He doesn’t fear experimenting in front of a crowd. Finger drumming over chords he just recorded, and throwing in some jazzy Chopin golden fingers are what distinguish KiNK amongst other live performers. Live sets are an art after all, and most of the the laptop DJs who put “live” next to their name often launch premade loops and tweak the filter cutoff of their synthesizer to make it seem live. In fact, KiNK is high above them all; his urge to always push boundaries is what gives him his edge. His setup is as visually fulfilling as sonically hypnotic and diverse. Basically the Bulgarian artist is a sorcerer throwing spells from the speakers, enchanting the crowd to move ecstatically.
The moment we landed in Amsterdam we were excited to see what awaited us at Desperados’ Sound Stage, headlined by KiNK. The second we set foot in the venue we were amazed by the old cars outfitted DIY style into sound systems. The sound was amazing and KiNK adapted to it in no time, making an original track on the spot for Desperados.
We had a chat with KiNK after his performance, to find out that the beast on stage is actually a humble passionate musician.
You’re known to experiment in your live setup. How does this push you forward as an artist?
Playing live opened a big door for me in terms of production. Many years ago I used to only use the computer to draw the music and sculpt the sounds. I wouldn’t use my ears, instead I used to use my eyes, which is completely wrong. Since I started playing live, I wasn’t able to look that much at the computer and decided that was a good moment to do something. Now my music is so much more organic and natural.
When it comes to sampling in general are you more inclined to use field recordings or existing samples?
Through the years I had so many rules. For example, there was a period when I said I wouldn’t use anything that was recorded after 1970. These rules were completely stupid, but sometimes you have to create rules for yourself and have a certain system in order to break them. In the moment I do everything, I even sample from Youtube. I recently needed a noise source, and my wife was doing the laundry. There was a moment when the washing machine was rotating very fast to dry the laundry and it was making an amazing noise - it had much better character than a synthesizer, so I sampled it with my telephone. I have a very good Neumann microphone, but the actual sample I used was from my telephone, which is wrong, but...nothing is wrong.
So it doesn’t affect the quality.
It affects the quality, but it gives it color. I was talking to a friend of mine who is a very good producer and DJ in Berlin, Stefan Goldmann. I was telling him I’m so obsessed with recording tapes and running my music through tube preamps because of their amazing color. I think in 2030 people will be like “ahhh you remember that warm sound of the MP3?” So what’s wrong with the quality of the telephones?
Were you the kid who loved to fiddle around and disassemble old electrical equipment?
Wow, the way you put it, you paint me in a very good light and make me seem like a very smart person. In reality I rarely soldered anything. One of the funny things I did was that I had this Russian turntable with only one speaker. That was in the early '80s, I was listening to some dance music radio shows and I would hear that really interesting sound the DJs produce - scratching. I didn’t know what scratching was, I didn’t have MTV at the time or any other visual source. I thought yeah, I can probably scratch with my turntable, so I tried to do it, but then I noticed that DJs obviously used something to cut the sound. It was obviously the mixer but I didn’t know about it yet. So I decided to cut the wire going to the speaker and I put metal plates, which when I would press they would make contact. So I kind of made my own crossfader. I always came out with simple solutions that made me achieve what I wanted. Because of this I don’t take anything for granted.
Did you ever get stuck on ideas while playing live? How do you come out of it?
When I play live I don’t get stuck.
I have moments when things are not so great. I have moments when there’s one loop and I don’t have any more ideas, but I work very well under pressure. It’s not always perfect, but I always keep going, even if the result is not so great, I keep going. However, my problem is that I generally can’t take decisions in life. So sometimes I’m really confused about a sound I made, a bass line or how long the parts should be.
And you leave it up to someone else like your wife?
Yes definitely. It’s just a bit sad because she was into electronic music and then started getting deeper into it until she doesn’t listen to the more accessible part of the genre. So she listens to my stuff less and less. But she’s really good at making decisions, so she comes into the room and tells me “you know what, extend this intro to one minute…or actually throw the whole track in the trash.” So she’s one of my options, but mostly my friends.
So Desperados brought the most unusual mobile systems to build this insane soundstage. What do you think of this experiment?
Well, besides the exposure I’ll probably gain from this and all the fun I had, the main thing is that I gained so much skill with this because I had to deal with the characteristics and color of each sound system. It was good.
Have you ever heard about the scene in Egypt?
Actually not in detail, but one of my friends plays in Egypt quite often. He’s one of the earliest DJs who brought techno to Bulgaria. I also would love to come to Egypt, I’m very curious.
I heard that Sandbox Festival tried to book you but your agent turned them down.
I make it a bit difficult for promoters to book me to save energy for other events. I try to limit myself to two nights a weekend, three weekends a month, as opposed to other DJs who can have five.
So you think that playing a lot will kill your passion?
Not so much for DJs, but for live acts like me it’s more difficult, because I have to show up in the venue early to install my equipment and test everything to make sure that everything works. If I was DJing with USBs I would sleep to 2:00am, show up at 2:30am, play my set and then leave. But when I finish my set I need an extra hour to take my stuff, so I don't sleep enough. I think if I was DJing I would play a lot more. I love playing music, it’s just the extra stress of what I do with my setup and lack of sleep. I would love to play three gigs a night but it's physically impossible, it’s time consuming to move the setup from one location to another.
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