Take a young boy, surround him with a rich variety of artists (musicians, writers, poets, comedians, actors, painters, etc…), expose him to a wide cultural range and give him the freedom to explore and experiment. Watch him grow and develop his self.
Can you see the picture? ‘Who is he?’ I hear you ask. That man’s name is Kähn, he hails from Bristol and he will take the music world into a whirlwind of intricate soundscapes and atmospheric precision. Meet the man, remember his name: Kähn!
Cat On The Wall: Who or what is Kähn? Is there a story behind your name?
I just like the word, the way it sounds, it’s kind of unusual sounding I think. I’ve liked that word since I was fairly young, I liked the idea of inventing and giving life to different sides to my musical personality; when I started producing dubstep-orientated music and DJing out I needed a name, Kähn came to mind and it’s just stuck. The umlaut is purely for aesthetic purposes, mind!
Although it was never fully intended I suppose you could link the name to the Eastern influence that is fairly apparent in a lot of the music I’ve made over the past few years.
COTW: Your latest music on myspace is very chilled in comparison to several years ago. Do you agree? How would you describe your musical development since you first started making music?
I would agree to some extent yeah, at the time of writing this there’s a mixture of tracks I made recently and tracks I made over a year ago which were previously unheard. The atmospheres of the tracks are pretty varied I think. I’ve also got a second myspace site under the name of Baba Yaga, which is a collaboration between myself and another young producer in Bristol called Vessel. Not many people know about it really, but it’s some of the best work I’ve been a part of in my opinion and very different from the work I put out under Kähn.
I’m about to do another re-haul of the material that’s on my main myspace. I used to just stick tracks on there as and when I felt I’d finished them, whereas now I prefer to have 4 or 5 to put up there at once so it’s more of a body of work rather than little snippets.
I’ve been working with vocals a lot recently, including my own vocals on some tracks, which I feel allows me to express myself more in the music. I think it’s important within the style of music I’m making to keep an element of humanity and ‘realness’ to the sounds and atmospheres and the voice is the best thing for that.
I think the main personal musical development I could note in myself is simply my general production quality improving over the years, as I’ve just been teaching myself as I’ve gone along and really just been discovering what it is I’m trying to express as I’ve been creating it.
COTW: What’s your creative process when writing music? What inspires you?
My musical ideas and productions are all about experiences and the mixture of all the sounds I’ve heard throughout my life which I then translate back out in whatever form they happen to take.
Making music has always been very subconscious to me and because of that a lot of the time I don’t have a specific idea of what it is I’m trying to express. With the ‘dance’ music I make, sometimes I can sit there and make a tune that is more club-friendly and fairly straightforward, others times I will put something together that is much more personal and often more representative of my true sound.
I really try not to plan too much when I’m working to be honest, as it tends to affect my concentration on the music. The most annoying thing is when I suddenly have an idea when I’m walking down the street or at work or something, it’s infuriating! I’ve had to turn around in the middle of the street and run back to my studio a few times recently… I like it that creative ideas can take you by surprise like that though.
In terms of a creative process, mine tends to be having an idea and working really quickly to create it into something that will still sound good to me later. I usually have like a half hour limit and then if it’s not working after that I’ll just start something else.
COTW: On your myspace you’re listed as being unsigned. Would you like to be signed or is this something you’d like to be in control of, perhaps your own label? Will you be releasing any of your music?
I have got a couple of things due to be coming out in 2010, on two very different labels, with one pushing the more ‘club-friendly’ material and the other focusing much more on the experimental side to my work. There’ll be more information on that soon. It’s cool having different labels to work with though as it means I can represent the different sides of my music. The fear for any musician I think is being pigeon-holed…
I like the idea of having my own label one day.
COTW: You’re known as a DJ as well as a musician. What’s an average set for you?
Kähn: As I’m not in a band at the moment, DJing is really the only way I get to play out. The kind of set I play really depends on what kind of show I’ve been booked for and the vibe of the club. It could be a much more energetic (‘hype’ set as I’d call it!), or I could be doing a set of just my own material or much deeper, more subtle stuff. So much depends on the crowd reaction. I never really plan my sets; it makes it more exciting and means I can improvise with my tune selection.
I like to think of DJing as a way of creating an atmosphere and, without sounding pretentious, giving people not just music to dance to but a real collage of sound and energy. The best thing about it from a producer’s point of view is that I can make a track in the day time and play it out in a club that night. There’s something really exciting about that, and it links in to ‘dubplate’ culture, playing tunes only you have a copy of, which is an important part of being a DJ in my eyes.
I try to play as much of my own material out as I can. Being part of the DJ community in Bristol means that the standard is very high and you really have to be doing your own thing to stand out, so I find playing my own material is the best way of doing that really and it feels more like a gig that way!
COTW: If you could collaborate with someone (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
That’s an interesting question and not something I’ve really thought about before to be honest… It depends what kind of music I felt like making! A few names that come to mind right at this moment are Svarte Greiner, Shankar, Trent Reznor, Arvo Pärt, J Dilla, Tricky… I could go on!
All for different reasons, J Dilla is one of my favourite producers, as is Trent Reznor, so I suppose that would be more from a technical, beats point of view. Shankar, Arvo Pärt and Svarte Greiner have all done incredible and very different work with strings and their music is very important to me. I’ve just always liked Tricky since I was a child and his work has been a real influence on me.
COTW: What are you listening to at the moment?
Got lots on the go, as usual! This week it’s been King Midas Sound, Vashti Bunyan, J Dilla, El B, Olöf Arnalds and Patty Waters, to name a few…
COTW: What are your plans for the near future?
Focus on these releases in 2010, keep producing material, keep performing as much as I can and basically just get myself out there more! Ideas I’ve had for next year have been to do more radio shows, work with more vocalists, experiment more…
The main aim for me in the near future is to get a band together, or just simply start playing my own material live again.
Interview by Jo Whitby and CB Lux