Bristol based Kiia brings an unassuming and refreshing energy with her down-tempo approach to IOM 014. With new productions in the works and mentorship from some of the best in the business, we know there’s nothing but great things in store for her. We were lucky enough to have a chat in between radio shows and performances.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a DJ / producer based in Bristol and co-run a night called Cue with my partner Luke (LMR). I’ve always been musical. I was trained as a vocalist when I was younger and used to want to perform in the West End - glad I grew out of that phase! My first experience of electronic music was probably in my teens. My brother bought me LCD Soundsystem and The Warning (Hot Chip) and my parents went out one evening so I stuck it on in our living room. We had a pretty decent hifi set up in there and I remember cranking the volume right up, smoking a joint in my back garden and just thinking ‘wow, what is this?!’ After that I was a drum and bass head for a good few years. There were some people making some really interesting stuff at the time, minimal techy rollers I like to call them. 1984 (Alix Perez) is still one of my favourite albums. I went to Uni in Bath and that was when I decided I needed to move to Bristol. I used to say ‘I’m gonna move to Bristol and learn to DJ’ and here I am!
It’s wicked here, the scene is pretty much bursting and there are a lot of people doing some really interesting shit despite a serious lack of venues and super early closing times. I think having to work around these things means that everyone works a little harder and there’s kind of a raw energy in the air as everyone involved in something musical here understands how hard it is and how rewarding it can be. There’s a real community vibe. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in the future for Bristol and the UK to be honest. A lot of things seem to be changing in ways we may not necessarily agree with and at such a fast pace. Our governments perception of night life culture and clubbing leaves a lot to be desired (as well as many other things), so it’s an interesting time. But I always say that through struggle comes innovation and creativity and I don’t reckon it will be any different for our moment in time.
How long have you been DJing for?
I've been DJing for around 5 years now. In my last year of Uni my older brother gave me his Technics - best thing I've ever received! They've been in my family now for 20 years so it's really nice to have that personal connection with them. I owe a lot to that gesture. I'm really pleased I have got to the stage where I have been playing out fairly regularly for the past two years and feel very lucky to be given those opportunities.
Where do you draw your influences from?
I'm easily impressionable so draw influence from so many things. A lot is from the people I surround myself with, most of them have impeccable taste. Sharing music between friends is really great because those people tend to be passionate about the tune or artist you are asking about and so I think you get a different perspective and more context than you would have say you discovered the tune on your own. So this is nice. When people think highly of a person and their musical output this leads me to investigate that artist more. Other than that I try to listen to as many different things as possible, variation is key. You never know what you might discover.
This mix contains a very eclectic set of selections. How would you describe your goal as a selector when you're playing out in comparison to putting together a radio show?
They're both very different. There are so many variables involved when playing out, such as the sound of the night, the line up, what time you're playing, where you're playing and obviously the crowd itself that when I'm selecting tunes for a gig it's always very specific to the gig itself. Whereas with a mix I find you have more freedom to create something different, more of a reflection of your mood at that time. I mean I always play stuff I'm into but I find the situation is definitely less personal when playing to a crowd. As it should be, you're experiencing it together. I do a lot of homework for both and really enjoy putting together a set of tunes, building a mix is probably one of my favourite things and if you do your research properly and are willing to be flexible you can easily pack a bag with the right records for any set I think. With this mix I wanted to focus away from the dancefloor. Recently I've been enjoying experimenting with different tempos and find it really interesting the different energies that you can get from doing this. I don't think this mix goes above 116 bpm at any point and yet to me it still feels energetic, in a different way than playing those 128 slammers, but it certainly still has a groove and momentum. I think the key for me whether I'm playing a gig or recording a mix is to try and play tunes with complimentary but contrasting sounds and vibes. Personally when I'm listening or dancing to something I enjoy variation and so I always aim to play something that I would enjoy as a listener.
You host your own radio show, I:kiia, on 1020 radio. Tell us a bit about the station and your involvement.
I love 1020, it's such a great station and I'm really pleased to be able to be involved. It's got a huge variety of different sounds and styles on there and all the people who make it what it is are super sound. It certainly feels like a home away from home for me, I'm very comfortable there. I've actually been on the station for 2 years now, I used to do The ITT show that was started by a friend of mine. He invited me to come on board and on moving to London left it in my hands. I'm glad I stuck with it for so long to be honest, it feels like a natural progression into doing my own show and definitely feels like the right time. I'm pretty excited about it actually, I have some wicked guest mixes lined up for the next few months and am really enjoying discovering tunes that I want to play each month.
How has the internet influenced the way you find new music?
It's such a huge part of finding music for me, especially since using digital more and more. Even when I was 'strictly vinyl' (I hate that phrase), I was doing a lot of browsing of record stores online. It was useful for me as, particularly when I was starting out, I felt like I didn't really know where to look and certainly hadn't developed any sort of sound and so having so many options literally at my fingertips really helped with that. My main way to find new music at the moment is listening to mixes, both by artists I like and ones I've not come across before. I'm constantly setting little markers in the mix to listen later and find out what the tune is that I liked so much - I have lists and lists both digitally and written down of stuff I need to check out. I do find music offline too, going into a record store and having a dig and listening to what's in the boxes and on the shelves controls how much is there for you to listen to and is a much slower process and so I find that sometimes this feels way calmer. There's so much on the internet and I'm constantly exposed to things that it can feel like too much and I have to remind myself that I don't always have to be searching for something new. This is usually when I stick on something I already own or that I've liked on my SoundCloud, it's just as important to know the songs you have as finding new ones.
Is production on the horizon for you?
Production is already happening behind closed doors. I’ve been playing around with stuff on and off for about 2 years now and things are really starting to click. I’ve entered the year feeling super creative and I’m making stuff whenever I can. There’s almost been a shift in my approach as I’ve spent more time doing it, now when I listen to a great tune it just makes me want to write something whereas before it would always make me want a mix. I’m lucky that I have a few select friends that have been producing for a long time that I can send my tunes to. They’ve already taught me so much and being able to get advice and tips from someone whose output you really admire is really helpful. I’ve not really shared anything with the world yet, although I did play one of my own tracks on my last I:Kiia show. I’m going to keep writing and creating and I’m sure I’ll put them out there at some point. For now I’m just having a lot of fun turning my ideas into something real. It’s a long game and I’m happy with that.
What are you looking forward to the most in 2019?
Everything! I’m in a great place both creatively and in confidence. I’ve met a lot of people over the last year and have a lot of opportunities in the pipeline. I also have my absolute hero headlining our next Cue night. We’ve invited Violet down and I couldn’t be more excited to be honest, she’s probably my favourite artist in the industry right now. Plug over haha. But seriously, if I can continue to play records to people and write music I’ll be happy and thankfully it doesn’t look like that’s going to stop.