Creating rich and moving soundscapes (without conventional means and common ways of creating music) is not easy. May it be subtle or harsh, composing spells of audial magic, layers of sound triggering inner films, requires a very special kind of talent very different from traditionally beating your instrument and screaming your lungs out, or something similar. Under the name [ówt krì], Kenneth K. has created one of the most multifaceted and internally visual works of Ambient music I have ever heard in my life.
Hello Kenneth! How has the winter begun for you in our mutual hometown of Helsinki?
Besides the struggle against the oppressive darkness and a chronic lack of time everything is very well. I have been planning future ventures as well as started recording layers for the next [ówt krì] release, hopefully out sometime next year.
You have created music for about ten years. Has it been always made in the way it is now, with synths as well as with an electric guitar?
I was very late with picking up real instruments; Actually I was in my early twenties when I got my first keyboard and guitar. Until then I tried out composing with stock loops from Sonic Foundry’s ACID music and toying around with Fast Tracker. Since I got into real instruments there was no turning back and I’ve turned into something of a instrument junky.
Today I compose using guitar, bass, keyboard and some midi programming but also some more obscure instruments like electric violin, AKAI EWI and Theremin.
How much experience do you have creating other styles of music? Do you have a background in something other than Ambient, or have you always been attracted to more subtle (yet rich) ways of playing with sound?
To the core I’m a metal-head. Some 15 years ago there was no other music for me than metal and it’s sub-genres. So back in the early 00’s I started out with trying to compose metal, which just turned into bad pastiches of my visions and heroes. From there I tried out all types of stuff, from Rap to Country. Ultimately I found my own voice as a composer when I scrapped the conventional song structures and mainstream styles and took the deep dive into drones and ambience.
Nowadays, even if my main focus is on soundscapes and ambient, I still record some experimental metal music occasionally. Mostly I tend to express my aggressions with Black Metal, Doom and Grindcore, or an occasional Noise one-off every now and then.
Your music is extremely (internally) visual. As a skilful creator of landscapes and paintings of sound, have you ever worked in visual arts as well?
Thank you so much for the compliment. One of my earliest creative outputs was drawing so I consider my artistic roots to be in visual arts. I had this huge Marvel comics collection that I used for model and inspiration in my drawing, which resembles my way of picking up music also; I develop my style and ideas based on what I hear in other peoples music or read about composers ideas.
My latest ventures in visual arts have been a few acrylic paintings and a handful of photographs, but they are merely sporadic acts of creative fulfillment.
How is a typical [ówt krì] -song crafted? Is it a long process, or do the creation-lengths of songs vary a lot?
My point of entry usually varies quite a lot, as the actual aggregate for a composition can be pretty much anything. Sometime the ideas ignite from a sound or a text, other times from a spoken phrase or a photograph… there is no rule really. Anything that wakes emotions within me can serve as the seed for inspiration.
Once I have the main idea for the track, then I just plug in the instruments and start following my intuition. It’s not unusual for the final track to be light years away from the initial idea, but the point of entry is still imperative.
Your magnificent album “The New Seed” was released by Alrealon Musique last year, but after that you have also released material through other channels as well? Do you see this as a fruitful and usual way to go when it comes to Electronic music in this day and age?
Alrealon Musique really did a great job with promoting “The New Seed” and the guys at the label are like an extended family for me. Still, as a small indie label they need to get their investment paid back before we can put something new out together and I really hope that day will come. I know both me and the label are hard at work with getting the batch of CDs out there.
So the thing is that you really need to do whatever you can to spread knowledge and information. Every free download release I get on the net helps in spreading knowledge about me and my project. Also each label and media have their own audiences and readers which all help in getting attention. Fact is that it’s not enough to make a critically acclaimed album anymore. You have to find the listeners and connect with them.
You also perform live. Do you see this fundamentally different from studio-working (so to speak)? How much do you improvise when performing live, or otherwise?
I was given a great chance last summer (2014) to perform live during the Ambient Music Conference 2014 pre-party in Helsinki. It was a great game-opener for me and really woke my hunger to perform. Now my live routine has been based on improvised playing over pre-recorded backing tracks and it has worked well for my gigs in Finland and the US.
As my studio work also is largely based on improvised overdubs and intuition, I don’t see such a large fundamental difference between the two.
In many ways I see my recordings as a process of trials and errors until I reach the perfect atmospheric and melodic mix for my aural aesthetics.
Of course, in difference to recordings, the live performance peaks in that spur of the moment and will be tied down to the atmospheres and feelings right there, right then. So Live I either hit or miss.
In other words I give the viewers of my shows a once in a lifetime experience that I hope will touch them at least on some level.
Your music has taken you abroad as well. Is this something that you can picture happening in the future as well? Is there a common trait in people attending Ambient music shows?
Absolutely! Any chance I get to play abroad or domestic is highly welcome and appreciated. The problem is that on this level I can’t afford to play that much abroad, but if I could get the travel expenses then no problem.
What I have noticed is that there isn’t that much of a scene locally, or it is very deep underground so, being a bit of an introvert personality, finding the right people and connections is hard for me.
The people who I have had the pleasure to meet at my gigs have all been musically highly open minded and sincere people. I have been very lucky to connect with so many great personalities!
What other activities do you do (or see yourself doing) in life, besides music? Is creating art a constant process to you, or do you have your periods of creativity and periods of rest?
Mostly I try to juggle between Family life, work and music to get out the most from life. With that said family life is very inspiring. I pretty much depend on inspiration for my creative ventures, so I tend to have dry seasons when I don’t create anything new.
Regarding other ventures in my life, I have tried a whole lot of things besides my day job in an office. As I said earlier, I used to draw and occasionally paint some minimal stuff. At one time I wrote a lot of poetry, that I still have hanging around in my drawers (aka. cloud storages), and I also did reviews for a music Zine.
A part of me also craves to do things with my hands and after years of assembling my computers I did a switch and started building (or assembling) guitars and some obscure string instruments that I can utilize in my future projects.
Thank you very much for this interview! What can you tell us about the future plans of [ówt krì]?
Thank you so much for the attention.
I just released a tape called “Incarcerated” on Cursed Tapes, which was a collaboration I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
Other than that I hope to continue the victory march that started in 2013 with “The New Seed”. My plan is to release more music within the next year and play some more gigs. There are also a few music video projects in my mind and I hope to advance with those soon.
At the moment my next gig will be in February 2015 in Turku.
I also have plans to arrange something in Helsinki… more about that later.