Ever since the 6th grade, Mad Decent affiliate Kyle Hughes has known what he wants to do, create powerful music that will be timeless. At only age 17, Hughes has achieved major strides in his career that typically take veteran producers years to accomplish. When his hero Diplo was his age he was no where close to what Hughes has already done, creating an advantage that most people would kill to have.
Witnessing the fads of EDM come and go over the years, Kyle has been given a real opportunity to learn from his mentors and idols, to formulate how to make a more sustainable sound that'll leave an impact on music. While most teenage boys play video games and play flip cup in a friends basement, Hughes has chosen a life primarily consisting of sitting in his room for hours on end creating a new sound that he hopes will change the game.
With a massive hit, "Abnormaäl," on Mad Decent's, What Is A Jeffree? compilation and his remix of, "Holla Back Girl," receiving heavy rotation in sets from heavy hitters like Diplo, Jack U, Party Favor and more, Hughes' career is just getting started. We sat down with him to talk about his relentless ambition to be the next big act and what success means to him.
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DB: What have you been working on?
Kyle: A lot of singles, I’ve been branching to a lot of different types of music. I don’t want to keep making music that’s festival music, that’s in one month and out the next. I want to make some music that has some real substance and can last in a market that’s so flooded and so fast paced that keeps changing. I want to make something that will stay. Know what I’m saying?
DB: Yeah, you’re trying to come up with a sustainable sound.
Kyle: Yeah exactly. You know I’ve worked hard enough for the past 5 years to get here and I don’t want it to be gone in a moment. Right now it’s all about finding that sound, and finding what really works for you and keep it in competition. Consistency is key, it's what separates the super stars from the artists at the bottom. I mean look at Drake, Lil Wayne and all those guys, they've stayed in the spot light for so long, they formulate.
DB: What kind of sounds are you trying out right now?
Kyle: I have a couple tracks I'm working on right now, a lot of my stuff has been different lately, things at 100 BPM, 110. I just feel that once you put something out there, you can't take it back, the rest of the world can see it, so I make sure that it represents me correctly. It just comes down to being able to fine tune things and figure out what i want to do with this. That's the hardest part to me, is being able to call a track done. You can sit and tweak a song for months and never call it done. I have a mindset that art is never finished, it's abandoned. I've been influenced by a lot of different people lately, like from the West Coast I've been listening to G-Eazy and Saint and in New York it's definitely been 4B and Choppa Dunks. I'm really trying to find my own sound, but take some inspiration from that, which I think people are gonna be able to like and tell once it comes out.
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DB: You're very young, and it's very difficult even for someone who's well established in the industry, do you find it difficult to get the same amount of respect and attention out of someone who is older than you?
Kyle: It's a curse and blessing, I'm very grateful that I was able to tell that I had such a passion for music at a young age, going back 4-5 years now. I'm turning 18 next year and i think that's when I'll be able to make a change. Right now I can't really go out and support my friends, the only time I'm really allowed in is when I'm playing, even then I'm still in high school so I need to work my schedule around that. People think because you're young, you must be naive and it's true for some of the part but some people mature faster than others, some people never mature. It all comes down to character.
DB: Is it difficult for you to relate to the industry?
Kyle: I don't think so, we live in a different time where music is a lot more readily accessible. People are starting to make music at a younger age and putting it out there for the world to see. But in terms of me being 17, it's a bridge that i've yet to cross over because I'm not even allowed to get into most clubs. So i'd be lying if i said it wasn't hindering to my career, it stops me from networking. I just look at as more of time that could be producing. You know really getting ready for when i do turn 18 and i can hit the ground running. Im not a negative person, i think that you find a positive in every situation.
DB: Our parents generation had a very different style of music, do your parents understand, are they supportive and realize how much potential you have?
Kyle: I think they're starting to catch on, they've always been the most supportive and important people in my life. They're fans of my music but they're not going to spit there and listen to Jack U's Ultra set, you know? They definitely encourage me to keep going with it, especially when it gets tough sometimes. They've always taught me that it's not going to fall into my lap and that's important to me because I don't really have a plan b. My plan b is make plan A, work. People don't understand they see what I do as sitting in a studio, making music, hang out with my friends. They don't see the fear and anxiety I have of failing, there's nothing under me, music has to work and that's why i put in the work that i do, that's why i do spend all my time here. I'm willing to put in all that effort and dedication to make it work. I need to do what I set out to do, which is my dream.
DB: What do your high school friends think of this? Do you have friends that are also producers?
Kyle: In high school there aren't really any producers. Most of my friends have caught on that I'm not really going out much and I spend all my time in the studio, but they're pretty understanding. I don't know if they get it completely just because I'm a lot different than what most 17 year olds are doing, like going to parties and stuff like that. They're definitely supportive, they don't try to swipe me away from it. I think a lot of people from high school think I DJ bar mitzvahs or something haha. I try to explain to some people, but they don't get it.
DB: Even though there's only a 6 year difference between you and I, we both grew up in Jersey. But when I was your age (realizing I'm an old man) there was a completely different music scene. I was in a alt rock band in surrounded by the screamo/metalcore kids playing VFW shows. We had a community that was very supportive of each other though, people who were our age. Is there a similar community in your age demographic?
Kyle: I think it goes both ways. I feel that your hometown is going to be one of the last groups who support you because they've known you their whole lives and they don't think it's really possible that someone that they know can make it. But then at the same time, you're almost a hometown hero, they want to root for you. Most of them want to see you succeed but some don't.
DB: So do you find it easier to reach out to older or experienced people as mentors?
Kyle: Yeah I think it was 2 years ago, I was introduced to 4B at a show and from that moment on he pretty much took me under his wing and became my mentor where we started a collective called MACA. That's how I met my manager, photographer and other artists i've worked with. It's been a blessing to work with him because without him who knows what could have happened. It's a huge help. Even with the amount of success he's had, he stills finds time to give me feedback on everything, takes time to send me music. Not a lot of people get to watch someone who they've known for years blow up. I saw what happens when you put the work in and that's inspiring. Someone that lives 5 minutes away from me is touring the country now because of their music. That's what it's about, that's what everyones trying to do.
DB: What are some short term and long term goals?
Kyle: I want to take over the world. I want to be the biggest thing to ever happen. I want to be bigger than Jay Z, I want to be the man and i wont stop until I get there, but I'll never get there because you can never stop and get comfortable, it's a constant progression. It's how to stay competitive and how you stay true to yourself. You always want to push yourself to prosper. As for short term, I'm just polishing up these tracks and that it's something that I want to put out.
DB: Did you start with DJing or being a producer?
Kyle: I was a DJ first. I went to a sandcastle building contest in Belmar in 6-7th grade where I met DJ Toro from 92.3 NOW and I begged him, "let me record a drop," and he eventually let me with my squeaky voice, I'm not sure if he ever played it which isn't surprising haha. Everyday from there I would be spamming DJ Toros inbox saying stuff like "can you do this? can you give me lessons?" Me and Toro are friends now, he's a fan of my music and that's a crazy feeling to have the guy who inspired me get started as a DJ is a now a fan of my music.
DB: Ever since the boom over the past few years, occasionally you'll see a headline that says "10 year old set to headline Tomorrrowland." How do you feel when you see people who are even younger than you getting these massive gigs?
Kyle: You know I think that, the people who are in this game for the right reasons will stay and those who aren't will filter away. You have to have the right work ethic.
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DB: What was your initial reaction when Diplo was playing out your, "Holla Back Girl," remix last summer?
Kyle: Oh man, you look at these guys from my perspective who are on top of the world, traveling, playing all of these shows for thousands of people, tracks that you made at your house and it's a crazy feeling. You have to make music that you like and represents. It feels good to have the recognition from someone like Diplo, Party Favor, Jack U it tells you that you aren't crazy. Some nights you go nuts making music by yourself and you say, "Is this worth it?" then things like that happen and it's like having a small breakthrough and reminder that what you're doing is worth and you're on the right path.
DB: Was Mysteryland the first time you heard that he was playing it?
Kyle: I knew he downloaded it, but I didn't know he was actually going to play it. It was a real moment, one of my heroes played one of my tracks.
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