Ones to watch: Kings Of The City

Marcus Barnes

kings marcus 300x225 Ones to watch: Kings Of The CityAlthough I focus mainly on electronic music, my musical tastes vary and live performances are a favourite of mine, particularly from exciting new talent. A couple of years ago Kings Of The City caught my ear – I saw them perform a few live shows and was impressed by their set up – they are a large group comprised rappers and live instrumentalists. Full of energy they left an impression on me and, just recently, I had the chance to interview them about their story so far…

How did Kings Of The City first get together?

Ali: We have known each other for years. One day in 2008, Danny was round and we experimented with a sound and finally put the band together in 2010. Everyone fell into place naturally and we are like a family.

Can you list your individual backgrounds – how music first entered your life and how you ended up becoming a performer.

Danny: The Band have all come from different backgrounds musically and socially, we were all brought up in different areas in and around London. These include East London, North West London and Basingstoke. Most notably Muswell Hill because we’re Kinks fans, and East London because some of us were heavily involved in the grime scene as it emerged. That’s where alot of our early learning production skills took place. Meanwhile the rest of us where breaking into the rock n’ roll world and underground UK hip-hop worlds. These experiences made us want to make our own sound by blending all our early experiences together.

Where does the group name come from?

Ali: There is no glamorous story, it just came to me when I was smoked out one Friday night, like most things.

Why did you end up blending live instruments with hip-hop – any other performers who inspired this approach?

Danny: We are all musicians, so we play instruments, we wouldn’t be a band without them. We blend hip-hop into the instruments by adding rap and electronic production techniques. We’re more Rage Against The Machine, Linkin Park, Plan B sort of thing rather then tradition forms of hip-hop or rock. The approach wasn’t inspired by anyone really, it was just a natural step forward as a unit of people with very varying tastes in music.

What’s the creative process like when you’re recording/jamming? Who’s the main ideas man?

Danny: I start things off with ideas, themes for songs and riffs and stuff. Generally a song will start out with a basic chord progression and a lyric for a chorus, then we jam it out or just get straight down to recording it and add layers instrument by instrument, player by player, often improvising parts during the recording and adding whatever sounds we feel work at the time. Often we come back and edit those parts or remove certain things or add harmonies, harmonica and glockenspiel or keyboard parts, guitar solos etc.. after. Then we add the rap verses, they usually come last, after the music and chorus and singing verses have been recorded.

Can you remember some of your early productions – how were they different to what you’re doing now?

Danny: I don’t think much has changed, besides being more experienced and have better production techniques. Naturally music is a reflection of the time it was made in, so as life has gone on whilst being in the band, things have happened and it’s reflected in our lyrics and the way the guitars cry.

How would you describe the music you’re making now?

Danny: It’s an occasionally psychedelic, alternative bluesy mix of rock and rap. But if you had to really pigeonhole it, we’d say British rock meets rap.

Who writes the lyrics and how important is it for KOTC to make some kind of social commentary with their songs?

Danny: The lyrics are written by whoever sings or raps them – so Danny, Ali and Ken. The most important thing for KOTC is to make some kind of social commentary in our music because the state of lyrics these days in the pop/hip-hop charts is outrageous. Every rap record is about either glamourising things that obviously shouldn’t be glamourised, misogyny and boasting about all sorts of useless bollocks. Pop songs don’t have a place in modern reality anymore they’re just lacking in creativity or anything to say of any importance whatsoever. We want to change that, we want to say something, give people our opinions on stuff and express things that people feel in a way they struggle to do so, that’s how people relate to songs and enjoy them more.

What’s the Kings Of The City ethos?

Danny: ‘If it’s not long and hard, it’s not worth doing.’ This was inspired by Jim Morrison’s lyric ‘The snake is long, 7 miles, ride the snake.’ We’ve always wanted to put in the most amount of effort we possibly could to our music, videos and final product including getting the best artwork and photography. So if it gets difficult or time consuming we just say that, ‘If it’s not long and hard…’ or, ‘Ride the snake, 7 miles’.

You seem to be bubbling under, ready to blow – how long has it taken to get to this point?

Ali: We put out our first video in August 2010 and haven’t looked back since. For us it’s not a rush to blow, we like to release quality over quantity and do it the right way. The rest is in the hands of the game.

You guys toured with Maverick Sabre not long ago, how did that go?

Ali: Mav is a good man. We had loads of fun and learnt a lot of things, sometimes the hard way. No one expected to be thrown into the deep end at such an early stage of our a career, but on hindsight, it definitely helped to built major confidence in ourselves and only increased our hunger for doing something worthy with our lives.

There seems to be little room for groups like KOTC to break through to the mainstream and really make an impact… how does this make you feel and what would your message be to anyone working to try and change this?

Ali: We are men of honour and have already accepted the challenge. Saying that, the music is more important than its acceptance in the mainstream. Things are changing anyway. In my opinion, people are getting fed up with the same old same old and generally being patronised. I’d say to anyone in the same position, fight for what you believe is right and let real music live.

What’s your overall view on the British music industry? Having been writing about it for quite some time, I think there’s a generally bad attitude to good homegrown music, with too much focus on cheesy pop and so on…

Danny: I think real homegrown music is coming back, and already has happened for a few people here and there. We are fans of Jake Bugg and Alt-J, as well as UK rappers such as Plan B and Wretch 32. Seeing artists such as those release the music they do and be current and relevant only helps motivate us. Pop music will always be there, the problem is the drop in quality of pop music over the years. The old expression goes, ‘They just don’t make it like they used to’…

What’s coming up, release-wise?

Ali: We have our next promo ‘Please Tell Me’ dropping Jan/Feburary 2013 time and will be releasing our ‘No Guts No Glory’ double EP officially. In the meantime, we have been working on loads of tunes and will continue putting stuff out.

Which of your tracks would you recommend to someone who’s never heard KOTC’s music before?

Danny: Make Me Worse, Listen To The Old Man, Please Tell Me, Forest Of Babylon, Mad Men and If You Want A Killer.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the group’s future?

Ali: To stay alive and appreciate the time together as a band. Who knows what will happen. We just make music and then things happen I guess. We will stick to that formula.

For more information on Kings Of The City visit their website HERE.

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  • James Keon

    Checked out some of their other music, excellent band. ‘Make Me Worse’ was by far the biggest stand out for me.

  • zlatapraha

    “… they are a large group comprised rappers and live instrumentalists.”
    “Full of energy they left an impression on me…”
    Is English your first language, Marcus?

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