Interview: Kevin Knapp
There is a good chance if you have been out to a dance recently that you will have heard one of Kevin Knapp’s tune.
The big American has really come to the fore after productions on labels like DirtyBird and Hot Creations have got picked up far and wide. He hails from the Bay Area in San Fran so has a big, booty shaking sound that is charming and off kilter. Now he is based in Berlin and has a new EP called “Fine Me” coming on Rebellion in March, and again it packs a real punch. Here he sits down with us to talk about all this and more.
“…if a track slamming and dope beyond question, I still absolutely lose my freaking shit, every time, without fail”
How are you, what good, whats bad?
Doing pretty good at the moment. Just in the studio here in Berlin and I’m putting the final touches on a remix for Jey Kurmis & Sizeup on Material. If anything is troubling at the moment it’s that when I just kick it in short sleeves it feels like Antarctica in here but when I throw on the studio hoodie it’s like the Serengeti. It’s quite unsettling, haha!
How is it to be an American in Trump’s America right now? Are you for or against him?
Well, since I’m an American currently living in Berlin I have a pretty niche perspective on all that I suppose, since I’m out of country. That whole situation is terrible, and embarrassing as all hell. I’ve been travelling and or living in Europe for the past 15 years or so and I gotta say, the experience changes, based on who our President is, so I’m currently bracing for some challenges. Nothing to heavy, but people are always unsure, as you are, what side you’re on and that makes for some potentially awkward moments. I did not vote for him and I do not support him. What’s more? Having legal training & a legal background I keep a keen eye on the each misstep he makes to see if it can lead to a possible infraction, so we get him outta there. I’m kind of obsessing on that actually!
You used to sing gospel, right? Do you think house music has lost its connection to those early roots?
Ironically, one would think I sang Gospel but it was actually more classically based stuff that I was doing through high school and in my early college days. I actually found a lot more of my urban influenced singing style when I began to work in house music because I felt like the music was kind begging for it. I feel like I can still hear it in dance music, it’s just a distant iteration now though, at least when it pertains to the sub-genres I work in and enjoy.
Can or should house music still be social and political? Are those messages missing from todays sound?
This is a great question. It’s funny, I think in some of the tunes I make and likely more so in some of the one’s I spit on (not that kind of spit, spoken word sillies ;)), those themes are definitely still present. I sometimes like to speak to the state of the genre or community or the state of something that’s going down geopolitically at the time. But it’s often a subtle note, so subtle sometimes that it can be missed or construed as something else. Even though we are living in very political times I would not say I those messages are very present in house today. Depending on how you define “social” that may or may not be true there as well. The art should be what it is in my opinion, no agenda but it seems like there’s a pretty big opportunity in that space at the moment as well. Hmmm… ;)_
And how do you feel as a black American to see so many white people jacking the should sound and getting rich off it? Is it about context and intention?
Hahaha funny question “jacking”. I don’t really play the “where is it culturally appropriate for this creation to originate from” game that often. Not because I’m avoiding the question, but more as an extension of the way I grew up. I’ve always had a really diverse group of friends who very rarely looked like me or came from a similar ethnic background. My pop’s is white and dope is shit (has influenced my music breadth substantially) and so is my wife and many of my homies over the years along with many other nationalities. For me it’s always been, how dope is what you bring to the table, that’s it, I don’t give a shit who brings it, just make sure it’s dope! I suppose that’s a long winded way of saying yes it’s about context and intention. Don’t exploit and rob folks of shit, get in the conversation and help us build and promote this thing many of us can’t breathe without.
You lease on Hot Creations and Rebellion – do you tailor your sounds to each label or just make the beats and send them off?
Yeah more the latter. Even on the off day where you sit down in the studio and you’re thinking okay I think I want to make something this kind of way that these kind of folks may feel, the track has it’s own life in my opinion. It’s kind of like you sit down, throw a couple things at the canvas and the picture tells you where else it needs paint. Not being existential, that’s really how it feels.
What inspires and influences your tunes, what is the aim with each one?
My motto continues to be “nuts on the bottom, head on the top.” I feel like a track needs to grab you by the chest, bootie whatever and dare you to sit still while at the same time expressing some embodiment of the balance between abstraction, tension, dissonance and resolution on the top. The attempt to engage the body and the mind is kind of how it lands with me. I really only think peak time or not peak time when I start a track, the rest I work out in the process.
Do you design them with a certain club or party or time or crowd in the night in mind?
Yep. A certain time, exactly.
Will you head back to Ibiza this summer – do you like the White Isle? What makes it special for you? Yeah, Ibiza has just been such a special place in my life and at this point I’ve been there at so many different points in my life with so many different people. I guess perhaps what’s been most surprising is since first wanting to go there over 14 years ago, it continues to become a larger and larger part of my life. I’m thinking this summer might just be the best one yet for me. We’re just going to have to wait and see J
What was the last record you bought and why? Do you still get shocked and excited by new tunes as much as ever?
I’m actually due for a pretty sizeable dig at the moment (something I say daily as it’s never enough!). In the last batch though that Stripper track from Katy Got Bandz & Fancy Fux on Dirtybird has been slaying it for me every time I bump it. I mean like even at the house bump it. I mean even as I listen right now while answering this question and it’s making me want to turn over my studio desk with a bootie bump kind of bumpin’ it. Just urgent and raw with a fab lead synth. And yes, if a track slamming and dope beyond question, I still absolutely lose my freaking shit, every time, without fail, for weeks on end ;)
Kevin Knapp feat. Baby Luck – “Find Me” EP is available of Rebellion in April. PRE ORDER