Extension _ Interview with Inigo Kennedy
Your programming background seems to have followed you into music making, what with all the modular software, such as Energy XT, Plogue Bidule, Reaktor, Max, Aalto etc… right up to the modular synth that you have. Is it easier to create music in this way – or is it just that the process becomes more creative and ultimately enjoyable? I’m guessing that you like a challenge?
Yeah, it very much becomes about the challenge and the process with a lot of those things. The difficulty is generating anything that comes close to being a track and even more a finished track. Simply spending hours trying to get into the head of some software or system is a different kind of catharsis to music making and no less important I suppose, but it’s not an easy way to make music. It’s a good way of avoiding being generic and when it sounds simple and good is when it works; getting to that point is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack sometimes though.
Are you sentimental about equipment at all, or does it become clutter if it’s not being used? I see the Casio FZ-1 is marked as “stored”. Is there anything that you could never sell or regret getting rid of? Did you finally get that Yamaha DX7?
Yeah, I’m very sentimental. They are almost all like old friends and have their own characters but I have sold a few things that I’ve simply not got along with. I did eventually get a DX7 and in fact it’s the main keyboard in the hardware set up; feels as good to play as their legendary reputation has always been! I spotted one on eBay a few years ago and it turned out to be being sold by someone a few streets away in London so seemed destiny that I should pick it up. Off I went with a trolley and there it was half an hour later in the studio; a Mk1 in great condition and with those proper retro ZX81 style membrane buttons and sounding gritty and warm and great.
Turns out I’m quite an FM fiend and have collected quite a lot of the Yamaha stuff over the years – as well as the DX7 there’s a TX816, TX81Z and FS1-R. There are definitely a few things that are more like desert island synths than others – the Yamaha FS1-R and the Nord Modulars (G1 and G2) would definitely fall into that category. There are a couple of things I’ve regretted not buying at the time but that’s the way it goes. I missed out on a Waldorf Rack Attack years ago (hardware rack version of their Attack VSTi) and they are really hard to find now.
Eventually I tracked one down and it’s a brilliant bit of kit!
Is there anything that you feel like you could improve in your music production skills Inigo? Do you get to spend much time making music these days?
I’m constantly learning and/or experimenting.
I’ve found it interesting to sit in on the mastering of some recent tracks (for example with Matt at Alchemy for the ‘Cathedral’ tracks). It’s an incredibly educational and interesting experience. Part of the problem is to be too close to your own music to make objective decisions about its sound; almost like there’s a fear of changing something too much or losing something. I suppose years of experience as a DJ has had quite an influence on me as well but I’m certainly still learning a lot about what makes some tracks sound so much better out than others; about how sounds sit in the frequency spectrum and stereo image.
The other side of that whole equation though is that technical perfection isn’t the only motivation for making music; the best tracks from an emotional perspective might be technical nightmare. I think maybe a track like ‘Filaments’ on Token is an example of that kind of thing in a way.
Do you like reading about production and finding about new music technology? Is there anything at the moment that is exciting you or that you’d like to see happen..
I read Sound On Sound religiously and have done for about 25 years, so I do have a fairly encyclopaedic knowledge of kit as a result! I think it’s pretty good at the moment to see how much modular analogue stuff is going on; there’s a really healthy cottage industry and I’m curious if it’s something I’ll get myself more into too. I already know though that it’d be pandering to the geeky, gear-lust side of me more than the essential music making machinery side.
I do wonder where the ‘DJ’ side of things is heading as software and digital stuff are taking over so much but it’s quite hard to see where it might be heading as it’s all a bit hyped by marketing which makes it hard to see where the longevity might be. I’d like to see OSC gain more traction and it could really open up things for generic modular hybrids of software, hardware and control. The Arduino and Raspberry Pi models are an interesting side show to that and I wonder how all this will come together with 3d printing too. It would be amazing to be able to assemble your own cheap and flexible controllers almost Lego like but not have to be concerned with the implementation and detail. Unfortunately the major stumbling block to a lot of this is that despite standards being a good thing there are just so many different standards now!
What is your opinion of how music is marketed in modern times?
Digital music marketing has definitely matured to a reasonably good place. The way people buy or access music is so different though; making albums a redundant form and that’s the main game-changer I think. The art form is changing and marketing is just a catalyst to that evolution.
Whats next up for IK? Can we expect an album soon?
Definitely more Token releases to come; the label is going from strength to strength which is brilliant. I’d like to think about an album coming together (despite what I said above) and I’d like to think that things are stepping up in general and reaching a wider audience. There’s a side to my music making that’s largely under the radar that would be nice to get out more too; the more electronic and less techno side of things; partly what the releases on Semantica allowed me to do so I’d like to do more of that as well. As for gigs.. as long as I finally get to do my first ever Tresor gig (which I missed out on in January due to the snow) I’ll be happy! There’s plenty in the pipeline though.
What do you think characterises genius in modern music? Who do you rate?
It’s probably the unknown entities that are the real geniuses. Beware the rise of the underdog!
What do people in work think of your double life? Have the parallel universes ever combined? Any converts over the years?
Yeah the universes have gently crossed over a few times, although I don’t think I’ve made any converts. There are people I meet from time to time in the most unexpected places that know my name or my music and that’s always a bit of a surprise. It’s pretty weird when I’ve had a long haul gig or two (like in Australia) and quite literally popped out from work for a day or two to go most of the way around the planet and back. That definitely rates with the bizarre experiences.
Available on Soundcloud after transmission.