A Love Letter to Kisstory, the Radio Station Keeping the Great British Night Out Alive
Because listening to Flo Rida "Low" with a bright blue alcopop is as much a part of the tapestry of British nightclubs as the Hacienda.
Photo via Kisstory Facebook - by Chris Gray.
Sometimes in life you find yourself sliding across the white tiles of a kitchen in your socks, slapping the back of a spoon into the cradle of your palm in perfect synchronicity with the Asylum Club remix of Shola Ama's "Imagine." It's probably not an event worth telling anybody about—just you, waiting for your oven chips to finish, twisting around with muted delight to the tinny tones of your DAB radio—but in doing so you are taking part in a silent celebration of UK nightclubs that continues unnoticed every day.
Kisstory first began its life as an hour-long daily programme on Kiss FM, running Monday to Friday from 11am until noon. When Kiss began to expand, the popularity of the show made it a no-brainer when deciding which programmes should become stations in their own right. So it came to pass on the 7th of May 2013 that Kisstory began blasting old skool anthems out across the nation. The purpose of the station was to offer up an hour of the best in UK garage, filter house, and RnB—the sounds of the late 1990s and early noughties incarnate.
Now, we've said it before, but nostalgia isn't always such a good thing. The trouble is, listening to the music of the past is very comfortable. Sticking with what we knew when we were younger, or worse, before we were born, gives us the security of timelessness. It removes the sensation that the world around us is moving at an unmanageable pace because we've heard this song before, so we know where we are. This isn't always healthy, and it can lead us to be regressive, relying so much on the art of yesteryear that we forget to innovate.
That being said, a banger's a banger.
Kisstory provides an unique service. Turn it on at any given moment, wherever you are, and you'll be immediately transported to every straight-shooting chart-music-smashing UK nightclub you've ever been to. Every vodka and coke that slid down your throat while a DJ talked incoherently over the PA. The scent of Benson & Hedges with mingled with specks of aftershave. The squawk of underage teens getting turned away. Fuck it, Kisstory even smells of the chicken burger you slam in the taxi on your way home. And it's this quality that makes it such an indispensible station. Kisstory is, perhaps unwittingly, cataloging every big, dumb, fun, drunk night out you've ever had.
There is a Twitter account, named Kisstory NP, which lists every track dropped on the station as it is dropped. Look at the run of tracks detailed. Moloko "Sing it Back," rubbing shoulders with Nightcrawler's "Push the Feeling on." Stardust into DJ Marky, Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me" into Baby D's "Let Me Be Your Fantasy." Yes, Shaggy into Baby D. It's that sort of club, and it's also the night of your life–just with occasional CoOp adverts. At the time of writing I've been sat listening to Kisstory, quite silently at my desk, and the following records have been played:
Take a moment to think about my current lived experience. Sitting, teeth gritted, doing my absolute best not to actually go out and buy a 4 pack of tinnies and ten Marlboro lights. It's close to impossible. And yes, I don't hesitate for a second to include "Low." Listening to Flo Rida, singing "boots with the furrrrr" with a bottle of some neon-coloured alcopop in your hand, is as much a part of the tapestry of British nightclubs as the watching Mike Pickering playing "Pacific State" down at the Hacienda.
The songs Kisstory play are songs you don't think about, and don't seek out. As you grow older your relationship with nightclubs will probably change as well. This means you'll either pursue a more discerning clubbing experience and get into trend-chasing, or you will stop going out altogether and instead settle for watching The One Show and eating asparagus and wearing wellies and whatever else it is you do when your dick falls off. These are the songs that fall into the gaps of your memory, less pieces of music and more trigger words—with every play of Sweet Female Attitude's "Flowers" a Proustian rush is triggered and you're back, back to some badly lit provincial club, thudding with bass drums and ill-advised teenage ambitions.
It could be argued that Kisstory is the ultimate armchair-ification of British rave culture, the screamers of the 1990s and early 2000s slimmed down into mixes, broken up by adverts and spun out across drive time car radios and shared office spaces. But in time, don't all great things deserve their armchair opportunity? We're very good at canonising certain parts of our musical heritage—really, how many more documentaries on the second summer of love do you need—but sometimes it's the most obvious experiences which end up being the most neglected. There's a million and one long reads on the first selectors who made their way across to Balearic islands, but what about that night in 2001 where you fell over in Cardiff city centre? What about the time in 2007 where you nearly made yourself sick trying to do the worm to a 50 Cent record? The nights that would otherwise die, eroded and forgotten by the passing of time, are now preserved. They are living on Kisstory.
This love letter comes at an interesting time for station. As of this week Kisstory is now a national station, meaning it is accessible far outside of London, bringing the memories of sticky floors and singalongs across the United Kingdom. This can only be a good thing. You might not have thought about B15 Project's "Girls Like Us" in years, but it's part of you regardless. This is your drunken legacy. This is your history.