Kissy Sell Out Discovers The Holy Grail In "Wild Romance"



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I think the Holy Grail for an alternative musician is the ability to fully realize your signature sound without compromising and I knew that my ambitions with classical instruments were possible for the first time when I made Wild Romance.

Usually, when college students graduate anxiety starts to set in.  You start pondering life and money and whether or not you’re going to land that dream job. For Kissy Sell Out, his gig was already in tact. Shortly after graduating from college he was in the studio creating his 2009 debut Youth, an album that was highly praised from fans and critics alike. Even before Youth, and achieving his graphic design degree from St. Martin’s College of Art in London, Kissy Sell Out landed a weekly time slot radio show with Radio One. This opportunity blossomed after a series of Kissy 2006 remixes that caught the attention of well-respected radio bosses. Especially after the release of his reworked rendition of Mark Ronson’s “Stop Me.” That’s quite impressive, remarkable and a bit scary all rolled into one. Just imagine being a full-time college student and being responsible for giving listeners a weekly dose of legit music. With ease Kissy Sell Out exceeded expectations by becoming the leading man of Radio One by introducing listeners to his own Kissy Klub creations, in addition to giving exposure to new independent artists.

Today, Kissy is the ringleader and creator of San City High Records, which originally started as an art project that slowly transitioned into a label that allows upcoming artist (Zeds Dead, Hot Flow, Hot Pink Delorean) to gain the skills and the freedom to grow in music biz. Earlier this year Kissy followed up his 2009 debut with his second LP, Wild Romance. The new album clearly demonstrates his musical growth since Youth. His sound is polished, more mature and is delivered with a heighten sense of confidence—and wrapped in a signature Kissy style. If you’ve yet to hear it, go get it. We caught up with Kissy while he was on his UK tour, spending most of his time with DJ Twiggy Garcia and MC Cobra from his San City High crew.

I get invited to do the odd art exhibition or record sleeve design from time-to-time but I feel more competent as a composer and producer these days so I always chose the music instead.

Hey Kissy, thanks for making the time… lets get started with a little personal info. Please introduce yourself to Magnetic readers.
Hi, I’m Kissy Sell Out. I’m turned on by mystery—but not the kind of riddle found at the bottom of an empty Tequila bottle. Tequila turns me off. I rarely eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ll cook once in a while. Yesterday I steamed some Broccoli, which I was quite proud of. Not sure if that counts? My favorite cocktail is the Mali-boom-boom! Sometimes my house is clean and sometimes it’s dirty. I have a cat called Mr. Chaz who I got from the cat rescue center. Sadly I'm allergic to his fur now though, so he has to stay at my mom's place. I usually forget to take my contact lenses out before I go to sleep. Before my career started I spent most of my time either dancing to music or making it in my bedroom, but now it's my profession so work and free time are the same thing really. Other than that, I usually try to spend my time brightening up other peoples’ days, or playing loud music (both stuff that makes me feel young and stupid and stuff that makes me feel old and wise), I like shopping for tunes, doing press-ups, looking up stuff on Wikipedia, downing fizzy drinks, trying to get a signal on my iPhone and reading astrophysics books. Let me tell you about the theory of general relativity. Time is not absolute so therefore the 4th dimension we experience is actually space-time curved by gravity—the result of mass distorting space-time—which also affects the speed of light as all energy has mass. This means that mass accelerating to the speed of light also increases gravity making faster than light travel impossible without warping space-time in a way we haven’t discovered yet. I think I drunk too much Red Bull this morning…

Pretty awesome you know such things, but why did you tell us that?
I thought it’d be better than telling you my star sign.


I'm a little smarter now, thanks. Have you learned anything about yourself since the release of Youth?
I know who my audience is now and where I fit in. I also think I'm several steps closer to understanding how to be happy.

How, if at all, has life changed since the release of Wild Romance?
I guess it's nice knowing the judgments people make about me now. Wild Romance is based on something I have no regrets about.

What was the reasoning behind changing the live show to you and 4 turntables?
I think as a band we were very good but because of sound-checks, power-cuts, instrument tuning, changing stage dimensions, etc, it throws too many random variables into the performance. DJing is something I've obsessed over since childhood and fully understand, so I'm able to give a performance that is far more unique and intuitively engaging on 4 decks.

Outside of the things you do for San City High, are you still involved with graphic design?
Doing everything at SCH doesn't leave time for much else sadly. The problem is that I can make a tune in a few hours now but it will take me days to finish a design. It was the opposite case before my music career took off. I get invited to do the odd art exhibition or record sleeve design from time-to-time but I feel more competent as a composer and producer these days so I always chose the music instead.

Mixing classical music influences with my music has been a long-time ambition, although a very hard one to master up until now!

What’s graphic design’s relationship to music?
Well post-modern music is graphic design as far as I see it. That's a connection that's always seemed natural to me. It's also why my music often reflects something real in my life and is always about something even if it's instrumental. I can't make music any other way really.

When’s the last time one medium has inspired the other?
It happens all the time. It's why I like movies so much. You can't make movies by yourself though, so music is a better fit for me.

What’s the last piece of music you bought because of the artwork?
Good question. I wish people talked about stuff like that more often! Last CD was a Christmas reggae album I saw in a liquor store last week and the last vinyl was a Grinderman record that said EVIL on it in condensed san serif black-on-red type.

I dont do San City High to make money and never will—Im not sure if many other labels have come to terms with that yet.

Did it sound like it looked?
The reggae one had a Rasta guy with a Christmas hat on and that's exactly how it sounded. I've heard more evil sounding stuff than the Grinderman record though...

What is it about classical music that resonates with you?
In a literal sense, it's the huge range of tones that can be created by a cello. I guess further to that, the depth of emotion created by a quartet can be quite beautiful. Nothing about classical music resonates with me in relation to modern culture however. There are just quite a few pieces of music from the genre that are wonderful to listen to. Electro has always been about mashing everything with everything—as long as you can dance to it—so mixing classical music influences with my music has been a long-time ambition, although a very hard one to master up until now!

Have your Kissy Klub edits ever caused any controversy with the artists or labels?
Surprisingly, I've never had a big artist complain. I've pushed it so far on my radio show that we've had guests like Gary Numan, Diplo, Switch, Ed Sheeran, Friendly Fires, The Rapture and countless others, endorsing Kissy Klub edits of their tunes during on air interviews before they've even heard what I've done to their track which is quite crazy really.

The only reason a Kissy Klub edit gets created is because I love the original track and the artists tend to know that. At my core, I'm a fan of other peoples’ music but my job is to balance that with my own specialist style. This means no matter how perfect "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division is, for example, I can't play the original version in the middle of my DJ sets unless I edit it in some way to fit the tone of my DJ sets. The objective is to make the track sit comfortably with my other dubs and mixes but never to change it into something else. That's why they are “edits” rather than “remixes.” The flavor of the original is still the most important thing.

I had a funny example of this when I asked Vampire Weekend if I could do a remix for them. Their management didn't seem interested but then, a few months later, I got an email thanking me for supporting “Taxi Cab” and requesting a copy of my Kissy Klub Version. Similarly I was asked if my Kissy Klub edit of Uffie & SebastiAn's “Difficult” could be used on the official Ed Banger remix package after I spun it on Radio 1, but they contacted me so last minute that I couldn't get back from touring in time to submit the master file.

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Do you think your business approach to San City High is different than most because your focus is on the unsigned and new?
I don't do San City High to make money and never will—I'm not sure if many other labels have come to terms with that yet. I've sunk thousands into that label because I'm utterly devoted to supporting the artists properly. Since the initial releases, I have managed to recoup quite a bit but I barely look at the bank statements if I'm honest. My solo DJ fees are what pay my bills. I'm no millionaire but I'm still here having fun and waking up in the morning with a smile on my face which is all I've ever dreamed of doing, so I'm happy.

Its easy to say that its all about the music but I think, more specifically, it is all about the spirit that fuels the music. You cant pay someone to start believing in something.

Have any of the acts you signed to San City High directly influence Kissy Sell Out’s sound?
I was a still a kid when I started the label but the San City crew changed me. When the tour began they all looked up to me as an older brother figure—even my wild US DJs Hot Pink Delorean—so I had to finally stand up for them and do them proud. So in a direct way, the label family I have around me now are what kick-started my manhood—and Wild Romance was all about that new found confidence. I've definitely become a better engineer as a result of the SCH releases as I've been mentoring many of them about mix-downs and mastering. That was my first experience of not being the producer, which made my studio skills more versatile.

I think the Holy Grail for an alternative musician is the ability to fully realize your signature sound without compromising and I knew that my ambitions with classical instruments were possible for the first time when I made Wild Romance.

Are there any bad things that happened in the past that you feel set you back or changed the way you do business?
Being signed to Atlantic records was a fairly unpleasant experience. But it only made me stronger at the end of the day. Knowing what doesn't work in the music industry gives my San City High projects a huge advantage. A major problem with major labels is that many of the people who supervise the releases are on a salary and are not necessarily interested in you or the music you make. It's easy to say that “it's all about the music” but I think, more specifically, it is all about the spirit that fuels the music. You can't pay someone to start believing in something.


What percentage of your skills were you born with?

How did you go about acquiring additional skills?
I kept my eyes open.

Learning from others?
Even the bad people.

Teaching the self?
Enthusiasm and aspirations are very important.

Any big moment in life that changed the course of, or defined, your aesthetic philosophy?
Look at a Howard Hodgkin painting that he spent more than 3 years working on and you'll hopefully see that even the most basic forms of art still have the power to be extraordinary.

Discuss a musician or an era which has influenced you. When and how did you come upon what moved you?
My mother often played records by John Martyn during my childhood which sounds as beautiful now as they did then. When I grew up to find out he was an alcoholic, notoriously crude and damaged person who was often unpleasant to the audience on stage this shocked me. But it also opened my eyes to an abstract quality of art which often comes from compositions built around undisclosed things that clearly have great personal significance to the writer. That sounds like mumbo-jumbo but it's the same reason that people watch David Lynch films that they don't understand or why Scott Walker's Tiltalbum is bizarre but also nice to listen to.

If alpha is morning and omega is night. Walk us through your daily arc.  
Get up, have shower, dance about in the studio for a bit, go to a gig somewhere and then hope my friends and family are still interested in me when I get back.

I’m trying to figure out how to bottle your sound as a scent. When I do, what do you wanna call it?
Permanent Rose.

Sweet. What would the tagline be?
It’s toe-tag time in teenville.

My friend is deaf and keeps asking me what you sound like. What should I say?
Like putting your finger tips in a complexly arranged bouquet of flowers which falls apart around you in just the right way.

If you were starting out now, would you do anything differently?
I’d hit Soundcloud hard and spend the time it took to make my first white label vinyl sending emails instead.

What’s the secret to your success?
My ambitions have always been quite grounded in comparison to the opportunities I’ve had which means I never get bored and always remember where I came from.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
Ducky and Batty—my earliest cuddly toys knitted by my mom. I wouldn’t even pick them up now for fear of breaking them in some way. I loved those two little critters!

Have you ever had a brush with the paranormal or supernatural?
I was just thinking of asking you that!? Spooky!

Spooky, indeed. What am I going to ask you now?
Something about sugar-free drinks.

Wrong. I was going to ask you if you thought there are any commonly held societal beliefs that are false.
A lot of people don’t know that sugar-free drinks are still really bad for your teeth because of the citric acid that destroys the enamel. I had to have 3 fillings before the dentist even told me.

Touché. How will you feel six months after your heart stops beating?
I won’t. But hopefully I will have made the most of every moment before it stopped. Every particle in the universe came from the same place and was created according to a handful of very simple rules, which spawned complexity. The water in our bodies isn’t even from this planet so I’d imagine that feelings wouldn’t matter where we’re going.

Ok, one more quick one. If people were really to listen after you shook their hand for the first time, what would you say to them?
I’d recommend buying a copy of Soundtracks For The Blind by Swans.

Thank you for asking me these wonderful questions!

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