Curated by UK based producer and creative, Gabriel Ralls, KOTO KILL showcases a body of work that’s uncompromising in nature, exploring electronic sounds that exudes an experimental approach to collaborative pieces.
London based, Somerset-raised Gabriel Ralls (A.K.A KOTO KILL) fits the classic "small town boy" paradigm - but defies expectation with big ideas and an eclectic approach to music. Being brought up on a healthy mixture of Michael Jackson, Kylie Minogue and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, his teenage discovery of metal, electronic rock and the IDM (Warp Records) scene proved a fundamental step in shaping the producer’s discography today. Promoting the release of his latest musical endeavour, ‘Téléphone Party’ will reach audiences on the 18th April with a high production video to accompany, proving an exciting yet unpredictable glimpse into Koto Kill’s latest album entitled ‘Fromage Et Fashion’ - slated for release on 28th April 2023.
How has Koto Kill's sound developed through your previous projects?
This is something I haven’t openly admitted until recently but I always set myself “rules” when working on a Koto Kill project. These are both conceptual rules and production rules; they’re there to help focus the creative direction because, honestly, I’d just spiral with ideas otherwise.
So one of the main rules for this album was to have no electric guitars (at least not of the lead variety). My last release [2018’s ‘Fight Us All’] was essentially me exploring new ideas after my previous band’s [Plastique] split and I leaned heavily on having guitar as it was something I was just used to having in my recordings. So for this album, I felt this was the thing I must do without.
Rather than being a restraint, this allowed me to focus on writing a much more electronic album and explore genres I otherwise wouldn’t have considered. Once I was down that path, I wanted to write some cinematic jazz pieces as set ‘interludes’ on the album - again, something I’ve not done before and something I might not have considered if I insisted on having guitar to lean on. It was very liberating.
Are there elements of Plastique in your soon to be released album - Fromage Et Fashion?
Yes, but not for the reasons you might expect. Both my former Plastique bandmates [now of the band Yur Mum] feature on this album, but instead of guitar and vocals, Fabio and Anelise play drums and live bass respectively.
Musically, I feel this album is pretty different from Plastique. My style of production, texture and melodies are likely prevalent, so if you listen to the two side-by-side, you’re inevitably going to hear similarities. Of course I hope that’s a good thing; I adore Plastique but I hope there’s a sense of evolution, too.
What's the concept of the body of work?
The concept was to write a multilingual album. It started with Téléphone Party, which was a track I had intended to write for my last release [2018’s ‘Fight Us All’] but I knew the song had to be in French and it didn’t really fit with the other tracks written. Also, this has more of a sense of humour to it than the others (which had none).
So I chipped away at the idea of possibly doing a release where every track is in a different language. I very slowly wrote songs during the pandemic but by the time I met Louise [Devismis - vocalist and actress for Téléphone Party] at the end of 2020, I felt I had locked a direction to truly finish the album and hone down this vague concept into something that’s finally being released now.
At the time all this was going on, the UK was in the final stages of filing its divorce with the EU and, being from London myself, most of my friends are from the EU. So it helped me round down the languages I’d feature in on the album - one track to represent the language of each country in the EU I’ve visited to date.
And so, I reached out to friends and also found some very talented people online to help. Each of them were given a level of freedom to write what they wanted (or follow key beats I had set for them) but it had to be something that they wouldn’t normally write about. Something that would make the listener do a double take.
Basically, I wrote an album by asking half the EU to do it for me.
How do you find collaborations to help shape your own taste?
Working on a collaborative project frees you from the restraint of needing to fix yourself to a single genre and explore new avenues.
For instance, I’ve been getting into more rap music as a result of my collaborations. I've never been a big fan of hip-hop but I’ve always appreciated good rappers and rap production. I worked with an artist called Bendu on the first release and I really loved the results. So for ‘Fromage Et Fashion’ I reached out to more artists from around the EU including Gani, Tibor and MC Yinka. It’s likely I’ve just been inspired by UK dance artists like The Prodigy and Massive Attack then extended that idea to working with musicians in other countries (asking them to rap in their native language) but I really dug this and felt it was something I wouldn’t have normally done. Now I want to do this even more.
'Telephone Party' has a great music video to accompany it - can you describe the filming process?
Where to begin?! I’d say it was nearly a year of preparation from taking the script Louise and I had written into storyboards, shot lists, hunting for locations, props, wardrobe and equipment rental - among everything else. Let’s just say my Airtable for this project was impressive.
The concept of the video surrounds a French woman who has very upper-middle-class tastes and therefore the video needed to reflect this aesthetic as much as possible. We hired a house in Wandsworth that fit said aesthetic and I wanted to reflect this all by using a top-of-the-line Sony Venice paired with the legendary K35 lenses to give it a retro-modern look.
It was a 4-day shoot and a 14-strong crew. It should have been a 5—day shoot but the budget was already astronomically higher than I wanted (but I equally was too uncompromising with my vision) which was further blown by one of our key crew members testing positive for Covid on the 2nd day: regulations at the time didn’t allow them to work on set and so everyone needed to step up a level to accommodate (and they did so tremendously). Fortunately, no one else tested positive throughout or after the shoot but, what was meant to be a fun shoot ended up being a situation of “If I can walk away with a completed video, I’ll be grateful”. I think the two people who actually enjoyed the shoot were Louise and our MUA.
All the above being said, when I think back at the shoot I am more overwhelmed by how amazing our crew was and how grateful we got as good a looking video as we did, given the tough circumstances. It was a humbling experience but I firmly believe it was worth it. Ultimately, this video was the best / most stupid creative project I’ve ever undergone.
Do you have any future videos slated for release?
Sadly not for this album, for the reasons stated above: any budget I had planned to do a second video got used on Téléphone Party. It’s a shame because I’ve had ideas for videos on other tracks that I’d love to make videos for, but when you try to make yourself known for making videos of a certain quality, you don’t wish to back down on that. Maybe one day I’ll swallow my pride. It could happen.