How Kenny Ken found his blend again
Kenny Ken is in a good place right now.
Fresh from one his busiest summers in years, in which he’s dented everywhere from Hospitality to Boardmasters via Outlook, Carnival and even one of those legendary DNB Workout sessions, he’s now biting into an equally chewy autumn with a slew of release plans.
Fresh from re-launching his iconic Mix & Blen’ imprint, he and Supply & Demand are now in the stages of relaunching Cold Steel Recordings which was responsible for a short-but-perfectly formed run of 20 killer 12”s between 1996 and 2006 from the likes of Fresh and Usual Suspects members Fibre Optics.
With so much energy and activity it’s hard not to call it a comeback. And to some senses it is; while he’s never left the line-ups by name, he’s the first to admit there have been times he’s not always had his heart in it. Now he’s back and in love with the music that’s driven him for almost 30 years. In his own words he’s “contributed to the jungle legacy. Now it’s time to contribute to what’s happening now.”
Get to know…
Nice to see Mix & Blen’ back again!
Yeah we dabbled with it the last few years but we brought it back properly this year again. What’s important to me is not putting out tunes every week though. I’m more selective about things; it might only be a release every couple of months, it has to be good music and it’s gonna come from the guys I already have on the label. I got enough and I don’t want to have too many artists on the label and not be able to focus on developing them. Supply & Demand and Margaman are my boys.
Quality over quantity!
The music has to be as good as it can possibly be. Mix & Blen’ is associated with me – it has to be something I would play out, something I’m buzzing about playing. We’re all working really hard and got quite a backlog of music to put out. We’re also bringing back Cold Steel Recordings.
In the next few months. It will be run by myself and Supply & Demand, like it was back in the day. We’re bringing that back with the same vibe we had back then; solid rinsing drum & bass and jungle.
Have you been inspired by Groove bringing back Prototype?
Not really. He had to bring back Prototype, it would have been criminal for him not to bring back those tunes. That label is legendary. But for us we just want to have control over our music and do what we want with it and Cold Steel had some great releases over its time which I think would be good to bring back to people’s attention.
I’ve taken a backseat for a while, just watching how things have been going and not really working labels that much, or at all if I’m honest. I lost the vibe for a bit. It was too much headache. I’m a DJ, not a businessman, I just love to play music. Then about two years ago I started thinking ‘I got to bring back Mix & Blen’’. I realised I was in a different frame of mind again and I had the positive feelings about it. I didn’t for a while though.
You have to be feeling it don’t you? This isn’t for the money, it’s a labour of love isn’t it?
It is and you have to be really in it and feeling the music and wanting to get it out there and push above the noise. That’s hard but I’m in that place now. The DJ bookings have gone mental again, too. I played for a Hospital outdoor party the other day. Never in a million years did I expect to play a Hospital Records party! That was really good and I got three more bookings with them locked in already. There’s good things happening for me still even though I’ve been around for well over 20 years.
Did you think about quitting?
There was a time when I thought the game was quitting me! It went downhill and I wasn’t getting that much work. Say between 2008 and 2010/11. But that was my fault. That was my attitude which related to a few personal things in my life. I don’t blame anyone but myself.
The music around that time was very different to the sound you’ve been associated with too – a lot of original guys took a break or stepped back around then.
All of us have been through it in one way or another. The music can’t be your flavour all of the time but you have to adapt to that and make it work for you. If you love what you’re doing and want to stay doing what you’re doing then you have to persist and be creative. For me it’s artists like Serial Killaz, Aries, Margaman, Bladerunner, Saxxon, SS, TI, Potential Bad Boy, Shimon and Benny L, plus a whole heap more. All these guys making great jungle music, you know?
Everything’s met in the middle again – back in the original melting pot.
Definitely. The vibe is back in the parties too! I played Boardmasters the other month, such a sick festival. The kids there were going mad for the music and I was feeling very blessed that they even knew who I was. I reckon a lot of them weren’t even born when I started DJing. That’s an honour mate and it drives me – I know I’ve planted my seed here, I know I’ve contributed to the jungle legacy. Now it’s time to contribute to what’s happening now.