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In Conversation: Kissy Sell Out

In Conversation: Kissy Sell Out

Simon Tillotson | Features & Interviews

One of UK dance music’s most recognisable figures, Kissy Sell Out has one of the most accomplished and varied career CVs in the industry. With over a decade of experience behind him, the DJ hasn’t slowed down and instead continues to push the boundaries of creativity within music. Ahead of his first festival date of the summer at Inside Out Festival, Cardiff on 31st May, we caught up with Kissy to find out a bit more about what to expect from his set, and an inside look at his new ‘House of Bassline’ project.

Hi Kissy, thanks for joining us! We hear you have a new project on the go – what exactly is House of Bassline?

Good question! I guess the simplest way of putting it, is that it’s a new series of DJ videos I’m making which focuses, musically, on a broad range of modern bass music coming from the UK at the moment. The core concept is to create something which pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in terms of the visual aspect of DJ videos. It’s been one hell of grind to transpose the ideas I had in my mind to the screen, but I honestly think that even the very first video is unlike anything else I’ve seen done before.

What inspired you to focus on the visual aspect for a mix series?

It’s a funny one to explain, because as much as I still love the art of DJing, I’ve felt myself quickly losing interest in spending so much time and energy crafting extraordinary DJ mixes within the confines of the standard radio show/podcast audio-only format. I mean, getting anyone to listen to a full length DJ mix outside of the club environment these days, has sadly lost some of the magic it once had. Plus, now we’re all engaging with music culture via Facebook for the most part, anything you create has to have some kind of visual flare to it in order to strike a connection with people.

I’ve always embraced the performance aspect of DJing with my shows so, short of gathering a thousand people in my studio to record a live DJ video, I found it quite exciting to try and come up with a new way to make a DJ mix visually captivating whilst still complimenting the music at its core.

How long did it take you to master the effects and creating the videos?

Suffice to say, it took a LONG time! One of the things that I think is most effective about the VFX, is that only 7% of what you are looking at on-screen is actually real! By this, I mean that only the decks and my body are really there, and everything else (including the table) is a computer-generated image. Knowing that fact when watching the videos, hopefully makes you realise why I have been so excited about this project – it’s a big step into the unknown, with potentially infinite possibilities.

It all started when I recorded a DJ video for a Lengoland live stream, at the end of last year. There is a large blank wall behind the decks in my studio, but because I film the videos using a 220° fisheye lens, the perspective makes the studio door look as if it’s also behind the decks through the camera.

This caused some frustration when I was decorating the video backdrop, because I had to cover up the door in a way that still allowed it to be opened and shut. Anyway, because certain poster panels weren’t fully attached to the wall, the studio air-con made the posters blow about during the video.

When I was editing the lighting levels for the final video, I had this sudden brain-wave. I realised that I could just cover up the flapping posters in the corner with a still image screen-shot layer in Photoshop, and just layer it over the final video. It felt a bit counter-intuitive to do this for a live DJ performance video, but it totally worked and you’d never be able to tell what I’d done.

I guess once I started thinking like that, I realised that by going one step further, and chroma-keying myself using a green-screen (exactly as they do on TV weather reports), I could control the entire design of the surrounding room, making it look any way I wanted using post-production effects.

During the next three months, I gave my studio’s computing power and tech resources a hefty upgrade, and read every online manual I could find about composite visual effects. The rendering time for each complex visual effect is insane, so it’s a case of using a calculator to work out the most efficient strategy for creating the desired effect in high resolution, whilst also constructing the artificial room design, from scratch, in the process. It was invigorating to tackle the project from an entirely new creative direction, previously unexplored in my past musical adventures.

Is House of Bassline purely a mix series or are there plans to take the brand into other areas too?

At the moment it’s just a new creative project I’m enjoying working on, but there are plans brewing away behind the scenes for a run of House Of Bassline tour dates, and a possible compilation series is being considered in partnership with another label too.

Speaking of events, you’re going to be playing at Inside Out Festival very soon – what can people expect from a Kissy Sell Out festival set?

Well I’ll certainly bring the boom when I get on the decks for that, it’s gonna be a great day out for sure. Playing the best live set I can has always been the fuel for my passion in music, so you can bet that whatever I end up playing, there will have been a mountain of pre-show prep put into it beforehand. I like to arrange my performances around combinations of DJ set-pieces, and I’m really buzzing about the music I’ve been spinning recently.

You have played some HUGE parties during your career, is there a set or event which stands out the most?

I’ve been really blessed to play at some incredible places, but an easy top five moment that springs to mind is opening for The Prodigy at Wembley Arena – I was so star-struck when I saw them all back stage that I couldn’t even look them in the eye to say hello!

What’s the craziest or weirdest thing you’ve ever seen at a festival?

Well I didn’t technically see everything that happened, but one of the most ridiculous festival experiences I ever had was when I got a helicopter to Glastonbury. You gotta admit, that sounds awesome straight away doesn’t it? Inevitably, however, it all turned south after I stupidly hopped on board, cracking open a bottle of Jägermeister to do some shots with the crew.

About 20 minutes into the flight, we hit a thermal in the atmosphere, which caused severe turbulence. I felt myself getting very travel sick immediately, and fearing that I had no place to vomit, I tried to keep a straight face which caused me to hyperventilate, and suffer a panic-attack.

I don’t really know what happened next (as I passed out), but when I woke up I was in the arms of a paramedic outside the festival grounds – the helicopter having made an emergency landing, with an ambulance crew waiting below carrying a stretcher for me. The most embarrassing moment was when I was staggering past the back stage area of the Dance East tent and bumped into Fatboy Slim. He then tried to introduce to me his wife Zoe Ball – with me still barely able to stand up straight – who I then explained the whole sorry story to, much to my embarrassment. Although I like to think that they just thought I was joking!   

And finally, what have you got planned for the rest of the summer?

Well this is the time of the year where I’m usually on the hunt for that festival tune of the year to play in my sets – but for once, I’m super pumped to have my own festival power-tune coming out at the end of June, called “The Key, The Secret”. It’s a very lovingly produced bassline-infused cover of Urban Cookie Collective’s 1993 dance classic. It started out as a bootleg for my DJ sets, but the response I kept getting from the crowd was amazing. So I’ve cleared the rights and made it an official release, coming out under my bassline alias “KSO”. Replaying all the famous parts of that track took nearly three months to get right, but I’m super happy with the final version now – keep a look out for it!

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In Conversation: Kissy Sell Out

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