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“To Hear it with that Sound System, it Took Me Away”: Get to Know Adam K

“This sounds so fucking good!”

Connie Chan

Connie Chan

Photo courtesy of Arturo Parada

Adam K is one of the biggest influencers in the emergence of progressive house music in North America. The Toronto-based producer took some time out of his vacation to speak to us about his first rave, working with Soha and creating his label Hotbox Digital. Make sure to also check out his special guest mix for THUMP Canada on SoundCloud.

THUMP: You've been in the industry for over 15 years, what are your thoughts on seeing the electronic music scene grow in Canada?
Adam K: I've been writing music for over two decades, but I've been in the industry since 2006. I think it's amazing that Canada was at the forefront for music production, right before the boom. A lot of great stuff came out in Canada and to see it adopt the festival circuit, like the US and Europe, is great. Canada has bloomed as an industry. A ton of new music and artist are coming out of here. I hope it continues to be the staple for the industry, for new ideas and sound.

You come from a live music background, what made you decide to get into techno and progressive house music?
When I was 15, I went to a rave called Delirium. It was incredible because it was only drum and bass, and everyone at the event was so nice and accepting. The music was the craziest thing I've ever heard. I never heard anything like that before and to hear it with that sound system, it took me away. Afterwards, I divided my time from writing music that I knew—rock and experimental to trance. I stopped writing electronic music for a while and I got back into it after Mark Oliver approached me. He said "I'd love to make some music with you" and he helped me get back into it all. He taught me the new school records and got me up to date on everything. He helped me get back into the industry and then we signed our first record to Blow Media.

Where does your inspiration come from when you produce an original track or remix?
I'm different. Some musicians paint it in their head first, and do it. For me, I really need to hear a note, a sound, a chord, and a melody—anything to inspire me. It's kind of like building pieces to a puzzle that doesn't exist. My inspiration really comes from everything that I've listened to and obviously my favourite music at the time. But also artists and likeminded people who inspire me. One sound creates a domino effect.

Any particular track or remix that you're really proud of producing?
For original music I would have to say, "Twilight" with Soha. That was a breakthrough track for us, not only in the industry, but also our production and taking our live music experience into electronic music.

As far as remixes go, Kaskade's "4 AM" remix. I really like that track because it was pretty, dark and happy all at the same time. Just when you don't know where it's going, at the end of the build-up, this dissonant chord comes in with all these weird notes. When we did it, Soha looked at me and said, "You know this makes no theoretical or musical sense." I said, "I know, but this sounds so fucking good!"

You talk a lot about Soha and you two have been working together for so long. At the end of the day, do you prefer working collaboratively or independently?
It depends on the kind of music. If we're just making techno and groovy stuff, then for me working alone isn't a problem—I kind of like it. But if we're getting into complex melodies, the harder it is because I'm not a trained keyboardist. Working with Soha, he was a master keyboardist and it had cut my time in half. If I had an idea, he would take it and redo it. Or if he had something in mind, I would tailor it to what I felt. We had this formula that worked—I kind of miss that.

What made you start your own label, Hotbox Digital?
We were releasing stuff on Blow Media for a while and there was a point where we needed a music outlet to release songs faster. I applied to Beatport to get my own label but they kind of turned me down. So Deadmau5 spoke to them and said "Hey guys, Adam is a talented guy and he should definitely get his own label." I think within the span of two days after asking, Beatport acted quick and gave me my own label.

Eventually things started to pick up and singles started to get charted. Beatport helped us with a bit of ad promotion and there were three tracks one after the other which went top ten. These singles became a viral success and that was amazing, because I feel like a portion of that is gone today. Now it comes down to social reaches and I'm not complaining because it's good for people like me to take it in. But Hotbox Digital had an organic success and hopefully it will continue to be successful.

What are some of your favourite Canadian venues or events that you've enjoyed playing at?
There's a place in my heart for Footwork. Most of my memorable nights in Toronto were in that venue.

But Center of Gravity in Kelowna is mind-bending because it is so beautiful and gorgeous there. It just seems like everyone is generally good looking and healthy. It's the vibe; I really like the energy from the West Coast. I would have to say that is the show for me.

Who are some up-and-coming producers you've been keeping an eye on?
I'm a fan of Walden from Australia, he's got a new track called "Zilent" and that single is badass, I approve 100 percent.

Also Deorro, I'm a fan of his stuff, he's quite the well-rounded producer and I really think his sound is refined.

Any new releases coming out soon?
The guys of Pairanoid and myself are going to release a new track called "Eliminate" on March 26 under Dim Mak. It's a high-energy track with electro and progressive elements in it.