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Interview: Hicky & Kalo

24 min read

Rising out of Montreal’s prospering nightlife are Hicky and Kalo. Both born and raised in Canada, this DJ/production duo have been dictating the sounds of the city’s underground over the last half decade. Although regulars throughout Quebec’s much lauded club circuit, it is the world-renowned Stereo Nightclub which has served as the home base for Hicky and Kalo’s impeccable taste and exquisite programming skills. Also accomplished producers, the duo’s deep melodic sounds have found a home on Hernan Cattaneo’s Sudbeat Music, When We Dip’s XYZ and their own Plaisirs Sonores imprint. Now as 2021 begins for Hicky and Kalo, the duo further their foothold within the progressive underground, debuting on Cid Inc’s Replug Records with a two-track showcase entitled ‘Eyes Of Truth’. We had a chance to catch up with the Canadian duo for an exclusive interview just prior to the release. Enjoy!

Hi Guys, thanks for joining us. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

We are currently in the studio in Montreal, taking our lunch break. This morning we were working on some music and preparing the launch of the new EP of our label Plaisirs Sonores Records. It’s a really great EP from Analog Jungs and Oliver & Tom if you have the chance to check it out.

For Kalo, the latest Echos mix by Guy J is the last piece of music he listened to. For me (Hicky), it was ‘Gust Of Wind (Adam Nathan Remix)’.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be producers and DJs?

We both know each other from the primary school. It was a special school where half of the time was focused on music. Mostly classical music, we learned violin, piano, choir and more… Fast forward a couple of year later, we found electronic music by hanging out in some cool places in Montreal, particularly Salon Daomé. At the beginning we were organizing some small events with our friends, but we knew that we wanted to do this for a living. Doing live events is important but we also knew that we had to produce music as well. We both went to the university in electronic music and we started our label Plaisirs Sonores Records 3 years ago.

What music from your youth had the biggest effect on where you are today? Are there certain tracks or albums which profoundly influenced you?

Our taste in electronic music has changed a bit over time. We started by playing more classic deep house like Fred Everything and Detroit Swindle. We then evolved to a deep, more melodic sound, stuff like Matthias Meyer, Adriatique, Soul Button. As for right now, we feel Progressive House delivers exactly what we are looking for in music. It blends melodies, groovy rhythms, rolling basslines and driving energy. Guy J is for sure one of our biggest inspirations at the moment.

How has growing up and living in Canada and more specifically Montreal shaped the music you make and your career path so to speak?

We were influenced a lot by events we attended like Piknic Electronik, Igloofest, Stereo, Salon Daomé, etc. These events and clubs in Montreal helped define our tastes in electronic music. Montreal is a very multicultural and artistic city with many festivals of all kinds. We can’t ask for a better place to live. We love it.

How did you meet and eventually start collaborating?

Kalo was already producing some Latin music and Hicky was listening to electronic music like early tech-house. We met at Kalo’s place and started producing beats for fun. Kalo was working in a restaurant where DJ’s were playing and he decided to buy turntables. Hicky had some contacts in bars, and we started playing for fun. It’s when our nights brought good crowds that we realised we could do this for a living.

A successful partnership is generally based around balance and compromise; how do you manage these things within the Hicky & Kalo dynamic?

Communication is key. We both have our own strengths and also have very different personalities, so it’s important that we are flexible with each other’s feelings. We try to never keep disagreement or disappointment to ourselves; we try to communicate it to the other partner. Same thing with our manager.

Do you have different roles in the production process? And if so, elaborate please.

Kalo creates the music and Hicky does the editing. And we both work on the mixdown. Recently, Hicky started producing some ideas too.

You have a new EP out this week on Cid Inc’s Replug Records, tell us a bit about the release and how it showcases your individualities.

This release is our most club-oriented EP to date. It’s a more intense form of progressive house based more on punchiness and sound design coupled with memorable melody lines. Having recently got our residency at Stereo, it inspired us to create tracks better suited the afterhours vibe. We just can’t wait to play these tracks to a crowd. Hopefully this summer!

We hosted the premiere for the EP’s second selection ‘Route to North’, can you walk us through the production process on it?

We sent two tracks to Cid Inc and he chose only one of them for his label and he asked us to create another one with the vibe of his label Replug. So, we started that track ‘Route to North’ after having a unique gig in the north of Quebec when covid measures were a bit more loose. It fuses a rapid bass line with some more industrial sounds from our Minibrute synth. The track reflects a bit the madness of this situation, which we currently find ourselves in.

Was there anything that inspired these two tracks? And where does your inspiration come from generally?

It comes from emotions. It’s a way of living, something spiritual. We try to express ourselves through experiences we live. But, attending club events and going to see our favorite artists also inspires us a lot.

What does your set-up look like? Do you share a studio? Do you favor physical gear over digital? And what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of this EP?

We have a dedicated room in a sound treated basement. We use a pair of A77x monitors. An Apollo X6 UAD soundcard. We use mainly software synths and effects. But we are using more and more from the hardware world with our Minibrute synth and with some Elysia 500 series effects for the mixdown.

What made Replug the right home for these tracks?

Replug is a label we always admired. Every release is top quality and it’s always clubbier tracks that you can play peak time. Our tracks fitted the more dark and uplifting progressive house Cid inc. creates. It’s a label we have a lot of respect for. Also, Orsen’s design for the artwork is always super cool.

How much road testing or friend feedback is done before you’re ready to say a track is finished? And who is someone you share your new music with first for feedback?

We usually send our tracks to our manager Charles at first. But, we also send it to friends, artists in the industry like Budakid, Kora, Rauschhaus for example. We also always play our tracks in clubs to get the feeling of the crowd, but this year was a bit different because of Covid of course.

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? How has it affected your daily life, music production and overall inspiration to write new music?

It sure is a break from parties so more time in the studio. But we miss so much playing gigs and seeing the Montreal scene. We are trying to produce as much as possible now to have music ready for when the gigs start again. With the free time, we also launched other related projects. For example, Kalo started his production classes and mixing and mastering services at Rivera Productions.

What is the current situation with the pandemic in Canada?

At the moment, we have a curfew starting at 8pm. Everything is closed; clubs, bars, restaurants, gyms. Last summer we were only able to hang out outside with friends so hopefully with the vaccination going on, we will have a better summer this year and maybe the gigs will start again.

Once nightlife eventually resumes globally what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

We think the scene in Montreal will focus on local talents for a while. We think that people will focus more on having fun with their friends and enjoying the music even if it’s not super big DJ. Nothing will be taken for granted. All this will give more opportunities for smaller artists. Unfortunately, it creates a lot of questions for fellow artists, and we think every artist who kept producing during these times and never stopped believing will have the opportunity to succeed once again.

How do you guys see your sound evolving in the coming years?

Melody and harmony have a big place in our music. We want to continue to work with that at the core and also to create some more original sound design, including real recordings. We will surely create more and more big peak time tracks like this EP on Replug in the future as we intend to play bigger rooms as well ☺

What does 2021 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

We can’t say much, everything is secret ☺ But like we said, we have a lot of music ready, and we will have a couple other EPs coming out on our label Plaisirs Sonores. We are ready to shake things up in the progressive scene!

'Eyes of Truth' is out now via Replug Records: https://bit.ly/2PeEpqZ

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