October 13, 2009

More Or Les & Fresh Kils

Photo by Jon B
Photo by Jon B
You’ve been hearing a lot from Backburner lately, even if you don’t know it yet. I linked up with 2 of its most active members: More Or Les and Fresh Kils. Les is the rapper and Kils is the DJ. The pair has been killing it lately with their paltry, but remarkable new project called The Les Kils EP. I met up with the boys before their release show for their “Pop N Chips” video featuring Ghettosocks and Timbuktu – now in rotation on music channels everywhere. Look it up!

Introduce yourselves, your crews and affiliations…

Fresh Kils: Backburner crew
More Or Less: Backburner

Fresh Kils, you’re the producer – More Or Les, you’re the rapper…you guys have a new album out called The Les Kils EP, it’s some party rap shit…

Les: There’s some party rap shit on it, there are some songs to make you think as well. There’s a good amount of scratching on it and some dope beats provided by [Fresh Kils].

Kils: It sort of started with doing a producer/DJ team…we tried to keep the record as integrated as possible, not just someone rapping over beats.

Les: Which has never been my thing…the stereotypical dude on stage and it’s canned music – that’s the impression a lot of people have about rap.

Kils: People see it as Karaoke.

Les: Yeah, that’s how some people see it unfortunately. Kils is a musician first and foremost, so working with him just makes more sense…it’s more of what I see rap as being – it’s live. There is musicianship involved.

What do you look for in beats?

Les: The beats that I always pick out, is stuff that is not his general output; when I first met Kils he had a lot of dark dark beats he was working on. I just saw something in the work he was doing that just worked.

Kils: I find I’ve had a lot of good experiences where making a beat with somebody on the spot and trying to get inspiration from them getting what they want – I find it always ends up more along the lines of what they’re looking for. It’s funny because a lot of the beats on the record…I kind of blame myself sometimes…my biggest criticism of myself is that I over-layer a lot…sometimes I go overboard.

How long have you been doing your respective crafts?

Les: I’ve been rapping since I was 16 and I don’t know if I’ll ever stop.

Kils: I’ve been producing for 10 years. I was playing guitar and bass, but I started producing around ’99.

Photo by Jon B
Photo by Jon B

Les, you wrote an article in the Toronto Star a while back about Canada’s rap scene. Is there anything you want to say that wasn’t in that article?

Les: Part of it with Canada is that we don’t have as large a population. Between that and changes that have happened over the past few years which we’ve all heard about and in some way, shape or form…things aren’t as big for the corporations, for companies trying to sell music in general. The Internet now is such a beast, that a lot of kids don’t buy a lot of stuff, they’re downloading like crazy. I’m getting to the point now – because I also DJ – that I’ve almost duplicated my record collection of like ‘90s hits online; finding things and downloading them. These are records I’ve already purchased, so they do have my money…

Kils: I wouldn’t say that it’s localized in Canada so much. I think it affects Canada in a slightly different way and having to gain success from other areas before you get noticed at home – I think that’s just a factor of it being a small market. My biggest problem with Canadian rap…is there is a huge middle-of-the-road. You’re either too great to be nichey and weird and different – because that’s too much of a risk. There are so many records…I don’t even bother looking for mix tapes anymore; I could make a fuckin’ house out of mix tapes that I’ve been handed over the years. You know the thing is that there are some dope mix tapes out there…but I wouldn’t know because there are so many damn mix tapes. I’m looking for who’s putting out vinyl, who’s doing new weird merchandising shit.

Les: There are other angles that people need to investigate and not think that all they’ve got to do is make a dope CD, a dope record or a dope beat – all of that is important; at this point with things the way they are, you definitely need to be on your game in a bunch of different ways. The rule of thumb is to have a devoted fan base – even if they’re not large by pop music standards. Artists benefit better from that situation because when you come to their town to do a show, they’re coming out in droves.

I wonder if Canadians’ modesty plays into this as well…

Les: That tends to be the general gist I guess, but there are still a lot of talents in a variety of different genres and art…in a way, we don’t have the same pressures that they have in the U.S. There’s another dude after another dude after another dude just shouting in your face.

Kils: The rich are richer, the poor are poorer, so people are a lot hungrier. That does two things: it drives people harder, but it also affects the purpose behind what they’re doing…because they gotta eat. In Canada it’s not the same, people are less hungry.

So why release this record?

Les: Point Blank; it is me watching a music video or hearing a song of someone else rapping and not being impressed and that goes from some dude down the street I saw at a show to somebody with international success at the Grammy’s – and I’m just like ‘what the fuck?’ This is me taking my shot.

Kils: I don’t know why I make records, but I know why I’m excited about this record. This is the first chance I’ve had to kind of craft a record. The other thing is that Les is first guy to really embrace the live MPC stuff I was doing on stage…which is risky. Why would you want to risk screwing up songs in the middle of a show just to have someone bang out on a pad. He sees the value of it, not everyone I’ve worked with has.

Photos by Justin Oakey
Photos by Justin Oakey

What kind of similarities do you see between emceeing and Djing?

Les: All I know is that being a Dj has made me a better rapper, I truly believe that. The Djing thing is so integral to rapping, I couldn’t have one without the other.

Have either one of you performed out West?

Les: I performed a little bit in Vancouver a while ago – my first visit there. We’re trying to get out there more…

Kils: We actually hired Northstar Entertainment to put a tour together…it just didn’t work out.

Do you find there is a gap between Toronto and Vancouver?

Les: Yeah, it’s huge. And it’s just straight up, the size of this country. It’s a shame there’s not a bullet-train running through it.

Kils: I keep hearing amazing things about the Saskatoon scene…

With The Les Kils EP, what do you want to get out of it?

Les: More fans and more shows. The opportunity to do some more shows through good old-fashioned, professional management to keep this rap thing going.

Kils: I would say shows…I’m excited for people to see this. I think that we’re getting to the point where [Backburner] is kind of crystallizing a bit and I am very proud of this album. I think we do have a fun, conscious, fun brand of hip hop that I think people will like. I kind of want to make believers out of people; I would like to see people that aren’t really into hip hop think it’s cool and fun. On a personal level, I’m stoked to have my production be part of the focus.

Shout outs/Last words?

Kils: The whole Backburner crew: Ghettosocks, Wordburglar, Dexter Doolittle, Toolshed, Maple Mothership… our video, I think it’s one of the best videos ever. Rap fans everywhere! Ugsmag…

Les: My 3rd full-length Brunch Served With A Vengence – coming out watch out! Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa…

For more on The Les Kils EP, check out backburner.ca

9 Responses

  1. “You know the thing is that there are some dope mix tapes out there…but I wouldn’t know because there are so many damn mix tapes. I’m looking for who’s putting out vinyl, who’s doing new weird merchandising shit.”

    ^ word up.

    Loving the new material fellas.