Detroit's electronic prodigy Kyle Hall
The unconfined artist gets ready to guest at Jelly Roll Soul
‘I first got into electronic music at the age of 11,’ says Kyle Hall, the latest bright hope to emerge from the city of Detroit’s illustrious music scene. ‘I’d go over to my Uncle Ray’s crib and he’d show me his records and how to mix with them. I’d keep going over there and learning more and then I got my own stuff, my dad bought me turntables. That’s how I got into it.’
What sort of records did his uncle have? Are we talking the golden years of Detroit here? ‘You can ask him if you want, man, he’s right here,’ laughs Hall, sounding older and more assured than his 19 years. It seems he’s forgotten the time of our interview, and he’s sitting in Uncle Ray’s (actually Detroit DJ Raybone Jones, an old school friend of Hall’s mother) barber’s chair when The List calls. ‘Hey, Uncle Ray, how old are you? He’s 40, so not the real old-school grooves but the generation right after that. Things like Theo Parrish, Rick Wilhite, those kinda guys.’
Although this city, so prolific in the production of musical pioneers, is now onto its fourth wave of producers from the dance music era, Hall rejects the traditional label ‘house’. His first recording, ‘Plastik Ambash’, was released on Omar S’ FXHE label when he was (skip this bit if you’re an aspiring producer who’s been trying to break in for years) 15. ‘People didn’t really start playing it out, though,’ he says. ‘It’s a very experimental track, kinda noisy analogue tape edit stuff. So I produce electronic music that broadly uses dance beats, but I’ve never been confined to a certain genre. I like to be experimental and that goes back to my very early tracks.’
Although there are parallels with early Detroit house in Hall’s music, largely because a certain rhythmic element clearly borrowed from old funk, and soul styles can be heard, there’s also a darkness and an austere minimalism to many of his finest tracks. As well as releasing on Mike Grant’s Detroit label Moods & Grooves, Hall has worked with Warp Records (a remix of The Hundred in the Hands) and Scot Kode9’s London-based dubstep imprint Hyperdub (a remix of Darkstar and his own ‘Kaychunk’/’You Know What I Feel’ double A-side), and it’s easy to see why fans of either might also approve of his music. In fact, musical diversity is in Hall’s blood: his mother is Detroit jazz singer Penny Wells and his great uncle was jazz pianist Roland Hanna.
‘These labels all came to me,’ says Hall. ‘It all started with that first piece on FXHE, it’s a pretty reputable label and doing it got people’s attention, because of course they’re always looking for things to make their label credible. Am I proud of what I’ve done so far? Yeah, it’s going all right, y’know? Mostly I’m just concentrating on my own label at the moment.’
You read right. Not content with being one of the producers of the moment while still in his teens, Hall’s also setting out to be a label mogul with his Wild Oats imprint. ‘It’s centred around my own stuff,’ he says, but I do some collaborative stuff too, one live track where I played keys …’ Truly, there’s nothing he can’t do. Aside from cut his own hair.
Jelly Roll Soul at La Cheetah, Glasgow, Fri 13 Aug.