Keeno: All That Shimmers
Keeno returns with a third studio album on Med School, once again exhibiting a sonic maturity and finesse well beyond his 23 years of age.
All The Shimmering Things sees him once again blending his classical background with dance floor-focussed drum & bass, executing the fusion of sounds so flawlessly that you’ll be left wondering why Mozart himself never thought to up the tempo of his compositions.
The depth and sonic textures throughout the LP exhibit a truly brilliant creative mind, with the complexity of arrangements in tracks like Jungle Ballet and Hidden Peaks (just to name a couple) inducing a mixture of goosebumps coupled with raw emotion, along with a serious bass face or two.
We took the opportunity to pick Keeno’s brain about what inspired the album and more…
Thanks for joining us Will! Where have we caught you today?
No worries, thanks for dropping by! I’m at home right now off the back of 14 DJ appearances in 5 weeks, 3 of which I did with a broken hand… I have just seen the doctor and he says I’ll be back on track in 6 weeks which isn’t too bad. Lots of tea and studio time, I think…
Sounds like it’s needed mate! You’re a machine! So album number 3 done and dusted – and in such a short space of time too. For someone your age this really is a huge milestone! How long did this album take to piece together?
Thank you! It’s come around quickly for me, too. I’m feeling particularly focussed and creative lately so I am making the most of it. The majority of album 3 was written in 2 months about this time last year. A lot of it was even written alongside finishing my Music for Orchestra: Drums & Bass EP.
However, I deliberately gave all the music some space (~3 months) before I finished the record as a whole. I didn’t want to get bored of the tunes before release and to hopefully keep my ears and mind fresh. Final touches therefore felt a lot more natural and fulfilling. So… it definitely worked.
That it did! Talk us through your creative process… Did you dive in knowing exactly what you wanted out of this album or did that develop over time?
A bit of both, really. I deliberately used fewer tools than before and tried to let the music itself drive the songs forward instead of relying too heavily on production or FX. The album pot was around 20 tunes so there was scope for the album to go lots of ways. I chose to an album that reflects both my familiar musical style and my progression as an artist.
Was it any easier tackling album #3 after already having 2 under your belt?
Futurist was actually more difficult to finish as I had less time in one place at any one time. I have my own space at home to work on music whenever I can now, so it certainly sped up the creative side.
A lot of what we can hear on the album was recorded live, right?
Every note was recorded by me into my DAW via MIDI Keyboard so I could add my own expression in real time rather than manually automating all the parameters (e.g. dynamics, vibrato). A few of the string parts are real live recordings but they’re nearly always layered with Spitfire Audio’s Chamber Strings – a fantastic sample library of recorded real string sections. I love the close mic’d and raw sound to the library which gave me so much creative freedom. Maybe one day I’ll be able to claim every element was recorded live but right now, it’s as close as I can possibly get it!
I feel like this approach brings a lot of authenticity to the album and makes for a more powerful listening experience. We’ve spoken before about your dream of one day having an orchestra perform your music… Does this live recording approach mean you might consider a live show in future as well perhaps?
It’s too early to tell exactly what I’ll come up with in regards to live performance but I’m aiming high and working incredibly hard to make it a reality. I feel patience will be needed as it is a huge undertaking but I can say that my vision is edging closer…
Glad to hear it! Once again you’ve managed to strike a wicked balance of cinematic, classical and dancefloor-focused vibes across the album, and your classical background truly shines through and gives the album that signature touch. Have you always had a clear vision of how you’d like to progress as an artist and where you’d like to take your sound?
Yes, for the most part there’s always been a direction and a goal in mind. Combining these two worlds just makes sense to me. It allows for far more expression than computers can produce alone. I genuinely love what I do and I’m working hard to take my music onwards and upwards.
Have you surprised yourself at any point during your career and thought “I never thought this would be happening to me…”?
Moments like that seem to be happening to me more regularly recently which certainly is a nice surprise! From being asked to remix Above & Beyond for a second time to racking up 1+ million monthly listeners on Spotify to touring Aus/NZ over Easter with Etherwood & Royalston… 2017 has been mental. I’ve got lots more ideas though, so let’s hope the good news keeps coming?
Indeed! Tell us about the album art – who was behind the concept and design this time around?
Dylan Royalston came up with the concept and Ricky Trickart fleshed it out into the full design. Big love to them both, I think you can agree they smashed the aesthetic.
That they did! Andy C hit you up recently to praise you on the new album – that must’ve been surreal?
Honestly, it was a big shock to have a message from someone that I have looked up to for so long, so big ups! It’s obviously great news for me though – I really wanted the album to be more mixable and appealing to DJs whilst not losing that musical edge so clearly my tactics are working 😉
So why ‘All the Shimmering Things’ as a title?
The title idea came from a walk in Nightingale Valley, a little green escape near my home. Every time i visited there, I noticed how the sun reflected on the water that runs through the heart of the valley reminded me of the strobe lights in Dachstock the night before. The title stuck with me and the Hospital team immediately and we had a concept from the get go.
The track names seem inspired by nature and seem to suggest journey and adventure… Was this intentional?
Yes, very much so. For me, music has to have a context in the real world. Whether it be a title inspired by nature or a real life recording from my phone, there’s always something in my music that ties it to the world around me.
Jungle Ballet is a personal favourite off the album. I’d actually LOVE to see a real jungle-inspired ballet…. What inspired this tune – is there a story behind it?
I would have to agree with you Maja, I believe Jungle Ballet is my most successful combination of drum and bass and classical yet. Hidden Peaks is close behind, though…
The concept was inspired by me trying to combine classical and dance music subgenres and this was the result. Maybe it’s a statement of where I come from and where my musical roots lie, but there’s definitely not a premeditated story. I’d love to see it choreographed with real ballet on a stage, but for now that’s just a pipe dream…
Were any tracks particularly difficult to complete?
I struggled most with Cosmic Creeper because the synths are so prominent and distinct. It was there for very difficult to combine the string textures with the synths. Overall I think got the balance just right.
You’ve linked with some incredibly talented vocalists once again – Abbie Rose, Becca Jane Grey and Kailaa. How did you come to link, and were the tunes written around their vocals, or vice versa?
Kailaa’s vocal was the only one that came before the music. However, there were three different versions of Daydreaming. Abbie & Becca were found through combination of social media and label managers (big ups Mullett). I’m super proud of what they all came up with as I think it suits the aesthetic album perfectly.
Do you ever get the equivalent of writer’s block when producing, and if so, how do you overcome it?
Yes, quite often. Recently I’ve got into mountain biking – thanks to my mate Milky. It gives me a much needed music break and brain refresh. I also have to frequently remind myself that my inspiration comes from my experiences so I have to step away from my comfort zone in all parts of my life.
Has moving to Bristol affected your approach to production at all or how you’d like to see your sound develop?
Yes. Now Keeno is my job full time I have to allocate time in my schedule for lots of other things as well as production. I find this is has focused approach to writing and enabled me to be more efficient with my work flow. On the flip-side, there’s a lot of amazing music being produced in Bristol every day, so it’s hard not to pick up some habits from your neighbours.
What are some shimmering things in your life at the moment?
We just decorated our front door with Halloween candles and treats, so our house is definitely shimmering! Otherwise, there’s been plenty of lighters up at gigs recently which has made for some epic moments. Also my brand new limited edition Shimmer Tee from the Hospital Shop is looking pretty sweet.
Your Bristol Mix Sessions are always a pleasure to tune in to. It’s always great to see you in your element, sharing music purely for the love of it. What inspired the podcast idea in the first place?
Facebook’s livestream platform is a great way to engage with my audience and reach people who can’t come to my gigs. It’s become a real highlight of the months and has the added bonus of keeping my DJ sets fresh and full of cheeky dubs. Big shout out to everyone who enjoys it with me each month! Next episode will be on Wednesday November 15th at 18:30 UTC 🙂
Some of your fave highlights of 2017 so far?
Touring New Zealand and Australia, eating birthday cake on stage for my birthday (big ups to the Dachstock crew!) and playing between LTJ Bukem and Calibre B2B dBridge at Hospitality in the Park are my DJ highlights of the year.
Otherwise, relaxing on La Cinta for 10 days with the Sun And Bass crew, as well as my other half was a much needed holiday from a super busy year.
So where to next? Holiday mode or straight back into the studio?
Straight back to the studio after my hand recovers as I have a really exciting project brewing…
Final shout outs?
Shout out the Hospital crew for all of their hard work, to all of you for supporting my music, and to Liv for typing this out for me! Here’s to all the shimmering things in your lives 🙂
All The Shimmering Things is out now on Med School – get it here