KEGZ: YOUTUBER, TASTEMAKER, & MUSICIAN | Interview
Kegz is a YouTuber who uses his platform to create community as he shares his own music alongside the music he enjoys from across the web. We discussed his formula for finding hidden music gems, being recognized as an internet celebrity, and the secret legion of indie music YouTubers.
Jorge Velez of GrizzlyGround: Can you tell me about yourself and what it is exactly that you do?
Kegz: My name is Keagan, I actually have four names, but Keagan is what I go by. Right now I’m currently unemployed, but I did work for Walmart for eight years. Right out of high school I moved to Austin, went to Austin Community College, and majored in Commercial Music Management.
After that just stuck to Walmart at the time because there weren’t really opportunities at any studios or anything, and I needed money to support myself. At the time I was an assistant manager for Walmart, so the schedule for that was like 12 hours a day for like 7 days a week, roughly making $38,000 a year which was terrible, and I was in a committed relationship too, so it was all really weird. I did that for 8 years and was moving all over Texas and running Kegz at the same time, sometimes more often than not, sometimes I’d break because there was something dramatic in my life.
I took care of my grandparents as well, so it was really crazy, but the last couple years since they passed I’ve been more involved with music, my own and the channel that I’m really trying to kick off. I finally found some people to play with that are reliable because in the past it’s always just been people who are flakes. I quit Walmart in December of last year, so since then it’s just been hustling on the side, odd jobs here and there, and luckily I have people in my life who just support me and what I do. Right now I’m recording a new record, and that’s pretty much it.
Not a whole lot going on right now except for the music.
How do you feel the interplay happens between the music you make and the channel you run?
It’s different. A lot of times it’s just me still doing it the old fashioned way like I did in 2013, just searching for it, mainly on Bandcamp or Soundcloud. I try to not attach myself too much to the music I upload. Every time I upload my own music I’ll either lose a 100 subscribers and then sometimes I’ll gain.
There are some people who are fans of it and some people who think I shouldn’t take advantage of the channel I have, which is odd because it’s my channel. But at the end of the day they’re either gonna like it or they don’t. And it’s kind of the main platform I use to distribute my own music anyway, so I don’t know it’s different for everybody, but it is weird because sometimes I feel guilty about it, I really do.
I’ve noticed you’ve developed a small community via the comments section of your videos. In what ways do you feel like a tastemaker?
I don’t know how I feel really about it as a “tastemaker”. It’s weird you say that, like I’ll comment on other videos like when Surf Curse put up their recent stuff I made a comment on it saying, “I really dig the music,” and you’ll have people who comment, “Oh my god it’s father Kegz!” And it’s weird because I try not to hold any ego about myself and keep level-headed.
I try to be a regular person on the internet. My email inbox is always full of stuff and I do put it off, so I try to not really let that affect me. Some people really let that tastemaker thing get to their head, but I just try to ignore it because I feel like if I let it get to me it’ll reduce my content. There’s a lot of times people email me asking, “Will you upload my songs for a $100?” You’d be surprised, but it happens a lot.
A lot of the channels that are on my top channels do take money from their fans and it’s cool, like I said, I’m in a hard spot I get it, but if the quality of their work isn’t as great and if I don’t dig it, I don’t upload it. I stick to the same core value of when I started uploading. I try to not let it get to me too much
How have bands responded to being on your channel?
So I think the biggest one would be Varsity. That’s my biggest video. They have nothing, but good things to say about it. They’ve thanked me for the exposure even though I don’t really put a lot of effort into advertising it, like getting on Facebook or creating an ad. I have done that in the past with my own money just to promote the little guy because I genuinely believe a lot of these people out there putting their hard work and money and soul into it.
How does uploading songs influence the music you create given the fact that you put both your original songs and music you like on the same channel?
I want to say that it feels like separate versions. In my life especially the last couple songs I’ve uploaded or even the last year was really emotional for me. It usually has to do with women who have put me in a crazy spot. I try not to milk it too much, but I want to say those songs I do put out alongside the stuff I upload are different as I’m not really doing it for the fame or glory, I’m doing it to output the energy I have pent up.
Have any wild moments come from the connection people make to your YouTube channel?
I would say probably the most wild moments would be at SXSW every year since I’m in Austin. It’s crazy, like having people recognize me and thank me for the music I upload just because they were in a tough spot and how the songs inspired them to make music themselves. Any social interactions I’ve gotten have always been good.
It was uplifting just to hear that stuff, because you hear it on the internet all the time and you can’t know whose who, so it’s cool to see people react to it in the real life experience.
What do you feel it is about the music you make and upload that creates this community?
It’s tough. I want to call it like magic. But I’m not sure, maybe it’s the overtones of the music. A lot of times it’s something people have never heard before. A lot of the comments are like, “What is this? What genre is this? Why does this make me feel this way?”
Putting that into my own experience I used to go this site Shuffler.fm and it’s not a thing anymore, but nobody knew what chillwave was, and Toro y Moi had just put out one of his first bedroom EPs out. So it’s weird. But I think it’s just the overtones of the music, hearing that lo-fi reverb hit their ears for the first time and really just connecting to a place that they’re at in that moment.
How do you discover a lot of the bands you feature nowadays?
It’s still just through Bandcamp! Back before Clairo and her bedroom pop success, I just used bedroom pop, surf, surf at the start of 2010 and nowadays it’s just garage, garage pop, indie, indie pop. I still include bedroom, but that subgenre has changed-- it’s night and day.
The new sound since all this stuff has happened is more synth-based. It’s more electronic influenced as opposed to having my reverb up all the way and making you cry. It’s more of a dance type deal than the guitar that I was used to. Those are a couple I search for, and then there a couple secret ones that I just can’t give away.
Do you feel there are genres you personally love, but wouldn’t put on your channel because it’d conflict with the aesthetics?
I’m a really huge fan of heavy metal, so every now and then I’ll reminiscence. And then also just weird stuff. I’m really not much into psych anymore. It bounces from time to time. Sometimes it’ll just be oldies, straight into something poppy. 1980s underground like B-side vinyl, stuff like that.
There’s quite a lot of stuff I’ll live stream and I’ll post that music I wouldn’t really upload. Like there’s some weird hip-hop I can’t describe, there’s this song called “Pockets” by Easy Life that has rap elements, with bedroom pop and indie. I like it, it’s in my personal collection, but I don’t know if other people would dig it. A lot of times David, and TheLazylazyme, who we call Suzy in our circle will upload something like that and it’ll be a big hit and I’ll go, “Damn, maybe I shouldn’t have been so judgmental about this song or genre.”
Who else is in this circle you’re mentioning? I notice a lot of your channels upload similar content but I didn’t realize y’all were in contact with one another.
We tried to get David Dean Burkheart into our circle, but I feel like he doesn’t really want to talk to us. So it’d be BuriedMuse, and they’re from New York and it’s run by a team of three, maybe now I think it’s four people.
ProperYarn, which is Ryan, Yippee Ki Yay Records lives here in Austin and we actually saw some bands the other night and had some beers. Then there’s TheLazylazyme, we know all her by Suzy, she’s from the Philippines, and we all have this weird Google Hangout chat where we talk.
BedroomFidelity, Justin, he’s from Seattle. I think one day, hopefully the goal is to all meetup and well, I don’t know what we’d do, but I think it’d be cool to meet with them. We all talk about making media together, combining all our YouTube channels into one force.
Will it happen? I’d like to, but I don’t know. Every now and then it’s different. BuriedMuse is about to announce something new on how they put out media and visual arts and I think it’s gonna be really interesting.
How have you changed since you started and what considerations have changed for you? What’s in the future for you?
Future is always uncertain. I really try to not to think too much into it because in the past I have and something always comes up. I am not the cosmic controller, unfortunately, which is a Krill song reference if anyone remembers them. But yeah, I think the future is mainly keeping focused on recording another EP, building that up, and I think you know I’ve been thinking about the way I present the media to the YouTube video viewer.
So it’d be like having an interview with the band and have a live set. As I am getting more established in Austin, and I am gaining supporters that aren’t my family helping me out, I might take advantage of that, but I might keep the same old formula.
There are a couple cards in the air, so I’m trying to take it day by day, but yeah definitely change after I finish this EP.
Last question. Do you feel like you’ve had to change the way you’ve run your channel since gaining a following? Do you still operate the same way when you started or do you think it’s changed since your channel has picked up?
For a while I did have a couple of my friends help me out, just filter through all the stuff coming in and get their advice on it. But that really didn’t work out, one of my friends actually tried to sabotage me and that had to do with some Acid Ghost videos a couple months ago. It’s just really weird. I’ve cut them all off and it does put pressure on me I’ll be honest with you, and sometimes I don’t want to look at the emails, I just want to mull in my hole.
I guess my palms do get kind of sweaty sometimes. I just have to remind myself where I was back then. I never ever tried promoting any of my stuff, just really try to keep it to myself. Well the whole reason I did it was I had an Android phone that had no memory and I could not afford an SD card to save my life. I would upload songs on YouTube, so I could listen to them because I couldn’t find them on Spotify.
I remind myself of that and try to keep the same old formula that if I like it, I like it, and if I don’t, I don’t. That has kind of helped me a lot and hasn’t got me into too many sticky situations where I make any promises I can’t keep.
Anything else you’d like to add, or shout out before we close?
I just want to thank everyone who has taken time to listen to a song on my channel, or if I’ve helped you through a hard time, or helped you discover a new sub-genre of music you never knew existed, then I think that’s the coolest thing ever. Because when you hear new music and it opens a new door, there’s nothing really that beats that feeling--it’s insane.
Like I said, I listen to oldies music all the time and when I discover a new oldies song I’ve never heard of it and it’s just a banger, and I think, “Why has nobody ever heard of this?” But yeah, shouts out anybody who has ever listened, subscribed, or taken the time out to message me, or support the bands I’ve uploaded. That’s the most important part of what I do, supporting the nobodies, the internet nobodies, who might be somebody, or maybe they’ll just have that one gem that you’ll cherish in your ears forever.
There are still bands on my channel to this day that I’ll just be like “Damn. This is the best thing ever!”
You know, it changed my life.