King Britt on the Importance of Focusing on the Music, Not the Artist
For the past 25 years, Philly DJ King Britt has been attempting to push the limits of musical artistry by channeling his funk, jazz, and hip-hop knowledge into original productions and DJ sets, as well as by curating art shows and producing film and TV soundtracks. Britt's talent for uniting sounds of the past and present is apparent, whether it's combining '70s vocal recordings with his own contemporary compositions for Preservation's Hall's King Britt presents Sister Gertrude Morgan or touring with Grammy-winning hip-hop fusion group Digable Planets. We spoke with him about his upcoming album, his many labels, and collaborating with Rich Medina. Britt and Medina headline Mighty this Friday with local support from J Boogie and projections by film director Terence Nance.
As an artist who is constantly curating and creating, what artistic piece has had the biggest impact on your life?
Of all the things I have done, I feel that they all have a place in my natural evolution as a complete artist. Not just a DJ or composer or curator, but a complete artist, who changes process constantly to create new work and grow. I feel it would be a disservice to my audience if I stuck to one thing.
Where have you traveled that has had the biggest influence on you?
If we are talking about outside influences, I would have to say Japan. The whole way of life, respect for art and culture on a universal level. It is magical.
Tell us about your newest label, the Buddy System Project.
So the buddy system is a label that is home to collaborations I do with my friends (buddies). I am releasing three-song EPs with friends who want to venture into [a] more experimental process than their usual path.
What was the significance of leaving the credits off the tracks?
I release each EP with no credits, to keep the listener focused on the music and not who is involved, which can really taint the way we listen nowadays. With the internet and social networking, the mystery around the artist is gone, and this changes the way we hear.
After three EP releases I will do a compilation of a few of the songs and reveal the artists and full credits. It's a fun and creative way for all of us to collaborate and try different things that we normally wouldn't have the platform to do.
The newest release under the sobriquet Fhloston Paradigm is projected for May. How has the work process been?
It has been a dream of mine for a while. I have collected analog music gear for a long time, and always cherish the sound. With Fhloston, it was a conscious decision to use all analog keyboards for the source material and composition. That, combined with the amazing vocalists that I worked [with] -- with Pia Ercole, Natasha Kmeto and Rachel Claudio -- brought a sound that I was yearning for, reminiscent of old soundtracks like Blade Runner, 2001, and The Fifth Element. Also, the artwork is being done by Joshua Mayes, who lives in Oakland. He captures the essence of tomorrow worlds and parallel universes.
Is there anything in your career that you haven't done yet you would like to accomplish?
So much! I can't tell though.
You'll be playing with your buddy Rich Medina in San Francisco. Besides both being from Philly, how do you two have such good chemistry?
We are cut from the same cloth, with an appreciation for the music and the process of educating and rocking a party. We were neighbors for a long time as well, which [was] also a great time, getting to know each other. We bring a balance as well to the table. I have ventured more into the electronic realm, but keeping the essence of my soul roots, and Rich has ventured heavier into cultural music but keeping his essence. So it's a perfect blend.
What kind of vibes can we expect from your set?
I never plan, but it will definitely be danceable, cerebral, and sexy.