Fusing high energy and raw tribal rhythms, Scottish talent KEFFI landed on the legendary label Toolroom Trax in September 2022 with his debut EP “Infatuate”. The EP flew straight to the top of the Beatport charts, hitting #1 in Tech House Releases. Following this success, KEFFI collaborated with Fletcher Kerr on their Ep “Olhar” and later released “La Flauta’ on Tropica Records before returning to Toolroom Trax in April.
His rising success in the industry earned him support from notable figures such as Oliver Heldens. Steve Aoki. Roger Sanchez, KC Lights, Mark Knight, and Dombresky, with his tracks being also featured on top radio shows such as BBC Introducing Scotland and KISS FM. KEFFI’s skills as a DJ have also earned him a residency at one of the largest club nights in Aberdeen after just a few months of playing out in the city.
His latest release, ‘Delirio’, results from five graduates meeting through Toolroom Academy’s renowned production programme, forming new creative connections, and then producing the kind of club-ready underground music that Toolroom stands for. You can buy/stream it here: https://trx.lnk.to/DelirioAS.
We caught up with KEFFI to talk all things music, including his latest release, Toolroom Academy, his musical influences and much more…
How did you get into producing music, and what inspired you to make House music?
I’ve been a lover of music my whole life. I picked up the guitar at a very young age and instantly fell in love with it; this led to me playing in bands and studying music through school, college and university. As I started to get older and my interest in music deepened, I was naturally drawn to music production and thus started recording band demos.
Throughout the pandemic, we all lost a lot of that live, in-person element, and it took away a lot of writing and recording that would be done with others. I was in my final year of university at this point, and my degree project was a journey through all the genres that had influenced me up until this point, which gave me a lot of time for experimentation. Curiosity got the better of me, and I started digging deeper into house music.
I’d always been a massive lover of it, more so the commercial side of it, such as Duke Dumont, Gorgon City, MK, and so on, but anything with a soul and groove, no matter the genre, I’ve always resonated with. With the accessibility to music and endless curiosity, I kept digging deeper and deeper and started to get into a lot of tribal and Latin sounds. I began experimenting with these sounds and started messing around, and thought, wow, I really love doing this. I continued experimenting for a good few months and then found the Toolroom Academy.
How do you stay inspired and motivated to create new music?
There are two main ways for me to stay inspired and motivated. The main one for me is ‘being around it’. Going out to events and meeting new people is, without a doubt, the thing that I’d put first. Whenever my inspiration or motivation is wavering, a lot of the time, it goes hand in hand with the fact that I’ve not been out to an event with people or music that have a similar vibe to me. Tech and Latin House aren’t really a thing in Scotland, so I try to get down to England as often as I can so I can see the music I love. There’s nothing like being around the vibe that resonates with you the most.
Finding new music is also a great way to stay motivated and inspired; I think this is also important for evolving as an artist. It’s easy to get stuck on the same music that you love, we all have those go-to records that we will spin on repeat, but every day the amount of top-quality music coming out is unbelievable; if I could spend all day looking for new music I would, you’re missing out on so much if you’re not crate digging!
Oh, also, take breaks!
Can you tell us about your experience working with Toolroom Academy and how it has helped your career?
Toolroom Academy was great and life-changing from my perspective, if I’m being real about it. It was during my final year of university that I actually applied for Toolroom Academy, which started in, I think it was October 2021, which was a few months after I finished university. As I mentioned before, I’d been doing music my whole life, but I was still what you’d probably call a beginner at House production. I did the production certificate course, which had a class of about 20. Within the first week of that course, I knew the direction I was going to head in musically, which was a total game changer for me; I think this is one of the hardest things artists go through at the start; we all have so many different influences across all genres, it’s committing to the sound that can often be the problem, TA sorted that out!
After this, I took on the Masterclass course, which was one on one mentoring with Pete Griffith and BK. This is where the guys really helped me nail down the sound I was going for and the techniques required to be able to produce that sound. At the end of the course, I had two tracks finished. Pete and I were just about to go through the finished tracks, and Mark Knight walked into Pete’s office (we were on Zoom). I’d spoken to Mark really briefly at an E1 event before, but this was nuts. He signed ‘Infatuate’ and ‘Toledo’ on the spot; there are videos of this on the Toolroom Instagram, and you can tell that I just have no idea what was going on. It was so wild! That EP ended up hitting #1 on the Tech House Releases in September, which for my debut release was crazy; I think it’s only just starting to sink in now how well it did.
What is your music production process like? Do you have any specific rituals or routines that you follow?
It’s pretty specific; I use the routine I learnt with Toolroom Academy most of the time. Start with a Kick, Clap, and Hat, and then build some form of hooky percussion. My music is, of course, heavily percussion-based, so I spend a lot of time on this; I use a mixture of sampling, one shot and loops to find something that I can dance to on repeat; if you can do that, then you’re already on to a winner. After this, I create or find a suitable baseline and then a vocal to go on top. This is all just within an eight or 16-bar loop. I then turn it into a mini arrangement to try a few things and then stretch it out!
Sometimes I’ll find a nice hook or vocal beforehand and do it in reverse, but this is normally the way I do it.
I like to get my production in as early in the day as possible so that the night is free for anything DJ related.
Your latest release, ‘Delirio’ on Toolroom Trax, is an exciting collaboration between you and four other Toolroom Academy students. What can you tell us about it?
Another track that was the product of the Toolroom Academy! Loz Seka and HARRT were both in my Toolroom Academy production certificate class. I kept in touch with HARRT after the course finished, and Altere lived in the same city as me. Altere and I didn’t actually know who each other were, but I think he reached out after seeing ‘TA’ in my bio and contacted me to ask a few things about it. We ended up being on the same lineup last February, which was actually my first DJ gig, and we hit it off ever since then. We flew down to London last April for the Toolroom event at E1 and met up with Loz, HARRT, and Alex! It’s a group that just blossomed over time.
We were all going down to the Toolroom night at Studio 338 in November and decided to all get an Air BnB. We hung out, had a few beers and ended up writing ‘Delirio’. We took the track to the guys at Toolroom, and to our delight, they signed it.
What challenges do you face as a producer, and how do you overcome them?
Probably something we can all relate to, finishing ideas! I get really eager to start a new idea that pops into my head, which can distract me from the current mission. It’s something I’m still working on, but referring to reference tracks is undoubtedly a great way to get tracks finished off. I’ve recently been finding collaborations to be a great way to finish music too.
Who are your biggest musical influences, and how have they inspired your sound?
It depends on how far back we want to go!
Regarding my artistic sound, it’s got to be Jesse Garcia, Eli Brown and Sewell. The rawness and energy in Jesse Garcia’s music circa 2003 resonates with me massively. The percussion is brilliant, and I’d love to put a modern spin on this kind of music. Eli Brown purely for the driving energy carried out throughout his whole discography. Sewell, for the vibe, track ideas and production!
What do you think sets your music apart from other music producers?
I think the rawness in sound and track ideas. If you listen to tracks like ‘Infatuate’ & ‘Impossible Beat,’ I can’t think off the top of my head of many tracks like these, and they definitely have a specific vibe and identity to them. I’m constantly trying to find artists like old Jesse Garcia & early Eli Brown, but maybe a more modern version, but there just isn’t any. I’d love to see myself becoming a hybrid of that! I’ve had a lot of people contacting me since my first release saying that my music is quite different; I think a lot of this also comes from my early influences in music and not being around the House scene until recently. I was writing a lot about feeling rather than what I might have known to have worked in DJ sets, which has no doubt shaped my sound in the early days.
It’s easy to fall into thinking everyone else is doing that, so I’ll do that. But I think as long as your music is authentic and you’re drawing from your own influences, and then you can set yourself apart from other producers.
What advice would you give to aspiring producers who are just starting?
This list could be huge, take breaks, protect your ears, and choose the right sounds but the main one for me, and we hear it all the time, the comparison is the thief of joy, stop unhealthily comparing. It can be so easy to get caught up in numbers when you’re starting off. I think knowing to check yourself when you’re doing it and not criticising yourself for having lower numbers than someone else is important.
I’m very early on in my artistic career; there’s no point in me comparing my step 1 to someone’s step 10. You’ve both done completely different things to get to where you are; you live completely different lives, so how can you compare?
Everyone’s growth is totally different from each others, so don’t stress about it; you’re on your own path; just keep going. This can also link to just having fun; sometimes, as producers, we can be way too hard on ourselves; you’ll never create your best work if you’re sitting in your studio stressed out.
What are any upcoming releases or projects that you have in the pipeline?
I’ve got a few really great collaborations in the works and some wicked techy tracks nearing the end for some of my target labels; I can’t wait for the future! It’s been a crazy first eight months with seven tracks out; I really want to get my music right from now on.
Loz Seka, KEFFI, HARRT, Altere & Alex Lauthals’ ‘Delirio’ is available now on Toolroom Trax.