Interview: Keep Up-Tempo With London’s Rising DJ S.K.T
A producer, DJ and label manager, DJ S.K.T is a fast-rising name in the UK’s underground music circuit. Eclectic in his delivering of soulful house, garage and experimental bass, it is his deep house cuts that are earning him notoriety, most notably his unofficial remix of Miguel’s ‘Adorn’ that has been co-signed by all the major tastemakers. The young Londoner also manages the careers of other music-makers through his Up-Tempo Records label, which has released Adam Cotier’s “My Life,” J-Sol’s “Treat Her Like A Lady,” and DDark’s “1 Life,” among others – to a considerable degree of success. Having tracks signed by major labels in the past, S.K.T is now gearing up for the release of his new EP on the renowned Audio Rehab label…
Stream and download DJ S.K.T’s exclusive minimix below
VIBE: What does S.K.T stand for, and how did you first get into DJing and producing?
DJ S.K.T: S.K.T are actually just my initials. I first got into DJing at the age of 12 when my parents gave me £300 to decorate my bedroom. Instead, I went out and purchased a second hand pair of Sound Lab belt drive decks. My room still hasn’t been re-decorated.
At what point did you realize you could make a career out of music?
When I was 15, I entered the Technics DMC under 18s DJ competition, initially just for fun. I ended up getting into the finals and came fourth in the country. I also entered the BBC Radio 1 DJ competition and came sixth. Both of these competitions gave me great experience in playing in front of thousands of people and that’s when I realized I wanted to pursue this as a career.
Your track “Everything You Do,” featuring Gudrun Eden, was released by AATW/Universal in 2009. How did that signing come to be?
I had been producing since the age of 13, released my first record at the age of 16, and was quickly picked up by one of the biggest distributors at the time — who was able to push my records out all over the UK. I started to gain a lot of radio play, which brought me to the attention of the major record labels and they began to keep in touch with me, offering me remix work and wanting to listen to my latest productions. I sent “Everything You Do” over to Universal and literally within an hour, they came back to me asking to sign it.
You’ve done a number of remixes for major labels, but is there a remix that you’re the most proud of?
As a producer, I love to push myself to be as creative as possible in recording techniques, the use of sound, and to be able to fuse as many different musical influences and genres to create unique compositions. Personally, “Streets Paved With Gold,” featuring Shaun Escoffery, is one of my favorite remixes. The track featured a 12-piece string section from the Philharmonic Orchestra, a cello solo, plus acoustic guitar parts – all of which I re-arranged and sampled within my remix.
Your remix of Miguel’s “Adorn” has become especially successful. How has the positive reaction from radio been for you and how much of a seal of approval for the track was learning that Miguel himself was a fan of it?
Yeah, man, the response to the Miguel mix was absolutely crazy and I was shocked at the number of high-profile DJs playing it. I had a DIY acapella that I made myself and then chopped up some of my favorite lines from the song, laid down a bassline, beat, and some chords, and it all went from there. The remix also managed to cross the pond, through social media, over to Canada and the States – where big club DJs were going mad for it in New York, Detroit, and Miami. Miguel was at an after-party when the DJ on the night dropped the remix. Apparently, Miguel went nuts when he heard it, ran up to him to ask who made it and said it was ‘f**king dope’! That was a really good feeling to know he was really positive about it, as I’m a huge fan of his. There is also talk of possibly further official remix work with him too, but I can’t say too much at the moment.
You specialize in all forms of dance music. How would you describe your sound, and do you have a preference for one, in particular?
I don’t really like pigeon-holing my music, in terms of genre. Nowadays, there are so many sub-genres, it’s ridiculous to box yourself in. I just try to keep my sound unique! I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I have complete creative control over my music and sound, and don’t have to have releases “approved” by label managers who want things changed.
You also run your own label, Up-Tempo Records. How long has it been going for, and what does it represent?
In 2009, I decided that I needed to start my own record label in order to have my back catalogue releases available for download and forthcoming material available to buy on iTunes, Beatport, Amazon, etc. I managed to secure a really good distribution deal with one of the top dance distributors, and our content is now delivered to over fifty online stores, including Tesco/Walmart, HMV, Virgin, Spotify, Shazam, and Asda. The label was originally started as a platform for me to put out my own music but, after a while, other producers started approaching me with their own singles – which I happily put out for them. Skip forward a few years and we now have signed material from household-name artists, who are achieving numerous plays on national radio, music videos on MTV, chart positions on Music Week, and many other accomplishments. We’ve since been in talks with majors about doing some joint venture projects and releases within the next year.
Everything’s going well for you right now, but what are your goals for the future?
I have a quite highly-anticipated EP being released at the end of this month called Signature Sounds, which is being released on Audio Rehab – big shout out to Mark Radford for signing that. It’s a fusion of my own unique, signature sound, influenced from a decade of house and garage. I’ve got loads of exciting stuff coming up, so keep up to date with me on Twitter and Facebook.