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Kingdom on creating the track of the year with Kelela

And which R&B superstar Bank Head was intended for...

The slowburn explosion of "Bank Head" – ignited by Kelela's transcendent vocal – not only triggered awe from Dazed's editorial team, leading us to make it our Track of The Year, but more importantly captured the attention of many people previously unacquanited with his future-minded LA label, Fade To Mind. Kingdom officially released the intoxicating track as the lead from his Vertical XL EP, while an extended version was included on Kelela's outstanding Cut 4 Me mixtape. The addictive track also serves as a fine screenshot of a label that intends to blur as many genre lines and perceived boundaries between what is and isn't club music as it can.

Dazed Digital: Did you know straight away that the “Bank Head” beat was going to become the core track of your Vertical XL EP, let alone the label's year?

Kingdom: To be honest when it all started I didn’t. I was nervous as to what the year would bring, and when I wrote it I was coming out of a pretty uncreative phase as I had been mostly focusing on the label and that beat was the first glimmer of light showing me the new direction to go in. After that I set up a proper studio space for myself and really engaged in the process.

DD: Was the track initially intended to stay instrumental?

Kingdom: Basically – although I sent it to Ciara’s people through a loose connection, but I don’t know if she ever heard it. The only sample in there is a high, re-pitched vocal sample in the background of the lead melody’s instrumental that’s actually from her track “Promise”, so I thought if she could sing over herself it would be sick, but I was really glad it ended up being Kelela.

DD: Was there a layer, or a clap or pulse, that when added made it sound complete as a composition to you? 

Kingdom: The reverb soaked 808 tom drum completed it for me, the sound that sounds like something underwater, like sonar. The rolling snares completed it too. The original draft was really just claps, kicks and strings.

DD: Did any others from the Fade To Mind collective have a hand in it at all?

Kingdom: Prince Will, who runs the label with me, suggested a tiny noise sweep to signal the change right when the second verse drops. It's a radio move, but I like the way it sounded once I tried it.

DD: How did you bring Kelela in to work on it?

Kingdom: I met her through Total Freedom and mutual friends. She started writing this freestyle looped improvisation over the beat, and it just worked. It felt really good. That was the true starting point for me in the creation of Vertical XL. Kelela helped me write melodies on it from then on.

DD: Were you comfortable recording the vocals? I read there were a lot of takes to mix?

Kingdom: I learned a lot doing vocals for a couple of my previous tracks, but it worked best with “Bank Head”. There are about fifteen vocal layers in there. Mixing that took me longer than anything else I’ve ever worked on. I’m totally untrained, so it’s all by ear. I think I may even have gone too far! I spent months tweaking it, wanting it to sound just right. 

DD: I think you nailed it. Was the extended version that appears on Kelela’s record, “Cut 4 Me” actually the original?

Kingdom: Kelela is a fully-formed artist and very strong-willed so has a lot of specific, musical ideas about structure and how she wants things to sound. It was her initial idea to make the extended version, but that makes the song clock in over 5 minutes and I wanted the EP version to cut out after the last breakdown so it says goodbye before you want it to like a pop record would. Then for the mixtape Kelela wanted to do the long version which made it more special.

DD: Do you remember the first time you played “Bank Head” out? 

Kingdom: It’s always been a little bit touch and go in the club, but I like that friction where some people are like “Woah, is this too much of a slow jam.” Seeing Kelela do it live was the moment. Not the first time, but at SXSW this year we did a bunch of events and the last one was this afterhours party. So, it was 6am and Kelela decided she should go on and sing to close the party out and she did “Bank Head” and it was just perfect.  Her voice was so on point, she hit those high notes in the middle, and she was so comfortable on stage by then. Everyone was mesmerised, so it wasn’t me dropping it in a DJ set, or hearing people play it on the BBC or Rinse FM, but that moment.

DD: Has the huge reaction to it come as a surprise?

Kingdom: Honestly it hasn’t looking at the number of plays on it. I’m used to cool kids who also like R&B getting into my music, but then I started seeing regular R&B fans getting it. It has the right balance of club sounds and sex appeal and especially with Solange co-signing Kelela, it’s brought the track to people that don’t follow experimental club music or Fade To Mind. 

DD: What’s next for you and Fade To Mind as we move into the new year?

Kingdom: I’ve been working on a lot of melodic, uptempo stuff with hood club and warm Neptunes-funk sounds for a Club Constructions EP on Night Slugs. I also have this batch of new instrumentals on an R&B tip. Then we’re going to put new material out from MikeQ, and push some new artists, like Rizzla and Massacooramaan. We’re talking to young, LA-based vocalists we want to work with too, loosen it up and just to do some R&B or rap singles. Everyone’s growing so much that I want to see more of our artists getting together, even just for a weekend to have a collaborative moment. On the apparel side we have interest from people wanting to do fashion collaborations, and then we’re in talks with this magazine to do our own Fade To Mind festival, a mix of technology, art, live vocalists and DJs, something special within our own brand.

DD: Sounds like an even bigger year ahead then?

Kingdom: The label has so much potential and we have momentum now, so yeah, 2014 is going to be even more powerful.