Five Minutes with Kid Smpl at Decibel 2013

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Last week, XLR8R spent a long weekend running around the rainy streets of Seattle for the 10th-annual edition of the city's Decibel Festival (our comprehensive review can be read here). Between the long list of showcases and events we attended, XLR8R took some time to catch up with a few of the festival's performers, and—seeing as how we were holed up in his hometown—we tracked down Seattle-based Kid Smpl for a few minutes, talking about his first encounter with Decibel, becoming an RBMA grad, and why his new music is moving in a more "physical" direction.

XLR8R: Growing up near Seattle, when did you first start hearing about Decibel?
Kid Smpl: I wasn't really aware of Decibel until about four year ago. I was in college, and I saw that FlyLo was playing, and then I checked out the line-up for the rest of the festival and was like, "Oh my god!" [laughs] That year though, I was under 21, so I actually didn't have very many options of where I could go.

And now you've performed as part of the festival a few times now?
Last year was the first time I did a real live set for Decibel, and then again this year. Decibel does events throughout the year, and anytime I play one of their events, I feel like it's one of the most comfortable places for me to perform.

What about it makes it comfortable for you?
Just the audience it attracts is always people who are into underground electronic music. They just know what they're getting themselves into. [laughs]

You were a participant at this year's RBMA session in New York. How was that experience? It looks like they keep you guys busy for those two weeks.
It's pretty non-stop with things to do. There is a lot of encouragement to get into the studio and collaborate and make music with the other participants. Then there are the two lectures a day that usually get put online, and then occasional workshop-like lectures as well. Then there are just shows every night, and every participant plays at least one. I played a show with Oneohtrix Point Never, Evian Christ—who was an RBMA participant as well for that class—Bill Kouligas from PAN, and AnnaLove, who was part of RBMA too. We were in this proper metal venue out in Greenpoint [in Brooklyn], but they brought in this big system out for it. That was such a fun show, and I just felt really comfortable because everyone on the bill was really weird, so I could take my live set wherever I wanted to.

Back in our Bubblin' Up profile of you earlier this year, you had mentioned wanting to start making instrumentals and beats for vocalists. Have you made any progress with that?
Yeah, it's something I've wanted to do for a while, and I've done some tracks for a few projects, but haven't really heard anything yet. It's a slow process from what I gather. I did a remix for a label recently, and they got back to me and asked me to make some beats for the project, but it's one of those things where nothing is set in stone. It's kind of like, "We think you might be able to do something cool, so send us something." [laughs] That's how it's been working. I've also been writing a lot of new Kid Smpl stuff, but I don't know what it's going to be yet. I don't have a finished EP or LP yet, but I'll have more music out soon.

Do you think your music has changed or evolved in any significant way with these new tracks?
Yeah, the stuff I've been working on has the same aesthetic and mood as my older music, but it's just been getting a lot more physical.

In what way?
Well, it's more brooding, I guess—not that it is sinister. I think it's the result of me playing out a lot more than before. I want to make something that sounds good on a system, but I don't want to make dance music; I just want to have a really physical experience for my live set. I've been drawn to that kind of music lately, artists like Emptyset—even though it's not anything like my music, the physicality of it is pretty incredible, and that's influenced me a little bit. I've also been doing a lot of remixes lately; that's probably been taking up most of my time, but I really like doing those. It kind of slows down my process of making original tracks, but you can develop new sounds and stuff to use on other tracks in the process.

Do you ever find it stifling to be restricted to certain source material when you remix, or do you like that challenge?
Sometimes, but for me, as long as there is a lead vocal, I can make a remix from it. I feel really comfortable just creating a new instrumental for the vocal. It can be a little more difficult when I do a remix for another electronic artist—the starting point is a little different for me then. There's always that difficulty of trying to maintain your aesthetic while still using the source material, but it's been a learning process and I like doing them.