A Chat with D-Kel & Los Bandidos (08.07.20)

Founded by South London rap artist, D-Kel & Los Bandidos is a fusion of punk, reggae, indie-rock and rap. Drawing inspiration from his life experiences while embracing his Latin-American roots, D-Kel and his crew form a unique style encapsulating their creative vision. We had a chance to speak with D-Kel (DK), Ryan (R), Alfie (A) and Felipe (F) about their new single ‘Sun Goes Down’, favourite songs and being pack animals.

OSR: Why did you enter the music industry?

DK: Been involved in music in some way since a young kid, so I guess it’s always been part of my life. In terms of entering the industry, it wasn’t really a choice but more of a natural progression when I took things seriously as I grew older.

R: : Mum and Dad had to work weekends, so to keep me and my sister busy they would drop us off at the local community rock/pop music school on Saturdays. From there I fell in love with music and the rest was just a natural progression. I was playing in bands all throughout my teens and then started playing on the streets/weddings/parties for a bit of cash to keep food on the table later on in life.

A: Thought it would give me a productive reason to be in the pub.

OSR: What is your creative process?

DK: My process is really simple, it really relies on the first few seconds of me hearing an idea. Usually, the music is created then the lyrics when we make songs. If I hear something and an idea doesn’t spring to mind, then I don’t really bother to peruse it. It has to give me an instant feeling/vibe for me to be willing to work on it, plus I try not to write as in putting pen to paper. I find it much more effective as a rapper to write and memorise in my mind. I think it sounds more fluent.

R: Make noise until it sounds better. The creative process is always amplified by the people who you make music with. If they are eager and passionate, it pushes you on. I love to bounce different ideas around with the people I jam with, even if it’s not the genre/project I’m solely concentrating on. If all else fails, try to do another art form that gets your blood flowing.

OSR: Is there a backstory to your latest release?

DK: Well, Ryan actually came up with the idea sonically in a rehearsal session. It had such a grime tempo to it and that heavy bass dub feel and, as mentioned in the previous answer, it was one of those moments where something came to be in seconds. It was that first line ‘He’s got no rights, just wrongs’ and the story developed from there.

I grew up on a small estate in South East London; I’m not saying it was the worst place, there are definitely worse places, but I certainly saw and experienced things as a teenager. However, it seems that in present-day things have got a lot more worse in relation to knife crime over recent years. I wanted to tell that story in this song.

R: The main idea for the music just came from me making some weird pad loops with my guitar and jamming around that. I was actually inspired by a beatboxer called Dub FX that does these sick tunes made using only a looper and some basic effects. That guy is boss. When D-Kel started writing lyrics, I instantly loved the direction that he wanted to take the song as it was a story I heard time and time again while working with young offenders a while back.

OSR: What about your music is unusual or unconventional?

DK: It’s easy to say we’re different and versatile, but I would say that our actual sound is such a mishmash that it shouldn’t work but it does. I think that’s what’s unusual.

A: I love the blend of genres and languages going on. I like that our set jumps around in terms of energy and that we have some songs that are loud and guitar-driven, songs inspired by modern British reggae/dub, some calm tracks with sombre and reflective lyrics, and some dancey fun songs inspired by D-Kel’s roots. I go to a lot of gigs in small venues around London and have not heard a set like ours, so it’s definitely unique.

R: Personally, I think it’s quite tricky to mix rock, dub, grime and punk as they are in some ways opposing forces. Punk and rock are naturally fast while dub and grime are naturally slow.

OSR: What is your favourite song to perform and why?

DK: ‘Cold Island’. I think it shows so much of what we can do – rock, rap, Spanish, English. It’s such a fun song to perform!

A: ‘Bandida’ is sexy af. Also ‘Racket’ is a great tune to play – turn it up!

R: ‘Bandida’ or ‘Change’ because both have the longest guitar solos.

OSR: Where have you performed and what is your favourite venue?

DK: Well, sadly, we were due to perform at lots of new festivals and venues this year, but we’ve done St Mortiz, Dublin Castle, New Cross Inn, Retro, and Road Trip. I really like Dublin Castle – there’s so much history in that venue and it’s always a good night!

A: Gutted that due to everything going on we can’t continue playing at and discovering new amazing little venues around London. I’d love to play at The Finsbury by Manor House.

R: We had a mad night at St Mortiz a few months back. The place is bang in the heart of Soho and really intimate. It’s just an awesome venue, especially if you want to interact with your crowd.

OSR: Do you suffer from performance anxiety?

DK: No, not at all. Ironically, I suffer from anxiety in general so performing helps me deal with that and helps with confidence issues.

A: I guess playing bass I’m off to the side and not the centre of attention. The post-sound check crispy boys tend to address any nerves.

R: I spent most of my youth playing in a shit punk band performing at local venues to no-one. I think I just learnt to love playing live and now I just play my heart out regardless.

OSR: Have you considered doing online shows during this time?

DK: Well, we did a ‘live session’ for our last single ‘Bandida’ which was cool! It can be viewed via our Facebook or Instagram.

OSR: Who would you like to collaborate with and why?

DK: Tough one! Tego Calderon. He’s a legend in modern Latin music and I think we could do something cool. Also, a chorus from Gary Hall from The Specials because, well, it’s The Specials.

A: John Lydon. That would be an experience.

R: Tough one again. Paul Weller, The Specials, UB40, The Police.

OSR: If you could date someone famous, who would it be and why?

DK: *laughs* Well, I think collectively we all have a crush on a certain female from a certain band, but I’ll let someone else say.

A: badgalriri, why you not replying to my messages?

R: I love my girl to bits, but Marcia from the Skints. She liked one of my Instagram posts once; I nearly died!

OSR: If D-Kel & Los Bandidos were pack animals, what would you be and why?

DK: No idea! *laughs*

A: Meerkats. Few animals work so well in packs as these lil’ fellas.

R: Wolves! We hunt in packs.

OSR: Do you have any message for our readers?

DK: When the world is a better place, please support every live music venue in any way you can. We have a long road to recovery and we will need all the support we can get. Also, Black lives matter and don’t forget it.

A: Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy our music! Hopefully, we will be out again playing music and meeting great people.

R: Love your fellow human beings. Period.

Thanks to D-Kel & Los Bandidos for chatting with us! You can find more about the group on their Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Spotify.

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