When Noisia ask you to send them some tracks only a year after you’ve started making drum & bass, you know you’re doing something right.
And that’s exactly what happened to Jonathan Kievit, aka Signal, the 17-year-old wonderkid who’s been churning out bangers which are making producers twice his age scratch their heads.
With releases already on the likes of Critical, Renegade Hardware and of course Noisia’s Invisible Recordings, the Dutch prodigy is fast becoming an established name thanks to impeccable production capabilities – and he’s only just getting started.
At the end of October, he’s got a five-track EP dropping on Critical; his third release on Kasra’s full label after doozies on the Systems and Binary series.
So what’s the key to balancing studies and producing? Who has influenced him the most? And, more importantly, how does he get into clubs when he isn’t 18 yet?… Read on to find out the answers to those questions and more.
Hi Signal – what’s been going on lately?
I just moved to a new place in Rotterdam, so I’ve been busy sorting out my equipment and things like that.
Nice, why the move?
I’m starting university next week to study Applied Mathematics. It’s going to be tough alongside producing but I’ve always had an interest in maths so I really want to do it; I’m probably gonna have to sacrifice both sleep and a social life, though! These days I play at least once a week so during the week I’m going to have to do uni stuff and at the weekend I’ll have to play out and do as much producing as I can. I’ve been working on lots of music over the summer holiday so I can focus on studies as much as possible in my first year.
Was it tough deciding whether or not to go to uni considering your music career is starting to take off?
Not really because it has only started to really take off recently and I’ve had plans to go to uni for a long time. I also see it as a plan B because if my music doesn’t go quite the way I want it to, I can fall back on my degree. Also, I don’t think I’ll be DJing when I’m 50, so I might be able to become an accountant instead when I hit that age!
Speaking of numbers; at what age exactly did you start making drum & bass?
When I was 15, but before that I made house and dubstep. I started making house when I was 13. I first got into electronic music when I went round to my friend’s house, who was listening to Tiesto at the time. He then started listening to the likes of Skrillex, so I started listening to him and then got really into dubstep.
What was the link from Skrillex to drum & bass, then?
I heard Noisia’s remix of Skrillex’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites on YouTube and immediately thought to myself; this is fucking sick! After hearing that I listened to more of Noisia’s stuff, which of course led me to drum & bass, and I haven’t looked back since. They showed me the light, you could say…
So for them to then hit you up for tunes shortly after must have been pretty mental!?
Ah man, it was beyond incredible! Thijs sent me a SoundCloud message asking to send them demos and I literally started crying! I only had two tracks out at the time and only about 1,000 SoundCloud followers, which made it even more crazy. I messaged them straight back and sent Tripwire over, which they signed immediately. Around the same time I signed an EP to Critical – and that’s how it all started. It all happened so quickly; it’s a week I’ll never forget.
What was the trick to getting a track signed by Noisia so quickly?
I was young so I just sat in front of my computer making drum & bass all day, which allowed me to progress really quickly!
Come on… there was surely more to it than just being a young’un?
Okay, there is another reason… Back when I was making dubstep I used to visit a website called Neurohop Forum quite a lot, which was full of producers from all kinds of genres. We discussed music and shared tips with each other and I found it really, really helpful. The forum sadly finished so we made a smaller version of it in the form of a Facebook chat, with around 30 people. There are some big names in there from other genres which I really like, as it’s important to get feedback from people who don’t make drum & bass too for a more neutral view.
And a lot of hard work, I imagine?
Haha, yep. On some days, particularly recently, I wake up, turn on my computer and make drum & bass. Then I forget about the time, realise I haven’t had any food at about 4pm, go downstairs, get some food and make some more drum & bass! If I have the motivation to keep working and don’t have writer’s block I’ll often stay up until about 3am, then wake up at about midday. I don’t set an alarm if I don’t have to, as sleep is really important. I do get some sleep, just at different times to most other people…
You’ve talked about Noisia quite a bit – are they your main inspirations?
Hmm, I absolutely love their music but what they make is really different to what I make, in my opinion. My main inspirations are Hybris and Mefjus for my more technical stuff and for the more musical stuff I’m really into Alix Perez and Ivy Lab. If you compare a generic liquid track to something by Ivy Lab you can tell the difference a mile off, their sound design is unbelievable but they still have the musicality to their sound too.
Speaking of technical stuff, lots of people have been drooling over your sound design. You must have a pretty impressive studio setup?
My studio is really nothing special, which shocks some people. Most of my music so far has been made with a pair of €20 headphones and some old speakers I found in my dad’s garage! Today is actually the first day I’m using my new Adam A7X speakers, which is very exciting. I haven’t done any acoustic treatment to my new room yet, though, which will take a while to get right but it will be worth it. In terms of software, I use Fruity Loops. I don’t know why people always think it’s not that good, it’s great in my opinion and what I’ve always used.
By upgrading your monitors, does it mean we can expect even better tunes from you in the future?
Definitely! It’s going to take a while though as most releases take about half a year to come out and it’ll take a while treating my room, but yeah; I think it will improve my mix-downs and production quite a bit. Sounds good to me! And what is next on your release schedule? I’ve heard rumours of some pretty tasty collabs on way… I have an EP coming on the main Critical label which includes a heavy track, a deeper track, a liquid track and a techy track, so quite a bit of variation. Some of the tracks have been finished since the start of the year and most of my previous releases have been ones featuring various artists whereas this is solely me, so I’m really looking forward to getting it out there. And yes I also have collaborations with Icicle, Hybris, Joe Ford, June Miller, Current Value, Disprove, Emperor and Fre4knc lined up, which I’m buzzing about.
They don’t sound tasty – they sound mouth-watering! It seems as if Critical have supported you quite a bit?
Yeah Kasra and Badger (Critical’s label manager) have helped me loads. So have Tom Dagless from the Bassic Agency, Noisia and their management team, my manager, Ant TC1, Jae Overtech and finally Mark from June Miller, who invited me to his studio a couple of times last year and introduced me to some people in the industry.
And finally… how do you get into clubs? You’re not 18 yet!
Haha! I guess if the bouncers didn’t let me in, I wouldn’t be able to play, so it wouldn’t look too good for the club. And anyway I usually like I to get to the club really early, sometimes even before the bouncers get there, so that I get into the rhythm of the night and hear the guys playing before me. My promoter doesn’t let me drink yet so I’m usually on the Fanta…