He’s recently come off a big European tour with dance behemoth and French compatriot David Guetta, and his new single, This Girl, is leaving a big dent in charts worldwide, debuting at number five in the UK and selling in its thousands across Europe. Marseille born DJ and producer, Kungs, is at this time best known for his remixes – his unofficial Bob Marley and Lana Del Rey remixes racked up millions of listens on Soundcloud and YouTube when he was starting out – but with an album of original tracks dropping later this year, Kungs looks set to enter the superstar DJ big leagues.
Kungs, real name Valentin, first got into music listening to rock and roll with his father, initially drawing influence from bands like The Who and The Kooks. He believes this set the foundations for his fascination with vocal-led, beat driven tunes.
“I remember going to a rock concert when I was like, 13 years old,” he says, in distinctly French tones. “I always try to keep the poppy and rock influences in my upcoming tracks. But I always try to keep as many influences as possible – from rap, hip hop, soul, blues, electronic, a lot of stuff.”
Regarding genres, Kungs succinctly says: “It’s music! Today in electronic music, there are no barriers anymore; a DJ and producer can produce a lot of different styles, and still keep this House atmosphere.”
Although Kungs started out remixing, his focus has now turned to writing original music - and it's still a pretty fresh challenge for him. How different are the two?
“It depends, it depends... It’s not the same procedure at all. When I remix a track, it’s cool because I have the bass, I just have to add my personal touch – like the drums, the drop, and stuff like this," he explains, adding that with an original song, it's a completely blank slate. “There is more work [on an original] because you start from nothing; it’s exciting, too, but really different, so I definitely enjoy both.”
Kungs started in music at the age of five as a djembe player, perhaps not the most orthodox place for a future superstar DJ to begin.
“My Mum bought me one, and immediately we were both playing the djembe together. That was the first time I had an instrument in my hand," he smiles.
So technically, Kungs has been 'creating beats' since the age of five... And perhaps it was the humble djembe which put him on his course to becoming a DJ?
“Yeah, that’s kind of funny! [laughs] Maybe that is why I’m making dance music today, because I was into all this rhythmic stuff from the beginning!"
It would be silly not to ask what it was like touring with David Guetta, one of the very biggest names in dance music... So how was it?
“David Guetta is a very, very cool guy," Kungs says, very loud and very clear. “He’s also extremely humble. It was a huge experience for me, to meet such a legend.”
Together, they played across France, Germany, and Austria; and Kungs also played at London’s Roundhouse only a few weeks ago in another big support slot.
When it comes to production, it's all pretty simple for Kungs: he relies on a pair of KRK monitors, a MIDI keyboard, and a computer.
"I have one Mac, and then a MacBook, which I take everywhere with me; this is why I like to go to the studios sometimes, with all the guitars and different instruments," he explains. And is there any kit on the wish list right now? “Oh yeah, I’d love to get a Korg piano. It has a lot of big sounds in it, and I love the UK House piano sound it has! That kind of UK Garage sound... I think a lot of producers use this piano to get that sound.”
Would the Korg feature in the live shows, too?
"Well, I can’t actually play the piano, so this might be difficult," Kungs laughs. A fair point, well made. "Maybe I will play some djembe live? [smiles]”
Why not, indeed? For Kungs right now, though, the key is to make sure he builds on his successes, and stays at the top:
“This Girl is a hit everywhere in Europe - it’s amazing! And it's given me a very big opportunity. I would love for my next single to be just as big a hit, and just to stay this way for a long time. That's the goal..."
And if he does achieve that goal, Kungs will be a name etched into the folklore of the dance music community. We wish him the very best.
Words Adam Protz