Interview: KJ Sawka Reveals Plans For Solo Act, Destroid, Pendulum, and More!
At this years Paradiso Festival in Washington I got the chance to sit down and talk with KJ Sawka about everything he is involved in. Originally planned to be a video interview, technical issues caused out audio to not work properly. Luckily the camera recorded just enough audio to pull the full transcript of the interview. That is a good thing too as KJ had some really interesting things to say as to whats coming for his solo act, Impossible Records, Destroid, and Pendulum. Here is the full KJ Sawka interview with Only The Beat.
OTB: Let’s start with Impossible Records. How is that going for you?
KJ: Impossible Records is going really good. Just released my third release [a few weeks ago] and I can’t complain. Each release has hit the top 10 in the beatport dubstep and drum and bass charts. Everybody is hearing about the tracks and are streaming and purchasing the tracks off multiple places. Things are going good. Finally I am able to release my own original tracks. I had been waiting for some opportunity to release my own tracks and finally said “Fuck it. I need to make my own record label.” That’s what the first basis of Impossible Records is.
OTB: What’s your planned release schedule for Impossible Records? You have been releasing tracks every few weeks but are there any plans for a full album or will singles be the primary way you push out your music?
KJ: I was thinking about doing a full album but albums in the EDM world, especially for artists at the medium level, each track doesn’t get the hype it deserves. So what I have been doing is pushing out each track as a single. I have an albums worth of material, but I am just pushing it out individually.
The first artist who isn’t me is next up as well. Probably in three weeks we will push that out. With distribution it takes three weeks once I upload it. This is kind of the idea behind the release schedule. I said “Cool, we can release music every three weeks and not really any sooner.” The last release got pushed back one week because of art work. There are so many dials to tune for a release, but it is roughly each month is one release. I’m going to do my best to keep that as consistent as possible.
OTB: Tell me a little about the new artist who will be releasing on Impossible Records?
KJ: Architekt is the next one. He won third place in my producer contest for one of my drum packs. He’s a sick producer and I am so excited to finally spawn my first artist that’s not me on Impossible Records.
OTB: When bringing artists on to your label are you going to have them do one track or a slew of tracks over a couple months?
KJ: Each artist that I bring on is like a single, but with Architekt he has a VIP as well too. It’s a dubstep 140bpm great aggressive track but he also has that 128 smash you over the head 4/4 VIP coming too which is so great. He has his own brand and identity so it was really easy to just push him out. Other people need some sort of help building up their whole identity before being pushed out.
Unsung Heroes Tour
OTB: What was the thought behind the Unsung Heroes Tour? Why did you want to do this tour with Ill.Gates? Why a video midi battle?
KJ: Gates and I have so many commonalities. We are both work behind the scenes, we both are Ableton masters. I did all the initial programming for the Destroid sets; all the back end and front end of the entire live show. Building all the instruments, building the audio, all of that. Ill.Gates has done the same thing with a variety of artists such as Bassnectar.
Ill.Gates is a really great man of words. He said to me one day “We’re like the unsung heroes.” We both thought that was a pretty catchy and perfect name for who we are and what we do; medium level artists that provide a basis for the huge acts. Pendulum, Destroid, Bassnectar, etc. So that was kind of the idea , we decided to just call the tour unsung heroes. And we are both super geeks when it comes to Ableton so it’s been a great start to great work and a great relationship. We also have this new track out premiering on the end slate of the tour video which is tense.
With this tour we are adding some humor to EDM. [The EDM scene] is super serious right? Artists are very serious about their music and identity, and we are too of course, but we wanted to lighten it up a little bit and add some humor in there and say “Hey we are just humans beings being crazy and making great music, but also just being crazy people having fun.”
OTB: The tour is billed as 001. Are you planning additional tours following this one?
KJ: Yeah, it’s like a never ending thing we are starting. We are starting something with no ending date and 001 is the birth of it. All of July is jam packed with a solid tour 3 days a week. That’s a solid tour. The video is based off of a UFC trailer, that’s the whole premise of it. I already belong to a boxing gym and I have a trainer there that we could use. We thought “This is so perfect!” We wanted to get Joe Roggin, but we didn’t quite get him, so we substituted him and really aimed for that UFC feel. Those hype videos are like “Oh my god! This guy comes from nothing and is now fighting for the whole world” and we were like “Lets do that!” We want people to get excited for this fight.
OTB: With having a solo act, touring with Ill.Gates, Destroid, and other endeavors how are you trying to balance all of your various acts and productions? Destroid is not a year round tour and neither will Unsung Heroes be, so what are you planning in the downtime?
KJ: First and foremost it is my solo act, KJ Sawka, which has always been second and on the backburner until this year. I was like “You know, that is my bread and butter. That is who I am. I need make KJ Sawka the best it can possibly be.” I need to be consistent with it, and that is one reason why I started Impossible Records. With Unsung Heroes and Ill.Gates, we get to use our own names, and we kind of get to with Destroid, but with Pendulum and Destroid I put so much of my energy into it that my main brand, KJ Sawka, suffered a little bit with lack of gigs and lack of material. So that’s my main focus, my record label and KJ Sawka and definitely second is Destroid and Unsung Heroes.
OTB: Now moving to Destroid. You played a couple new Destroid tracks at your Paradiso Festival set which I was not expecting. What’s coming from that? This was the first I have heard of new music in the works. I knew it was potentially in the works, but these tracks sounded mostly finished, so is there a new album coming out soon? What can you say into that? I know you might not be able to say much.
KJ: You know, I can actually say a lot. We are behind schedule, let’s be honest. I think all three of us can admit that. It’s not easy especially trying to follow up on that first album. That album took years to make and that album was mostly done before I cam on board. So now with these new songs it’s stemmed from me and my drumming. I am kind of waiting for Sean and Jeff to add their essence to each track. The tracks are so close to completion but it needs that little shift to push it to 100% Destroid. Right now its like “Kj Sawka makes a Destroid track” but it needs to be 100% Destroid. So that’s what we are doing and striving for. We even had an offer to play here at Paradiso and were trying to play here, but we needed a track to come out and we just didn’t have it done. The tracks are first and foremost. Our goal is to push out a track or two and then do a fall tour, and that’s still really challenging right now so we are trying really hard to do that. But, you know, if we have to skip the fall and skip certain festivals, it’s going to be amazing. I just have to tell it like it is. It’s going to be epic and it’s going to be worth the wait, that’s for sure.
OTB: Destroid is known for their over the top live performances and the big spectacle of seeing you three in full body LED battle suits wielding insane MIDI controllers to the tune of some of the heaviest dubstep around. Are there any plans to change that format for the coming tours?
KJ: The first year we gave it our all. We poured all of our energy into that first San Francisco show. That was what I called “The Castle Greyskull” He-Man set up with the rocks façade in front of each of our set ups. Then we switched it to LED walls for our tour and adapted it for the Safe In Sound tour. So far it’s basically 1.0 and still is 1.0; us in our outfits, smoke, lasers, LED walls. It’s still 1.0, but maybe next year we will see a 2.0. It takes a lot of effort to just do 1.0, but we are definitely excited for the possibilities with 2.0.
OTB: So Pendulum. I know you had said to me in the past that there might be some work on tracks being done but then Rob Swire has come out and said he might not want to do another album or more Pendulum. Where all is that kind of standing?
KJ: I mean, your guess is as good as mine. <laughs> Im obviously in the band, and we talk, email back and forth. Rob is going to be here tonight so we are going to talk, but for Rob, Knife Party is his jam right now. It’s going really well for him, and it is not easy to do one project, let alone two projects of that caliber. Especially with Pendulum because there are so many facets. There are all these players on stage, all these techs. We have three semi’s that roll with us. It’s not easy. When Knife Party tours they can just fly to the gig, have one tour manager, roll up with USB sticks, boom done. Pendulum is a whole other beast. It is a big beast. And if Rob is super stoked for it, which I know he is; he wants to sing, he wants to play keys, of course. He loves it but it’s a lot of work. When he first created Pendulum, it took him over a year of work to design the entire live thing and what exactly it was going to do. I hope that we will be able to do it again in the future but there’s no date for it now. But we would all love it!
I played one Pendulum track at the very end of my set and kept that encore going for a long time with it. I was like I have one minute left, fuck it. And then to everyone around and the crowd I was like “Do you know Pendulum!” and people seemed a bit confused and not sure. So that’s the thing too, not a lot of the younger generation of EDM even knows who Pendulum is, so it would take an insane reboot in order to come out and smash it again. And of course, there’s no way Rob Swire is going to do small or medium. He’s going to do huge! There’s one way that Rob Swire does something; massive. That’s what I love about the guy. He just crushes it. The first Knife Party track he came out with I was like “Are you kidding me?!” It was amazing, and we were still touring as Pendulum when he made that.
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