Interview: Mount Kimbie

U.K. postdubstep duo Mount Kimbie has been the object of much online affection since dropping its debut LP, Crooks and Lovers, on Hotflush Recordings last year. Celebrated for their deft use of warm analog recordings—in a genre that can at times sound oppressively digital—Dominic Maker and Kai Campos have etched a unique groove for themselves within electronic music. Currently on Mount Kimbie's second trip to the States—it'll stop at (Le) Poisson Rouge tomorrow (Thursday, March 24)—Campos got on the horn with us to chat about U.K. versus U.S. audiences, what's been influencing him lately and Mount Kimbie's shocking new sound.

Time Out New York: When you started making music as Mount Kimbie, you were living in London, which you've said had a definite influence on your sound.
Kai Campos: London was a really inspiring place to live. The city is quite overwhelming when you first move there—it's very noisy and kind of weird. Different and horrible smells and sounds and stuff like that. But it's very exciting. I met people who were not just talking about stuff, but doing it as well. It made me look at what I was doing. It was too easy to be quite cowardly and not take music seriously, even though I'd been doing it for like ten years. It made me put a bit more on the line and actually go for it.

So you went for it.
Yeah, I was miserable with studying. I felt like I was getting stupider. So I decided to drop out of uni and treat music seriously for a year and see if anything happened. Honestly, it was only like a month later that we started talking about putting a single out. It was really quick.

Initially you were performing with James Blake, but he has since focused on doing solo stuff. What's changed about your live shows?
We've spent the past two years experimenting, heading toward a more hands-on show. We've learnt a lot about the energy that needs to be present in any show: interaction with the audience, set arrangement, etc. We are very critical of our live show.

You toured the U.S. last fall. Have you noticed a difference in audiences here in the States?
Yes, people generally come out to have a good time. Some our best shows have been in the States. I wouldn't necessarily say that one is better than the other—though I think it makes it more gratifying for you as an artist onstage. Maybe the only reason that London seems to spearhead so many things is because of how hypercritical it is, and how self-critical that makes you. But at 3 o'clock in the morning you kind of just want to have a good time, you don't necessarily want to read an essay about how relevant you are. It's not for me to say what the audiences in the U.S. are thinking—it just feels like the energy there is much more supportive. They're invested in you.

While we're talking about the U.K. vs. U.S., it's interesting that there's been similar movements occurring in both London and L.A. In the U.K., there are artists like yourselves and James Blake. In L.A., Flying Lotus is at the helm.
I think Flying Lotus is pretty incredible, really. When I heard 1983, it kind of gave me confidence. That sound was being accepted. People were getting excited about it and it sounded like what I was interested in doing. It was definitely a little motivating push. Since then it's really grown in L.A. a lot and there are lots and lots of people doing it. We certainly keep an eye on what's going on in L.A.

Flying Lotus's "1983" from his 2006 debut album, 1983.

What has been inspiring you lately?
We have been listening to a lot of dub, drone, ambient and juke. Our location is as important as our musical influences. Travel has really inspired us.

What places have inspired you in particular?
New York has the same sense of urgency as London. But more what I meant is that the process of traveling means that we can't make much music. When you come down to do it, because you've had an enforced time away from making music, it stops you from treading the same ground. When you're making music, it becomes quite a self-obsessed sort of thing. It has to be. You stop listening to other people's music. Traveling gives you time to be a listener of music.

So what have you been listening to?
On this tour I've been listening to White Denim a lot. Some Arthur Russell. Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Coltrane, all kinds of stuff.

Have you been working on some new tracks?
Yes definitely, we started writing some new stuff recently and we're shocked by what came out.

Shocked?
I always want to be shocked by it. I feel like I'm in a place to really challenge myself again. I've been listening to quite a lot of Nigerian music recently and there are some ideas there that I want to play around with. There's such a strong sense of rhythm—even in the melody. Part of the percussive element of the track is actually in the melody and the tonal parts. That's something that we've always been interested in.

It sounds like experimentation is very important to you.
Yes. The idea that over time it gets harder to do something original completely misses the point about being creative. I never worried that it had been done before. In 2,000 years time there will still be people doing something different because [Pauses] well, [Laughs] I couldn't explain why! In a philosophical sense, we're completely unique individual organisms, so there's no way that anyone's experience of being alive can be the same. And that's kind of what's interesting about the way that you respond to any art. If it makes sense in a certain way to two people, then it's like having a conversation with somebody in a really profound way. You want to be speaking in a language that you developed. A language that is yours. At the same time, you want people to understand it and interpret it in their own way. It's a funny thing.