One of the most influential producers of all time touches down in London town
Interview : Rob Chadwick
Hey Kenny a pleasure to have you on board at DMC. Where in the world are you right now?
“I’m in the city of “lost angels” L.A!!!”
You were spinning in Brooklyn recently alongside Carl Craig and Moodymann at Verbotem – how did that lil’ session go…?
“It was an amazing gig. I was very surprised at the reaction. It’s always nice to get a great reaction from people in the States.”
I know that city’s never die, but it’s incredible that places like Chicago, Detroit and New York are now firing again with their clubs and outdoor events. How important has the US EDM explosion been to these cities clublifes…?
“Well, I don’t follow the scene as a whole in the US, but any gigs that I have done recently in North America, have been amazing. And I think it’s because of the more commercial music exposing more people to electronic music, which in turn, exposes more people to “our sound”, well at least in theory anyway.”
Okay let’s rewind for a moment. You bypassed the early few years of Detroit techno because you were serving in the military…had you any access to music back then?
“Well I didn’t really bypass it as I came home to Detroit in 1988 after going into the Air Force in 1986. I was already into Chicago house music. When I came home, I started going to the clubs, heard the new sound and met Richie Hawtin in a club he was spinning at in downtown Detroit. So even though I didn’t visit the Music Institute in the beginning, which is where Derrick and those guys were DJing, I still went to other clubs that played this weird exciting music.”
Tell us about those first few months released into a world of new music. What were the clubs and DJs you were immediately hooked on?
“I wasn’t really hooked on DJs in the beginning, so much as the sound of what I was hearing in the clubs. The City Club, The Shelter, Majestic Theater and then later The Music Institute. These are the clubs that were playing this new sound. After I met Richie we would sometimes drive around Detroit and listen to the radio and there was a mix show, which was incredible. Every week this DJ would have a new mix. It blew my mind…that DJ was Derrick May. I think that’s when I started getting into the art of DJing, on a more feeling level. Jeff Mill’s had a DJ show on the radio also, when I was in high school. He was called The Wizard, back then. But, his style was different than what Derrick was playing.”
Many of our younger readers will have no idea there are two sides to the famous Kenny Larkin, one the techno superstar – two the stand up comedian. How did the comedy all happen?
“I’m naturally a funny guy. Haha…hehehe… hohoho….and have been that way since I was a kid. Even though I’m not pursuing it now, I still am just as funny. No really, I am!”
“Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. I see Eddie a lot at the coffee shop I go to here in LA. I chat with him sometimes, briefly. Very cool guy.”
What was the most daunting for you…your first ever stand up show or your first ever festival DJ appearance?
“Stand up is THE hardest thing to do in as an entertainer. I’ve been told that by actors that are on popular TV shows who tried to do comedy. It’s not easy. If you tell a joke, and they don’t laugh, it’s almost a personal failure, but you have to keep it together and go to the next joke. If the audiences don’t “get your jokes” you still have to man up and keep going. Nothing is harder than that….NOTHING!!!”
What is the current top 10 you are spinning?
“I hate top 10 charts. I know to some extent they are necessary, but I personally don’t like doing them. Why? Because lazy DJs have a habit of looking at their favorite DJs top 10 and playing those songs, instead of looking to build their own sound.”
You are making another journey to the United Kingdom next month, touching down at one of our leading clubs’ Egg for their new ‘Night Train’ soiree. How important has London been to you over the years?
“Well, London is one of the reasons “Detroit Techno” became huge. It was and still is just as important as before. Who doesn’t love London for the vibe!”
You are no stranger to the DJ booth at Egg – why is this one of your favourite places to play in the UK?
“It’s just a great club! No deep philosophical reason! Haha…”
Something you once said, “I’m more like the artist’s artist. I’m famous for not being famous!” – what did you mean by that?
“I meant artists like myself have influenced a lot of huge artists, and DJs alike. Most of the huge artists today, including huge DJs were at some point influenced by the guys from Detroit. And even though you may not hear it in the music they play, we still get the props from those guys, when they ask who were their influences. So, the new kids going to the clubs now may not know who we are, but the artists do.”
One of the things you always state is that drugs and alcohol just ain’t your thing. Was this ever an issue for you as a DJ spinning to thousands of clubbers the worse for wear?
“Hahaha. No. That’s the funny thing. Almost 100% of the time, people think I mean I gave up alcohol and drugs, and that I don’t do it now. Which isn’t correct. I NEVER did the stuff. I have a glass of red wine once in awhile, but that’s it. Accept it!!!! Haha. Not all people need to do that sort of stuff to be in the club industry. I know it’s weird and rare, but I am proud of it. If that’s your think, it’s fine, but it’s just not mine, and NEVER was.”
I interviewed Kaz James this week, something he said was kinda interesting…”I don’t think it’s necessary these days to actually be a good DJ like it was 15 years ago at the start of my career. These days you can get away with pressing play on a laptop.” Discuss…
“I don’t want to touch that issue. I am from the old school method of DJing, and it’s horrible to see this being done in clubs today. The art of DJing has changed forever because of it. Most DJs play the hardest shit they can play to get a reaction from the crowd, and they call it DJing. Then they say how amazing they rocked the crowd. Um, well….Ok, whatever. lol.”
What is the 1 record you wish you had made?
“‘Good Life’ by Inner City. The song is perfection and will never get old to me.”
A big quote from a certain superstar DJ from the summer… “It was different when I started out back in the day, there was no glamour side of travelling around the world, getting paid fortunes for gigs, it was all about the music. I think people get into it for all the wrong reasons today.” Thoughts on that?
“This is no secret. I don’t know what the process is of picking who gets HUGE as a DJ playing the commercial stuff they play but it’s incredible what these guys make, only pushing play. On one hand, I’m hatin’ like a muthafucka, because it’s destroyed the integrity of the genre, and the art of DJing, but on the other, I wouldn’t mind making millions, if the art isn’t compromised.”
So we come back to yours after the club. Who are some of the artists you spin us to mellow the groove…
“I spin anything that touches the spot inside of me that reminds me of the feeling I use to get when listening to cats like Derrick, when this music was still in it’s infancy.”
Who are some of the new producers doing it for you in 2013?
“Well, me…Of course.”
What is the 1 piece of advice you can give to aspiring producers reading this who want to follow in the famous Larkin footsteps…?
“Blaze your own path, and for god sake, put some music back into this stagnant genre!!!”
What was the main thing you hated about being in the military?
“Structure…haha. ‘You want me to do what?!?!’.”
And finally, what is coming out next from you studio wise?
“Bunch of remixes and possibly a new album, if I can convince myself it’s worth it.”