On the cusp of his forth studio album UK artist Kinza joins us to chat about the London scene, the effect the digital era has had on artist albums and more.
Hi Alan, thanks for joining us, how are you today? Whereabouts in the world are you and what are you up to?
I am excellent thanks. I am currently sitting on a park bench in one of the beautiful suburbs of London, my favourite city in the world.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a producer?
Although I love all sorts of music, I have always had a soft spot for electronica. Around the age of ten I remember nonchalantly coming into the lounge late at night and would discover my dad sitting in his armchair, snug in his Christmas jumper (even though it was summer) and his old fashioned 70s style cans strapped to his bald head. Deep, hardcore acid house music leaked out from his headphones and his eyes were rolled back (a bit like a shark when it smells blood). He looked pretty high on the music (definitely not high on anything else haha). He didn’t even notice when I was there. So when he wasn’t around, I would sneakily put on 1 of his CDs, strap in, and taste the sweetness myself. I guess it evolved from there and I desired more and more electronic sounds across all the genres. I have always loved technology and as soon as I saw a keyboard and sequencer at school I craved this until I could finally afford my own kit. It has been part of my life creating music since then.
Tell us about collecting or listening to music as a youth, where do some of your early influences lie?
I remember when I was very young, probably about 6, getting a novelty record player. I had one record, which was the Star Wars soundtrack. Unfortunately it was not the official soundtrack but some weird electronic knock off version, complete with a tacky electronic back beat. I loved it and played it day and night. It somehow hit that special sweet spot – where you can’t decide if its super cheesy, or actually quite cool. I have since tried to find this recording but it seems to have disappeared forever!
I was born in London but moved to a rather hillbilly part of England quite early on. One of the main ways of getting new music was borrowing CDs from the local library. Our library had a very bizarre collection of music and I dipped into all of these. I think some of my biggest influences have been the electronic era of Miles Davis, the early Detroit techno scene, the funky style of Prince, and the beautiful sounds of Stravinsky.
Your artist name is quite unique, is there a story behind it? and how did you end up settling on Kinza?
I wanted to try a new name instead of my real name. It is quite easy to unintentionally build a big digital footprint these days and I wanted to be able to be free artistically. This meant a change of name. Kinza is an Arabic name that means ‘hidden treasure’. I wanted Kinza to be a hidden side of myself. I also feel my music has delicate elements hidden that will become apparent if you give it some time and listen to it lots. Kinza also sounds nice ;o)
How does living in the UK affect the music you make? or does it at all?
Living in London gives me lots of opportunity to go and hear all sorts of music live (not just electronic ). I’ve done Irish, I’ve done country jigs, I’ve done the best in Jazz. I invariably come home from listening to music exhausted, but with motivation and inspiration for some new work.
The electro scene is quite closed here though and it feels quite hard to break into it. There seems to be a resistance to promoting new styles by the big labels and they would rather just stick with the old formula and faces. There are, however, a few excellent DJs out there that have an open experimental mind/taste.
Your fourth album ‘Playground’ is out now on False Face Music. Tell us how it began to take shape, was there an initial goal of writing an album from the beginning or did this happen organically in a way?
One of my most recent projects was a collaboration with Japanese Singer/musician/phenomenon Coppe’. I had never really worked with someone before and vocals were a small part of the music I made. I thoroughly enjoyed working on it (we did this completely electronically over the Internet) and I really took pleasure from the extra challenge of working on vocals. I also added some of my own lyrics and singing to these tracks, and it went down well and so in my most recent work for this album, I have focused much more on vocal elements. Maysa, a very close family member, is a very talented singer and she has rapidly become my favourite instrument. She has been a large element of ‘Playground’ and will no doubt be appearing in future tracks. The album just evolved from there really.
It’s quite a diverse, esoteric sounding collection, if you had to pick a favourite track from it which would it be and walk us through the production process on it.
Thank you! I’d like to be thought of as such!
Difficult one. I always find my current work the most exciting/best. Out of these tracks I’d have to say ‘Who’d have known’ as I feel it tells a story, and is the most accessible, whilst still sounding like Kinza. This was probably the first time I ever tried to make a track following a conventional structure of chorus and verse. It was a challenge keeping it to an appropriate length and structure. Its always my way to go off on a tangent when I’m in my state of flow.
How did you end up with the final track selection and how did you go about cutting stuff out? There must be a point where it becomes quite difficult letting go of certain pieces?
I have a large archive of stuff and I just picked what made me most happy at the time. I tried to make sure there was a bit of variation. I never feel sad not including a piece because it can always come back later. One of the tracks on Playground was a track I made back when I first started and never made it onto the list until now.
How difficult was it deciding on the flow from a listener’s perspective?
I find this very hard as I am very much focused on the track in hand. It’s at these time that I bring in the help of the pro’s, friends and the family!
There’s a very genuine feel to the album, from a compositional perspective but also design wise. What are your go to tools in the studio and what featured heavily on this album?
How it works in my studio is a complete mystery to me. When the session is going well, I quickly get into a state of flow and it is very hard to say specifically what happened during the creation of the tracks. I would say it has become a bit like driving, I get from A to B but really could not tell you about anything of the drive in between. I use a bucket load of tools and techniques which I have become quick at using on auto pilot.
How much of an effect do other genres of music have on your own productions? And in particular this album.
I really love the sound of discordant pads and strings. Take some of the swirling orchestral sounds that you hear behind Nat King Cole in some of his songs, or the chaotic incongruent spinning synth pads in a good instrumental break in a Prince track. I guess this inspired me to throw in some chords into the mix to give a different feel much like it happens in these examples.
How did the project end up on False Face Music? Was that always a label you had in mind for it?
I was looking at where most of my audience was, using my webpage tracking as well as where people were generally sending me the most love from. There seems to be a theme of people from Norway, Canada and Germany. I really have tried to come up with a theory linking these 3 countries! If anyone has an idea please let me know! So it came to the time I was looking for a new venture with a label I decided to start in these places. As I started to explore the electronic labels I came across False Face. I was really impressed with the music I heard. Even though their current artist roster is quite different to me, I thought I would give it a go and made contact. They were immediately interested to help and were obviously dedicated to their work and were very professional.
Will there be remixes from the album and if so what can we look forward to?
I have heard there are certainly going to be some remixes in the pipeline. Remixes are great fun and are always a surprise to listen to and I enjoy doing them myself very much.
Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive artist albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did or should? Is this something that perhaps depends on who (record label) is releasing it as well?
Absolutely. There is no doubt that there is a tactile element to the old school physical releases of the past. I made a bad decision a couple of years back when I decided that I should digitize my CD collection and then get rid of them in order to make a little bit of extra space in my studio. I regret that decision to this day as there was definitely a feeling/experience when opening the cases and seeing the inserts/artwork with them. Having a physical piece of art generally made you feel more committed to it and persevering with it. You would often accidentally go on from your favourite track to the next track which may have not been something you would listen to but it would grow on you. There is something very ‘throw away’ with the digital medium. You can flick though an album in a few seconds. I even confess to flicking through an artists entire discography within a minute and making a snap shot decision whether to like it or leave it. A lot of music needs growth time.
There are a lot of factors which affect the perception of an artist other than his music these days, social media for one, how much emphasis do you put on stuff like this? and what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry and what are the biggest challenges you face as an artist in the industry right now?
Rightly or wrongly I don’t put much emphasis on this. Music for me is really about fun and I don’t find fiddling with social media that enjoyable. I also think that success on social media is about how shocking or stupid you can be, which really doesn’t appeal. Perhaps I need to reconsider this more, but it’s not really an area I focus too much on. The industry is still rapidly evolving with technology. I can’t help feel that it’s not necessarily the best stuff that makes it through but more just the random luck of what gets passed around and becomes the new trend in the playground.
What five tracks are you loving at the moment?
I always go back to the oldies when I want to really to feel something I love
1. Black Dartangnon – 808 State – this is unique, and one I play regularly
2. Tutu – Miles Davis – way ahead of its time. What a performance here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twVgMp_kGiA cool beyond belief!
3 Seeya Later – Boards Of Canada – sinister, syncopated and groovy
4. Stravinsky – Petrushka – this guy was a wizard. I can’t imagine what he would have done if he had got his little hands on a computer and a bunch of synths
5. Yimino – Ominim (Nabbit mix) – the kit in this track is so insanely intricate, I actually wonder if it was made by a human!
I’m gonna be cheeky and have a 6th.
6. Euphoria – Speakof – This track is the one that brought my attention to false face, it made me prick up my ears, stop what I was doing and look at the screen to see what was going on
What can we expect to hear next? Anything you can tell us about?
I generally find the period between committing to a release and actual release is a very productive time. The excitement re-energizes, and motivates and I often find a new body of work flowers in this time. This has happened this time and so there is lots more to come.
‘Playground’ is out now on False Face Music, you can purchase the release: here