Kidd Mike's Debut on Dirtybird Marks his Return to House Music
Kidd Mike is both a veteran and a newcomer to the dance scene. Growing up in South Africa, he had the unique opportunity to experience a wide variety of cultures and musical identities. After moving to the United Kingdom (where he currently resides), he dove deep into the world of underground electronic music.
He began producing as he discovered his passion for raves and house music. And under his previous alias, Stealth Labs, he began developing a dark future-forward sound. However, after a few years and having a family, he took a break that lasted almost seven years. Then, as the pandemic hit, he realized he needed to get out and return to his passion. In the last two years, he has received significant support from Dirtybird. It proves that sometimes things are even better the second time around.
What was it like growing up in South Africa, and what brought you to the UK? Did you have any introduction to electronic music in South Africa, or did that primarily come after your move?
South Africa is a beautiful country and quite diverse. Growing up, I moved around a lot. So, I got to see a lot of it, and I also got to meet many of its diverse cultures, each with its own heritage, food, and music. I moved to the UK after university. I was always attracted to London, its energy, and the speed at which it moves. Part of my attraction to London was the underground scene at the time. My first introduction to electronic music was in South Africa. Ministry [Of Sound] would come out and put on massive warehouse events. I went to my first MOS rave, and Underworld's “Born Sippy” played out over the masses. I was just left in awe. I couldn’t believe music could sound so rich, alive, and decadent. I've loved electronic music since.
You’ve discussed being inspired by the underground scene in the UK. I think many Americans don’t have a true sense of the depth of the electronic music scene in the UK. Can you speak on what it is about the UK scene that inspires you? How would you describe it versus other countries you’ve experienced nightlife in? Are there any particular venues or cities within the UK that fall under the radar?
Outside of London, there are tons of crazy venues that are always jammed and eager for a good time. The Brits really know how to have a great time and love a night out. What I love about the UK Scene is whether it’s a pub with a local DJ or a super club hosting a headliner, the punters know how to get on with it and make the most of the evening (and appreciate great music). After all, in the morning, the weather will probably be sh!t, so you may as well make it count while ducking lasers. If you go to Forum in Birmingham (they know how to host a quality night) or “Hidden” in Manchester (also, absolute fire!), you will be greeted with the same thing. Lovers of electronic music that know their music appreciate creativity and deliberate in the venues they want to visit and the music they want to consume.
The scene in the UK is well established and, like the US, has always had a steady flow of great artists rising up. What I love about Dirtybird is our sound is Dirtybird. It’s not just US, UK, or South Africa. The DB family is made up of artists from South America, the US, the UK (shout out to GAWP), South Africa (shout out Kyle Watson), and Mozambique (shout out GuzBass). It truly is a global Label that is all about the music!
Of course, we need to dive into your Dirtybird release "Boom Beat Heartbox." First off, tell us what was going through your head when you sat down to produce this one?
The production was directly inspired by the Dirtybird music that I was playing all the time, in the gym, the car, and at home. So when I was looking for inspiration, I took my top 12 tracks on DIRTYBIRD, opened them up in Ableton, and played them – to get my head saturated with the sound. I then picked the record that resonated with me the most at that time and used it as a reference source. So I started by focusing on the low-end groove, then the vocal (the two had to fit perfectly together – that was important to me), then I worked on the percussive elements, synths, and effects.
What was your reaction when you started to get support on the track from Ardalan and Claude?
Claude VonStroke is a master at his craft, someone I look up to musically. So when the crew at Dirtybird told me he was supporting my track on his Open to Close Dad tour, mate, my mind was blown. I was a happy camper!
And Ardalan is an amazing producer and skilled DJ. My reaction was twofold. I was both stoked and grateful that he picked my record up and enjoyed it!
"Boom Beat Heart Box" was released on 29th of July, and the inboxes and comments from the Dirtybird family have been incredible and very positive. I am truly grateful to work with these guys.
Dirtybird is an American label with a unique sound. It’s quite different from the house and techno labels in the UK. Do you feel that your sound is trending away from the sounds of the UK that brought you in?
No. I believe that I am evolving as a producer and artist. All the records I have listened to, and the knowledge I’ve gained have brought me to this point. It was the edgy, gritty sound of UK house from the mid-2000s that made me levitate towards the unique and, at times, quirky sound that is Dirtybird. And like I mentioned earlier, Dirtybord sounds unmistakably Dirtybird. You either love it, or you don’t – and I absolutely love the sound.
You took an extended break from releasing music until returning with your current sound a year ago. What was this period of your life like?
The ten years between my earlier releases and this release was a period of my life where I focused on starting and supporting a family. In 2013 I moved back to South Africa for a few years. I put my degree to work, took a position with a corporate company, and focused on building that career. I also picked up track cycling as a sport and got my national colors. I now have a beautiful family who supports my music too! I then returned to London in 2017.
Why did you decide to pick music up again?
In 2020 the pandemic hit. I really couldn’t take being told to stay indoors, and I needed to find a way to be heard, so I turned to my passion – producing house music. But I didn’t just want to pick up where I left off in 2013, I made a conscious decision to cement myself as a household name amongst house music lovers, and thus I am so excited about the new journey with my new family at Dirtybird!
If we think about your career in the frame of essentially having restarted a year ago, signing records to a label like Dirtybird is an incredible accomplishment. What do you hope to accomplish in the coming months, and do you plan on branching out to other labels?
Thank you for the compliment! Dirtybird is an incredible label. I am currently busy finalizing a release on another label for September. However, over the next year, I would like to put out a few more quality releases with Dirtybird. A 5-6 track EP would be an awesome goal to smash!
HOLT 88 and I are busy discussing doing a track together. I also want to get back into playing clubs and festivals. Who knows, maybe Claude invites me to play at next year’s Campout?
Are there any pieces of hardware or software plug-ins that you rely on to create that dark, moody sound of yours?
I produce in Ableton mostly because I find the workflow intuitive, and their Push 2 means I can be more hands-on when writing a groove and spend less time on the mouse. I use Native Instruments KOMPLETE. I’ve been working with their products since 2005, and I have their full Collector’s Edition – their stuff is great!
I have too many [synths], but I primarily turn to Serum, NI Massive X, NI Reaktor, and U-He Diva. [For] Sample editing and chopping: I use Serato Sample. For the more dark, experimental sounds, I treat my material with the Kush Audio plug-ins. I love the UBK-1 and their Pusher.
But I believe that no matter the DAW, plug-in suite, or hardware you use, spending the time to know it well will make you a better producer and allow you to express your creativity far better.
What songs do you have on repeat at the moment?
Grenade (Detroit Edit) – Claude VonStroke, Eprom
Let’s Go Dancing – Kyle Watson, Mindchatter
Wormhole – Dillon Marinez
Something’s About To Go Down – Anti up
To My Beat - Karretero
What are your top four dream venues to play at, either in the UK or the US?
Dirtybird Campout, Ministry of Sound UK, EGG London UK, Club Space Miami.