Building An Empire

10 January 2013 | 8:58 am | Troy Mutton

“I plan to release a new solo record and I’ll finally get all these collaborations with other producers that I worked on in 2012 out!”

Given Perth's longstanding affinity for drum'n'bass, it came as a surprise to no one when dubstep began to take a strangehold over the local dance community a few years back, and one of those at the forefront was young gun Kito, aka Maiike Lebbing. Originally growing up in a town a few hours south, Lebbing has quickly gone on to become a global force in DJing and production thanks to releases on the likes of Diplo's Mad Decent label.

Via correspondence from her current home in London, Lebbing conveys how she ended up getting into the DJ scene over these parts around 2008/'09. “I think nothing more than my love for music and the friends I had around me at the time,” she begins. “I grew up in a tiny town in the south west of Oz – about a five hour drive from Perth – and when I moved [there] after school I lived with my sister and her boyfriend in Scarborough while I looked for a room. At that time I was already obsessed with music and DJing and had been playing around with production, but I was rubbish at it then!”

It was around this time she quickly fell in with some pretty influential names in Perth bass. “Phetsta was living around the corner from my sister and we used to hang out and go to gigs together. I already knew Shockone and Reija Lee as their cousin was my best friend in high school. I had a pretty great bunch of friends; all really passionate about music and I think that played a huge part in keeping it my number one interest.”

While having friends in the clubs provided a good foot in the door, Lebbing quickly caught the eye of one of dubstep's forebears in Croydon's Skream. Lebbing recalls it as a clear turning point from Perth DJ to something more. “In 2009 I sent a demo to Skream and he wanted them for his label, Disfigured Dubz. To me, that was the best thing that could have happened! I started getting some love in the UK from other DJs and radio presenters such as Mary Anne Hobbs and amongst other circumstances, decided to make the move to the UK. It wasn't really a decision based on career – more so that I was just ready for some adventure and wanted to go experience the music I loved first hand.”

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Career-based or not, the decision has proved incredibly fruitful for Lebbing, who caught the eye of the aforementioned Diplo. The release The Sweet Talk EP featured the vocals of friend and vocalist Reija Lee, and the duo fast became a powerful pairing. “Reija is an old friend. I've known her since I was about 13. As I said – she is the cousin of my best friend in high school. We used to hang out in school holidays and go to music festivals together. Never imagined we'd be releasing music as a duo! Back then I was collecting records and mixing and Reija was singing and playing bass in bands. We first collaborated when she sang on my track LFO.

“I feel like we work together so well as a duo because our working relationship sits on a solid friendship and that's very important when you spend so much time with someone. We inspire each other a lot musically and I think we've got a very special thing going.”

So special in fact that 2013 sees the birthing of their official pairing under the Kito & Reija Lee, with some exciting developments in store that Lebbing is fairly obviously pumped about. “This year Reija and I will start to take bookings as Kito & Reija Lee, which is a massive thing for us. We did our first live show in London supporting Feed Me recently so I think touring together will be high on the agenda in 2013…

“My main priority is the stuff with Reija Lee. I feel as though we might be accidently writing an album but it's hard to say when it will all come together. There will definitely be many releases from us whether in the form of an album or a string of singles and EPs,” she tells, before laying out her own work as well: “I plan to release a new solo record and I'll finally get all these collaborations with other producers that I worked on in 2012 out!”

Lebbing delves further into some of her recent collaboration work that will form the bulk of her releases in the coming year. “I've been lucky enough to work with some of my favourite producers and vocalists this past year on some exciting projects. Obviously Reija Lee is the person I work with the most and exploring different sounds with her is very exciting for me. We recently recorded a track with Zebra Katz, which was a very creative studio session. I also worked on a few tracks with Feed Me/Spor a few weeks back which was a lot of fun. These will all be 2013 releases.”

Given Lebbing's status as Perth's dubstep queen back in the day, I was keen to get her thoughts on what she makes of this whole 'bass music' phenomenon, especially given she's moved away from that sound somewhat since then, not letting genres define her so much. Her response is a pretty straightforward one. “To me, the term 'bass music' doesn't really mean a lot. It feels like a term people use to label music that they don't really know where to categorise. There are always new movements and sounds and I've heard the term 'bass music' being used to describe house or electro so it is meaningless to me.”

With that nipped in the bud, talk turns to her current focus – working with her current partner in production, French DJ/producer and part of the Ed Banger family, Feadz. By the sounds of things, it's a collaboration that's going swimmingly, particularly if their cracking Electric Empire EP is anything to go by. “Feadz and I actually met in Perth about four years ago at a festival where Kraftwerk were playing! We kept in contact after that and met up in London when I was living there. He invited me to Paris to work on a record with him in 2011, which I did.

“Feadz has such an extensive knowledge of music and comes from a hip hop and techno background – he has introduced me to so much great music. We get along so well and share such a passion for weird and interesting music that when we're in the studio together we draw so many different influences to one song. I think our project together is all about our own enjoyment and that's why it works. It's about indulging in the music we love and not caring about whether it will be popular or not.”

Which leaves us at the weekend, when the two return to Perth to rock Ambar to play Get Weird. Just how will she be getting weird? Simple really: “With the music I'm bringing!”

Kito will be playing the following dates:

Saturday 12 January - Ambar, Perth WA