MERAKI MIX SERIES: Live from Meraki Open Decks with Billy Kettle
Every so often someone steps up to our open decks platform and absolutely kills it; Billy Kettle did just that with this mix and fortunately we recorded it :) Thanks again to Billy for bringing the magic ❤️
MERAKI: What made you want to become a DJ?
Billy Kettle: Plain and simple, the music. Growing up in a small village in the East Midlands, as a kid I wasn’t allowed to watch the TV that much and instead had a radio in my room which I would listen to every night. This connected me to the outside world and meant that I could experience music other than your normal chart toppers or disco classics that my mum would play. Back then my favourite radio presenters were Zane Lowe and Annie Mac both of whom opened me up to a world that I am truly thankful for. To this day I still lock into the wonderful Annie Mac and will always be inspired by her broad range of musical taste, touching the Indie singer-songwriters to the hard hitting Drum and Bass producers. At the age of 18, I was lucky enough to get my first turntable and a few records from my uncle which sparked everything off looking back on it now. Even though these records weren’t dance music, my friends and I would still try slowing down and speeding up these songs which at the time probably sounded horrid. Occasionally we’d even listen to whole records in reverse hoping to discover some subliminal messages which we never did.
It then wasn’t until I went to University and found some local record shops around South East London that my curiosity in DJing began to develop some more. My halls flatmate and I at the time went 50/50 on a handful of records and luckily my department had an equipment borrowing service which lent me a small pocket size mixer that allowed me to have my turntable playing through one side and Spotify beats through the other. Here we would try and scratch audio speeches on records we’d found such as a Faulty Towers episode or media coverage from the JFK assassination. To be fair to the both of us we stuck at it and after a few weeks, we didn’t sound awful at least. It was these first fundamental experiences of experimenting which laid the foundations for myself as a DJ.
What really inspired me though and changed my whole outlook on DJing being something I would like to try to something I believed I could pursue was the release of Chase & Status’s, “RTRN II JUNGLE”. The first ever Drum and Bass set I’d seen was Chase & Status as a 16 year old at T in the Park in Scotland after they released, “No More Idols” and subconsciously since then had always listened to DnB and Jungle. It was, “RTRN II JUNGLE” though that truly changed my life and I will always be thankful to Saul and Will for making a true masterpiece.
That summer they played a set at Notting Hill carnival followed by Andy C which out of all the gigs or set’s I’d ever seen, those two combined send me to another dimension. Walking away from there in the chaos of carnival was the point in which I knew I had to become a DJ. Primarily my main love is Drum and Bass and always will be, however like Annie Mac I truly believe in appreciating a wide range of sounds, genres and cultures. The first gigs I ever did were all house and garage nights, genres which can facilitate everyone from your grandmas lover to those experiencing their first club night so for this mix you can find a selection of house tunes in order to make your feet move with an odd sprinkling of the Amen break in there.
MERAKI: Where’s your favourite spot to buy records?
Billy Kettle: Without a doubt it has the be Disc World. Sicknote and Dexta have the best selection of records throughout the whole of the London and the country. If you are ever in Deptford, this is a most go to location. Not only are their fingers on the pulse in terms of fresh releases, they have a fantastic selection of second hand records which they’ve been collecting over the years that are only available in store so all the more reason to go and pay them a visit. Whenever you’re in need of inspiration I recommend you head there. There are some great record shops around but none that specialise as well in dance music as Disc World do. They have everything there, across all the genres so whatever flavour you are looking for, I guarantee they’ve got it. Also the speakers in there are brilliant and they have some great sets playing as well, which are always vinyl that takes it up another level. Most of my collection is from there and they get to know your taste so well and can always offer you some great recommendations. If it is singles, EP’s or LP’s that you’re looking for, it is all there. Make sure to go and check them out.
MERAKI: What’s the most important thing about DJing to you?
Billy Kettle: A simple as it is to say, it has to be the sound. Personally I am a really stickler for DJ theory and want to make sure that I can always improve to become the best DJ I can. That means making sure that I always mix songs in key and on phrase as well. For me personally, there are so many great DJ’s out there to learn from that there is no excuse for not always trying to purse musical excellence. It is impossible to achieve which makes it all the more exciting as a challenge. There are so many small techniques that you need to know which may not seem to make all the difference but when you combine them they do. Small changes such as making sure your songs are never clipping and that there are never vocal clashes really can set you apart and it is these small things which are the most important to me as it will result in a cleaner sound altogether. Additionally I like the idea of flow throughout my sets, loops can be extremely useful in sampling and building atmosphere however there is a risk of overdoing it and losing the flow of a set which can be part of the challenge. When mixing on vinyl you can’t loop a song, unless you are beat juggling which is a different technique altogether, we need to make sure to honour the tradition of where blending and mixing comes from, as without the original pioneers we wouldn’t be where we are today. When thinking back to sets pre-lockdown, you don’t always remember the specifics of a transition, if you used reverb to make it smother or combined fast cuts with scratches, you always remember the reactions people gave you and that is the beauty of what we do. We have the ability to make people free themselves in this fast paced world that we live in. The reactions are instant and there is real beauty in that. Coming from an acting background where there are still the key ideas of performance, making sure your body is open and eyes are interacting with the audience, music has more of an instant reaction than that of a speech at times and it is fascinating to see how a dance floor responds to sound. It is to this sound which we owe our craft.