Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Colin Kennedy

                                           Colin in Shenzhan, China. Paul Shier took the photo.

Colin Kennedy is pretty busy these days, as one of the longest serving Blueprint pros, UK Nike SB team-manager, husband, father and certifiably one of the nicest people in skateboarding. Still, in the run up to the release of 'MFWTCB' he found time to have a bit of a chat about the music he's digging the most, and what brought him to it.
Now pay attention, you might learn something...

Which came first? Were you into music or skateboarding first? Did one get you into the other?
 I would say that I was properly 'taken with' skateboarding first....I listened to music that was just around me at the time, on the radio, the television...
I really picked up my first music influences through skateboarding. 

Through videos, or the people you were skating with?
 The first 7 inch I bought was Madness.....but it was before I skateboarding, it had a crossword puzzle on the back.

Bonus. How old were you?
It was through some people i was skating with and my nextdoor neighbour who skated a little; he was older and he had an AC/DC live cassette and a Trouble Funk (funk band from Washington D.C. who occasionally played with Minor Threat) live tape that he lent me, pretty random....
I was about 13 I would say.

 Thats a pretty diverse start!
Yes, I would say...

So was that when you started being aware of music, and seeking it out for yourself?
Yes I guess, I mean, I hammered those tapes for years, but beyond that I was obviously hearing more music through skate videos, and as my social circle through skateboarding grew I was hearing more music through that. 

Can you remember the first video where you really noticed the music?
Hmmm, I mean it would have to be Future Primitive (classic Powell Peralta video from 1985) really. And it was mostly skate punk, a lot of it admittedly not very good, but so timely and just great because it was the main focus at that time, you could count on one hand the amount of legit skate videos around then. 

You'd end up hearing those songs hundreds of times.
That one track 'Skate and Destroy' stood out.I think it was by the Faction, Steve Caballero was in that band...

 So do you think the music in videos these days is as important? Blueprint are always very particular about the soundtrack.
Yeah, absolutely, it always has done and always will be, a lot of skaters are done injustices with their or somebody else's choices. It's all subjective of course. 

Unless it's the Rhythm video. That was just straight up terrible.
Yes, that went the wrong way from what I recall. That video was technically motivated, down to the music. And the motion graphics of course... 

It kind of ruined them, really. But then you had the old Zoo York videos, where you can imagine people watching them just for the music. How do you find out about new stuff nowadays? You always seem pretty ahead of the game, music wise.
I do? Well thank you. Nowadays mainly online. I rarely make it out to gigs and shows although I love to when I can.

So what was the last show you went to? And what was the last music you acquired?
 Last show I think was Rustie's (wonky hip-hop/dubstep innovator from Glasgow, signed to Warp Records) live show at the Sub Club in Glasgow. As far as music I've acquired that would be the Onslaught 'Killing Peace' album. I've heard it a lot in Cubic's car. It's pretty heavy. 

Listening to music on trips is always a good way to get it into your head, for better or for worse. Who's got the worst taste you've had to put up with on a trip?
I'm sure most of the team would say it was me! (laughs) I'm just a bit left-field for their tastes. But for real, some of the kids actually like some modern pop music, so often enduring that is a bind, but more often than not, a lot of them will surprise you and influence you. 

That's rad. Does the team choose their own music for the videos, or do you get to choose from a selection? Or do you just get told?
Actually in the past I have had a 'choice', but Magee is more often than not pretty strict about what he uses.
His argument is that he's editing the video, and that he should have final decision, but that said, in most of the videos I have had influence on the music choice. 

 You can feel that. I think that's what makes BP videos so enduring, they've got such a 'feel' to them.
Yes, more often than not that's what people apprectiate, a cohesive unit, like a complete album. Or should I say, video parts... 

That's interesting that you say that, so few videos make you want to watch from start to finish more than a few times. Seems like a lost art.
Yes, it is. The last one that really made me think of it as a comprehensive complete unit was Mind Field. In fact, it over exceeded my expectations on all fronts, but getting back to the music, they nailed it. 

I think so too. So have you got a favourite video for music?
Wow, that is a difficult one. So many videos. I think I would have to go to Alien again and 'Time Code' (1997 AWS release, that set them on their way towards the look of 'Mind Field') because it was so diverse. There was a KMD instrumental for Kalis's part and more obscurely was Bo Turner's part. It was Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire' but the audio was scrubbing and cutting in and out, deliberatly.

It sounded like the video looked.
And most of his part was footage of him with a CD on a chain round his neck and his arm on fire, in slo mo.
That is a bold move for a video part.

I think that was his last section, pretty much.
Yeah...I think he did some prison time. 

And it's not like they could get away with that now. Not that stuff is stale, it just seems harder to experiment in a commercial video.
Yes it is, everyone expects formatting to a degree. Especially when the bigger audience are generally younger. And that's not to say that they wouldn't appreciate it, but they are more atuned to 'the format'. That said though, that is probably entertainment ala Youtube. 

Yeah, it doesn't seem like things aren't going to go back to that kind of experimentalism anytime soon.
I don't think so. It's a critical marketplace. 

So you live in Edinburgh, where you've got a lot of hip-hop and electronic music on your doorstep. Any local artists you'd like to recommend?
Locally lately would be Rustie and Hudson Mohawke, they are out of Glasgow and are both making interesting music and for their age they have good sense of music history. 

They've invented a new genre, which doesn't happen much any more.
Yes, they certainly have seemed to coined a new sound of sorts by not adhering to any particular genres.
So it's almost like looking past those boundaries...

You produce your own stuff too, what kind of equipment do you use?
I just use Ableton Live on a Macbook, within that I use a lot of plug-ins for audio processing. I have some hardware that I rarely use anymore due to space issues unfortunately. Synths, effects that sort of thing. I don't feel compromised by the 'in the box' set up now though. Almost just the actual physical tool can be a little uninspiring at times. 

Who influences you?
Influences? Wow, all the original electronic music from the 80s that i was subliminally hearing all the time was the biggest early influence. Beyond that I would say a lot of the Warp label music, it was where I went for music then when I was finding my feet in the electronic sound. 

Are you never tempted to take it to a broader audience?
I'd like to, I just never feel like I have finished anything or feel confident about it to put it out there, but mainly it is just for fun. It's been an expensive hobby though. 

Like it's constantly evolving?
Re-evolving. Yes...never finished. 

 Do you think it's something you'll concentrate more on in the future?
I'd like to say yes but we'll see what happens, it's like a journey, music and sound, you learn so much over the years. It's almost like if you release stuff, it would be a parallel to being sponsored in skateboarding....and I've done that and sometimes you lose the enjoyment... 

When it becomes an obligation?
Well in some respects it has exceeded that for me, into a profession of sorts. I doubt it would be like that with music for me, I doubt i could go that far 

You mentioned Warp, do you have a favourite label?
I would say Alternative Tentacles aswell, Jello Biafra's (of the Dead Kennedys) label....I have a lot of stuff that I used to buy direct from them, vinyl actually. 

What a great label.
Yes. NoMeansNo (underground Canadian progressive punk band) was always a favourite and that political edge was always engaging for me... 

NoMeansNo were pretty hardcore!
Yes they were, never caught them live unfortunately. 

Pretty advanced too, with their weird timings and all.
Yeah, I always liked that processed bass sound they used. It sounded almost electronic. 

If you could see one show in history, can you think what it'd be? 
Damn good question. It would have to be Trouble Funk live, that one show I had the cassette recording of all those years past. The energy in that is incredible 

That's amazing, one of the first things you heard still inspires you so much.
 It's hard to imagine how many times I listened to that one tape. It's often hard to make sense of what you actually like these days, the amount of music I own and the way we listen to music, back then, I had about three or four 90 minute cassettes that I hammered. 

And now you've got a hard drive full of years worth of music?
Yeah pretty much, not as much as some people, but about 60 or 70 gigs of stuff... 

Still a lot, considering you're pretty busy otherwise.
Yes, I guess it is. I have to shuffle it around into an 8 gig phone before every trip. 

So do you have a favourite album, or artist? I know that's always a difficult one.
Oh wow. Artist would be too hard to nail. (thinks, at length) Right, album. Going to have to be Dead Kennedys - 'In God we Trust, Inc.' I caned that....and it's a great cover too. 

What a great record. Can you remember how you first heard it?
I had a cassette recording of it and that got hammered like the rest. It would be hard to nail the exact time but I know for sure that there is a good chance it was listened to on an Alba personal stereo that would slow down and speed up. 

Maybe that's why you like NoMeansNo.
Ha ha yeah....I think so....

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