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

KingdomPressPhoto

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.

 

 

 

 

 

sound is more important

boatparty

DJed at that boat party last night. Was really fun except:

1) Unnecessary Zoomba Shanghai LMFAO dance sesh at like 9PM

2) Awful soundsystem. I can’t even begin to explain what was wrong with the sound and DJ equipment but I did the best I could, until a speaker on the roof caught on fire and the party abruptly ended.

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Not a serious fire by any means but still. I’ve never in my life seen a speaker combust. Cut costs in other areas, not sound equipment. Lights are a great place to cut costs. No reason for big, bright lights on dancefloors, not to mention the potential fire-hazard from some of the cables I’ve seen out here.

Still had fun, just bummed about how sound almost always gets overlooked or undervalued here. Basically, that party with a better soundsystem, no Zoomba, and an hour longer at sea would be amazing.

Really dope track from the newest compilation by Night Slugs, still one of my favorite labels. Last year they reached across the Atlantic and put out tracks by from Helix from Atlanta and Morri$ from Kansas. Big track, this one by the latter.

Morri$ – White Hood

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going to the SVBKVLT launch at On-Stage now to see the live set by S L V.

Monday = Sunday, Work = Happiness

Is it Monday? Who knows, because you probably had to work yesterday. See, over here in China, having holidays means working make-up days. Work is happiness, happiness is work. Here’s some dancehall and bass for your Monday.

Simpleton – 1/4 To Twelve

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Mr. Vegas – Jack It Up

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Pev & Kowton – Raw Code

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L-Vis 1990 – Ballad 4AD

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Distal – Nose Handy

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I can’t help but think this last track is a parody of trap music and songs like “Sicko Cell.” Beavis and Butthead samples…amazing. Distal is king.

 

LOVE BANG LONDON, PART ONE

I’m super excited to announce that next Tuesday morning, DJ Caution and I are embarking on a journey to the West. We’ll be in London and some other undecided cities for about two weeks, just chilling, going to nights, shopping for vinyl, and spending that China money. If you’re out there, make sure to holler at us on our Facebook page.

Here’s the poster for the first of two Love Bang parties we’re doing out there. Special thanks to my homegirl Erin for setting this one up. BOX HOUSE WUT.

Speaking of London, this finally dropped after much anticipation. Hopefully we’ll get to check out a Night Slugs event while we’re in town.

Girl Unit – Double Take Part II

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From the Night Slugs Allstars Volume 2 comp that just dropped. Buy it here.

 

 

Jam City – Shut The Lites Off (Devil Refix)

great stripped back grime riddim by Jam City here. i’ve been after the white label vinyl since it came out in 2010. this three-track EP goes for > $50 on Discogs…I’d pay that much. it’s probably the best Night Slugs release; all three tracks are perfect.

this one took the longest to grow on me.

Jam City – Shut The Lites Off (Devil Refix)

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[this is a vinyl rip]

arcades that r hood as fuck

Went to eat some fine Xi Bei food last night. What you know bout oat noodles, homemade tofu, and lamb everything? SmartShanghai did a full writeup on the place here.

As my friend described it, it’s on the 5th floor of a “really ghetto shopping mall.” No exaggeration there. And what would a run-down shopping mall be without a really hood arcade?

Note the shanzhai name “Sigga” instead of “Sega.” This should tell you what you’re in for.

Only about 70% of the games work. Unfortunately, wack-a-mole does not. Nor does this dog-walking game.

The air hockey table only produces small, random bursts of air. This makes the puck leap off the table, causing potentially serious hand injuries. No joke, that shit hurts. The worker dude said “you need to pay attention or you’ll get hurt!’ like wtf this is air hockey not a chemistry lab.

The place was full of Chinese dudes in their 20s and 30s. Some of whom were clearly there for days on end. Note the compulsive Double Happiness cigarette smoking and lack of blinking in these subjects. I saw one dude go get tokens – RMB1,000 worth! That’s like $150…

Despite the hood-ness of this place, I’d go back. America has almost no arcades these days so we’re lucky that we can still play Street Fighter II, Time Crisis, and bizarre music games outside of our homes.

Zomby – U Are My Fantasy (Street Fighter II Theme Remix)

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Jam City – Aqua Box

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Jam City has been one of my favorite producers since his massive Night Slugs white label came out last year, and of course, “Magic Drops.” His Waterworx EP just came out on Night Slugs and you can cop it here – it’s really, really good.  He’s got a great all-vinyl podcast available for download over at disko404 as well.