Exclusive interview with DJ K Royal as he shares with us his journey.
K Royal – Birmingham Born and Bread DJ/ Producer
How did it all start for you?
I was 13 when I watched footage of Carl Cox rocking a club and the whole crowd were in awe of him, from that point on I was hooked. I got a part time job and saved for my very own set of Kam turntables – chuckling as I think of them now. I learnt to play Hard House and Trance and would look forward to the weekly record shop at Birmingham’s Three Shades Records, that was my favourite shop as they would save me records or point me in the right direction for what would be big.
Who is your biggest inspiration? / Who do you have a lot of respect for?
That’s a difficult one, I have people who have inspired me, from DJ’s, producers, club managers and close friends. I’m not one to name drop, so I’m going to say inspirationally, will go to my close friends/family (haha cop out answer) who push me and keep me level headed. I have a lot of respect for the people who back what we do, and support the musical journey were all on.
What single night out has been the most memorable for you? As a DJ?
Arghh see another tricky one, I’ve had good and bad, I’ll give you two. One from early career and one more recent. I remember way back, getting a call from a promoter I have a lot of respect for, let’s call him Mr K, he said “GateCrasher, main room, Friday and be armed as it’s to 1500 students.” He rang two nights before and it was the biggest club I’d played for at that point. I was eager, excited and nervous but up for the challenge! Having one of Birmingham most influential promoters call and put you in Birmingham’s biggest club, in itself was amazing. It was a great experience, it pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I loved every minute of it.
I’ve also had the pleasure of playing alongside some great Dj’s, producers, singers, rappers etc. A memorable night that I’ll always remember is working at a large venue in Birmingham on New Year’s Eve, we had over 2k people in the venue. Everything that could have gone wrong, near enough did. So me being me, I took control and did what I could from, hosting, hyping the crowd to sorting mics out. So picture this its 1.00am and the club is electrified, I walk into the VIP room where the performer is, he’s got several huge bodyguards around him. I thought nothing of it and rocked up, talked him through the layout of the room, mic signal, acoustics etc while this room was heaving with his entourage and VIP paid customers wanting pictures with him. I wasn’t phased and then walked out, no asking for a picture or any of that. I literally barged through, gave him the low down then continued to enjoy my night and rock the dance floor before he jumped on stage,that was a memorable night for sure.
What is one mistake you see a lot of up and coming DJs making? / What advice would you give to aspiring DJs?
I see a lot of new-comers doing one of three things. Firstly, imitating another DJ and playing track for track or even the same effects, vocal drops and generally not being true to themselves. Secondly trying to get known through certain DJ’s/producers and not on their own merit. Thirdly, not believing in their own ability. I’ve seen so many talented DJ’s go nowhere as they don’t see or believe how good they are, or they can’t communicate effectively with promoters, managers and clubbers. My advice would be, do it because or your love for music, don’t be afraid to experiment and enjoy the rollercoaster you’re about to step on. There’s a lot of time, effort, money and late nights invested into becoming a DJ/Producer, the media, newcomers and club goers don’t see this. So be prepared to put in that (singing Rihanna) work, work, work, work, work.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic career?
I would have to say when the penny dropped with mixing and set planning. As well as this, it would defiantly be my 1st ever gig, first residency, running my own night and making my first track. All of which I’m so proud of and humbled in what I’ve achieved.
How important is building a real relationship with the music you’re playing for your own approach? There’s so much music out there, is it even possible to build meaningful long-term relationships with a particular track or album?
I can only speak for myself here, but music changes so quickly now, as a DJ if I’m not feeling a certain sound I won’t play it, but saying that as a DJ we are there to cater to the ‘masses’, so its swings and round a-bouts. I’ve played something I’ve loved before and its gone down like a led balloon, then played something average and it’s gone off! So it’s difficult to say if I have a relationship with what I’m playing. I have to enjoy it regardless if it’s my thing or not.
I’ve had some tracks I have made, where I’ve listened back the following day or a week later and thought what a pile of pooh, I have had the pleasure to work alongside some fantastic Birmingham based producers and I’ve loved it. Bouncing ideas off each other and really feeling what your making that’s where I feel it has been meaningful, musically.
Going off tangent and not one to drop names for my own gain, but I need to give credit to my good friends! RicharDJames, Hott Like Detroit – Drew especially, Ross Cobe and my good friend Flex. Flex helped me pull my finger out and push me towards production, by initially co-producing and teaching me the fundamental elements of production and he deserves maximum credit from me. These people have been the ones to make my long term love for music production!
Where do you think the scene is headed? One year from now? Five years from now?
Wow…..! It’s too hard to tell, it’s very difficult to predict, plus it really depends on the area of the country. Having played in a range of cities in the UK I can honestly say that each place/venue is completely different! I definitely feel there is a ‘grime’ element that’s edging towards the house/bass/tech scene. I’m not personally feeling it, but events are having MCs over house music and there’s grime producers MCs releasing house tracks that are absolutely smashing the commercial and underground scene.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Honestly, I’d like to be producing independently and collaborating with friends and established artists. DJing abroad now and again would be nice and generally loving life more. I wouldn’t want to ask for more than that right now. I’m not greedy and would really like to make some musical memories with some great friends and meet new people.
What are currently your main challenges as a DJ?
In a nutshell, I’d have to say music politics, free/cheap Dj’s and identity. I won’t comment on the 1st two as much as you’d like me to. Identity – due to a rebrand, this has been a challenge as I have been previously known as a multi genre DJ. However, these influences and ability to work with and learn from different music genres has developed my knowledge and understanding of music and helped me in the transition from DJ to producer!
What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music that makes it interesting for you?
It’s the power, control and buzz of pressure. Having all those people watching you, other DJ’s/promoters/managers watching and listening to your every move, and venue’s needing you to perform in order to maintain numbers and spending. It’s an amazing feeling, holding control over when people go to the bar, dance or to smoke. I once heard a saying that a DJ controls the heart rate of the crowd, this is an amazing feeling and its gives me a real buzz!
With producing you have plenty of time to create or master a specific sound, there’s no real rush to create something, or if you make a mistake you can go back and change it. With DJing, if you make a mistake or something goes wrong there’s not much you can do.
Did the DJing or producing come first?
DJing came first, to be honest I was from a poor single parent family! I couldn’t afford the luxuries of time in a studio. When I started DJing at 13 there wasn’t the flexibility to have a home studio or computers with music production software, you had to book studio time and even with an engineer. Now you can purchase music production software’s, plugins, sample packs etc. plus it took me what felt like a life time to save for some vinyl record turntables and a mixer. I didn’t even have the money for speakers and had to use my headphones for about 2 years before I could afford a decent enough Hifi system, but I appreciated the journey and sacrifices to get to that point. Nowadays it is so much more accessible to get these things, I’m not saying that as a negative but anyone who knows the struggles that I and others have faced will understand and appreciate the journey.
When you play a set is it pre planned?
NOOOOO!!! Never! You never know what the crowd is going to be like! Doing that would take the fun out of it anyway. Like I previously said, every crowd and club is different and as a DJ I see it as my job to adapt to that crowd, you can’t do that with a pre-planned set. When I go to a club I generally know the genre of music I am going to play, and maybe a song or two that I may anticipate playing, but until I see the crowd, I can’t say for sure that I will play it. As a DJ you need to build up an understanding of your crowd and take time to watch what they respond to and what they want.
What was your first record you bought? How do you think this effect the way you make music today?
I was looking through my vinyl collection a few days ago luckily enough. Well I started on hard house and trance, I’m a little unsure, but I think my 1st record was Planet Perfecto – Bullet in the Gun. That really is taking me back. For the record, I didn’t ever get a gig playing Hard House or trance by the way. I don’t think it really has impacted on the way I make music. I make what I like, what feels right and what I feel others will enjoy.
Funniest thing that ever happened at an event?
I’d have to say once I was playing with a good friend of mine back to back at a little bar in Birmingham. He played his song and it went off. I had my headphones on listening to the track, really dancing and enjoying myself, after a minute or so I looked at the crowd and they had all stopped, they were all looking up at me shocked, mouths wide open and my mates laughing…picture me singing at the top of my voice. I had a gentle tap on my shoulder, I removed my headphones, only to realise all the music had completely cut off, and the fire alarm was ringing upstairs, meanwhile I was dancing and singing! The shame! Of course you see the funny dances, trip ups, drink spills, wardrobe malfunctions and lots of other memorable moments… but that for me was comical.
Here is K Royals new track – We Gone Do This
Interviewed by Courteney Tarleton