Kid Simius stands out in the current electronic dance music landscape. Performing live in the type of context others would DJ and channelling a flair for the balearic through the stark minimalist textures of Berlin Kid Simius is an anomaly on an international scene.
Kid Simius is José Antonio Garcia Soler. Born in Granada, Spain and residing in Berlin, Germany, he operates in the no-man’s-land between those very distinct worlds with music that travels from DJ Alfredo to Modelsektor on its own unique path. He’s been releasing records since 2012, mostly on his own Jirafa Records, but he’s been playing live longer still.
Although his chosen moniker might allude to something primal, it’s only in the way it works alongside the cerebral. Known as something of a synth wizard in music industry circles, he’s performed on- and contributed to chart-topping success stories, and when he’s not behind a set of keys, he’s behind a set of decks. As Kid Simius he programmes “unorthodox beats” between a fusion of electronic and organic sounds that move from the dance floor to a spotify playlist.
Stretching across his output, are individual pieces which can go from the dub-step infused noise of a track like “King of Rock n Roll” to a bubbling, cut-n-paste House EP like Chicken Mango. Likewise his albums have gone from the digital surfer-rock of his first LP Wet Sounds to the galaxian Disco of his second LP Planet Of The Simius, all offering a different perspective from his vast musical lexicon. There is no musical genre or style that uniquely defines him and yet the fluid movement between his records are expertely honed into a distinct voice that emerges through his live performances.
From festival stages to cosy clubs, and even a toilet, Kid Simius’ live shows pack a punch, utilising a formidable array of synthesisers, drum machines and computers to deliver striking shows, both sonically and visually.
As a resident of Berlin’s famous Watergate club and he has been installed in one of the elite clubbing institutions in the world, and as he and they make their way to Jaeger next week for the official Watergate 20 celebrations, we caught with José to find out more about his music and his live show.
He talks about the year he spent in Oslo, his life at Watergate, his music, his live show and how he came to be where he is today in this extensive Q&A session.
Hello José. I think the burning question is; What is your relationship with Watergate and what significance is there to 20 years of the club for you personally?
My relationship with Watergate started in 2005 when I saw a documentary about the Berlin scene called Berlin Digital in which the club was featured.
Then the first time I went to Berlin my German friends took me there and I had an amazing time. It was amazing to be 19 years old and after watching so many documentaries about electronic music in Berlin, listening to the label’s releases and suddenly being there and being able to experience it in first person was great.
Watergate is an incredible label, their compilations are legendary, the DJs, the club everything, and to be able to stay at that level for so many years shows what a great job these people do.
I joined Watergate when my agent Max joined the agency. From the first moment they have made me feel at home and are giving me a lot of support, they accept me as an artist just as I am and that shows that not only professionally but in the human aspect they are excellent people.
It’s certainly one of those iconic venues today. What in your opinion makes it so special?
The two dance floors are amazing, the big one with the LEDs and the small one with the river views, it is a super nice place and incomparable with other clubs. Then the bookings they do in the club are very diverse, so I always find DJs that I like that I want to see, they are very focused on having a good balance between known people and being open for new talents.
You’re no stranger to Oslo either, I believe. Tell us a bit more about that?
I lived in Oslo one year from 2007-2008 when I was studying psychology and I used to hand out Flyers and stick posters in the street for The Villa in exchange for a Guest List.
At the end of the year they let me perform in the small room, I still have photos of it, I enjoyed it so much. It was an amazing time and I got to see a lot of Great DJs at The Villa.
I remembered I contacted them via my space and sent a couple of sets and demos of my tracks. They replied that they had a dj from Barcelona playing next weekend and that he didn’t speak English very well and that if I wanted to have dinner with him before the show and take care of him a little bit during the night. So I started, I just wanted to be there and help out.
Do any of those great DJs stick out in your mind now?
Yes of course, I saw Modeselektor, Diplo, DJ Koze local heroes like Ost & Kjex
So it be safe to say you have something of a home advantage when playing here. Do you think it will influence the way your live set will go?
Well it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Oslo so many people I had contact with no longer live there. I don’t know how it will influence my show to be honest, what I do know is that it will be a super special show for me and I will be super nervous and excited because Oslo and The Villa were extremely important in my development as an artist. The year I lived there was a super inspiring and very influential year for my future.
My neighbour at that time was from Berlin, we became friends and later through him I moved to Berlin. In Berlin he took care of me a lot and today he is not only one of my best friends but also my manager.We are super proud of the amazing things we have experienced in the last years and it all started in Oslo, in a place called Kringsjå.
You grew up in Granada, Spain. Can you tell us a bit about the area and the musical sounds of the region?
Granada is immense. It’s crazy for the things that have happened there. Many cultures have lived together for many thousands of years and that is what makes it a super attractive city.
That’s why artists like Leonard Cohen, Joe Strummer, Lou Reed or Patti Smith were fascinated by the city and its culture.
Musically, although it has often lacked a lot of support from public organisations with respect to clubs, studios, rehearsal spaces or festivals, the amount of musicians and artists that coexist in it make it super special. There are always new bands, new artists, new collectives, new djs, it is a very young city. Musically it’s very eclectic, something between flamenco, indie rock, techno and break beat…hahahah
At what point did electronic music enter your life, and what were the bands/producers/DJs/genres that informed your earliest listening adventures through electronic music?
For me there were several key moments, to name one was my visit to the FIB in 2005, I think I was 17 years old and coming from a small town where not many bands came to play suddenly going to a festival like this marked me completely.
I always bought on cd, the compilations of that festival, when I got to the festival I told my friends, someday I will play here, my friends laughed but 10 years later I got it. Sometimes when they ask me about my musical influences I say, the line up of FIB 2005 is my musical influence.
To name some of the artists that played at that festival: Pan Sonic, Mouse on Mars, LCD Soundsystem, Ladytron, Underworld, Basement Jaxx, Milo Nick Cave, Oasis, Andrew Weatherall, Four Tet ….
How has Berlin informed you as an artist?
Berlin is a crazy city, things are happening all the time, the amount of new artists, new clubs etc. is incomparable with other cities, the freedom that exists is beastly and obviously to make electronic music there is no better city, also compared to other European capitals it is still not so expensive and that makes it a very comfortable place for artists.
The only bad thing for me coming from the south is the winter and that it gets dark very early but well you know that here in Oslo.
What significance does the name Kid Simius have?
The name came to me in less than a minute and I never thought it was going to be something serious. At the time of myspace me and my friends made an account as a collective and when we had to put the artistic names of each one, I was the youngest of all of us by far, so I was the kid and I have a lot of hair on my body and didn’t like the word “monkey” so I chose “simius” which is “monkey” in latin… and all of that in less than 30 seconds. That’s about it.
Back in 2012, you were involved in a song with some commercial success called Lila Wolken. What effect did that moment have on you as Kid Simius if any?
It’s complicated to measure the impact it had for the kid simius project since I wasn’t the main artist and only the composer, I guess the people in the scene and the industry knew who was involved in the song, but that’s all, I just kept my way.
It was, anyway a very nice experience in somehow, I was very young and I don’t know, suddenly you make a beat, you send it to some friends, they write a song, it comes out and suddenly it’s number one in the single charts, double platinum, you hear it on TV, on the radio, everywhere…and you think wtf
It’s very different from anything you make today. When you reflect on it, how does it fit into the Kid Simius universe?
Well, to be honest, I’ve tried to do what I like at all times, I’m super eclectic and I don’t like to pigeonhole myself with anything. I always like to have fun in the studio and have a good time.
Sometimes I see my tracks as if they were photos of a certain moment in my life and they remind me of that time. Once I read something like “ if Yamaha can make pianos and motorbikes at the same time , I can make jazz, techno and grime, don’t label the music, let the music just be music”.
Would it be safe to assume that there was a shift in your approach/sound around your solo record, your LP “Planet of Simius,” and what inspired this new direction/evolution?
Yes well, I am constantly inspired by many things, especially moments, the beginnings of disco music, then house and techno are very beautiful moments in our recent history that have inspired me a lot.
Everyone no matter what colour they are, no matter what social status they have and no matter what clothes they have, all together on the same level dancing around the DJ.
The figure of the DJ surprising with new styles of music, mixing new things, Larry Levan Paradise Garage etc. etc. that inspired me a lot in that LP.
Also the idea of mixing different styles of music together was very attractive for me.
There’s been more of a balearic nature to your music since. Perhaps that’s just me inferring, although I did read an interview where you mentioned DJ Alfredo. How has that sound influenced your records and your live show?
Well , DJ Alfredo represents the romantic way of electronic music, eclecticism, all together we are one ,freedom & hedonism. He didn’t produce so much music but his legacy as a dj is crazy.He inspired so many people, he is The Velvet Underground of the djs. I had the opportunity to interview him on my radio show and he is one of a kind.
O really, we have to hear it. And about the live show… What is it about playing live that particularly appeals to you, and why have you chosen to present your music in that way?
It’s like a way I have to express myself, sometimes as a teenager or young adult you don’t think why you make things, you just do it and you do it because you need to do it, because you need to express yourself and I guess for me to play live is one of the best ways I have to express myself since I am a young adult.
Is it about recreating the sounds of records like Chicken Mango?
Does playing the music live factor into your creative process when you sit down to start recording and/or music?
Sometimes yes sometimes not, I try not to be functional when I am making music and not think if im playing live I should do like this or that. But sometimes it influences me. The beauty for me of making music is that every time is different, sometimes starting with the guitar, or with the keys, other times it is programming a beat, other times is sampling something…
Most of your releases come through your own label, Jirafa Records. How do you compartmentalise the aspects of running the label from the creative pursuits of making music?
Here I have to say that we practically don’t release other artists on the label, it’s almost only to get my own music out and we only work when there is a release, the rest of the time it’s on stand by.
On the other hand I have my friend and manager Chris, who I met in Oslo who takes care of the communication with the distributor, pitching for Spotify etc. I am not doing it alone. What was a bit more work was to set up everything , like publishing code for the label , Bandcamp account, Soundcloud, insta, Facebook etc but once you are set up it’s ok.
We also use the label as a platform for other artist to release their dj mixes // podcast …basically I upload the mixes to our platform and then play the mixes on my radio show I have monthly on the German fm radio where I had artists like Octo Octa, DJ Tennis, Ellen Allien, Cinthie or Sofia Kourtesis.
Then again there must be a sense of creative freedom that you don’t get from releasing on other labels?
Well, at the beginning to be honest it was because it was difficult for me to find a label to release my music, I don’t do music on demand, first the music. The thing is when you release on another label , you send some tracks you have done, they pick the tracks they like and that’s the release.
When you have your own label you have to make this decision, too. You have to select your tracks ,on one hand its freedom because you choose what you release, but on the other hand sometimes it gets tough to decide things on your own the whole time.
I’ve noticed there are a few things happening on the record front for you this year, and you’re playing live often. It seems it’s a busy period for you. What’s been the inspiration behind it and what has it again inspired?
I just love to do different things the whole time and stay busy. The live set is for me a kind of a challenge of how I should play electronic music live. There are no rules on how you should play electronic music live, that’s why the amount of possibilities or stuff to do is unlimited.
Is there anything you’re super excited about coming up in the near future?
Yes, I´m super excited about my show at Jaeger !!!! I got a release coming out on the “20 years Watergate” compilation and now I’m working on a EP with Rhode & Brown coming out next year probably.
Yes, 30% of my live set is unreleased stuff coming soon.