Interview with Kehiw (Sled Island 2024)

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Kehiw at I Love You Coffee Shop on Saturday June 22, 2024.

Tsuut’ina born, Toronto based DJ and designer Kehiw talks to CJSW about his first Sled Island show, how he got into creating music and its connections with his career in design. He discusses the importance that community, and connections between global cultures, have on his music, and how the Queer and Indigenous communities he is a part of have played a role in how he approaches his craft.

Kehiw performed on Saturday June 22 at 9:00 p.m. at Modern Love.

Special thank you to Take Aim Media for organizing the Sled Island 2024 Interviews, and I Love You Coffee Shop for hosting us.


Emil Duguay: Yeah. So if we could just get started with your name, first and last.

Kehiw: Yeah, for sure. So I’m Kehiw Frasier Eagletail. I am from the Tsuut’ina Nation, which is actually on the outskirts of Calgary, but I’m based in Toronto, Ontario.

Emil Duguay: Yeah so if we could just get started here, a little bit about yourself as a person and an artist,

Kehiw: Yeah, for sure. Well, what do you want to know?

Emil Duguay: Just a bit of like a bio about who you are?

Kehiw: Okay, yeah, so I am a freelance – Well, first I’m a freelance graphic designer. And basically I like to say, like, my nine to five is design, and then my five to nine is music and DJing. And when I moved, when I moved out to Toronto, which is about, like, two years ago, that’s when I started to realize that, like the passion for music was a lot more stronger, and I was able to expose myself to different- different sounds, different genres, different communities that really inspired me to pursue more, more of a music focused career, and basically, like, everything I do is just to make people feel good. So like, my- the t-shirt I’m wearing, I designed this t-shirt, and I run a creative studio called Good Intentions Creative. So I want people to feel good, to look good, to do good, to really ask themselves, like, what truly makes me feel good? You know, there’s a spectrum for that. So it can be going out on a night and having fun, dancing with your friends, or it can be signing yourself up for therapy. You know, it’s like a spectrum.

Emil Duguay: Yeah, I’m a bit curious about that move two years ago. So that’s kind of when your your DJing career sparked, would you say? And is that also kind of when your graphic designing company freelance also started?

Kehiw: Yeah that’s exactly it. So I moved to Toronto without any plan. I just kind of – my partner he moved out to Toronto, and I was originally planning to move down to Los Angeles, and you know, I was just facing a lot of obstacles, like getting my permanent residency, just figuring things out. L.A. is way more expensive than Toronto, and he really laid down that option for me as like, ‘you can either move here right now or you can wait and move to LA’, and I kind of weighed those options in front of me, and I realized, like, ‘dang, like this is right in front of me, I should just take it.’ And once I took it, I got a good understanding on what kind of culture they have out there, which is everything’s expensive out there. So people work the weekends there, they have two or three jobs, and I felt pressured to really ask myself what I really want in life. And I took that initiative to start writing a business plan for Good Intentions Creative, and I launched some t-shirts to, I guess, raise brand awareness. And ever since then, I’ve been receiving a lot of support for people for my design work, getting a lot of opportunities to work with other communities, work with other small businesses, other artists. And it all started off with design, and then I still had this passion for music and DJing. And it wasn’t until last summer, that I told myself I was like, I want to use the summer solstice to transition my work from being known as a graphic designer to being known as a DJ, an artist, and I like to use seasons like that to make my goals because, you know, we’re – it’s kind of like when a plant grows, you have to water it, you have to season it. It needs a full season of sun until it really sprouts out. And we’re not separate from nature. So we need to treat our goals and the way that we view our our life like that. And I use the Summer solstice to transition my life, from from that to that. And you know, it’s been it’s been so fun ever since.

Emil Duguay: I can imagine the kind of the marketing and business venture in both your jobs are kind of similar, and how you approach that, is there any – like how have you been able to grow as a DJ and a graphic designer? What’s been your kind of mindset in that direction?

Kehiw: So the first thing that I was looking for was community. And when I was living out in Toronto, like, don’t get me wrong, I have lots of amazing friends out there, it just felt like I lacked the community of people that shared the same interest as me, and for me, that was design and for another part of me, it was also DJing and music, and I wanted to connect with people that I can like, share ideas with, I can collaborate with, I can learn from. And I’ve been, you know, ever since I’ve made that decision in my head, I’ve been – I would come across people that are like, say, I’m going to a coffee shop, and I run into a person who DJs and his girlfriend is a graphic designer. Little things like that would kind of take place in my life and surrounding myself around a bunch of people doing the same thing as me, you would think that I would feel like I have to compete, but it only inspired me even more, and it taught me a lot. And there was a lot of people that, you know, they DJ, they make music, but they probably DJ a different genre. Or they design, but maybe they’re an interior designer, and not a graphic designer, or they design for corporate and not for like, the fashion industry. So it was like different subgenres, and they would keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller into, like, a really niche topic for everything. And, you know, living in a place like Toronto, there’s so much diversity, there’s so much culture, there’s so much people from different perspectives. And it really taught me that music – specifically – can speak to more than just people beyond our skin color, beyond our sexual orientation, our religion. It creates a harmonious energy in the space that people are collectively tapping into and I use that kind of approach, the holistic approach with music, into my design, my design process. So they kind of both go hand in hand, like I’m inspired by music, and then the music inspires me to design, and then, you know, it’s kind of like playing basketball, like I’m throwing the ball back and forth. Yeah.

Emil Duguay: So you’re really kind of the Grand Master of energy, because you’re controlling crowds with your music and and your designs too. 

Kehiw: Yeah, I like to call it the 360 experience. You’re covering customer touch points but also their ears are probably walking away feeling something, yeah, closely. That’s why I do what I do, because I like seeing other people have fun, and truly like, see them smile, because then, then it gives me energy to keep doing that. 

Emil Duguay: I love that. What an entertainer you are. Now getting a bit more about your experience with Sled. Have you performed at other festivals like it? What’s what’s been your experience with it so far?

Kehiw: This is my first time performing for Sled. I’ve performed here a few times, for Badlands last year and just a few club gigs with the Drum Beats. Yeah.

Emil Duguay: Cool. So I kind of want to get more into your relationship with Calgary. You’re kind of from here a little bit, but you’ve moved away. Yeah. What are your thoughts and feelings on Calgary? And obviously you love you have some enjoyment for it, because you’re coming back, but yeah.

Kehiw: Well, I was born and raised here, so I – you know people that are born and raised here, they they want to go somewhere else, right? Growing up here, I’ve realized at a very young age that I – like what I wanted to do with my life was only available for me, or it was more accessible for me if I moved somewhere else, like Toronto or L.A. or New York, but that’s not to say that there’s same opportunities here. I truly think from just the two years of not living here, I’ve been looking at different events that are happening here, different scenes, it’s starting to grow. And I noticed specific. Like the underground rave scene, I’m starting to see more underground raves, and they have a lot of those in Toronto, and that’s kind of where I pull my inspiration from. So I think it’s really beautiful that that culture is starting to make its print here, and there’s just more access to different genres of music here, like Stampede, for example. When I was a kid, they weren’t really having, hip hop artists or DJs come now they’re having like, like Diplo come here. Who else, like A$AP Ferg was here last year. I’m pretty sure, just all of these really, really fun artists. And what I would like to see is that kind of energy year round. Because I feel like, where the city is located, it’s close to the border, it’s close to, like, it’s considered like West Coast. It’s kind of like an untapped area for music, and I’m just excited to see, like, what that may become in the future. 

Emil Duguay: Yeah, cool. So what can people expect from you at Sled or any future shows that they see you play at?

Kehiw: So a lot of my shows are very, very high energy. I have, like, severe ADHD, so I feel like my music taste is- it tickles my brain in the way that I want it to. And I like, I hope that it does the same for other people. And I pull a lot of inspiration from the Queer scene in Toronto, which is, like all the underground raves there are hosted by the Queer community. And there’s just something about it that, like, they bring, like, Brazilian techno, they bring Afro-techno, it’s just a wide range of music, and for me, it’s like you don’t know what to expect and I kind of- I like having that same energy for people, where they’re coming into the show expecting high energy, but they probably will hear sounds that they’ve never heard before. It might be unconventional for some people, but as long as it gets you moving, then, yeah, I’m just all about, like, making people dance. 

Emil Duguay: It’s so interesting that, like, a community, like the Queer community, can bring these new genres that you haven’t really heard before, and they’re mixing, kind of sub mixing as well.

Kehiw: Yeah, like, one of my favorites right now is Brazilian funk. They’ve been playing a lot of that there. And I guess you can call, like, my music taste global club music. So like music they play in, like, the clubs in Africa and South America and Europe, and I would say Asia, but I haven’t found, like, I haven’t tapped into that that scene yet, so…

Emil Duguay: Yeah, fair enough. Is there anything, like researching you? There’s not a ton online. Like, mostly what I could find was your Instagram and SoundCloud. But I was wondering, for your fan base, is there anything that you’d like them to know about you, or any fun little nuggets about you that isn’t really that well known?

Kehiw: See, I’m I’m not too sure about that, because I would say I am an open book, and who I am online is who I am in person, and I’m kind of like a person that doesn’t really have anything to hide, but I would say people that don’t really know about the work that I do I run a creative studio, it’s called Good Intentions Creative. And I whenever I have time without like, my design projects and other music projects. I release a lot of merchandise, and, you know, I just want to drive more people to like, maybe take a look at it, get inspired by it. If they feel like they want to support Indigenous businesses, then, you know, buy a t-shirt. But I do have a couple music projects that I’m working on with a few other artists, and, you know, it’s still in the works. I’ve been sitting on a lot of my own DJ edits, and, yeah, honestly, like what I’m doing right now is I feel like I’m building an archive of my own music, and hopefully this time next year, there’ll be- I’ll have more music out on like all platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, yeah.

Emil Duguay: So you have some future plans for your career. And sounds like the music side of things, especially that where you want, the direction you want to go…

Kehiw: Yeah, yeah, of course, yeah, yeah. 

Emil Duguay: That’s kind of what was going to be my next question you kind of answered it like, ‘what’s the future for you?’, but yeah is there anything else you’d like to add on that?

Kehiw: Let’s see, yeah, so-

Emil Duguay: Would you like to go more international, more shows? 

Kehiw: Oh, 100%. You know, I play a lot of music that have origins in Brazil and origins in countries in Africa, even Europe, like I’d really want to go out there and like, honor their music, honor their culture by sharing it, and you know, celebrating that with them. And I feel like being present in in their spaces feels a lot more special to me. But in the future, I am working on hosting my own events in Toronto. So like hosting- I really want to focus on providing a space for Indigenous artists, mainly, and then Queer BIPOC artists after that. And I just realized that, like, there’s a there’s a lack of spaces for Indigenous artists in Toronto. So like, what Drum Beat is doing here for us Indigenous artists, I want to bring a piece of that with me over there and kind of have it do like a butterfly effect. So maybe, maybe there’ll be other indigenous artists starting something out in Los Angeles or New York or Phoenix, and just kind of making it like, kind of putting a lot of emphasis on it so that it can have a life of its own and it can, take care of itself in the future.

Emil Duguay: Yeah, yeah. It sounds like you could really be like an event organizer, really, because you’re trying to create this inclusive, welcoming community for yourself. I like that.

Kehiw: Takes a little bit of my, you know, graphic design background into that. So it’s, you know, I feel like I’m leading myself onto a path of hosting my own events, not only just for my own shows and stuff, but supporting smaller artists and supporting bigger artists. And I’m actually- my cousin, her name is Tia Wood. She just released a single with Sony Music on Friday, or yesterday, and I was grateful enough to have the opportunity to design her cover art, and just having that relationship built with the team with Sony Music has been a beautiful, beautiful, like a beautiful opportunity for me and my cousin, and I feel like that’s only gonna grow into something greater, where it won’t only serve me and my cousin, but maybe there’s other Indigenous artists that want to follow that path, and I just want to be that person that can put people on, you know, like, if I know someone, then here’s that contact.

Emil Duguay: You’re really trying to build something it sounds like, it’s cool. Is there anything else that you feel like I should have asked you, or that we haven’t touched upon as well, to kind of end things off here. Just really, yeah, I love what you’ve talked to. It like you’re really trying to build communities for Indigenous, Queer, pull in both sides of your graphic designing, helping out family members, I like that. Ya is there anything else in that range that you’d like to dive in on? Are you excited to perform for Sled?

Kehiw: I’m so excited. I’m actually a bit nervous, but I feel like that’s a good thing, because, like, the more that I think about, the more I’m nervous. I’m like, Okay, I have a feeling it’s gonna be a good show, because, like, just the thought of it, the presence of that thought, is just so impactful where I’m like shivering. I guess I just want to end off with a message for people, artists, creatives, designers, singers, people that really want to make a living for themselves in the creative industry, is to really tap into your creative gifts and give yourself the permission to be vulnerable, because your creativity is a God given gift from God and when you use your creativity, you’re honoring that gift and that relationship with God, with the universe. And the more that you do that, the more ideas will flow into you. And ideas are universal, so if you think of an idea and you want to pursue it, I would say pursue it right then and there. Try and flesh it out throughout the night, because you’ve tapped into a certain frequency, and that idea came to you and it’s ready to use you as a vessel to be released. So yeah, just approach your work in that sense. If someone steals your idea, just take that as a sign that it was- that the ideas are universal.

Emil Duguay: Yeah, great, yeah. Thanks so much for coming down to I Love You Coffee Shop.

Kehiw: Yeah, for sure, thank you for having me.