People: Interview with producer HXLY KXSS
HXLY KXSS thanks for taking the time for us to get to know you a little. Firstly, how did you get into music production?
It sounds strange but I stumbled my way in to music production to be truly honest. It wasn't something I was particularly pursuing and I wouldn't have said it was a dream of mine, but I've always been a music lover and after listening to so much music you start to wonder if you could create anything similar. I downloaded a demo of Ableton Live and playing along to Hillsong United's 'Oceans' with this real nice synth and my housemate overheard it and suggested that I turn it into an actual remix. I learnt how to produce music and how to use Ableton whilst doing that remix and once it was done I put it on soundcloud, and a couple people shared it on YouTube. Anyway a day later I got this email from Hillsong's A&R guy saying that they wanted to buy it and put it on this remix album they were working on.
I half wondered if it was my friends playing a joke on me but I then got emails from the head of Hillsong Music and the band too, and so I made a few changes, took the remix offline, signed this long contract and five months later the song was officially released on The White Album. It was really crazy, the first track I ever produced was on this album that went to #1 in the Dance and Electronic Album charts (knocking Daft Punk off the top) and it was along side these other remixes that were all done by professional musicians who had worked in the industry for years. I didn't really think of myself as a producer at this point but it made me think that perhaps there was a future in music for me despite having never studied it in anyway or even properly learnt how to produce. Most of what I've learnt since then has actually been from friends showing me and teaching me so I'm real thankful for that, plus it's all just shown me how we're really just instruments that God uses for His plan regardless of what we might be planning for ourselves.
What three words describe your sound best?
Best served chilled.
Who have been your greatest influences in developing your sound?
I guess it started with when I first got in to hip-hop. My friend gave me a copy of Kanye West's College Dropout the week it came out and that album really made me appreciate how soulful hip hop can be and that it builds on top of so many other genres. Shortly after that I started listening to Dr. Dre's 2001 and the production on that was just unlike anything I'd come across before. More recently though it was all through YouTube blogs that got me in to the music I listen to now. There was a channel called MrRandomSong around the time that dubstep was really popular, and then a couple summers ago I stumbled on to MajesticCasual whilst searching for classic R&B remixes and the music on there just blew me away. Artists and producers though that have influenced my sound most would be people like Cosmo's Midnight, Stwo, Giraffage, Snakehips and esta just to name a few. Each of them are doing some really exciting things and just merging together all these different influences from a crazy range of genres and pushing out music that just vibes like nothing else.
Why did you decide to hide your true identity?
At first I didn't actually decide to hide it but a few people suggested that it's more interesting if kept secret. More importantly than that though is that I'd rather my music be more about God than me. I'm not doing it to bring fame or wealth to me and my name but to hopefully point people to Someone that's far more interesting than me. It's probably also good for my own humility as well I think, my pride can be horrible so it's good to be able to keep myself out of the spotlight to a certain extent.
What is your creation process?
The idea always starts in my head and it's then just a matter of turning that in to music that other people can hear. I still don't really feel like a producer because I stumbled in to it all really. I'd completely credit God for allowing me to produce everything I do, because I have no production skills, I've never learnt it, I've just worked out what things like EQ, compression and chorus do by using them and hearing what the difference is. As such I'll nearly always begin on guitar because it's the only thing I feel comfortable with and then start moving that into Ableton Live and play around with synths etc. Once I have the basic chords I'll always move straight to drums because that completely sets the mood of the track and everything else then follows that. Everything I produce is done on Ableton Live. I have a midi keyboard that I'll use for little riffs, but that's about it for equipment. Currently I don't have a live set up and I've no idea what it'd even look like! I know producers like Flume will use Ableton to do a mix of live playing/remixing and DJing for his sets but I don't know how to do that. I've been asked to play a set at this small festival next summer actually but I can't even DJ yet so I should probably learn!
- Image credit: Ableton