Kevin McKay

Even by his high standards, Kevin McKay has had a landmark couple of years. His label is closing in on an incredible 700th release nand the man himself continued to turn out a high-grade, non-stop selection of vital sounds that covered a wide spectrum of house styles. Back in 2020, he dropped his well-received ‘Summer Of Love’ LP which perfectly captured the club experience in one indispensable album. There was also a huge collaboration with French house producer Norman Doray on “Let Me Work On You” while the Glasgow Underground label continued to make exciting new talent signings with the likes of prodigious producer Harvee quickly making his mark.

All this of course comes after Kevin has spent many years deeply entrenched in the scene. In that time he has earned a deserving reputation as one of house music’s most hard-working figures and has done everything from working in high profile collaborative duos with Omid 16B, creating numerous dance floor anthems, discovering and co-producing Mylo’s seminal album, ‘Destroy Rock & Roll’ album and holding down a residency at Mick’s Garage in London.

Now McKay has released ‘Goodies’, a superb collection of his most standout recent tracks, looking back over a massively productive 15 month period. The essential selection takes in a broad array of remixes and originals from the Glasgow Underground label headworld-renowned DJ and tireless producer. A perfect opportunity for DMC to grab five with one of the best loved individuals on planet dance…


Hi Kevin, thanks for joining us again at DMC. Congrats on your new album; can you tell us how it came to fruition?
A – Thank you! And thanks for having me. I love the album format, but it seems less popular now. It feels like the idea of developing 12-14 new tracks and then releasing them all at once is an entirely alien concept nowadays. Because of this, my recent albums have been a collection of the previous singles with one new cut. That’s how “Goodies” came about. This method gives you the benefit of hindsight, which is kind of wonderful. There are a few more songs than I would typically put on an album, but I wanted to use this album as a bookend to my recent cover recordings. My next single is a bit of a departure for me. Over the last four years, I have been releasing a lot of covers. In the beginning, I was pretty much universally sneered at for this. Now, everyone is doing it. So, I’ve decided to move away from this kind of thing as an artist. I’ll still be sampling, and there might be the odd cover, but I will be focussing on new material from here on in. 
Your label, Glasgow Underground, is homing in on its 700th release. That’s a massive number; how do you feel about the milestone, and what can we expect from the label and yourself beyond it?
A – To be honest, it’s only at moments like this that I stop and think about it. I have such high standards that I always think I could be doing more, better, or both! But, reading your question, I can see that it is a significant achievement. I think the two things I feel the most are lucky and proud. But, I also do not underestimate the privilege I have experienced as a white man working in the music business. Looking back across my career, so many of the highlights have happened because of a string of random events. When I started working for myself, I heard that quote, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” I took that to heart and have had no reason not to live by it over the years! 
Regarding what you can expect from the label, we are 100% committed to releasing the kind of music that DJs can’t wait to play. Everyone at Glasgow Underground is a DJ and plays everything from Deep House & Disco to House, Tech and Minimal. So if we would play it, we sign it.
In terms of my music, when I was starting, I didn’t have the confidence even to try and make big floor-fillers. So, I concentrated on the deeper side of house music, something I was hugely passionate about. And, after dealing with the fall-out of producing Mylo and Linus Loves, I was in such a dark place I couldn’t even release the music I made. So, when I began releasing music in 2010, I decided I would follow “the subtle art of not giving a fuck”. 
A lot of releases on GU showcase heavy influence from other top-quality records. How do you tackle the controversial realm of ‘sampling’ and revitalise pre-existing musical concepts?
A – It is a minefield! In the 90s, it seemed as though remixing and revitalising old copyrights were part of the major labels’ plans. And, since they hold the lion’s share of the “classics” and were re-releasing in line with demand, the only covers that worked for me offered a different spin on the original. But, unfortunately, nowadays, only a few things get remixed. And it’s a select band of producers that get these opportunities. So I started doing edits to fulfil the demand on the dancefloors I was playing. We have a brilliant team of vocalists and an incredible vocal producer, so it was easy to move from edits to recreations. The line between a sample and a cover is clear in law, but it’s a grey area in reality. You only have to look at the Stones taking 100% of Bitter Sweet Symphony to realise that. I used to think it was crazy that The Verve got no publishing from it. Compare that to Eric Prydz, who got 33% of “Call On Me” for “sampling” Steve Winwood, and there is no justice in my eyes. The more time I spend in the industry, the more I realise that you have to be consistent and active to achieve or maintain success. Clearing samples takes a considerable amount of time, and, often, that time wasted can mean a few things. Firstly, someone can steal your idea – publishing companies are not bound to secrecy! Secondly, it can take so long that the moment to release your banger has gone. Or lastly, and probably most horrible for the artist, it takes so long you hate the track and don’t have the energy to finish it properly. So now, if we have used a significant portion of an original song, we often release it as a cover. But, 99% of the time, they stay up. And we take that 1% of the time that we get them taken down and think, well, that was painful but better than waiting 99 times to clear the sample! 
The label has held its own at a high level for many years. What advice would you give to aspiring and existing label owners who have ambitions to take their imprint to the top?
A – It is challenging to build long-lasting label success. I still don’t know if I have it right. I chose a different strategy to other similar-sounding labels, and I still don’t know if we will be around for as long as I want! The one thing that shaped my view on how I should run GU when I decided to release regularly again in 2010 was how it failed the first time. In 2002 we had become pigeon-holed as a “deep house” label. Deep House became Dad House. Sales dropped, and we lost the coolness we had enjoyed for the previous few years. Dancefloors wanted Erol Alkan, not meandering Fender Rhodes solos, and we were ill-equipped to adapt. I had not just released Deep House in 1997-2002 because it was all I liked; I did it because that was what was successful. I decided in 2010 that I would not be a slave to the bottom line. It was more important that I released all the music I liked and developed a label that could do that. In 2002 I signed Mylo but had to start a new brand to house him. I didn’t want that to happen again. It’s tricky, though, you can’t be all things to all men, and labels grow quickest when they are part of a new movement. So if I were starting again from now, I would probably mainly be releasing Minimal, as that sound is hot and growing. But I would also have marquee signings in other areas of music that I loved. So that if Minimal turns into a huge thing and then flips out to the land of uncool, I would have laid the foundations to move into other genres. 
You’ve been in the industry for a very respectable amount of time. In your opinion, what was the best period for you – musically – as both an artist and a listener?
A – I have loved living and working through every era of dance music so far. I have been DJing for 32 years now, and each period has brought tunes that deliver dancefloor memories I will never forget. I can’t say that 1990s house is better than mid-2000s electro house (for example). They are all different and equally memorable. I think clubs now are pretty much the same as clubs were then. People go on about phones, but I don’t think they are the problem; stages are the problem. Put the DJ on the floor in a packed room, and only the people immediately around them can see. Dance music was revolutionary because we didn’t need to look at a bloody stage. And now we have DJs on stages. Go figure. I think I am the same as 99% of other humans regarding what I love most. The music I fell in love with when I was coming of age (such an old fashioned phrase but perfect here!) are the sounds that have the deepest place in my heart. So for me, there is nothing more precious than the feeling I get listening to the Prince and Fleetwood Mac albums I fell in love with in the 80s.
Do albums still hold the same level of importance in the streaming era? Why did you want to put ‘Goodies’ out there, and can we expect more albums to come? 
A – I think it is clear that albums aren’t crucial in the streaming era for most people. Music is cyclical, and we still appear, to me at least, to be in a period defined by singles. I would love it to change. But, when I see marketing plans based on 7-second Tiktok videos and most people of that age I talk to love nothing more than relaxing scrolling on the sofa, I struggle to see when 18-25-year-olds will have the attention span for an album! 
What is your favourite track on ‘Goodies’, and why?
A – Oh wow, I have a few! If you push me for one, it’s our version of “Miss You”. As I mentioned, I’ve taken a fair amount of flak for doing covers. Music fans seem to think they are easy and, because of this, not worthy of any critical acclaim. Most of them don’t realise how difficult it is to produce one successfully. In many of the ones I have done, our singers have purposely copied the style of the original song. Doing this gives the track the appearance of a remix. With “Miss You”, I feel like I produced a cover that stands on its own as a new recording. I love the original Rolling Stones version, and this track started as an edit. Jagger’s voice is so iconic that I didn’t want to go down the route of copying him. I spoke to Tyrrell, my vocal producer, about it. I asked him if he knew any female singers that could take it on. He suggested Tasty Lopez, and after hearing a quick demo from her, I knew it was going to work. I already had some killer bass and guitar parts from Alex Gewer, but I didn’t want to use the rocky ones he had played. I found a brilliant jazz and disco guitarist on Fiverr (Luigi Pistillo) and asked him to take the Rolling Stones chords and give them a more disco feel. I sent him examples of what I meant, and he nailed the parts. The recording came together over a few months and with contributions from worldwide. It is 100% only possible in 2022, and I love that. 
Lastly, do you have any other exciting news or projects you’d like to share?
A – Glasgow Underground is starting a series of parties! Our first one is in London’s latest open-air club, Morden Wharf Terrace. It is an all-dayer on Sunday 12th June and features me with Nancie, Jen Payne, Sam Dexter, Mallin and Jade Cox alongside. 
Kevin McKay will also be appearing at…
I Feel Love @ Brixton POW – 22nd April
Christchurch College Oxford w/ Horse Meat Disco – 18th June
District, Leeds – 7th July
Glasgow Underground @ Morden Wharf Terrace – 3rd September