Continuing with the theme of quality House DJ/Producer interviews here at Mass Musings, today we have another wildly talented European artist whose unique sound has been rocking clubs and festivals across the pond. Billy Kenny was named a “DJ to watch in 2015” after his dark and tech-y variation of Bassline House was featured on radio shows hosted by veteran DJs Shadow Child and Skream. Recently, he has gained considerable acclaim for his release — the What You Sample/I Eat Beats EP — which was rewarded an 8 out of 10 from the universally respected MixMag.net. Based out of both the UK and Germany, Billy’s amalgamation between UK Garage, House and Techno has taken the House music scene by storm and has included live performances in North America, Australasia, South America and Asia.
Billy originally caught the ear of the Mass Musings team with his track “Work” and has continued his success with a series of quality releases on his co-managed record label This Ain’t Bristol. With tracks like “You Spin Me” and “Let It Go”, Billy has brought well-deserved attention to his young label while also working on some big releases with established labels like Dirtybird Records and Sweat It Out! This includes one of my personal favorites: “I Operate” with his This Ain’t Bristol label-mate Abby Jane.
We originally connected with Billy via Twitter after he stumbled across our interview with his This Ain’t Bristol label-mate Kyle Watson. Billy was a pleasure to interview and his devotion and adoration for his craft was made refreshingly apparent during our back-and-forth communications over the past few weeks. We’re very pleased with the result, and hope that you all find it as intriguing and entertaining to read as we did to conduct/write. Lastly, best of luck to Billy and his label-mates… we can’t wait to catch one of their shows!
Leeds is a well-known hotbed for talented musicians and producers, was your interest in music-production triggered by an event early in your upbringing? If so, do you credit any particular individual(s) for this introduction?
Yeah I have to agree, Leeds has harboured a lot of great names over the years, especially right now and it’s nice to see a lot of people recognise it.
I was introduced to an MPC (Music Production Controller) from Akai by my Uncle when I was about thirteen and naturally got the hang of it pretty quick. I’d just make one minute beats and never save them because the memory cards didn’t hold much back then. My Uncle definitely played a big part in my interest for music production, he always had cool new hardware and would record stuff with me spontaneously for fun. I played the drums throughout high school, the piano for a few years and always messed around with anything I had the chance to get some experience with, although I didn’t start trying to make my own stuff until I was seventeen.
It seems you dabbled with a few different genres (Jungle, Dub, Garage) before settling primarily on House / Tech House… what triggered this shift?
I’ve always loved Garage in all of its forms (2step, Speed Garage etc.) and was trying to make Bassline stuff back in 2007. However, I’ve never actually gone to college properly to learn music production, so I feel like it took me a long time to get to a point where my music was playable. I wasn’t a big Jungle fan because it wasn’t that popular up North – well in Leeds anyway, but I was born in Kent and whenever I’d visit family there, the other kids were all listening to it! I’m not sure how I ended up here (with this sound), I just love big basslines and I’ve grown to love the “techy” stuff that’s doing well today. I do feel like my sound has changed a hell of a lot since moving to Germany though.
Who are some of your favorite House producers? Both past and present.
I love anything Midland and Breach put out. Most, if not all, of their stuff is analogue based and I’m just overwhelmed at how they get their sounds to gel together so well using hardware over software. I’ve been a big fan of Shadow Child even in his “Spoony” days and have a lot of respect for him as an artist as well as a person. I actually played on his Rinse show a month or so back which was a real honour.
What’s your favorite piece of studio equipment?
I’m going to assume you’re talking about plug-ins & hardware… but right now I have to go with the monster of a coffee machine we have in our shared kitchen area! I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to hardware, so for producing, I’d say my favourite thing is discovering the Waves Platinum Bundle late last year. It’s got some amazing stuff in there and I use at least 3 audio units from there every project.
Speaking of production, you co-founded a label in 2014, “This Ain’t Bristol”. What inspired you to start a label?
I moved to Hannover in January 2014 and had already met the This Ain’t Bristol crew in November 2013 after playing for them, so there was an original team of 5 before I’d moved. We all got on really well and they’d always wanted to turn the brand into a label so they appointed me as A&R (Artists & Repertoire). I love a challenge and it really was one (a challenge) for the first few months trying to get people onboard because there aren’t many producers willing to drop tracks on a new label for a start, let alone on a compilation (Selections & More Selections). None of us expected the response we got from the launch, people literally went nuts about it and all the hard work really payed off!
What’s something about “This Ain’t Bristol” that your fans may not know?
Until last week, Skip Soul lived together and are like a married couple. In fact we all are, we have these little tiffs with each other and our head of events and promo guy Benski acts like our marriage councilor.
You recently wrapped up your first swing “Down Under”. I’ve heard a lot about the Australian music scene, what’s it like over there?
Yeah, Australia was wicked, I really enjoyed myself and connected well with so many people out there. They all just seem so open minded and the majority are really clued up about artists out of Australasia. Was a pleasure to play down there and I’m looking forward to going back!
Do you have a favorite shows/venues you’ve played in 2015?
My favourite place to play is honestly at our This Ain’t Bristol event’s in The Weidendamm. Nothing beats being with a bunch of your friends in one place, with the brand you’ve all worked so hard on, playing music to such a lively, friendly crowd.
You’ll be in the United States for the Dirtybird Campout. Are you as excited for the festival as we are? Do you have anything special planned for that weekend?
Nothing planned just yet, but I’m ridiculously excited to play there! They’ve got such a cool, different concept going on for it and I think people are going to be talking about it for a whole year until the next one.
Tell us a little about your successful Dirtybird release “I Operate” — Abby Jane is a favorite among the Mass Musings gals — what’s it like to work with her?
I’d gotten a contact for Barclay (Claude VonStroke) from a friend of mine and decided to send him a batch of demos I was happy with. He got back to me quite fast and liked them but wanted something a bit stronger. Once I’d made the connection that was it, everything was aimed towards Dirtybird. A couple of weeks after the email me and Abby sat down and wrote “I Operate” which actually features both of our “vocals” if you will – a little backstage knowledge for you there! Abby’s great to work with, she’s really new to producing but has these crazy ideas and always knows the direction she wants to take things. We bounce off each other in the studio very well.
Okay, now for the fun stuff…
Beer, spirits, or wine?
Spirit’s. Beer just makes me feel like a fat old man after five of them.
Cake or pie?
Vinyl or CDJs?
Playing with vinyl is fun, but I love to get technical when playing and vinyl really limit’s you in that department. I love sampling, looping words and phrases when I’m playing – I often feel like apart from a great selection, things like that really matter to stand out as a DJ.
Classic Rock or Hip Hop?
No joking, I paused here for a good 5 minutes before deciding. It’s going to have to Classic Rock, sorry Hip Hop!
What are you listening to right now?
What’s next from “This Ain’t Bristol”?
Release-wise, we’ve got a wicked single called “Jack It” from Maximono dropping this month with remixes from Kyle Watson, Tim Baresko & Chris Larsen. After that is our one year anniversary (since being a label), so we’ve got something really special on the way, but I don’t want to spoil the fun and say just yet!
An extra big “Thank You” to Billy for agreeing to interview with us and for making it a fun and enlightening experience for our team. Make sure you check out some of our favorite Billy Kenny tracks below and follow Billy Kenny on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Beatport and SoundCloud.