with some of the genres I worked on for the album so it was interesting to switch my whole process up. I had the ideas in my head of what I wanted to make, so there was a vision pretty much right from the beginning. My regular processes totally switched up because I was kind of far out of my comfort zone!
You had a couple of great collaboration son this record with the likes of Franklyn Watts, PHFat, Kylah Jasmine, Apple Gule and Elisha James. What made you decide to create a track with these artists?
They’re all artists I look up to in some way, whether it’s their songwriting, vocals or production ideas. I’d worked with Kylah and Apple before, but it was my first time writing with the others. Each artist was so easy to work with and the ideas we came up with together just flowed naturally, so it made the whole process enjoyable.
Are there any specific songs on ‘Into The Morning’ that truly stands out to you personally? Why?
It’s really very hard to pull one out individually because so much went into all of them! My personal favourites if I absolutely had to choose would be ‘Control Ya’ with PHFAT and Lights On. But like I said, each track is special to me in it’s own way.
What emotion/feeling do you want listeners to experience on ‘Into The Morning’?
Everything! There’s everything from high energy house and hip hop, to downtempo, emotional and evolving soundscapes. Each track should make the listener feel something different!
Gary Numan is quoted as saying: “I have always been far more interested in sound than technique, and how sounds work together, how they can be layered. I think electronic music, (in its infancy anyway) allowed us to create music in a way that hadn’t really been possible before. It created a new kind of musician.” What are your thoughts on this statement?
The possibilities are literally endless now. When electronic music came about it opened up a world where you can make pretty much anything you want. The most exciting thing is that the innovation isn’t stopping, so in a week/a month/a year there will be hundreds of new tools that will allow producers even more creative freedom. It’s exciting!
If you had to choose: studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer? Why?
I really do love both, they both give back to me in different ways. But being in the studio chair is where I am most comfortable. I can sit there for hours, just messing around and tweaking things and coming up with new ideas. I love the process of hearing a vision coming together.
Your live shows are quite something and have taken you across the globe (just recently you performed at Dirty Campout). What has been your most memorable performance so far?
There have been many shows I remember clearly. One was in Brazil on a rooftop in the middle of Sao Paulo. There were around 800 people crammed on this roof in the early hours of the morning and they were just going crazy! The second was a show I played in Arizona earlier this year at Shady Park. I was on the same level as the crowd so was able to feed off their crazy energy for two hours! Both incredible shows.
Is there anything specific that you keep close by while performing a set?
Does my wife count? Haha! I always tour with her, experiencing everything while on the road doesn’t mean much if you don’t have someone to share it with.
Having performed at a lot of clubs/festivals, what is one thing about the live music scene that you would like to change?
In a perfect world everybody would be out for the right reason, and that would be to enjoy the music! No judgement.
Anything you would like to change/improve in the music industry as a whole?
Not really, I think it’s sustaining itself pretty well!
You must’ve learned a lot during your musical journey. What would you say are some of the biggest mistakes you see new producers make?
The biggest trap is just trying to copy other artists music instead of crafting your own style and making your own path. There are so many routes new producers can take, so choose one that sets you apart from the rest.
How does the music scene differ in South Africa as opposed to the rest of the world?
The scene is pretty good in SA. It could be better, but it’s difficult for us because we’re far away from the rest of the world. Our currency is a little weak too, so it’s expensive for local promoters to bring out international acts often. But in saying that, we have really strong talent in SA and we’re pushing some cool boundaries right now.
Any new artists on your radar? What are the current tracks that any self-respecting electronic music fan should listen to?
OMNOM and Westend are making cool stuff right now, they’re definitely two to keep an eye out for. As for what people should be listening to, anything by Chris Lake is leading the pack right now!
You’re currently on tour in the US, but what can we expect from Kyle Watson in the near future? (tours, releases music videos, etc)
Before the end of the year I’ll be playing shows in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mozambique and South Africa. On the production front I’m working on VIP edits of the album as well as new originals and a few official remixes. So there’s plenty more to come!
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Kyle. Before we say goodbye, what are your famous last words?
As long as you’re having fun doing what you love, then keep at it! Thanks for having me guys 🙂