Producers to Know: Tony Kill Connects Passion for Astronomy and Music To Make Otherworldly Sounds


Tony Kill looks forward to two different launches in the coming year: an album and an actual rocket.

By day, the rising D.C. producer works as an engineer at NASA, but at night he creates vibrant, fuzzy soundscapes ingrained with deep, powerful lyrics. Composing, recording and packaging his own unique blend of electronic and punk sensibilities into tracks that are both exciting and inspiring, Kill balances his artistic output with his passion for astronomy.

Recently, Kill spoke with DCMD about his artistry, intertwining work and art, and his new single, “Chaos Theory,” from his forthcoming album Thought Crimes, slated for release on Nov. 15.

Which came first, your interest in space or music?

Well-before my first Casio or sound-processing software, that existential curiosity was piqued. I’m generally obsessive and highly curious of the supposed infinity of outer space and what may lie above, below, within and outside our plane of consciousness. Multiverse, co-existing realities, all theory now but nonetheless open the door to questions of perception and individuality and purpose and accountability.

How does your work affect/influence your music, and vice versa?

The spirit of innovation, concepts and theories my colleagues employ in pioneering spacecraft invariably bleed into my approach to sound, composition and performance. A friend and I were discussing cloud computing–specifically related to rendering large files–and I consider ways this technology could be employed by the starving digital artist.

We live in a time where, if you’re interested in using a computer to design or build or make music, you don’t necessarily have to skip a month’s rent. Many of my closest colleagues have backgrounds in 3D modeling, niche electronics, and web development, so the opportunity for exchange off the clock is invaluable. Having someone from a completely different train of thought consider your ideas really opens the door for progressive work.

How do you balance these two pursuits against one another?

I’m growing. Learning to leverage the two with rather than against one another. I noticed I had become conditioned to believe I couldn’t possibly be actualized until my art paid my bills. Not anymore. I have an integral role with an organization that fascinates me. I’m compensated fairly. My financial and physiological needs are met and that is incredibly liberating.

Over the last two years I’ve written and revisited what I consider my most honest singular body of work. I can’t guarantee that more time would necessarily make it better. I’d probably overthink. I definitely overthink.

What are some challenges associated with making music and holding down a career?

Challenging yourself not to make excuses. Some days I’m exhausted, but the order and ritual nature of having a job has automated me in a way that has allowed me to write and produce literally hundreds of songs. Six or seven of which I really like and might *gasp* release. I’m taking my time. I’m listening.

Nowadays I create alone and if an opportunity cool enough presents itself, I will reach out to any of the dozens of incredibly brilliant artists I’m comfortable building with. People that I know can help amplify my message, and people I would do the same for.

The biggest enemy is delusions of grandeur. The expectation that because you’re proficient at something, you should be exalted above other people. We’re all unique, and if your truths are present in your work, it will encourage someone else to speak their truths. I don’t expect much so I’m pretty difficult to disappoint.

That which the community will most readily pay for, it is most disagreeable to render. The performances I find the most satisfaction in are seldom lucrative. They’re exchanges that I believe would not occur if financial empowerment were at the core. My job ensures that I may eat. My art ensures that may live. The two are married and bearing well-rounded children.

How do you see this pair of pursuits progressing into the future?

My mission is scheduled for launch in August. If I get to Cape Canaveral early enough maybe I can strap a cassette onto the satellite and forge a release show at the International Space Station.

Do you have any exciting plans for the coming months?

On Nov. 15, I’m independently releasing Thought Crimes [LP] in-stores at Smash! Records and digitally via Bandcamp. Next month also marks the two-year anniversary of ‘Standard Ceremony’ at the 9:30 Club Backbar. Multimedia production with the likes of Eshovo, Haile Supreme, Sugg Savage and Hymn, members of Mr. Twin Sister, Prinze GeorgeLuwees, Jordan Campbell, Echelon the Seeker, Patrick Cain, Nag Champa, and Mike White. Spending more time in Toronto before the weather breaks. Attending circuitry workshops at Rhizome. Attending showcases by Select DC. Writing. I’d like to try veganism and learn to lucid dream. Working to ensure a successful launch in August. Peace of mind.

Listen to Kill’s latest single, “Chaos Theory,” below: