Opening the Stargate stage on Sunday at Detroit's Movement festival is InSOUL, aka Nick Bjelopetrovich, of Chicago. The producer and DJ not only has had several releases on one of techno's longest running labels (Kevin Saunderson's KMS Records), he also serves as the label manager. Proving himself on both the artistic and business end of things, Bjelopetrovich has seen his workload (and spotlight) grow with each passing year at Movement, having a hand in producing the annual KMS Origins showcase at the festival itself as well as several after-parties. In addition to making his festival debut Sunday afternoon, he will then kick off the KMS Records 30th anniversary after-party at Magic Stick with another set eight hours later.
Bjelopetrovich is a Chicago-area native who moved to Minneapolis to study music production and sound engineering. After touring a few schools that didn’t really speak to him, he looked on the Ableton website and found Slam Academy co-founder James Patrick listed as an instructor. He met Patrick and toured IPR, where Patrick was part of the faculty, and knew he had found his fit. After graduating, he became a part of the original Slam Academy team in 2012, helping the school get set up and serving as a TA for the first two years of the school’s existence - including for a class I took. He currently resides in Chicago.
I connected with Bjelopetrovich to discuss how he first got involved with KMS Records, the impact working for the label has had on him as an artist, and the big 30th year anniversary celebration at Movement this year.
How did you first get involved with Dantiez Saunderson (Kevin's son) and KMS Records?
I started talking to Dantiez back in the summer of 2013. We started exchanging some messages through Facebook and email. It started off as a friendship, I was in Minneapolis at the time and he was in Chicago. Eventually he sent me a track he was working on and asked for some honest feedback. I asked him to return the favor and sent him one of mine and a friendship started from there. When I moved back to Chicago in 2014, him and I developed more of a working relationship. We started making some tunes together and he asked if I wanted to come onboard the KMS team, to help out on the label because they wanted to start doing a lot more things. They wanted to expand a little bit musically and get some new, fresh people on board, so it went from there.
So you just messaged him out of the blue? You didn’t know him before you first got connected?
No, it was just the message.
He must have already been producing by then, is that how you heard of him?
He had put out a few tracks by then, he was 1-2 years into the game when I first met him. So still pretty new, but he decided he wanted to do this full time. I asked him some tips on how he thought about my tracks themselves, how he felt about them, and then he would ask me more about production-related stuff and engineer-related stuff, and it turned into a nice relationship.
You and Dantiez have released quite a few tracks that you collaborated on, what’s the work flow like when you produce together?
We have yet to actually sit down in a studio together and work on stuff. Our workflow has been one of us will have an idea, play it for the other person, and if we feel like we’re vibing with it and have an idea to make it better or change up something, we’ll send the Ableton project to each other, work on it for a few days, then send it back. I’ll take a listen, say what I like and what I don’t like, and we keep going from there and then we have a final product when we get to a general consensus that it is done. Then I mix it down and get it ready for mastering.
What impact has working with KMS Records, Kevin, and Dantiez had on your career as a musician and on your life in general?
It’s made me a lot more humble about things in general. I’ve learned to have patience to let things fall into place. It’s definitely influenced my production, as we get these demos sent from around the world. It’s really impressive what these people bring. It’s hard to turn down an artist when I think a track is good, but Dantiez is not really feeling it, so it’s helping me as a producer to figure out what things work. We need tracks that fit the label and fit us. We don’t sign things that are for the times, we sign things that are timeless. If an artist hits us up and says ‘I need this released now’, it doesn’t work like that. We sign a track because we believe in it. That’s one of the things that has really got me humble about the music and appreciate it more.
How long have you been a part of the KMS Origins showcase at Movement?
This is going to be my third year. My first year I just helped run the stage. Last year I helped run the stage with a production partner, and then played at the after-hours party at Populux. Last year the Origins showcase was on Monday, but this year we’re on Sunday and then doing our afterparty on Sunday, so it’s going to be a long day to say the least.
We know you are DJing at Movement on Sunday, are you doing anything else at the festival?
I’m going to be helping out with interviews and general things to keep the stage flowing. We’ve got a really awesome production this year, I can’t wait for everyone to see it. We’ve put a lot of time and energy into the showcase this year because it’s the 30 year anniversary of KMS being around. I’m not even 30 years old and the label’s been around for 30 years! Just to be able to work with Kevin and everyone at KMS, and with Paxahau and Movement, to be able to put on something this special is going to leave a mark, forever.
Is there a specific act at the Origins showcase you are looking forward to? How about at the festival in general?
I’m really looking forward to seeing Kevin play, because he’s playing as E-Dancer live, and just the whole production for the show to see how everything comes together. We’ve been watching as things have developed and it looks awesome so I can’t wait to see it in action. Unfortunately I have to leave halfway through his set because I’m playing early at the KMS afterparty.
As for the festival in general, I’m not going to be able to see much on Sunday obviously. I do want to see them play as The Belleville Three (editor's note: a collaboration between Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, and Juan Atkins), I’m always a fan of the Red Bull stage and the Underground stage looks pretty good. DJ Harvey on Monday looks really awesome.
Do you have any favorite memories from the festival with the KMS team?
My favorite memory was the first year. It was the first time I was ever in Detroit and it was kind of a tough time for me personally. Seeing Derrick [May] and Kevin throw down back to back, with a live bongo player and seeing my friends out in the crowd was a really special moment in my life. It made me realize that everything works out, and it was a really beautiful thing to be involved in.