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| Artist's Bio & Live Videos :: Kenny Ken

 

Artist's DJ List Information


Current Location :: London, UK
Music Genres :: Drum & Bass


Artist's DJ List & DJ Mag Rankings

DJ Mag Ranks :: (2010) N/A (2011) N/A (2012) N/A
DJ List Ranks :: (Global) 2,041 (Drum & Bass) 73

If you ever need to know the secret of how to become a successful DJ without having necessarily played a multitude of pre-house genres of dance, then talk to Kenny Ken. His honesty earns respect when he tells of how the technological innovations of early house back in 1988 and 1989 switched him on to spinning vinyl for a career.

A career that in a relatively short period of time has put him up amongst the DJs he cites as being inspirational. And all this for a man who is only 26. But even though his ambition was driven by the kind of names he now comfortably appears next to on flyers from World Dance to Pandemonium, there were forces closer to home helping to sow the seeds for his success.

“I began DJing in 1989 after I bought a pair of decks in April of that year, but initially I wasn’t very confident, even though I really wanted to learn how to mix. Fortunately, two of my friends had been DJing as a duo called ‘Dem 2’, and it really fascinated me the way they played their music, so I asked them if they would come round and teach me what to do.

I didn’t expect them to agree, but they did, and so they came to my house after an Ibiza rave and mixed all day, saying that I should have a go. I wouldn’t, though, because I thought if I mess up my mixes, everyone who was there would laugh. Once they went, though, I had a go after studying what they had been doing and within 3 months I felt I was good enough to play out. Well, at least I thought I was good enough, because when it actually came to playing out for the first time, I couldn’t handle the monitors because they were so loud. After 6 months or so, I was fully used to them”.

Once Kenny had put himself through the paces of learning the tricks of the trade, it wasn’t long before he started taking bookings for established clubs. His first experience of playing a venue was in a basement of a pub in Kings Cross where for 2 months he played alongside ‘Dem 2’ every Thursday night, but soon greater things were to follow as he hitched up with The Goldmine Club for a regular Friday night session enjoyed by as many as 5,000 people, whose weekly pilgrimage brought them together on Essex’s Canvey Island.

From there, East London’s Labyrinth picked up on his talent, enlarging upon his Essex-based fame and spread his name around his original stomping ground of Hackney and Stamford Hill. More importantly this introduced him to the Capital’s club scene. It was at this point that Kenny got his biggest break with Dave Pearson’s legendary Crazy Club – “that’s what really put me on the map, because playing in front of those crowds, you had to play good!”

From that time on, the reputation of Kenny Ken has grown from strength to strength by playing a host of renowned parties from Energy, Genesis and Pandemonium to Fusion and Quest, as well as taking raves in Australia, Spain and Canada. There were also times when he played on pirates Centreforce and Dance FM, but now Kenny is on a roll with some of the more underground organisations, and intent on spreading the word for a new breed of hardcore – jungle.

Every weekend you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll be laying down the best in drum and bass grooves at A.W.O.L., Thunder and Joy or Jungle Fever alongside a core of no-compromise jocks that are the new elite; be it the established names of Grooverider, Mickey Finn, JJ Frost, Fabio, Randall and Ron, or the newer forces to be reckoned with of Brockie, Darren Jay, Swift, SL and Ash. But it hasn’t been an easy ride getting there, as Kenny talks of that evolutionary period of Darkness that encouraged the transition from hardcore to Jungle.

 

“At one point I was losing my direction a bit because I didn’t know where the music was going, and there was a lot of dark music with no melody going about which I couldn’t get into when I was playing. I was playing it more to keep myself on the map, and I didn’t want to play other music because I wanted to keep in the direction the music was going. At one point I thought that if this is how the music is going, I ain’t gonna last too long.

People weren’t having it to some of the tunes I was playing, so I adjusted my style because I wanted people to have it to what I was playing. In the end I just rode it out like everyone else did because there was a lot of other DJs that felt this way too. Now it’s got more musical with improved production and better quality pressings. Producers are programming and engineering breaks so that some of the tunes don'’ even sound like they are using a breakbeat as such, it just sounds more like a beat and I think overall the scene has got a better atmosphere because of this”.

Now that Kenny has found his direction again, he seems to buzz with enthusiasm when confronted with the future for both jungle and himself. “Jungle is here to stay for a while, and I think the ragga influence is going to get more prominent sooner or later as the proper ragga men start to get involved. Because many music makers are using that ragga/reggae influence a lot of people relate to this because it is street music. When you hear all the toasters like General Levi and Supercat chatting over drum and bass, it’s just like reggae was, and so young people who don’t necessarily like going to ragga gigs but like that sound will come and listen to our music because it’s similar but on a faster tempo.

But even though I like this style, personally speaking I wanna progress, and I feel ragga’s always been there and the only difference is that it’s getting mixed with jungle now, so the end product is not totally brand new. Quite a lot of the material I am playing now has a futuristic element to it and that’s the sort of jungle I want to move into now, but unfortunately I don’t always get to play this side of the music because when you play places like Roast for instance, they don’t really want to hear so much of it. It’s more places like the Paradise that are more on that kind of tip”.

Over the last two or three months jungle has received an unprecedented degree of attention from the media, as if it were a completely new phenomenon. The reality is that these bandwagonists are new to the sound and will probably drop it and denigrate it as quick as they’ve championed it as part of their ongoing pursuit of the next thing. Take for example Mixmag, who are preparing an article on “Jungle Fashion”, even though they never cover the music properly. Many on the underground welcome this deserved attention, but remain cautious and sceptical since it was only a year or two ago that this same scene was being bad-mouthed by the media.

Kenny is certainly aware of this; “Jungle is getting a bigger audience now, and it’s getting an older audience, too, because the music has matured since the early days of rave. But now stations like Kiss FM and certain magazines are onto it, it’s getting all the attention which is good, but why are they coming onto it now

They are only coming on to it now because jungle is getting big. All the people that have worked hard to put jungle where it is today might not get their due, because now the big majors are getting involved, all the DJs and producers who have been playing it and making it happen might not all get contacted by the major music industry that wants to know. As far as I’m concerned, they are just cashing in, they can see there is money to be made and so they are now interested in it. For example, I think it is a good thing that Kiss have finally decided to have a jungle show, but really it’s only because pirates like Kool, Weekend Rush and Don FM have been pushing it, and I think now they will suffer for it”.

One aspect of jungle that the major recording industry has little hope of tapping into, at least for the time being, is dubplates. Although no a totally new concept, this is one unique factor that differentiates jungle from any other contemporary form of dance music, in that DJs have virtually become their own A&R men. Officially, a 10 inch plate will set you back something like £35, but in reality an established DJ will look at paying a score to get two tracks cut onto dub, be it an unsigned artist, or tracks from an independent jungle label. And considering most DJs pay for the cutting of their own plates it would be foolish to pay this kind of money for a track you wouldn’t play.

Says Kenny: “On average I’m getting about 3 or 4 plates cut a week. I pay for most of mine and I don’t mind, because if you want a tune you will play, then it’s worth paying for it. I’m happy if I get 7 or 8 tracks a week, but I know some DJs who cut much more a week and it’s usually those DJs whose sets are all on metal. I don’t cut that much, because I don’t feel I need to. I like to play for the crowd, and more often than not, the dubplates are not what the crowd want to hear. 50% of them are just testers so the producers can see how the tune sounds on the crowd, and if it don’t sound good, it goes back to the studio and everything starts again – that’s the other side of what dubplates are about.

There are not as many good tracks on dubplate as some would think. However, saying that, when the crowd hears a fresh tune that drops, they do love it, especially at the Paradise, but sometimes it can annoy the customer who walks into a record shop only to find the tune he wants to buy aint coming out for 6-9 months. Overall, though, for the DJ and the scene it’s a good thing, because it will keep other DJs on their toes. It’s just like the old reggae days when you had a dubplate and no one else had it, but nowadays it’s a bit different. For instance when that ‘Johnny’ track came out, everyone had it on plate, so really it was more like a test press! Now the record producers limit the amount of dubplates they give out so everyone doesn’t have the same tune – usually not more than 5 DJs will get a plate of the same tune.

“Unless you want to get left behind in the jungle scene you have to have dubplates, but more importantly you have to have some exclusives. It has to be a proper exclusive and you really need 2 or 3 of these in your box that no-one else has got. Obviously I’ve got my own little contacts that give me their exclusives before anyone else, but then there are a lot of producers who will service about 5 DJs at once, and usually my clubs are a mixture of this.

At one time the whole exclusive thing got a bit out of hand. If you weren’t playing a particular tune on plate because you didn’t have it you were a nobody, but fortunately it’s not really like that anymore. As long as you are making the crowd dance, you will always be a good DJ, and that’s what counts to me. We go out there to do a job of making people dance and nothing else. The scene is too big to worry about competition, even though it is there which is good, but there is no need for the sort of competition that is openly disdainful of people for what they do or what they play”.

An open minded attitude explains why he still keeps up with the house scene as well, “I still play house now, you can’t neglect it. I obviously don’t buy as much house as your average house DJ, but I do buy myself enough to keep me informed with what’s happening on the house scene. Usually, once or twice a month, I’ll spend about £40 or £50 on house.

I’ll buy the house stuff for my personal collection, because I like to listen to, and play, more than one style of music. What I like about house sets such as the ones I hear downstairs at the Paradise is that you can drop old tunes as well as new, something you can’t do too much with Jungle, because the very early jungle tunes are just too slow now”.

“I love it when I see the crowd dance, having it when you’re doing a mix and the crowd can hear what tune is coming in, and they start roaring because they know what’s going to come. That’s the kind of thing that influences me to play good, as well as seeing the DJ playing a good set before me because I like to be able to keep up with what he has just done. I don’t practice as much as I used to, because I’m more confident in my mixing, but I will still practice 2 or 3 times a week and the least I will spend on the decks will be an hour. It’s like football, if you don’t train then you will lose your skills and to me playing out ain’t practice unless the club is empty.

“Playing out is live, it’s a performance. If you’ve played out all weekend and everywhere you play has been rammed, there comes a time where there is a tune in your box and you ain’t sure what it is and you won’t play it. Then when you get home and play it, you cuss yourself. The way I mix I haven’t got time to put it on and test it and take it off again. Sometimes you have, but a lot of the time you ain’t, so you’ve got to practice!”

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| Classic Drum & Bass Compilations :: Kenny Ken

[1]
Current available Compilations:

Classic Compilation
(1992 - 1999)

Sets: 31 Hours: 32

 CD:

(4)

 Our Price: £19.99

 DVD:

(1)

 Our Price: £9.99

View Compilation

 
   

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