I once wrote here how my kids work at being musicians. Their hand-to-mouth life demands and modest success mean they don't have to bus tables for a living.
But many Houston musicians do work for the man. Admirably, they create and perform music by night, then do the day job. For many, it's changing tires at the auto shop or stocking shelves at Guitar Center.
Or, in the case of the McFadden brothers, Kyle and Ryan, it's the staid corporate work of accounting. Over the past year, these honest-to-Pete siblings have joined forces to create original, Houston-based electronic dance music. Under the banner of Kyle Dux -- yes, that's a nod to Bloodsport's larger-than-life hero, Frank Dux -- they focus on house music and hope to help advance a local EDM scene that seems too small for a city this large.
According to Ryan, it surprises some people when they share their musical pursuits.
"There's such a stereotype with accountants," he says. "You think of accountants as very straitlaced bean-counters, crunching these numbers. I guess we take that to a different extreme after 5 o' clock."
Kyle writes the songs and older brother Ryan is the sound engineer, mastering the music Kyle sends him to make it production-quality.
They agreed to discuss their musical ambitions one night after work, but they work together by day, too. Both McFaddens are accountants for a multifamily property management company, who over Mexican food told us how this all fell into place. We had to time-travel back to junior high school for the origins of Kyle Dux, which was a quick trip, since our margaritas were strong.
"I got into rap in junior high," Kyle says. "I wanted to be a rapper really bad."
He's interrupted by Ryan's machine gun of laughter, but it doesn't faze him.
"I did! I thought I could be a rapper. I was really into [Dr. Dre's] Chronic 2001; I was listening to it all the time," Kyle adds. "I thought, 'I could be a rapper.'"
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He began the tale of how he tried to rap in his advanced Speech 3 class back in the day, and all Ryan can add is, "You were in Speech 3?"
Kyle says he formed a crew that was "horrible," one that devised a gambling racket that got them all suspended from school. However, they'd already swindled more than $100 from classmates to fund enough studio time to produce a single track, which they posted to Kazaa. Their song? A dis on the class of 2005 from the 2004 graduates.
It was a basis for the DIY ethic of self-producing music. Kyle's interest in rap was a natural step away from house and he started listening to artists like Bad Boy Bill and Daft Punk. But school and career came first. Once he began to realize some professional aspirations, he returned to music.
"To me, accounting is so uncreative," offers Kyle. "If you're going to be a creative accountant, you're probably going to wind up in jail. I have to get a fix in another way."
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Ryan is a self-taught sound engineer who can speak in the most technical, scientific terms. His musical interests helped him to stay grounded during a difficult time, he notes.
"In 2009, I got laid off in February of that year," says Ryan. "My best friend passed away in March. I started doing this, I think, almost as kind of a way to get away from the problems. After looking for a job all day, I'd do this at night. It kind of snowballed from there."
"Most people don't like listening to a song 100 times over," he continues. "I did, because when I finished using the plug-ins and played it back, it kind of made me feel like I'd accomplished something."
KYLE DUX'S EDM CLASSICS LIST
- Daft Punk, 909 Revolution
- Daft Punk, One More Time
- Stardust, Music Sounds Better With You
- Fred Falke, Wait For Love
They found their respective music interests suited them well for their respective jobs. Kyle was a fan of the jazzy beats and creative rhyming of East Coast acts like Talib Kweli and Mos Def. Ryan scoured the chop-shops for Houston rap and was heavily influenced by the legendary DJ Screw.
But their first work together nearly doomed the entire project. Some software issues created an unexpected challenge they weren't experienced enough to overcome. Ryan gamely did what he could and Kyle thanked him, though he said he "wanted to cry" when he heard the finished product.
"We didn't want to tell each other, 'Your work is bad,'" Kyle says.
Ryan is a fan of EDM, preferring trance artists, like Arman Van Buren, but listens to everything but "country music. Never gotten into it, it's never really been my thing," said the native Houstonian.
"You can say that I don't consider it music at all," Kyle adds.
Ryan says he's mastered all varieties of music, but Kyle's music gave him the chance to work on songs from start to finish.
"He makes the song, does the mix down, has the levels where he wants them and then he sends it over to me and I check those levels, add on whatever effect plug-ins I think will make things sound better," he says.
Kyle offers the disclaimer that "I don't think my music's that good," to which Ryan counters, "I'll tell you, from A to where we are now, it's improved."
"I think it's decent," Kyle admits. "I have a long way to go. I don't expect ever to be the next Calvin Harris. I just want people to listen to my music and give me feedback."
Both wanted to discuss their interest in the interest of finding more EDM enthusiasts -- especially music producers -- in Houston and outside of Stereo Live.
"I'm not going to say there's not a [house] community here; I'm just going to say I haven't found it," says Kyle. "When I went to Something Wicked, I didn't feel the same energy that I did when I went to Canada [for Deadmaus's VELD Music Festival]. People just go because it's something to do, not generally because they just love the music. "
"I think they're here," Ryan adds. "Maybe, if they come across this article, it'll bring them out to the front."
CURRENT PLAYLIST FAVORITES
- Deadmau5, "Strobe"
- Mat Zo, "Nuclear Fusion"
- Swedish House Mafia, "Leave the World Behind"
- Empire of the Sun, "Alive (Zedd Remix)"
Kyle wrote a five-song EP recently, which -- along with other Ryan-engineered, bass- and kickdrum-heavy tracks -- can be found on the Kyle Dux Soundcloud.
Ryan, for one, is happy to get the songs out of his hands and into yours, adventurous listener.
"Some of the songs I've worked on that are his, the first time I heard them I was like, 'This sounds pretty good,' and by the time I was done working with them I was like, 'I hate this song, I can't listen to it again. Here, it's done, just take it.'"
It's the kind of honesty only siblings can share.
"We don't have much in common, probably, but we've always loved music," says Kyle. "Maybe we weren't the closest most of our lives, me and him."
"But we have gotten closer, working together on the music stuff," Ryan adds. "That's always a good thing."
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