Third published interview from the book’s research, and one specially dear to me as I’ve become friends with Kutmah since he moved to London in 2011. The interview was conducted in late 2012 before I went to LA for research. Over the course of the night Kutmah not only revealed his own history but also that of the scene he helped create in LA in the first half of the 2000s. The same scene that would go on to be a worldwide force, the so-called LA beat scene. The discussion follows Kutmah’s own steps into music and the first half of the decade. For anyone with an interest in the current and recent LA sound, this is how most of it came to pass, and it includes a run down of many people who are rarely mentioned.
Originally published in FACT, April 2013.
The story of any one local music scene is always fraught with details and intricacies that are often lost to anyone who wasn’t there once that scene explodes beyond its limited geographical reach.
In the past decade, the Internet has helped to make such local scenes into global phenomena quicker and in ways previously unimagined – a process that has hastened the loss of details and history while providing a platform for anyone who seeks to give accurate historical accounts of what happened, and how.
Los Angeles’ reputation as a creative hub for underground, forward thinking music is on a par with London, yet the history of the city’s club scene is still perhaps one of its best-kept secrets (and I’m not talking rock here). After spending only two weeks there doing research recently, I came away with a sense that the history of hip hop and dance clubs in the city is a deep and intricate one, rarely discussed in detail beyond its most famous exponents.
Take the so-called ‘beat scene’ of the late 2000s and its most famous club, Low End Theory. LET is a globally known name, arguably on a par today in terms of cachet and myth with the DMZ dances in London that helped cement dubstep’s global foundations just a few years before LET blew up. Looking at what came before LET provides an understanding of how the party, and the scene that grew around it, were the logical evolution of a bubbling underground hip hop and alternative scene that sought the new and exciting with the same fervour as their European counterparts.
Kutmah is a DJ and artist raised in Los Angeles who in the late 90s and early 00s became an intrinsic part of that scene’s evolution and growth, both as a DJ and the driving force behind the Sketchbook nights, LA’s first beat party as we understand them today. Having relocated to London in 2010 following troubles with his legal status, he’s now found a new lease of life after the scene he helped bring out blew onto the global stage while he stayed stranded behind in a city he couldn’t leave. I recently sat down with him for a lengthy conversation about his origins, the early days of the L.A. scene, and the clubs, places and people that helped define his artistic aesthetic, vision and work.