Sickness in Seattle: Kumarion is one of three US artists representing stateside bass music for Future Vision. Renowned for his fusion of halftime, beats and D&B, he’ll be joining the likes of Winslow, Ace Aura, Dilemma, The Caracal Project, Sippy, Deadline and Nuu$hi from 7pm GMT.
In February this year, Seattle-based Kumarion dropped Want It on Judu Dala, a track that quickly gained him recognition and serious esteem from producers like RL Grime, JOYRYDE and more.
Months later he posted remix stems for the tune online, giving new producers the chance to remix the track and potentially win a spot on the recently released Judu Dala remix EP. What he didn’t expect was a message from drum and bass heavyweight Spor explaining that he had done a remix, which – as he humbly explains to us in the interview – still blows his mind.
The rise of Kumarion has been remarkable considering how quickly he has caught the attention of numerous large-scale artists in what is unquestionably a difficult year for everyone. Want It is also far from being a one-trick pony, with 2020 seeing an impressive string of releases on labels such as Play Me Records, Pilot and Sable Valley – all of which give a glimpse into his unique takes on halftime and drum and bass. With his NYE set for Future Vision looming, we caught up with him about his experiences over the last year and what he has planned for the future. This is clearly only the very beginning for Kumarion.
What have you been up to recently?
Since the pandemic and even since before that I’ve just been working on music, keeping my head down and grinding.
You started the Kumarion project in 2015, was this when you started producing or has that been for longer?
I started producing before that, but it was mostly for fun at first. I started really getting into music production around 2013, and 2015 is when I came up with the name Kumarion. I hadn’t really put anything out until the end of last year though, it was an ongoing thing.
Was that a conscious decision to keep focusing on your craft and not put anything out until you were really happy with it?
Sort of, yeah. I just felt like I didn’t want to put anything out that I didn’t think was good enough. I actually moved in with a couple of producers over the course of the last few years who I really respect and admire. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of Levit∆te? He’s a dude that really opened my eyes, and it actually took him telling me that I was good enough to start actually putting stuff out. I just needed a little kick in the ass.
I think it’s hard to know how good your music is to outside ears.
Yeah exactly, I have a huge confidence issue. No matter what anybody told me, I would still be like, no it’s still not good enough. I still feel like that sometimes and I think that’s something you can’t shake off. It helps you grow as an artist, but on the other side it could also really debilitate you. It’s a constant balancing act of confidence and then not being too cocky about your stuff.
2020 has been the year you’ve really started to blow up. Has it been a bit surreal having that happen during all this whole scenario?
Yeah, it’s honestly a weird year to come up. I feel like it’s really uncharted territory to try to navigate a growing career during a pandemic. It’s been an interesting experience, but I try to count my blessings. The positive light about all of this is that I get to sit at home and just keep building my arsenal and catalogue. Before the pandemic I was working a full-time job at a music venue, and every time I’d come home at like 11pm I would pretty much grind all night. My output for music was a lot stronger, and since everything shut down it’s been a lot slower, and I feel like a lot of producers have been going through that same thing. Other than that, I feel like nothing else has really changed too much for me. I haven’t lost momentum because of the shutdowns as I wasn’t playing any shows beforehand, but I feel like coming out of this I’ll be in a really good spot. Well… I honestly don’t know what will happen. I just know this project is definitely going to be a lot bigger coming out of it.
I know you’ve spoke about Noisia before as a big influence on your music. Is there anyone else?
My number one most listened to on Spotify this year was Clams Casino actually. I find his sound to be super influential when it comes to soundscapes. He has a really ethereal sound to his music, and that is something that I really love about him and find so inspiring. It’s funny because Noisia and Clams Casino are two different spectrums, but they both brought something to the table that I could really take away from.
I can definitely see the influence on both sides there. Is drum and bass something you’ve been making since the start?
Well, drum and bass is starting to gain a little ground here in America, but I’ve been listening to jungle and drum and bass since I was in high school. I’m definitely glad to see people here becoming a lot more open to it. Back when I first started producing, the first thing I tried to do was make some jungle. I remember some guy asked me if I had ever heard of Noisia back in around 2013 when I started producing. He showed me that Shellshock video and it just blew my mind. I think the next day I downloaded FL Studio and I was like ‘Okay this is what I want to do.’
Any other producers you’re rating from America at the moment?
Oh yeah, Justin Hawkes, he’s a homie. He actually connected me with a lot of other American drum and bass producers just through Discord and chatting, because I didn’t really know there was much of a scene here until then. He’s really trying to push it here in America and I give a lot of props to him for that.
You’ve had releases on quite a few labels this year. Are there any labels in particular that you feel has played a vital role in advancing your career?
I have a really special relationship with Jadu Dala. I love all the labels that I’ve had releases on, but they really put some serious time and effort in. Want It on Jadu Dala was my biggest one but it’s not even drum and bass. It was honestly like an off-shoot of what I normally do which I did for fun. It was just sitting on my hard drive and I thought ‘ah fuck it, I’ll just send this over to the label and see what happens’. They ended up signing it and that ended up being my biggest track. They’re still pushing it to this day and they’re heavily invested in the project. I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
When you were making it did you in any way see it having the success that it did?
No, not at all haha, it still blows my mind every day. It was honestly a track I did for fun. I actually thought one of the tracks off one of my first Play Me releases would do better than that. It’s always the ones you don’t think are going to be successful.
Jadu Dala then recently put out the remix EP which seemed pretty special. How was it having Spor remix your tune?
That was honestly mind blowing. That came out of leftfield for me. It was really an honour to hear that he bumps my music in his car. I remember going to see Spor and Deadmau5 back in 2016/2017 when they did the Cube tour here in Seattle. To fast forward years later and have him be a fan of my music is mind blowing. I don’t even know how to react to that. I’m still taking it in day by day.
How did that come about?
We put out the stems online and he actually messaged us and told us he’d made a remix, and that he hopes we didn’t mind. I was like, well of course we don’t mind haha.
Despite the fact no one can get out and do anything, I think it’s opened up a lot of possibility for socialising and networking with people online – as well as giving newer producers an opportunity.
Yeah, there’s a lot of shifting this year. When we come out of it and all these shows come back, I think we’ll see a lot of new faces that might change the scene and industry. There’ll be new people headlining shows.
We’re looking forward to your Future Vision set on NYE. What came first for you, DJing or production?
Production, 100%. DJing came about because I was like ‘wait, I have to somehow play all the music that I’m making’. I think I picked that up around 2015. It’s not my specialty, and I feel like at some point I want to move out of DJing with just CDJs and eventually going into some cool live sets, maybe using an Akai APC40 or something. That’s what I originally wanted to do but I was financially restricted at the time. I didn’t grow up with money or anything, so I just used what I had.
What could people expect from a Kumarion DJ set?
I really like to mix it up. As much as I love drum and bass, it’s not the only thing I like. I’m also a huge fan of halftime stuff. The way I write nowadays is that I usually write in the same BPM range as a lot of drum and bass so it’s a lot easier to mix without throwing people off too hard.
Have you got a lot of unreleased stuff to play then?
Oh yeah, totally. For the New Years set I’ll be throwing in a lot of unreleased stuff.
What do you want to achieve in the near future?
I’m just trying to build up my arsenal of music to get ready to send out to some more labels and have them drop over the course of the next year… and then the live show of course. Another goal of mine is to have somebody take me with them on tour, that’d be cool.
I think having the live show moves the music into being something with even more shelf life, right?
Yeah exactly, I remember discovering a lot of music through live shows. I’d be like ‘yo, what’s this?’ and pull out Shazam and add it to my Spotify list etc. It’s crazy putting out music without that live show element going on. If you’re used to going out to shows every weekend and listening to more party-oriented music and there hasn’t been any of that all year, it can definitely be hard to keep the motivation to write that sort of stuff.
I’ve spoken to a few different artists about that over the course of this year and a lot of people are changing the music they’re writing, some writing more chilled out stuff as a consequence of this. Is this something you’re finding yourself consciously doing as well?
Yes actually. Every now and then I get motivated to write something club oriented, but a lot of my best work is a lot more downtempo, a little more melodic and a lot more emotional. It’s hard to write about partying or make that kind of vibe when it’s non-existent right now.
Thanks a lot for the chat. Is there anything or anyone else you want to give a shout out to?
Yeah, I want to actually shout out you all at UKF for supporting my project and really giving me a chance. I really appreciate it.
Appreciate Kumarion on NYE with Future Vision from 8pm GMT