INTERVIEW: Fresh Kils

fresh kils

Arguably our biggest interview yet, we spoke to Fresh Kils about his hip hop origins.

Just yesterday, I was watching a video over at Dubspot with Fresh Kils talking about his MPC 1000 and how he uses it. Even today, we told you about MC FÜBB’s latest EP with Kils on the beats. Well, now we have an interview with the Canadian producer. Check it out.

When did you start making beats?

I started in 99′

What sort of music did you listen to growing up?

I was into rock mostly. I grilled my Dad once when I was a kid about how his music was kinda sissy, and then he dropped Jimi Hendrix on me, and it changed my life. Michael Jackson to Weird Al, Led Zeppelin to Metallica to NIN. Towards the end of highschool it was Rage, Beck & Portishead. The production elements of hiphop had started to seep in.

What was the first hip hop track that caught your attention?

The first hiphop song that really floored me was “Clear Blue Skies” by the Juggaknots. Its a white father scolding his son for dating a black girl, and it really impressed upon me the power of the medium of hiphop. For me it was the beats that brought me over, but that was the first song where the lyrics really hit me.

Who influences your style?

There’s multiple answers here. I’d say my MPC routines are heavily influenced by turntablism and the battle scene there; guys like A-Trak, TLO. In terms of appearance and performance, Ghettosocks has been a major influence.

For production though, again there are more than a few answers. Pete Rock is influential for me because of his layering, especially because when I got into production, I was a long haired guitar playing hippie with my four track. And to me production was all about layering sounds; basslines, guitars, strings, horns, etc. Premier for his chopping and rawness, Timbaland for the vibe, and Dilla for his ability to turn ANY sample into something dope. Couldn’t always afford those ill records, so being able to take any sound, see beyond it, and make something bang, is SO important.

Do you think it is important to have a musical background, whether it be classically trained or just learning an instruments?

I personally think its very important. I know its helped me immensely over the years, both in production, and especially in working with other musicians and artists in the studio. There’s a distinction to be made here between beat makers and producers. You can be an ill beat maker without any formal musical knowledge, but becoming a true producer without it is much more difficult. There also needs to be a distinction between formal and informal training or knowledge. I know doods who don’t know a thing about scales and keys, and can play the keys amazing. For me, having that musical background in school that I had, allowed to me make connections faster and easier in the studio. I know why certain things work and don’t work. That being said, its the stark lack of that kind of training that has brought us the innovative musical sounds we know today as hiphop. We would never have had hiphop as we know it today if it had been left to classically trained musicians and composers.

Describe how you approach the making of a track.

It really depends. I usually start by listening to lots of music, new and old, and try to catch a vibe or idea from something. I use the MPC to sketch out a beginning, whether it be chopping samples and laying down a pattern, laying down drums, or even getting a chord progression going. Then I hit Logic and add elements, keys, sounds, etc, work it into a short arrangement.

From that point its about the artist. I personally like to work closely with artists on songs, from conception to final mix. The concept should dictate the direction. And for me once the recording is done, its that final stage where you really work the track beyond its component parts, that matters. Arrangement, transitions, dropouts, fx, intros, outtros, etc. The details are what really differentiate an artist or a song.

When I’m creating routines, I start by… oh… wait… if I tell you I’d have to kill you… LOL

What equipment and/or instruments do you use?

I use an MPC 1000, Apple Logic Pro, Epiphone electric guitar, keyboard controller, Fender bass

What are your fondest musical memories?

I have quite a few.

One of them is finding the drum break from Dj Shadow’s “Midnight in a Perfect World”, one of my favorite songs, in a record shop in Montreal on tour, and realizing it was the same drums from Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s “T.R.O.Y.”, another of my favorite songs. Making those musical connections has really kept me on the path, always learning.

Another is the week I spent in the studio with Ali Shaheed (ATCQ) and my mentor K-Cut (of the Main Source) making beats, tracking keys and guitars with Doc McKinney (co-producer of The Weeknd). I was just a young kid, trying to be an engineer, hanging with giants, in awe. Years later my man Fester and I would incorporate some of those sessions into our sophomore Extremities album, The Mint Condition.

Lastly, opening for Nas in Halifax with Ghettosocks & Dj Cosmo in front of thousands of people. I’d never been in front of that big a crowd, and the raw energy of it was unreal. I remember during soundcheck I would hit the kick drum pad on my MPC, and it was like a bomb going off… LOL. That show was insane too cause we basically did a 3 man wrecking ball set, brought the house down.

What’s your biggest musical accomplishment and why?

The JUNO nominations of 2011 for Best Rap Recording. Both D-Sisive’s “Vaudeville” and Ghettosocks’ “Treat of the Day” were done in my home studio. One which I had produced almost entirely (Vaudeville) and the other, produced some but completely engineered (Treat of the Day). That meant that I’d had a huge hand in 2 of the 5 best hiphop records to come out of Canada that year.

Having worked in underground hiphop for so many years, you get used to being obscure. There’s not a lot of accolades to be had, especially on a national scale like that. The JUNO’s essentially validated of all that work, but not just for me. It was something my family, and their friends could point to, and recognize; something my Dad could be proud of.

Favourite label?

Right now I’d have to say Duck Down

Favourite producer and MC?

My favorite producer is George Martin (and I’m not just saying that; I’ve said that before… LOL), and my favorite emcee (at least right now) is Blu.

Who would you most like to work with and why?

I would like to be the updated version of the Dust Brothers to Beck, and make the new Odelay… feel me?

What are your thoughts on UK Hip Hop and is there anyone in the UK you’d like to work with?

The UK always seems to be ahead of the curve musically, but I think it has more to do with a firm grasp on history than simply being forward thinking. I remember checking the UK Billboard Charts a few years back, and seeing everything from dubstep & grime tracks to full out big band jazz & pop.

Always been a huge fan of Roots Manuva, Next Men, Dj Food. I’ve known Ollie Teeba for a while now, and the Herbaliser was one of my fav’s coming up. At one point I definitely would’ve been down to work with Lady Sovereign. Right now I’m really feelin’ the cats over at High Focus Records. I’d love to rock joints with Verb T, Edward Scissortongue. Jehst is another dood I got mad love for. SonnyJim as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Blueprint (Rhymesayers) once told me that to become a better artist, you have to become a better person.

What advice would you give to beginners starting out?

Don’t afraid to be different, and to experiment until you find a style that’s yours. I find artists often fall into a typically trap of the music industry. Either they don’t have the resources to be a 50 Cent or Jay-Z, and they’re two afraid to be different, so they end up middle of the road. Their records pretty good… not great, not horrible… just, eh… I’d rather have someone hate my record than be like “its aight”.

About Luke Alex Davis

Luke Davis is a music producer and editor of music blog Sampleface. In his spare time, he enjoys watching tennis and football and reading.