Merry Xmas!! Hope that whatever you’re up to you’re having a great one. For the Xmas post, I’m delighted to have an interview with Limerick producer Kevin Blake. It’s one I’ve wanted to do for ages – he was the first local producer I heard that I really liked and that got me interested in production. Having followed him since his early beginnings playing in Cork, I’ve watched his sound develop to what it is today and his progression is extremely impressive. His tunes are a testament to his ability as a musician, with each part carefully constructed and well thought out.
He also set up and co runs Electric Underground, a club night which has always been my favourite night out and which has hosted some massive names in Cork such as Luke Vibert, Clark, The Hacker and James Holden to name a few and was a catalyst for fueling my love for electronic music and discovering loads of new artists. Having just returned to these shores after a spell living in Canada, he’s ready to unleash his new productions and tour his band’s debut album, the also savage Private Underground Residence.
I absolutely love his music and can’t speak highly enough of it. He’s only going to get better as well and completely take off and I’m thrilled that he agreed to answer some questions. Not only that but he’s been good enough to give me his unbelievable remix of Death Grips, which you can hear below for the first time and download. It’s one of the best remixes I’ve heard in ages and he’s managed to make an already filthy tune even filthier, putting his own stamp on it.
What got you interested in making electronic music?
When you spend your teenage years being in bands you feel like you have to compromise a lot. I’ve always loved electronic music. It’s not just something I got into in early adulthood. I’ve been listening to Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and Prefuse 73 since I’ve been about 14 or 15. Hearing Kid A for the first time tweaked a few wires in my brain as well. I remember going to a festival just after a band i’d been in for a few years broke up and promising one of my friends that this time next year i’d know how to make electronic music and have an album. The album part was a bit ambitious, but I did learn. I was lucky enough to get some pointers here and there from people who already knew how to use the programs. (Thanks Paddy Montana, Don and Vinnie!)
Why do you think so many people go from rock music to electronic music?
I really think it goes both ways. I think there comes a stage in people’s lives when you just have to open yourself up to all kinds of music. The earlier you do it the better. It’s almost always been 50/50 for me. Good electronic gigs are (generally) much more fun than rock gigs. You don’t have to stare at a band like you’ve never seen one before. You just enjoy the music with your friends and have a dance. It’s a lot more therapeutic than your average rock gig.
You recently just got back from living in Canada for a while. How does the music scene over there compare to Europe?
Yeah I was in Vancouver. I met a lot of really nice people there but I wouldn’t consider it to have an amazing scene. They love all that pitched up vocally dubstep/drum and bass and skrillexy stuff. Then again, you have your small group of heads into their good shit. Max Ulis and HXDB are good producer/dj’s there. Overall though – I had a very productive year of writing new music, but I couldn’t picture myself fitting in anywhere into that particular scene.
How do you approach writing a tune? Do you always have something in mind?
Sometimes i’d be walking home from a night out and a riff would come into my head. Then i’d sing it into my phone and work on it that night or the next day. Usually it’s just starting with a bpm in mind, making a drum beat on that and jamming some synths over it. I’ve been writing songs since i’ve been a kid so i’ve never really had much of an issue developing a track. It just comes naturally. However, you can’t force these things. You have to be in a certain mood; one that you want to spend a few hours doing it. Otherwise, it’s counter productive!
What gear could you not live without?
I’ve become a bit of an audiophile so i’d have to say my headphone amp and sennheisser hd 650 cans. A microphone is a really good tool for messing around and sticking through effects or synths as well. Sometimes it’s easier to sing what’s in you head in rather than playing it.
What producers are influencing you at the moment?
Alva Noto, The Person, Death Grips, Jackson And His Computer Band (still), Loops Haunt, Matthew Herbert, Take, Vaetxh, Ancient Methods, Fourtet, Fran Hartnett, Boxcutter, Tim Hecker and more i can’t think of….
You also started Electric Underground and have brought some massive names to Cork in the past five years. What have you learned from the club? How hard is it to be a promoter with the current state of the economy?
It’s very hard these days… Unless you want to compromise and put on shit music. I’ve learned a huge amount. It has pretty much been my life for the past five years. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions, and it’s impossible to please everyone. I’m both amazed and proud that we’ve been able to keep it afloat for five years now, especially considering the fact that the country is broke. These days we just concentrate on breaking even with low door prices. If we make a profit, we invest it straight back in to the next event, or pay off previous outstanding debts! Essentially – more people need to support good club nights, even if it just means plugging them on their social networks. Everything is a help to struggling promoters, venues and labels these days.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.” – Barbara Kingsolver
“A song without emotion is like a motion way too long” – (I just made that up) – k to the blake – 2011
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve had a bit of a gap year in 2011, so i’m hoping I can make a bit of an impact in 2012 with my own new productions and the release of our band Private Underground Residence’s debut album. I’m pretty excited about both.
What advice would you give to young producers starting out making tunes or setting up nights?
Always keep a good head on your shoulders. Just because your friends think your music is great doesn’t mean you’re there. Accept criticism with appreciation when it comes; sometimes it’s tough to hear, but without good constructive criticism along the way i’d be lost. Keep hunting for inspiration; whether it means traveling or reading books. Try not to get yourself too caught up in a loop!
As for nights – look for niches, rent good soundsystems, have a good graphic designer to help create an image or (I hate this word) ‘brand’. Don’t get too competitive – try to help maintain a good community buzz. We all want to put Ireland on the map, but it’s going to take teamwork.
Few words about the remix:”Death Grips are the rawest thing i’ve heard in a couple of years and Ex-Military was my favourite album of 2011. They’re one of those groups you either love or you don’t. The original of this track is very minimal. I wanted to bring its energy towards the dancefloor and make a bit of a stomper out of it. I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, and i’m sure my neighbours enjoyed the bass line vibrating their couches”.Download the remix here: