A household name in Southeast Asia's underground electronic music scene, Singapore's own Kiat has hustled his way over the years with his adventurous sensibility when it comes to producing music; scouring the earth for unorthodox samples to mould into danceable beats and the like. Hailed as the "Leader of the Nu-Skool" in several international music magazines, he has made his mark globally not just through publications but also with live performances at Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Festival and a Brainfeeder Session. He also earned a spot on a compilation curated by pioneering UK electronic musician Goldie.
Accolades aside, Kiat remains relatively quiet under the spotlight. That's not to say he hasn't been doing anything — quite the opposite actually. Busy working on an upcoming album after his 2012 debut The Inner Galaxy, along with various projects with audio-visual collective Syndicate, Kiat's also got his hands on a special track that was inspired by Singapore itself.
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UK producer Kidkanevil recorded a vocal hook by Syndicate's Cherry Chan, converging with Japanese beat-maker Daisuke Tanabe in our little island to perform with Syndicate. During their stay, they ended up fascinated by the beeping sounds of our traffic lights. It only took them a while until 'SG Step' was born. According to Syndicate:
"The original KIDSUKE track 'SG Step' began in Red Bull Music Academy London when UK music producer Kidkanevil recorded Cherry Chan's vocal hook in jest with lyric given by Illum Sphere of Hoya Hoya. Fast forward to a few months later, Cherry invited Japanese beatmaker Daisuke Tanabe and Kidkanevil to perform in Singapore with the Syndicate collective. The duo recorded the sounds of Singapore's traffic light beeps (both of them found it to be super crazy!), made beats out of it and resulted in 'SG Step'.
For the debut Red Bull Music Academy stage in Singapore, KIAT decided to remix the track as it was a Syndicate anthem for quite a while! Plus both Kidkanevil and Daisuke Tanabe liked drum & bass/jungle and where else can you find such a bouncy track with the sound of Singaporean traffic lights!"
With a track centred around a curious fascination with noises Singaporeans have heard everyday for decades, Kiat took it upon himself to transform the song from its original playful form into a pulsating drum 'n' bass anthem worthy of the dancefloor. He'll be performing the track as part of his set at Super 0 Openair on the coveted Red Bull Music Academy stage, which makes its debut in Singapore at the festival.
Listen to Kiat's remix in this exclusive track premiere, available for free download!
So what else has he been up to then? We ask the man himself about his upcoming album, his views on EDM and D'n'B along with the Singaporean artists he's most excited about (hint: one of them's performing at Laneway this year).
Hi Kiat! What are you up to these days?
I've been planning out projects for the year, both for the design and art projects with Cherry and of course the Syndicate projects too! That'll keep my head busy for these few months.
Any news on a follow-up to The Inner Galaxy?
Yes in fact I have been working on my 2nd album since March last year. I've decided to try a more artistic approach to this album this time round with slightly more experimental compositions as compared to The Inner Galaxy, which had influences from my early days of electronic music.
Do you still believe in working on albums or do you prefer releasing EPs and singles?
Good question! Looking at the way music is consumed these days, it would seem as if singles or EPs would make a better choice for the market. I come from the old school camp where I actually do take the time to listen to an album from start to end, just as the producer had intended. It's like watching a film almost for me with the introduction to the characters and the setting up of the scenes while the plot unfolds. However, I am aware that in most cases I cant control how people listen to my music but it does not matter to me. It is the intention for me that counts.
Which artists out of Singapore have gotten you excited?
There has been a multitude of artists these past few years but at this moment, I'm excited about .gif and FZPZ who are both very different but equally as fresh to my ears.
Do you think drum ’n bass can still remain relevant as a modern sub-genre of electronic music?
I think the whole idea of genres and sub-genres isn't something I've always been keen to discuss as I feel music, be it electronic or otherwise should be viewed without any labels... like art! But to answer your question, I think it is and will always be relevant in a sense that it always contributes to new ways of electronic music production through it's ever evolving ideas and of course production techniques. I've always felt that it's always been a genre that allows for a lot of creative ideas within its "genre". Furthermore, there is a whole new generation of music heads that grew up on genres like dubstep and are slowly discovering D'n'B or Jungle through Footwork and etc.
How’s 2015 looking for Syndicate? Any major plans?
We have a few things happening for the collective as we're exploring new ways to share creative ideas through our music and art. Do check back on our Facebook page in the near future.
Does EDM still stand a chance to be an artistically viable genre?
I am aware of the flak that EDM has been receiving in the press from electronic music fans. To be fair, it does work on the dance floor on a level that Trance does but musically, it does not sit well with my personal tastes. Frankly, I haven't listened to enough EDM to comment on it's artistic merit or viability.
TOP 5 INFLUENTIAL ALBUMS
Blue Lines | Massive AttackHazy beats, laid back rhymes from Tricky and Daddy G captures the day when I was in college. For one and half years, this album has been played daily in my apartment when I came home from class. For me it captured a pivotal time in my life where I was consumed by the idea of digging for the most obscure beats every single day. For me, the track that still sends shivers up my spine when I hear it is still 'Unfinished Sympathy' which was voted the 10th greatest song of all time in a poll. Plus the artwork by 3D was always on point!!
Purple Rain | PrincePrince has had a lot of albums that I've been mad about but I've picked this album only because I remembered the feeling of hearing 'When Doves Cry' in the basement of my classmate's house when I was 7 on the radio. The sound of the drum programming just got me hooked onto the idea of synthesised drum sequences and then eventually to other forms of electronically produced music. That same year, my dad brought me to watch Purple Rain in the theatre and I became an instant Prince fan! Of course, his other albums does express his artistry across many genres but Purple Rain was definitely a landmark in my childhood.
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back | Public EnemyThis band really turned my idea of hip-hop on it's head with this album. Charged with a strong social commentary, it showed me the power that the music had to bring awareness to the masses. That aside, the production was so far ahead of anything at that time.Their sound demonstrated an integration of lyrical content, vocal tone, sample density and layering and sheer velocity that rap music has never been able to recapture. Combine all that with an iconic logo and artwork designed legendary graffiti artist Eric Haze, this band has been a huge influence in the way I've always presented my music.
Off the Wall | Michael Jackson
Produced by the legend Quincy Jones featuring collaborations from Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Rod Temperton. This album was seminal in my appreciation of pop music as a child. I'll never forget coming home from primary school and putting on my father's copy of the album (which I still have today) and filling the home with this wonderful music of the era. Just great songwriting in it's purest form.
Timeless | Goldie
I've had the fortune of experiencing the scene in London when the album was launched and it encapsulates perfectly the potential of this genre. The ideas in this album is the archetype of all drum and bass styles that exist today. This album, as the name implies, still stands the test of time.