“Driving past a music instrument shop in my granddad’s car. Friday evenings at my grandparents with chip-shop food and toys to hand, watching Top Of The Pops…the two-tier Yamaha Electone organ at their house. The first toy keyboard my grandmother gave me for my 7th birthday and my radio and tape recorder with built-in microphone, which my parents gave me for my 10th birthday. Probably hearing Rick James’ writing/production on the Mary Jane Girls album whilst in primary school.”
A brief, nostalgic jaunt through a musical adolescence that probably feels quite familiar to many. Growing up in South London holds a special kind of cache´ at the moment, what with its proclivity for breeding forward-thinking electronic producers – however it was the precious humdrum of home that inspired Kwes’ approach to his craft. “As a kid, I watched television, I listened to the radio a lot, read magazines, listened to loads of vinyl, CDs, tapes, and I was a teenager when the internet became faster and online music outlets became more widespread. In short, I didn’t get out much.”
All that studious pop-culture intake wouldn’t take long to manifest itself as Kwes quickly excelled as a masterful musical multitasker, honing his approach to producing, songwriting, DJing and playing a handful of instruments. Soon came a precocious debut single for XL, “Hearts In Home/Tissues” was a startling combination of Kwes’ lilting melancholic vocals and unassumingly virtuosic leftfield production. Surveying the current musical landscape shows just how far ahead of its time the single would be. Next came Kwes’ production and remix work for a host of peers: Micachu, The xx, Elan Tamara, Hot Chip, Damon Albarn’s Monkey Opera and The Invisible to name but a few. Says Kwes on his production endeavors, “producing for another is essentially interpreting for a wider audience to grasp and experience. I suppose I do the same thing for myself. Another constant is putting my all and passion into anything I work on.”
All these studio hours plus time spent on the road playing live with Ebony Bones, Jack Penate and Leftfield meant that it would take some time for the next solo release from Kwes, but it was well worth the wait. Last year’s No Need To Run EP on Young Turks was an instrumental mini-epic drawing on moody ambient pop and hyper-melodic beat compositions and while showing yet another side to the young producer, shined the spotlight ever closer to Kwes’ own creations. “I feel my music fits around many heads of many sizes and mental dispositions. I make my own music for myself first and then of course for anyone who wants to listen to it.”
On the heels of the EP came a pair of exciting production projects with two of the most exciting young voices in UK hip-hop. Along with Joe Goddard of Hot Chip and Micachu, Kwes produced the lion’s share of breakout MC DELS’ full-length debut, a feat followed by producing Speech Debelle’s follow-up to the Mercury Prize winning Speech Therapy. Now, with his debut Warp release in the works, in addition to the genre-spanning second volume of he and Micachu’s “Kwesachu“ mixtape series and ever more production sessions, Kwes has another busy year lined up – albeit one that should see that spotlight squarely upon him.