“Songs that guarantee wheels!”: yourboykiran’s rowdy tracks and sets tear up raves - Music - Mixmag

“Songs that guarantee wheels!”: yourboykiran’s rowdy tracks and sets tear up raves

Fizzy Noor speaks to yourboykiran about his path into DJing, shitposting, swerving the white gaze and whipping up a frenzy on the dancefloor

  • Words: Fizzy Noor | Lead photo: India Bharadwaj | Live photo: thandiwe zivengwa
  • 28 July 2023

The unifying theme across yourboykiran's musical output is the goal of turning dancefloors upside down. With a profound love for jungle, drum 'n' bass and dubstep from a young age, his style today has expanded to explore a wide range of influences from Baile funk, Jersey club, Asian Underground, UK garage, UK funky and dubstep (also UK) to electro, footwork, rap, pop and more. He channels this spectrum of sounds into dynamic, pacey productions and DJ sets that cause maximum impact in the club,

His first musical idols included iconic names like The Prodigy, Pendulum and Chase & Status, but his own adventures into the world of music didn’t properly begin until the age of 18, when he discovered his calling in the city of Bristol: DJing. Nights out witnessing skilled DJs weave together his favourite tunes to create an exhilarating atmosphere on the dancefloor captivated him. It was a revelatory experience that changed the trajectory of his creative pursuits, and ultimately pushed him to bring his high-energy tracks to nightclubs in his home city of London and beyond. Now an A&R, DJ, producer, presenter, curator and member of the DAYTIMERS collective, he's played everywhere from Glastonbury and Boomtown to Bareclona's Razzmatazz and broadcast sets on all the leading radio stations in the dance music sphere, including NTS, Rinse FM and Balamii.

We spoke to yourboykiran to unravel his DJ origin story and the motivations that led him to pursue this path. Kiran dives into his approach to DJing and production, sharing his secrets behind connecting with a crowd and crafting an unforgettable experience; his brand of humour and struggles with social media, and the pressures and expectations surrounding representation in a predominantly white industry. Alongside the interview, he's delivered a typically energetic Impact mix that fires through 65 tracks in a flurry of blends and bassweight. Check them out below.

Let's start with your DJ origin story. How did you first get into DJing and what motivated you to pursue it over other forms of musical expression?

I was really into jungle, dubstep and drum 'n' bass as a kid. Pendulum, The Prodigy and Chase & Status were my idols back then, but it wasn’t until I was 16 that I tried making my own stuff. I downloaded FL Studio and tried all summer to produce something. I ended up making a 30 second track that was complete shit. I tried playing the guitar instead but it was pointless because all my favourite songs were electronic. So I was like, “Okay, I guess I’m not musical.” I knew I was creative, but I just never found the right outlet for it until I went to university. I went to Bristol - and like any good Bristol student, I decided to learn to DJ. On nights out, it was great seeing DJs creating this incredible flow of energy throughout the night with music. I loved that they could so skilfully translate their love for music into a set that would make someone’s night.

That’s a really interesting way to describe it. So does it feel like you’re in control of the crowd when you’re behind the decks?

Definitely. I know a lot of DJs will feel the same - there’s some tunes where I’m like, “When I play this, it’s gonna go off.” Like you wait for the right moment; you start teasing it in and then when you finally drop that tune, you just know what’s gonna happen.

When you play a set, are you doing it on the go, based on how the crowd are reacting?

There’s a little bit of that. It depends on the night, the club and who else is on the line-up. I can kind of get sense of what people will like based on that. A lot of the time, I don’t think too much about the genre - I think about the flow of energy I want to create in the room and then choose tracks that suit that vibe. As I’m playing, I’ll kind of guage based on people’s reactions what direction I should go in next. If people are vibing to one track, I’ll stick with that genre for a bit longer. If I don’t get the reaction that I was expecting, I’ll switch it up.

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What’s your favourite part about playing with other people?

I love bouncing off each other. You’ll play something and can really feel the other person react strongly to it. I love that excitement. It’s great when someone surprises you with a tune, and you’re like “Woah, that’s sick. I’ve got something for you!” You get lost in it, showing each other tracks. Or someone might play something and create an opportunity to take the set in a new direction. It’s kinda like steering a car where one person is in charge of the wheel and the other is in charge of the pedals and you’re both just working together. You’re so in sync; it’s weirdly intimate.

Do you ever get nervous on stage or beforehand?

When I played Boomtown last year I was pretty nervous. I’ve always loved that festival. I remember during lockdown, telling my cousin that I would love to play Boomtown, and then a year later, I actually did and she was there and it was such a full circle moment. We were both so excited. It was really special, but standing in front of the crowd and looking at everyone’s faces, I was like, “Oh my God… I’m actually playing Boomtown.” I had to take a second to step away from everyone and just sit down and remember to breathe. It was a bit like that with Glastonbury as well. My mum performed there as a dancer back in the 80s, so that was another full circle moment that I needed a moment to process…

It’s kind of become your brand to introduce new music with memes. Is there a particular reason you promote your music in such a quirky way?

Even my DJ name is a meme reference. I never really had a social media presence - I had Facebook and Snapchat, but that was it. My friends kept getting onto me to make an Instagram account, so eventually I did but I didn’t really take it seriously. Initially I was datboikiran, after that meme of the unicycle-riding frog, then eventually it changed to yourboykiran. When I played my first gig, someone asked if that was my DJ name. It was supposed to be a placeholder, but then it just stuck.

My initial Instagram posts were shitposts - like me photoshopping my head onto some ripped dude with a six pack with captions like “If you work hard enough, you can have a body like mine!” That’s how I liked using social media. But when I started DJing, I felt a lot of pressure to be professional. Every time I had to post something, I felt really anxious because my social media presence was so disconnected from who I am. It got to a point where I just hated it. I felt awful being online. I hated that I had to post to promote my music.

With DJing and production, it’s important to promote yourself. You’ve got no choice but to post on social media, so I talked to my therapist about it. I remember her asking me, “Is there a way that you could still get something out of using social media without feeling awful about it?” I figured, if I wanted to have fun with it, I could go back to my shitposting days when I actually enjoyed social media.

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Is it more fun now?

It’s definitely way more fun (and healthier for me)! Now people are like “can’t wait to see what you post next”, so I feel like shit has to keep getting sillier which I kinda love.

How do you decide which genres to incorporate into a track?

I take inspiration from everywhere. I’ll be on a night out and record random bits of a set that I really like, or I’ll hear a drum beat or a synth and want to incorporate that into a track. I just compile everything into my notes and recordings and eventually I’ll sit down, go through it all and take inspiration from all of the stuff I’ve been listening to recently and try to bring that energy it into my own tracks.

How do you make sure that when you are combining all of these different genres that it sounds cohesive rather than like a disjointed clashing of genres?

For me learning to produce wasn’t really about getting good - it’s about getting less shit. Up until a few months ago, I’d still be making tracks that I’d listen back to and think, “This is so shit…” It’s disheartening sometimes because your brain is limitless; you can create something spectacular in your head, but you’re limited by your actual skill set, knowledge, and experience to get it down..

Usually I really dive deep into the genres I make, and that helps me understand and build connections between them. It can be a lot of trial and error sometimes and you have to be quite self-critical and just cut ideas.

How do you think the pressure of the "white gaze" affects South Asian artists and their authenticity in the industry, and how do South Asian collectives like DAYTIMERS help to address this?

I feel like a lot of South Asian artists feel pressure to represent their South Asian-ness in ways that are palatable to the white gaze. They’re pigeonholed by white industry heads, pushing them to curate a sound that demonstrates their South Asian heritage. It creates a cycle of South Asian artists putting out music that isn’t necessarily authentic to who they are, because they feel that’s what they need to do to exist and succeed in the industry. They’re pigeonholed by the industry first, but then they pigeonhole themselves in fear of losing their space. I can see how easy it is to feel trapped in that situation, like the only way to succeed or stay relevant is to keep creating music that lives up to white people’s expectations of this new South Asian Cool trend in the rave scene. If that’s what they relate to and they’re genuinely bringing themselves into it, I’m all for it and will endlessly support. But if they feel they have to, that’s an industry issue. I can’t even blame South Asian DJs because it’s more nuanced than that. We’re Brown people existing in a very white industry. There’s so much pressure to entertain largely white audiences, but being yourself will always lead to greater success and happiness.

I would love it if Brown art could get its accolades simply for being good - not for living up to the latest trend. I love so many South Asian artists because they produce fundamentally good tracks. For me, it’s not that I feel like I should include South Asian inspired tracks in my sets. I’ve just always had a very eclectic style - I play everything from dubstep to Baile funk, so if a track suits what I’m playing, I’ll add it regardless of where it’s from. I will forever support great work, and that’s how it should be. Like it’s phenomenal being able to connect over our Brownness, but above all, these artists are incredible producers who deserve to be recognised for their talent.

With DAYTIMERS, we’re not saying “You should be in these spaces because you’re Brown.”, we’re saying “You should be in these spaces because you’re really good at what you do, and you’re not afforded the same opportunities as other people because you’re Brown.”

Does being part of South Asian collectives like DAYTIMERS make you feel more connected to your culture?

Growing up, I hated the fact that I was South Asian. Our only representation was people like Raj Koothrappali from The Big Bang Theory. We were seen as uncool, as if Brown guys couldn’t even hold a conversation with a woman. I thought it was so lame and didn’t relate to it at all. To be honest, I felt pretty disconnected from my heritage. I went to cultural events like Garba, which is a Gujurati dance; I’d hear my mum listening to Bollywood music, and I’d eat Asian food, but I wasn’t exposed to much South Asian culture outside of those things. People would actually call me a coconut in school.

It wasn’t until university that I started making a more active effort to engage in the culture. I grew up in Northwest London which is really diverse. I always had a bunch of South Asian friends, so going to university in Bristol was the first time that I actually stood out as Brown. I remember thinking “Woah, where are all the Brown people?” But eventually I found a South Asian group. We’d go clubbing and hung out all the time. It was great to have that connection through music and shared culture. I found comfort in having a South Asian group of friends again. It made me realise that there are certain things you just get about each other when you share the same heritage.

Read this next: Deep dives with Dad: Discovering the hidden Bollywood references in Western music

So did that realisation push you to dive deeper into your culture?

Definitely. What I hated most about the term “coconut” was that it ignored how different everyone’s relationship with their South Asian-ness can be. Some speak their mother tongue; some cook the food; some go to cultural events, watch the movies, or listen to the music. Being surrounded by white people at university made me realise that I do relate to being South Asian - just in my own way.

At Uni, I loved seeing other Brown people doing creative things, and I wanted to engage with and support South Asians in creative spaces. I helped put on a cultural showcase event with some amazing South Asian dancers, singers and creatives. After uni, I was part of a magazine called Juice, which celebrated South Asian artistry in all forms, and now I’m part of DAYTIMERS. I found genuine joy in celebrating South Asian creative talent which just deepened my love and appreciation for the art that came from South Asian people.

Tell us about your Impact mix.

With this mix, I wanted to showcase some of the sounds I love from artists and cultures around the world, and give a taster of what I DJ, make, and take inspiration from! There are songs that make you want to dance, songs you want to singalong to, songs that are guaranteed wheels! From Baile funk to UK funky to UKG to Jersey club to dubstep to footwork to a whole host of 140 and 160 bits… I love playing these out, I love making them, I love listening to them.

Wherever you’re listening to this, I hope you enjoy!

Fizzy Noor is a freelance writer, follow her on Twitter

1 Se Tá Solteira [Explicit] - FBC, VHOOR & Mac Júlia
2 Too Many Man - Skepta feat. Boy Better Know
3 Habibi Dah - Saliah
5 Xcuse Me - Florentino
6 Dj Augmente le Son - King Doudou
7 I Like Him (yourboykiran edit) - Princess Nokia
8 Na Fuga (feat. MC Bin Laden, MC Buzzz) - Florentino
9 Funk DJ Tool - M3B8
11 Bubble Pon Di Bed - Bianca Oblivion ft. XL Mad
12 XYLA - Champion & Mina
13 Baile Wobble - yourboykiran
14 Eastern Jam - DJ BLAIZE
15 Selecta (Disaffected Bootleg) - Mz Bratt
16 I Spy (Skepta - I Spy Bootleg) - Four Eyes
17 Toxic Dub - Dunman
19 Booyakasha - Wodda
20 Little Things (bullet tooth Bootleg) - Jorja Smith
22 Ya Tabtab (HABIBEATS Baile Funk _ Jersey Edit) - HABIBEATS
23 1,2 Step (Yxjee x Giometrik Flip) - Ciara
24 Peeche Jersey Club - Jayhaan, Revoic
26 Just Wanna Rock (Ballads x Falcons Baile remix) - Lil Uzi Vert
27 Bodak Yellow (UNIIQU3 Remix) - Cardi B
28 Pump It - Prozak
29 Never Let You Go - Sammy Virji
30 Never Let You Go (Hamdi Edit) - Sammy Virji
31 Heartbroken - T2 feat. Jodie Aysha
32 And Again - Girl Tool
34 Sinais - Bianca Oblivion, ONHELL
35 CALMATE! - yourboykiran, BRAVA
36 Farrda (Alix Perez Remix) - I Am Legion
37 Knightlife - Sukh Knight
38 Yamma Yamma - yourboykiran
40 Dance Dun (Prod. Zed Bias) - Slay Ft Trigga
41 Night - Benga
42 Hard - Breakage Ft. David Rodigan & Newham Generals
43 dolaPOW - Manara
44 Almighty Father (Original Mix) - Sunship, Warrior Queen
45 Hai Hai (yourboykiran x Darama) - Panjabi Hit Squad Feat. Ms Scandalous
47 Katy On a Mission - Katy B
49 Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas
50 Vagabundo (Ft. BADSISTA) - Deize Tigrona
51 Nova Geração (Nora Zion Remix) - Luny & AKA AFK
52 Perra En Calor (Constantine Juke Edit) - Constantine
53 Just Wanna (Original Mix) - Fuzz
54 GTFO (Original Mix) - Morelia
55 Cairo - Bounce Micca x Nifeflip x Caru
56 Big Splenda - DJ Soyboi X salt pillar
57 ALHASSAN [160 FLIP] - Lijah
58 Rum Ina Me Head - Blaxx
59 Smokey (One Piece Ah Riddim) - Wetty Beatz
61 what is this behaviour (pooja dub) - yourboykiran
62 Changes (MOOD$ Flip) - MOOD$
63 Vroom Vroom - Charli XCX
64 Rhythm & Gash (Neekeetone 160 Rework) - Rebound X
65 Sound of the Underground - Girls Aloud

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