Last week at the Red Bull Music Academy in Paris, British alt-pop auteur and one-time FADER cover star Kindness sat down for a heartfelt, honest lecture. In the resulting film above, as well as recounting his early musical experiences, lifting the veil on the "toxic" nu-rave scene of the early '00s, and detailing what it's like to be dropped from a major label, he reflects on his own gender identity and sexuality with a candor we haven't heard from him before.
Things get really personal around the 24 minute mark, when Bainbridge recounts a particularly painful experience he had with a style and music blogger writing under the pseudonym Donald Crunk in 2005. Bainbridge says Crunk wrote a post on his website Style Slut "talking about me in homophobic and transphobic terms"—and describes how he at the time was not only unsure about his sexuality, but was also conflicted about his gender identity, stating "I was researching hormones; I was thinking about going there."
When Crunk wrote his post, Bainbridge remembers, "rather than being angry at him, I was like, 'wait, how did he know?...I can't be a grime producer if people know I'm gay! If people know I'm queer!'" As a direct result of this post, Bainbridge says he "shut down overnight," leaving London and quitting music.
Bainbridge mentions that Crunk has since begun making short style films and has been a panelist on the BBC's annual "Sound Of..." poll. "The industry and the media could take one look at this guy's blog," says Bainbridge, "and see how toxic it is. And yet, they embraced him...and they give him a platform where he can now be influencing what happens in music."
From there, the lecture only gets deeper, with Bainbridge reflecting on the bigotry and bias he still witnesses around him in the music industry today, 10 years after that experience. "If you're a racist, if you're homophobic, you shouldn't be allowed to work in the music industry," he states. "The music industry is based on the talents of non-white people, of people of queer identity. That's where so much good music comes from...I look around this room and I see non-white faces, I see women, and I'm happy to see you here, but I'm going to tell you, it's going to be tough. It's still not a smooth ride."
Bainbridge talks about the predominance of straight white men in A&R and artist management, and later goes into the financial reality of being an artist, and particularly of young artists getting "ripped off" by publishing deals. He recounts his own experience of being dropped by a major label, and generally is much more open than any average RBMA lecture participant. As he puts it himself: "Some of us are just gonna have to be that guy that sabotages their career but does it for everyone else. I'm just tired of it." He might see it as self-sabotage, but this rare kind of openness is also an extraordinarily brave step towards meaningful change.