The kmotiv Interview

kmotivI came across Kevin Kelsey (a.k.a. kmotiv) when I was reading Silence Is A Rhythm Too one day. I went to his site to check out some of the stuff he had done and was blown away. I’m thinking to myself, ‘some guy sitting in his apartment in Arkansas is doing this??’ Nothing against Arkansas. I grew up in a nearby midwestern state and loved it. You just don’t think of Arkansas as being a hot bed for producers/remixers. At heart, Kevin is a songwriter, which is probably the reason his music is so full of emotion. It’s something I find this lacking in a lot of electronic music made by people with way more name recognition.

Shortly after I signed up to be on the mailing list, Kevin announced that he was in the process of putting together a proper album. The album is called “The Abstraction Agenda,” and will be released on October 19. It will be available from the kmotiv site as well as CD Baby. You will be able to pre-order the album sometime later this month exclusively on his site, which you should do for the limited-edition bonus remix CD. Kevin had some time to sit down and have a little iChat with me about everything that’s going on.

Brad: Thanks for pulling yourself away from the music to talk to me.

Kevin: Thank you! I really appreciate it.

Brad: Oh, no problem. I’m all for helping good people get exposed to new music and helping the artists get deserved exposure. Ain’t that what the internet is about?

K: Ha-ha, yes….Yes it is!

B: For people like you especially, I’m sure

K: Yeah, it’s really a great resource. It’s like a vast pool of people just waiting for something fresh and new.

B: So speaking of fresh and new, you are in the process of putting together your first proper release… Where are you in the process and how long has it been in progress?

K: Well, i’ve been working on this CD for about 6 months. Right now I’m putting final touches on tracks, and getting ready to move into the mixing stage.

B: As for the mixing, is that something you’ll be doing on your own or will you be working with anyone else?

K: I’m going to be mixing/mastering the album with my brother Chris. Cross your fingers! I’m just kidding. We’ve actually got a few years of experience of mixing other peoples stuff, as well as our own demo tracks so it’ll turn out great

B: Yeah, the remixing is actually how I found you in the first place. Like I said to you in a previous email, I found you because of the remix you did for Mellowdrone, which is somewhat ironic due to the fact that Jonathan also relied heavily on the Internet for his success.

K: Oh, that thing? That’s not much of a remix really. More of a rearrangement of sorts. Very unofficial, however I have contacted Jon about doing a few remixes for Mellowdrone, and he gave the ‘all okay’, and said that he’d send the material to me after his tour finished. I think that the internet has been a huge help for a lot of artists lately. it’s a great tool to connect and network with fans and other artists, but then again it’s easy to get lost in all of the music that is available on the net. Standing out can be difficult!

B: Yeah, I would imagine him to be receptive to people doing remixes. Yeah, obviously (to anyone that has visited your site) you have done much more in the way of remixes. Have they all just been for fun or did you actually submit anything to the artists?

K: Most of them were for remix contests, or as favors for friends who happen to be amazing musicians. The remix that I did of “Darkest Hour” won 10th place in the Bitstream Dream remix contest. As for the Portishead remixes, I’d love to say that the band had something to do with them, but they were purely for my own interest. A few of the artists that I have remixed in the past (including Bitstream Dream) are doing remixes for my remix CD that ships out with pre-orders of the album.

B: Going back to what you said about it being difficult to stand out, what would you say makes you stand out?

K: Well, since music production tools have become so readily available, things get rushed, and not thought through completely. I try to really take the time to produce a quality piece of work before I let anyone hear it. I want to make sure that people are recieving the music in it’s most perfect form. Why do anything if it’s not the best that it can be? Also, I’m a strong believer that music needs emotion to be great. I try to craft each song from the heart. Which can be tricky sometimes because I don’t do vocals very often. You’ve gotta feeeeel the music.

B: I totally agree. I won’t name names, but I think a lot of the higher profile remix and mashup artists out there right now are kind of hacks. We don’t have to get into a pissing match at all and I’m not trying to walk you into that. I just had to put it out there.

K: My lips are sealed. Ha-ha.

B: I think people are always looking for honesty and emotion in music. That’s what makes truly great music. People tend to have trouble with electronic music because the tools are so readily available and they think anyone can learn Acid (or whatever) in a matter of hours. That’s to say nothing of having a fundamental understanding of song structure, etc…

K: Absolutely true! I won’t even get started about Acid…

B: Fair enough… what are your tools of the trade?

K: I use an old PC with loads of memory (i desperately need to build a new one), running Madtracker, Adobe Audition, and loads of VSTI’s (mostly Korg, Native Instruments and reFx). As for all the non-computer parts (bass, guitar etc), they are recorded through a Korg D-16 and then sequenced through Madtracker. I use a Fender P-bass, and gibson guitars.

B: I never would have pegged you for a PC user.

K: I wish I wasn’t! I know that Macs are far superior for audio/video, but I just haven’t made the switch yet. It is planned though! I’ve been looking at the “Switch” tab on the Apple website for quite a while.

B: Ha-ha. You seem to have a knack for the trip-hop and hip-hop stuff. Is that reflective of what you listen to as a music fan?

K: Yes and no. I do listen to a lot of trip-hop/down beat/down tempo/abstract beats (whatever we’re calling it these days!) But I’m also into a wide variety of other genres. Indie rock, acoustic, real metal…all kinds of stuff really.

B: Who are some of your favorites this week?

K: iamjen, Death Cab For Cutie, Frou Frou, Aereogramme, Metric, Katalyst and Matthew Good are all in heavy rotation

B: Have you heard the Death Cab cover of “All Is Full Of Love” [by Björk]?

K: Yes! that’s one of my favs. The drumming blows me away! I’m sure Björk is very proud.

B: Yeah, the drumming is pretty amazing. I seem to remember reading an interview with Ben [Gibbard - lead singer for Death Cab For Cutie] and he was talking about how that was what they had the hardest time with covering that song.

K: I’ll have to check that out. I’m a definite Björk fan. But who isn’t, right?

B: I’m actually not that big of a fan. I like her alright. I love her creativity. The new album is very interesting.

K: I haven’t heard it yet.

B: It’s almost all made up of vocals. Anyway, enough about her… back to you. I know you are attending college at the moment, but it would seem that you could make a living from your music some way or another if you applied yourself full-time to it. Is that what you would ultimately like to do?

K: Yeah, that’s my endgame. I’d like to eventually make enough with my music so that I won’t need another source of income. I’d really like to get into film scoring/producing other artists. I’m keen to the idea of being the guy who makes the music that makes the star. I wouldn’t really want to be a star myself. Well-known in the underground. That’s my goal.

B: What are you studying in school and why not drop out and just focus on your music?

K: Actually, I wasn’t going to point it out, but I’m not going to school right now. He-he.

B: “Taking a semester off?” That’s actually good news (at least I think so). Are your parents supportive of your musical endeavors?

K: Nope. I’m primarily focused on my music right now, if all works out well I won’t be going to school. cross your fingers! Yeah, my parents have always been supportive of my music. I grew up in a very music oriented family. There was always some kind of music going on in my house.

B: That’s great. I’ve always had supportive parents, which has been a big help along the way.Is it disadvantageous to be where you are geographically (Arkansas) or does it even matter?

K: Well, I guess that you could say that it has it’s disadvantages, but it’s really beautiful here. Tree’s everywhere, the air’s clean. In that sense, it’s an advantage because I can have a a great surrounding environment from which to draw for creations. Plus, the internet really helps break down those geographical barriers..

B: I grew up in Kansas and went to school there. I never finished either.

K: Hey, we’re almost neighbors! Ha-ha

B: just an Ar away

K: Ha-ha. I was about to say that!

B: Great minds think alike.

K: True true.

B: Going back to the fact that there are so many artists under the radar, are there any that you have close ties with or would like to see get more exposure?

K: Absolutely! I don’t really have ties with her but, iamjen is definitely going places! Adamatic is making some really really cool abstract hip-hop, and he definitely deserves more exposure. Also, a new aquintence Andrew Wiley (he hasn’t exactly settled on a alias for his music yet). He’s making some really original atmospheric stuff. He’s doing a few remixes for me as we speak.

B: Finally, what advice would you give to someone starting out the way you did?

K: Think things through. Don’t release everything that you make. Don’t get rid of old songs (you’ll miss them later). Network with other artists. Be humble.

B: Awesome advice and very concise. Thanks again for your time Kevin.

K: Thanks again, Brad. I really appreciate the exposure!

Be sure to check out the “One After Five” demo Kevin just posted to his site!

Brad Barrish @bradbarrish