Interview: Kaytranada on His Funky XL Debut: “It’s definitely going to surprise you”

Montreal producer Kaytranada opens up about signing with XL, his dream label, and why you shouldn’t mix Hennessy and iced tea.

Photographer Alex Wesh
May 13, 2014

The Montreal producer talks signing to his favorite label and partying with Disclosure

Kaytranada, a 21-year-old producer from the suburbs of Montreal, has been making waves on the internet with his beat tapes and his delirious, pleasure-seeking edits of pop and R&B tracks. He's also an obsessive collector of esoteric sounds, and his late-night production aesthetic strings together bits of wobbly funk, deep-ish house and classic hip-hop. He's the kind of eclectic-minded dude who would get equally psyched about collaborating with a widely-known pop star and a virtually unknown neo-soul vocalist or a legendary underground jazz drummer. Recently, after a wake-and-bake session and a pit-stop at Supreme to pick up some hats, Kaytranada came through The FADER office and filled us in on signing with his dream label and why you shouldn’t mix Hennessy and iced tea.

You’re releasing an EP on XL this summer? Congrats. It’s the record label that I really wanted to put something out with for a long time. I listen to their artists—M.I.A., Tyler the Creator—and it’s one of the labels I always wanted to be on and eventually, it happened. Maybe a few more people [will find] my stuff, my music, and give it a listen because it’s on XL. It’s a good label for people who are sort of lost and are like, “Let me see what’s going on."

So what can we expect from the EP? Expect more original music. It’s definitely gonna surprise you. It’s gonna be more abstract-feeling. I tried to do more of my unique stuff—the uptempo, neo-soul type of stuff. That’s what I’m aiming for, to make it as funky as possible. I’m actually expecting a bunch of crazy features like Kareem Riggins, a crazy jazz drummer, and Reva DeVito—I made a song with her it’s called “Friday Night”. We have another song that gonna be on my album, and some girl that nobody knows yet—she’s from Montreal, her name is Shay Lia— [she’s] so original I can’t even explain. You should hear her voice. Vic Mensa, also—that song’s called “Drive Me Crazy.”

You’re good homies with Vic Mensa, right? When Vic came to Montreal we hung out backstage and I made an appearance during Vic's set; it was pretty funny. We went to this after-party and we got fucked up a bit. Vic was not that friendly when I first met him, but we showed respect to each other. He’s a good rapper, and he actually liked my stuff. Now our relationship’s grown—he’s always texting me about a song or beat. We made a bunch of songs that haven’t been released yet; it will be on the XL project this summer. Probably gonna hear one or more songs on his project, too.

Disclosure, too? They’re so cool. They’re the nicest guys ever compared to any other artist that you meet. Those guys actually talk to you, you know? They discovered my music and they followed me on Twitter and they were like, “Yo, your Teedra Moses remix is bomb,” and then we met on Holy Ship!—that’s when we became really good friends. I did a show with them not long ago at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. It was a big, amazing crowd, turning up and getting fucked up. It was crazy. Lately, I’ve been getting way too wasted and drinking too much Hennessy, and you can’t mix that with everything. I actually threw up in Disclosure’s van in the after-party. Somebody mixed up iced tea and Hennessy— it’s way too sweet. I was a mess. I threw up in a bag.

A lot of your live shows have been selling out quickly. This week you’re playing in Hong Kong and you’re about to tour Europe again. What do you think it is about your sets that has people stoked? No idea. I always play stuff that nobody’s ever heard. I don’t play only my stuff—I play stuff that you never heard of from the '80s, like rare funk disco of that era, and I see how the crowd reacts. Sometimes people don’t feel it, some people fucking love it. Compared to everywhere that I tour, I get the best response in Europe. In Paris and London, no matter what kind of silly shit I do, people are screaming. It’s so ridiculous to me—it’s awesome.

Do you ever DJ in clubs? I only played a club once and I had no choice but to play like Top 40 pop music, but, thank god, I wasn’t known or whatever—that would’ve been embarrassing. That was in Montreal when I had old managers that didn’t really know the type of stuff that I do. They put me in weird college festivals and clubs and I had to play, like, mainstream and Top 40. At the time I didn’t care; it was just about the money.

You’ve also worked with Mobb Deep, which is pretty wild. That was like, “Whaaaat!” It was sort of out of the blue. Red Bull was trying to set up the Mobb Deep and Kaytranada meeting and it actually went well—went crazy. I showed them a couple beats; they liked it and did a song that they actually rapped on, and it was recorded in my face and it was a pretty weird moment in my life. I grew up listening to Mobb Deep. They were like, “Waddup son.” It was crazy to hear them talking about The Infamous, and they were saying, “Yeah son,” and I was actually hearing that voice next to me.

I feel like it’s common practice for young people to have an abundance of side-projects. Is that the case with you? Yeah, I actually have a project I’m doing with my brother. He’s nineteen. He’s really trying to like be in the game or whatever, but he’s a good rapper. It’s under the name The Celestics—that’s my side project. I do the beats and he’s the rapper and we have this mixtape coming out. We just mastered it. It’s more of a hip-hop side of me. Sometimes I wanna make more danceable stuff, and then next I wanna make more hip-hop. It’s like the seasons. Every summer I make dance music.

Do you have some more remixes in the pipeline? There’s definitely remixes that I haven’t put out just because of this or that. I’m trying to not put them out and just calm down, but I might lose my cool or whatever. Maybe in a while I’ll put it out on Mediafire as a .zip file and just to give it to the fans.

Interview: Kaytranada on His Funky XL Debut: “It’s definitely going to surprise you”