It’s been a long time since 1997 Dark Comedy: Seven Days [Elypsia] Belgium but Kenny Larkin is still going strong. A true techno king, shaping the genre since the 90s, with producers Derrick May and Juan Atkins as inspiration, has undoubtedly created some of the most influential unique and soulful sounds over the decades. Kenny Larkin is a true veteran. A leading force progressing the music from the beginning. As a Detroit native, he has lived through the industrial city’s troubled and tumultuous past and present, which has undoubtedly impacted on his career. We are extremely grateful and excited for Mutek 2018 where he will be gracing the stage at Montreal’s cutting edge music festival. We sat down with the man himself for a chat before Métropolis 2:
You are a man that needs no introduction, a pioneer, a powerhouse and a techno legend. Detroit is the birthplace of techno and we are eternally grateful for the supreme collection of talented artists originating from this industrial city. But, with all this superb talent in one city how did you, Kenny Larkin, get to this distinguished level of recognition and accomplishment?
It’s easy. I focused on being melodic and musical with the stuff I release. A lot of people doing dance music only focus on the beat aspect. Big mistake! Yeah, you can get people going at a club or festival, with a hard pounding beat, but you won’t stick out as a producer, when every other person doing dance music focuses on beats. It’s harder to leave a lasting impression with only a beat.
You have influenced techno music all over the globe from America to Germany and everywhere in between. I live in Berlin, an epicentre of techno where your music is received with loving raving arms -- it’s brilliant! But can the same be said for how your music is welcomed in the US?
Slowly we’ve been getting our recognition, but it will never be in the same way as we are received in other countries. The kids aren’t interested in the past, and discovering the music from a historical point of view. They want here and now. Society doesn’t leave room for that kind of attention to things, unless you’re in a academic setting. We live in a very different world, where the focus is mainly on newsfeeds, and status updates, which you scroll through. Once you scroll past something, or someone, your attention is redirected to the new posting. It’s super hard to stick out, when you are given less than a minute to get someone’s attention, let alone have them research the older things you accomplished.
Over 20 years in the game congratulations! Thats a lot of work, production and sets. To date, which gigs have been most memorable and why?
I started in 1990 with Richie Hawtin, back in the beginning. That’s more like 27 years! Haha.
My most memorable gigs are easily the gigs that take place in lesser known, lesser developed countries. It’s amazing to me to see how music brings people together, even in those countries that don’t have the same economic and living standards as the western countries. I could name ten of them, but I won’t, since it would make them appear less than other countries. I’ve been blessed to visit these countries, and so many others to see how we are really all the same, on many different levels.
We hear a mixture of jazz, techno, house and soul in your music, I love that because it tells me you are a person who is in touch with your emotions and changing moods -- List 5 songs that move you.
I can list only 5? Haha.
Miles Davis-So What
Marvin Gaye- What’s Going On (This song is so relevant today)
Hans Zimmer- Interstellar Soundtrack
Nina Simone- Sinnerman
Prince- International Lover
Kraftwerk- Computer World
Chicago-If You Leave Me Now
I could go on and on….
As I mentioned earlier, 20 years, is a long time to devote yourself to anything. You must have witnessed a lot of political, social and economic changes in America during those years. Are there any particular events or developments that have changed the way you produce your music?
Because my music doesn’t contain lyrics, I usually don’t get affected by social change, or political environments. However, where we are today politically, can kill anyone’s desire to be creative, when it feels like the world is crashing and burning around you. I’m consumed with all of the political bullshit our country is going through. I mentioned earlier about lesser developed countries. Friends there tell me about the corrupt political environments, and I could never empathise with them. How fucking crazy is it that we as Americans can now relate to overtly corrupt political systems now. It’s insane, and affects my ability to get in the right frame of mind to let music flow through me.
I have to know, if you weren’t making incredible music what do you think you would be doing with your time?
Stand up comedy for sure. It’s my first love. To make people laugh. I moved to LA in 2001 to pursue comedy, but found out it’s too hard to pursue both at the same time.
As an international DJ -- not my favourite term -- you have travelled the globe bringing sweet music to all corners. Is there a place for you that feels like a second home? Why is this place so special to you?
Berlin is one of them. I can compare it to Detroit in some ways. But that’s also one thing I don’t like about it. The winters are so depressing and grey :(
Are there any underground artists out there that you are currently listening to or working with?
I’m actually working with a new artist who is very close to me. He is my twin! After almost 3 decades of seeing me dj and release music, he finally decided to do music himself. I am super proud of him. He has some amazing tracks that we are releasing on my own label, Art of Dance.
Now, I know about the tragedy that took hold of your life when you were younger and I’m sorry that something so horrific happened to you. It really does feel as though you were given a second chance at life. I’d like you to share 3 mantras/rules/morals that you swear by to help overcome life’s many obstacles.
Don’t open your door to strangers
Never let your guard down, even with people you are closest to. Sometimes they are your worst enemies
Go for your dreams, because you are never promised tomorrow.
Thank you so much for this interview Kenny. We wish you even more success in the future.
👀 Kenny Larking is playing on Métropolis 2 during Mutek Festival this Saturday. Grab your ticket here.
Interview by Olivia