Just over three weeks ago, XLR8R broke the news that Etapp Kyle is set to debut on Unterton, the sub-label of Ostgut Ton. A shroud of expectation has surrounded the 28-year- old Ukranian DJ-producer ever since he first released on Ben Klock’s Klockworks in 2013, a four-tracker that perfectly captured the maturing skills of an innately talented producer, and marked him as one of the most exciting figures in the global techno scene. Interest, over time, has continued to rise, sustained through an ever-growing touring schedule, the reward for which was an invitation to join Ostgut Booking towards the back end of 2014. He then followed this up with Klockworks 16 in November 2015.
Despite this, however, there is extraordinarily little known about him. Besides a few brief interviews—the majority of which are through Ukranian or Russian media outlets—there is almost nothing published detailing the origins of his relationship with either Klock or the renowned German institution. “I didn’t do much press,” explains Kyle, softly, over coffee last week. “It’s because my English was not good enough!” There is no denying, he says, that this impending release marks the next significant milestone in his career—and, following a brief conversation, he agreed that the presentation of this week’s XLR8R podcast offered the perfect platform on which to share his story. “It’s a long one,” he says, smiling. “But I think it’s important that we go from the start!”
“I was a really big fan of the John Digweed and Hernan Cattaneo stuff, but that sound just disappeared and it left me without any music to play.”
The roots of Kyle’s musical endeavors can be traced back to Chernivtsi, a modest city in the West of Ukraine, with a population of around 200,000. He has, he says, always entertained an appreciation for electronic music—nurtured, in part, by his work as a promoter and technician for one of the local clubs—but struggled to properly explore it given the “non-existence” of a strong underground scene in the area. DJing, which began as the main focus during his late teens, offered him a valuable outlet, but the evolution of musical tastes left little demand for the dark, progressive house that he found himself pushing at the time. “I was a really big fan of the John Digweed and Hernan Cattaneo stuff,” he explains. “But that sound just disappeared and it left me without any music to play.” Attempts to adopt a more a commercial voice left him only unsatisfied, establishing a mild resentment that led him to consider new avenues through which he could express his creative desires. “I had no money and no energy to DJ, so I decided to focus more on production,” he explains. Following the discovery of a large online music sharing platform, he also began to compile mixes and share them with other like-minded users.
It was through the latter outlet that he first discovered an appreciation for techno music. “I found this one set and was completely astonished,” he recalls. “There was a story from the beginning to end—and I suddenly felt more connected to the music than before.” Inspired by the discovery, he emailed Kirill, the artist, to begin a channel through which the two would continue to exchange music and mixes. “The progressive stuff that I had been playing earlier aways left me with a certain emptiness—there was always something missing,” he explains. “I was never really convinced that that was the music that I wanted to play or produce.” Although they would talk regularly, Kyle explains that he knew nothing about his musical acquaintance—besides the fact that he operated in a legal profession. As it turned out, he was based in Moscow and had close ties with the founders of ARMA17, the city’s most prominent nightclub, who subsequently invited Kyle over to play having been made aware of his talents. “I knew nothing about these guys,” Kyle recalls, laughing. “I thought I was going to go over there and never come back!”
"It felt like a brand new start—I had lost everything and began everything again. You have to reboot your computer sometimes—and it does seem to have worked.”
This breakthrough served as a catalyst in his development. As he describes it, it was a big turning point—one that has proven to be both formative and fundamental in reaching the point at which he finds himself today. “It felt like a brand new start—I had lost everything and began everything again,” he explains. “You have to reboot your computer sometimes—and it does seem to have worked.” The reception of his first set—which was extended to four hours when one of the other artists didn’t turn up—was enough to earn him an invitation to return three weeks later, marking the beginning of an affiliation with the club that saw him become an increasingly regular fixture, both there and in other hotspots around the city. His three-year residency, between 2011 and 2014, served, he says, as the “perfect school” for the aspiring DJ, the three rooms—house, techno and main—allowing him time to experiment with different slots and musical styles. “I felt this new birth of energy—it was completely new to me,” he explains. “I began digging for all these old records because I had to discover so much.” The money was good, he says, but he could not yet afford to move away from his hometown in Ukraine.
As his reputation as a selector continued to grow, so too did his interest in production. “I was really inspired,” he explains. “And it was natural that I started to think about making my own music too.” It wasn’t long before he was contacted by Indeks Music, a small Ukranian digital-only label that released his 2011 Inception EP, a three-tracker that received early support from some of the world’s leading artists, most notably Zak Khutoretsky (a.k.a. DVS1). The success of his second EP saw an increase in international bookings and a consequential move to Kiev, to facilitate travel. The next big step, however, came towards the end of 2012, another formative moment his career, and the first time he crossed paths with Ben Klock. “I remember it so perfectly,” he explains, laughing, shuffling on his seat to get comfortable for the next chapter of the story.
Nikita, a close friend with roots in the Moscow party scene, has long been a key figure in Kyle’s success. “I cannot push myself, but if you have friends like Nikita then you are really lucky,” he explains. “That guy will open up so many doors!” At the time, Kyle had a CD with about 10 unreleased productions—and the story goes like this: “It was about 3am and I was sleeping—and I received a call from Nikita telling me to send him some CDs because Richie [Hawtin] was playing a party in Moscow, and he wanted to give him some of my music. I sent them and Nikita gave the mix to Richie—and also Steffi, and then Ben Klock when he played a festival there too. Just one week after the event, Nikita received messages from Steffi and Hawtin asking about the music, and he began conversations with Ben too. Everyone was really into the tracks—even though many of them were not even finished! It was absolutely crazy.”
The standout track from this selection was “Drama,” a wonderfully melodic production that established itself as a key component for all of the above leading names, and many more. For lengthy periods of 2012, it was Richie Hawtin’s closing track of choice. “It was extremely impactful—even though nobody knew it was me at the time,” Kyle says, grinning. Although it was eventually released by Klockworks, there were several enquiries from other label heads and artists who wanted to sign it to their respective imprints. As Kyle recalls, “Ben wrote to me requesting more material, so I sent him a whole bunch of tracks and he said we had enough tracks for the EP—so I then agreed this with him.” Klockworks 10 then subsequently hit the shelves in August 2013.
Now based in Berlin, Kyle has established himself as one of the key artists on the Klockworks roster. His ongoing relationship with both Klock and the imprint have been central to his success over the past three years. The pair first met backstage when Klock played a gig in Moscow—“I didn’t speak any English so we couldn’t even talk,” he explains— but he has since become something of a mentor in Kyle’s development. “He has taught me so much,” he says. His second EP, released towards the end of last year, was agreed upon before the actual release of the first, but a delay in the completion of “Luna,” the final track, resulted in a considerable delay—and it is expected that more are to come soon. His connection with Ostgut began towards the end of 2014 after Prologue, the booking agency to which he was signed, collapsed when its founding partner, Alexandra left to join Ostgut Booking. She subsequently signed him to the roster, before he was invited to submit material for last year’s Ostgut Ton | Zehn compilation. “I sent three tracks—and the last two were held for this EP,” explains Kyle. It is likely that “Continuum” will be the first release of many on one of the Berghain-affiliated imprints. “I intend only ever to work with them or Klockworks,” he reveals.
Reflecting upon the situation, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the impending release marks the start of a lengthy production career with the Berghain family. The notorious Berlin-based institution, which represents a select few of techno’s leading names, has a rich history in supporting artists for lengthy periods of their careers, providing a platform for them to flourish, both at home and on an international scale. In this sense, the following mix would seem to mark the latest milestone in Kyle’s career—and so it feels only right to publish this to serve as a reference point for the new audiences who will soon discover his work.