Sheffield-born electronic artist Kidnap talks about DJing as the sun rises, fans becoming friends and his love of learning.
I meet Kidnap at Park Theatre in Finsbury Park at midday. Kidnap has already been out and about for a good few hours. He’s well presented, polite, engaging and curious. He asks lots of questions, which catches me off guard a little. But when we sit down I sharpen the focus back to him.
“I’ve had a really nice morning. Woke up with a bit of a spring in my step. It’s bird breeding season and on my cycle in I saw rows of swans and ducks with their nests and little babies hatching.”
Cycling and early starts aren’t things you’d automatically associate with someone in the electronic music world. But Kidnap’s process, path and influences aren’t what you’d expect of a record producer/DJ. Although he admits he isn’t quite, by his standards, the early riser he used to be.
“My girlfriend put a stop to those early starts. But I still try and be in the studio for around eight,” he says. Music has always been an outlet for Kidnap: “I’ve pretty much had my sights set on it for as long as I can remember.”
He picked up instruments from the age of 10. When he turned 15, he got into electronic music in a big way. From that point onwards he started producing music and DJ’ing. Kidnap wound up at university studying politics, even though the music was always his main focus.
“I thought I’ve got three years to do something, I might as well do something that’s going to be interesting,” he says.
This gave him freedom because he knew his degree didn’t matter to his ultimate aim.
“I loved my time at Leeds, although my grades did suffer. It is just a party city. I spent a lot of time in the West Indian Centre”, a place home to Subdub, one of Leeds’s biggest nights.
“When I graduated, I was just starting to write music that people were taking interest in and luckily I’ve had a career since then.” He’s since lived between London and New York, released a plethora of music and toured extensively. His performances have taken him to extraordinary locations, from rocky beaches in Southern Italy to mountain summits in Canada.
He also has changed his performing moniker from Kidnap Kid to Kidnap, something he’s remarkably candid about. “There is a boyish connotation to it but I can live with that. When I came up with the name, as a teenager, I hadn’t really thought ten years ahead. I didn’t expect this all to work. The main conflict for me was that as my sound developed and the music became a little more serious, the name felt like it didn’t marry up with what I was trying to do.”
His evolving sound has seen him recently perform a sunrise set at Allaire Studios in upstate New York. It’s a 1928 estate on 20 acres of mountain top overlooking Woodstock. He talks about it fondly with a smile on his face. “Allaire was such a cool and serendipitous day. I had a couple of days off in a two-week tour. I got an email (from Mixmag) asking if I was free to do this performance. It was a unique and beautiful space. But it was a little odd because it’s 7 AM and I’m playing to a film crew.”
Life on the road has seen him play in some memorable places but has also led him to some unforgettable personal experiences, including a fan’s wedding:
“I got a message a few years back after playing a festival in Puerto Rico, with this couple that had come across my set and enjoyed it. It was a difficult time for them for various reasons but they found that festival and this music a bit of a healing process. They messaged me and told me about this story and I messaged back. They were really sweet people and they would fly out to gigs whenever I was playing in the States. We started meeting up, going out for dinner and over the years became friends. When they got married, I went out to Mexico to DJ at their wedding!”
His versatile sound emerged from a marrying up of three worlds that he loves: electronic, guitar-songwriting music and classical. That’s one of the best things about Kidnap’s music; it can punctuate your early morning run, make your head bob while working or keep you going at 1 AM in Printworks, a 5000 capacity venue in South East London. He reminisces on the last time he played there: “It’s completely at the other end of the spectrum. A lot of people in dark rooms. Every time I looked up I’d think, shit, I can barely see the back of the room.”
Recently he’s been holed up in the studio creating more new music and honing his craft. Learning and structure are things that he’s strangely attracted to. “I’ve got my Grade 5 musical theory exam next week, I’ll be taking it with a bunch of 12-year-olds! But I like it. It’s nice that there’s a path laid out in front of me with grades and revision. The structure provides certainty in an uncertain world. Especially in something as subjective as music.” He’s ready to release and eager to perform on his new label Armada Music.
“I was really impressed by their enthusiasm and they were both keen and supportive of my ideas. And I liked their creativity in giving these new tracks a bigger platform. Their scope matched my ambition and what I wanted to achieve.” Kidnap’s new album ‘Grow’ will drop late August on Armada Music.