As I mentioned in my post about Futurecop! & Keenhouse’s new single, ‘Dreams’, I think Keenhouse were the first Binary act I encountered.
His ‘Civic Transport’ EP in 2008 was many people’s introduction to what would evolve into Dreamwave, and showed off expertly the incredible talent that is Ken Rangkuty. It’s eight tracks of funky, melodic, beautifully written dance music that seems to perfectly encapsulate the Binary credo. It’s music squarely aimed at the dancefloor, yet still actual songs, and being over three years old it was pretty ahead of it’s time (well, as ahead of it’s time as a retro influences style can be) with it’s styles of keyboard playing still being emulated by Nu-Disco producers today.
Equal part retro and in-the-moment, Keenhouse’s music works just as well on a pair of headphones as it does rocking a crowd as it flows from cerebral SynthPop to body moving Disco. One of the most versatile DiscoPop producers around right now, it’s no surprise that Ken’s productions have been featured in movies and video games and has major label distribution.
I wonder if you search electronic rumors for ‘Deep In The Forest’, how many time I’ve mentioned how much I love that track in the last three years?
Ken was good enough to take some time to law down the Keenhouse law for us:
ER: First off, many thanks Ken for chatting with us.
ER: So, how and when did you start making music? Has it always been electronic?
K: Yeah, it as always been more or less electronically generated music, although I really enjoy playing all kinds of music. I started with piano when I was around ten or eleven and then got into production and midi when I was about fourteen. From there on I just liked to explore a lot of different styles. I guess it was more or less about the content of something than a label people would give to it. I do like playing improvised music and jazz but in the long-term I guess it’s the kind of music that’s in between styles. You can improvise electronically to a certain extend but then there are things only machines can do so there many possibilities how to use it musically.
ER: Who are your heroes or influences, both musical and otherwise? I always get the feeling I hear a little bit of Jean-Michel Jarre in your music.
K: Haha. Thanks. Yes, I like his music but it’s not really an influence. I like the earlier krautrock and fusion stuff more like Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and that school. Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul as keyboard players . Quincy Jones, John Barry, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jobim and his work with Klaus Ogerman, Jazzanova and 4Hero , Laurent Garnier are all-time favorites.
ER: And when did you get involved with the Binary posse?
K: That must have been right in the beginning when most of Binary came together in 2008. It was great that there were those other producers out there not just over in France but literally next door who all had that passion for electronic music. I mean there was always a pretty strong house and club scene around but it was more about looking at electronically influenced music as a format next to, you know, whatever else people would both dance and listen to and start to merge it again with song structures or take it other directions. That’s kind of an exciting time, when things are wide open. Then you either go top of the pops or push the limits of a style but really what’s more important, even though it might be a bit idealistically, is that you give something musically, which I think is what it’s about, you leave something behind.
ER: ‘Deep In The Forest’ is one of my favourite tracks on ‘Valerie And Friends’ (it even made our top 20 of 2009!), what’s the story behind it?
K: It’s kind of a long story that evolved over years. But in short it’s about Peter Pan being alive. Memories are dreams that we kind of collect over time to build little pieces of your world from it. It’s a little bit like a daydream. There are some of those good memories that can just repeatedly pop up at any given moment and I just wondered what is it with this feeling, I can’t really tell what it is. But it’s not as much about the content of a story than the color of it, So to me it’s that certain emotional color of feeling young that I wanted to put into something more tangible.
ER: What’s in Keenhouse’s studio? Any ‘go to’ synths?
K: Yeah, actually I don’t really like to get tons of new equipment all the time unless I really know what’s underneath the hood of a piece I already got. I still really like my V-Synth for certain kinds of programming. Some of the Arturia stuff sounds really good and I like it for a lot of automated things. I mean the thing with the outboard synths is that if you do a lot of automation, I always thought setting up your outboard gear isn’t that intuitive in comparison as far as sending midi messages in different formats. One synth accepts one format, totally different wit the next one. I use some of the Dave Smith stuff and one of my favorites is the MKS-80 Super Jupiter and a Korky Little Fatman. It really can just do one thing it can do it so many different ways. As far as processing, I really love the sound of the mainly for compression on a lot of things and the SSL channelstrips.
ER: And what makes up your live rig?, How does playing live work for you?
K: It’s a mixture between stems, midi and other audio. I prepare a row of stems for the tracks and spread them out over several channels Some of them are triggered while other tracks send midi to my synths. I either play parts of the synths, sing or control the midi. It takes a lot of preparation since there are a lot of individual tracks playing simultaneously but in the end gives more flexibility if things need to be shuffled around. I try to leave myself enough room for improvisation but at the same time it’s good to know that if I play a line a certain way there won’t be a drummer to react to that so I somehow have to consider that too.
ER: If money was no object, what synth would love to own?
K: Either a Yamaha CS 80 and a ARP 2500 system. If some money is left I would probably get a separate room for those and lock the door behind me, haha.
ER: How do you think being part of Binary help musicians?
K: Well, Binary is kind of an all around thing. There are a bunch of artists who all come from a bit of a different background musically. Some are DJs, some are producers, instrumentalists, singers, so it’s a quite eclectic mix. Musically there is a more or less a cohesive sound to it but everyone is really doing their own thing. It’s a certain sound that brought some of the Binary artists together in the first place and and at the same time it’s that sound that some the Binary artists started building upon which helped to give the whole thing more of an identity. I guess that especially with anything dance music related, the whole party scene and also music that tries to cross over, it’s really helpful if there ‘s an outlet for the producers and musicians to try things out , try to stretch the boundaries. Most of the Binary artists get to play to essentially two different crowds, it’s not just 24 hour party people all the time but there are also those who want to hear songs. A little bit of everything.
ER: Does they Binary crew get up to rock ‘n’ roll shenanigans when they get together?
K: If you mean rock ‘n’ roll as in ‘That hotel room looked different when we got here yesterday’. Yes, there is a possibility when certain people get together.
ER: What does the near future hold for Keenhouse?
K: I’m mostly working on new material to go on the next album. Writing, recording different instrumentation besides the synths and programming. At the moment I’m actually revisiting some old tracks that are going to be put out under a different moniker this year and there are some new remixes to be released over the summer/fall. Then there is some production work for a pretty cool new act from Germany and some work for singers.
ER: Is Keenhouse more of a cereal or pile of pancakes for breakfast kinda’ act?
K: I do prefer cereal, pancakes are too heavy.
Keenhouse should have a new full length album coming out this year and may be touring outside the US.