Meet the 23-Year Old Who Got Kaytranada Signed to XL and Stwo a Deal With OVO's Noah "40" Shebib

How did a Halifax party promoter come to manage some of the most interesting acts in dance music?

by Max Mertens
26 January 2015, 10:00am

This article originally appeared on Noisey Canada.

Photo courtesy of Eric Zaworski

“I’ve wanted one of these since I was twelve,” says William Robillard Cole, running his hands over the dashboard of his recently-purchased black BMW. It’s a few days before the management company owner and record label vice president’s 23rd birthday, and he’s feeling pretty good about life. His first client and close friend, rising Montreal electronic producer Kaytranada, has been announced to play Coachella, Governors Ball, and a handful of other major music festivals. Another one of the acts Cole works with, Parisian DJ and producer Stwo (pronounced “Stew”), is working towards a deal with Noah “40” Shebib’s publishing company, Alice Island, which will see him working under the tutelage of the in-demand Canadian producer and Drake’s right hand man.

“Ever since I met Kay and signed all my artists and built my company, it’s felt like one week,” he says back in his downtown Toronto apartment, reclining on a couch while an NBA game plays in the background. “Its just been this big blur of making shit happen.”

Growing up in Bedford, Nova Scotia, Cole had to pay his way through university, so he started throwing parties and shows with his roommate. He was studying business and was set to do an internship in New York, but then he met Kaytranada, who he flew to Halifax to play a frosh week concert in January 2013. At the time, the Montreal producer (whose real name is Kevin Celestin) had only 500 followers on SoundCloud, but Cole sensed his potential.

“I had never heard anything like it before. I said to myself, ‘Wow, why isn’t this kid famous?’” Kaytranada was signed to Los Angeles label Huh What & Where Recordings and he introduced Cole to its founder Bahwee and president Keith Fujimoto, who brought the Nova Scotian on-board to help out. He’s now vice president. From there he ended up working with Seattle-born, Michigan-based artist Sango, Montreal multi-instrumentalist and producer Pomo, Kaytranada’s brother (and other half of their rap duo The Celestics) Louie P, and Stwo.

While these artists hail from different cities and draw on different influences for their music, they’re bonded together through their ambitious drive, similar economic backgrounds, and youth—none of them are older than 25. Cole sees his role in their development as bigger and more all-encompassing than the traditional connotations associated with the word “manager”. “It sounds so old-school to say, the role is more versatile today,” he says. “I’m a tour manager, I’m a publicist, I’m a business manager, I’m a creative director, I’m an A&R, I’m a bodyguard, I’m a best friend.”

Though SoundCloud provided an initial platform for his artists to build a global fan base, one of Cole’s goals is to create tangible art, which might help explain HW&W partnering with Sony/Ultra Records or Kaytranada’s decision to sign to XL Recordings. “We have a label but it’s because we need a proper place to release the music,” he says. “We need people signing off on the contracts so we can secure the masters, secure our publishing, moderating the sales on iTunes, and all that stuff.” He understands the importance of learning from the music industry’s past mistakes all while working with the acts he believes in.

The upper echelon has started to recognize his tastes too —Kaytranada logged studio time in New York with Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz last winter, and Rick Rubin shouted him out on Twitter, all while he’s been hard at work finishing up his debut album for a spring release. With the 40 deal, it’s entirely possible that Stwo beats could end up on Drake’s forthcoming mixtape or the highly-anticipated Views From The 6. As for Cole, he’s been enjoying the fruits of his and his artists’ labour, but he’s also firmly focussed on the future.

“Pharrell is going to retire one day, Rick Rubin is going to retire one day, Diplo is going to retire one day, and my producers are the new Timbalands and Rick Rubins and Pharrells and Diplos,” he says. “It’s crazy to think but that’s where we want to be in twenty years.”

Max Mertens wants to be 25 sitting on 25 mill. - @Max_Mertens