Si vous n’êtes pas de Detroit et que vous ne connaissez pas Kevin Reynolds, on ne vous en tiendra pas rigueur. Il y a peu nous, ne le connaissions pas non plus. Cependant, grâce au bouche à oreille et essentiellement par l’intermédiaire du label Nsyde qui a sorti un de ces titres. Nous avons eu l’occasion de nous pencher sur le travail du personnage. A la suite du Movement Festival de cette année, il a eu la gentillesse de nous donner l’enregistrement digital de son live. Il commence par une cover de Your Love de Frankie Knuckles, ce qui a retenu notre attention. Ingénieur du son de formation, Kevin fait partie du cercle très fermé des stagiaires de chez Transmat. Il a par la suite été ingénieur du son pour le label et a fait partie intégrante de la structure de Derrick May. Durant cette dernière décennie, il a eu l’occasion de sortir quelques disques sur son label Todchai et également sur d’autres structures. Le producteur dispose d’un parcours assez unique, nous avons donc préféré lui poser quelques questions. Afin de conserver l’essence de la conversation nous avons préféré la conserver en anglais. On vous conseille d’écouter le live set qui navigue ça et là entre différentes ambiances house. Bonne écoute!
If you’re not from Detroit, Kevin Reynolds is not the most obvious music producer that could bubble in your mind. However, it worth to be mentioned. Few weeks ago we did not new about him neither, but thanks to Nsyde we had the luck to dig more about the character. After playing at the DEMF this year, he had the kindness to give us his live set as a Phonocast. As we did not know much about his work on his label Todchai or the little structures as Lifkit and Love What you feel, and also regarding his involvement with Transmat we thought it could be relevant to ask him few questions. This interview deal with the start of his live-act with a cover of Frankie Knuckles and goes to his background and his youth in Detroit. The live set is a nice melting pot of house and deep moods providing a good landscapes of Kevin’s producer skills. Good listening and good reading!
– As it is a live recording, in which context was it recorded?
It is the direct digital recording of the performance at Movement here in Detroit with the mistakes and everything. I had a trumpeter Sam Beaubien of the funk group Will Sessions that did the Nas Illmatic cover with Elzi of Slum Village. But that is in the full recording. Sam has a master in Jazz and has worked with Marcus Belgrave.
Every year in Detroit since 2000 we have a festival that is all Electronic music. It started as a dream of Carl Craig and Derrick May. Now since the promoters Paxahau took it over we have an attendance of over 110,000 people over the 3-day weekend we Americans call Memorial Day. Memorial Day in America is the official start to the summer here, but more importantly its a day that we honour soldiers that have died in our wars.
For me, it has a triple meaning. One, the mark of the beginning of summer (winters in Detroit are harsh), two Movement (time to dance) and third Respect to our men and women that have fought in battles including my great uncle that fought the Battle of the Bulge and my brother.
– How did you conceive your live setup?
4 years ago, I was completely hardware. No laptop. MPC, Yamaha RS7000, Ensoniq EPS 16+, TR-808. Because of travel and most importantly the option to not work linear I switched to Ableton. I think my music has progressed because of Ableton and the way to not work linear.
In the past in the analog world I was only allowed to go from point A to point B. But now I can work more with the crowd. Simply, it granted me more freedom to be myself.
– Why did you decide to cover Frankie Knucles? What it’s represent for you? What is your opinion about tributes? How did you technically implement it in your live?
Frankie is a hero to me. I’ve had the blessing to work with many of my musical heroes, but I’ve never met Frankie, never worked with him. His music talks to me. “Your Love” and “Tears” are just ingrained in my soul.
Being a Detroit guy, sure I call myself Techno but my heart is house. Shit, how can you not love that music. He brought so many people together. I felt it was important to pay homage to a master that just passed and I couldn’t think of a better venue than Movement.
I didn’t want to just sample Frankie, I wanted to study how he made his music. The arpeggiator synth in “Your Love” is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. So I tried to emulate it. His is WAY better. I used my Juno 60 to try to recreate it but… Then the baseline, damn that was the hardest. The pads were easy, the drums came easily but making that cover was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my career, and I only covered the first 2 minutes.
I’m not happy with it and I see mistakes all over it. But I know somewhere, somehow I exposed a young person to Frankie and made an old person remember his importance. I hate to sound cheesy, but that’s what I do. I feel like I teach history lessons via my music.
– How was Movement this year?
Pffft. That like asking what’s your favorite song! There are so many. I stage managed the Made In Detroit stage, so I only get to see these guys. Stacey Pullen taught me what it is to be a professional musician, that dude slays. Mike Huckaby… yeah the vinyl works. Dan Bell and John Tejada as DBX was pure Techno. Octave One with their analog live setup. One young cat Appian stood out big time too maybe it’s different in Europe but how many 20 years old cats are playing Niko Marks tracks. Detroit Techno Militia was something else and Minx. I did skate away to check Rob Hood and Jeff Mills, which was just… amazing. I wanted to see Move D and Metro Area, but alas. It is not a fair question. 🙂
– As a Detroit-Based artist what does this event represent to you?
Everything. It is the magnum opus for me. It represents the ultimate in Detroit music to me. That first year, I saw so many people in tears (including me) of joy. To finally get the recognition in the city that you are from is something special. The old Detroit joke is that you can be a rockstar overseas, but back home you are just another joe. But only that weekend…. it changes.
– You were credited several times as an additional producer on Transmat. How did you get into Transmat?
When I was a kid like 8-10 years old, I used to go to this Video Game arcade called Roscoes in Detroit. There was this weird guy with a high pitched voice that worked there. He would see me slaying all these college guys in Skate Or Die or Street Fighter. My brother and I were pretty much the only white kids in our school, so we stuck out. People remembered us because we lived in a city that was 90 per cent African American. He would give me these quarters painted with red nail polish to play more games for free.
Fast forward to college in at the Conservatory in Arizona. I just graduated in the top 10 per cent. They told me I had an ear (that I didn’t believe) so it was time to do an internship at one of the great studios in LA or NYC. I said no. I want to go to Detroit. They laughed and said “why in the fuck would you want to go to Detroit, there is nothing there?” My liaison for my internship was this tall, gorgeous black woman from Texas. It was before that Internet really hit, and I brought a stack of UK Jockey Sluts and Mixmags with Black dudes from Detroit on the cover. She freaked out. « You mean to tell me brothers from Detroit made this weird music?” I said, yes, with a big smile on my face.
She hustled to get me into Transmat. I started as an intern basically stuffing envelopes and calling record stores; I was not doing zero engineering. I worked with amazing people. Derrick Ortencio and Neil Olliverra were my guiding lights. Over time, they trusted me and made sure I wasn’t bullshit.
We had a basketball court in the back where Derrick kept his Z3 and S4. Derrick and I shot hoops, and I told him a story about Roscoe’s Arcade. That was the only “real” job Derrick ever had. He was the guy that used to give me free quarters.
“Kevin, we know why you are here.” Best words Derrick ever said to me.
What was your role regarding the imprint? Transmat announced a come recently back, what do you think about this? Will you be part of it?
I love the fact that Transmat is putting stuff out. See, the world seems to look at Derrick like this “oh he ain’t done shit, he ain’t doing shit.” Well, that’s completely wrong. Derrick has been doing shit since day fucking one. How many DJ’s, do you know that has been constantly at the top of his game for 30 years? Ravi Shankar? John Coltrane? Sun Ra? Wrap your head around that. He is an entertainer. Dude runs the motherfucking Circus. So if he believes in an artist you should probably pay attention.
– You also have your own label on which you released, but more episodically. To what purpose is designed this platform?
I suck at releasing shit. When I released my first Todhchai (which means things to come in Irish) I got a huge paycheck. I sold a lot of records, but Detroit was in an economic decline. I almost lost my house. I lost my job, and that check saved me from selling my house. My home went from $120,000 USD to $35,000 in one year. So I had to dump all the money from the record into the house, so I had a place to live.
Detroit is no joke. This place is not for the weak. But I love it. Eventually, I want to do more Todhchai records but I got so many cats asking me for shit for other labels I don’t see why I should for now. I know artists like Theo Parrish or Omar S would scream at me…. and rightfully so. But a brother gotta eat.
– How did you come to work with Nsyde?
Richard, this guy. He used to email me back in the day. I used to write articles for him for WhatPeoplePlay. Then all of a sudden he asked me for a record. I sent him rough drafts several times. This motherfucker…. He kept asking for changes “oh the arp is too long” “can you kill the hi hat at 3:30”
At first I was like “who is this guy?” Any other Detroit cat would have told him to fuck off. But I rolled with it. Richard’s soul is really incredible. He created Liaisons just as much as I did. There were moments when I wouldn’t do shit and resend him the file, just to see if he wash an asshole. He totally called it. “Kevin, it seems the same…. maybe you should.”That’s when I gained a lot of respect for what he is doing at Nsyde. He gives a fuck. Richard is on another level.
– What are your next projects?
Something for Nsyde, maybe L.I.E.S., Golf Channel, Burek, Don’t Be Afraid, Art of Vengeance, Sistrum. I am working on shit for Steffi too. I got too many people asking me for shit. I need to start saying no.