Out the gate with a Beatport chart-topping debut release on Whoyostro followed by a #1 DJ mag recognition in the genre with Andhera, Ken Kelly has come out swinging in the deep minimal tech scene.
In an age where the ground floor is filled with artists desperately grasping at creating something original, Ken Kelly’s history as a songwriter, singer, and R&B producer has set his records apart from the rest with striking contrast. So much so that his music has started to gain traction as an onboarding ramp for new audiences to discover minimal tech.
With 2020 establishing his footing in the scene, Ken Kelly has 2021 loaded with new music set to launch him to the forefront of the NYC talent pool.
We caught up with Ken Kelly to talk about his new release ‘Deep Space’ and other musical topics,
Electronic Groove: Hey Ken, great to chat with you today. How was your Christmas and New Year?
Ken Kelly: Hey, guys! Likewise, my Christmas was great, I spent the whole time producing and watching The Walking Dead series right through to the New Year so I’d say super productive.
EG: How has life been during 2020 for you personally? How did you stay busy during the enforced lockdowns?
Ken Kelly: Life got super boring, I was very active at the clubs every weekend, and even during the weekdays, everything got put to a screeching halt. I ended up spending all my time instead in the studio making more music across all my projects! And when I wasn’t doing that I was working on building up my 2 music start-ups on the side. All the rest of the time went to some quality TV time, HBO owns a portion of my life and I’m okay with that haha.
EG: Has it impacted your creativity, what things you value, given you a new perspective?
Ken Kelly: It definitely impacted my creativity because I had a lot more time to just spend listening to music. At my house between the moment I’m awake till the moment I go to sleep I pretty much always have music playing. And since I was at home all the time I really was able to really actively listen to a lot of great new music from such a broad spectrum of new artists and labels in the minimal space.
My values, however, for the most part, remained unchanged, as a person whose life is totally engrossed in the event space, the lack of it has just left me wanting it even more (laughter).
EG: In normal times what is the scene in New York like? Thriving clubs, lots of aspiring DJs, good record shops?
Ken Kelly: New York, and Brooklyn in particular, are just such hotbeds for talent. I have genuinely been spoilt by the club scene out here with so many quality clubs, DJs, and crowds. It almost makes you forget we all are part of the underground scene, in fact, super underground and unknown.
I’ve made a lot of my close friends through this scene, and you can just see everybody crewing up to try and make our own mark on the city. I’m very excited for what’s to come once everything comes open again.
“I approach music a lot more traditionally than most
producers in the current age”
EG: Brooklyn is a source of inspiration for you? Does the city have its own sound?
Ken Kelly: I can confidently say I would not be making house music, or know anything about it if I had not moved to Brooklyn and experienced the club life out here. Places like Output and Good Room, Elsewhere, Nowadays, and the Brooklyn Mirage really were the hands that shaped me into the DJ and producer I am today.
I want to say the city has a sound but I can’t, the fact is whatever you are into, you can find the beating heart of the scene pumping at a club somewhere in Brooklyn.
EG: You contributed to the Andhera Records Winter Sampler Volume 1 with your track ‘Deep Space’. Can you tell us about your tune and what you had in mind when you were in the studio?
Ken Kelly: I’m constantly trying to push the frontier of something familiar and fresh in the minimal space. With ‘Deep Space’, I was trying to find a nice meeting place where my generally poppy tendencies could find their feet with the rolling minimal bassline you’d hear in like a Meta/Inkal track. I think the combination made for an interesting mix with this track and I’m just stoked it’s coming out.
EG: You also have a new release on Swerve Digital coming up, how did that come about?
Ken Kelly: Huff who runs the podcast and manages the label actually reached out to me for a track via Instagram. I was thrilled because it coincided with my growing obsession with their catalog – I’d just discovered them a few weeks prior. Without hesitation, I said I’d get something done for him and put everything else on hold. This happened right around when I got my new Moog Grandmother. I pretty much brought it into the house and put the bassline for ‘What’s Ur Name’ down in Ableton with it and built the whole track around it (laughter). It’s safe to say I’m super happy with my new writing partner. It’s also the synth I used for the bass in ‘Deep Space’!
EG: What inspires you, where do you start on a tune, do you always have an idea?
Ken Kelly: I’ve actually spoken about this with a couple of my friends a few times, I approach music a lot more traditionally than most producers in the current age. I pretty much just sit around and wait for an idea to spring into my mind and then start materializing what I have. It’s usually a small melodic bit but I can hear all the instruments before I sit at the computer. I did start music as a singer/songwriter so I spent a lot of time just imagining the music to accompany what I was coming up with and as I’ve gotten to become a better producer and sound designer I’ve gotten better at putting down what I hear to make most of what I think up at this point.
“I’m constantly trying to push the frontier of something familiar and fresh in the minimal space”
EG: What else are you working on/have you got coming up?
Ken Kelly: I’ve got a remix in the works for the legendary Whoyostro and I’ve been cooking up a few collabs with my homies James Wyler, and another with Botez. The EP’s for both are about to be done so we will be hunting for a home for them soon. The lead tracks from both are already such unique pieces though I’m quite excited for them.
EG: What personal or musical goals do you have for 2021?
Ken Kelly: To try and make a hit song (laughter), just something that takes on a life beyond me. This is and always will be the goal for me!