Nicholas Teets sat down with Kilter before his set at Bar Standard on . Here’s their convo…
ELCO: So let’s start with the basics. Tell us a little about yourself.
Kilter: My name is Ned, 25 years old, from Sydney Australia and I make music under Kilter an electronic live project.
How long you been doing Kilter?
Five years – I’ve been dabbling in dance music for a while, since high school, when I got my hands on Sony Acid, a really basic software. And made these bad bootlegs of house tunes and shit like that, and mixtapes to play at friends parties. From there I started trying my own productions. As I got more into it, and the project kind of took form more, and I started the Kilter stuff.
What production software do you use right now?
Ableton. I actually don’t play live with any laptop, so its all hardware. I’ve got synthesizers, drums, samplers, and a keyboard. Back in Australia I tour with a full drumset as well, a snare, cymbals and toms. And when I can afford it a guitarist and guest vocalists. So it’s kind of like a live band.
What was your first experience with music – how did you get started being a musician?
I started playing drums when I was seven years old, so quite young. So playing drums through primary school and high school. Then in high school one of my best mates was also a drummer and he was way better than me, so I couldn’t get any gigs. So I started learning keys. That was kinda my initial music experience. Drums to piano, and playing in jazz bands and that sort of stuff.
I’m a musician as well, and played in a bunch of shitty emo bands in high school.
That’s the way it happens. I was in a terrible cover band and stuff. I feel like it’s a rite of passage to do that stuff. One of the other things I did was back with my brother and a friend in a train tunnel. When a train would come pass and there’d be people getting off we’d play really excitedly and then the ten minutes between trains, like really just don’t give a fuck about it. There’s a lot of grind to it, but you can find the thing you’re meant to do.
What was your first show, your first performance like?
It was pretty nerve racking. It was in Sydney. It was a show, a 20 minute set of a beats night that they supported back…before it got huge with Flume and that sort of style of electronic music was commercial. All the nights used to be small dingy bars with like 15 dudes in there and that’s it. I know all the other producers and they get in really close sussing everything real hard. I don’t know if you had that kinda stuff in Denver. It was a good time because it was pretty new for everyone. For me the first show I played, I was the last minute call up because someone pulled out. It was a very basic version of the set I’m playing you today. Funnily enough the same sampler and MicroKorg I have here I’ve used ever since.
What’s the scene and community like in Australia? I’m big into Triple J radio and it seems like the scene is really proud of Australian music. It that something you think is unique to the Australian community?
You mention Triple J – that’s such an important radio station in the country. It has a national broadcast and its listenership is literally the broadest demographic of people – bands, metal bands, pop stuff, dance. If it’s curated by Triple J, that’s goes a long way. People will get behind something they hear on Triple J since its Triple J. So it’s created a real interesting scene where they’ve been able to really blow up Ozzie artist in a way that I haven’t been able to see everywhere else. I think they try to keep the programming a certain percentage Australian. I know a lot of the community radio stations, like FBI for example, that plays 50% of Australia’s music and 50% of that is from Sydney. They’re really supportive. That extends to the artists too. It’s a big country but not a big scene yet. I know most of the people doing dance music in Australia personally. A pretty crazy thing to be able to say. From meeting them on the road and the festivals. That just shows that it’s still a small scene even though some people like Flume and Rufus going crazy over seas.
What’s the best part about playing Australia that you don’t get over here?
I really like the show I have in Australia. Its another level of what i’ve managed to tour in the states. I tried really hard to bring the whole thing here this time but it’s an expensive place to travel. I’m here for 18 shows over a month, so it’s pretty hard to coordinate and I had to leave my beloved drum kit at home. Having the opportunity to put on the best show I can and later have home crowds – always home crowds!
But all the shows here – the crowds had so much fun. New York was amazing, San Francisco was so good, Los Angeles also. It’s a different kind of excitement. I’ve done so much touring back in Australia you get to where you know what to expect. Whereas every single night I turn up to a place in the States where I have no idea what’s going to happen. So it’s been great to have such a great reception.
You mentioned working with your live bands – what’s you favorite part about utilizing a live band?
I think launching tracking in Ableton you can achieve a similar thing now. The software is so fast that you can make it an instrument. That is kind of similar to what I do, just the method which I’m doing it is different. The sampler I use to build the beats and pull the parts together is kind of serving the same purpose Ableton is doing. The difference is it’s not a laptop, it’s a little sampler. That’s got its own benefits and, like I said I’ve had to same one for four years and it’s never broken. Whereas everyone I know that runs Ableton rigs is like, having panic attacks before every show because something doesn’t work – something always goes wrong. So I feel like there’s a really great reliability in hardware. CDJs and mixing songs – I think that’s a really expressive way to be performing. Certain styles of music lend themselves to that so much more – lots of dance music and techno and stuff. The beauty isn’t in the performance, it’s in the vibe they can create over the space of 2 hours. It’s kind of like apples and oranges really. You perform the way that music needs to be performed. That said, people have absolutely ripping techno sets all on hardware too.
What’s your least favorite part or most limiting part of playing with a band?
You can’t be as spontaneous, and that’s one thing that DJing is really great for. You can switch the mood up if the crowd isn’t feeling it. If you drop some breaks you’re like, fuck, I’ll do some more breaks. Or if they’re not loving it, you can just get out of there and do something else. Whereas when you’re doing a live show, you’re really doing your show, and hope that people like it. Cause if they don’t there’s not really much you can do about it. To a degree, there’s certain songs I won’t play in situations, certain things I’ll do different in each show. But by and large, it’s performing my music – there’s no heaps of room to move in terms of crowd pleasing.
Do you ever play the Kilter DJ set?
I’m actually doing my first one tomorrow!
In Chicago? You’ve never done this?
I’ve done house parties. But not officially. I’ve always tried to keep them very separate. If I don’t offer a DJ set they can’t book it so they have to book the live show I want to be playing. I don’t think it’s something I want to get into much.
What was your first big break – realize you were going to be able to do this music thing?
I think when I transitioned from playing clubs to playing venues. To explain that differently, a club would be where everyone goes cause it’s Friday, and every goes because it’s Friday. Then the venue would be a place where people would buy tickets – to come to see you play.
What’s the most amazing experience that music has brought you?
Touring – the thing that’s amazing about touring is how high the highs and and how high the lows are. It adds a crazy elation to an already crazy situation. An example, I did some Europe shows last year and one of them was in Tunisia. That’s a place I never thought I’d go to, let alone play in. I woke up in London that morning getting ready to go play this show at 4 a.m. to get a flight to Paris then Tunisia. I woke up to all these missed calls from my manager and messages being like “The show is off. Don’t go into the airport”. It was a festival I was playing at. There was some confusion with the organizers about logistics and we were scared we would be put in a situation where we end up there and not getting paid. We didn’t know the people.
So I was like, damn, I was really looking forward to it. Got back to bed and got a call 15 minutes laters, like it’s all good, the flight has been booked – go to the airport now. So I went straight to the airport, like five hours later landed in Tunisia getting picked up by this person, having a joint on the way to the festival. In this amazing country. Having one of the best shows. Which was weird, because, like, who the hell knows me in Tunisia? They were all really happy that I was there, and respectful. It’s that sort of thing – those moments are so special. I think that’s what I would say for that most amazing thing that music brings.
Who’s your dream collab?
Damon Albarn, of the Gorillaz. He’s experimenting with electronic music and pop music, and that’s so cool. His voice and everything about him is so interesting. He’s on a new Mura Masa song, so I got beat to the punch to collab. But I would love to write with him, whether he ends up on a song or what, but just being in the studio and seeing how his mind works.
Plans for the future…next two years?
Album out June 9th! Really soon – next month. So doing a tour with that, and then I’ve got some festivals both in Australia and over here in the States. So hopefully you’ll see me come back here soon. Looking forward to scaling up the show and pushing the album as far as I can. It’s hard to give a full two year plan when I’m about to put something out that’s taken me two years to do and not know what’s going to happen. These next two months are gonna be a pretty crazy, insane time I think.
Interview conducted by Nicholas Teets