Kidda - DMC World Network


Anybody who first encounters Kidda, aka  Ste McGregor, on a social networking site would conclude that he was a bit  of a grumpy git. His tweets are acerbic, while his Facebook status updates  veer from self-deprecation to cutting sarcasm about popular culture. This  differs remarkably, however, from the genial giant Ste McGregor is in the  flesh, and – crucially – the uplifting, catchy, accessible music he produces  too.

“People ask me quite a lot why my music is so positive sounding,”  says Ste. “It could just be that it’s like an escape. I don’t really revel  in the darker side of things, I’ve never really been attracted to that. It’s  kind of a yin and yang thing, I suppose. A bit of a grumpy tosser in real  life, and then my music isn’t.”

Kidda - DMC World NetworkKidda’s music is positive, joyous,  life-affirming, and now very much pure, unadulterated pop. It’s still  dripping with soul though, which is what marks it out from the disposable X  Factor karaoke that litters the charts. “Soulful isn’t throwaway, “ Kidda  correctly asserts, “it’s political in its attitude, its positivity goes  forward rather than being reflective. Its forward thinking nature can be  hedonistic as well.”
Ste McGregor’s brother called him Kidda, and the  name stuck. He got into hip-hop as a kid, started breakdancing and buying  records, and hip-hop became an education for him. “Then you listen to James  Brown, and then something else, and you understand where it came from,” he  says. House music inspired him too: there was a small but dedicated scene  for house in Middlesbrough, where he grew up.

Kidda moved from the  north-east to Nottingham in the Midlands region of England in the early  1990s, to study fine art. “I was academically not really good at school, but  I was always really good at art and drawing and painting and stuff, and I  was good at English as well as art, so starting to make hip-hop was like a  continuation of that,” he says.

Ste started messing around with the  industry standard sampler, the Akai S-900, making instrumental beats and  pieces. When a friend moved back to Middlesbrough to do an animation course,  he soon followed him. “If you did it on Teeside, you got all the fees paid,”  he recalls. “And I wanted to do music videos.”

Moving to Brighton around  the Millennium, he moved in with Skint recording artist Danielsan. “He said,  ‘why don’t you make a video for me?’, so I did,” says Ste. “Then I went into  Skint and gave them my reel, and they said there was loads of stuff I could  do.”

Riding off the incredible success of Fatboy Slim, Skint commissioned  Ste to do loads of music promos. As well as a skateboarding video for  Danielsan’s beatsy funkathon ‘Force Ten’, he produced one for Midfield  General (aka Damian Harris) featuring a surreal ramble by the then-unknown  Noel Fielding, and some for big beat superstars the Lo-Fi Allstars, house  trio X-Press 2 and Irish techno don Phil Kieran.

Concurrently, he  produced two music EPs for Brighton-based hip-hop label Catskills, and  carried on writing a lot of music himself. “I had a bit of wind in my sails,  and I’d done a track with Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol,” he remembers.  “It sounded great, like a proper record! Catskills were kind of winding  things up a bit and weren’t prepared to clear samples, and when we went to  see Damian [Harris] – who loved the two EPs – he said Skint would clear the  samples.”

The vision of a Kidda album for Skint was formed, and Ste  started collecting guest vocalists. The album took a while because Ste  wanted the samples to sound as close to the originals as possible – even  though everything was re-recorded.

Kidda’s debut album ‘Going Up’ was  released to almost universal critical acclaim. “With infectious hooks, tasty  beats and soul-tinged melodies, Kidda’s debut feels like the natural sequel  to The Avalanches’ universally acclaimed ‘Since I Left You’,” said MOJO  magazine. It was awarded album of the month status in DJ magazine, album of  the week in DMC Update, while BBC Music said: “Somewhere between funk, pop,  hip-hop and old skool rave, ‘Going Up’ is the perfect soundtrack to this summer’s festivals.”

Ste personally produced a video for first single  ‘Smile’, the one that turns into the Ski Sunday theme, and breezy single  ‘Strong Together’ has been a Top 40 hit in much of Europe. The Hervé remix  of ‘Under The Sun’ was one of the biggest dance tracks of the next 12  months, while the original of ‘Under The Sun’ was picked up by Bacardi to  use in their huge TV and cinema advertising campaign.

Kidda wasn’t quite  quids-in, though. Laura Vane’s original vocal on ‘Under The Sun’ was cleared  and re-recorded, but because the notation was the same he was stung for  publishing royalties by EMI — the major label took the lion’s share of the  fee from the Bacardi TV ad. “It was a baptism of fire at the hands of those  c**ts, EMI,” he growls.

Lesson learned the hard way, for his new album  he’s written everything himself – it’s all come from his own head. “It’s a  lot more fun, the results are better,” he says. His ear for a catchy hook  has helped Ste develop into a fully-blown songwriter, with no need to do the  sample thing anymore. Lyrics, melodies, choruses, toplines, beats,  production, the sound… everything is down to Ste and co-writer Lee Baker,  and new album ‘Hotel Radio’ is testament to Ste’s ability to craft  irresistible feelgood pop.
Lyrically, the album swings from traditional  ‘I love you’ sentiments to other real situations in Ste’s life. “‘Down 4 U’  is about the last four years of not having any money and trying to justify  carrying on to my girlfriend, which was a very real situation,” he shares.  “I spent a lot of time beating myself up about it, which wasn’t very helpful  – but made it easy to write!”

“It’s about confidence, giving yourself the  room to explore ideas and not really being afraid of doing that,” he  continues. “It’s like feeling you’ve got nothing to lose, and trying  different things – opening yourself up a bit. There are bits that are quite  raw.. People might not connect what some of the words are about from a load  of situations, but I’m happy for it to be out there – I think my voice is  valid.”

Over the past few years Kidda has become a significant name on  the international DJ circuit, playing electro-house and the ghetto bass  sound popularised by DJs like Sinden & Hervé and Crookers. He’s  currently on a hiatus from DJing, as he became a bit jaded with aspects of  the lifestyle. “The turnover is too quick, it’s like the pop conveyor-belt,  it’s a functional music,” he says. “Everything I play when I DJ I’m really  into, and I really enjoy playing music I like really loud, but schlepping up  to Cheltenham for a gig where there’s 50 people who don’t know who you are…  that whole thing is a bit pointless. I’d just go back to the hotel after the  gig and think, ‘I just want to go home’.”

It was after one such mediocre  gig in Sheffield that the idea for the title for his new album came about.  “After the gig I got back and put the telly on, and the first thing that  came on was this Ceefax logo which just said ‘Hotel Radio’,” Ste says. “That  was the only thing on in the whole room, there was just this mad glow. It  was funny that they had to tell you it was the radio as well, in case you  got confused and said, ‘Where’s the picture?’ So I took a picture of it on  my phone, and it looked mad. It had the same sort of effect as a real fire,  it was as close to cosy as you can get in a f***ing Travelodge!”

To  promote ‘Hotel Radio’, Kidda is formulating a live set-up involving an  animated screen show, Ste doing live sequences synched to what’s on the  screen, and various vocalists from the album effectively making up Kidda the  band. He’s also going to have a bespoke ‘Hotel Radio’ gig area on virtual  life music site, and appears unphased about being thrust into  the pop world: “I’m going to show them how to do it!”

The new album is  rammed full of complete radio-friendly three-minute pop anthems that zing  with joie de vivre. “I listened back to the first album recently, and it  just seemed to have gaping holes in it where words should’ve been,” Ste  reflects.

“They’re filled in now, I just feel this time it’s more  substantial – everything’s there.
So is it ironic that when people turn  on their radio and hear some of his sunshine pop tunes, they wouldn’t guess  that they’re made by a grumpy, acerbic bloke? “Well, I’m not, it’s just my  Twitter really,” he states. “It’s only making people laugh, people seem to  really enjoy it. It’s a public service. I see it all as part of the same  thing, especially lyric writing: you come up with something short and sweet  and to the point. It’s not definitely trying to be deliberately funny, just  about getting to the point – I enjoy that. But there’s a difference between  a throwaway comment about Katie Waissel from X Factor or whatever, and  submitting something to a record label and trying to get it on the radio.”

Written By Carl Loben

Released by Skint Records 12 September  2011.
First single, ‘Wanna Be Loved’ out 1 Aug.