February 6, 2012
Just few days before his return to Rome at “Exe-cute”, we have turned away from his studio work Strahil Velchev, known to most by his pseudonym KiNK. Strahil spoke among other things of his distance collaboration with Neville Watson, his love for electronic music and analogue machines, his forthcoming new album, his city Sofia, Italy and at last he drew up for us his personal all time House music TOP 5. Happy reading!
I’m always ready to experiment, I prefer to try and fail, instead of doing a set, which no one will remember.
Ciao Strahil and welcome back!
Last summer we witnessed your amazing duet with Neville Watson at the Dancity Festival. The two of you together climbed the charts with such tracks as “Blueprint” and “Metropole”. Can you tell us how you two met each other and how you work together despite the distance?
Hi, thank you for your kind words, we had a great time at the Dancity Festival, as I expected!
In 2006 I saw a picture on the internet, a dj called Neville Watson, playing my first vinyl. At that time not too many people had heard of me, I already knew of Neville, I found him on Myspace and I said I’m thankful for his support. We started speaking about music on the internet, one day he mentioned “let’s make a track together”. I said “ok!”, he sent some samples and 6 months later I sent him back a track. It’s called ‘Inside Out’. By another coincidence Rush Hour Recordings released it in 2008 and this chain of coincidences changed our lives! We always worked through the internet, in the beginning – exchanging e-mails with attached files, later on – long Skype conversations, but we found we really enjoy jamming together in the studio and we are really efficient in one room together, so we are planning some proper studio sessions this year!
The Chicago-House of the late 80s and 90s is back. Those sounds are now a reference point for many artists, also pop artists, such as Animal collective, Azari & III, Hercules and Love Affair with whom you’ve recently collaborated (i.e. Kim Ann Foxman). Where does your passion for those sounds stem from? What are the common points between that and today’s music and what are the artists, in your opinion, that are best suited to reinterpret such sounds in a more modern way?
My first passion for electronic music came with the music from the early 90’s, the second wave of detroit techno acts and other new sounds from Europe, like the bleep techno and early Jungle/Breakbeats. I discovered the original house sound of Chicago several years later, but I loved it, especially the acid-house, because I found my favorite sound concepts in their most raw, pure and original form. I guess that’s the magic of it – raw, stripped to the bone, energy in its most pure from.
I want to draw a parallel between this music and the Bauhaus style in the architecture and design – it’s minimal and functional, and so futuristic, if you look at a Bauhaus style product – it looks modern, despite the fact this design school existed only for a short period, between 1919 – 1933. The proto house will always look at the future, the latest project in this vein, which caught my ears is an Italian duo, which I know from Bosconi Records, they interpret the sound in a fresh way and I love it!
A while ago during an interview you said “I would sacrifice a good mix-down for a special sound”. How do you approach being a DJ and a perfomer?
When I had options to dj at some bars in Sofia, 11-12 years ago, I started to do it unprepared, as I haven’t got a place and gear to practice. One of the first live gigs i did – I haven’t got any equipment as well, so i borrowed a laptop the night before and I took a midi controller from another artist, an hour before my stage time. Now I can mix well and I believe I have good reputation as a live act, but it would never happen, if I was waiting to do it properly, when i’m ready and when I have the right tools. I’m always taking the duty on stage very seriously, I don’t drink when I play, but I’m always ready to experiment, I prefer to try and fail, instead of doing a set, which no one will remember.
Speaking about ‘live’ performances in clubs nowadays is becoming improper. In your performances we can see laptops used alongside analogue machines. What is your set up like for live performances? Do you like to improvise? We know you love synth that you also like to build and assemble. What was your last purchase?
I always used a combination of analog and digital equipment on stage. However, I found a lot of weak spots on the hybrid nature of my setup. I just started to work on two different shows, one digital based (my current setup) and an analog one. In my current setup I replaced two small analog synths with Novation X-station (synth, keyboard and audio interface). The rest of the setup remains the same, I control Ableton with two “Launchpad” devices by Novation, one Akai LPD8 and The Ribbon – very unusual controller by Eowave. This setup gives me freedom, as I love to improvise, I play keys and I trigger drum samples, I write basslines in real time (often I ask someome from the audience to do it), but it’s still pretty safe, with a huge library of KiNK loops and tracks, loaded in Ableton. On the other hand – the analog show I`m working on will be 100% improvisation with no backup, no computer or anything pre-programmed. Only one drummachine (MFB 522) a bass synth (MFB Synth II), a semi-modular mini Monster Microzwerg and MFB Urzwerg for live sequence.
The Urzwerg is the most recent gear addition, very intuitive analog sequencer with a lot of knobs and buttons to play with. Last week I just purchased the finishing touches for this hardware only setup – a small mixer by Mackie, a compressor with the interesting name “Really Nice Leveling Amplifyer” and a wicked delay/looper effect, called Memory Man. I can’t wait to put my hands on them!
In your latest EP released on Shari Vari (Tracks from the Vault) there’s room for deep house music, techno and even IDM. Is it true you’re working on a new album? Can you tell us anything about it or anecdotes about its production?
The music we release on the “Tracks from the Vault” series is very personal and honest. Olivier, the boss of Shari Vari heard my old unreleased experiments. He offered to remaster and press those tracks, so we can show a different face of “KiNK”.
I started to do some sketches for an album last year, but it will take more time than I expected. I had very busy gig schedule during 2011, I had to work a lot on optimizing my live show and learning Ableton better, as well as doing some remixes I couldn’t reject. I also worked on music with friends, my collaborations with Neville Watson and Marc Romboy, that was a distraction from the album as well. But I have a more clear vision for this year and I hope I can surprise you with at least one solo ep or single before the summer and an album after the summer, as well as more music with Neville and Marc.
We don’t know much about your homeplace, Sofia. Is there an active underground scene? If we were to go on a night out together, where would you take us dancing?
There was big enthusiasm about all the sorts of electronic music in Bulgaria and Sofia at the second part of the 90’s, but at some point the underground music lost it’s charm for the young people in my country after the millenium. I was very pesimistic about the club life in Sofia lately and I’m a bit detached from it, as i travel a lot, but recently I discovered some nice spots in my city, my number one choice is called “Vlaikova”, it’s an old cinema theater. The main floor is more like a bar, the music can be anything, from UK Funky to Techno, the visitors are very easy, a family of like minded people. But the sticky underground floor (the basement) is “the epicentre of the rave” as my friends say. I still haven’t played there and I can’t wait to do it!
Recently you’ve been quite often to Italy. What do you think of the Italian scene? Are there artists you know and you’d like to work with?
The electronic music scene in Italy is good, but what makes me love playing in Italy are the people. They are warm-blooded, passionated about everything, they know how to enjoy music and life. It’s something that people normally say about Italy, but when you experience it through the music scene – It’s much more honest and colorful. So I’m really looking forward to get back!
There are many Italian artists I like, the first name that pops up in my mind is Marco Passarani, a true legend. The Bosconi guys I’ve mentioned earlier and their “Life’s Track” project really blew me away. From the older “techno” generation I love Lory D, some of his compositions on Sounds Never Seen are timeless. Also I want to mention my good friend, known as Frankie Serious. He is based in Rome, just starting his recording career now, but I see potential in his dark psyhedelic techno sounds.
To wrap it all up, what are the 5 house tracks that have been and still are a source of inspiration to you?
If I stay in the house genre, the first 5 ones that come in my mind, without particular order are:
MR. FINGERS – Can You Feel it – Trax Records
DJ SNEAK – Keep On Groovin (Ian’s Fierce mix) – Urban
CAJMERE feat. DAJAE – Brighter Days (Underground Goodies mix) – Cajual Records
RON TRENT & CHEZ DAMIER – Morning Factory – Prescription
PHUTURE – Acid Tracks – Trax Records
Credits: Picture 1 KiNK at The Camp, London, by Roo Kendall; Picture 2 KiNK at Corsica Studios, London, by Antony Price
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