Interview with John Langdon from Kalm Kaoz
Kalm Kaoz, the electro duo from Los Angeles is the talk of the town after John Langdon, half of Kalm Kaoz, published a 10-page opinion piece on EDM's future through renowned publication The Huffington Post.
John Langdon (aka SlingR), half of Hollywood’s Electro House duo KALM KAOZ, along with his partner Filby (aka Motoe Haus), stirred up debate in the dance scene after his thesis on the EDM industry versus private equity firms was first published on renowned publication The Huffington Post. John is a guy with his heart in the right place. His undying passion for music - and EDM in particular – led him to write an opinion piece about the current climate in the industry where leading promoters and dance music brands are bought by large investment firms at an astonishing pace.
Langdon is a rare combination of a talented dance music artist - coupled with 20 years of experience on Wall Street as a private equity investor at firms ranging from Platinum Equity to Kohlberg & Co. It provides him with a unique perspective to ask questions, to add to the current dialogue, and express queries and concerns regarding the future of the EDM scene.
You just wrote a thesis on the current state of the EDM industry in particular in the USA. It has gotten much praise the minute it was first published on The Huffington Post with hundreds of people talking on social media about it. What was your motivation to write the piece?
I love music, passionately, emotively; and dancing! I fervidly adore festivals, ever since going to Grateful Dead shows. I also fell for electronic music the minute I first heard it. A DJ team named the LSDJ’s used to play in Denver often while I lived there in 1999/2000. They were a clear precursor to Electro and I freaking loved those guys. Danced so hard to those cats. Going to dance festivals and dancing like a madman was a natural transition and has been very important to me, in terms of musical growth, creating new and lasting loving relationships, and celebrating life.
I simply felt profoundly compelled to write… saying to my gang on the way home from Ultra “I feel like I’m going to burst. I’ve got to write this down.” I was compelled by my love of house music. I was compelled by my history in private equity, understanding the PE (private equity) industry, and a desire to share one guy’s view, coming from a certain place and experience in life. PE, like electronic music, has many “genres” and strategies, so it’s important for people to understand that everything is more complicated than it first appears and to not lump all together in one basket. This said, as we all instinctively know, Wall Street capital and PE, particularly relative to SFX’s “genre,” history and power, move mountains and it’s important to open a dialogue about its entrance into dance music.
I wrote the piece because I care, love house music, and have perhaps a somewhat unique view. I want to bring attention to the topic, add a bit of light, and be sure we all…think, talk and seek knowledge. With knowledge, the lovers of house music, and other industries affected by financial firms, can bring honesty, passion and rigor to the debate. Knowledge is power, debate is healthy, and love for music is the driver.
You describe how big private equity funds could have a drastic effect on the fees talent is able to ask for their performances in clubs and festivals. Is there a ‘DJ bubble’ and is the top talent overpaid in the current climate?
Is there a true “price” for art? Jerry Garcia once said “I’ve always thought the Grateful Dead should be sponsored by the government or something. It should be a public service, you know, and they should set us up at places that need to get high. That’s the kind of thing we should be doing. We shouldn’t be doing business.”
I think if you read the piece, I’ve laid out a host of questions and data points that, perhaps, suggest the market is topping. I hope I’m wrong, but markets always top and often recover to attain higher highs. It’s the nature of things, from the internet to disco. My opinion is based simply upon my experience and instincts and I’m only one voice.
I like to look at hard facts. The music industry, and the entertainment industry as a whole, has a long history, though much of it is prior to the incredible power of technology and the internet, so many bets are off and predicting the future based upon historic events is challenging. This said, the growth of all industries, as with the net itself, have peaks and valleys, by definition. Mankind does as well (for an interesting reference point, see the Elliott Wave Theory).
As I said in the article, however, “the most beautiful thing of all is that we can finally dream of finding the next Mozart; Mozart 2.0 Cometh. His mom is making him dinner right now somewhere on the globe. Will the Mozart(s) of the world be paid and make money? Fist in the air, I say yes. Of course, talent, beauty and the imaginative mind of the child will perpetually stand alone at times and refuse the powers that be. They will refuse to sell through corporate channels, refuse to play at their festivals. The fans of these genius mavericks, no matter how many artists the “big guys” manufacture in their plants, will still pay to hear The Magic Flute.”
To what extent do you feel there could be a balance between independent promoters and the new large EDM companies like SFX Entertainment. Is there room for both, or will most of the independent promoters be pushed out of the market over time?
I believe many answers in life come from history and we often have short memories. I believe the answer, or at least a piece of the puzzle, resides there. If one looks at the history and outcomes of “roll-ups” (industry consolidation plays) in the entertainment industry, like those of Clear Channel and Live Nation, the answer becomes a bit more clear. I believe history suggests it’s likely going to be a challenging period for independents and promoters.
What would be the most important thing for dance music fans to remember after reading your piece?
As I said at the end of the piece, “It is up to us how this goes in the end. We are the customers. We are the fans. It is our attention they seek, at great costs, and it is our belief in the music that resonates through time. Fist in the air, long live house music. Fist in the air, I love house music.”
Kalm Kaoz, the combination of both Filby and you (SlingR), is your producer/DJ team. Where did the name Kalm Kaoz come from and what’s your musical vision?
We describe ourselves as a Komplextro-driven rock ‘n roll band. We feel Electro as a genre is effectively rock ‘n roll if you listen closely. The note and chord progressions, etc., and general structure of genre inspires that feeling… rock ‘n roll. We want to rock the F out! To Filby and me, we feel we are a rock ‘n roll band. The “instruments” we use, or form in which we hurl power chord progressions and sound is infinite. I play the guitar and have been in rock bands and use this for much of our midi and song creation, along with the piano. It seems to us that rock ‘n roll isn’t so much defined by the instrument, but by the geniuses that came before us in the 60?s and 70?s and their attitude; rocking out and singing of love, heartache, and providing a voice of alternative views.
Kalm Kaoz strives to represent this attitude, vision and music. We feel our name is illustrative of the beauty and chaos of the time and, ironically, it suites Filby and me personally. He’s calm, I adore chaos, beautiful chaos. Within chaos comes new ideas, new paradigms, and a chance to break molds and the notion that “you have to do things this way or that.” Rock ‘n roll isn’t about living in a box. It’s about spreading love, rocking out, blowing up festivals, and celebrating life.
The universe brought Filby into my life – the dude is just epic and the band was formed – two guys. We thought about our message and logo and shit and, to me, my nephew Jack… no person on this earth makes me laugh more than Jack and his twin brother Ted. They “make” trouble and I love to make it with them. Boyish mischief is key to Filby and me. Those two turds are the basis for our “guys;” we call them the Mayhem Twins. The idea keeps us grounded in joy and cheekiness and we’ve got lots of ideas about how the Twins can spread joy and a bit of mischief…
You often cite The Doors and Grateful Dead, among other 60's and 70's rock bands. In what way do they influence Kalm Kaoz’s musical vision?
The 60's and 70's were challenging times for the country and the music was bold, brilliant and profoundly powerful. The famous picture of that guy putting a flower into a U.S. military guy’s gun – that was love, powerful love, putting a cork in the guns of our government. It speaks a million words.
The musical artists of the time were seekers, asking questions, and trying to find a path – a way to live while the world was in chaos.
House music is about the same ideas in many ways and is just as powerful. Just Instagram house music and the images that come up evoke peace, love and joy, and are clearly stating “we’re all here trying to celebrate our lives.” It’s not about “partying,” but rather celebrating. We need to get that message out so the powers that be understand us all better. History repeats itself time and again. We need people that don’t understand the music and our festivals to get it. It’s important to house music’s future, to Kalm Kaoz, and to the fans of dance music.
Jim Morrison is my icon, my muse. Jim was a poet, first and foremost, and a seeker. He was a true Renaissance man, genius, and maverick. There is no box to put him in; he stands alone. Jim’s irreverence toward the “system,” his poetry and strength of his pen, combined with the Dead’s belief in the importance of music, celebration, compassion, and constantly creating mischief, is Kalm Kaoz’s spirit.
The music of the time was simply dope. The Stones, Zeppelin, Dead, and The Doors, to name just a few, created magic – musical magic. I mean, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors is, like, perfect. It’s all a treasure trove of magical music with potent messages. We hope to be a channel for that energy and music to find a new audience.
What’s next for your band and on the music front?
The rock ‘n roll bands that created those epic albums were touched by the universe. The universe helped them create such powerful music to get people’s attention, help them deal with the challenging moments and energy of the 60?s and 70s; the power, creativity and complexity of their music just makes your jaw drop. Like, how the hell did you guys create such brilliance, at will, time and again? Filby and I want to know!
We’re hoping to work with any of those guys, perhaps soon, and we’d like to re-create the albums of these masters in the electro/trance genres along side them, bringing the essence of their music back to an entirely new generation. The music is so potent, filled with power, passion and love. We hope to be a conduit for the Bob Weir’s, Jimmy Page’s, Paul McCartney’s and Keith Richard’s of the world to bring that banging…loving…epic rock ‘n roll to big outdoor festivals around the world. Their music is so important; it should be heard again and again, generation after generation. We’d like to simply be a conduit for that to happen.
Are there any specific projects in the works?
First, we’ve formed a charity called Hexagon House. Kalm Kaoz and Massive Enterprises, our parent company, were formed in large part, through beautiful music, to save twelve souls per year that would otherwise be lost. We are going to find kids that are gonna be tossed away by some system, but are inherently worthy of a good life and love. We’re gonna create a school for them, graduating twelve per year, that are taught – they must go back and get the rest of their brothers and sisters. In five years, we hope there’s a lasting, compounding impact. As Beethoven believed, unity through music.
We’ve got a host of projects in the works, much of which we can’t discuss just yet. Life is grand and we’re having great fun; we’re made to love and laugh. That’s our true natures, but the world is a tough game at times. If we can help make it a little softer, through raging our faces off and celebrating, while helping some kids, voila. Lots of laughs, spreading love and compassion and mischief through music.