KiNK on His New Album: "Between Traditional Song Structures and Complete Madness"
Strahil Velchev -- better known as KiNK on international dancefloors -- took no shortcuts during his two-decade trajectory as a producer. Nor was he given any major breaks. It was pure passion and perspiration that got him where he is today.
Raised in Bulgaria when the country was still culturally and economically cut off behind the Iron Curtain, Velchev had to scavenge for meager morsels of Western music at local record shops, or hope the local radio DJ would drop something novel. But his thrilling first tastes of electronica were enough to whet his appetite and set him on a lifelong course to learn everything he could about those sounds and how to make them.
Fast-forward to 2013 and KiNK is one of the most celebrated artists and performers in underground electronic dance music. A producer's producer whose mastery of old-school electronic production techniques but also the early adoption of new technologies, make for a sound that is equally classic and future-thinking.
Ahead of KiNK's first-ever Miami appearance -- in fact, his North American debut altogether -- Crossfade caught up with the man himself to chat about his musical roots, his new album and what to expect when brings his one-of-a-kind live show to Shoot the Freak's launch party at Trade Miami Beach tonight.
Crossfade: Tell us about your first exposure to electronic music while growing up in Bulgaria. How did you first get drawn to that sound?
KiNK: I've always been into music. I was into disco when I was a little kid. My parents were giving me pocket money for breakfast in school, and I used it to buy vinyl. That was in the communist times, in the late '80s. The records were extremely cheap, but there was almost nothing in the stores. Later on, in 1992, I heard a track on the radio which blew my mind. The radio DJ said that it's techno and it opened a new page in my life.
I had very little access to electronic music in the early and mid '90s. In the beginning there were just three or four electronic dance music compilations per year, and the music inside was a bit of everything, from F.U.S.E. (Richie Hawtin) through Joey Beltram, The Prodigy, Orbital and KLF, to The Orb and Future Sound Of London. The format was cassette. I used to record music from the radio as well.
In the beginning I didn't know of other people that were into electronic music -- there were no clubs where you could listen to it, all was very mysterious and exciting for me! In the mid '90s, the dance music scene in Bulgaria exploded, but I still didn't have access to much music, and I believe that made me so curious and passionate about it. In the late '90s the scene was pretty good, Bulgaria was a good place to play. But I have to say, in the last 10 years, the electronic music lost a bit of its appeal in my country. I believe it's a moment of slowing down before the next peak.
In the past, you've mentioned how you're not a classically trained musician, but rather started out as a DJ and then got into production later. Yet today, you are a renowned gear head that favors old-school analog production, and you boast a seasoned musician's talent for composition. How did you first get into production and how did you develop your musical chops? Why do you challenge yourself to use analog gear in an age of digital software production?
Well, the DJing and music production, in a more traditional way, happened at the same time -- sometime in 1999. But before that, I'd been experimenting with one turntable and a cassette deck. I had some idea of beatmatching, I had good experience as a music listener, and zero experience as a producer -- so both things started together. Somehow, I think the DJing came first. I used to play piano when I was a kid, but it was a long time ago -- I was taking lessons for about two to three years, but I was not working hard enough, so I didn't became good at it. However, I guess this experience helped me to be more musical and to be quick with my hands when I manipulate sound.
I wanted to play with sounds since I discovered electronic music, and many years later, when the digital technology allowed me to do it with very little investment, I just started doing it. I became addicted immediately. I used every free moment to make music. That's how I developed my skills, but that's how I also developed tinnitus and I missed university graduation.
I always dreamed of synthesizers, but I couldn't afford them for many years. I learned to produce on a computer, and that's great, because it made me more open to the new technology. However, I find working with obscure analog boxes very inspiring. It can be a challenge, and the challenge is my favorite aspect of making new music. Right now, I'm really into new developments -- instruments based on something old and forgotten, but made for the future. I think that concept relates to my music as well.