Gigwise, April 2009
The bundle of energy that is giggling down the phone is recounting the perils of snowboarding misadventures. “I’m not like one of these French guys that can do double back twists. When I was younger I used to go rollerskating a lot and I could do all kinds of things, but these days, you know if you fall over it hurts now. I remember when I was a kid if I fell over and hurt my shin I’d just carry on. But now I think ‘fuck that shit! I’m going for a fucking pint! I’ll go for a Fanta indoors and watch TV!’”
The delivery is pure Woody Woodpecker, all mischievous laughter and hungry intent, but the voice is unmistakably Kissy Sell Out – toxic remixer, Radio 1 DJ and now curator of the snowbombing bash, Tignes; literally one of the coolest festivals in Europe.
It’s no surprise that Kissy is a freak for snowboarding. Listening to his late night Radio 1 show feels like hurtling down a glacier with a massive grin while he throws an eclectic snowball of club classics, mash-ups and rabid mixes of the likes of Bat For Lashes and Little Boots at you. Amazingly, for a show that is delivered at breakneck speed, with Kissy’s enthusiastic passion and ear for a ridiculously great tune, he never crashes and burns, leaving that for the actual boarding.
“Yeah, I got taken down by the blood ambulance once,” he says, recounting one messy episode. “I broke my nose going through some trees. I went off a big hill that was very steep, like a mini cliff, and my board hit the ground first and my body kind of followed and I smacked my face, I cracked my goggles and my goggles went into my face and cut goggle marks into my face.” He quickly pauses, and you can practically see the laughter swelling up in him. “And that’s why my nose is so big! Hahhhhahaha!”
Mixing two of his favourite passions – snowboarding by day and über-cool new music by night – Kissy jumped at the opportunity of booking some of his favourite new acts like Black Peter Group and Jackbeats for Tignes. More boutique and intimate than the much larger Snowbombing Festival, Kissy compares the vibe to the hectic fun of Camdem Crawl, just high-up in the French Alps rather than the dim-lit streets of North London. And it’s all free.
Curating alongside fellow devotee of new music, Eddy Temple-Morris, has fired Kissy up, yet he finds it frustrating that there’s a lack of similar events showcasing fledgling artists. “The thing that I’ve got in common with Eddy Temple-Morris is we both actively look for unsigned music. We both get a kick out of finding something really cool. I suppose when we looked around at other festivals it kind of – I mean I’ve always thought this – I’ve always just wondered why there isn’t more stuff like this happening, more unsigned stuff. I mean most of the really good tracks I play come from unsigned artists. So I think it’s a really good idea to actually have a festival that’s based on that entire idea.”
Speaking to Kissy Sell Out feels like being pummelled by a mountain of Red Bull. His passion and energy races out of the receiver like he’s uploading his serotonin at 1000mbps and you can’t help but grin along with him. If you’d ever like to know what it would be like to be faced with the Energy Bunny hurtling towards you while demanding you listen to his brand new mix tape, just listen to Kissy’s weekly Radio 1 show.
Infact, as well as the radio show and the remixes for, among others, Calvin Harris, Chromeo, Noisettes and Sugerbabes, there’s another opportunity to sample the Kissy magic in the next few months; his debut album, Youth. “Yeah, finally, finally!” he enthuses. “I’m so excited stroke nervous!”
He says the nerves come from his refusal to “smash out an album of club bangers [which is] not what I’m about and it’s also not why I got into this stuff.” Instead Kissy has concentrated on his upbringing, making an “incredibly personal” record in the process. Kissy fans might be surprised by the direction but not disappointed, as the eclectic flavour of his DJ sets are writ large over Youth. “I’ve taken the energy from my remixes, which take a lot of things from drum and bass, old school things like Slipmatt, Ratpack and stuff,” he confirms. “And then there’s a vocal style which is very indie, but there’s not a single guitar on the whole album, so it’s not an indie album.”
He admits he didn’t make it easy for himself in making Youth, but the enthusiasm shows how proud he is of the result. “It’s definitely me, he reveals, “and I think that’s the point. I think it’s important to stay true to yourself. I can’t really fake it. If I meet someone and they say, ‘did you like my CD?’ I find it really hard to lie. I wouldn’t say anything horrible to them but I find it really hard to lie, it just feels wrong. The album I’ve made is the album I’ve always wanted to make ever since I was a kid.”
Beautifully, Kissy’s dog-on-heat passion runs parallel to his humbleness, making him the polar opposite to the self-confessed ‘saviour of Radio 1’, Chris Moyles. So while he will catalogue all the effort he puts in to his shows – mixing “things through a limiter and a compressor before it even goes through the radio compressor” so he can put beats over the top of several successive tracks “to keep the energy going” – he’s never far away from appreciating how “very blessed and lucky” he is to do what he’s doing.
“I always feel very inferior and unworthy of the success I’ve had,” he says quietly, putting away the mischief for a brief moment. “With the radio show I put in so much effort so I can make myself sleep at night and not feel like I’ve just been spoilt. I feel I have to put something back to the people who put me here.”