Kevin McKay

By Sigmund K

On the 5th of July, Ubermax returns to the lazer basement with Glasgow Underground’s boss Kevin McKay, a man who has been in the industry since the ’90s and who has, amongst other many achievements, discovered Mylo, and released steadily throughout the decade on his own label. In the ’00s, Kevin spent most of his time managing the career of his artists, releasing only a few records on GU, until a couple of years ago when he decided to re-launch the label and do what is the most important for us; release amazing music. We asked him a few questions ahead of Ubermax…

Kevin, you decided a couple of years ago to re-launch Glasgow Underground (GU), which looks like a brilliant decision when we look at the quality of all the new releases. It seems that your whole career has been fed by the need of picking up new challenges, was reviving GU a new challenge or did you feel that people were getting back to the older house sound?

I think that’s part of the joy of working in music. You’re never allowed to rest on your laurels for too long: the scene changes too quickly. There is a real change-or-die mentality that runs through the music business. Obviously you see that everywhere to some extent, but in music I think it is all the more evident. Luckily I get bored quite easily so I’m always looking for new things. I signed Mylo and set up Breastfed partly as a reaction to how serious house music had become. This time round it’s a bit different. I had spent the last four or five years doing too much of the business side of running a label and wanted to get back into the creative side. Glasgow Underground had put out the odd release since 2002 but I hadn’t really done anything with it due to my commitments to Mylo and Grum. I was also really enjoying where house/dance music had ended up post minimal and electro and so when I started making tracks again, it seemed like the perfect home for them.

GU has recently launched a series of compilations, with the first edition mixed by JD Twitch from Optimo. Can you tell us a bit more about this project, and can give us some hints about the rest of the series?

I love compilations but there are so many fantastic ones that people can get for free these days from the likes of RA, Fact and Data Transmission that the idea of putting up something for sale just because it’s a great selection of music seems a little out of date. As well as this, dance music is now a truly global phenomenon. As a DJ in the ’80s and ’90s you might come across the odd record from outside of the main dance music strongholds; the UK, the US and mainland Europe, but it was rare. Nowadays there are thriving dance scenes from Melbourne to Mexico City with their own collectives of DJs and producers. I wanted to create a compilation series that reflected this and gave the listener a kind of audio rough guide to a city’s underground scene. I started with Glasgow as it’s probably the city I know best. Keith/Twitch is a brilliant DJ, has great taste in music and was using Ableton at Optimo when a lot of laptop DJs were still at school. He also stands above the cliquishness that often permeates through Glasgow’s club scene. Those reasons meant he was the best person to give an eclectic, inclusive snapshot of the homegrown Glasgow club scene in 2013. 

In terms of future editions, there are loads that I want to do but I also want to make sure that I get the right people to do them and if that means waiting for DJs/producers other commitments to finish before I get to do a certain city, so be it. Hopefully I’ll be able to announce the next volume soon.

The Glasgow scene looks like it is exploding, and exporting more and more young talents. We are big fans of that scene at Ubermax as our past guests include Ooft! and Sei A. What do you think is Glasgow’s role in the global dance scene?

I hear a lot of DJs cite nights in Glasgow as some of the best DJing experiences they’ve ever had, so I guess on one level, Glasgow provides the kind of hedonistic underground scene that delivers world-class DJ experiences. Not that I’m gloating about Glasgow, its just that in a city that doesn’t boast the riches of London or New York, where it seems to rain for 11 and a half months of the year and where the population apparently have the highest rate of heart disease in the world, there has to be one good reason to live there.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned from starting out as a DJ and producer in Glasgow it’s how important it is too keep your feet on the ground. There’s a healthy you’re-only-making-dance-music-son-it’s-not-a-cure-for-cancer style reality checkpoint awaiting anyone who starts putting on too many airs and graces. It is also a common Scottish trait not to praise people for fear that “they will get too big for their own boots” and so when you do get props, you know it’s truly well deserved. And while I don’t think a lack of praise is the best way to encourage new talent, I do think that people that come through the Glasgow scene retain a down-to-earth-ness that can be lacking in well-known producers from other places. 

Over the years you’ve been an excellent spotter of new talent. Are there some young artists that you really like at the moment? Or that will appear on GU and that we haven’t yet heard of?

Cheers! I really enjoy the A&R process. There are a few producers from Glasgow that I really like right now. Some (and hopefully all) of these will appear on Glasgow Underground in the future; Barrientos, ThoseBeats, Mermaids. Outside of Glasgow we have a single due from London/Bristol based Bxentric that Cosmic Kids, Phil Kelsey and I have remixed and there’s a new producer from London called Lumino who’s also recording for Danse Club and has an EP due on GU. As well as that, there are loads of people not on the label that I’m into. I do a monthly radio show on that archives on the Glasgow Underground Soundcloud and you’ll find loads of new music and producers on that.

Let’s talk about London now… What is you experience of London as a DJ? Can you tell us your best and worse London gig memories? 

I haven’t DJed in London for a while so I’m really looking forward to it and in terms of experiences, I’ve never had a bad one in London, I guess I’ve just been lucky. My favourite place to play in the past was a straight tie between Kenny Hawkes and Luke Solomon’s Space @ Bar Rhumba and Harri’s night at Plastic People (when it was on Oxford Street). 

What are your next challenges for the future?

Keeping working in music and having as much fun as I can doing so!

Join Kevin McKay this Friday 5th July at Dalston Superstore for Ubermax from 9pm – 3am.


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