Q+A WITH STEPHEN KIRKWOOD

By Alice Smith

Stephen Kirkwood, founder of SKapade Studios, Scotland’s only Pioneer accredited DJ School, found himself lost in lockdown. Without gigs and students to teach, he discovered his new calling and opened up Bangin Pizza in Dumbarton.

Over the last year, you’ve released some amazing music, launched a new label and started your pizzeria. Is it safe to say you’ve managed to stay productive over lockdown? 

Haha! Thanks for the intro! Yes, when you put it like that, it’s been a busy time. For me, throwing myself into work and new projects has kept myself and my team sane. March 2020 was a critical month and showed us how easily everything could disappear overnight. Most of our Skapade Studios work in schools, tutoring and events immediately stopped and it was a worrying time. If we hadn’t quickly started looking at new business ventures we would have been in a very tough situation right now. So, at that time the decision was made as a team to find new ways to work, adapt to the new laws and regulations and push forward to get our new projects launched. 

What made you decide to launch SKapade Records, and what kind of music will the new label showcase?

When I was personally learning to DJ and produce music, I always had the vision to create a musical support hub outlet for young people growing up without access to proper support or mentoring. Skapade Studios was founded to solve these issues and over the past 7 years, our business has grown in tandem with the requirements of our young people and artists.

Skapade deals with a huge volume of music and a diverse range of artists. From established names needing a hand with their work, to, young students attending our workshops, we now cater to all levels of training and learning.  

With Skapade Records, I’ve always recognised that Scotland has some great labels out there and with our strong connection to the scene through the Studio, it made complete sense to launch the label. We have an open music policy at the Studio. Our mantra is ‘if it’s good it’s good’ which sounds simple, but keeps us grounded with what matters in music – quality! We love dance music as a whole and that will feature heavily in the label in the future. We kicked it off with my own techno/trance hybrid track called ‘Hawk Eye’ – if you listen to that you will get an idea of what direction we’re moving with it! 

Are there any Scottish artists, in particular, you’re excited about right now?  

Jacque Saravante AKA Lauter is producing some amazing tunes just now. 

He also has mega potential and an insane work ethic, which is brilliant to see. Also, Co-Accused are worth keeping an eye on. They are about to launch their label, and they are smashing it in the studio, big things to come!

Your track Gas Lighter was recently featured on Anjunabeats Rising Volume 3. What influenced this track’s sound?  

The track is a mixture of all my influences. I love techno as much as I love ‘old-school trance. When I was producing this one I had made a ‘Spektre/Gary Beck’ style beats section that was rocking, then I jumped to some old-school trance sounds and I jammed on the keyboard playing melodies until something worked!  

The cool thing about this record is that it’s gained cross-genre support, from Alan Fitzpatrick playing it to Above & Beyond, and that’s always been a goal of mine. I’m so proud to create music good enough to be played across the board, and ‘Gas Lighter’ has done just that. 

Are there more releases on the horizon?

Absolutely! I am working with Anjunabeats now and this is my main focus in the Studio. I’m more motivated in the Studio than I’ve ever been and I’m spending many hours every day working on new releases, so watch this space!

How does making ‘Bangin’ Pizza’ compare to making music? 

It’s weirdly similar. You’re essentially mixing elements until you eventually arrive at a finished product that you’re happy with releasing. The result is good music and good pizza! I’m obsessed with creating something for other people’s enjoyment and this is the same for my music and my pizzas.

You opened the restaurant with fellow SKapade team member and DJ Stephen Galloni. Have you guys always wanted to venture into the food industry?

We are huge foodies and Galloni is half-Italian, so we’ve naturally been drawn to Italian cuisine over the years. I’ve also spent a fair bit of time in Italy, going to landmark pizzerias and immersing ourselves in the different cities.  

Before the lockdown, we travelled most days for a good pizza! Some of our favourite places include BAKED, BAFFO and of course Paesano in Glasgow. Over the years we become a couple of experts in pizza and it would naturally come up in a conversation about having a pizza place. We are hugely social people and love being such a huge part of our local community, bringing people together through music and now, good pizza!

Post-pandemic, are you planning on expanding Bangin’ Pizza, or will you be focussing more on playing and making music – or both!

We are focused on making our shop the very best it can be. It’s been hugely successful in its first 4 months, sold out nearly every night with no signs of easing off, which we’re blown away by. Like any new business, teething problems and issues need to be ironed out before it’s running as smoothly as we want it to. Timing is everything when expanding, and not something to be rushed – we’ve seen many before us make that mistake with dire outcomes. We have an ambitious 5-year expansion plan, but for the moment that’s being kept secret! We’re excited as a team for the future of Bangin’ Pizza. My music focus is absolutely to be travelling again ASAP and playing gigs across the world. I do miss it – I love travelling and gain so many benefits through seeing different cultures and cities, for the businesses also!  

Until then, I will be in the studio every day, doing my best to make the best music I can.

Where are you most excited to play live again when the time comes?

Ibiza is calling – club sets, bar sets, sunset sets – I’ll take any set at the minute! My team and I have spent every summer in Ibiza and 2020 was a really tough one for us – we missed being over there. It’s also been a very long, dark winter here in Scotland so I’m looking forward to getting some abroad sunshine this year.

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