top of page

Interview: Getting to know US house artist Ross Kiser

Ross Kiser steps up for Sublease Music with two new down-and-dirty tracks that reflect the maturing of his sound over the last few years.

The US-based artist set out to make a darker, minimal EP highlighting synth work and textures to create groove and atmosphere, and succeeded completely. Here, we caught up with Ross for chat about the EP and plans for the year ahead.

Over the years, you've been a significant figure in the Colorado house scene. How do you think your sound has evolved from your early days with Need and Necessity to your current solo projects?

Greetings fam! Thanks so much for having me for a little chat! Ah what a fun time to look back on. In my Need & Necessity days production was primarily focused all around Deep House dancefloor cuts - (think the 2012 Deep House days) - lot’s of classic house influence, lot’s of vocal work and really pronounced basslines. Although that style of music is still a huge influence for me, and that sound is near and dear to my heart, I have always had an obsession with the more underground and somewhat minimal side of things. When my buddy and I set down the headphones for the Need & Necessity project, due to one of us relocating, it came at a perfect time as I was exploring a new sound creatively. My solo work took a turn for a more minimal, underground and dubby vibe, which is a major characteristic of my music today. I find that my sound these days is a blend of all my loves: house, deep-tech, dub-techno and jazz.

Your music is known for its deep-tech house with techno roots. How do these genres influence your creative process, and how do you blend them to create your signature sound?

First and foremost, when I think deeply on this question, what comes to mind is I like to follow the mantra of “there are no rules in music or creativity for that matter” - at least I like to think so haha. When in the studio, I try not to shoot for a specific sound or outcome, I just let it flow. As mentioned, classic or somewhat soulful and jazzy House music is always an influence, but there is something about dubby chords and atmospheric pad work that always gets me jazzed. I tend to blend styles and genres to the best of my ability to curate my sound. I magically find that when I have a finished track there’s a lot of crossing of multiple genres.

For instance, I might have a beat that is pretty drum heavy with a lot of housey high hat shuffle, yet the synth work is very dubby and minimal, bringing a lot of dub techno chord like sounds into the mix. I might even have a super dark and minimal track but have some more housey vocals put in there. I find that this blend really helps to define my sound and makes my music me. I definitely try to break my own rules if you will. If I have a sketch that is going down a super housey route, I’ll throw some darker elements in there to see what it does to the vibe, and vice versa. Sometimes it sounds awful or “lost” and sometimes it creates something super unique and special.

Your recent EP "Catacombs" showcases a darker, minimal sound with intricate synth work. Can you share the inspiration behind this shift in your music style and how you approached the creation of these deep and atmospheric tracks?

Haha in all honesty, some days my studio sessions result in something more housey and some days more dubby and minimal. These tracks were the result of a week where I was just really digging darker synth work, and I was trying to get out of my comfort zone a bit with the sound design and arrangement. Traditionally, I tend to go pretty heavy on my drums and percussion work - with heavy hi-hat patterns and louder claps/snares. With these tracks, I really wanted to experiment with dialing all that back a bit and placing more emphasis on the synth work, trying to find the perfect balance and groove, and to really let the synths do the talking.

In terms of direct inspiration for these tracks there really wasn’t one haha - I just went into the studio to jam and came out with these two tracks that I’m super proud of. In general though my darker, more minimal style stuff draws a lot of inspiration from other artists on the rosters of both Bondage Music and Sublease Music. I have been releasing alongside some of these artists for a few years now (although this is my first release on Sublease, I have a few EPs out on Bondage Music now) and I am always really inspired by how the various artists continue to push boundaries in these genres.

How does your approach differ when creating music for live performances compared to studio sessions? Do you prioritize certain elements or techniques in one setting over the other?

In all honesty, I don’t really approach the two differently. I just hit the studio with the intent of getting creative. Whether the creativity is taking me more towards something for a dance floor or more for the living room, I simply just embrace it and let the music go where it wants to. For the most part though, I will always play out (at least once) everything I make whether it gets released or not. I might even play something out and then scrap the tune all together haha. For me it’s important to see how it does in a club environment, but more importantly, I like to see if anyone else vibes with it. If I see even one or two people really getting down to it, I keep it (although it may never get released).

With all that said though, historically, I have indeed created tracks for sets specifically. Depends on the time slot and the artists I am playing alongside. Every now and then I will push my boundaries. Create a house banger or a techno or liquid DnB track just to keep my skillset fresh and evolving and to try something new to throw into a set.

The "Catacombs" EP includes a remix by Markus Homm. What was it like collaborating with him, and how do his interpretations complement your original tracks?

So we spoke about inspiration a little bit above. Let’s just say Markus Homm is definitely one of the artists I was referring to. I have been following him and collecting his records for almost a decade now. In fact, Markus Homm was a huge player in me finding and falling in love with the Bondage Music imprint many years ago. When Steve Bug and team asked me for stems for the tracks on the new EP, I was super excited to find out who might be taking over the reins for remix duties - as the whole roster is extremely impressive and talented. When I found out it was going to be Markus Homm I was not only super excited and honored but almost emotional. Hard to put my finger on it, but something about it felt “full circle”.

In my opinion he absolutely nailed it. It turned out better than I could have imagined. I always love having a remixer because it's super cool to see how others use your sounds and spin off your creativity to put their own creativity and twist into it. It was a special moment putting that on for the first time. I honestly think his rendition is amazing, bringing that signature Markus Homm vibe. I also respect that he kept a lot of the original sounds and vibe intact but re-worked everything in a really elegant way. It’s a banger!

Being a staple of the Colorado house scene, how has the local music culture and community influenced your music and career?

Wow, the city has evolved so much musically since I moved here back in 2012. When I started playing in Denver there were a minimal amount of events focusing on really underground dance music. Now the city is blooming musically, consistently bringing a wide array of artists and genres. I’d say, over the years more and more underground and minimal artists have been making their way here to play which drives me to further pursue and embrace my sound. That said, I have never at any point in time, let the lack of “my style of music” in the city prevent me from pursuing my sound. I’d say in terms of the style of music I make, there aren’t a ton of other producers who are producing similar stuff, and I honestly like that. I enjoy being a little unique.

What are some of the most significant challenges you've faced in music production, and how have you overcome them?

What a great question - haha there are a lot of them and I could write a whole book on these challenges - but if I were to boil it down, one that sticks out is: Holding too high of expectations or trying too hard.

I have learned over the years that when I go into the studio with an expectation or I have a result in mind - it never really flows or works out the way I want. Of course I think it’s good or motivating to have a rough goal or result in mind but allowing flexibility in those “requirements” is key. For me, it’s the studio sessions where I have zero expectations or where I say, “I am just going to jam for a few hours, and I don’t care what the outcome is” where the magic happens. In fact it’s in those studio sessions where I not only make my best music, but I also tend to finish a track start to finish, before I leave the room.

Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations you're particularly excited about? Can you give us a sneak peek into what's next for Ross Kiser?

Ah yes! So I have been riding a major creativity high lately. I have been making tons of music and am putting a lot of EPs together for later this year that I am super excited about. Some signed and even more unsigned. Outside of this new EP on Sublease Music, one that I am particularly excited about is another EP on Bondage Music. This will be my fourth EP on the label and personally it’s my favorite one that I have released with them. I have a few collaborations in the works as well that I am super excited about but I will keep those secret for now - sorry y’all haha. I will announce them this year for sure though!

One thing that I have been really excited about is my first album. No plans of release yet but I am consistently setting aside potential tracks for it. The goal of the album is to showcase my journey of music production so I am really trying to find a good way to cohesively put it together as it will include many different genres. Hopefully more info will come on that later this year as well.

With nearly a decade in the industry, what advice would you give to aspiring producers and DJs looking to carve out their niche in electronic music?

I feel like at this point, this has been said by so many, but really finding your sound is key. Being unique is how you stand out above others. I think mirroring others while you learn and get your bearings on production is a great way to grow, experiment, and get comfortable in the studio. But once you feel comfortable and you start to really identify what you like, start to shape your sound into something that makes you, you! I struggled with this for a long time but this really is so important. Also, share the music! Don’t sit on it. Get as much feedback as you possibly can. Another thing is try not to get stagnant in your approach. Use different sounds, arrange things differently, break rules. It’s more fun and you can seriously create something magical.

Really appreciate the time and these awesome questions! It was fun chatting! Cheers y’all.

Catacombs is out now on Sublease Music - listen & buy

bottom of page