Kingdom on the Changing Meaning of Clubs

Each week, RBMA Radio’s First Floor explores the newest releases in the world of electronic music. On the most recent episode, Fade to Mind label founder and Night Slugs affiliate Kingdom spoke with Shawn Reynaldo about the genesis of his debut album, Tears in the Club, and having his musical vision shaped by R&B and hip-hop. Read an excerpt below and listen to First Floor on RBMA Radio here every Thursday at 1 PM EDT.

Lane Stewart

I wanted to start by asking about the title of the album, Tears in the Club, because usually when you see someone crying the club it’s because they’re too drunk or something bad happened. I’m guessing that’s not what you’re trying to capture. Or maybe it is. You tell me.

It started just really casually as the demo title for that particular track, which is definitely the saddest one on the album. Then, as I started to work on the album and over a year passed developing other tracks, it just stuck in my head and I realized that it can mean a lot of things. It can mean bringing inappropriate emotions into the club. It can be tears of joy in the club. Tears can just signify the excess emotions that could be present, so the club also can be a place where you come together to heal. It can mean a lot of different things.

Over the last couple years, it took on other meanings for me that weren’t necessarily intended on the initial titling. I actually started to witness a couple bad fights in clubs and unexpected violence that broke out. I just felt like the club context has changed so much and can be so many different things besides just a party space.

It’s interesting that you mentioned that the club can mean different things to different people because I was going to say that for some people, the club is a place to dance. For other people, it’s just a venue to get wasted and try and pick somebody up. For you and your music, what does the club mean?

I try to use it as a place to heal people and for celebration, but it’s also a place to surprise people and maybe scare people at times and reveal some new and interesting things. The club has been a scary place for me at times, too. I came up in New York DJing at underground clubs and I felt like it was always a really safe space. Then as I traveled and saw more clubs around the world, I witnessed it become a horrible place where bloody fights and things like that happen. It just really opened my eyes. Before, it was rare that I would hear of that in one of the clubs that supports the kind of stuff that me and my friends do.

Maybe it, in some ways, speaks to the change that’s occurred over the last seven years for me. About seven years ago, I got Type 1 diabetes and I think the club changed for me forever there, because I still have to tend to that when I’m in the club. I’m testing my blood sugar. I’m having to eat a snack. I’m sometimes doing something medical in a context where everyone else is celebrating. It doesn’t cause me tears to have to manage my disease, but in a way it changes the context for me because that’s something I can never turn off. That’s something I always have to deal with.

R&B and hip-hop have obviously been big influences on your music, but I feel that both of those genres are often criticized as being singles genres instead of album genres. Do you think that’s true?

No, I don’t think that is true. It depends on what corner of those genres [you're talking about]. I think some of the poppy or clubbier stuff may end up doing better as singles. I don’t think that’s untrue of other types of music either. I think there are people putting out epic full-lengths from those genres every week.

Are there any R&B or hip-hop or even pop albums that you hold in particularly high regard?

Definitely anything that Dream and Tricky worked on has always been a big influence. The Electrik Red album was really influential. Yeah, thinking back to early Missy Elliott projects and 702 and things like that where there was a lot of futuristic heavy production mixed with the R&B vocals. I think that was all stuff that really influenced me a lot. Also even Mike WiLL Made-It. Anything Mike WiLL has been working on has been really influential lately. There’s a few things.

I’m not really concerned on this album with where internet club music is going.

Over the past few years, a lot of new club music – and I mean club music as a genre – has become really dark and distorted in terms of how it sounds. Your new album seems to be moving in the opposite direction. It seems a lot more clean, even light. Was it intentional that you wanted to explore this cleaner sound when a lot of your contemporaries are moving in this distorted, experimental direction?

It wasn’t conscious at all. I had to just go with what felt natural and this was the music that I envisioned the type of vocals I liked floating over. I’m not really concerned on this album with where internet club music is going. That’s the last thing on my mind. It’s just really been more about creating this story and its environment and this little universe for my vision of R&B and also electronic music.

Also, my DJ sets are somewhat of a separate thing and I always explore. There are always darker chapters to my DJ stuff that occur. There are darker elements on the album too, but it’s not a club album. It’s definitely an experimental R&B album with touches of influence from the club music that I’ve loved in the past.

I wouldn’t categorize Fade to Mind as a particularly political label, but you guys have always been vocal when it came to issues of identity. The crew is obviously really diverse both ethnically and in terms of sexuality. How do identity and representation factor into your own work, both the music you make and what you’re doing with the label?

You know, it’s hard for me to know. It just comes from me naturally. It comes from within. I just always wanted to be inclusive and bring all different kinds of people into my plan for the label. I think my sexuality is just ingrained in what I do and the music I make. It’s hard to see from the inside exactly how that influences what I’m doing. It’s really not the motivation necessarily to express that through my music. That being said, a big part of making this album was me expressing my more vulnerable side and my feminine side in a lot of aspects. That can be equated to parts of my sexuality or my gender if one wants to assign it that way, although I think that those elements exist in all people.

By Shawn Reynaldo on February 23, 2017

On a different note