With releases on the likes of Four Corners, Impact Music and Ekou alone this month, Kidsonic’s sleek, tempered minimal grooves are hitting a lot of spots this summer.
Having released on the likes of Incurzion, inHabit, Hanzom, Boey and Monk Audio in the past, it’s safe to say these sleek, tense signature has been felt in a lot of spots since the young Bristol artist emerged in late 2019.
But nothing he’s released so far hits quite the same emotional or ambitious level as his latest release on Melinki’s Four Corners. Entitled Memoirs and weighing in at 8 tracks, it’s heavy in all directions and gives a deeper insight into the journey of Isaiah Isaacs and the turbulent twists he’s had to endure over the years including being born blind, experiencing acute bullying at school, his Asperger’s and his unsavoury, anti-social next-door neighbours.
For Isaiah, drum & bass offers complete sanctuary, escapism and a method to explore his life, his feelings and his next moves. With his sounds popping up on the radars of DJs ranging from Amoss to Noisia, we catch up with him before he hits more spots this summer.
Memoirs is a deeply personal release isn’t it?
Yeah. It’s looking back over the last 10 years of my life, going right back to school and how I was treated there and the challenges I’ve overcome.
Confronting your traumas and venting your emotions…
I am. It stemmed from me doing a dissertation on catharsis. I’ve spoken to peers like Riya and Objectiv and they’ve done through their experiences of catharsis. I’ve spoken to other family members about it, too.
You come from a musical family?
Definitely. My great aunt and her daughter are in a female acapella group doing big things. It turns out my grandad and great uncle were both DJs! It’s interesting to learn these things and find out where I’m coming from. I only met some of my family during lockdown.
Wow that must have been mind-blowing?
It was. Great uncles, great aunts, great grandparents, a whole load of people all up in Birmingham. A lot of them are Methodist Christians. My great gran took us to the church, I sat there and felt an emotion I’d never felt before. At the end of the sermon, she said to the congregation that she was grateful she’d connected with us and she burst into tears. It was a powerful moment. It struck me in a very profound way. She was 95 when she passed. One of the songs on Memories relates to both her and my nan, too.
Which song is that?
Have To Go. That was my way of working through things when my nan died when I was. We didn’t know she was terminally ill and watched her deteriorate. It was just my way of finding closure. I wrote that when I was 13 / 14, trying to figure everything out. I kept the lyrics and updated them so they could include my great nan as well and make it more timeless for me.
It’s cool you kept the lyrics…
I saved them on Google Keep so they’ve bounced from every phone I’ve ever had. I had a lot of challenging times in school and wrote a lot to try and make sense of things.
You went through a lot during your childhood didn’t you?
I’ve definitely had things to overcome. I was bullied a lot, hence the track Playgrounds and also the track Provoked. I was bullied for a number of things, but it was mainly due to my Asperger’s. I only got diagnosed with it because I was being bullied. I was pushed over the edge by this boy. I was camping with the school and this boy wound me up with comments that were so racist on so many levels. I flipped out, both me and boy had to be counselled. I learnt things, he learnt things. I eventually got a diagnosis at the age of 13.
When you were diagnosed, did it help you understand yourself and your brain? Perhaps give you closure on why you feel different?
Luckily I have an amazing family. They’re very relaxed. Firm but fair but relaxed and funny with it. When I’m having a bad day they’ll make me laugh and snap me out of it. I’ll be told to stop being an ass or an ass burger.
Haha. School really sucked didn’t it?
For true man. Severely.
Were you writing beats then as well as lyrics?
I was playing around with things around the time. My family gave me some production software and DJing software. I was watching a lot of tutorials and fully into the EDM thing. Before that I was into goth and rock and then but the rock influence really led me to the dubstep sound. Prime Skrillex era.
He joined a lot of dots! Were you overcoming issues with your sight too?
Okay this is complicated… I was actually born blind. Mum didn’t realise until six weeks in. It was only when she was making funny faces and I didn’t respond that I was tested and the doctor said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you this but your son is blind.’
It was a defining moment for her. She was a young mother, she’d been through some very challenging times, she was terrified. But over the years my vision has gradually got better and it levelled off when I was 13. I was told it could stay the same or deteriorate. Thankfully it’s stayed the same.
Can you remember when your sight got better?
Not really. I’ve always been visually impaired and just learnt to deal with this.
Can you see me on the screen?
I know it’s you because I recognise you. But details? I can’t really see them. Someone could have bare wrinkles but I won’t see them unless you’re right in my face.
How does that affect you working on a computer?
I don’t see it as a problem. I get around my disability. Life isn’t the challenge – the disability is. To be disabled is to sometimes have the abilities beyond the comprehension of others. And those abilities are there because that’s all they’ve known. If you know how to deal with a disability then you just do it and it’s part of your life.
It’s the same with Asperger’s. I’ve learnt to deal with things not going to plan. A common symptom of Asperger’s is having to stick to a routine which I’m better at now. When it comes to appointments or commitments then I’m still very strict with times and get very high levels of anxiety if I’m unable to arrive on time or things don’t go to plan.
Actually that’s something I want to highlight – I want to change the landscape and pre-perceived notions of DJs turning up late. Everyone jokes about it and kinda tars us all with the same brush and I’d like to stop that. Not all of us turn up late.
Has working in a creative environment been beneficial for that side of your brain? Sometimes things happen spontaneously or run over, you can’t always stick to a routine in a creative lifestyle
You’re right and it has. In uni our tutor told us to keep our fingers in as many pies as possible to keep an income coming in which means a lack of routine and he also suggested that being self employed would suit me. Which is handy because people don’t seem to respond to job applications from someone who is vision impaired.
When did you get into design?
I’ve always been into art and would do graffiti and sketches on paper. I’d look at each piece and think ‘meh.’ My family would be like, ‘This is great!’ And I’d be like, ‘Is it, though?’ Then I discovered graphic art and design and the ability to zoom in on things was a real revelation.
When I started university, my mum and I weren’t on very much money at all so I needed to find a way of making money. I started doing some graphic design for people. It was very fulfilling to be able to buy food for us and pay bills. It was a godsend at the time and I still design things now. I’ve just designed my own website.
Sick. So back to the EP. Tell me about Radar
I got that bleep sound from a free Joliffe sample pack. It reminded me of a radar and, because of the situation here I have with our neighbours from hell, it has a deep meaning.
What can you tell me about your neighbours?
Think about the TV show Neighbours From Hell and multiply it by ten and you’re close. It’s a very toxic, aggressive situation that’s affected every day of our lives. Mum always says sorry for bringing us up here but it’s not her fault. She’s doing the best she can. I’ve been taught a lesson, I’ve bared witness to some of the worst behaviour possible so I have to keep my radar fine-tuned and trained. So radar has a deep meaning. It’s not quite part of the story but it has a very important to my own sense of working things out and catharsis for me.
Totally. How about the track Relapse?
This one is very personal. I won’t go into too much detail. It was written during some very trying times when someone I love dearly relapsed. I went through this tune on various occasions with my headphones on.
I guess there’s a catharsis from having your headphones on and thrashing it out in a way? It’s very frustrating when you can’t help someone…
It is. But it led to some very deep conversations which have been very progressive and that’s helped as well. But yes, putting the headphones on and going into my own little zone where nothing can touch me definitely helps me.
Is that the reason behind the name Kidsonic? You’ve focused on audio more than sight, and you finding that comfort through production? Your whole life is sonic…
I’ve not thought about that deeper meaning you know but yes there’s definitely something in that. My dad actually suggested my name after a few different names I’d played with. It definitely feels right and it’s unique to me, which is harder and harder now picking an artist name..
Totally. So the final track, Beneath My Feet… Is there any positivity in the conclusion?
No, none at all. I wrote it when George Floyd was killed. Because of my mixed heritage that whole event resonated with me. We’re no better in the UK. If police officers here in the UK had guns we’d have the same situation. Look up the stats on black people being tasered by police over here. It’s just as imbalanced.
So the track is me grieving over George Floyd and humanity. I sample vocals from two track – Terrence Trend D’arby As Yet Untitled, which is a harrowing track about apartheid. And Strange Fruit, Nina Simone. That’s about lynching and bloodshed. I’ve always been really moved by that song, even before I knew its meaning.
The catharsis continues…
Definitely. There’ll be a larger concept album that delves deeper into things as I continue to make sense of my life.
When you finished the EP and sent it to Melinki at Four Corners was there any catharsis that you’d finished it?
I was happy that he’d signed it straight away and that he loved all the tracks. I don’t think he was expecting me to be quite so personal. There was a feeling of fulfilment but the catharsis? It’s ongoing… I don’t think I’ve ever stop making sense of things through my music.