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David Keno: “I try to stay away from trends”

Swiss-born, Berlin-based David Keno began his musical life learning classical instruments such as guitar and drums when he was 12. After playing in various rock bands he discovered his love of electronic music. Over the years he has released on labels such as Relief, Toolroom, Suara, Mother Recordings, Noir, Snatch! ViVa Music, Kindisch and provided remixes for Samuel L. Session, G-Man, da Fresh, Robert Drewek, Hugg&Pepp, DK8 and even 80ies heroes Trans-X. In January 2007 he founded Keno Records with huge success. His debut track ‘Liquid’ went on to be found in the playlists of many DJs.

In David Keno’s DJ sets or also as a Live act his musical range goes from minimal techno to house. Very floor-oriented but often with a certain melodic touch. Maybe these are his roots from the 80ies shining through.

We had the chance to talk with David Keno as he just released his latest EP ‘We Got Our Own’ alongside Dalson’, number 50 on his own imprint, Keno Records.

Electronic Groove: Hi David. Thanks for the time. You’ve been very busy with your label Keno Records. With 50 releases under its belt, has the label kept its initial concept?

David Keno: Thanks to you. Not at all. It started as my own playground in 2006 as my sound didn’t really fit on any other label. After a while, people started sending me their demos and I slowly turned it into a ‘proper’ label with a whole bunch of artists.

Electronic Groove: For your latest release you’ve teamed up with Dalson. What can you tell us about the production behind the EP ‘We Got Our Own’?

David Keno: I know the guys from Dalson since a long time ago. We grew up in the same area near Frankfurt and went to the same parties and raves for a while, but we barely knew each other. It took us more than 10 years to become friends.

Felix – one half of Dalson – and I separately moved to Berlin, but later we met and went to the studio together. It turned to be a lot of fun and we produced a couple of tracks that ended up on labels like Toolroom, Formatik and Plastic City.

‘We Got Our Own’ was more like a jam session. We found this great preacher woman sample and just started playing around with her voice. After 2 hours, we had the first rough version of the track which turned out to be the final version. Sometimes it just works.

Electronic Groove: In terms of gear, do you have any go-to instrument when developing a certain track?

David Keno: At the moment, I like playing to produce with my modular system bringing some inspiration. Wiring up some weird patches and playing around with a hardware sequencer generate new ideas, which would never happen with a mouse and a computer.  Another thing is my Roland Space Echo. Not always for the reverb or the tape delay, sometimes I just run my drum bus through it, and use this old school overdriven sound. Lovely.

Electronic Groove: Do you think it’s important to use organic and analog instruments to obtain a more human feel when producing a record?

David Keno: Yes, definitely for me. There are producers who achieve an organic sound without any outboard equipment, just plugins, and samples, but I can’t do this. I always use at least one key element that is not in the box. Sometimes I send the drum buss through my compressors and make them really work hard.

The rough sound of my Dominion 1 or the screaming filters of my modular system is something that I could never reproduce inside the box.  On the other hand, the plugins really have improved the last 10 years. Who knows what’s possible in another 10 years…

Electronic Groove: Are there any remixes planned for this EP?

David Keno: No, this time we just went with a 2 tracker. I think the originals can stand on their own. Maybe later we’ll do a remix EP, but we didn’t need it this time. I don’t think that every release needs a remix.

Electronic Groove: When performing what do you prefer: MP3 or Vinyl?

David Keno: Back in the days I started on vinyl, but today I don’t see the point anymore. I use CDJs and USB sticks with AIFF files. Please dear labels, don’t use WAV anymore. It’s the same thing like AIFF minus the ID tags and the artwork. It just doesn’t make sense and it’s a pain to add this myself every time.

The discussion about what medium a DJ uses isn’t very important for me. Sure, I like it when someone puts some effort and thoughts into this, but I’ve heard good and bad DJ sets on every medium, so that by itself is no indicator of good quality.

Electronic Groove: How was NYE for you?

David Keno: It was great. First, we had a nice artist dinner at Docks in Hamburg. They prepared a huge Raclette for 18 people in their office, which was a pretty cool idea. Around midnight we had a private party on the 6th floor, with a nice view and the fireworks. Then we went back to the club where I played from 3 to 5 am. It was one of those gigs where everything worked and the people just followed me. A great start to the new year.

Electronic Groove: Do you have a certain formula or process that helps in keeping the inspiration levels in tune for so many years?

David Keno: If you have a formula, it will get boring pretty quickly. During my career, I have never stick to only one genre for a long time. It was generally between house and techno, but I’m always leaning in one way and later in the other way. My problem is that if the trend goes into one direction I like to go the opposite way. For example, I was doing the melodic stuff for a long time, but a couple of years ago when it turned into a trend and everybody tried to be deep house, I liked to produce functional tech house. That’s definitely not the easiest way to go, but in the long run it keeps me entertained. After all these years, I’m still here.

Electronic Groove: ‘We Got Our Own’ is definitely an important milestone for the label. Do you see this EP as a personal achievement in your trajectory as an artist?

David Keno: It’s hard to say if a track or a release will be still relevant in a couple of years, but I think this one will do. I try to stay away from trends and a certain type of effects because this always binds the track to a certain time. This will sound dated very soon, and that’s something I try to avoid.

Electronic Groove: Any particular goals for 2018?

David Keno: This year I want to push myself to make better tracks, take my label to the next level, become a better DJ and play great shows on a regular basis.

David Keno’s ‘We Got Our Own’ is already available. Grab your copy here.

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