As listeners and lovers of music will know, the lack of distinct genres these days is a lovely thing.
What are we, 1000, 2000 years into music now? And somehow artists can still sound original, imagine that. Well, as lovely as that is, as music writers it’s become even harder to describe what we are listening to and few young artists ‘cause such threats to the future of genres and music journalism than KianVsLife.
As a producer , Kian cut his teeth on something of a modern cult-like hip-hop mixtape, the Complex-endorsed ‘umm… random shit’ from dereck d.a.c. Gritty, raw and so called ‘lo-fi’ rap that young Brighton is becoming known for, KianVsLife’s producer credits are revered in his hometown.
But his solo work that has started to roll out this year is far more polished and perhaps wildly ambitious. We recently caught up with the artist in question to discuss the relevance of genres, his new music and, naturally, some self-isolation.
Hello KianVsLife tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and where are you based?
I was born in Milton Keynes, grew up in the States, finished growing up back in England, then moved to Brighton for university… with that done I wanna hit up those jazz cafes in London now please.
Living and creating in Brighton, what’s the seaside city like as a place to make music? Be honest, now…
Having the sea at your doorstep is lovely but it never helped my music, more the opposite actually. I just stay countless hours at home working on recording and producing mine and my homies’ music.
Genres are almost redundant these days but even so, your merging of Bossa, R&B, rap, soul, pop and more needs addressing. How do you manage to take in so many influences and put them out cohesively?
I have love for a lot of genres. You don’t need to like the genre as a whole to dig a specific tune, if it bangs, it bangs and I take what my soul feels from those songs and try to reincarnate that shit into my own music to make me feel as elevated as I did listening to the songs I love.
Once you hit that elevation with your own music it gives you confidence to share it with others and pushes you to find out what you can create further. I also like packaging my ideas in a way that feels organic and if I’m ever stuck on something I know I’m trying too hard. If it doesn’t work, I just say I tried and I move on.
Describe your sound using five adjectives…
Soulful, easy-listening, unconfined, bass-loving, umm…?
Tell us about your set-up. Where and how do you record your music?
I record music in my bedroom, I grinded to get myself a set up that I’m proud of (but always want to upgrade) and yeah I sit at home festering in the dark coming up with stuff to listen to in the light.
Your production can range from the crunchy so-called lo-fi nature of dereck’s mixtape, to the incredibly detailed, layered production of your own releases. Is the fine-tuning of your music something you enjoy or something that winds you up? And which of these extremes do you prefer making?
Dereck d.a.c! What can I say? That boy opened my brain to many things I didn’t know I could do. I have a lot of respect for him and for how he has always had faith in me to come up with material for his projects. Once ‘umm… random shit’ was made I understood a lot about sampling and used my skills with my own music, and I thought of it as another step to finding my unique sound… but still even now there’s so much to learn and figure out.
Before collaborating with d.a.c. and a few other rappers I was into making rock/funk/pop with world and jazz influences. I dunno why… I was ambitious, and probably the biggest prince fan you’ll ever meet. I loved to pack out my arrangements as dense as I could when I first started recording music. Over time understanding the whole ‘less is more’ effect and finessing the idea of a piece of music that is dense and full of melody, counter melodies, harmonies, extensions – all that nerdy crap I won’t go into – but still simply being understandable and having some fucking soul and groove to it.
So to answer your question, fine-tuning my music is great as long as it don’t kill the soul it started with.
Frio and Quente feel like a double-release. Hot and cold, if you will. Tell us a little more about each of them?
I have two Brazilian friends, I teach them Persian words they teach me Portuguese words… it’s a nice exchange and so I decided to capitalise on their language, look at me!
No but for real, I’m very drawn to Brazilian and Portuguese culture; the music, the food, their social customs. And Quente was first just a Bossa beat I put together by a bunch of midi instruments and played some guitar over it. After sitting with it for a while I realised what I could turn it into, the first step was adding a hip hop beat over the top and the rest came naturally around that.
Frio? That song is my baby. True definition of trial and error. The amount of fucking people I got on that song, then decided ‘nope that ain’t working,’ deleting all the work I did with them and trying some shit myself or getting someone else in either for guitar or a verse. I mean, finally it worked and I was overwhelmed with the outcome.
What’s in the pipeline for you for the upcoming months?
I’m the key holder to ‘Who Sold My Soul?,’ dereck d.a.c’s next project. It’s all sitting on my computer as we speak. I’m just in the mixing mastering stages with that.
I’m working on a couple mixtapes and just finished a single with a video to release during this period of quarantine. And once we’re all back in the light I’m gonna drop my EP, ‘Lady Jasper’.
We’ve been asking our interviewees this in the current climate, so any advice for self-isolation in the light of a certain global pandemic?
Stay the hell in your house. If you’re bored get a hobby. It’s mad to see people going crazy staying at home for a cause that will help this pandemic. Fuck man… read a book… watch Dragon Ball… PLAY MORROWIND …it’s our time to shine, nerds.
My character in Morrowind can levitate.