A curious, grumpy meeting with a duo responsible for the new sound of dubstep.


Photography by Edward Philips

A curious, grumpy meeting with a duo responsible for the new sound of dubstep

“It’s finished, I was up all night and I haven’t even been to bed yet,” says Kai Campos, one half of Mount Kimbie, in the oppressive basement that broods beneath the Big Chill bar. Of course he’s talking about the dubsteppers debut album, a highly anticipated collection of songs set to tear apart the step movement and open up new sonic realms in the process. Judging by his malevolent mood, though, you’d have thought he’d been up all night sucking oval shaped food products. “We are totally knackered as well, I had an argument with a cabbie just now and I feel like punching somebody,” continues Kai who seems to have adopted Burial’s anti-interview perspective.

His disposition really should be better. In the few short years that Kai and Dominic Maker have been together they’ve set alight dubstep, pushing and pointing in new directions, all the while just doing what comes naturally. “When we first started we were trying to make bangers,” explains Kai. “That didn’t happen though so we sort of progressed from there.”

“We couldn’t do that so we just do what we do, it’s our personal response,” continues Dom, the quieter of the pair. Both friends met at university on the Southbank. “Yeah, we were on the same course but we met in halls,” Dom starts.

“It’s not very interesting,” adds Kai. It’s tempting to vocally agree, but for fear of a slap in the chops.

The friendship paid dividends though, and soon the two were ripping out tracks that were quite groundbreaking, their educated ears bending and twisting existing dubstep to form a new foundation. It was Hotflush records who first picked up on the early material, back when Mount Kimbie was just Dom playing about at home. “I put something on a dubstep forum about six months before I met Kai and Paul Rose (Hotflush founder) was the only person to get back to me and he asked if I had anything else like this. I said no at the time but when Kai and I clicked we started making music and Paul was our first port of call.”

The speed at which they’ve blown up typifies the industry’s current shape – Pitchfork approved and a few shared bill’s with Joy Orbison, including the Transmediale festival in Berlin, has seen attention turn towards MK, but they seem more concerned about returning to Europe. “We were in Berlin for 5 days but it just wasn’t enough,” says Kai. “I never got my bearings so we are heading back in July.”

Their first EP, ‘Maybes’, struck a chord in all circles, its lo-fi sensibilities clashing with the unique experimental rhythms of hip-hop and dubstep. Bringing the bpm right down, introducing stuttering starts and ambient washes hardly constitutes genre stereotypes but they’re refreshing to hear. The duo are prone to recording in interesting ways, although not prone to talking about it with smiles on their faces. “We don’t do it that often but we record a lot of natural sounds,” says Kai. “On our EP there is a track called ‘William’ where we went out on the Southbank and recorded percussion elements, say a skateboard or a bike going by,” he says, somewhat reluctantly.

How does the process translate on to stage, because you can’t bring your board or bike in. “Well I was thinking it would be nice to get the bike up on stage, in terms of lugging the kit around though it just isn’t happening, it’s enough of a pain in the arse as it is!”

It’d liven them up though, perhaps, the joys of touring not particularly immediate for Dom and Kai.

“It’s a lot different recording and playing at home than it is live, but the two end up merging alright. When you practise tracks different ways of recording emerge. We are used to Dom’s garage now and the new live set has happened as we have been writing the album so we’ve spent an awful lot of time together.”

Maybe that’s why Mount Kimbie aren’t jumping for joy having completed the record – they seem to be sitting poles apart and never bounce off each other. With one based in Brighton and the other London, Dom and Kai are used to this way of living, intense one minute, distant the next. “Yeah there isn’t really a pattern to how we work,” says Kai “we are both up and down to Brighton a lot and constantly on the move. We do our own thing, have initial ideas then we’ll send stuff to each other and personally have a look at what we’ve done before sending it back.” Displaced, remote and morose are terms that could easily apply to Mount Kimbie’s music. After today’s meeting they’d suit the men too.

By Ian Roebuck


Originally published in issue 17 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. May 2010

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »