Give it Away: Every Ki: Theory album is available for free online.
Call Joel Burleson a sonic chameleon. The Richmond-based musician and producer, who performs under the name Ki: Theory, easily adapts in the vast music world. In the live setting, Ki: Theory delivers glitchy electronic indie rock that’s made crowds move in dance clubs around the world, as well as at Bonnaroo. But Burleson also crafts instrumental grooves behind the scenes. In addition to three albums of original material, he has remixed tracks for Queens of the Stone Age, Kings of Leon, and Brazilian Girls. His sounds have been heard on the television show CSI: New York and commercials for Converse and Audi. He’s also a familiar presence in the outdoor industry, recently scoring promo videos for The North Face and landing a track in Warren Miller’s latest ski flick, Wintervention. His recent breakout project is a compilation remix of Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy soundtrack, alongside electronic predecessors like Moby and Glitch Mob.
Mixing production and live performance, do you consider it as two separate sides to your music career? Ki:Theory is a live show and a studio thing. The music industry has changed so much, since I started playing in bands in high school. I had the cliché rock star goal of trying to get signed by a major label, but that’s not the way it works now. There’s a lot less money to be made in the music industry, but more of the money is going directly to the artists. It’s easier to do it yourself, and you can come up with a lot of different outlets to create a career.
How do you classify the sound of your live show? The live show is pretty electronic. It’s not really a DJ set, but it has those elements. I have a rig that has some samplers and effects, but I also play live keyboards and guitar. There are some loops and backtracks, and I also bring a drummer to add more of a rock vibe.
How do you approach scoring music for outdoor action? It varies greatly by project. With my recent video for The North Face they had an idea of what they wanted based on existing Ki: Theory tracks. They send me action footage, and then I score it with my music. There was a little bit of them editing their video to my music and me editing my music to their video. That’s the beauty of music and the Internet. It’s easy to collaborate between great distances.