Enigmatic South African peeps out of the shadows with this debut interview and incredible A/V showcase
For an artist named K A G E, this South African talent sure knows no limitations…
Hailing from the same Cape Town beat scene as fellow bass luminaries Chee, Jon Casey and Zain Wolf, K A G E has been honing and refining his craft in the shadows for many years.
Emerging and burgeoning on labels such as local imprint Rubricate and German genre-melting station Saturate!, K A G E’s sound has gradually morphed, mutated and ultimately blossomed across the bass spectrum from halftime beats to D&B via house, dubstep and anything else he cares to apply his emotional, mysterious, hazy signature to.
Enigmatic, and happiest when the music and art is doing all the talking, K A G E has never done any interviews or spoken publicly about his craft, his vision or his destination. Until now…
S O S E I K I is K A G E’s most ambitious and detailed work of art so far. A 40 minute adventure through his own productions, this A/V showcase is a trip through his deepest psyche and inspirations.
The music, almost all of which is unreleased and exclusive to this mix, is wholly his own. It spans, stretches and flexes across his entire range from abstract bass designs to brutalist drum & bass, always rooted in an intoxicating blend of melancholy and hope.
Digging just as deep visually, the eye-melting animations were generated using freeware AI software. Painstakingly rendered between South Africa’s current spate of loadshedding power cuts, and brought together in a brilliantly unique and zero-budget DIY style, K A G E has harnessed some of the most forward-thinking tech in one of the most accessible and inspiring ways. In doing so, he’s created a never-ending, relentlessly mutating universe that’s instantly recognisable, loaded with myriad references, characters and symbols we can all relate to and ready for you to dive as deep as you possible into.
In short, it’s the most beautiful piece of art 1 More Thing has uploaded on the channel so far.
Japanese for genesis, S O S E I K I marks the beginning of a new era for K A G E. Still retaining a strong air of mystery (his name is inspired by the Japanese word for shadows) he’s now ready to reveal what is most important to him… His vision, his dreams, his destination.
Dive deep and glue this young talent to your radar.
We suspect the next dispatch will be even more ambitious, detailed, innovative and inspiring. If you’d like to support K A G E more then visit his Bandcamp for two of the tracks on this mix, sample packs and more. In the meantime, get to know in his exclusive first ever interview.
This mix! Sonically, visually, creatively… You’ve gone IN.
Thanks! Using just my own music in a mix has always seemed really special to me. Not just music I’ve released, but making bespoke things just for the mix. It’s been cool to have all these elements that I can then use like Lego blocks and just build.
I love that. Tell me about the concept of Soseiki…
I’m still thinking about how I look at different meanings of different things and I have so many different ideas. One specific idea is my name: Kage in Japanese means shadow. In my mind I had this thought… When we dream, you might remember elements of it, but do you remember if there are shadows? They’re not important, your brain doesn’t include them. But they’re here in the real world. I find that fascinating.
So we have the shadow element but also the idea that cages can hold something, sometimes it’s hidden. Like the idea of the unknown. I’m playing with a concept. And of course for it to tie in with the visual side. There are a lot of eyes in there. I find eyes crazy – you can see into a soul but eyes help you see. I could go on forever about eyes but the simple thought of it containing everything one has done and seen from the beginning [birth] until the final sleep [death] is quite crazy to me.
In saying that, the idea of new beginnings kind of speaks to what I’ve tried to achieve in terms of this specific mix. As a musician I have this main goal of trying to achieve “my sound’ as one would put it and often this is a real wall for my process in finishing tunes, but recently I’ve found a new means of producing and that is simply exploration, trying new things, like singing for example. This idea feeds into the name of the mix being SOSEIKI which translates to genesis from Japanese.
Wow. My head’s exploded a bit there. So how about the visual side?
Comparatively I’ve only just got into the visual side. I’ve been inspired by a lot of AI videos. Like the video for Lorn’s ENTROPYYY, and Die Antwoord have done a cool AI video for the song Age Of Illusion, too. I started looking into it, doing a lot of research and after weeks of working things out I was able to create some amazing things. I don’t know how you feel about AI?
I’m generally excited by it and can see huge potential but I’m glad I’m not just a writer or I’d be a bit concerned about certain aspects of my income. I don’t think we’ll see a Terminator situation… Yet.
Haha. I agree but I feel for visual artists. It’s scary how AI can take the liking of an artist and their style. That’s scary. Years and years of work and craft… Then a machine can do it in seconds.
Yeah. That stings. So what program did you use to create these AI visuals?
First I think it’s important to explain that it’s not a music video in the same spirit as those I’ve mentioned. For me this is more of a visualiser. Like a constant bit of spice to add on top of the music itself.
To create this I started by using Disco Diffusion that creates from text promps and feeds 1000s of images in sequence. It’s a free platform on Google Collab. Disco Diffusion Deforum. The only downfall is that it uses a cloud service for your machine because it requires so much computing power. I have a new Mac and still it can’t handle it so Google has a cloud service which powers it and the free service of that only offers a few hours at a time. It took 6 weeks to render 25 mins worth of footage.
Wow! What’s the next step?
So on Mac I took the visuals on Quicktime player and used the ‘sequence images’ function and it rendered as a video. Then once the mix was done, I put the video in Ableton, then exported it and run it through a program called Photomosh.
This is very DIY!
Yes. It’s very exciting. I’m always trying to look for different ways. So many people talk about having different plug-ins and ‘needing’ to have all this stuff but it all costs so much money! And when you listen to the very top artists, they talk about just using what they had access to at that point. I did my research and I figured a method out. It’s all open, freeware stuff and I would encourage anyone to explore these things that are out there. I found a unique process that didn’t cost me much at all.
Yes! No cookie-cutter formula. Some of the best stuff ever made is from making the most of resources.
I think so. No matter how challenging that can be. We experience load shedding here where they turn the power off for up to four hours at a time. It happens any time of day. So the render time takes two hours to do render a minute but if there’s a power outage during that then you’ve potentially lost that. So I’d have to sneak my laptop in at work and have it under my desk rendering while I work. These are things you sometimes have to do to get your product out.
Kid Drama said this in a recent interview on this site… Musicians will always find a way!
I agree. If you really want something, you have to sacrifice for it. Making music is a risk. Making what you love doesn’t necessarily mean you can do it for a living and make money from it. It’s a risk every day.
When did you realise it was a risk you were drawn to?
I had an interesting relationship with music. In South Africa we have a rich culture of music here. Especially electronic. But I was brought up in a very Christian, conservative background. I didn’t even know who Barry White was until four years ago. I grew up strictly to gospel.
But I had a good art teacher who used to give me trance music. One day I asked him to load a USB stick for me and on it was an artist called Arty. I looked him up and in an interview he explained about Fruity Loops and that was the moment I realised I could make music on a laptop. I downloaded a cracked version then the following year Skrillex toured here and I became obsessed. I saw on a video of his he was using Ableton so I switched to that and… well… the rest is history!
I could go on for days but people who inspired me and pushed me were Zain Wolf, Chee and Jon Casey.
All local crew
Oh for sure. They’re people who set the benchmark and inspired me so much. Especially Zain. Now I talk to him every day.
When did you first meet?
I had a beat battle with Chee back in the day. I obviously lost. It was at this really cool event called Button Bashers. You’d get a sample on the Monday and on the Friday everyone meets up and the beats are played to the crowd. That’s when I first met Chee and Zain and we’ve been friends since then.
It was about a year before he started touring the US. I thought my music was pretty good at the time but I heard those guys and was like, ‘Woah!’ and I stopped making music for two years and studied my craft. I went back to that sacrifice and just focused on my sound design. I listened to guys like Zain every day and studied hard.
I wanted to be consistent, you know? So if Noisia were to say, ‘Come to the studio!’ I wouldn’t freak out. Well I would freak out but I would be able to put something out that is of a standard. So that’s what I aimed for and following that process. And I did get support from Noisia, so I just stayed on it every single day tune after tune after tune and luckily things are picking up.
The first release you did as K A G E was on Rubricate. Dopplershift’s label. Another local story!
It’s a super cool story. To begin with I was scared to make D&B. It’s the pinnacle of producing. But yeah Keiran did these events and he had this compilation with a bunch of a local DJs on there. Stay-C was on there and she hit me up. She said, ‘Dude, continue what you’re doing!’ I’ve been hanging with Keiran a lot. We’ve got some projects in the works now. He’s the big guy for drum & bass in South Africa.
He’s flown the flag! You need to champion your own national sound!
It’s a bit of a sad thing also… You’re proud of where you’re from and you really want to push it, but here in South Africa the scene is there but it’s not so massive you couldn’t make a living from it. You need to go to UK or Europe or the States. It’s amazing what Keiran is doing. He does a lot of parties and is a huge part of the scene here. And it’s having an influence as more people are coming through.
And working with Saturate! you have more of a global perspective. How did that come about?
That label was a big goal for me. Zain did a lot of work with Tomppu and I was helping him a lot with various projects. We did a Splice sample pack for Saturate! and around the same time as that I also did a collab and a remix. Tomppu called me and said, ‘Dude, we need to work together, let me know what you need’. The kid in me was so happy. Over the moon. So that’s how it happened and there are many more releases in the pipeline.
I like the expect the unexpected vibe too – you’re not tied to a genre at all.
For sure. On the mix there’s some house, some halftime, some drum & bass. As a producer you can learn so much from so many different things. Look at Black Coffee, one of our biggest exports in dance music, and that’s really inspiring. I want to explore different spaces. It’s such a fun process to try new things. I’m not very good at it, but I’m experimenting with my own voice and singing now and that’s inspired by what Caracal Project is doing now or Porter Robinson and after what he did with his Spitfire EP that became his Worlds album.
Pharrell Williams said that ‘Music is a talent but it’s also gift. It’s like you have access to a library that not everyone can access. You have that card so use it. Don’t stop.’ Many times I question what I’m doing but not everyone can make something creatively and I remember it’s a precious gift to have.
I love that. This is a bit of a rare interview with you. Maybe even your first?
It is. I’m not very good with social media. I find it all intimidating. I don’t want limelight, I just want to create loads of music and put it out there in the world. I look at Lorn for an example. He has very little presence on social media but the music is so good that people are drawn to it.
Yeah! He’s shown it’s possible. Older artists who famously don’t use social media broke through before social media. But Lorn is a great contemporary example and an inspiring benchmark in general. He doesn’t follow rules. So that makes this interview pretty special, then!
Very special. I don’t want to be everywhere. I want to create a level of scarcity and for the music to draw people in. It doesn’t matter about me, who I am, what I believe in, it’s about the music.
Can’t respect that enough. What music comes next? Some of the music on the mix?
Yeah about 90% of the mix is unreleased and I’m constantly working on it. Following the mix , I have a Saturate tune coming out. It’s one of the earliest songs with me attempting doing vocals. I want to release one or two tracks a month for the rest of the year. I love self-releasing and putting it out but I also think it’s important work with labels to be part of a bigger thing and reach new people.
Especially when you find the right one which has your interests and understands your vision…
Totally and I have a lot of gratitude for Saturate and many others. I’ll include others like Noisia, Phace, Zain, Chee. It’s about being open minded and accepting everyone is different. So many labels will try and change that sound or homogenise it with their own sound. I want my own sound. Like you can hear a Chee track or a Lorn track and you know it’s them. For me that’s the gold….