“I am now completely free, I can do whatever I want.”

After years spent experimenting with machines and stretching his capabilities on a sub-cultural level, Bulgarian producer KiNK has rightfully become a name on everyone’s lips. Blending and contorting the lines between techno, acid, house and bass music, Strahil Velchev has captured the ears, minds and hearts of fans, all captivated by his uncompromising mastery of analogue and digital instruments, delivered through his talked up & energetic live shows.

It was that time of the year – holidays, perfect mood, celebrating life and love. It was time for a bizarre ride of my own, because I was about to interview a fellow countryman from Bulgaria that I have been following for a while now.  In the heat of the night at Valhalla Festival I am walking up to register and there he is – the Maestro. Just arrived, Strahil is filled with excitement for his gig.

We shook hands and walked up to the artist lounge, where we had a chat with an exceptional view.

You played Valhalla last year and we wanted to know whether this experience influenced you to take on the gig this year?

First of all, I am very impressed with the location and the amount of people here tonight. What I like to see the most here is the musical diversity – there is something for everyone. You have more accessible music for people who are not professional listeners, but then you have more niche music for those who have specific desires and I think this is very good and it’s a really good way for new-comers in electronic music to discover new and quality music. I like that kind of environment.

How did you prepare for tonight?

I didn’t. No, of course I had some thoughts on what to do tonight but I guess the key of my live show is the improvisation, so if I completely prepare it wouldn’t be me and it wouldn’t be interesting. But saying I haven’t prepared, every week I have a day and sometimes even more than one, in the studio, which is dedicated to practicing. I regularly update my live show and regularly come up with new ideas. It’s not a specific preparation for a gig but trying to improve.

Let’s talk about records. Which ones did you bring with you today?

Yeah it’s a really good question and I think it’s a nice opportunity for me to explain. I don’t bring records and I don’t really play my music I just create it in the moment. So I will look at the crowd and I will listen to the DJ before me and I’ll think “Okay what kind of music people want to listen right now, what’s the vibe? Do I want to continue or make a complete change? What kind of sounds do I have to choose for my keyboards and drum machines?” … and then I’m just going to make music. Of course I have some elements of my own tracks and I will play some sort of tracks that people recognize but in general it’s a lot of improvisation involved.

Which records made you buy your favorite machines, the TR-808, -909?

Tough question, because all the house and techno records from the early 90s and late 80s are made with these machines. So every record that I’d mention, like for example I’m a big fan Jeff Mills. Pretty much everything he pulled out on his record label is made with the 909. It’s really hard for me to mention only one record. It’s an era, it’s a style with this sound.

Jeff Mills. We can see that you are kind of looking up to him. Especially in terms of performance. You both put up a very impressive show.

Sometimes people accuse me that I try to copy him and maybe it is true to a certain extent, but it’s not because I try to copy someone. I have my admiration for his style and I like that approach to music making. If intentionally I take some ideas it’s just because I work in the same direction.

And that’s evolution

Of course! There was a really cool interview with an artist from back in the days, who was telling about his approach to making music. He said he was trying to copy his favorite tracks but because the human brain is not perfect it’s not possible to represent what you want to copy. You do copy but you make your own version of it, like a remix. Sometimes I start from a point where I want to repeat something I like, but I make it in a different way. It’s never a copy and I wouldn’t call it improvement but maybe an evolution of something like you said.

Have you considered designing your own piece of gear or creating your own unique machine since you are one of the the biggest analog lovers?

Yes, that’s absolutely something I’d love to do but at the moment I don’t have the knowledge, so in order for it to happen I have to find an appropriate partner. It’s not going to be possible in the near future. There are software platforms, which allow you to do that in digital domain. I’m already trying to learn a platform called MAX MSP. It’s a very old platform, which allows you to build your own tools for multimedia – for audio and video. I take little steps with this platform and it’s a good start and maybe one day I’ll be able to have a partner who can help me out to do exactly what I’m trying to develop now in a software domain.

Who do you think that partner could be? Right now at the top of my mind, Sierra Sam, perhaps? A good friend of yours and partner with who you created this amazing full analog live jam at Watergate, right?

Sammy is a good friend, such a great person and very reliable music partner because he knows (actually he knows much more than me) all about the analog machines. Unfortunately we can’t produce gear together because he is also like me – just a producer, he is not creating machines. But he is and he will be my music partner for sure!

When the time comes what do you have in mind what kind of machine? What kind of sound? Is there something comparable out there at the moment?

I guess I want to have a couple of things. Actually one device I was thinking of is more like the very specific sound processing unit. At the moment there is a really interesting tendency, back in the days people who used to make software tried to emulate analog hardware. Now the hardware manufacturers, or at least the forward thinking ones of them, try to get inspired and emulate the more progressive software platforms, so that’s something I want to do. I want to make this very specific hardware box, which is actually inspired by a lot of software programs and it’s something that does not exist yet in the hardware world.