Allan Kingdom: I stuck to what I like instead of what everyone else was doing
Photo by Jason Swenson
Allan Kingdom doesn't quit. Less than a week after dropping his first full-length album, Future Memoirs (produced primarily by Kingdom, with help from Jonathan Kaslow and Plain Pat of Kid Cudi fame), he was on his way to Canada to record with the Standard, his supergroup with St. Paul's Psymun, Spooky Black, and Bobby Raps. Kingdom's sound comes as a breath of fresh air in a local scene dominated by Rhymesayers Entertainment, due in part to his transient upbringing and the resulting familiarity with a variety of people, places, and ideas, as well as a refusal to let his music stagnate.
If you've followed Kingdom over the past few years, this compulsive drive to create should come as no surprise. The 20-year-old Winnipeg native was producing at the age of 12, releasing music videos with local legend Ben Hughes at 16, and sealing a management deal with Plain Pat at 17. On July 26, he'll perform along with Polica, Sylvan Esso, and a cast of other talented musicians at the second annual 10 Thousand Sounds Festival in downtown Minneapolis.
Gimme Noise touched base with Kingdom to chat about Future Memoirs, his working relationship with Plain Pat, and the meaning of "colorful" sounds.
I'm recording right now.
What are you working on? I'm working on just some stuff for myself and some stuff with the Standard [Allan's group with Spooky Black, Bobby Raps, and Psymun]. We're all just working on music and we're going to decide what it is later. We're just creating. How are you generating so much music so quickly?
I just wake up and do it. I make music every day. It's just what I do. It's like eating. It's not like something where it's like, "Oh, I gotta plan this studio session here and I'm only gonna write from four to six," it's like I wake up and that's what I do and that's what I've always done. Where are you getting this inspiration from? I don't know, just the better I get at music, the more it makes me want to do more. It's like, cool, how much better can I get? That's mainly what it is. I don't know how to explain it, it's like second nature.
So while you're spending most of your time making music, you're still having life experiences that lend themselves to writing lyrics?
Definitely. I just try to go about life and seek the social rewards that come with making music and meeting new people. Day-to-day things are where I get my inspiration from, like making new relationships and conversations. I find that the better you get, the more it comes from what you do and the thoughts you have and you automatically can go into a room with new people, meet new people, and speak to them. You can go into a show and have a concept for a song by the end of it because you're thinking about your craft simultaneously, as you're going through life, and then you just start to relate things to songs and everything becomes one in a sense.
You've been traveling a lot over the past two years and grew up moving around. Is it still a challenge for you? Do you get homesick, or is it natural at this point?
I would definitely say it's like second nature. At first, it sucked because I couldn't stick with the same friends since I was moving around so much, but now it's like I don't feel comfortable when I'm in one spot. If I am in one spot for too long, I start to get jittery. I need to move and see new people. It kind of works the opposite for me. Obviously, there's cons too, but it's just something I'm accustomed to now. You've been getting a lot of attention for your new release, Future Memoirs. Were you expecting this reaction? I have to say, I always hope for the best in what I create and I was hoping that if people were paying attention to something because it's good, that it would get a good response. So yeah, I kind of was. I've progressed a lot since last year and it was really annoying having to hold this music, because the me that people were getting or that they were accustomed to was the old me. I've been through new things and met new people and gone through certain emotions and feelings that I hadn't gone through before. Making so much music, the thing that sucked about it was having to hold it and not being able to share it, so at least when I was able to share it, it was like finally people can see how I've progressed as a person and as an artist. How long had you been working on it? I made the bulk of it in L.A. It took about a week and some change to record, like a week and four days to make and produce. I made it with Plain Pat and Jonathan Kaslow, who are the other executive producers of the project. The songs really didn't take long to finish. We had more, but we were deciding which ones were gonna go on it and mixing it. That's what took the longest -- mixing the songs and figuring out which ones are gonna make it on the project and which ones aren't. I was making new music when I got back from L.A, so then some of those songs were better. So yeah, that's mainly why it took that long, but the creating of the music was really natural.
Can you tell me about Plain Pat's role in Future Memoirs?
Pat's role in Future Memoirs was basically taking my sound and making it into something bigger, which is something I always wanna do. I'm so free-form when I create sometimes, my whole process with him in California helped me formulate songs in ways that more people could understand. It was just certain principles and things that I had learned working with him that make my songs hit harder both sonically and emotionally. It was more of an observing process, of me just watching how he works creatively and seeing what he's done for these people that I look up to. That's the main way I learn -- I watch and then I learn. Just watching him work and seeing the formula he's used that's worked for him and the people he's worked with helped me to do the same thing.
You've worked with the enigmatic Spooky Black a bit. When did you two start collaborating?
We've known each other for a while now. I just met him at the studio one day and we've been cool ever since. All of the guys that I'm working with right now from St. Paul -- like Spooky, Bobby Raps, Psymun -- there's just a very high level of creative energy when we're all together or in different pairs, like whether I'm in the studio with Bobby or Psymun, or especially Spooky. The first time we met up and created together, [there] was just crazy energy, so we all just decided it would be a good thing. All of us together and in our different pairing have extremely high vibrations. Something good always comes out.You have a very distinctive sound in the midst of what sometimes feels like a homogenous hip-hop community. How have you stuck to your wits and your own, personal sound?
A lot of times, in some regions, if somebody creates a sound, other people are able to relate to it and that's what they naturally take to it. It wasn't like I had to struggle to stay out of any trap, there was just some music that didn't directly relate to me as much as it related to other people. That's mainly it. I just drew influence from what I feel like relates to me the most and what speaks to me. Even though it might speak very strongly to the hearts of other people, I just stuck to what I like instead of what everyone else was doing.What is it that you like?
I like things that aren't too thought out. I like really free-form music. The artists that I like, they always continue to evolve -- it's not like they were hot for a little bit. I like being surprised constantly by musicians that I regularly listen to. Sometimes I listen to music in textures and colors and sometimes it's really colorful. I like really colorful music. That's literally the easiest way I can describe it.Can you give me an example of music you consider colorful?
I'm listening to a lot of Future right now. Obviously, I was listening to a lot of Kanye [West] for a while and Andre , always. I'm just listening to whatever makes me feel good -- it's the energy the music gives me more than anything, you know? There's obviously certain characteristics and technical things that I like about music, like certain tones and frequencies that I like to hear, but I don't know... just really free music. No boundaries. I like knowing that the artist is never gonna hold back because of boundaries that are put upon them. What do you have going on for the rest of the summer?
There's a show I'm playing at First Ave on August 1. I'll definitely have more content out -- there will be a video soon.Are you working mostly with Ben Hughes on your videos lately?
Yeah, actually I started working with him when I was 16 for my first videos. We've both been making stuff for a long time. He started making videos at like 14/15, in the same way that I've been producing since I was 12. We met each other when we were 16 and did a bunch of videos that aren't on the internet anymore, just because that was before my name was even Allan Kingdom. What was your name then?
Allan K. It was just Allan K. So we did some videos and he went off and did his thing and we kind of like went our separate ways. He worked with Chief Keef, etc. and we connected back up and it's worked. It's like we started with each other and then for a couple years split apart and did our own things -- that's when I started editing my own videos mainly, and I wanted to get my own creative sight on video making and visuals -- and then we got back together and put all of our knowledge together to create these.
Set Times: 4:10 p.m. Tree Blood 4:55 p.m. Frankie Teardrop 5:40 p.m. Carroll 6:30 p.m. Allan Kingdom 7:20 p.m. Sylvan Esso 8:35 p.m. Poliça
Allan Kingdom. With Polica, Sylvan Esso, Frankie Teardrop, Carroll, and Tree Blood. The 2014 10 Thousand Sounds Festival, presented by Coldwell Banker Burnet, will be held between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, at the parking lot on Hawthorne Avenue between North 10th and 11th Streets in downtown Minneapolis.
Tickets are $25 (general admission) / $45 (VIP). Available here. Note, VIP tickets will not be sold at the door, and GA tickets will be $30 at the door.
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