A part of Toronto’s vibrant music community for over 15 years, Jamie Kidd is a multi-instrumentalist, Producer, DJ and educator with an affinity for bass heavy rhythms. Jamie has performed throughout North America and Europe and is a co-founder of the acclaimed Box of Kittens collective, whose parties have helped reenergize the underground at home and in Berlin since 2007. Let’s get more acquainted with Jamie, before he hits the Moog Audio Stage at Electric Island this Monday, September 3rd for the season 6 finale!
You’ve certainly been a part of the Toronto music community for some time now. Over 15 years! As co-founder of the acclaimed ‘Box of Kittens’ collective, can you tell us what the brand is all about? What can someone expect when they attend one of your events?
Box of Kittens was born out of a need to share forward-thinking music outside of the usual clubland venues, and a reaction to the overly serious techno scene of the mid-2000’s. A partnership between myself, Mike Gibbs, Hali, and Fabio Palermo. Since then, it’s grown into inclusive, community-minded electronic music events with a high production value. Quality sound, lighting, and decor in non conventional, interesting spaces – warehouses, lofts, etc. We occasionally co-host club events, but that has only been in recent years. We care that our patrons are able to let go and truly lose themselves in the atmosphere and music. Our parties are continually diverse – people from a wide range of backgrounds, race, sexual identity, and age anywhere from 20 yrs – 50+. Acceptance and comfort are key, and we pride ourselves on having an incredible community that supports us and keeps our events welcoming and friendly. Our Sunday Afternoon Social’s are like a big house party in a loft with 400 friends.
Why do you think it’s important for underground electronic music to thrive?
It has given artists the opportunity to tell long, extended stories through music that aren’t available in more commercial avenues of the business. One of its many similarities to jazz. It provides independent artists an avenue to be a creative outside of the mainstream music business machine. Its given non-traditional musicians the ability to be expressive and create art, which in turn has inspired other musicians and artists to step outside their comfort zone into new ideas and methods. Over the past 40 years, sounds developed in the underground have often foreshadowed upcoming trends in popular music.
“Over the past 40 years, sounds developed in the underground have often foreshadowed upcoming trends in popular music.”
The underground party scene also gives people an opportunity to reinvent themselves, play a character, or get involved and participate in creating this celebratory environment. It’s not only about being entertained – for many it’s also about feeling like you are a part of something greater, and connecting with people through a love for this music. This again highlights the importance of our community, and the need to provide a space for people from all walks of life to feel accepted and free to let loose and release themselves from the tensions of daily life.
Could you give us some insights into the different characteristics of music scenes in Toronto and Berlin?
Berlin has been a techno mecca since the late 80’s, so there are quite a few. Electronic music has been part of popular culture since, and people are often more open minded and receptive to its many styles and subgenres. Within the party scene of both cities a key difference is the availability and type of venues events are held in, and the laws surrounding such. There are many raw, unique spaces that you would never find here, let alone be permitted to host an event in. One such place being Griessmuehle (a factory basement with an additional outdoor dancefloor housed in a former grain mill) where Box of Kittens had the pleasure of throwing a bunch of parties. Other contributing factors are things like operational hours and liquor license. There is no imposed “last call” in Berlin, so parties can go for 12-48 hours. This allows artists to play long, extended 3-8 hour sets, and really stretch out, go much deeper into their record collection, and the story they want to tell. This differs far from the typical club experience in North America, with DJ’s playing 1-2 hours sets filled primarily with bangers and sure fire hits. Berlin clubs have no VIP, no reserved tables with bottle service. Everyone is treated the same, as it should be.
As a musician, you’ve taken on many different roles in this field. What are the expectations that you have for yourself?
Beyond the need to creatively express myself, one of the main expectations I’ve always had is to continue to grow and gain a deeper understanding of composition and many facets of music production. To be able to connect the similarities between different genres, rather then focus on their differences. I’ve never really remained within one genre my entire career – which may be both a benefit and detriment to my success in terms of what listeners expect of me lol. I’ve worked within techno, house, electro, dub reggae, drum & bass, breaks, rock, funk, jazz, and soul.. I love it all. Growing up as a jazz student, I’ve never lost that spirit of improvisation. So when DJ’ing or performing a live p.a. I always try to push myself to create something special and of the moment. One of the first things that excited me about live electronic music was the opportunity to create something unique and of the moment, something that may never be heard exactly the same again. Now of course, that can backfire occasionally, but the need to express myself and how I’m feeling in that moment far outweigh the worries of a minor mistake or two.
For the past couple years one of my main focuses has been the live disco band Tush, with whom I am the bassist and producer alongside lead vocalist Kamilah Apong. We are currently working on our debut album, for local imprint Do Right! Music. I also have a strong passion for audio technology, and helping others use these tools to express themselves.
What can Electric-Islanders expect from your performance this upcoming Labour Day?
Being a day event and one of the last of summer, expect funky, jackin’, percussive workouts. Deep and bass driven house, techno, perhaps a little disco.