Karma Kid: The UK is still a hot spot for dance music

Becca Frankland caught up with Sam Knowles aka Karma Kid to talk about his new project Shy Luv, the UK club scene and the power of BBC Introducing.

Becca Frankland

Date published: 18th Aug 2015

Image: Karma Kid Credit: Liam Simmons

Youthful artists highlight one thing in particular - that some talent is impossible to ignore. DJs can spend years working to get their music recognised, and some just exert a distinctive sound that's swiftly picked up by fans and the industry alike.

Karma Kid's dreamy and energetic electronic productions and sets (check him out in action below) fall under the same umbrella as the likes of Bondax and Star Slinger. He first came onto the scene after he sampled Ray J's track 'One Wish' and from then onwards his boisterous mix of soulful R&B and garage laced beats didn't go unnoticed. 

Never one to limit himself, Karma Kid recently created his new group project Shy Luv with friends Jake Norman aka Armeria and Ryan Ashley. We caught up with him ahead of his club and festival gigs in the UK and Ibiza to talk about Shy Luv, the club scene and going back in time with Larry Levan. 

How's your summer been so far?

I've done a lot of DJing and I've played some really cool places recently. I played in Beirut, that was amazing, it was a completely different vibe over there. I played at Glastonbury as well which was unreal because it was the first time. This year has been a lot quieter with DJing because I've been focusing more on production. I've just been working my ass off all year. 

Has the production this year mainly been focused on your Shy Luv project?

Yeah we've been working very hard on the music for about a year. We've been working in the same couple of studios around London and then we've split our time between there and Leeds because Jake (Armeria) lives up there. It's been a big focus because we've been developing our sound and getting comfortable with writing with each other. We've just been getting it to a point where we feel really happy with what we're doing. 

So for anyone who's familiar with the project could you tell them a bit more about it? 

Basically the project consists of me, Jake and a singer called Ryan Ashley and we're all really good friends. Me and Jake have known each other for years and Ryan was one of the first singers I worked with when I was 18.

We just came together and we thought that these things can be very regimented at times, but we wanted to come together and just make music for fun. We started writing with Ryan and it organically grew into this project. We wanted to make music that was more accessible than the music we make individually.

I think we just wanted to try something new and we wanted to write actual songs. That's the basis of the whole project and we're looking to do some live stuff with it. It's all about doing stuff in a more traditional way and doing albums and bigger bodies of work rather than dribs and drabs.

Are you putting solo stuff on hold for the time being then?

No not at all. Shy Luv has been a big focus for the past year but I'm putting together my next EP for my own personal project, that's pretty much finished. It's not on hold, there's just a nice mix between the two.

You're playing at Colada Club at the beginning of September, I know you played the opening party earlier this year, it all looks all very 'Club Tropicana'...

I actually did play 'Club Tropicana' there [laughs]. Yeah it was great, it was really different doing something during the day when people are just sat hanging out and relaxing and you can just play whatever you want. It was nice being able to play songs that I'd want to drink a Pina Colada to! 

So have you been over to Ibiza much over summer?

I haven't actually been too much this summer, I was there quite a lot last year but I think Colada Club is the only time I've been out this year. 

You've got your XOYO gig coming up too. What do you think about all the news that came out recently about clubs closing? Places like XOYO seem to be booming? 

I'm always really surprised to hear about the clubs closing down, a lot of the time it's ones that I've always wanted to play but never got the chance to such as Twisted Pepper in Dublin. I never got to play there myself but I've only ever heard amazing things about it.

I think it's sad and something does need to be done but it means that the clubs that are around now, like XOYO, just have amazing acts on every time you go. Myself, I'm not too worried about it, I think the UK is still a hot spot for dance music and will be for a long time. 

A lot of the news focused on how warehouse raves were becoming more popular though... 

Yeah it's very much just turning things on its head. I really like that about it, I'm not gonna lie. You have people going to raves which have less rules and regulations and you feel safer partying there, you don't feel like you're going to end up getting in trouble. Everyone is there for the same reason - to enjoy the music.

You look at places like Fabric and you still feel a bit threatened even though there's security, you can feel a bit on edge. But it's not really like that at proper warehouses.

Back to production, you've put out music on Bondax's label Just Us Recordings, do you feel like you had more freedom putting out on the imprint because you're mates with them?

Yeah, well my first proper Karma Kid release was with them. I had released before but that was the first one that got proper traction and it was the first time I had ever got a track pressed in vinyl as well. We had the same manager at the time so it was internal and we all had a say on what was going on which was nice.

I've probably got more freedom currently just because I've changed management and it's a lot more relaxed. There's quite a few labels interested in the music so it's just a case of making the music that I really want to make. I want to keep it that way for a while because it can get very complicated if you're signing contracts. 

You've joined them for the Bondax & Friends tour stuff as well, what have the parties been like? 

We know each other really well and we've played a lot of times together and to be honest most of the shows we've done have just blended into one [laughs]. They're just great, we have a sick time and there'll always be at least three guys on the line up that are all really good mates  with each other. It's amazing to be able to have fun like that and class it as work. 

You took over BBC introducing for a show in late July, that's a pretty big deal! How did it come about?

It's always been one of those things that has been in the back of my mind but never really thought would happen. Radio 1 have been really supportive with my music, people like Annie Mac have been pushing it.

BBC Introducing East Midlands is where I actually started, when I was like 16 or 17 I would send five songs every month to them and eventually the music got better. They invited me to play Bestival with them as well, they've been great. It's been really cool being able to showcase my friends music as well.

So who would you say we need to keep an eye, well, ear out for?

There's this young guy called Sam Gellaitry, I played with him in Paris and he just blew me away. His set was amazing, he plays a load of his own tunes and he's a really great producer - especially for his age. Definitely look out for him because he's going to do some serious shit next year. 

You spoke about playing Bestival earlier and you're back there this September, what was it like last year? 

There was a big group of us last year, a load of my mates from back home and the Bondax lads. Me and Bondax played the BBC Introducing stage and we had the whole stage to ourselves, there was such a good vibe. The whole festival is just amazing, it's called Bestival for a reason. It's a great way to close the festival season, you go out on a high. 

Finally a hypothetical question, if you could throw your ultimate party with any artist from past or present, who would you play with and where would it take place?

That's such a hard question. It's always changing but I think one thing that I've been fixated on quite a lot recently is if I could DJ with Larry Levan at Paradise Garage back in the hey day. I'd want to see how everything has changed over the years. I'd just want to go back in time basically and check it out.

You look at videos and no one is squashing up next to each other, or up against the front barrier just looking at the DJ, there's space and no one gives a shit. Everyone's just enjoying it. I'd just like to go back and see what it was like when it was all about the music.

Check out Karma Kid's upcoming gigs