Kisk on Reimagining Music Performance, Apparel Music and Running Labels
Kisk cover photo by Carola Ducoli
Kisk is an artist in every sense of the word. He is the man behind the brilliant Apparel Music. After launching in 2009 he has gone on to establish an incredible musical pedigree at the label. Bringing together the cream of underground artists from across the globe he has showcased many artists who would go on to become established names on the scene including SCSI-9, Lopazz, Elon, Delano Smith, Moodymanc, Domu, Tuccillo & Huxley. It is a label which first and foremost has music at its very forefront.
He followed that in 2017 with the launch of vinyl label Apparel Wax which is one of our favourite labels here at LV online for the sheer stand-out quality of the music. It is very much a concept label. Dispensing with artist and track names each track is simply listed by number of EP and its place on the EP. It is a concept designed entirely to let the music speak for itself without being defined by preconceived notions of the artist details. Indeed it is perhaps the perfect vehicle by which to bring music to life. Equally quirky is the fact that each edition comes with a rather bonkers gift from Mini Jelly Slapping Hands to Snakes & Ladders. More recently he has also added another sub label ‘Apparel Tronic’ into the mix it’s a label designed to support artists who play live music and mainly focuses on trip-hop, downtempo, jungle, beats and Lo-Fi.
Throughout his career Kisk has defied notions of normal when it comes to electronic music, often fusing his productions with artistic concept. He learned his DJ craft playing in Milan’s finest clubs from Old Fashion to Trattoria Toscana as well as appearing at Squat clubs, fashion shows and making Radio appearances. It was a musical upbringing rich in experience.
Kisk’s musical journey has taken in everything from trip hop to swing, jungle and Detroit house, through classic deep house. He also has an overriding love of Jazz which has informed many of his productions once he started to create his own music.
When you add into the mix Jazzy his project to make Jazz and Electronic communicate with One boy a live DJ and musician project with which he toured all over Europe and his Discokit® project, a kind of “sensory stimulation kit” you start to get an idea of the breadth of his musical mindset. As well as his own projects Kisk is also the project manager for Claudio Coccoluto’s label ‘the dub’. Kisk is a truly fascinating figure whose electronic music journey is quite unlike any other we’ve come across.
We asked Kisk in for an interview so we can discuss some of these concepts with him and see what is behind the foundations of his musical ethos which has led to so many fascinating journeys. We also discus his label Apparel Music’s 10th Birthday release schedule which features 8 singles, one a week, coming from the 20th July all the way through September culminating in an album and a book.
Kisk Also put together this sublime mix for us, packed full of house class. Check it out and please give it some love over on Soundcloud.
Hi there Kisk, Thanks for speaking to us today. Going back to the very start of your musical journey what are your first memories of electronic music and what was it that attracted you to the genre?
Hi everyone and thanks for having me! Electronic music came a little late for me, I was about 18 years old and I was leaving my small hometown in 1998 to continue my studies in Milan. I was fascinated by music in general, I sang in a Punk and Ska group, I listened to a lot of Jazz, Acid Jazz and Fusion but my first love for electronic music blossomed with DJ Shadow, then LTJ Bukem and Kruder & Dorfmeister.
Can you remember the first electronic record that you bought?
The first record in particular I think was DJ Shadow’s Preemptive Strike, a journey that accompanied me to discover Trip-Hop and helped me to develop an attitude for listening, producing and researching music.
Throughout your career which artists have been the most instrumental in your own development and your journey to wanting to launch your own label?
When I had the courage and the opportunity to create my own brand I was too naive to understand where all this was taking me. I liked Delano Smith’s American Deep House and the Russian duo SCSI-9. I immediately contacted LOPAZZ and asked him to be the our main mastering engineer. I never wanted the label to be only one genre or have one musical direction. By creating different catalogs I have been able to try many different sounds.
As it stands in 2020 how would you describe the musical style of Kisk the producer?
As a producer, even after a few years off, I think I’m always the same. But I’m certainly even more demanding than before and I think that comes with the experience. To produce my latest release ‘Your Face’ I worked for almost a year. I was looking for the right musicians and worked with different engineers in three different studios to refine it and get the result I wanted.
Please can you give us three tracks from your own discography that you have produced across the years which you would say are quintessentially Kisk?
I’d start with Jazzy Tourism, the first brick in the Apparel Music’s wall.
Then Jazzy Caravan because I started to work with Jazz musicians making them cooperate with Electronic Music producers.
Lastly my latest track, the above mentioned ‘Your Face’ which is my archetype of the perfect production, and perfectly closes a 10 years long loop.
Every year I try to renew my feelings and my approach to creativity. It has always been important for me to create a connection between the arts. When I met my wife (Tatiana Carelli), writer and philosopher, I learned to work on the interaction between music, images and words. Our first project, in 2006, was DiscoKit®. Discokit was a sensory stimulation kit. A safety box that distilled the concept of Disco, which was dead to us. We wanted to revive it in new places such as exhibitions and alternative spaces to the classic club and in a couple of years we have hosted over 60 events. Oneboy was the next step. Oneboy is a group of interchangeable musicians making their talents available to a common cause. As every band should be.
Your One Boy project fused live instruments with DJ sets do you think that this is something that you may come back to in future?
I hope so. Unfortunately, with the current situation is difficult to get together and the ‘live’ concept is quite far from my thoughts. As far as I’m concerned, yes. Static and repetitive DJ sets no longer attract me. I need to see instruments, musicians and performers interact.
You are behind Apparel Music, Apparel Wax and Apparel Tronic. How difficult has it been running three quite unique labels whilst still trying to maintain time for Kisk the producer?
Let me clear the topic again. There are two labels, Apparel Music and Apparel Tronic. Apparel Wax is a ghost-collective produced by Apparel Music. You have to think of Apparel Wax as a hologram of many great producers releasing their tracks without declaring their name, putting the music first. Apparel Tronic is a sub-label instead, born when I met Ludovico Schilling. After producing his first album, we first became friends, then members of this new imprint that aims to coin a new genre, the Bliss-Beat. As a producer I have moved further and further away from Kisk, giving priority to collaborative projects and the work of graphic designer, a & r and communication designer.
What does a day in the life of Kisk look like?
Luckily I have a wonderful family that distracts me from work, brings me back down to earth and also positively forces me to keep up with a certain pace. Then, lately, I started to dedicate different activities to each day of the week. For example; Monday for planning and creating content, Tuesday I listen to demos, on Thursdays to promos etc. And so on. Then of course everything changes when there’s an upcoming project on the doorstep and you need to focus soley on it.
From what you have learned from running your labels what tips would you give to anyone looking to start up their own label?
Start from an idea, create a brand, build a solid philosophy behind it, try to be consistent over time, but above all never lose the enthusiasm and passion for music. We can only be unique if we give ourselves all the way. That’s why following momentary trends is never a good idea. To maintain your ethos is more important (and of course difficult) rather than having quick success.
As well as running your own labels you are also project manager from Claudio Coccoluto’s label, the dub. What is it like working with one of the legends of the Italian music industry and what would you say the experience has given to your own career?
Claudio is first of all a friend. His shared experience has helped me grow and improve. It doesn’t happen every day that you meet people like him but I think it has always been mutual love. Not many knew in the early years that there was an Italian behind Apparel Music, which for years was based in London. When Claudio found out, he contacted me immediately. He wanted me to help him design and follow his label The Dub. For me it was an opportunity, but also the confirmation that I was doing well. I understood that I could be useful to others and refined my talents and capabilities.
You have a brand new series of releases incoming to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Apparel Music. Please can you tell us a little about what we can expect over the coming months from this series of releases and also the book which goes side by side with the musical releases?
The 10-years B-Day project was born over a year ago. I selected the best material and the best artists. Then I had so much fun with Marco Fantini associating each song with his artworks, and then the long and careful work on the book. I personally designed the catalog. I had to re-immerse myself in the past, to find dated material and to resume closed files on dusty hard drives and often too tired to rekindle. I don’t know if I would have really got to finish the job without the lockdown, and obviously the help of those who contributed to the production of this book. However, creating an interactive catalog today is also very useful for those who want to discover the past and present of Apparel Music, without being trapped in the digital or virtual world.
Please can you give us 3 tracks which you would say are quintessentially Apparel Music which have bookmarked the musical ethos of the label over the 10 years?
I would start with the remix of Pablo Bolivar on a SCSI-9 track. Pablo worked on many versions up to the official one which still today in a few seconds gives us that emotion that only an evergreen can create.
Then Delano Smith’s remix of Gavin Herlihy. It was a dream for me to collaborate with Delano from the early days of Apparel. In 2009 his album was first in all the deep house charts and I always imagined the day I would be ready to contact him. It came after a few years and hundreds of productions ^^
Finally I would say the first track of Apparel Wax. The moment that every label or brand is waiting for is always the sixth year of activity. The sums are drawn, the reality, the outputs, the prospects for the future are reckoned. A dramatic moment for everyone. You have to choose to reinvent yourself while remaining consistent with the brand philosophy. Apparel Wax was my bet, when everything was uncertain and the future knocked on the door I understood that I had to put music at the centre again. I asked myself what was really important for me. But the most important and fascinating thing was the response of artists who joined the philosophy. They understood that the name counts less than an emotion, a message; that races, discriminations are only an excuse to divide us. That music has to unite us, to make us happy.
Following on from the 10th Anniversary releases what else can we expect from Apparel music and Kisk in 2020 and beyond?
Obviously new releases, on Apparel Tronic too with a second beautiful wave of new music, new artists (the Covid has given, at least, time for many artists to get back their souls and produce great music …). There is also our new challenge on Mixcloud Select with 4 new formats: Weexato, APListen, APLater and Apparel Talk.
For more info on Kisk and Apparel Music please check:
Kisk Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/djkisk/
Kisk Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/kisk
Apparel Music Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apparelmusic/
Apparel Music Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/apparel-music