Kyle Hodges Interview
Most corporate titles are straightforward; the CEO runs the show, and managers...well, manage. For marketing wiz Kyle Hodges, it isn’t so simple. As the Minister of Propaganda for Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee, Hodges works to promote the brand using skills accumulated during his time as both a DJ and publicist, among other roles, to guide the company forward. Vivid Seats sat down with Hodges to talk his winding career path, Chicago’s evolving music scene, next steps for Dark Matter Coffee and more.
Vivid Seats: From musician and publicist to ‘Minister of Propaganda,’ you’ve had quite the career. Tell us your story.
Kyle Hodges: My current role is an accumulation of all of my previous experience; music, record stores/labels, licensing, etc., it all adds up to provide me with a custom "toolbox" to create DMC's collaborations and marketing programs. There have been some real learning experiences; from going bankrupt, to negotiating licensing deals, to learning how to walk backstage without a pass. (Just act as you belong there.) It's all been relevant and a tremendous experience that I consider worth its weight in gold.
VS: How do you balance your time as both a DJ and a marketer? How do the two roles interact with each other?
KH: Well, unfortunately, it's not as frequent as I would like. DMC produces numerous events, our Block Party for instance, where I can't run the event and also DJ. I'm still obsessively buying vinyl which always needs to be exercised but the main gigs I do now are more for fun than anything else.
VS: You’ve been Dark Matter Coffee’s Minister of Propaganda for nearly seven years now. How has the evolution of Chicago’s music scene influenced your work for DMC?
KH: When I started pairing the music with our coffee releases, it was more chasing down anyone whose music or style I was into and convincing them to work with us. The genre didn't matter, just that they were cool to work with and the projects were fun to complete. The city is so diverse with music, and I mean that sincerely. The hardest thing for me is to decide what to do, as my music taste is the same. You have regular metal/doom/experimental shows at Bohemian National Cemetery (shouts Brent Heyl), the beat scene at Cafe Mustache, Soul Summit, Co-Prosperity, The Point, etc. I could go on. but the point is made; Chicago's scene is as alive and vibrant as ever and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon.
VS: You’ve spearheaded collaborations with notable Chicago companies, from the Chicago Bulls to Windy City-based record label Closed Sessions. As a thriving brand in a crowded space, how do collaborations help you stand out?
KH: The projects will all have depth because of our honest approach to them. As cheesy as that may sound, we really do put a lot of effort into creating collaborations that have more than just namesake and appeal to them. Take our "This Caffeine Kills Fascists" release with Laura Jane Grace and Publicist UK. The 7" was recorded, pressed and released all within 14 days. The songs were covers of Woody Guthrie and profits benefited the Woody Guthrie Foundation. Cool, right? In addition, the artwork for the bag was created by Chicago's Dan Gretza, and available for anyone in the coffee business to use for free. The only stipulation was that they had to give $1 per bag to Woody Guthrie Foundation and $1 per bag to the charity of their choice.
VS: Looking ahead to 2020, what can we expect from you and the team at Dark Matter?
KH: There are several cool collaborations we have in the works for next year, Ludwig drums, parties at SXSW, Uprise, our annual block party, all will have some incredible music components incorporated in them. We will be branching out into the sports world more, diving deeper into the local music and even a couple of trans-Atlantic endeavors. All pretty exciting stuff.
VS: What can we expect from you on the ones and twos as a DJ?
KH: I'd love to continue to perform out monthly, record more mixes and maybe, finally, get off my ass and start producing some original tracks again. It's all about what time will permit, which seems to be my biggest obstacle these days. Maybe if I could bump up the hours in a day to 30, I would get everything done and also not make my wife too mad.
VS: As the 2010s come to a close, what are some of your favorite music moments from the decade?
KH: Oh shit, that's a tough one but here's a couple:
- - The Prince memoir book event I helped put together w/ ? Love, Smartbar & Chicago Ideas this year.
- - DJ Z-Trip at DMC's 10th Anniversary Block Party
- - Mastodon performing "Crack the Sky" to raise money for HFTD
- - Seeing Mike Clark (The Headhunters) sit behind a drum kit and control 15 different musicians on a stage only using his playing as commands.
- - Witnessing Preservation Hall Jazz Band blow the doors off The Jazz Kitchen for a group of 200 people.
- - Public Enemy perform "It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back"
- - DJ Krush at Music Hall of Williamsburg
- - Brazilian Girls at Brooklyn Bowl
- - Tom Petty's last Chicago concert (RIP)
VS: As a music lover, you’ve found a way to discover top artists early in their careers. Who should we be paying attention to right now?
KH: I've been a HUGE fan of Drama and they are about to release their label debut with Ghostly International. Their music has been dope since day one and their constant touring these past two years have made their live show evolve, propelling them to new heights. Tim Zawada and the Star Creatures Universal Vibrations crew have an incredible talent for putting out incredible music. I really think they are one of the best record labels in the game. The Twilight Tone, one of Chicago's OG producers/DJs will be releasing a new project; not much more I can say except it will be one for the record books. Brittney Carter is also an MC that I think will bust out in 2020; I love her style and think she is going to knock some heads with her music.