Pioneering techno producer and DJ Inigo Kennedy and his upcoming album mark the rebirth of his label: Asymmetric Records. Eyes Closed In The Sun is a 10-track body of work that’ll drop on September 3. Kennedy is well known for always bringing technical and creative originality and skill to his work. Ahead of his album drop, he chatted about its inspiration and why music is what feelings sound like. Catch an exclusive track premiere of Eyes Closed in the Sun below.
Thanks for sitting down with 6AM. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What first got you into music, how long have you been DJing and producing music–what came first?
There wasn’t that much music around at home when I was growing up, but I got into music eventually and discovered everything through radio DJs like the irreplaceable John Peel and the local library which was a great way to dip into all sorts of music from new age to classical to indie to synth pop and electronic. I started buying records as a teenager and got into the more obscure and collectible stuff through record fairs. I grew into synth-pop, indie, shoegaze, industrial, EBM and all sorts and later in my teens my love for electronic and techno took a hold. It was other radio DJs like Colin Faver and Colin Dale (Kiss FM London), and John Berry (Kiss FM Manchester) that were a huge education and ultimately a big step into the scene for me too, along with shops like Fat Cat and Eukatech (London) and Eastern Bloc (Manchester) which were a big part of learning about new music.
I’d say I was producing music well before DJing. I started messing around with sounds and recordings as a teenager. Around the age of 14/15 I was using a BBC Micro with a Curious and Arcane Music 500 box attached to make music and I spent endless hours transcribing scores that I got from the library into it; Howard Jones and Jean Michel Jarre tracks. I was messing around with cassette edits, a couple of cheap guitar pedals and started making my own kit too, mixers, filters, and distortion circuits. My dad was a big influence as he was an electronic engineer and I learned about computers and electronics through him. That primitive music-making kit evolved into what I’d call my first studio in the attic of my parents’ house when I got a Roland D-50, an ART reverb rack and hooked up to a PC running a DOS-based sequencer. A bit later that was joined by a Casio FZ-1 sampler which was a critical part of my early releases.
I’d been playing records and making cassette mixes for parties through my late teens, but it wasn’t until I went to university (in Manchester) that I really got into the DJing side of things. In those years, in the early 90’s, I started to get some gigs. I’d been running an indie/industrial night in Manchester but that developed into starting to play techno at other nights, often small back rooms of hardcore nights or acid techno nights which were huge at the time. ’96 was the first time I got on a plane for a gig and it was to Slovenia, that was a big year in general, I graduated, lost my dad and my first record came out; that first record was through winning a competition for techno on Kiss FM in Manchester and was such a good confidence boost to start sending my music out to labels I respected and it led to starting to work with ZET (through Regis and Downwards), Missile and Molecular (though Marco Lenzi, then running the Eukatech store (where I spent a lot of my time and money). I had so many releases through the tail end of the ’90s and aliases like Reducer and Tomito Satori came into being too just to be able to release so much, it was a crazy time for vinyl production and the techno scene. Asymmetric came about in ’99 and was a great platform for me to put out music that for me was my truest. Everything went a bit ‘minimal’ around then and I’m really happy I had my own completely separate focus; I’ve never been one to follow the herd. The rest as they say is history.
Your new album is the first release on your label Asymmetric in 12 years. What sparked this rebirth of both your music and your label?
It’s been a long time coming to be honest and I can’t believe twelve years have passed but really the catalyst was sitting down almost two years ago with Kr!z who runs Token Records which has been a big part of my music trajectory over the past decade. We were talking through some plans and ideas, and it felt like the natural conclusion was to focus some energy on this much-loved label and identity of mine and bring it back to the radar. Asymmetric is still a platform for what I think is my most personal music and has always been a bit of an outlier, although very well respected. I’m super happy to have got the ball rolling again, there is a lot of music that needs to see the light of day!
Tell us a little bit about your inspiration for your new album ‘Eyes Closed in the Sun:’
I suppose the idea came to mind during the summer last year during the anxiety early in the ongoing pandemic. I was sitting in the garden with my eyes closed in the sun. It just seemed like a simple but so necessary diversion and escape from everything around. The music is a distillation of tracks I’ve made over the past 18 months or so. It turned out I was quite productive even though it felt a bit like being trapped in a creative dead end with no gigs, not meeting people or getting inspiration in a way I was used to. I was working my way through 50 or 60 tracks that I’d made and ‘Eyes Closed in The Sun’ was born of the tracks that stood out as the most evocative and that I think work really well together.
“I like the idea of music-making [where] you close your eyes, being taken somewhere else, some internal place.”
For Kennedy, getting lost in music is the perfect escape.
The title track of the album “Eyes Closed in the Sun” seems to bring in some tension from an irregular beat pattern overlaid with lush melodies. Can you take us through your creative process when writing this track and how it fits into the album overall?
I think that’s quite typical of my style, although it’s something quite natural, and I don’t really think about it. It’s quite strange to make music that is instantly recognizable to many people but it’s not something I consciously try to do. I could draw parallels with the shoegaze scene that formed a huge part of my past and that I still actively follow. For me, there is something inherently powerful in the wall of sound and energy against something delicate and haunting and melancholic. The title track ‘Eyes Closed in The Sun’ is I think the oldest of the tracks on the album. It’s actually something I played out for the first time at KHIDI in Tbilisi. I love that track. I really set my mind on that moment imagining that space and the atmosphere. I think the album builds towards that track in my mind too.
Your new album, along with the rest of your music, feels very emotive. What feelings or emotions do you seek to inspire with your music?
I guess I’ve answered that already in many ways. There is most definitely a melancholy to my music and that’s true of music I’ve grown up surrounding myself with, from synth-pop to indie, etc. I really struggle to produce music that doesn’t have an emotive element although I have the utmost respect for producers that can make immaculate but very functional music. I like the idea of music-making [where] you close your eyes, being taken somewhere else, some internal place.
“It’s interesting how so much changes but over time the same things come and go. Although when they return, there sadly aren’t quite the same driving forces and it seems a bit soulless.”
Same but different. Life is a wave of constant changes.
You’ve been a major part of the electronic music scene for decades. What have been the biggest changes you’ve witnessed during your tenure?
Hah, “decades” makes me feel old, but I guess it’s getting that way. It’s interesting how so much changes but over time the same things come and go. Although when they return, there sadly aren’t quite the same driving forces and it seems a bit soulless. Obviously, the major shift has been towards digital distribution. Digital DJing and production in the box and I’ve grown through all of those quite naturally having always had an interest in and understanding of the technology. The club scene has become much more organised, less chaotic, and punk feeling. It was a proper wild west if I think back to the early 90s. I have no doubt even more anarchic before that, but I was just a little too late to experience the acid explosion of the late 80s which to me was the catalyst for so much of the UK electronic music scene. One thing that hasn’t changed for me though is that I’ve always had a ‘regular’ job alongside all the music.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m not sure I’d say mistakes, but I was so naive when I started out. When I started to get the chance to travel [and] DJ in the 90s [I] just got on a plane to Detroit without really thinking about it and the risks involved. I’ve only played there twice. I think it’s quite fun too that all my earlier productions were basically recorded to cassette, and I then had to copy them to DAT to send to mastering/cutting for vinyl. Not really a mistake but that was basically the only option I had available to me! A nice experience recently has been to meet people that were (and still are) my heroes and hugely important figures in the techno scene in the 90s, in the UK and London especially, and to realise that they are as equally shy and introverted as me. It’s been really nice to have a catch-up. [It] makes me feel it was a mistake not to realise that at the time, I was basically scared!
And finally, aside from your album release, what are you most excited about in the coming year?
I’m looking forward to getting to play music, any music, my music, to people as it should be heard and in the right environment. I hope that’s going to happen. I have to say I’m still a bit anxious about the possibility, the whole gig thing, but I know that the moment the first track plays all will fade away. I’ve missed that feeling of getting into the flow.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Very excited for the Eyes Closed in The Sun album to come out, and of course, there will be more releases to come too. I feel like I’m in a good place with productions at the moment. It’s really nice to have relaunched Asymmetric as an outlet. Hopefully, I can keep up with my other interests too before my body starts to fall apart! I practice Olympic weightlifting a lot and that for me is a really good way to keep sane and push myself mentally and physically. That’s become really important in the past couple of years too given all the anxiety and mental stresses of the pandemic. Somehow between the regular job, family life, weightlifting and other stuff I can keep up with the music production as well! A distinct sense of YOLO but never a truer thing was said.