Following the release of his fourth album ‘It’s Ok, B U’ and completing his US tour, we had the chance to sit down with the beloved beatmaker and piano virtuoso Kiefer before his performance at Tolhuistuin on February the 1st.
Hey Kiefer, how are you? what have you been up to lately?
‘’Man I’m good! It’s been a great time, I’m just practicing and recording new music. Got the Europe tour coming up which is exciting. A explosively musical time for me, this is the best I felt about music in a long time. I’m really excited, I just feel great.’’
"Its funny because it’s a positive title but actually the record is kind of about turmoil."
Congratulations on your latest album ‘It’s OK, B U’. Can you tell us a bit more about what inspired you during the process of making this album?
‘’Sure. Its ‘OK, B U’ was an album where I didn’t know the name of while I was making it. I just had this story that I wanted to tell just about like the last year of my life where I honestly wasn’t feeling too good. That’s what it’s about. Trying to feel good. I had this experience that I don’t know how I’d fit in the world. I didn’t know how my music fitted or if I even liked it anymore. And then by the end of the album you hear me kind of starting to feel more connected, more at peace and more together with the world around me. That’s kind of the big story.
And then also artistically I was going through something where I was trying to control or force myself to sound a certain way and trying to keep myself from not sounding other ways. And then also everyone wanted me to make a certain kind of album and I was just like, nah fuck it, I’m going to make beats again. So it’s kind of all of those things.’’
How do you stay true to your authentic self consistently? Like is that something that comes naturally to you or do you have to remind yourself as well that its ok to be u?
‘’For sure. Yeah, it’s funny. It’s simple, but not easy. Like for example, it’s simple to run a marathon, you just run for 5 hours or 3 hours if you’re incredible at it. But, that’s not easy. I think being yourself is a very simple thing, you just do it, but it’s a hard thing sometimes especially if you’re feeling there is a mental health thing. I don’t know, it’s one of those things. It’s hard sometimes to get to the core of that. I’ve had times in my life where I felt very connected with who I am and not judging it and being able to be empathetic and present. And then sometimes I’ve felt like I’m not. Not feeling good, not liking me. And that is really difficult. Like this album if anything is about a time when I don’t feel like that. Where as with my other records I’m more in my bag. Like, ‘Kickinit Alone’ was very me. ‘Superbloom’ is another one of those. ‘It’s OK, B U’ is actually a record where I was feeling very insecure throughout. Its funny because it’s a positive title but actually the record is kind of about turmoil. It’s about difficulties. But yeah, I think it’s important to be down with who we are.
everyone wanted me to make a certain kind of album and I was just like, nah fuck it, I’m going to make beats again.
But when you look back to ‘Kickinit Alone Kiefer’ and ‘It’s OK, B U Kiefer’, is there a difference? Did you make any steps personally?
‘’Yeah, I mean to me it’s not ‘better’ or ‘worse’, but it is stronger. I think ‘It’s OK, B U’ is a lot stronger in certain ways. Better editing, better musicianship, better time feel. It’s made by a musician that is a lot stronger. I made ‘Kickinit Alone’ when I was 24 and ‘It’s OK, B U when I was 30. So I had more tools at my disposal, more awareness and more life experiences. And then as a human, with ‘It’s OK, B U’ I feel older and I have a little bit more perspective on my life than when I was 24. An insane amount of things happen in those 6 years which shaped a huge part of who I am.’’
I imagine your album is more in the box than your previous one ‘When There’s Love Around’, which was more live. How do you translate your productions to your live performances? Are you rearranging the tunes live?
‘’Yeah, definitely gets a lot different performing it. I think to play the arrangements as they are on the album would not be enough for a live show. Things do change a little between the studio and playing on stage. Especially because I’m withholding a lot of musicianship in the studio. I think people that come to see us play live are really surprised by how much ‘music’ were playing. Like, were playing a lot harder, a lot louder, faster, more intense, more emotional, the arrangements are more intricate, more detailed and sometimes instead of 3 minute songs they’re more like 6 or 7 minutes. There’s long solo’s. And that’s how it should be in my opinion, when you’re playing live you should be expanding on the music. Not just regurgitating it. And especially because I’m a musician first, producer second. So that’s always a nice surprise when people are like: ‘’holy shit these motherfuckers are really going in.’’
Is there a certain energy that you try to find whenever you’re on stage?
‘’Oh absolutely. I have this thing I been thinking a lot about recently. I’ve been playing piano every day of my life. It’s been 31 years and I’ve been playing pretty much the whole time since I was like 2 or 3. At this point, I don’t want to play piano anymore, I want to enter a state. That’s what I’m interested in. Like, I’m gonna play piano regardless. If this tour wasn’t happening, I’d be playing piano at home. So I might as well enter a state. That’s what I wanna do. Whatever the feeling is, if I’m going to a show feeling a certain way, I gotta go a hundred per cent in to whatever that feeling is. If I’m pissed off, you’re gonna get a great show with that feeling too. You’re gonna see me playing really emotionally. It can be anything. I’m gonna enter a state and I’m gonna play as emotionally as I possibly can.
Last time in Amsterdam, that was fun! That was me having fun and embracing how much fun I was having.’’
"At this point, I don’t want to play piano anymore, I want to enter a state."
The last time you were at Tolhuistuin. The energy was very good and you had a good connection with the audience. What elements do you believe make a performance memorable?
‘’Honestly, it’s all in preparation. I take my practice a lot more serious than I used to. If a tour is starting and I’m really in shape and I’ve done the work to work out the arrangements ahead of time. And then you just got to play shows. Man, once I get to Amsterdam it’s gonna be lit. That’ll be the 6th show so well be smacking at that point for sure. First few shows are special in a different way because things are new and fresh. Unstable and interesting and raw. But when you get to show 6,7, things start to hit a lot harder so I’m looking forward to that.’’ .
Does the audience have any influence on your state?
‘’Oh my god, its extremely important! I feel so strongly about this, I think a lot of people learn to make music and trying to learn to read a script. Like they’re telemarketers and they gotta read the script on the phone. That’s not what a performance is. I think a performance should be flexible. If you’re really deep into your musicianship you should be able to improvise and play freely and have things morphed to the room. And therefore, if the audience is really into it, the show can just go fucking to the moon. My experience with Amsterdam has been only that. It’s only been extremely good audiences. I have Amsterdam up there with the best cities in the entire world for performing. And most musicians will agree by the way.
If you’re making sound, you’re part of the show. And sometimes you have audiences that can really elevate what’s happening. Amsterdam has definitely done that. They’re very respectful, into it, they’re excited, they listen, they’re positive. It’s great.’’
They’re very respectful, into it, they’re excited, they listen, they’re positive. It's great.’’
Top three albums released in 2023?
‘’’Solo Game’, which is an album by Sullivan Fortner. It might be the best solo piano record in 50, 60 years. Unbelievable. In the jazz-piano world this is like a tour-de-force album. ‘Once in many generations level’ album. Also my best friend Heather dropped this record ‘Covered in Heather’. I absolutely love it. Sonically so next level. It’s super inspiring to me. That’s also been one of my favourites this year. Also Butcher Brown’s ‘Solar Music’ is a big deal for me. I love Butcher Brown.’’
What is your Super-Sonic moment of 2023? A moment where everything fell in its right place.
‘’I think the last few weeks I felt like that. There is so many. Performing in Oakland was really special this year. There is this bassist named Cameron Thistle who jumped on our tour in the middle of the tour. We had a different bassist and he jumped on for the last five shows. No rehearsal, soundcheck didn’t happen cause the venue fucked up. So the show just starts and he’s had no rehearsal and he is 22. He is like just out of college and this is the first show on tour. And he’d never played with in-ears before. I’m watching him playing his first time touring, never rehearsed with us, first big gig and he just crushed the whole night. He was so prepared, didn’t make a single mistake and he was also taking chances, taking risk and had the biggest smile on his face. The crowd was going nuts for him. And I think that was the happiest I was the whole year. For real. Really awesome, unforgettable.’’
Anything you want to say to the people coming to your show in February?
Oh man, I appreciate anyone who comes to my show. It’ll be a really sweet, warm, vibrant time. I can’t wait to see you there. It means so much that people come to see me play. I’m just so happy if you decided to come. Come say hi to me after the show!”
Tickets for Kiefer’s performance at Tolhuistuin are still available through the button below