Interview w/ Inigo Kennedy on his latest EP release - VOLT003.
Electronic music DJ and producer Inigo Kennedy is one of the well-established figures of the UK techno scene. With a discography of more than a hundred releases, the prolific artist has developed a style of his own, combining dark and powerful techno with melancholic, IDM-influenced soundscapes, for almost 25 years.
It is this very signature sound that he develops and reinvents in his newest release on VOLTAGE Imprint. The 4-tracks EP “Arcadian Falls”, third release of the label (VOLT003), takes a contemporary approach to Inigo Kennedy ethereal yet hard-hitting universe, resulting in beautiful emotional pieces prone to both dancefloor explorations and introspection.
Have a listen to Inigo Kennedy's latest release:
This new release gave us the chance to have a talk - online, courtesy of the corona - with the artist. From the conception of his EP amidst special times to his vision of the future of the scene. Get to know more about Inigo Kennedy in the following interview.
Your productions are known for brilliantly associating techno with a range of emotions, often in a melancholic setting. Could you describe what your new EP 'Arcadian Falls' feels like, the emotions it conveys?
Thank you for the kind words! It's not really an intentional decision to make a particular kind of music, it's really just what I naturally gravitate towards. Initially as a listener and later as a producer. I'm strongly rooted by melancholic music through indie, shoegaze, etc. and I'd say a lot of synth pop that I grew up surrounding myself with. 'Arcadian Falls' is without doubt tinged with those roots very much. I'm pretty proud of the tracks to be honest!
Did you conceive your EP as a coherent whole, or is it more of an assemblage of different tracks you've produced separately (as on Resident Advisor you said it was often the case for your EPs compared to your albums)?
The tracks weren't necessarily produced as a coherent whole but they work as one and that's the key - pulling from different times but similar atmospheres and evoking similar feelings. The title track 'Arcadian Falls' is one I'd been playing out for quite a while and always getting a great reaction both from the crowd and in myself behind closed eyes. So, the EP was really built around that idea. In fact it was Voltage Imprint that reached out to me about the track having heard it!
Did you produce this EP the same way as you described you usually do, in a fast, quite punk, and 'live-recording'-like manner? Or has the way you produce changed over time?
I'd say so, yes. I still produce music in essentially the same way - performing in a moment rather than endlessly designing towards some sort of premeditated outcome. I tend to produce using Maschine as it is a pretty direct way for me to get ideas down quickly although I have worked more with Bitwig recently. I usually just record to a stereo master as it happens so there isn't really the concept of bouncing down or stems or parts to work with - basically record and move on. I'm constantly moulding and shaping the whole sound as I'm producing and performing - there's a fair bit of cross over between how I produce and how I DJ and vice versa. I suppose being able to do that comes with a degree of experience both as a producer and as a DJ where I know how certain things might sound or behave. It's ironic that I'm quite a perfectionist but I thrive on this almost accidental way of working - hit record and capture what happens and maybe an accident becomes the key part of a track, maybe a part glitched, a delay got overloaded, a parameter did something I didn't expect... The only real change I've made over the past few years is to edit and 'pre-master' those recordings non destructively so I can go back to the original recording more easily and address the overall sound or edit more easily. I use Reaper now for that along with a bunch of plugins - primarily UAD and Voxengo.
During the production of this EP, were there any specific influences (artists, events) that inspired you more than usual?
I don't think so but there are certainly events where I know some of the tracks are going to work really well - but maybe that's just the way the energy is flowing at that moment. Of the four tracks there is one 'Mazy' which I think wouldn't be recognised as one of mine but it's interesting as it has also got a really positive reaction - that one was inspired by a particular plugin called EchoMelt and there's definitely a touch of Boards Of Canada about it. Psychic Modulation are a less well known plugin maker but their stuff is brilliant - EchoMelt, VectoMelt, Phonec2, PulseCode are all really inspiring tools. I guess the tracks are more inspired by a particular plugin or sound and built around that.
During an interview with BEYEAH you spoke about how combining your artistic life with your family and your job could sometimes be a challenge, time-wise. Did the events of these past months (COVID-19) enable you to spend more time home, hence being able to produce more (notably for this release)?
It's been an intense few months but ultimately as a family we are in a very fortunate situation compared to so many other people. I had very little mental space for music at the beginning of the COVID-19 lock-down in Europe. I suffer quite badly from anxiety and this abrupt change and uncertain outlook, on top of being in a country where horrendous decisions were being taken by the government, was difficult for me to deal with. As the months have passed that anxiety has faded and the head space for music has returned. As for time though it's in many ways harder to come by than before - yes I'm not travelling or exhausted at the weekends but there's a different kind of exhaustion. Juggling working at home around home-schooling and being a parent 24/7 without any mental breaks is tougher than usual in a lot of ways. That said, if I stand back and take a look, I've ended up being quite productive which is great. A bunch of releases and remixes are surfacing not to mention the huge task of getting dozens of my old vinyl releases as Reducer, Tomito Satori and on my label Asymmetric released digitally for the first time via Bandcamp. There are still 21 Asymmetric MP3 releases to re-master and get onto Bandcamp as well! I'm really pleased with the tracks and timing of the 'Arcadian Falls' EP and it's definitely a release I've been really excited to see the light of day; even more so in the current global situation. I think it's amazing that the opportunity is there to release music and provide an escape for people.
You are known for being one of the keystones of the respected label Token Records. This is your first release outside of Token in almost five years, and it seems like Token is taking a different direction by letting go (a bit) of its stalwarts such as you, CTRL, and Ø (Phase) - artists that Token has almost been 'built' around. Would you agree with this idea of both Token and its artists entering a kind of 'new era'?
It's definitely not the end of an era and I had a long chat with Kr!z (who runs Token) towards the end of last year. We talked about plans for the future, for sure, but it's also great for the label to pull in new names and the recent compilation 'Fuga' had some awesome music I have to say; that Nastia Reigel track is off the scale for a start. The whole scene is in a state of flux too and that's amplified and accelerated by the current situation and it will take some time for the dust to settle again - maybe the music people need or will react to will be different because circumstances will be different. I'm happy to spread my wings a little more at the moment too and, if anything, ultimately I'm quite focussed on bringing my own label Asymmetric back to life. I have quite a lot of music to release. That's partly the driver to putting the old releases up on Bandcamp this year; it's a bit of a catch up to reset the landscape. I've got a purely electronic project coming later this year too via UTCH Elektronics (Chile) - 7", cassette and digital. The first release on that sub-label is just about out now from Samuli Kemppi and titled 'Huuto Pimeässä'.
Apart from Token, your work has been released on a number of labels such as Missile, Semantica or Stroboscopic Artefacts. You also have your own label, Asymmetric. Why choosing to collaborate with VOLTAGE on this EP and how did this collaboration go?
As I said above it was Voltage Imprint that reached out to me about the title track 'Arcadian Falls'. I was certain that the track should stand alone and not be buried in a compilation for example and the idea of an EP came around and I jumped at it! I had maybe a dozen or so tracks that I thought could be whittled down to an EP along with 'Arcadian Falls' and between us we determined the four tracks - in part giving the EP a more cerebral direction since dancefloors are not top of anyone's agenda at the moment. I'm also impressed with the way Voltage do things - the whole ethos and attention to detail is exceptional, the Festival and the Imprint, and that's something that is important to me.
Over your almost 25 years of musical carrier, you have produced under different aliases such as Reducer, Helki Törsnum and Tomito Satori. Was there a specific project being each one? Why sticking to your own name in the end?
There wasn't really an agenda beyond the sheer amount of music I was producing at that time and the amount that was being released too. The aliases did kind of settle on their own sonic identity - Tomito Satori being harsh and relentless stuff (centered around raw energy and using filter and distortion circuits that I built) and Reducer being more hypnotic (centered around the use of delays and polyrhythms). A lot of people are still surprised to learn that I'm being those aliases although maybe less now that I've got it all up on Bandcamp. I suppose sticking to my own name was really just a product of distilling those ideas down and focussing on a particular direction. There are still tracks I make which I say to myself "that sounds like a Reducer track" or I might even set out to make something like that. The alias is not necessarily dead! Asymmetric also became a good way for me to release music that was most personal and important and not feel like I needed a different outlet - even more so when it became a digital only label in the nascent days of net labels. Eventually that worked well and laid the foundations for developing my relationship and sound with Token and going from strength to strength.
You're not only a producer but also a DJ and performer, and COVID-19 must have impacted you on this side with gigs cancellation and the like. How are you coping with the current situation? What effects has it had on your artistic life?
I suppose I touched on it above but I definitely miss the outlet of creative energy as well as the inspiration that travel, time alone and hearing music in that environment brings. So, artistically I'm seeking inspiration a little differently I suppose. I've always worked a regular job and, thankfully more so now than ever, have never relied on gigs to survive or as a motive for releasing music; I'm happy from that point of view as there must be incredible pressure and impact on a lot of people. I just really really miss dark rooms and loud music; that escape and release from everything.
Back to your EP for this last question, especially on the fact that your music has this particularity of being suited for both the dance floor and the seasoned listener. Thinking of those that will dive into the listening of your EP after reading this article, is there any specific setting in which you would recommend the listening of your EP?
I would simply say eyes closed. That's how I would do it. In fact, that's how I *do* do it.
Thank you for the great questions and believing in 'Arcadian Falls'! Let's hope to see the Voltage Festival back next year; it was without doubt one of the highlights of my calendar in the past few years! Cheers!
- Interview by Jeanne Briatte