Matt Relton, the kidnap kid, has just finished studying Crime and Politics at the University of Sheffield. I’m not sure what qualification he even came out with, we move past the academic world pretty quickly – he’s much more excited by the fact that his Visa just got accepted, which means he’s going to get to go to America in March. He’s going on a US-wide tour alongside some of the brightest names in UK music: AlunaGeorge, Rudimental, Disclosure and TEED. A kind of Great British music hype envoy, if you will. Weirdly enough, Kidnap Kid might be one of the most identifiable musicians on the whole roster after he won the iTunes US Best Electronic Song 2012 for his track ‘Vehl’. That’s quite a big deal for someone who was doing it in-between dissertations and exams. Last week he released his new song ‘So Close’ on his SoundCloud page and it racked up over one hundred thousand views in seven days: SoundCloud as a platform just doesn’t generally throw up those kinds of numbers. It’s an interesting time to be Kidnap Kid.
This tour is definitely the biggest one he’s been on – is there any pressure along with it? “No, man, not at all – it feels great, I was watching and hanging out with these groups of musicians – these people who were pushing the scene forward two years ago. Disclosure and I were sending each other music at that time and playing the same kind of shows – I haven’t spoken with them for a while so I’m excited at being able to hang out with them again. I’m looking forward to going there as a relative unknown, too. Them not knowing me as well as, say, my fans in Leeds or Sheffield from two years back, so I’ll have a clean slate to play them my EP and stuff I’m writing at the moment.”
A lot of things can happen in two years. Matt’s said in previous interviews that producers making a certain sound now will sound different inside a year. I ask him if this is just the so-called ‘ADHD generation’ of producers expressing itself? “I can only speak for myself – my own music’s turning house-ier and it’s constantly changing… it’s the need to keep myself entertained. Stylistically, you have your sound but if your new release sounds like your last one, what’s the point? I think because music is so cliquey at the moment, I feel some tracks are only relevant inside their own genre. Like they only make sense with the knowledge of the rest of the genre, of the history. I want to make music that fits in a place, but that someone can enjoy without having to know its history – I guess I’m hoping to cross-over in that sense.”
He’ll need to cross-over in another sense, too: from a student–slash-DJ to DJ proper. He’s got a qualification in a recession, does music seem the logical choice? “Music was the only choice, really. I’d never planned on doing anything else. I maybe didn’t admit it to people, as until you’ve achieved a little bit, it’s kind of a pipedream, saying ‘I just want to write music!’ But even before I was Kidnap Kid I used to be in bands – since I was about ten, really. It was more of a case of working towards a ‘when’ than anything else… I went to university because I knew I was three years off of anything and realistically thought ‘OK, I’ve got time to kill, I might as well tuck a degree in there while I can.”
So when did he have that first inkling he was getting somewhere? “Probably quite recently, the award I got from iTunes America – I’ve not got anything physical, I need to hassle them for something… I want a big glass thing to put above my bed. I was freaking out though because I wrote that track whilst I was doing my dissertation, while no-one really knew what I was doing and I had little to no recognition. I was kind of sat there with this piece of music and was like ‘I really like this and I feel like this could do really well,’ but then [you put it out and] ten people comment on SoundCloud – it’s frustrating. And then to have that a year later where it’s been put out and still get best electronic single of the year in America, it was a validation of the feelings I was having when I wrote it.”
That must feel pretty good. Certainly better than waking up naked in the morning with three plain-clothes police officers standing over your bed. Yes, because the Kidnap Kid moniker is not for nothing. “When I was seventeen, a friend of mine wanted to fake a kidnapping in a local KFC and film it. Don’t ask me why, he just did. He wanted it on film as a joke. I was bored so said I’d get involved, I’d get kidnapped: it sounded like it would be funny. My brother came along and some other friends, and the idea was that we’d tell [the Police] straight away so we wouldn’t freak anyone out. So I was stood ordering food, then [my brother] and my other mate ploughed into the car park in a battered car, jumped out wearing devil masks and black gloves, black jackets and stuff… They came in and, in the moment, we just committed and we had a fight in KFC – it got pretty real,” he laughs as he remembers. “Then they dragged me out and chucked me into the back of the car and screeched away. In the excitement of it all we just kept driving and went home and didn’t think anything of it. We thought we were so young that [the Police would] know that it wasn’t real. I guess looking back, it was pretty realistic,” he chuckles. “The next thing I remember it was seven in the morning and there were three plainclothes policemen standing over my bed, I had no clothes on. Pretty embarrassing. I got arrested and taken to the cells whilst they figured out what the hell was going on. They’d had helicopters, armed units out looking, they’d gotten the head of the South Yorkshire Police out of bed at two in the morning. We didn’t know this, but a few days earlier, just down the road someone had been kidnapped and had turned up dead, so it was terrible timing… They tried to get us for a couple of different things, eventually the one that stuck was a Section Five A public offence, which is effectively breaching the peace – causing panic. I was fined £500 and had to do three months of Community Service. They even destroyed the tape…”
Kidnap Kid’s EP ‘So Close’ is out March 4