Touching Bass: Kaytranada

Kaytra slipped together some of his fave tracks before we nattered on about bad barbers, Boondocks and condiments.

photo credit: Martin C. Pariseau

A signature sound: it's the bullseye that every artist strives to grasp within their career and something that Montreal's Kaytranada has managed to achieve already, aged 20. Swirling together neo soul, hip-hop and elements of trap into the same audio mixing bowl has produced some pretty delicious results for the Haiti-born beatsmith, especially on his refixes of Janet Jackson and Jill Scott. For this Touching Bass, Kaytra slipped together some of his fave tracks before we nattered on about bad barbers, Boondocks and condiments.

Noisey: Hey man, how's it going?
Kaytranada: Just chilling, man. I just woke up and shit.

What time is it over there?
It’s like 2:43pm.

That's a late sleep! Are you an afternoon waker-upper all of the time?
Yeah man, I always sleep very late. I usually wake up at like 4.

Snoozing through the day is a dream life. Are you still using Virtual DJ to make your tracks?
No, not at all. I just moved over to Traktor because Native Instruments gave me some free stuff. I'm trying to switch it up and make it more professional. I'm still loving Virtual DJ though man. It’s underrated.

How are you adapting to Traktor?
It’s not that hard because I know how to DJ on real turntables at home. When I first used it, it wasn’t hard at all but now it’s just harder to actually find the music because it’s different software. When you choose, sometimes you’re like "oh shit, where’s the next song".

What’s Montreal life like?
Montreal is really cool, I didn’t expect it to be like this. There’s always things to do. Shit is really awesome, they have a nice scene. I usually chill around at the park or I’ll just go to bars because I don’t really go to clubs. The bars are where they play the best music. I see finer girls in there. Clubs aren’t that cool but bars are awesome.

Bar girls over club girls… amirite?
Yeah, bar girls are just more open and the girls in the club are like "KMT, I don’t want to know shit about you".

What's your position on trap?
I think it’s kinda corny, but it depends on how people do it. People overuse the "damn son, where’d you find this" phrase. All of that kind of cliché trap stuff is so annoying. But, I ain’t gonna lie, I was hot on that shit before, but now it’s turned out to be corny. I don’t hate trap like 100% and if you are yourself and are with it and add your own sauce to it, I still appreciate it.

Own sauce. Condiments are the most important part of any meal. What’s your favourite?
Yo! Hot sauce, man! It’s a really popular one but there’s a chicken on the cover.

In England, we have one called Encona Hot Pepper Sauce. That shit is crazy.
You put that shit on your chicken?

You can put that on your chicken, your rice, anything. It's a multi-purpose sauce.
Daym! I’ve got to try this one when I come over.

When are you coming over to the UK?
I’m coming over when I'm on tour. I'm coming to Birmingham and some other cities. I’m not doing London yet.

How is it being with your homies Soulection and HuhWhat&Where in LA?
I first met everybody when I moved to LA and I couldn’t believe it. I thought LA people would be mean, but I arrived there and the city is beautiful. I was mindblown. People come to see me, Ta-Ku, Sweater Beats and the other guys from the HuhWhat&Where crew. People were so happy, even though I did the worst set – my speaker got fucked up and I don’t know why – it messed up my confidence, but they were still down with what I was playing.

Talking about your sets, you love to throw in some neo soul…
To be honest, I always take them tracks because I like them and I don’t want people to strictly define me as an EDM producer. I like to show people what I really like listening to. I really like hip-hop, I really like neo soul and I don’t just want to do dance music. I'm versatile with my shit, so the fact that I'm throwing neo soul in there is just to show people that there’s beautiful stuff out there rather than listening to the same stuff.

What was the process like when making your Janet Jackson remix for "If"?
When I was making that song, I was coming back from a Flying Lotus concert and I was feeling mad inspired. He has one of the most beautiful shows with the presentation and lights. I wanted to do the kind of beats he does. “If” started off at a slower tempo and the Janet vocals were a bit more downpitched. I played that through Virtual DJ in a higher tempo and I was like ‘God damn, that shit sounds good’. I did that at 5am, went to sleep woke up at 1pm and then I saw that there were a ton of Soundcloud likes so I was like "what the fuck". It was a surprise.

It’s a good surprise though. Do you use Soundcloud a lot?
Yeah man, quite a lot. I discover a lot of artists on Soundcloud.

I really like the new one.
People should stop hating on the new Soundcloud, I don’t know why.

Who are the latest artists that you’ve found?
Djemba Djemba, Mr Carmack, MNEK. I did a song with MNEK, it’s called ‘Change’ and that shit is amazing.

I heard that you’re an artist as well. Do you still like to draw?
How’d you know that?!

I’m a journalist.
Haha, yeah I don’t draw a lot these days but I used to draw a lot and back in high school I used to do a lot of portraits. I usually draw people, faces. I don’t do the whole body, maybe just the upper body. It’s pretty Boondocks influenced.

Boondocks is my shit!
It’s my shit too man! I learnt to draw through the Boondocks cartoons. You know how you have the Huey frown eyebrows? No matter how much you watch that show, you never get tired of it.

What else do you like to watch?
I don’t watch TV a lot, but I like to use Netflix. I like movies quite a lot. I like to watch dumb ass TV shows like Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, Misfits, and Martin from the back in the 90s.

This is an important 90s TV show question. What'd you prefer, Martin or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?
Martin, I aint gonna lie. I love Fresh Prince but I think Martin is a bit more grownard. I can’t compare! Fresh Prince is dope too, it’s got the same vibe as Martin but Martin is more for grow ups. Fresh Prince, you can watch with your little sister or brother.

I'm trying to grow a high top like Will…
I used to have one too.

How long did yours take to grow?
Mine took about three months. I had one and eventually I went to the barber and he fucked it up.

That’s my biggest pet hate, terrible barbers.
He fucked up my hair so bad that my ears were bleeding. He left those marks from the clippers on my head.

It’s all about keeping that same barber that you can trust…
Yo, definitely man. I feel you on that. I've got my own barber and I'm happy.

Back to the music, Kaytrathomas is shaping up as an album at the moment. How are things going with that?
It was supposed to be out last year, but I was signing to HuhWhat&Where at the time so it got pushed back. There were other artists pushing their albums out so Bahwee told me that I’d have to wait. Bahwee had this idea for me to come to LA and do an EP first. I did Kaytratodo and now I want to change the whole sound for the album. I'm working on it to make it a good, good album. I won’t disappoint y’all. It was gonna be September, but I'm trying to concentrate on my DJing and remixes for now. Right now, I did this Ciara “Body Party’ remix and I don’t think it’s too nice to be released so I might play it on my sets. If you want to hear it come along to my sets in Europe.

When it comes to making a track, is there usually a certain way it happens?
I usually go sample based, or I just have a composition in my head. I usually do the drums first and I don’t like it to be too quantised. I like that little jiggly bounce to make it more upbeat and have people dance to it. It usually takes a little bit of time to find a good loop. Or I’ll find an acapella, like I did with Janet Jackson and Jill Scott. That’s when the creative juices are flowing.

You also have that signature bass sound now too…
I wanted that to happen. For people to know that that sound is Kaytranada with the bass. I just wanted to make it funky.

So you say you’ve got a couple of remixes on the way. Is there anything else people should be keeping an eye out for?
I’ve got some covers and a few remixes that are going to be official but I cant reveal. Like I said, the remixes are the thing I'm working on the most right now. Then the album.

Follow Errol on Twitter @errol_and

For more Touching Bass read: