Q&A with DJ and music producer Alex Kennon

In Interviews, Magazine by pg-admin Comments

DJ and music producer Alex Kennon has always been surrounded by great music. As a child, he was classically trained on the Spanish guitar and was, by his own admission, “really good!” Playing for ten years, it not only made him focused, it also allowed him to be disciplined playing at least two hours a day.

Alex also breathed in fumes from his father’s vinyl collection, which was mainly English rock and new wave. It’s a collection he still has today. “I have a lot of vinyl,” he smiles. “My father used to travel and work with military pilots and would bring records back home.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Art is the one common language, attracting your tribe of people that connect through a willingness to express yourself. Working in the arts means I’m not restricted and I can explore my creativity, I’ve always been attracted emotionally to music. Also that office life is not for me, I don’t think I could deal with the monotony of being in the same place every day and I definitely couldn’t deal with the office politics!

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

The sound always comes from an idea, something I’ve experienced first. Something in my surroundings or a sudden colour in the moment develops into a story I want to tell through music so then I have to find the right sound that portrays that feeling. So many times I’ll be sat and an idea will just hit me in the face from something completely insignificant and then I turn that into a track, it’s hard to conceptualise but that so often starts how I make a song.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

I’ve actually got an amazing collaboration with Pete Tong coming out, he’s repeatedly supported my music anyway so it was very natural for us to work together on this track. The outcome is a track we both love, it sounds fat and retro at the same time, plus always works a treat on the crowd! Actually really randomly I’ve been playing in the same city as him twice so far this year so we’ve been able to go to each other’s parties, which meant I got to see him road test the track in both Miami and Berlin. He’s such a legend and I’m super honoured he’s one of the people I get to collaborate with this year.

What’s on your current playlist?

On Spotify, I actually have a playlist called ‘Voodoo Child By Alex Kennon’ which I update with all the new releases that I’ve been working into mixes. I also like to keep my juices flowing with the music I love, I’ve always had a liking for funk music but then also anything electro pop such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Placebo, Massive Attack. Yano whatever is speaking to me in a cool, interesting way.  I’m not interested in sounds I’ve already heard, I like those artists that are bringing something new to the genre and are brave in their presentation whether that’s the legend DJ’s reinventing a sound through a remix or even the smaller producers who are completely changing the game with a new sound or idea.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

I always feel like every new crowd is like a first date, you never know what to expect. You can turn up in your smartest suit with flowers in hand ready to give a good impression yet there’s always the chance you could say the wrong thing. Finding the right groove in the tunes to connect with the crowd in the moment is always very important to me, I like to push their limits every time to get the best chemistry and hopefully a second date!

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

There are no rules in my studio, which allows me to experiment with something cool. Sometimes I pick up a sound that normally wouldn’t fit in my tracks but play around with it, starting from an idea and then let my music run wild with it. Depending on my mood I can play with the sound over a couple of tracks, changing and swapping new ideas in over the same sound, curating a selection of original sounds till I find one that really hits it!

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

I always start the day with the best intentions, but can often leave frustrated and annoyed. When I feel inspired and shaking for getting in the studio I start with the motive of creating the next big track, though you’re not always going to achieve that. When I get angry I just often have to remind myself that this is fun and I’m getting to experiment and create something new,no day is the same and it’s never a waste of time.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

When you’re young and surrounded by music you can’t help but think this is the best thing in the world and I have to find more of this anyway I can! I was lucky and had a residency in a club in Italy when I was 18, playing every Saturday to a full dance floor of other music lovers. Watching that wave of people dancing to the same beat of a tune I was choosing definitely gave me that “this is what I want to do” moment. It’s funny because I always thought I would be a military pilot and follow in my Dad’s footsteps and be the Italian Tom Cruise. I think a DJ suits me better though, a lot more “top billings” than “top gun”, though just as many flights.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

My friends and a good drink! I like to have control of the DJ booth, everything has a place so I want to know which way I need to look up for the decks for what. The best parties always have a groove going on in the DJ booth too so everything feels like one big celebration across the floor. Although I’m not as particular as Rafael Nadal in which way my drinks face; I definitely like to know which side of the decks I need to reach for my tequila.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Actually an artist I’ve had my eye on for a while is Layla Benitez, who I am now playing B2B within Miami soon for the All Gone Pete Tong Pool Party, I’m really excited to see the sound she’s going to bring for this. 

In regards to new and exciting producers, I like hearing the different ideas new acts bring through, there are loads of people bringing new concepts and creating in the game which is definitely important as an emerging act. All of these are definitely catching my attention so I’m loving interpreting their music and new sounds into my sets.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Playing the guitar and watching live musicians puts me in contact with real music, it’s good to not be narrow-minded when working electronically and allow other genres and tastes to influence creativity. But also being in the crowd and watching their reaction to music and also seeing how they dance to my own tracks. This often inspires me to follow it up with a new track as an almost sequel. As soon as I see people dancing to my tracks then the cogs start turning to what I can do next or what needs to be modified.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I have a few bits like the Akai 2000 which is amazing for us shuffling the evergreen Juno 106 / Korg Minilogue, beat step Arturia for some melodies / Ableton push and Roland tr-09 and tr-03 but The modular Eurorack is probably my most used piece of tech when in the studio, it is made up of five different sections which all add to its versatility.

The first is the Intelijel Atlantis, it is a whole synth module based on the design of the old Roland SH101. make noise Maths is next which is there to simply add crazy modulation to what you have already created. The Maleko Varigate 4+ follows which is a super compact and amazing sequencer.

The Basimilus Iteritas Alter from Noise Engineering is an FM percussion sound module which can be modulated in a lot of different ways to make it play complicated-sounding rhythms. Finally, to round off the Eurorack, the Dead box White Lines Echo module is a simple analogue bucket-style delay which comes in very handy.

Any side projects you’re working on?

My mind is always racing and I love pushing my energy into lots of side projects, always coming up with new ideas for food and fashion as these are also my passion. I would love one day to be able to work with these too, combining everything together. Currently, my main focus is definitely music with such a hectic release schedule beside touring, but I still try to work my love for fashion and food into that too, which is why I try to be so well dressed for hotel room service when on tour ha!

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

Honestly, the best way to refine your craft is also the most obvious, it’s just taking the time to focus and really learn whilst playing as much as you can – this keeps your feet on the ground. 

I was lucky that I’ve been able to learn from such influential names in the industry, watching them play and listening to how they command the crowd. DJing alongside big guys such as Carl Cox, Nic Fanciulli, Luciano, Maceo Plex and John Digweed, the same DJ’s I often looked up to, is such an education. I always try to learn from every person I play alongside no matter the name, seeing how they work and also watching how the party moves around them – that’s invaluable! 

Never stop benchmarking against yourself, always moving forward and embracing change – the dancers are your best teachers.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

So at the end of this month, I head to London to play for Green Velvet’s La La Land party at Printworks. It’s exciting as I’ve got an EP coming out on his label ‘Relief Records’ so this will be the perfect chance to play some of the tracks out and road test them to a crowd with a great respect for the party and brand. I’ve got a really fun summer planned with loads of festivals and Ibiza plays so just constantly expect me, always be prepared that a wild Alex Kennon could just pop up at any time!

Famous last words?

could be cool.

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