That Mystic – An interview with producer Kingdom from Fade to Mind

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If you often read this site or go out to the Love Bang parties, you know we’re massive fans of Kingdom, the LA-based producer who makes dark, R&B-infused electronic music that sounds just as good through headphones on your bed as it does through subwoofers in the club. His HD productions are richer than eighteen-layer cake, punctuated with literally a kingdom of sounds, from phone rings to screams. It’s super high-definition music that combines bits of rave, dancehall, diva-vocals, vogue, various strains of club music, and of course that Masters at Work “Ha” sample.

He’s also on two of our favorite labels, Night Slugs and Fade To Mind, which Kingdom started in LA with friends Nguzunguzu, Total Freedom, and Prince William as a sister label to the mighty Night Slugs.

Ahead of his two shows in Shanghai this weekend, one at the Wood and Wires festival and another at The Shelter, I interviewed Kingdom via email about the intersection of  underground and pop music, album art, and what we can expect at The Shelter tomorrow night.

But before you get into the reading, I suggest throwing this mix on, which really exemplifies exactly how Kingdom melts the underground and pop worlds together into something beautiful.

Heatwolves: For those out there who don’t know you, could you please introduce yourself real quick and briefly describe your sound?

Kingdom: You can just use my short bio:

“A leader in the new wave of American producers, L.A.-based DJ and label head Kingdom (aka Ezra Rubin) has built considerable influence with both his formidable discography and the output from his own imprint, Fade to Mind. Since 2007, his distinctively bittersweet productions—deep synths, R&B vocals, and apocalyptic drums—have coalesced into a spacious, meta­dimensional sound has become a major voice in club music worldwide. While living in New York he quickly gained a following thanks to his signature DJ sets which merged R&B, hip-hop, grime, rave, and subwoofer experiments. Critical acclaim for his early EPs Mind Reader (Fool’s Gold), That Mystic, and Dreama (Night Slugs) took him from NY to LA in 2010 to form new label Fade to Mind with close friends and collaborators Nguzunguzu, Total Freedom, and Prince William. He quickly expanded the roster to include such diverse artists as ballroom legend MikeQ and Kuwaiti­-born composer Fatima Al Qadiri. This year has seen Kingdom release a new 7-song EP, ‘Vertical XL’ (with lead single “Bank Head” featuring Kelela), and also curate and contribute production to the freshly released Cut 4 Me mixtape by Fade to Mind songstress Kelela.”

Heatwolves: In a recent interview you said “Female vocal R&B has been more or less absent from mainstream radio for about 5 years now so it’s just about to come back really strong. Our new project with Kelela is going to help with that.” Can your music become mainstream? I feel like that’s what you’re going for, especially on your solo releases, with tracks like “Let U No,” “Take Me,” and “Bank Head.” What’s your ultimate goal with music?

Kingdom: I will never do just one thing, though I do want to make pop music. My music is still experimental also. I’ve always played with going back and forth between the two. Female vocals have been pretty absent from the charts lately but it’s on its way back already. The reception of the Kelela mixtape proves that.

Heatwolves: You’re on mini-tour of Asia, with stops in Korea, Japan, and China. What promoted this? Have you played in Asia before?

Kingdom: I’ve played twice in Tokyo before and once in Seoul. This trip was prompted by the Tokyo booking first, which was a awesome show with a shop in Toyko called GR8, and then we built the other Asia shows around that.

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Heatwolves: The cover art for your Vertical XL EP was done by Shanghai-based Kim Laughton (ROM / Stockholm Syndrome) – How did you two link and what’s the story behind that album cover? Great cover art, it reminds me of the last scenes in Akira or an arms scrapyard.

Kingdom: Jude from the Thunderhorse collective recommended Kim to me, it was fun collaborating with him on that! I wanted the cover art to depict a rural / post-industrial abduction. Levitation and ancient ruins were also inspirations. I made a Photoshop mockup and Kim created all the renderings and added a bunch of the details.

Heatwolves: I read in another interview that you love driving. Why is that? What do you listen to in the car? Do you test tracks in the car? Do you have any  classic CDRs that have stayed in car-rotation through the years?

Kingdom: Living in LA for three years has drained that love a little bit sadly. Driving becomes just part of every day life. I think I romanticized it a little in NY because it was so novel. I still like longer trips though and driving in the suburbs. I listen to Electrik Red’s album “How to be a Lady” and some old CDs I used to DJ off of, and “The Claw” CDR, a Fade to Mind CD of live improvised collaborations between me, Nguzunguzu, and Total Freedom.

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Heatwolves: Speaking of driving, you live in LA now – can people make a decent living playing strictly music like what you and the Fade To Mind Crew play in LA?  Do you work a day job too? Do you DJ in LA or out of LA more? I’ve been to a Night Slugs party but never Fade To Mind – what are your nights like?

Kingdom: You can make a living doing anything if you try, work, have something interesting to say, or something that people wanna hear. I DJ more outside of LA more, in NYC, Canada, and Europe. We have built a solid scene in LA though. Our parties are dark and foggy, loud club music, cute people.

Heatwolves:Will that Masters At Work “Ha” sound ever get old? Or does that get a special pass?

Kingdom: It gets a special pass.

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Heatwolves: Your tracks always sound really polished and hit hard, even the earlier releases. What do you produce with now, and what did you produce “That Mystic” with?

Kingdom: I use Ableton Live, and I’m also recording from some keyboards and drum machines. All of my Eps before “Vertical XL” were all made on my 12” Macbook in my living room. For Vertical XL I set up a studio with more equipment.

 

Heatwolves: What is this Moleskin “Turnt On” track on your XLR8R innovator mixtape? Shit is crazy. Also, this is an “Innovator Series” mixtape – what exactly is your area of innovation?

Kingdom: Moleskin is a great new producer from the UK. I’m not sure what the innovator thing is for the mix series but I think I helped bring R&B and club music together in a new way around 2008. I was playing UK club music in NY before most people got into it there, mixing it with rap and R&B and dancehall I was hearing on local NY radio.

Heatwolves: I heard you have a ton of edits for shows that you don’t release – how many do you think you’ve done total? What do you make edits with? Can we expect a lot of those at the Shanghai show?

Kingdom: Yes, edits are my lifeblood. Total Freedom makes a lot of the ones I play at the shows too. I’ve probably made hundreds of edits, its hard to keep track, they are temporary objects.

Cassie – All My Love (Kingdom Edit)

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Heatwolves: What’s the worst experience/craziest story you’ve had at a gig, e.g. stolen bag, gang fight on dancefloor?

Kingdom: Shitty speakers and empty dancefloors… We’ve all been there.

Heatwolves: What are your top five female R&B songs? And also your top five favorite Hip Hop songs.

Kingdom: I truly can not play favorites. I would prefer to list some that are on my mind lately:

Tink “Somebody Else”, Schoolboy Q “Collared Greens”, Jhene Aiko’s part on Drake’s “From Time”, Asap Ferg “Hood Pope”, Kelela “Enemy”.

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Heatwolves: What’s next after this Asia tour?

Kingdom: Back to LA, doing the Nguzunguzu “Skycell” release party there on the 8th, and working on my next release for Night Slugs in my studio.

Heatwolves: Finally, what do you wanna say to peeps in Shanghai who haven’t heard of you yet?

Kingdom: If there’s Soundcloud in Shanghai they should listen to some stuff to get them ready! http://www.soundcloud.com/kkingdomm and http://www.soundcloud.com/fadetomind

And even better, head over to iTunes and buy his excellent Vertical XL EP and download the Kelela mixtape for free.
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Don’t miss Kingdom DJing at The Shelter on Saturday, Nov 2. 2013 with support by Mood Supply, Beardslap, and yrs truly. It’s only 60RMB – you’d be a fool to pass this up.

 

 

 

 

 

how i learned to stop hating and love the beach

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ok so this isn’t the beach we’re DJing at tonight. my girl took this shot in Xiamen, Fujian a few weeks ago just before a massive typhoon hit.

but what about that beach in Shanghai? some disparagingly refer to it as a “sandbox,” but here’s the thing about the beach – it’s the only place in Shanghai where people can consistently throw outdoor parties with no hassle. if you look at it like that and see the sand as a bonus, well..there’s no reason to get mad at the beach.

we’re on from 7:30 – 8:30 with an afterparty at Dada tonight. DJ Caution and myself B2B on two Technics 1200s all night. however you feel, we will make you feel better.

Sophie – Bipp

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S-Type – You Da Best

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That’s a bit of the sound you can expect tonight.

found a payphone

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Have you ever tried to find a payphone in China after your phone credit dies and you gotta wander a dimly lit street looking for a store with that big orange public phone but really you won’t even find that big orange phone these days but you still ask  “ni hao, ni you dianhua wo keyi yong ma?” and an auntie clutching a baby in one arm says “bu bu bu..meiyou…” dismissively like you asked for a blank VHS tape and nor does she know of any other public phone? I’ve lived in China for almost six years, and until tonight I’d never seen a pay phone that accepts coins.

Never seen a coin-operated payphone in Pudong airport either. Fucking PVG.  Payphones in China use an “IC Card.” This is the payphone cousin of the “IP Card,” that weird international calling card that says 100 RMB but can be purchased for as little as 25RMB. Big convenience store chains like Lawson and Family Mart don’t sell these cards but the xiao mai bu or lil corner shop will probably have them.

Well…finally found a proper pay phone tonight on Changle Lu. Domestic local and long distance calls for just 1 mao per minute! That’s ten minutes of talk time for like twenty cents. Incredible. Calling the  US, Canada, or Singapore? Just 1RMB per minute, or about six minutes for a dollar. From a payphone! How much did that cost in like 1985? But if you need to call Nigeria, Ecuador, or anywhere else, that’ll cost you 8RMB, or about $1.20 per minute.

Do Chinese kids make prank calls? Do American kids even make prank calls anymore? I remember teenage days of a county sheriffrif showing up at my friend’s’ parents’ house after someone made an extended and troublesome series of calls as a mentally special character named “Bobby.”

This phone looks like good cheap fun. Hoping for more coin-operated payphones. This song reminds me of payphones at night.

Jam City – Pink Snow

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WHAT’S GOOD IN SHANGHAI THIS WEEKEND June 7 – 10 // 周末有啥好的

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Sitting in Wagas, soaked in warm rain. The RMB I dropped for this smoothie and sandwich could feed an entire rural school in Yunnan. Girl next to me yelling on hands-free about sun damage to her cabinet. Bitch why’d you put ur cabinet in the sun? I’m viciously hungover on migrant-worker Baijiu and can’t find the remote to my air conditioner. This is hell and I’m part of it. Hi.

Hell is constantly searching for an air conditioner remote that never turns up. Hell is submitting an endless stack of party flyers to event websites. Hell is wrapped In bacon and infused with some French shit you can’t pronounce. Welcome to hell, friends.

In hell, there is only one song each week. It’s often sung off-key by Thai children and played at high volumes. The next week is an awful, 96kbs drum and bass remix of this song.

You can find all your favorite foods in hell, but they all taste like Chinese medicine. And every ten minutes, a small Japanese man runs over your foot with his bicycle and says “sorry, so sorry…sorry” then rides away.

What’s going on in hell this special, dragon-tastic weekend? R u ready 4 some Chinese culture? Don’t be a cunt and jump in the river! No joke I’ve heard of people getting severe lung infections or even dying from swimming in Chinar.

Friday -

1) Hip Hop Hijack at Geisha – Urban music. Let’s clarify this term urban music. It’s confusing to non-native speakers, because “urban” sounds like skyscrapers and Chongqing, but actually urban in this context means “black people.” Chinese people call rap/funk/soul, i.e. music invented/perfected by black people and later stolen/bastardized by whites, “black music.” Much more straightforward. My Shanghai friend used to have a radio show called “black music.” In America someone would probably call you racist for that but people who can’t talk about race openly and comfortably are likely closet racists.

These cats play 2 Chainz, Tyga, Gucci Mane, Chief Keef, so if you prefer that to say…coke house, get down to Geisha tonight. I’ll be there.

2) Mural Bar – This is a straight up RMB100 open-bar fall on the ground holler at young gyal thang. It’s also one of the only “middle ground” bars in Shanghai, meaning mixed crowd and open music policy. Not too commercial and not too underground. James Brown, yes. Bieber, no. Major Lazer, yes. Jam City, no.

3) Le Discotecats at Lune – Gotta support these gyals doin they thang with that euro disco and house, even if one of them is French. You go girls!

Saturday – Come to our vinyl night at Logo or you’ll end up in hell, where all rappers are non-native speakers.

Sunday – I’m going to some Indian sitar-master concert at a hotel, with a full-on North Indian buffet. That’s some VIP shit playa. But after that, get down to Dada for a six-hour set by yrs truly.

Monday -

1) Lose Your Face at Logo – a newish crew playing New York/New Jersey style house like Kerry Chandler. Soulful stuff, not coke house. Nice people, go check it out if you like house.

2) Knock The Boots at Lune – Luce and myself playing jams all night. Good tings.

Tuesday – You go back to work, and I drop that new Love Bang in Beijing video.

Here’s some new music:

Joker is back. After an LP I really wasn’t feeling, he KILLS it on this new EP for his Kapsize label. Can anyone spot the vocal sample on this?

Joker – Handz Up

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I’m not generally of UK Dubstep producers crossing over in to house, but Dark Sky do it really proper, with luscious synths abound. Out on the Mister Saturday Nite label (vinyl rip).

Dark Sky – 5AM

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And…The Dream, one of my favorite R&B producers ever, who just dropped his new album IV Play. While it’s not an absolute classic like LOVE HATE, there’s gold in here for sure. If you don’t like The Dream you probably don’t like sex either.

The Dream – IV Play

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CONRANK MIX FOR LOVE BANG UNIVERSE

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As promised, here’s that Conrank exclusive mix for Love Bang Universe. Dude totally exceeded my expectations on this one…Goth Trad x Waka Flocka Flame? Yes. Recorded hungover on a high-speed train from Shanghai to Beijing.

If you don’t already know, Conrank real badman. Man crushes music festivals around the globe and releases bass music on labels like Robox Neotech, Suicide Dub, Top Billin, Y4K, and his own Rankadank Records. Peep his productions in this exclusive mix.

TRACKLIST

1. Stagga – Grimboh
2. Conrank – Untitled
3. Conrank – Pitchin
4. Doshy ft. Conrank – Q
5. Dev79 – Won’t Turn Down
6. Marvell – London To Atlanta
7. Faze Miyake – Boom
8. Marger – Whats This ft. Foreign Beggars
9. Conrank – Flipping Eggs VIP
10. Firecamp – Shut Up
11. Waka Flocka Flame – Gold & Platinum
12. Goth Trad – Itinerant Priest
13. Brillz – Buck Wild
14. Conrank – Boy Tell Em

PLEASE GIVE YOUR DOG A HAIRCUT. THEY’RE HOT, THEY JUST CAN’T TELL YOU!

SUNDAY ON SOUNDCLOUD | RARE ASIAN DISCO

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ok no more dog photos, for now. moving on to ducks.

peep this poster, inspired by Hong Kong’s giant floating duck, now sadly deflated. i won’t appear at this Love Bang because I’m headed to Beijing with Sal for Popasuda on the same night! See you at Dada Beijing on Friday.

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Alright onto the music. Today we’ve got an absolutely DOPE mix of rare Asian disco. no idea what any of these tracks are. some in Mandarin, Japanese, Fujianhua, Thai, and unknown languages from the Pacific Rim. pretty sure Daft Punk just ripped off some rare Thai disco when they wrote “Get Lucky.”

and if you’re looking for something a bit more 现代, peep this mix from Kingdom, ahead of his “Vertical XL” EP release. dude mixes with Rihanna with underwater bass sludge and even throws in that guilty pleasure of a Top 40 song about eating p – “Kisses Down Low” by Kelly Rowland. this is how I want pop music to sound.

enjoy the sunday. man done turnt up the gale force wind machine ya heard.

Also, EXCLUSIVE mix from DJ Conrank coming tmmr.

 

TONIGHT @ LOGO! It’s Heatwolves’ Castle

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Hey I’m DJing tonight from 10PM – 2AM @ Logo Bar on Xingfu Lu.

Jams like this:

Mala – Changes (James Blake Harmonimix)

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and this:

Cassie – All My Love (Kingdom Edit)

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Nice basement dive with plush couches, cheap-ish drinks, and good tunes. Come say what up.

 

SUNDAY ON SOUNDCLOUD | FLOYD and SETH STEELO

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Beats for your Sunday by two artists from cities with hills, Hong Kong and San Francisco, easily two of my favorite cities.

First up is FLOYD from Hong Kong. I know nothing about dude except that he makes really nice beats. Short tracks, like those on Dilla’s classic Donuts. He’s just released one tape out on the new SVBKVLT label and an EP on Singapore’s Darker Than Wax, both dope. Peep the A-side to the SVBKVLT tape here and clean yo house or make an omelet.

And this one by the young Seth Steelo, one of the original Come Correct members who had to move back to San Francisco suddenly before the night really took off. He’s been back in The Bay producing loads and really stepped his game up over the last year. Take this jazzy cut for example.