One half of game-changing duo Instra:mental, label owner (CNVX & Convex Industries) & co-founder of Club Autonomic & the Autonomic Podcasts; Damon Kirkham aka Kid Drama is the epitome of versatile.
With his musical repertoire spanning across nearly two decades, Damon consistently challenges the sometimes outdated boundaries of electronic music while maintaining the organic sound of the era that shaped the genre; the 90’s. Frequently shifting between genres, his recognisable cross-pollination of sounds throughout this productions and forward-thinking implementation has kept his output just as interesting as the man behind the productions.
His latest solo venture marked the debut release for Dispatch Recordings new imprint ‘Blueprints’. Setting itself apart from the other Dispatch labels with a ‘stronger emphasis on organic progression and building the vibe from scratch’, ‘Blueprints’ will be taking a deeper, more old skool inspired route with its output and who better to kick off that legacy than one of the most well-known advocates for the sound of the 90’s. Add to that a new album in the pipeline and a string of studio sessions with Metalheadz’ duo Ulterior Motive; 2018 is set to be another fruitful year for one of the pioneers of underground sonics. We caught up with Damon to see what he’s got in store for the year ahead…
Thanks for taking the time Damon, how’s your day been? What have you been up to?
It’s been a slow morning and I’ve pretty much been sitting about scratching my head trying to wake up!
Well, you’ve been a busy man of late so maybe a lazy morning was needed…I hear you’ve recently been in the studio with Ulterior Motive, what can we expect from that encounter?
We have a love of that old late 90’s sound; Optical, Matrix, Nico etc.. and also a love of the Emu sampler. We’ve been smashing out basslines and sending clips to each other using a mix of modular synths and effects going into the emu filters and seeing who can ‘out grot’ each other!
We just sketched ideas out and then I’d go and stay for a couple of days and put in some long hours in the studio together. The tracks have been pieced together over maybe 5 months and we have 6 killer tracks!
You’ve also just had the debut release on Dispatch Blueprints. The record is a nod to the era that shaped the genre; a very 90’s driven sound. What was the inspiration behind those tracks?
Again its the love of the old basslines, twisting them out but still keeping the soul and funk that a lot of the “neuro” is missing for me. “Impulse 1” is a kind of nod back to No-U-Turn and Nico who I’ve worked with before and always looked up to. “Construct Pattern” was a more wobbly dancefloor one (in my eyes) but still keeping that sound I’m recognised for.
I always like to switch things up when I get bored (hence so many aliases) and working making my own breaks and heavily processing basslines have been really fun and I’ve thoroughly been enjoying myself writing more straight DNB and that’s what it’s about really… having fun!
What do you think is it about that era of drum and bass that you love so much?
It was at a time where it was still mostly hardware based and people had to really push their machines, not you can pull up a soft synth with a thousand oscillators and stick a ton of plugins on it; a bit spoilt for choice now. Back then you had a couple of bits and squeezed the most out of them.
Each camp had their own sound and when collabs used to happen you could hear the cross-pollination of the sounds and how they evolved, it was a very forward-thinking experimental era.
Agreed! You mentioned cross-pollination, you’re obviously well known for your various Monikers, some of which are still unknown. What is it about staying anonymous that attracts you?
Like I said earlier, I get bored quickly. I like a lot of music and how each genre has a certain production and skill. I’ve written a lot of genres and styles under so many aliases and each time I get different production ideas that I integrate into whatever I’m producing currently. A lot of producers get stuck in writing a certain way like “I write techno so I must follow the obvious techno production guidelines” but the most interesting stuff is when you infuse tricks from other styles of music. (for me anyway)
Also, some of the aliases I’ve not uncovered is purely because I don’t feel everyone should know everything. A secret project no one knows about, means that they have to use their ears and their own brain to work out of they like it or not? Not look on a social media platform to see how many likes they have or what online magazine says its trending etc..
What would you say is your favourite genre to produce? Which do you find most interesting?
It really depends, I hate the politics within the industry and there’s so much bullshit I really don’t care about! I write music because I love making music. I don’t do it to be famous, adored or show of the number of likes and followers, I do it mainly for myself and the love of creating music. A lot of producers either come from money or had/have serious insecurity issues and they lose their minds. To answer the question I’d say DNB at the moment because there is a little more community and slightly fewer egos, people are a bit more grounded.
Do you find that because you’re constantly switching between projects of different genres that prevents your music and ideas from getting stale?
It adds more techniques and skills in different areas of production, I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge over my life but I’m still learning and picking up new tricks.
You’ve worked with so many notable contributors within drum and bass, who’s been your favourite collaborator?
This is a difficult one because everyone has there own skillset and workflow. Obviously dBridge because we have done so much stuff together it’s always effortless when we collab. Skeptical and Ulterior motive for the speed and vibes that come together fast! Working with Nico from No-U-Turn records helped me realise that things don’t have to be polished or by any rulebook.. I’m pretty sure our Instra:mental collab ended up being recorded 90% wet through an old reverb unit. Source Direct for break manipulation and processing. Had some lovely results working with Fracture and Om Unit too! Everyone brings their own flavour.
Who would be your ideal collaborator?
My list of old was something like Jonny L, Optical, Matrix, Boymerang, Dom and Nico. I’ve worked with Jonny and Nico and a couple on the list wouldn’t work now. I’d like to still do something with Optical and Dom but it would have to be on fanboy terms and lean hard into that golden era of the 90’s.
Haha, ‘fanboy terms’… nice to hear someone as seasoned in the game as yourself can still be humble enough to fanboy. I’ve been told you’ve been writing loads and have a new album in the pipeline, do tell…
I’ve been writing it for about 6 months and I’d say I’m going to need another 6 months to get it where I want it. I think I’ll push it back into 2018 so I can get a couple more EP’s out before it drops. The album is going to hopefully be quite special, I’ve got live session musicians in and it won’t be an Autonomic album but it will defo have an influence sprinkled in. I’m thinking of building a live show around it!
Sounds amazing, very much looking forward to the release. Have you got any more projects/shows coming up?
Next up is a double EP with Ulterior Motive which I’m really excited about followed by a solo EP which I’m also pretty chuffed with. I’ll be doing more Autonomic styled stuff as Mikarma next year too.
Sounds like we have lots to look out for in 2018 then. Who’s your one to watch for next year? What labels should we keep our eye on?
Exit and Headz as always but Ulterior motives Guidance label, DLR’s Sofa Sounds, The new Dispatch Blueprints and obviously my CNVX imprint 😊
Obviously 🙂 Thanks so much for your time Damon, what a pleasure.
Grab your copy of Dispatch Blueprints 001 – Kid Drama (A. Impulse 1 / AA. Construct Pattern) here