Cult alternative artist Kindness made waves at the opening lecture of Red Bull Music Academy today in Paris, in a refreshingly honest lecture that focused heavily on his experiences navigating sexuality and race inside the music industry.
Kindness, (real name Adam Bainbridge) who released his second album, Otherness, to critical acclaim in 2014, fished a service bell out of his record bag at the beginning of the lecture, making his host promise to sound it if “anything becomes too real or legally unsound.” What transpired was certainly emotionally weighty, but may go down as one of the more honest discussions to have graced RBMA in the last decade.
Red Bull Music Academy is an international program focused on fostering up and coming electronic talent from across the world, including round the clock access to custom built studios, keynote lectures from industry heroes and jaw dropping parties to boot. This year it landed in Paris, taking over the entire of La Gaite Lyrique, a modern art gallery and performance space. Australian alumni include Ta-Ku and Andras Fox, of Andras and Oscar.
“I think if you’re racist or homophobic, you shouldn’t be allowed to work in music,” Mr Bainbridge said, revealing that in the nascent stages of his career, he was bullied out of a career music by a writer that now offers trend predictions for the BBC. Mr Bainbridge, who first came to prominence with a downtempo cover of The Replacements and has since collaborated with Robyn, Kelela, Solange and Blood Orange, says seeing himself victimised online ruined his early success as a grime artist.
“I was struggling with my sexuality and I thought ‘Shit! I can’t be a grime producer if I’m gay!’”
Bainbridge is a renowned pop historian, who knows more esoteric musical genres than many who lived through it. He pulled no punches when recounting living in London during the meteoric rise of nu-rave, the movement that famously coincided with Modular Records and Ksubi’s reign in Australia and spawned fluro-clad acts like Klaxons:
“It was a bastardised, indie version of rave music and it was horrible. I honestly think it was the worst moment of all time. Nu-rave was electro-clash with everything gay sucked out of it. It was heterosexual, white men adopting the signifiers of underground without any of the context.”
Mr Bainbridge reserved plenty of ire for the ‘straight white men’ in music who he says still marginalise people of colour (his mother is Indian), women and the LGBTQ community. “After the Charleston shooting, you have all these hip hop artists coming out to support the victims and not a word from the white artists that have been ripping off hip-hop, funk and disco for years.”
He was also quick to dispel the myth that artists whose music lives on streaming services make no money. “Firstly, it’s all going that way. I don’t like it, but it’s what’s happening,” he said. “But if you own your master recordings, you can make up to 90% of your revenue back. It is definitely possible to make good money.”
Red Bull Music Academy lectures typically focus on craft, making them relevant only to those who work or write music. Today’s talk will undoubtedly change that.
Jonathan Seidler is in Paris as a guest of RBMA.