Anybody who first encounters Soft Melt aka Kidda, aka Ste McGregor, on a social networking site would conclude that he was a bit of a grumpy git. His tweets are acerbic, while his Facebook status updates veer from self-deprecation to cutting sarcasm about popular culture. This differs remarkably, however, from the genial giant Ste McGregor is in the flesh, and - crucially - the uplifting, catchy, accessible music he produces too.
"People ask me quite a lot why my music is so positive sounding," says Ste. "It could just be that it's like an escape. I don't really revel in the darker side of things, I've never really been attracted to that. It's kind of a yin and yang thing, I suppose. A bit of a grumpy tosser in real life, and then my music isn't."
Ste's music is positive, joyous, life-affirming, and now very much pure, unadulterated pop. It's still dripping with soul though, which is what marks it out from the disposable X Factor karaoke that litters the charts. "Soulful isn't throwaway," Kidda correctly asserts, "it's political in its attitude, its positivity goes forward rather than being reflective. Its forward thinking nature can be hedonistic as well." Ste McGregor's brother called him Kidda, and the name stuck. He got into hip-hop as a kid, started breakdancing and buying records, and hip-hop became an education for him. "Then you listen to James Brown, and then something else, and you understand where it came from," he says. House music inspired him too: there was a small but dedicated scene for house in Middlesbrough, where he grew up.
Ste started messing around with the industry standard sampler, the Akai S-900, making instrumental beats and pieces. When a friend moved back to Middlesbrough to do an animation course, he soon followed him. "If you did it on Teeside, you got all the fees paid," he recalls. "And I wanted to do music videos."
Moving to Brighton around the Millennium, he moved in with Skint recording artist Danielsan. "He said, 'why don't you make a video for me?', so I did," says Ste. "Then I went into Skint and gave them my reel, and they said there was loads of stuff I could do."
Riding off the incredible success of Fatboy Slim, Skint commissioned Ste to do loads of music promos. As well as a skateboarding video for Danielsan's beatsy funkathon 'Force Ten', he produced one for Midfield General (aka Damian Harris) featuring a surreal ramble by the then-unknown Noel Fielding, and some for big beat superstars the Lo-Fi Allstars, house trio X-Press 2 and Irish techno don Phil Kieran.
Concurrently, he produced two music EPs for Brighton-based hip-hop label Catskills, and carried on writing a lot of music himself. "I had a bit of wind in my sails, and I'd done a track with Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol," he remembers. "It sounded great, like a proper record! Catskills were kind of winding things up a bit and weren't prepared to clear samples, and when we went to see Damian [Harris] - who loved the two EPs - he said Skint would clear the samples."
The vision of a Kidda album for Skint was formed, and Ste started collecting guest vocalists. The album took a while because Ste wanted the samples to sound as close to the originals as possible - even though everything was re-recorded.
Ste's debut album under his Kidda guise 'Going Up' was released to almost universal critical acclaim. "With infectious hooks, tasty beats and soul-tinged melodies, Kidda's debut feels like the natural sequel to The Avalanches' universally acclaimed 'Since I Left You'," said MOJO magazine. It was awarded album of the month status in DJ magazine, album of the week in DMC Update, while BBC Music said: "Somewhere between funk, pop, hip-hop and old skool rave, 'Going Up' is the perfect soundtrack to this summer's festivals."