Q&A: Kindness On Baby DJ Reality Shows, The Democracy of Pop Music And How Easy It Is To Get Him To DJ Your Wedding
"Kindness is a dick!" How great it would be if that were true, even if just for irony and anthropomorphism's sake? But no, Adam "Kindness" Bainbridge stays true to his vague moniker. A multi-disciplinary artist and longtime DJ who studied photography, Banbridge is just casual about his newfound fame, an attitude which in the past has been misinterpreted as pretension and "caginess." Over the course of an afternoon together, I found him to be a cheeky, guileless young man on the brink of a very exciting career but trying to retain a bit of himself in the process. While the Music Gods don't typically grant clemency, kindness can always help.
How has making your own original music changed you as a DJ?
[long silence] It makes me even less likely to play my own records. It made me appreciate how difficult it is to write the ultimate dance track; the ultimate pop song; the ultimate vocal disco song. These things are so hard to do and they ought to be treasured. I happen to be the most repetitive DJ of all time. I will happily play the same crate of vinyl for the rest of my life. I was DJing a party recently and someone asked to book me for their wedding.
[Laughter] Really? What did you say??
I said yes. I'd done it before and I'll do it again... with pleasure. At one moment in time I realized it was stupid to not appreciate pop music as the highest and most pleasurable form of songwriting, on many levels. It is sooooo difficult to write a good pop song. It's actually incredibly difficult. It's easier to write a mournful ballad, in my opinion. It was at that point that I think I lost all of my musical inhibitions and decided that if it makes me dance or sing along then I love it and I don't care what it is.
Your video for "House" video really burned up the Internet.
It sure seemed to, if Facebook is any indication.
Facebook is no indication of anything. It's actually the worst indication of everything.
[Laughter] Well, it's definitely charming. Did you see a lot of kids for that?
No, Ramon was the only one. We literally just turned on a camera and what you see is him learning to play the drum machine. He was a very quick learner and I think was genuinely surprised that he was playing drums. There's actually quite a lot of videos of kids using MPCs on YouTube if you look.
Yeah. Maybe it's just because this is a more ambidextrous generation because of the video games and everything. I think nerdy mothers and fathers are teaching their kids. It's the new show-pony thing, "Honey, can you recreate DJ Premier on this MPC?"
Oh god, Stage DJ Parents?? That's next level. "Honey, show Daddy how you mix!"
"... in Ableton Live."
[Laughter] Toddlers, Tiaras & Traktor? "You forgot to quantize it! Go to your room!!"
It must exist. It has to.
I'd totally watch that show just to help motivate me to improve my own crap skills. "Can you produce better than a seven-year-old?"
Maybe you shouldn't watch those videos, then.
What was it specifically that made you want to work with producer Phillipe Zdar?
Someone asked me that question the other day and said, "Please put the question into your answer," you know, for radio. So I said "Hmmm, what attracted me to Grammy-award-winning producer Phillipe Zdar, who's collaborated with The Beastie Boys, Phoenix, The Rapture and Kanye West? No, I have no idea."
What was their response?
"Could you do it again, but seriously please."
I'm sure they loved you.
How important is identity to your music?
Very. Being misunderstood can definitely be a creative motivation.
I saw the documentary Marley recently, which was terrific, but it showed how being of mixed race affected his art and how his life was spent literally trying to find a way to bridge those worlds through music.
Yeah. I'm offended when people think that what I do is some sort of "white guy pastiche" of different genres because fundamentally I'm not a "white guy," I'm mixed race, so if I'm a white guy then Bob Marley is a white guy. I don't aim to be provocative, necessarily, but it pisses me off when people are so snobbish and closed off about sound or about genre or about different areas of music. I think people that misconstrue sonics confuse me. Like, how big a problem could you really have with slap bass? Have you heard of white supremacists? Check them out.
Do you think you'll have a hard time continuing to fly under the radar as your profile grows?
You know, it's funny. There used to be this belief that if something was good that eventually it would gain the recognition it deserved. I just think there's so much of everything now and there's so much white noise that things can really get lost now. I can think of incredible artists, even amongst my friends, whose art hasn't gotten it's notice despite the unquestionable quality. You could choose to be stubborn and reveal nothing and you would end up sacrificing the thing that you worked so hard to make. It's self sabotage ultimately.
I think it's interesting to watch acts like you and WU LYF who try to get people to focus on just the music and how people perceive that. There just comes a point where it's beyond your control. If you're going to physically play live shows, then it's just a matter of time.
What was frustrating to them and what's been frustrating for me is the cynicism attached to artists who reveal nothing. People think it's stealth marketing. There was this NME feature which basically said Jai Paul, WU LYF, King Krule and Kindness are these four acts that are manipulating us by telling us nothing about themselves.
Of course NME would write that.
It's not an evil master plan. We all sat down and just decided not to do anything, and then we were accused of being cynical overlords intent on world domination.
[Laughter] Well the British music press is a totally different animal than here. In American terms it's like US Weekly hatefucked Rolling Stone and NME is their raging, diabetes-stricken baby who constantly needs feeding and will eat anything to survive, including itself. Anyway, on to happier things! You haven't toured much outside of the UK. You must be excited to get out there and play. Have you found that you can write on the road?
No. But mostly because people's seats recline too far. I was trying to program drums on a plane recently like this [does awkward stubby arms]. It was kinda painful. I felt like the Dinosaur from Toy Story. [does a surprisingly passable Wallace Shawn impression].
You were given an artistic stewardship of sorts in Philadelphia a few years ago that really helped kickstart your career. How did your experience affect you musically?
It was the foundation of all of this. But even better was Philadelphia as an environment. I would go to the thrift store and buy homemade cassette tapes. It was a sort of ethnomusicology; what can I learn about Philadelphia from listening to people's homemade tapes? There was some incredible stuff like those shopping mall record-a-song tapes. Some salesman had recorded "Sympathy For The Devil" and some girl did TLC's "Waterfalls." I came from London at the peak of an unpleasant growth spurt. It was the nu-rave era; things seemed very uncomfortable, people seemed ill at ease and unsure of who they were and what they were doing, so to go to a town like Philadelphia with such a straightforwardness was refreshing. It may not have been the best place for me to become successful, but there was such a honesty to what was happening there. Also, anyone that I got in touch with to collaborate said yes. People were just so open and generous with their time and unconcerned with anything else and that was pretty life-changing. Obviously the name came about then as well. Perhaps I'd regret choosing a name with such significance now if I had the choice, but in Philadelphia when I made that first CD-R that I thought about twenty people would hear, you make a piece of music with a name that seems appropriate at that moment.
I think it's gonna stick now.
World, You Need A Change of Mind is out now on Casablanca.
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