Kyle Watson Reveals the Secret Sauce Behind his Label Box Of Cats
Apr 26, 2023
4 min read
Identifying that extra special something which makes an artist great is often difficult. However, South African music producer and DJ Kyle Watson is letting the cat out of the bag regarding how he selects artists for his renowned Box of Cats imprint.
Kyle first came on the scene in the early 2010s. This period of his career was marked by experimentation, creating music very different from what we recognize as his sound today. “There was a lot of hit-and-miss during that period, which happens with all artists, but yes, around 2013 or 2014, something clicked, and I started to understand myself creatively,” he explains in an Artist Spotlight with Grey Area.
It was also around this time—and potentially influenced by finally finding his sound—that Kyle co-founded the Box of Cats imprint alongside Wongo, Jeff Doubleu, Jak Z, Tom EQ, and Marc Spence. All from the same 2009-2011 era of house music, they were united in their search for artists who diverged from the mainstream. “I think it may have been Tom that came up with the name,” says Kyle when chatting to EDM Maniac. “You know when you go “boots and cats and boots and cats,” *laughs* That’s how ‘Box of Cats’ came about.”
In a similarly organic way to its name, the label evolved naturally from a Facebook message group (not over a warm glass of milk and a bowl of dry biscuits as their bio suggests) and due to a multitude of factors, including COVID-19 restrictions, as of 2022 the collective still hadn’t met all in person. However, this lack of physical cohesion has done nothing to dull the label’s progress. “It’s grown into such a strong brand,” says Kyle. “It’s a great platform to push artists who are doing things a little differently but still have the potential to connect with a large audience.”
It seems their bio does get one thing right, however. Echoing Kyle’s words above, it states the label exists to support house music, but not just any old house music. “The idea was to create a magical record label that would serve as a home for the weirder offshoots of traditional house music – the cheeky, bass-heavy, rolling, glitchy, buzzy and wacky house music.”
This search for the weird and wonderful has meant that the label isn’t restrictive regarding genre. “All our releases have to have in common is that they push the envelope one way or another,” explains Kyle. “They don’t necessarily follow the formulas that the Top 10 are following. They’re a bit different, but each of them has some sort of secret sauce that makes it work really nicely on a dance floor. It’s really hard to quantify it, but yes, we specialize in things that are a little bit different.”
This ethos is evident across the board.
From releasing the ultra-funky house hit “Space Funk ’75” from The Sponges to the summer grooves of “Freakin Tight” by Sacha Robotti and LA-based JTJ, the cohesion on this label lies in the eclectic. The label has been adept at catching talent well before they blow up with further releases from the likes of Westend, VNSSA, J. Worra, Lucati, and Dillon Nathaniel.
In keeping with the feline theme, the label has also launched the Nine Lives Club, a subscription-based service that aims to battle artists’ poor streaming revenues by directing subscription profits to them.
While it might not be overly clear what it takes to be taken on by Box of Cats, with its artist-first ethos and meteoric rise in popularity, it’s a label any artist would want to be a part of.