Mar 29, 2013

Brothers in arms: Part 1

Kiriakos Kiannies

by Chris Vlahonasios

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Brothers Kiriakos and Nicholas Kiannies have always had a strong brotherly relationship growing up, always encouraging each other in their creative pursues. But now they’ll be even closer.

Both brothers have enrolled in the Bachelor of Creative Arts degree at Victoria University, Melbourne. Kiriakos plans to major in music whilst Nicholas in performance and visual arts. As the older of the two, Kiriakos won’t be exactly starting a new life-chapter, but enhancing his already established career.

From the age of 15, Kiriakos started off as a DJ at private birthdays, weddings and baptisms, thanks to their local Greek Orthodox Church, before moving into the club scene at age 22.

Although music is his passion it has not been without its challenges. Working in the recording industry can be excruciating, filled with disappointment and letdowns. However, this has not phased Kiriakos who has surpassed them all and moved on to bigger and better things.

Now at 28, Kiriakos has been producing music based on 13 years of experience, currently focusing solely on Dance music. Kiriakos writes his own music, remixes, collaborates with artists both here and overseas and even started up his own recording studio, Dub Kay Studios. He has had much success with many of his songs getting signed up to several record labels, including Vinyl Pusher Records, Generation, Freakshow Disco, Club Star, Suckmusic and TEKZENMUSIC INC.

How does it feel to be doing the same course as your younger brother?
Exciting as I’m hoping to be in the same classes with him. I think that will not only add a bit of flair to the course, because we’re both pranksters and like to have a good laugh, but I think we will motivate each other to keep working hard.

As brothers, how do you help each other?
We relate to other each really well. My younger brother is exactly how I was when I was his age so it’s like I’m going back to school with a younger version of myself.

Do you guys always get along?
There’s tension sometimes. Sometimes we just want to punch each other, but it’s all in good spirits – it’s all in love.

How did you start off in music?
Going through high school I was studying drama and planned to do performance at uni. But in year 11 there was this drama teacher who I had a huge fight with. I was also studying music at the time but drama was my preference. But because of that bad relationship with my teacher I came out of drama and was pulled more towards music. So, if it wasn’t for that argument I would probably still be doing performance arts. Everything happens for a reason. After school I did audio engineering.

Also, on top of that my older brother studied classical piano so I was always around music growing up.

Which artists influenced you?
Growing up Michael Jackson was my king. Growing up around the 80s and 90s there was the old 80s disco and a lot of pop culture. Any artist in the pop realm influenced me.

Moving into my teenage years I followed a lot of the Dance music artists. So your typical ones like David Guetta, Axwell, Kenkraft 400, Daft Punk, Jamiroquai, Swedish House Mafia and underground artists like Style of Eye, Claude Von Stroke and Marc Romboy were big influences on me; they were very different in the way they approached music. Prince, Madonna and also Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles were big ones.

I’m very diverse in my musical tastes. Anyone from dance, pop, rock, soul to R&B, I remember listening to 112 for a long time back when R&B was big and I also have my Greek artists.

How would you describe your style of music?
I guess a lot of people would call most of my production work Progressive House or Mainroom House. But everything I do is Dance music whether it’s for the clubs, festivals or radio it’s dance influenced. It’s a four-by-four beat. And depending on my mood, what project I’m doing or my sub-category of House music that track works out its own beat.

You’ve travelled quite extensively overseas, in your opinion, where’s the best music scene?
I’ve been all over Greece, Milan, Sicily, Amsterdam, Spain, Ibiza, Singapore, Shanghai and all over Egypt, but not to America – not yet. I go over to Europe about once a year or once every two years. Pretty much wherever they’ve got good club music I’ll go.

The best music scene, in my opinion, is Europe. But more specifically, in 2011 when I went to Amsterdam at the Dance Valley Festival I got to experience some really, really good underground music. But last year upon going to Greece I discovered a whole new Deep-house culture I never knew existed in Greece before and that was very, very grounded. But I can’t pick and say which country is the best because Europe as a whole has great music.

Compared to Melbourne’s scene?
In Australia, and especially Melbourne, I believe we’re still very behind. We’re still very narrow-minded in the way we accept different styles of music. We’re very ‘clique-y’ in Melbourne, everyone is in their own group of music. Whereas in Europe because it’s summer, sand, beach and in winter there are amazing indoor clubs it’s a lot more diverse and they’re a lot more open-minded.

Where do you regularly perform?
I used to play around Melbourne’s hot spots: the old Two Floors Up, Tramp, Korova and Wah Wah Lounge and I also had a few launches around Melbourne.

But as you can appreciate the times now have changed where every kid, their dog, grandma and cat is a DJ. The Melbourne scene is very, very overflowed with DJs who, I won’t say aren’t talented, but are not there for entirely the right reasons. Who sort of undercut other DJs and who put a damper on the DJ scene. Things are slowly changing where club owners, promoters and managers are starting to go back to how it was, preferring to pay for quality DJs who play different music and who don’t follow the “bangers” bandwaggon.

When that started to happen I walked away from the Melbourne scene and started focusing more on my music because, like said, everyone in Melbourne is a DJ but not everyone can produce and not everyone has the over 10 years experience that I have in a studio. So I’m more focused on that than trying to break into the scene with a bunch of 18 year old DJs.

But look, there’s nothing wrong about the young kids. There are a few who are ‘greats’ in the industry and there are a lot of them who are very, very talented and even have got me working harder because of their talent. It’s just the ones who are there for the wrong reasons.

What inspires you?
My life experiences inspire me, emotions that I’m feeling inspire me, things I’ve gone through in life inspire me, the weather is a big inspiration for me. Luckily for me my studio window looks right outside to the Westgate Bridge here in the Western suburbs and the skies, when there’s a beautiful sunset, give me really good inspiration. But then again when it rains I don’t feel like writing because I feel like crap! But every aspect of life inspires me.

Every one of my tracks has a meaning behind them, every single one. Whether it’s a life experience, like a break-up or getting back to my roots so writing a more funk-house track or whether it was about my Faith or talking about God. Every single one of my tracks has a meaning and has been inspired from somewhere.

And the good thing about music is I might write something about a break-up or God but the person listening to it on the other end might interpret it in different way, in their own way, and relate to it in a completely different way which I think is the beauty about music.

What are some of your most recent tracks?
The most recent thing to come out on a label was called ‘Going Back’ which was signed up when I was in Europe in 2012. That was with Suck Music, a label in Melbourne run by Nick Coleman and Ben Silversix, two great guys that I know.

I just finished a remix for T-Rex ‘Don’t Trip’ that’s being released on Ministry of Sound’s sub-label.

There’s been a whole bunch of projects since coming back from Europe but more specifically, I’ve just resigned to Vinyl Pusher records for a 3-single release contract.

I’m always searching for singers and songwriters that can work with my projects. There’s one track I’m currently shopping around for a songwriter. Whether it’s a singer or songwriter, I’m always in need of them. Someone who is interested can definitively contact me.

How do you go about getting your music out there?
That’s always been a difficult thing for me. I’ve never been one to push my music, but I’ve been told to start doing it! I guess it’s that insecure artist in all of us.

I usually use SoundCloud and push out through my Facebook, but apart from that I don’t promote it any other way. If the label believes in the track they’ll promote it, share it around and get people to listen to it.

But this year is all about promoting the tracks and getting my stuff out there so I’m looking at more marketing strategies.

Which stations are your tracks usually broadcasted?
Usually on independent radio stations, online radio, or podcasts, but this year we’re really going to push into commercial radio. I’m currently in talks with Fox FM and they’ve been listening to my stuff and are quite keen to hear some finished products.

At the same time I’m in talks with a well-known audio engineer/music producer in Los Angeles. So, hopefully I’ll break into the radio in America as well.

This year hopefully you’ll start hearing more of my stuff on more commercial stations like Fox FM and Nova or radio overseas in LA.

You’ve also started up your own recording studio, Dub Kay Studios, tell us more.
It started to take form this year when I registered the Facebook page in January 2013. But once I’ve got all my music settled I’ll start promoting it. The Studio is usually used to record my own stuff or any production work. But now it’s branched out to people who need it to record something.

I might have a friend who wants to record two covers or someone might need to come in for some training on how to do a particular sound or teach them some mixing techniques. At the same time if there’s an up-and-coming artist who wants to record 10 tracks for a demo and send it to a label they can come in, pay an hourly rate or fixed rate for 2-3 whole days.

It’s also for any young up-and-coming kids who want to put something together that sounds half decent whether for themselves, someone in the industry or record a DJ promo. I remember when I was growing up I had nothing, I knew anybody, I had to do it all myself. I wanted to create a space where people can come and record their stuff on a budget.

I’m also considering running a free workshop for teens that may not have access to equipment or computer systems to come and try it out. A way of giving back to the community.

Challenges in building a studio.
Moving to a new software program, such as Apple Logic 9, was hard to start with. When you get so use to a certain program and how your work flows, initially it’s a little bit intimidating.

I’m a type of person who learns by playing with something, trial and error. Which means at the end of the day it takes me longer to learn the product, but it means it’s a lot more real and a lot more entertaining. I can’t read manuals, I despise them.

I have a pretty streamlined studio, running everything out of a MacBook Pro Dual Processor with solid state external drive. I use Logig Pro as my DAW with a bunch of added VST’s including Massive, Nexus and Trillian. I use Alesis Mk2 Monitors with a Duet soundcard. I also have a DB microphone with external valve compressor. I’ve recently purchased Maschine which I can't keep my hands off. In terms of DJ gear, I have a Pioneer CDJ1000 MK3 and DJM800 mixer with self powered PA speakers that I also use for gigs.

What music are you currently working on?
The most exciting one is a new track that we’re hoping to get on the radio. I sent it out to a couple of songwriters to write and I think we’ve come back with the final version by Yshrael, one of The Voice contestants and an artist I did a remix for last year. I’ve worked with him before and he’s got that contact in LA.

Ysh has got the track sounding pretty good and for now it’s called ‘Momentum’. It’s a song about how to keep going with your dreams, to always think positive because life is what you make it. It’s all about what’s in your head and if one doors closes another five will open so not to worry.

It’s a very inspirational track and personally the best by far in terms of production work; this is the one Fox FM is interested in hearing the final result. Fingers crossed when this comes out we’ll get signed to a good label. This is the one you’ll probably hear from me on the radio.

Can you give us some insight into your impressions of the music industry?
The music industry in Australia is quite undercooked. I’ve been told I need to be overseas as I won’t get anywhere here. The music industry is very flooded and still a little bit behind because we’re so far from the rest of the world. I think it’s very hard to crack into the scene. Also, there’s not a lot of support for artists in Australia and the general trend is just to make it overseas.

It is very hard to break in but I think once you know the right people, even overseas, it gets better. I think the key point to remember being in Australia is to focus your energy with the right people and the right scene. A lot of the kids who get caught up in the wrong idea of the scene here eventually find themselves at a deadline.  I know artists I use to follow 5-6 years ago in Melbourne who are still doing the same thing 5-6 years later. I think the music industry in Australia needs to be smart, find the people, shop to the right networks and try to break into the overseas market.

What do you find most challenging about the industry?
The most challenging as an artist, and that of a musician and producer, is finding that line between pleasing a crowd and still doing your own thing. When I first started out as artist I started to produce what I love or what I thought was great. But when I first started at Vinyl Pusher Records a mate told me ‘look, you really need to start producing for the people or else you’ll never leave your bedroom or studio because you’ll be producing just for yourself ’. That was a bit of a turning point which was a struggle, because you have to start thinking what do the people want to hear, what’s popular and how can I appeal to the commercial market without selling myself to the market.

That’s been the hardest, trying to do what I want and produce my own sound, the Dub Kay sound, yet make it commercially viable. Again, Melbourne is very clique-y with their music and don’t like anything unless it’s a “banger” so it’s quite hard if you want to break into the scene yet write what inspires you.

It’s finding that line, which is where your insecurities come from. You might get one group people that love it and the other might hate it, so you get stuck between a wall and a hard place.

What was a very difficult time for you?
That would have to be 2011 where my music halted, when I left Vinyl Pusher Records and I was in limbo. My music took a standstill and I was ready to walk away from it all because I figured what was the point as it seemed no-one cared. I didn’t do music for a long time, close to a year. That was the toughest time.

My social network did push me, but my Faith, as well having God and being a Christian and Orthodox. At the end of the day, if you’re in that headspace, it helps give you that state of mind that ‘He will provide’ sort of thing. At the end of day that’s what kept me going.

I had gone through a break-up and with my music at a standstill I was giving up hope. I saw a lot of evil in 2011 and felt a lot of negativity in terms of emotions and that’s why I was giving up on music. But having close friends and family and having that Faith, being Orthodox, I sort of started to push through and started to believe and have hope. That’s the thing about being Orthodox is you always have hope at the end of the day. That’s why having God in your life always means there’s hope and He can help you move on.

Everything happens for a reason. You can never regret the bad times as they are put in place by someone higher to guide you to something else.

The industry can be quite ruthless, what advice would you give to young talent starting off?
If you’re a Christian I guess the best advice I can give is to do it for the right reason. Second, don’t allow your ego and pride to get involved with all the attention you will get. I think that’s what’s happening to a lot of young kids today, they see it as something that is egocentric for the girls, the parties, the YOLO and attention which I think is really evil and comes from a dark place.

Also, if you’re going to take it seriously and commit to it, like a said before, you have to put your energy in the right place. Work on your talent, your skills, make sure it’s pure and make sure you focus that energy on the right people and scene. Don’t go wasting your time chasing attention, “likes” on statuses, favourites or plays because at the end of the day that doesn’t mean anything if you’re not doing for the right reasons, you’re not going to get any further, you’ll just be Facebook famous.

Where do you hope to be 5 years after uni?
I see myself working in the music industry. I’d like to see myself making a living from the industry, whether it’s producing, releasing tracks, touring or song writing for other producers. That’s where I would love to see myself.

If not, if I don’t break through, then teaching would be another option.

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The OFA blog would like to thank Kiriakos Kiannies for kindly giving up his time to do this interview. OFA wishes him and his brother every success.

To hear the Dub Kay Sound, check out the following links:

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