Hello and how is life in Berlin in 2015?
Fantastic at the moment actually, now that we’re into June and it’s so gorgeous all the time. In the winter things can get a bit rough and ironically not due to the cold, but rather, due to the fact that it’s overcast like 90% of the time. It leads to mad folks walkin’ around nursing seasonal affective disorders, ewww haha. But it’s summer now so outta sight mind. You can tell winter I said it too, ain’t nobody scurrrred!
Your excellent new single The Heft EP is coming out on Hot Creations. How did you hook up with the label, and what does it mean to you to have another release on the infamous imprint?
I was at a boat party in Detroit a few years back where Richy Ahmed was headlining. He played one of my tracks and I went up to acknowledge it and thank him while it was playing. He then told me he’d been wanting to talk to me about a collaboration, I suspect because he’d heard a bunch of stuff I’d been doing with Matt Tolfrey & Audiojack. Funny thing is that it took a long time for us to pull that collaboration together because it took quite some time for us to get in contact again, flush the idea out, and once we did the recording was delayed because I was busy prepping to move to Europe. So something like 1.5 years later The Drums came out and the rest is, as they say, history. I’ve also known Lee (Foss) for several years from his pre- Hot Creation days as we’re both California boys and peeps who love these tunes are kind of a close knit community as you well know.
I’m ridiculously excited to have a couple solo cuts out on the imprint as it’s always been one of my favorite labels. To go from being a fan to contributing to the label’s music library is a feeling that’s just hard to put into words. I’m stoked.
Can you talk us through how you produced one of the tracks on the EP (including any favourite pieces of software/ hardware you like to use)?
Most of the work on ‘Not Your House’ really came together almost entirely in one sitting. Sometimes when you sit down the stars align and things just come quickly. It’s almost like you’re creating a puzzle you intuition just tells you what pieces are missing and you’re able to quickly grab and insert them. I remember even the vocal that day came out of me kinda instantly. I remember getting the rhythm and feeling of what I wanted to say down first and then letting the tune tell me what the message/vocal cut should be. I’ve really been diggin’ on Arturia Analog & Diva in terms of software and they’re both used in this track.
buy/ listen too http://www.juno.co.uk/products/kevin-knapp-the-heft-ep/577972-01/
Can you tell us a bit about your background, who you grow up listening too, and who inspired you to get into DJ’ing/ Producing and being a vocalist?
Music has always been around me. My mom was kind of a soul fan (shocking, I know!! Kev’s African American mother loved soul! haha) so lots of Roberta Flack and Luther Vandross etc… was playing at the crib when I was a little dude. In sharp contrast to that though, my dad is a bit of an audiophile, like we used to get Gramophone magazine delivered to our house kinda thing and he was massively into classical and jazz. So many nights to this day he and I will open a bottle of whiskey (scotch for him) and just listen or watch a music documentary about an artist/composer/band we’d like to know more about. I sang classically, competitively when I was in high school actually having three different choir classes a day at one point. I also spent a ton of time being the music got to guy for my group of homies coming up so I suppose even back then writing was on the wall. In those days it was all east coast hip hop for me. In college I developed an appetite for indie rock living in Austin Texas (America’s indie rock capital IMO), which I feel still appears in my music faintly to this day. It definitely solidified my love for minor keys.
When I moved to San Francisco in 2000 I happened upon an art gallery where they were doing happy hour parties with a line of 150 people out the door at 7pm on every Wednesday. It made no sense, but people would come down after work and just go for it. At 9 pm it felt like 3 am at any other club in the world. It was there that I decided that this was something I just had to do. 6 months later I had my first set of 1200’s. So, while attending my law school classes during weekdays on Wednesdays nights and weekends I was slowly getting deeper and deeper into the music thing. At the time one of the city’s best DJ’s and the best opening DJ I’ve ever known personally, Scott Carrelli, sort of took me under his wing and invited me to be a resident for his wildly successful SatelliteSF parties. They started later, and were still on Wednesday nights (Thursdays were hell for like 7 years there or so, especially with a full time job), but the acts we got for that little 150 person venue where out of control. Lee Burridge, James Holden, Phil K and tons of others acts of that caliber. We actually helped create/extend the Wednesday night Market in that city, a torch still being carried by my homie Mikey Tello’s (from Pillow Talk) party Housepitality to this day.
So I Dj’ed a lot during that period of time from like 2005 through 2013 in SF and that’s when I learned how to read crowds and kind of earned my chops so to speak. Along the way I sat in tons of studios with folks collaborating both as a co-producer and then eventually as a vocalist too (once some folks found out about my background). I think I’ve had a pretty unique opportunity compared to other producers because being a vocalist has lead me to be able to see how lots of different producers work and I can then take that experience and put it into my own work. It got to the point that I had to make a decision between continuing to do the lawyer thing and moonlighting as an artist or to take the plunge. So in May of 2013 I moved to Berlin and here we are, artisiting hahaha.
How do you feel about the importance/ relevance of vocals in today’s Dance Music?
I love vox when used appropriately. I’m not one of these people who looks at a set and says it contains too many or too few of them. I feel like a song tells you when they are needed. Anything that is value added to a track should be placed in it and anything that’s not shouldn’t. I’ve really been working under the personal mantra in the studio lately that less is more. So if there’s fat to be trimmed, get to cutting, and vox are part of that consideration (Now If I could just figure out how to do this in my personal life haha). Generally speaking, I feel like a couple choice words in a few select spots can often really enhance the audience’s experience. It’s another tool at our disposal when trying to get our personal message or idea out, so if it helps to do that how could you not use them, ya know? It’s hard for me to make any kind of large sweeping statement about today’s dance music. I will say though that it seems like there are plenty vocal cuts out there for peeps to bask in, if that’s what doin’ it for them. J
How would you compare the importance/ difference between Berlin (where you live) and Ibiza (where you also play)?
Both these places are great for different reasons. Personally, I landed in Berlin because I felt like the immigration hurdles would be easier to navigate. There are of course tons of clubs here in the B and thus tons of places to enjoy this music we all love so dearly on a weekly basis. And an obvious major difference is here you can do it year round. I mean, the argument can be made that some of the Berlin clubs are even better in the winter. The energy in Berlin is very gritty. Ibiza is just straight up magical. I was on the island gigging last weekend and I’d forgotten just how special the place makes you feel right when you step off the plane. I don’t know if it’s the fact that like 95% of the people are there on Holiday or what but it just has a certain indescribable AMAZING feeling. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet and I can’t wait to return in a couple months. The vibe in Spain, at least on that island, is pretty much the antithesis of grit. So I suppose it depends on what you dig.
Can you tell us about any forthcoming plans for 2015 and beyond?
I’m planning to get a few more solo EP’s out before the year ends. We’re looking at a few exciting labels for their release so stay tuned! I’m really enjoying having the full autonomy for getting my ideas out at the moment. The gig calendar is increasingly steady so that’s a good thing and I imagine it will keep me busy through the end of the year. I’ve also got collab releases forthcoming with Pan-Pot, Guti & Matt Tolfrey, Audiojack, & Daniel Dexter that will be dropping through late summer and into the fall. Other than that, we’ve got a dope grill set up at the crib and we’ve been stuffing chicken, searing asian flank steaks, and smoking pork rib racks so when not on the road or in the studio I’m planning to break fools off on the BBQ as frequently as possible. Live, Love, Grow, Listen, and Give that’s the plan.
* Photos by Vitali Gelwich Photography http://www.vitaligelwich.com