[INTERVIEW] Navigating The Waves Of Progressive House: A Sonic Voyage With K3SS Aboard Groove Cruise

K3SS, Groove Cruise, Interview

| February 17, 2024

Embarking on his fourth consecutive year aboard Groove Cruise, K3SS, one of the fastest-rising progressive artists, brought his signature sound to the decks of this legendary event.

Hailing from San Diego, California, K3SS delivers an electrifying fusion of progressive basslines and melodic techno across his music and performances. With hits like "Say You Want It Too," K3SS captivates audiences with his dark and sexy vibe.

We had the pleasure of chatting with this multi-faceted artist as Groove Cruise 2024 set sail from Great Stirrup Cay.

Check out our in-depth interview with this budding superstar below.

 

iEDM: What inspired your latest hit track, “Say You Want It Too,” and can you share the creative process behind it? When listening to it, what soundscape or segment of the song stands out to you the most?

K3SS: This is a collaboration with my buddy and fellow producer Dan Miles. We started our journeys around the same time and met through a mutual collective. With similar signature styles, Dan let me know he wanted to work together. 

Some time passed until he sent me an idea for a track. It was truly crazy how quick it came together after that. From the idea he gave me, I expanded on it, sent it back to him, and we continued to go back and forth refining it. We finished the song in a week and a half. 

Dan sent the track to Scorchin’ Progressive, a record label he works with, simply for feedback. Even though we weren’t pitching on the track, they loved the groove, percussion, kick, and overall song. The labelhead asked if they could sign it, so the whole process happened very organically. 

The story behind the vocals in “Say You Want It Too” is unique as well. I had written the lyrics and told my wife I wanted her to sing them. Two takes and five minutes later we had the perfect vocals. She is a personal trainer and content creator, not a professional singer, which made her role in the track that much more impressive. 

iEDM: Your music is often described as having a dark and intimate progressive vibe. How do you go about creating this distinctive sonic atmosphere, and what influences play a role in shaping your sound?

K3SS: I always tell people my vibe is dark, sexy, and progressive. Whenever I am making a song, I ask myself, ‘will this turn someone on?’ Many artists create music with the intention of making listeners feel a specific emotion, whether it is crying and sadness or joyful and euphoric. I wanted something different embodied by my music and sets, and that is to ‘turn the dancefloor on.’

Most people focus on leads. They are very important, but I actually focus a lot on atmospheres. It subconsciously creates the desired mood and background, while the lead and percussion push people to dance.

 

iEDM: How has living in San Diego affected your overall taste in music and style of production?

K3SS: With the music scene in San Diego and LA, I believe I have gone against the grain. There is an abundance of tech house and bass music. This led me to pursue an alternate route. California is fantastic for the music scene itself and there are a ton of opportunities. 

Forging a project outside the standard has worked out tremendously for me. The clubs and venues I perform at are looking for the specific vibe and signature sound that I bring. 

My inspirations, such as my favorite artists, have evolved so much over the years. When I first started, it was Armin van Buuren and Above & Beyond. Now, every year, I have a new favorite artist. The current artist who I feel influences and inspires my sound the most, despite it truthfully being nothing like his, is Boris Brejcha. His vibe is top-notch. 

iEDM: Having performed at major venues across the U.S., how do different locations and audiences impact your live shows? Besides Groove Cruise, of course, are there specific places that hold a special connection for you?

K3SS: Where I am on the lineup is incredibly important and impacts how much energy I throw into my set. I have a high level of respect for the rest of the lineup that I am on. If I am opening up the night or playing direct support for the headliner, I try to set the stage for their performance. 

My name did not sell out the club, their name did. So I base the energy of my set and ending BPM on what would best match their usual energy level. Typically, I begin my set with loads of energy, then towards the second half steadily decrease it to a point where the headliner can come in hot. If I am playing doors [when the club first opens], I start low energy as the club fills up and steadily pick it up, ending with high energy.

On Groove Cruise, there is less of a set schedule and people always playing before and after you. It is a place to showcase your individual project and put K3SS on full display.

On the topic of special venues, there is a spot in San Diego that I always love performing at. The crowd is really cool but the staff and how friendly they are is actually what makes it one of my favorites. It is an Insomniac-ran club called Nova.

Regardless of the hierarchy, headliner, direct support, doors, side stage, the staff treats every artist the same and with respect. The artist liaison manager and stage managers are incredibly nice, welcoming, and professional.

iEDM: What emotions or experiences do you aim to create for listeners through your music and performances?

K3SS: Any positive comments or validation from the audience after my sets mean the world to me. If someone was to come up and say, ‘that was some sexy sh*t dude!’ I would definitely be fired up.

 

iEDM:  As a rising progressive artist, what challenges have you faced in establishing yourself in the competitive music industry, and how have you overcome them?

K3SS: As I previously mentioned, I do not want to sound like any other artist. That is immensely important, however it is a double-edged sword because when you do not sound like someone it is tough to find where you belong and your target audience.

People might ask who do you sound like or what is your niche, which can be difficult to answer. Also, knowing what labels to reach out to and share your demos with can be challenging.

One way to overcome these obstacles is to have as many unbiased people listen to your music as possible. Have them give honest feedback toward your music. You have to fight the feeling of being protective and vulnerable over your creations in order to be open to criticism and improve your sound.

When asking for feedback, be direct with your questioning. What artist or genre does it sound like? What labels could you envision seeing this track on? Do you think this is label-ready? Do you think this is club-ready? Make sure you are ready for an answer that you may not want to hear.

Another piece of advice is to never compare yourself to other artists when it comes to success. Everyone is on their own path and while the music industry can be competitive at times, as artists, we need to support each other and grow together. Lastly, find the sound best reflects your identity and stick to it.

 

iEDM: Just a few days ago, you tweeted that Bloody Marys are the best travel drink. Why do you believe this, and how many Bloody Marys do you expect to have throughout Groove Cruise?

K3SS: Bloody Marys are definitely my favorite travel drink. They are not necessarily a party drink, but when I haven’t eaten and want to drink they are the go-to. This is because they are simultaneously a meal and a drink. Also, Bloody Marys are a great vacation drink due to the fact that they make me very relaxed.

On a previous Groove Cruise, I was hanging with my friend Trivecta. Like Trivecta, a lot of my close friends are bass artists. We were at one of the clubs around midnight and I had a Bloody Mary in my hand. 

Trivecta says. “Why do I smell vegetable soup right now?” I held up my drink and he was stunned that I was sipping on a Bloody Mary in the middle of the club. He asked, “Are you 70 years old?” and to this day he will still clown me on my Bloody Mary drinking antics.

 

Click to check out our review of Groove Cruise 2024, including highlights like K3SS's Theatre set!

 

iEDM: This is your fourth consecutive time being part of the Groove Cruise. How does the energy and vibe of this festival cruise contribute to your performances here?

K3SS: Which stage I am playing at is very important. Every stage on Groove Cruise has a different feel. If I get a main stage slot, such as playing in the Theatre, I will play a pure K3SS set.

A pool set would encompass a vibe that is more house-y in nature. Casino sets are more fun and underground. You have a lot of liberty at this stage and can take a set in whichever direction you decide.

iEDM: Name the first three words or phrases that come to mind when you think about Groove Cruise? What are your favorite highlights, sets, and activities from previous years?

K3SS: Intimate, party, drop your guard. 

The first Groove Cruise I went on, I met the current group that I go on with every year. We all clicked and became best friends overnight. MitiS is in this group, and he played a pool set on the last night. His manager comes around and gives everyone a cup. In the middle of his set, he turns around, gets a bottle of champagne, and pours everyone a shot. 

There was probably around 12 of us who toasted together; it was a really intimate, personal moment and is the thing that immediately pops in my head whenever I think of Groove Cruise. This was the final piece of glue that brought our group together and solidified these friendships.

iEDM: With scheduled releases on high-end record labels this year, can you give us a sneak peek into what listeners can expect from your upcoming projects? Are there any collaborations or exciting news you'd like to share?

K3SS: 2024 is slated to be my biggest year yet. I already have five tracks signed to labels scheduled to be released from now through summer. There are more on top of these that I am working on getting signed as well. It is the first time I have had to talk with certain labels to push tracks to 2025, the following year. 

My next upcoming release is a collaboration with Britt Lari, who is one of the most amazing vocalists I have had the pleasure of working with. The track will be dropping on Dim Mak; it is called “Deeper” and we have played it a few times live already. Additionally, I am releasing an EP with another label, so make sure to keep an eye out for that.

K3SS, Groove Cruise, Interview

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CONNOR PHILLIPS

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Fueled by his passion for EDM, Connor’s life revolves around dance music and its ability to bring people together. Raised in upstate New York, Connor was deprived of festivals and raves until he attended Florida State University, where he was instantly hooked. Fast-forward to today and Connor has become a house and melodic techno DJ, an avid EDM-based interviewer and writer, and has worked PR for the likes of Matroda, Bleu Clair, and other new-wave house icons.

Outside of music, Connor loves pretty much any sport (huge Knicks, Yankees, and NY Giants fan), going on hikes, traveling, and food. Based in Florida, there’s a good chance you will eventually run into Connor at one of the popular festivals and clubs throughout the state.

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