Kilter is a lover, not a fighter. He started playing music on pots and pans and dabbled in jazz through high school before getting down to the business of making EDM.
Convicts hoisted a beer with him the other day and picked his brain about life on the global road, the value of social media, and the relationship between creativity and drunkenness.
Hey, man. To start can you tell us who you are, and where we are?
I’m Kilter and we are in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Can’t remember where exactly, but we are in a bar and it’s very early in the day. Although, it’s beer o’clock in Sydney so all good.
How did you get into electronic music?
I started playing electronic music in primary school. In high school I started playing band music, mostly jazz and classical. Electronic music was a side project that got really easy to do. I played around with it until I got good at it and then it quickly became my job.
How old are you?
Did you have a ‘fuck it’ moment where you decided you were willing to give up everything for your music career?
There wasn’t particularly one ‘fuck it’ moment. My family was really supportive. I was never pressured to do anything I didn’t want to. Surprisingly, I graduated with an advertising degree from uni. Although I started as a music major, it was super weird to be graded on your creativity, so I switched my major to advertising and continued working on music. I finished my degree but by the end of uni I was doing music.
How do you get the crowd excited? Do you feel like part of the party?
Since all my shows are live, everything is pretty hands on for me. I like using synthesizers and samplers. I don’t really think about whether I am directly involved in party. Once I get in the zone, the vibes flow from there.
So you’re now on your very first American tour. How does it feel to be on the other side of the world?
There’s an Australian epidemic over here. I’ve seen a lot of familiar faces from back home. I had a great reception in New York the other night and it was amazing. The turnout was better than I expected.
So back to the early days…have you ever played in an empty room?
When you’re starting out, you play in empty rooms all the time. For instance, when I started playing in Australia, I’d be lucky to have a few people sitting at the bar. Eventually your fan base grows as you build your brand. I’m pretty excited to see where this tour takes me.
How does your head space differ while you’re making music verse performing music?
I just finished up my first album and writing requires a lot of focus. It’s really hard to follow an active tour schedule while trying to be creative. I work best when I focus on one of the two. I like to take a few days off to go somewhere new, or even my studio in Sydney and create. Doing shows really takes out a couple days.
Do you have a dream venue? A space you’re dying to perform at?
I still have yet to discover a really epic venue. If I had to say, it would probably be like an interesting festival somewhere. Something super big and really unique like Coachella. Something similar to the dance festivals they they have in the Ice Caves in Europe.
What would be your dream collaboration?
I want to do something old school. Someone like Curtis Mayfield, the old soul singer. He has a special tone and his songwriting isn’t something you really see in dance music. I think that would bring a really interesting tone.
Do you feel like you have to take a risk between the music you want to make and the music people want to hear?
That’s a pretty blurry line. I’ve personally never done anything that I felt didn’t represent me. Although as a musician there are lots of decisions you make because things work. For example, when I first started playing shows, I was making hip-hop beats. Then, when I started playing this club in Sydney called World Bar, I noticed that certain songs worked better than others. That influenced the sort of stuff I was writing. This is also the point where I started writing more dance hall music.
How many drinks do you think you could have and still put on a good show?
I actually haven’t pushed it too hard. The worst ones are where like you’ve got to a festival or a club really early in the day and the show’s not until later. There’s really nothing else to do but drink in those situations. So I reckon like five and I’d probably get a bit sloppy on the drums, maybe say some weird stuff on the mic.
Do drugs and booze affect your creativity?
It’s something that I’ve tried a couple times, but it just really depends. Sometimes I’ll end up in a black hole of not making anything good. Other times that helps me like unlock a certain thing that dictates where the song goes.
Do you have a go-to food on the road?
Touring you kind of just take what you can get. But I travel with a vegetarian, which has like been amazing. Even though he’s not the most persistent food hunter, it means that we do eat fairly well. Having your vegetables makes a big difference when you’re travelling this much.
Switching gears away from veggies…what’s the craziest tour story?
I played in Indonesia two years ago at this festival and it was- I’m not going to say unorganized-but it was pretty unorganized. I got picked up straight from the airport and driven to the docks and thrown on a boat. We started sailing out of like the harbour in Bali so I started setting up my drums and my synth and getting ready to play. But just as we got like the furthest point possible away from land, this crazy storm just rolled through. There was like a boat behind us trailing in case people were falling overboard because it was rocking like crazy. It was pretty scary so I decided not to play live, because I thought we were all gonna like die. So I did my first ever DJ set couple of kilometers out to sea in Indonesia in a crazy storm. And it went down really well. I played tropical house and the sun came out on the way back so it was a good time.
It’s hard to tell what direction the music is going to go in a couple of years. The transitions I’ve made already just writing for this album was a bit of a step forward. When I start writing new music again, it’ll probably keep moving in another weird direction. So who knows what it’ll end up being, but it’s not gonna just suddenly turn into a jazz project or a heavy metal thing.
What would you tell an aspiring Aussie DJ, or even your younger self?
I’d say that if you are willing to put in the hours and passionate about it, you can do whatever you want. That I’ve been able to go so far with my work and sit in New York having a beer, who knows how many miles from Sydney, telling myself what I can do, that is… such a special thing.
What’re your thoughts on social media and the music industry?
I see myself as being a really bad Instagrammer. I struggle a little bit with the social sometimes, but it’s so important. It’s gotten to the point where having a strong brand-a likable personality and connecting with your fans online-is almost as important as the music you’re making. You have to think about things to do and ways to make your content cut through.
Talk about the difference between Australia and the States?
There’re a lot of parts of America that are as different from Australia as anywhere can be. For example, I was in Atlanta the other day, and I had never been in a city like that. I was only there for twelve hours but it was such a different vibe from Sydney. New York on the other hand-I feel a little at home in Brooklyn. It seems very familiar. Obviously Manhattan is crazy and we don’t have anything like that, but Brooklyn’s kind of chill. It’s nice.
We were talking last night about how can really go out seeing a brawl. Have you been in a brawl?
No, I’ve never been in a brawl. I think like the closest I’ve come is getting elbowed in the face walking home from a bar. But like it all happened so fast that I didn’t even react or do anything. I was just like ‘Oh shit, now I’ve got like a bloody nose!’ I am not a fighter. I’m a lover, it’s all good!
We’ll end on that one, man. Thanks for your time and best of luck with the rest of the tour.