Kingdom (Night Slugs / Fade To Mind) Dubspot Interview: New Label, New EP – Dreama

[Photo by Megan Jolly.]

When the Fade to Mind label first appeared, people were confused. The internet gossiped. “The logo looks just like the Night Slugs logo.” “Kingdom left the label to start his own.” But really, he was creating a path for American producers struggling to find proper releases. And by developing a sister label to the globally popular Night Slugs label, people definitely took notice. But Fade to Mind is uniquely American, and aims to draw on the history of this music, along with international influences, to define a new style of music. Their first release by Nguzunguzu has certainly already spawned a number of imitations, with it’s dark bass drum boom bap and creative percussion palette. And the second release by Mike Q will draw on a long history of US sounds like Ballroom house and Jersey club. They also dropped a limited edition mix CD, which draws on the label’s roots in CDR culture, something central to the scene they came up from. And his own EP will come out on Night Slugs, furthering the collaboration between the two label and club nights. Below, Kingdom discusses all this – the sound he wants for the label, how Americans need to draw from their own deep history as much as from outside, his approach to sound quality and more. - MS

[MikeQ - The Ha Dub Rewerk'd | Forthcoming on Fade to Mind.]

Will Fade to Mind focus exclusively on club music?

Club music is definitely the foundation of the label, but I don’t want to tie it down to anything too specific, because I know some of the artists are going to want to experiment. And some of the artists don’t exactly make club music per se. The goal is to expand the definition of club music in a way. It also depends on what type of club you’re talking about. But the fact that Fade to Mind is a label and a club night, we’re able to expend that definition because even if we put out music that isn’t traditionally considered club music, once we find a way to play it at our events, then it becomes club music. For example, I’m working with an artist named Fatima Al Qadiri, and she’s more of a composer than a producer in a way. Her music has electronic elements, and I think they could be worked into a DJ set, but it wouldn’t be considered traditional club music.

How else are you looking to expand the definition of club music?

Club music is basically something that has a beat that people can dance to in a club. But take grime, which had something called a devil mix, where there’s no drums and it’s just bass and a little bit of percussion and instruments. We’ll be doing things like that. Releasing acapellas and tools for people to use in the club. But it’s not just club music. And we’ll be using different BPMs, it’s not just driving 130 club music. So some people might not consider 60 or 160 BPM to be normal club music.

What are the qualities you’re looking for in a Fade to Mind release?

It’s not really specific, but I’m looking for producers that are in their own universe and not constantly following trends. Like they used to be make bangin’ electro but now they make Night Slugs music. That happens so much. I’m looking for people who are entrenched in their own aesthetic, have their own thing going on, have a unique perspective, and care about their craft. But again, it’s not specific. I do like things on the dark side, but also smooth – not rough dark. I also love female energy, whether that be in a vocal or a vibe. I’m definitely trying to make the roster as diverse as possible and bring in lots of different people. Hip hop and R&B are a big influence to me, especially hip hop as an American contribution to music. Our perspective as a label is that the most popular form of electronic and club music that Americans have heard is hip hop. Even if it’s not a half time beat that is recognizably hip hop, but that the producers have an understanding of what hip hop means and what R&B is.

[Nguzunguzu - "Timesup" | Fade to Mind]

What is the relation to Night Slugs?

Bok Bok [the label's founder] and I have been friends since 2007 or so and it’s just been a long standing friendship. He said, “Why not just frame it as a sister label?” And he had set up this template for a label – the way he organized it, the way he worked with his artists, the way he helped them become better producers and create forward sounding tracks. He has been a total mastermind of the Night Slugs universe. And he brought me into that. So there isn’t a formal legal or financial connection, were more of a collective. We’re just best friends. I’m trying to riff off what he started, and he wants to participate and help. There’s going to be a lot of crossing over, remixes, playing at each other’s events and stuff like that. I liked the format he had done for his covers and logo, and I felt like I wanted mine to look akin to his, so I had him make a similar thing.

Could you talk about how you help improve your artists’ production quality?

He’s definitely a better mastermind at that than I am. He’s more skilled in the studio. But I basically just offer notes on the mixes; like this snare’s too loud or whatever. We won’t just take a cool record that sounds decent in the club and bring it straight to mastering even if it’s already limited to fuck and blown out in the red in the program they made it in. We’d say bring it down, EQ it, make it soft, so that when the mastering person compresses it, he can bring up the levels. It’s basic stuff. Like encouraging my artists to get a proper pair of monitors or headphones and things like that.

How come you left New York?

I was there for ten years, had an amazing time, met so many great people, and totally came up there. I started to DJ there, not even intentionally at first. But starting in 08, I began traveling to LA a lot when DJing picked up. And I have a few friends there like Nguzunguzu and Total Freedom. So I’d go out there and DJ and hang out and we basically just bonded as a crew. And in terms of American producers who share my feelings about music, they are the closest ones. And even though I had a lot of friends in New York, I hadn’t really found that musical collaborative community that I wanted. There’s some scenes there and people are kinda separated out, but I didn’t find what I wanted. But I was also craving change. Whenever I visited there I felt very free. And I like to drive very much. In LA you have immediate access to all kinds of nature and with a car you can just go out there.

[Kingdom - "Let You No" | Forthcoming on Night Slugs. Photo by Megan Jolly.]

What club scenes are you taping into and drawing from for inspiration?

It’s really more music focused. But we’re gonna bring it to the club, and a lot of us play at clubs. Mike Q DJs on the Ballroom scene and tours around at all kinds of different parties. The scene he’s involved in is pretty interesting and there’s a lot of great producers in that world. And then there’s Night Slugs, which is always educational. But there’s not really specific scenes.

How can America compete (on a healthy level) with a place like London?

Like I said before, it’s about really trying to absorb and take a deeper understanding of what their music is about. Just like any other type of music that you listen to or are influenced by: don’t just take the surface elements. Think about the history, think about the influences, think about the diversity. Their culture goes back so far. They have pirate radio and a rich club culture of people raving together to garage or grime or jungle. They have all that foundation, and their culture runs through it. That’s the reason they’re where they are. But I don’t think they’re the center and Fade to Mind is proof that America has just as interesting and diverse an underground culture as they do. And it has it’s own statements to make. The important thing is for everyone to look within themselves and figure out what type of music they’re supposed to be making from their soul, because people in London do that. They’re making music from their culture, yet also getting influenced by a lot of other things. So I think Americans need to stop biting and stop worrying so much and really figure out what our movement is, what our aesthetic is. And at the same time take in everything.

How important is vinyl to you?

I DJ off of regular CDs, no Serato, so vinyl isn’t important to my DJ practice. But I have a lot of close friends who really appreciate it. So we will be pressing it. I do think it’s important because a lot of people respect it and use it. It’s really important to dance music, and people are into it, and it’s really nice to have a physical object that confirms the existence of a piece of music in the way that an MP3 doesn’t. But at the same time – since we’ll be emphasizing the history and culture we’ve come up in – to be fully honest, my age group and the location and types of venues we came up in didn’t use turntables. For me, Nguzunguzu, and Total Freedom, we came up in places where it’s mostly CDJs and we are burning MP3s that we found in really weird places or off weird mix CDs. Kind of a low tech CDR aesthetic. So while we want to supply the vinyl that people need, we also want to emphasize that in our culture, CDs, MP3s and USBs are slightly more central to the way we came up.

When you find weird MP3s and they’re low quality, how do you approach that?

I always try and find the highest quality version I can, but sometimes good quality files don’t exist. It’s really on a song by song basis. I have 128 kpbs MP3s or lower that just happen to still sound good because of the mix or the type of song it is. I’ll test it out and if it still sounds good I’ll play it. I’ll probably EQ it on the spot on the DJ mixer if there’s something particularly disturbing. But there’s some things that are just unplayable. I also try to make sure I’m not playing too many of those kinds of things, because a whole set of that wouldn’t sound good. But I think one or two songs with that quality is fine because at the end of the day, even though people make such a big deal about it, the music is the most important part.

  • Dabblr
  • 11/18/2011

We’re all pretty amped for this Fade to Mind release…anxiously waiting for November 22nd!

We made a bootleg remix with a little Juke flavor of “Ha Dub” def worth listening to~