Back in 2008, Detroit techno and house prince Kyle Hall launched his growing Wild Oats label, and today he kicks off a special Beatport campaign in which he’ll be dropping a new release with us each Monday for the next four weeks. “This is the first real introduction the music from my label has to the digital world,” Hall told us. “Releasing them in this way takes you on a journey through what I was thinking and feeling at the time. Every release had its proper purpose and time.”
So what’s up next for the label? “In February, the full release of Gifted and Blessed’s ‘Las Ruinas Mayas’ will be in stores,” Hall informs us. “He is a really talented artist from LA and I was pleased to work with him. Also, my first distribution project with Scott Grooves (Modified Suede) is coming out this February. I love being able to support like-minded artists around me, so I thought doing a distribution project would be a perfect way for Wild Oats to do just that… [We're] already hitting the ground running this year with the releases, and I am excited about each and every one.”
Needless to say, we’re pretty excited, too, so read on for a full interview we conducted with Hall last year in Detroit, and check out some of the new tunes as well.
This is a stupid thing to remember, but when I first met you, we were in San Francisco with the Icee Hot guys, and you wanted a calzone really badly.
Yeah, I did want a calzone! I remember that.
Who has the best calzones in Detroit?
Where I get my calzone from, it ain’t no special kind of thing. But what’s the spot? Well, I know Passport Pizza, that’s Midtown, I’ll get a good calzone there, but shoot, I haven’t been eating that kind of stuff lately, actually. To be honest, I’m a vegetarian. I’m much healthier than I was at that point [laughs].
What made the change?
Getting sick, eating stuff on the road.
Are you feeling healthier?
Way healthier. Way more energy, way better.
Still, living in Detroit, it’s not the easiest place to find good vegetarian food.
Are you kidding me? There’s plenty, there’s millions. There’s Seva, on Forest. It’s an all-vegetarian spot connected to the N’Namdi Gallery. Great smoothies there. There’s Goodwells health-food market—a lot of vegetarian foods there. There’s a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants. There’s Harmonie Garden right in Midtown. A lot of vegetarian Lebanese, lentils, baba ganoush. I can go on forever.
You’re dispelling the myth about Midwestern food.
People don’t know anything about Detroit, man.
What else do people not know about Detroit?
The record-store culture, dude! There’s a lot of other places I go to in the States, it’s like, “We’re dying, no one buys record anymore.” You come to Detroit, it’s like I could name off six record stores like that: You got Hello Records, People’s, Stormy Records, Detroit Threads, UHF, Street Corner Music, Record Graveyard. I heard there’s another record store popping up in Hamtramck, actually. I don’t know the name of it yet—but it’s flourishing.
Do you find that there’s any other cities around the world that feel at all like Detroit to you? Not necessarily like home, but just that feel like Detroit?
No, not at all. I haven’t been to one yet. There’s another city, London, that I really feel comfortable in. It does feel like a second home to me, but there’s no city that I’ve ever been to like Detroit. Just the freedom that you have in Detroit to kind of pursue your art, the freedom to pursue whatever you want to do creatively and be able to cultivate new things in the city is a lot easier in Detroit than it is in any other place because there’s a lot of regulation, especially in European cities. I hear a lot of the comparisons between Berlin and Detroit. I don’t see it at all. We don’t have any train system in Detroit. It’s wide apart, it’s not heavily populated like that. It’s a lot more—it’s a large city with a small-town kind of vibe, whereas Berlin feels very much like a lot of people doing everything around each other. And everything’s very—I feel compartmentalized a bit. Detroit is not as busy in that type of way. There’s not so much energy just moving, I guess. People are very into their own heads and their own way of being and creating things that don’t have to do with the person next door to you. It’s very much internal growth and cultivating what you love.
Mike Huckaby was a big mentor for you.
Yeah, I met him through a program called YouthVille. At the time when I met him I was DJing already and working on my production and things like that. He helped me look at things in a different kind of manner, showed me a lot about records. He used to work at a record store for years; he has a lot of knowledge about music and stuff that came from the past and things still going on. It was really inspiring to see another cat that was doing well and pursuing different aspects, from doing the software thing to producing, DJ, and teaching—I thought that was really inspiring, for somebody young to go farther and do things. Just the fact that he plays all vinyl and everything, that kind of inspired me because I do the same, I play basically vinyl, unreleased stuff on CD and USB sticks. As far as that goes, he was definitely a proponent of keeping my interest and buying vinyl to support the record shops a lot and releasing my own label.
Tell me a little bit about Wild Oats.
Wild Oats started in 2008. My first record I released was on Omar S’ label, FXHE, but he kind of gave me guidance about how to do my own thing. I was like, “Yeah, man. I’m going to start my own label.” He’s like, “These are the things you need to know to do it. This is how to get in contact with the pressing plant,” and everything. That was just how I got started. So 2008 was my first release on Wild Oats, right after my first release on FXHE. I think that year I started with 500 copies, and then I sold another 500 by the end of the year, so 1000 copies of that. I was really excited to keep doing it. That’s always been important to me, to keep the component of vinyl records alive and just pushing that feeling and trying to put as much emotion as possible into everything I do. Just the physical product of that, the physicality of the whole thing—that’s something that I really appreciate.
How did you end up with Hyperdub?
The way I ended up on Hyperdub was basically Kode 9, Steve [Goodman], he was listening to a lot of my music I was putting out. He was really in tune with that—that’s why I appreciate about guys like that. Those people are looking at the guys that aren’t quite huge or anything. They’re just looking for good music and he spotted me and actually I think he heard about me through his label manager, Marcus, who I was talking to at the time about doing something for Warp Records. I think that’s how he heard about me, and then he started to listen to my music and he said, “Yeah, we should do something.” My first project for Hyperdub, I did a remix for this group called Darkstar, “Aidy’s Girl Is a Computer,” and then after that I gave him a 12-inch. It was cool. They gave me a lot of freedom, [I got] to do my own artwork for it. My boy Cleveland [Thrasher, aka Mr. Thrasher] did the artwork. Hopefully I’ll do something more in the future. They’re great people.
Do you have plans for a full-length at all?
Yeah, I do have plans. I’m always working on something that kind of explains where I’m at at the moment, but sometimes I change. And then, what I was working on that would’ve been that full-length, isn’t relevant to that moment. Basically it’s a race between myself completing the music before I change [laughs].
When you’re working on a record that is going to be a full-length, you must have a totally different mentality about writing it, right?
Yeah, you’re thinking about the ultimate goal. I’m not, like, the type of guy that wants to piece a bunch of stuff together. Some people do that, but I just feel it should be all cohesive, and full-lengths are a very sensitive thing. I just want to do it as best as I could at that moment. I know I’m going to change again, but just for that moment, if I can capture and complete it… EPs are always easier because they’re shorter—they’re easier to explain yourself in a quicker way.
Who else are you into these days?
Funkineven. Floating Points is tight. My boy Manuel Gonzalez, I just released his record. Amazing. A lot of Detroit artists, Jay Daniel, a guy I do my monthly with, I played Movement Festival with him. This other cat, a guy named Slufter. He’s doing stuff live. He hasn’t released anything, but there’s a lot of cool live performers here.
What are the kind of things do you like to do in Detroit just to slow down?
I’m always at a constant pace. I don’t really like to slow down.
But, like, when you come back from touring and stuff like that?
Yeah, I chill out at my home, in my bed, hang out with my girl. Maybe cook some food at home, see my mother, see my dad or something. Go to a record store, just decompress. That’s what I do anyway [laughs]. That’s why I was like, not slow down, but it’s in the routine, because you can’t keep your creative process well if you’re not decompressing at certain points—that should be part of your routine. You shouldn’t even call it decompressing. It’s part of the function of your movement is taking time to regroup yourself. I think that’s important.
Over the last few years of producing a ton, and DJing a ton, what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned? The most important lesson so far?
To never stop, because when you stop, you have to start over—your whole process and your whole momentum kind of dies down. Never stop at any point, always keep in motion because that way new ideas come about and new inspirations, and you’ll continue to meet people. Never segregate yourself from other ideas. Just keep that motion, that’s one thing I learned—always to keep in motion, keep some kind of plan ahead.
And don’t eat meat?
And don’t eat meat [laughs]. That is gonna slow you down, and that’s the last thing you need—to be slower.