Friday, 28 January 2011
INTERVIEW: Kevin McPhee [nakedlunch/Idle Hands]
Having lost count of amount of times we’ve read or even described someone’s music ourselves as being subtle, it begrudgingly seems perfectly apt when describing the work of Canadian producer Kevin McPhee. Built from a different more placated mould, his work, which we’ve been hearing in fits and spurts since the 3rd quarter of 2010, is finally hitting shops at the beginning of the year. Releasing on two of our most revered imprints, the Irish [nakedlunch] and the Bristol based Idle Hands (which is soon to be a physical record shop just off Stokes Croft in the city centre, seemingly filling the void left by Rooted Record’s closure last month) stands him in good stead from the off but it’s the fragility and soul of his music on tracks like the as yet unsigned ‘Try’ and ‘This Feeling’ that really connect.
His drum work also shouts just as loud as his twisted use of vocal snippets and samples with the [nakedlunch] signed ‘Bridges’ being a great example of what we’re attempting to shout about. Constructed from homespun and self recorded samples it traverses a drum pattern not a million miles away from the work of Mount Kimbie, but focuses a little harder on the punch of the kick drum, using those bitcrushed scratches and ticks around it to frame the resonance of the low frequencies. A track like ‘House 44,’ not included on his mix - an introductory production showcase of 100% McPhee material – is a perfect example of McPhee at his percussive best, all insistent thump underneath whilst a swamp of textures takes over the top layers hypnotically.
He really has nailed his sound deep, almost oceanic sound palette and after a bout of complementary AIM conversations we shot him some questions, playing on our own interest in his background as much as his music and he delivered our 66th Sonic Router mix. Split, in McPhee’s own words, between “slower and faster tempo tracks,” it’s a perfect and concise showcase of a truly magnificent talent.
Can you provide those who may not know you with a bit of background info?
Sure, My name is Kevin McPhee, I am a producer from Toronto and I try to produce somewhat danceable music anywhere between the 110bpm to 140bpm range. I have releases forthcoming on [nakedlunch] and Idle hands early this year. I really enjoy collecting and playing vinyl and cutting dubplates.
Outside of music who are you? What do you do on the daily?
To be honest I don’t do too much. I buy too many records, drink too much coffee and look at too many pictures of obese cats. I also go to school full-time.
How did you first get into making music? What was it that infected you to do so?
I got into making music around the time I got my first guitar when I was 12. Rather than rely on others, I wanted to make tracks all on my own so I began experimenting with Reason and soon after I began to focus on sample-based production. It seems to have stayed that way ever since, however; I’m ever so solely attempting to move away from this approach to music production.
What’s your production set up like?
I use Logic, a turntable for sampling, a mic for recording percussion, a tape deck for adding some real stinky grit, and whatever guitar pedals I’m able to steal from my brother when he is not around.
How would you describe your sound?
Hmm, well for the longest time I felt I never had a sound, and the more I thought about trying to make things fit a “McPhee Sound” the more rigid my tracks became. Now that I don’t really focus on one set style anymore I feel like my sound is kind of coming together for me naturally.I tend to rely on vocals a fair bit, some may say too much, but I feel there is a lot one can do with vocals and I feel I can still get a lot of use out of them. That being said, I would like to begin to produce less vocal-driven tracks, as I feel that I’m at the point where I can produce equally interesting percussion-based tracks as well.
I’ve always had an interest in making tracks sound as organic as possible. I try to spend as much time choosing samples as I do arranging them. I feel it’s one thing to be able to make an interesting beat, but it’s another to be able to make one that sounds like a whole unit, that is, all the sounds compliment each other in such a way that it appears as though the beat is simply a loop cut from a previous recording.
Kevin McPhee - Get In With You -[nakedlunch]
You share an affinity to a lot of the more subtle producers out there. I can hear a bit of Actress’ muffles in ‘House 44.’ What kind of music do you listen to in your own time?
I tend to listen to a lot of electronic music, but I try to keep my mind open to everything. I only recently started listening to house so that has begun to take up a lot of my listening time as there is just so much great music out there. Once I started listening to dance music, I kind of pushed my previous musical interests to the side, I feel as though this wasn’t as beneficial as I thought it would as I began to take inspiration from only one source. Now I’ve slowly begun to take up listening to just about anything. Whether it be jazz, folk, or ambient music, I’ve learned that there exists merits to all genres, it’s just a matter of being able to push aside your initial inhibitions to get at them in some cases.
What is an inspiration for you?
As lame as it sounds, pretty much just other music. I’m not going to lie and say the wind on a crisp fall day helps me make music or something like that. I just tend to find music I enjoy, note what intrigues me about it, and then try to respond to it in such a way that appeals even more to what it is that I’d like to hear out of a song. Sometimes it works, usually it doesn’t, but I have fun regardless.
Whats your native Toronto like for music? Are there many likeminded peoples out that way?
To be honest, I don’t know much about what’s going on in Toronto, I mean, there is certainly a wide variety of nights, some focusing on the more dancefloor-oriented style of music, while others offer a wider range of sound, however, I don’t tend to go out often so I can’t give an accurate description of what’s happening here. There is certainly a large group of like-minded people here. They just may not be as vocal as others. I think that’s what really gave me the push to begin taking production seriously and actually send songs to labels. I’ve had such great support from everyone here and I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for having like-minded individuals backing what I’m trying to do.
Are there any producers you rate that the world should know about? Any peeps not getting the props you think they deserve?
Three producers come to mind (In no particular order): Klaus, XI and TMSV. These three guys offer a wide range of sound and I feel as though this year each one of these producers will get the recognition they truly deserve. Klaus offers a bizarre in-between of ambient yet horrible deep and emotive music. I try to include at least one Klaus piece in all my sets as he was really the first artist I interacted with that offered tracks that worked well with my own. For the longest time I would simply mix my own songs together, however, talking to him caused me to realise that there exists a lot of music out there that fits with what I’m doing. He’s had quite an impact on not only my Djing but how I approach production as well.
XI is just in his own world right now, you can hear just about everything in his music, yet it doesn’t sound forced or cluttered. He is taking previously established styles of music and flipping them on their heads, it’s really inspiring to see such a positive response to his music as it suggests that people are still interested in hearing complex yet still dance floor friendly (deadly?) music.
TMSV is giving the deeper side of dubstep a serious kick in its butt. I think I’ve wrenched my neck a few times just bobbing along to his simple yet hard hitting style of music. It’s cool to see that people are still down to hear dubstep that doesn't resort to clichés or mid-range drops.
You’ve got 12”s forthcoming on [nakedlunch] and Idle Hands. Can you tell us a bit about that and shed some light on what else people can expect from you in 2011...
Of course… the [nakedlunch] EP has been in production for a long time now. I think it was around this time last year that I sent them my first set of tracks (‘Get in With You’ was among them). Since then, I’ve tried to work closely with the label as I felt at that point in time I was only just beginning to explore what it was that I wanted to hear in my songs. Micky offered up great criticism (something people tend to try to avoid) and has had an enormous impact on every aspect of what it is that I’m trying to do with my music. The EP provides some slower tempo stuff (‘Bridges’) and more mellow tracks (‘Get in with You’). The LV remix is a great take on my track as they’ve created an upbeat interpretation that puts the vocal in the back seat and makes room for a seriously memorable bassline.
Kevin McPhee - Get In With You (LV Remix) - [nakedlunch]
After the [nakedlunch] release I’ve got a 12” coming out on the Bristol-based Idle Hands label, I had got in touch with Kowton back in the fall and sent him over a few songs. He put me in touch with Chris from Idle Hands and soon after he expressed interest in doing a release. I am very pleased with the tracks he chose as I feel they are a nice contrast to each other and are two tracks I feel that are really a lot of fun to mix, yet still work well on their own. Being that ‘Sleep’ was my first attempt at making slower tempo music, it means a lot to have others supporting it.
I feel that I am very fortunate to have my first two releases on labels that I had followed closely before I began to take producing seriously. The support given to me by both label owners and those I’ve met as a result of them have helped me become more confident in my music than I was this time last year. I hope people enjoy the releases as much as I enjoyed the whole process of making them.
Tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve put together for us…
Well the mix is just a showcase of my own productions. Although it’s a relatively short mix, I feel as though it offers up an all-encompassing approach to my music. I included both slower and faster tempo tracks as I feel that they exist as one style, rather than two separate entities. I made sure to incorporate a few tracks off both the forthcoming releases as mentioned above, and also some unreleased bits as well. Pretty much all the tracks in here are “exclusive” as this is really the first recording I’ve done and the first time most will have heard anything by me. I hope people enjoy it.
Any words of wisdom, for our readers?
It’s very easy to sell yourself short and simply settle when it comes to releasing/producing music. I think more people are concerned with simply getting their music out than they are with trying to use the process of releasing music as a way to improve your overall knowledge of production or how to conduct one’s self when it comes to promotion. I feel as though it is better to wait and approach a label you can see yourself on, rather than offer a lack-luster product to anyone who’s willing to listen - or even worse, having great music that goes unheard simply because it was never given the opportunity to be heard. That being said, there is always a chance to change things. I feel as though you are only as good as your last production, so people should always aim to improve upon what it is that they are doing. Don’t simply sell yourself short for instant satisfaction.
DOWNLOAD: Kevin McPhee – Sonic Router Mix #66
Kevin McPhee - I Will [???]
Kevin McPhee - Try [???]
Kevin McPhee - Sleep [Forthcoming Idle Hands]
Kevin McPhee - Bridges [Forthcoming [nakedlunch]]
Kevin McPhee - Sucre [???]
Kevin McPhee - Be [???]
Kevin McPhee - This Feeling [???]
Kevin McPhee - Get in With You (LV Remix) [Forthcoming [nakedlunch]]