7 Questions with Kemek

A&H: For the people out there who might not know what your background and history is, can you share a bit about yourself and your evolution as a producer?

My first releases were on Silent Records in the early ’90s, back when ambient was the big thing. I released ambient music as Deeper Than Space as well as under a few other names, most notably 303 Terrorists and DTS, which were most techno-based. Listening to that music now, it sounds horribly amateurish and under-produced, but at the time I was just learning how to produce. The fact that it was recorded onto 4-track cassette with no reverb or compression at all, and that it sounds as good as it does, is pretty amazing. (Three of those Deeper Than Space albums are now available on Bandcamp: http://deeperthanspace.bandcamp.com/)

Before that I was making experimental bedroom noise and industrial stuff, trading tapes through the magazine “Factsheet 5” and such. Unfortunately I don’t have any of those tapes any more, although I can’t imagine ever listening to it. It would be too embarrassing.

A&H: How did you arrive at producing material as “Kemek The Dope Computer?”

My music output picked up again in 2001 when I pressed up a new-school breaks 12″, “Future Modular/Are You Now?” and got it into the right hands. This was released under the name Kemek the Dope Computer and the music was done entirely on Reason. I had since given up on outboard gear as computer programs were getting better and better. I kept at it for a few more years, DJing as well, until I went back to school in 2005 to study Japanese. I had developed tinnitus by this point and pretty much retired from DJing, although I did play the occasional gig here and there.

Now I’m at it again, this time releasing dubstep or post-dubstep or whatever you want to call it. I’m now just Kemek and I’m back on Muti Music, with whom I released some music in 2001. So far there’s been the Sine Language EP and the Certain Frequencies EP, which is getting some good press. In early 2011 an album, Itsuka, will be released. I’ve been working on that for five years so it’s nice to have it finally come out. It’s more ambient / down-tempo / whathaveyou, sort of a continuation of my http://deeperthanspace.bandcamp.com/ days but obviously much better sounding.

A&H: Talk about your process as a producer. How do you go about producing your material?

It depends on the song, really. Usually, if I’m making a dance track, I’ll start with the beat and then develop a bass line. Those have always been the two most important elements for me. You can make a great dance song with just beats and bass. From there I’ll add little bits, melody if necessary. I usually spend a lot of time on transitions and fills, and in making sure the song flows right. Dance music is all about conducting energy. You want to make sure the energy doesn’t bog down in any one spot.

If I’m making ambient music, though, the starting point could be just about anything: a sampled sound, a field recording, a bit of dialogue from a movie. On my new album Itsuka, the melody was the most important thing. I also consciously limited what kinds of sounds I wanted to use, so I would start with a piano or Rhodes or marimba sound, something a little more organic, and go from there.

In terms of software, I’ve been using Reason for almost 10 years so I’m pretty fast with it. I’ll usually start the song there, building loops up, until I have a framework I like. Then I’ll export audio and import it into Logic, where I’ll blow it out into a full song. Even if I happen to make an entire song in Reason I’ll still export all the parts to Logic. It just sounds better.

I also have Ableton Live, which I use for DJing, but I have yet to crack the code for production. There’s just something in the fundamental structure of it that I can’t get my head around. The workflow is just a bit different than Logic and I end up hitting walls. I suppose I need to take a class or something.

A&H: I know that your work has taken you overseas. How has living in South Korea influenced you as a music producer?

So far, not much. I came to Korea to teach English and the bulk of my time has been spent learning how to be a teacher. I do miss producing though, so hopefully next year I’ll be able to pick up some monitors and start making music again. I live in the countryside and it’s very conducive to drones and minimal.

I have lived in Japan off and on for the last six years, though, and that had a direct influence on Itsuka. The title means “someday” in Japanese, and the album is full of longing to stay in that country.

A&H: What are your biggest influences musically?

Although I like a good melody, atmosphere and repetition have always moved me more. It’s why I’ll always prefer Neu! and Can to The Beatles, acid house to Detroit techno and minimal to Baroque classical, even though I like it all. Dub reggae is a big influence, as are bands like Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized. Brian Eno is another big one. I listen to his music almost every day.

A&H: Where can people go to find out more about you music?

The Kemek Diaspora:




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A&H: What’s your top 10 right now?

I haven’t been keeping up with new music all that much lately, and usually when I get home I just want to relax so my listening habits have tended towards drone and ambient. Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately:

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Among many other things, Ryuichi Sakamoto is a great piano player. I’ve been listening to his solo piano albums a lot lately. I’ll actually get to see him play in Seoul in January. I’m really excited.

White Rainbow: There’s so much good drone music happening right now, it’s a little overwhelming. White Rainbow is consistently good. I especially like his “See Thru” album. It’s great for reading.

Emeralds: Another excellent drone group, in the tradition of Tangerine Dream.

Harold Budd: An old stand-by. I love pretty much everything he’s ever done.

Brian Eno: I wake up most mornings to “Music For Airports” and “Apollo.” Bang On A Can have a great live version of “Music For Airports” as well.

Perfume: My J-pop guilty pleasure. The music is insanely catchy and the girls are cute. What more could you want?