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It’s only fitting that Jian Kellett Liew’s debut album is titled The Water’s Way, because his life over the past two years has been anything but stagnant. Liew started off as a beatsmith in the Australian hip-hop scene, but two years ago decided to branch out and migrate from his home town of Adelaide to a studio in Neukölln, Berlin. Since then he has released a stream of EPs and tracks, under the solo moniker of Kyson, that have sent ripples through the international music scene. Now the producer is prepped to release his first-ever solo LP, and with the hype already swirling around him, Kyson is set to make quite a big splash.

Hey Jian. It’s super early over there, right?

8.50, 8.50. [Laughs.] I just woke up. I’m not usually up this early to be honest, but it’s all right.

We’ll get straight into it then. So your upcoming LP The Water’s Way comes out on September 24 – are you feeling excited about that? How’s the buildup been?

It’s been really good. It’s definitely a new step for me, you know – signing to FoF [Friends of Friends] and becoming a part of the team over there. I’m really stoked about it – I’m happy with how the reception of the singles have gone and I’m just really excited to share the whole album.

For me, it’s the first release that I really wanted to be – not just a collection of tracks. It’s got a real story behind it so I’m really looking forward to sharing the whole thing as a piece. rather than sort of scattered songs. So, yeah, I’m excited.

How was the recording process for the album? I heard at one point that you didn’t leave your Berlin studio for three whole weeks in the middle of winter. Sounds intense.

It was an interesting time recording the album. [Laughs.] Some of it was actually done in Australia when I was back there on tour, so there’s a couple of tracks that were started over there, but most of it was done in my studio in Neukölln in Berlin.

You know, you’re getting these couple of weeks at a time where there’s no blue skies so it’s pure greyness. At the time I was lucky enough that the only thing I had to do was write music, so there was definitely some long periods of just studio dwelling.

A nice bit of cabin fever?

There was definitely a time where it was sort of like, “Studio… food,” and that was it. [Laughs.] I had no drive to go outside, it was just really miserable and cold. It’s an interesting time being here in winter because the vibe changes a lot in the city and you can really feel it in the air. I guess that came out in the music, but I still enjoyed it.

I’ve read that you take a lot of inspiration from your travels.

Yeah, it’s been a massive part of my life since I was about 17. I think for me I’ve learnt a lot of stuff from travelling and met a lot of people that have influenced the way my life’s gone. And that’s what the albums about – those moments and what you experience. That’s where most of my inspiration comes from.

And in terms of how it actually sounds, what should we expect to hear from the full LP? Is the track How Long a pretty good indication?

Not really. I tried to make a record that definitely had a lot more difference between the tracks than my previous EPs. It’s definitely the same sound – it’s using the same equipment and everything – but I tried not to make a beats record or an electronica record. I just tried to put all my ideas together and make it cohesive.

It’s a hard question. I’m not sure if everything’s gonna sound like that.

In the buildup to the release, you’ve been getting some big online attention. What do you make of the hype? Is it something you enjoy or try to ignore?

I read a little bit of it. It’s exciting – you can get real into it if you want to. I think it’s good just to ignore it to some extent and as long as I’m happy with the record I’ve made and there’s no regrets with it, then that’s my main goal. I just hope that people get a chance to listen to it and decide how they want to view it.

Going back to the start, how did you progress from being a beat-maker for rappers to becoming a standalone solo producer?

I guess one of the main reasons was because I left my home town of Adelaide and that’s where I was doing all the hip-hop stuff. I had my first MacBook when I was travelling and started playing around with some software, and actually my girlfriend introduced me to a lot of electronic music – like all the old Presets stuff – and opened my eyes to it.

I just started experimenting and slowly started purchasing some gear and different bits and pieces. One friend of mine actually introduced me to synthesisers. He was making psytrance, and although it’s not my absolute favourite music, I was just blown away by some of the stuff he was doing with this synthesiser and that really changed everything for me.

I think with the hip-hop thing, and I still love it, but I just wanted to start experimenting on my own a bit more and creating something that was more for myself as opposed to making beats for other people.

Nowadays hip-hop and electronica are becoming more and more intertwined. What do you make of that?

For sure, definitely. And it’s good, I think. It’s an interesting direction for hip-hop to go. I’ve noticed it especially in Australia – there’s lots of beat-makers in Australia who have come out of the hip-hop scene and they’re pushing the envelope in this electronica-beats scene and I think it’s a really good thing.

Do you still keep in touch with the Australian scene? What kind of local guys are you into at the moment?

I’ve got lots of friends in Australia – Marco Vella, Oisima, Thrupence, Oliver Tank – these guys are all guys I know and really respect doing some awesome things in Australia. It’s good to see that they’re out there and pushing the scene over there.

So moving from your home town of Adelaide to Berlin – what was behind that decision in the first place?

I had some German friends that had come over to Australia when I was younger and I was living in London in about 2006, or 2005, and then did a few trips to Berlin and then I went back to Australia and thought, ‘Yeah, stuff it – let’s just go over there.’ To be honest I probably wasn’t intending to stay for two years [Laughs.] But I just love the city and we came over here and ended up staying. It sort of sucks you in a little bit.

I think the main reason I’ve stayed here is just the lifestyle. And, for me as an artist, it’s definitely a really good place to live. There’s just so many people here doing really interesting things so there’s lots of inspiration to be found.

Do you have any plans to make the trek back over here for some shows in the near future?

I’ll definitely get back there in 2014 at some point. I’m not 100% on the details yet, but I’ll be coming back to play some shows and also just to visit my home.

Looking forward to it. And do you have any projects in the pipeline we should be looking out for?

Mainly we’re just going to be playing shows, which I’m excited about. We’ve got the Kyson live show now as a three-piece, which is awesome. It’s Scott Van Manen and Sam Rogers playing live with me. I sort of just wanted to take the live show to another level and I felt this album wasn’t really able to be expressed in the right way with a laptop and a few machines so we’re expanding that and looking forward to playing a lot of shows in the next six months.

I also do a bit of producing for some vocalists, so I’ve got some really exciting projects that I’m working on at the moment. I can’t give away too much at the moment, but they’re coming out in the near future.

But mainly playing live to be honest, that’s the main focus. For me, there’s two stages with the release: it’s like actually making the album, but these days it’s also so important to get out there and try and recreate it in a way that it’s different to the album as well. Electronic music has this whole other side to it – performing the music is a whole different game and how you go about that is really important to me.

Alright, we’ll finish up with some word association. ‘90s.



I guess Miley Cyrus. That’s all I can think of.

Tony Abbott.


The Water’s Way.

Me! Sorry, it’s still really early.

The Water’s Way is due out September 24 via Friends Of Friends.


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