Soundset 2014 brought an opportunity to speak with the Twin Cities own Allan Kingdom. Allan’s been working on breaking into the local scene for a few years now and is starting to see snowballing success. In addition to his first performance at Soundset (three years after he attended as a fan then swore he wouldn’t go back until he was a performer), the real life Allan Kyariga was named to First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2013, got a cover story with local indie newspaper The City Pages, created an official remix of Poliça’s “Chain My Name”, and is in the process of readying two new releases. Allan and I chatted about achieving childhood goals before even being old enough to drink legally, getting inspiration from the world around us, and what it means to be ‘The Northern Gentleman.’
Music is Good: So, Woodbury High School.
Allan Kingdom: Yep, yep. Woodbury High School, Creative Arts High School, those two.
MiG: Creative Arts High School’s great, but I gotta hit WHS because I’m an alum too.
AK: Oh, dope!
MiG: A little before you.
AK: Alright, I feel it.
MiG: Do you think there was anything at Woodbury that helped you get where you are?
AK: I think, the thing honestly at Woodbury that helped me get where I’m at right now is the fact that I was around people who were not very much like me. Every place I’ve moved to I’ve been around people who…I’ve had to adjust to a certain culture, because they’re not like me. By being there I learn more about other people. I think that’s what it helped me with the most.
MiG: Things seem like they’re starting to pop for you, you’ve had a pretty big year or two. I know one of your favorite things that happened was getting hooked up with Plain Pat. How’d that come about and what’s going on there?
AK: That happened when I was 17. I happened to befriend some of his mutual friends and they sent him my music and he sent me an email right after he heard it and told me how much he liked it. Since then we’ve been building a relationship and growing together as artists and he’s been growing as my mentor. So has Kasloco who’s his partner. It’s been a beautiful experience for me.
MiG: You had DJ Kasloco with you today, and it seemed like that was pretty cool for you.
AK: Oh, definitely. I think that no matter what happens those [working with Plain Pat and DJ Kasloco] will be the coolest things for me, because they are things that I set out to do in my childhood. Those are like, to me bigger than any reward or trophies.
MiG: First time playing Soundset, right?
AK: First time playing Soundset, yep.
MiG: How’s that experience been for you?
AK: Pretty nice. Pretty nice. There’s been a lot of love.
MiG: How do you think the set went?
AK: Oh, man, I loved it. I had a great time. I had a great time. It meant a lot to me. It’s definitely a personal milestone for me.
MiG: You got on the radio with Sway?
AK: Yep, I got on the ‘Sway in the Morning’ show. He was really cool. Just as positive as the guy you see on camera on YouTube or MTV, he’s a great guy.
MiG: Tell me about breaking into the Twin Cities scene, I know at one point you were a little frustrated.
AK: Yeah, I think the frustration helps the music. I started breaking into the Twin Cities scene so young. I’ve technically been trying to do it for four years, but I started when I was 16, so realizing how young I am, it makes me be more thankful. The frustration is cool because I experienced it and now I can channel it through my music. Other people feel frustrated because of their own issues. I’m glad I went through everything I went through.
MiG: Now you’re hooked up with the guys at Totally Gross National Product. What do you have going on there with Ryan Olson and crew?
AK: With Ryan Olson I have an album coming out by the end of the year. We’ve been working on it. It’s done. My project with Plain Pat is done. So we’re just waiting on…we’re not even waiting…we’re just going to put them out when it’s the right time.
MiG: When I read about your stuff, everybody talks about it being a bit of a ‘left field style,’ how do you think that developed?
AK: I honestly think I started with that. Even when you listen to my earlier or early stuff when I started producing or started writing, it might not be the best, but it was always something else. One of the first goals I set for myself, I’ve always wanted to be a performing artist even as a child, but one of the things I knew was important was to be yourself and to be unique. So that’s something I always had in my head.
MiG: Seems like that extends past the music to personal style and dancing. Does that all come from the same place?
AK: Yep, everything. I think all of that just comes from honesty, I always want to be honest with myself. If I like something and I only like it and nobody else likes it, that kind of almost assures me that I should do it, you know what I mean? It depends obviously, you want some critiques from mentors and people you look up to, but for the most part I like doing stuff that only I can do.
MiG: You said you wanted to be a musician from early on, what kind of music inspired you as a kid?
AK: As a kid a lot of East African music, dance music, a lot of main stream, like Top 40. My mom listened to Lionel Ritchie, Cher, she listed to Blackstreet Boys [sic], she listened to everything big. I liked big stuff, and I liked music that your Grandma could listen to and a baby could listen to. Those are my inspirations, a lot of East African and pop, R&B, smooth R&B. Hip hop I got into later, actually.
MiG: I’ve read you tend to draw inspiration from the world around you. What type of things inspire you?
AK: Well, for example if you look over there, there’s a yellow bus, with a red stop sign, and a green hill and a blue sky behind it. I feel like the world naturally creates colors and things for us to draw inspiration from. So I might be like, ‘man, what do I want to wear tomorrow’, it’s going to be inspired by this scene right here. These colors. Or if I look at a building at a specific angle when I’m editing a video I might want to recreate what I felt when I was standing there. So I might use the same angles I saw on the building. I just try to keep it simple and draw inspiration from anything around me. People that I talk to, if someone says something funny? Use it in a line.
MiG: I have to ask about ‘The Northern Gentleman.’ Where does that come from?
AK: That actually came from a photo shoot I did with Greenroom Magazine and they asked me, ‘What’s your style?’ I get asked that a lot, but because of the magazine I was doing I really thought about it, and three words that came to me were ‘The Northern Gentleman.’ It just came out and I went with it. I’ve never heard anybody else say it, and I Googled it. So…
MiG: So it means Allan Kingdom?
AK: Yes, it means Allan Kingdom. I grew up in Canada, was born in Winnipeg, and I’ve been living in the North my whole life pretty much. All my life I’ve been living up North, so I think it fits. And I try to do good. Try.
An author and editor at MiG, Craig lives in Minnesota with his wife and son and is an attorney in his real life. Once upon a time Craig played the trumpet and spent four years in the Hawkeye Marching Band and pep band. These days Craig finds himself most often listening to experimental rock, hip hop, and post punk, but you can see everything he's listening to at: www.last.fm/user/cafreema Craig is not ashamed to admit the first concert he ever attended was New Kids on the Block.
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