Kygo Is Making Tropical House His Own

Photographed by Berta Pfirsich. Grooming: David Lopez at Kasteel Artist Management using Balmain Hair Style Line and Givenchy Beauty.

We caught up with the producer and DJ

The following feature appears in the September 2017 issue of NYLON Guys. 

Contrary to what some media outlets have reported, Kygo did not create tropical house—not any more than Daft Punk imagined electro or Skrillex started dubstep. But this fake news doesn’t matter when you consider the high-profile places where the 25-year-old producer has found himself performing in the past two years, including the main stage of Electric Daisy Carnival and the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in his home country, Norway. Sold-out shows at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and the Hollywood Bowl, featuring guest appearances by Shaggy, John Legend, and Seal—the last of whom belted out Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” with Kygo’s remix of the R&B classic replacing the original’s machine-lust 808 beat with breezy steel drums—further confirmed what over a billion streamers on Spotify already know: Kygo might not have invented tropical house, but he is clearly the king of the jungle.

He’s cemented his spot on the throne by holding down a summer residency at Ushuaïa, the open-air institution in Ibiza. The Balearic bastion of dance music is where the sun-kissed grooves that Kygo has made his own were first conceived, in the 1980s by a DJ named Alfredo who soundtracked the glorious sunsets with laid-back Eurodisco tunes at Cafe del Mar. Through September 10, it’ll be Kygo’s turn to occupy those gorgeous evening hours. The producer—who had to delay his debut gig in 2014 for six months while he learned how to DJ—now easily controls the capacity crowd with a mix of new tunes along with the pop hits he’s become famous for, including his recent Top 10 smash with Selena Gomez, “It Ain’t Me,” and a collaboration with Ellie Goulding, “First Time,” that has earned song-of-the-summer praise from many corners.

“I’m trying to play a combination of new music and music that people can sing along to,” Kygo says via phone call from the picturesque Spanish island. Residing in Ibiza for the summer has the added benefit of giving him a home base where he can focus on making new music, a crucial component often lost on superstar DJs whose jet-set lifestyles can overwhelm their instinct to create. “I try to keep a balance so I can actually make music,” says Kygo, whose 70 to 80 gigs per year pale in comparison to his peers’ 200-plus shows in 365 days. “I have a keyboard so I can sit down in a hotel room [to work], but I know that when I’m in the studio, if I can focus 110 percent on making music and creating new stuff, that’s when it usually works out.”

Moderation might be a key word when considering Kygo’s impact on electronic music at large. His blithe beats, usually clocking in at a comfortable 100 BPM, and sunny melodies are a needed salve after a decade of chafing EDM bombast. His personality is equally affable, all big smiles and modest mannerisms, while his habits are almost monkish compared to the party-starting antics of some of his superstar associates.

Kygo’s also conscious of the dangers of focusing on work too much. Case in point: Avicii, another Scandinavian mega-producer, who famously flamed out after several years at the pinnacle of his career. “I think Avicii is a true artist, so he puts his music and shows [before everything],” Kygo puts forth apologetically for his friend. “But he forgot to think about his health.” In 2014 Kygo had to step in for Avicii as the headliner of the TomorrowWorld festival when the latter fell ill. The moment came full circle when Avicii introduced Kygo to Coldplay for a remix of their hit “Midnight” later that year, and brought him on tour in 2015. The parallels are all the more poetic when Kygo reveals that it was Avicii’s 2009 breakthrough “Seek Bromance” that first turned the then-17-year-old on to electronic music.

“I just listened to bands like the Foo Fighters, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Killers,” Kygo says of his early musical interests. “Every cool guy in middle school was in a band playing guitar. I was like, ‘Ah, I’m playing piano. It doesn’t sound cool.’” He turns that perception on its head during his Ushuaïa sets, during which he rolls a piano onstage to perform “Firestone” acoustically with vocalist Conrad Sewell. “It was the first time there’s been an instrument on that stage, because it’s usually just DJs playing there,” Kygo recalls. “I think people appreciate seeing an actual instrument onstage.”

That piano will also allow Kygo to continue writing music for his next album, the follow-up to last year’s Cloud Nine, which he hopes to release soon. It’d be a rapid turnaround, but one he deems necessary. “The sounds change so fast, and what people like changes so fast because there’s so much music out there,” he reasons. “Instead of making a lot of songs and releasing them a year later, I just want to release music as I go.”

In the meantime, Kygo will continue to wow audiences across Europe, and then has plans in the works to return to the U.S. for a residency in Las Vegas, another city with a deserving reputation for hedonism—although Kygo will keep those temptations in check. “I think I’m pretty nice,” he admits with a laugh. “If you had a great night partying with your crew, then things can definitely get wild. But you should always try to behave.”

Photo courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO

"And now our watch has ended"

In a thoughtful tribute on Instagram, actress Emilia Clarke said goodbye to Game of Thrones, and her character, Daenerys Targaryen.

Clarke posted a gallery of photos including some group shots with the rest of the cast, as well as a closeup of Dany's intricately braided hair, and a still from the show. "Finding the words to write this post has left me overwhelmed with how much I want to say but how small words feel in comparison to what this show and Dany have meant to me," she wrote, continuing to say that "Game of Thrones has shaped me as a woman, as an actor, and as a human being."

"The mother of dragons chapter has taken up the whole of my adult life. This woman has taken up the whole of my heart," she wrote. "I've sweated in the blaze of dragon fire, shed many tears at those who left our family early, and wrung my brain dry trying to do Khaleesi and the masterful words, actions (and names) I was given, justice." She also gave a nod to her father, who died in 2016, saying that she wishes he was still alive "to see how far we've flown."

Clarke finished by thanking her fans, telling them that "without you there is no us... I owe you so much thanks, for your steady gaze at what we've made and what I've done with a character that was already in the hearts of many before I slipped on the platinum wig of dreams," she said. "And now our watch has ended."

Photo courtesy of HBO

Don't reusable cups exist in Westeros?

Apparently, no one could keep their drinks off-set during the final season of Game of Thrones. The show, which has been known for its meticulous editing, has featured a Starbucks coffee cup in an episode, and now, a plastic water bottle. Someone get these characters a reusable cup!

Yes, in the final episode of the series, there's a disposable water bottle hidden in plain sight in one of the scenes. If you look closely enough, you'll see the bottle peeking out from behind Samwell Tarly's leg in a scene where many characters were arguing about the fate of Westeros.

Another water bottle was spotted by someone else, hiding behind Ser Davos Seaworth's foot.

It seems that everyone was too parched on the set of the final episode to worry about a misplaced water bottle making it into the final shots. Some are speculating that the team left them in on purpose as payback to the writers for the series' ending.

We just really hope that everyone in the series recycles. If there are disposable cups and plastic bottles available in the fictional world, we hope that there's an ethical way of disposing of them. Otherwise, well, it might be more disappointing than the series finale itself.


Think about all the ways you've begged for ruin

I'll admit I can get a little possessive about full moons; I was born on a full moon, you see. I'll admit there's something that makes people go mad over a full moon and there's something in that madness that situates me, gives me a place to drop my anchor. I see the full moon, her one wide open eye, and think of the first gods—the cyclops and the titans—how they betrayed each other. The full moon reminds me that each of us walks this life having inherited the stories of the lives that brought us here, we carry moments of great suffering in our DNA and we carry moments of great joy too.

A Scorpio full moon is especially prone to these sorts of reminders, dancing partner to the Sun in Taurus, since both these stars are so devoted to the past, since both like to mine a wound just to see how deep it goes and how much they can stand to endure. It's true, too, that Taurus is the sign linked to the Hierophant in the Tarot. The Hierophant is a figure in service to Mysteries: guarding and teaching the sacred. The Hierophant is pre-occupied with devotion and desecration and so is Taurus. Steadied by worship and undone by violation, a Taurus knows that a cycle is a cycle, there's always a hunger that thrives in the devotional figure, that seeks to be defiled and, in that way, tested. What better consort, what better polarity, for an Earth sign like that than the watery depths of Scorpio? Scorpio, the sign of transformation, of the occult, of karmic debts, fertile and secretive darkness. Scorpio, the snake that eats its own tail, our sexual power and our sexual shame. Scorpio rules money and Taurus loves to feel wealth, to sense abundance, to roll around in the rich black dirt.

While the Sun goes down under the star of Taurus and Uranus activates Venus, so the planet of love can pour her light over the bull's horns, the Moon rises in Scorpio and we are tasked with acknowledging the many ways we begged for ruin. Is there a heaviness on your heart, dear reader? Wasn't there a time when, green as a new stem, you begged the world to give you something real to experience, to bring you to your knees with wonder and revelation? You must have known that you had to break the bud to bloom, you must have sensed—somewhere in that ancestral memory of yours—that to love something, to pour your life into something, is to prepare to lose it. That's the deal we've made with god, or what governs time.

Have you left a cup out overnight and awoke to find it brimming with memories of betrayal, of loss, of something you felt was owed to you and never retributed? You can drink from the cup of the past searching only for the taste of it, seeking only to sate your thirst for bitterness. It's your right to feel everything you feel, to remember everything that happened to you and everything you set into motion, everything you did. But, listen. The sun is warm and generous, calling new life out of the ground. You move over the Earth like a cloud heavy with emotion and memory, threatening pour, while night waits on the other side, smelling like freedom—sweet, sharp and ineffable—full of poison blooms. You can hold the truth of this wild living world, its sacred promise to consecrate you with beauty and ruin you with it too. You can sip from the cup of the past with gratitude for your past self—the one who gave her life so that you could rise again, three times as powerful and wise.

Asset 7
Screenshot via YouTube

It's so good

Lana Del Rey released a cover of Sublime's 1997 song "Doin' Time," and she made it completely her own. That means it's the perfect combination of trippy melancholia and full-out lust.

According to Rolling Stone, the cover will appear in an upcoming documentary which will "[outline] the history of the iconic California band." In a statement, Del Rey said, "Not a day goes by that I don't listen to at least one Sublime song. They epitomized the SoCal vibe and made a genre and sound totally their own."

Bud Gaugh, a member of the band, "We are so excited to be collaborating with Lana on this. The smoky, sexy, and iconic sound of her voice breathes new life into one of our favorite singles." It certainly does.

My personal favorite part of the cover is the fact that Del Rey doesn't change the gender of the person the song is about, like so many musicians often do. Instead, Del Rey's intonation of "me and my girl, we got this relationship/ I love her so bad but she treats me like shit" is gay rights.

Listen to Del Rey's cover of "Doin' Time," below.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.