An interview with J:Kenzo
There aren’t many producers in our beloved dubstep sound who produce, release and ultimately curate some of the finest music in the 130 to 170 BPM range as actively as our next interviewee.
Whether dub(wise), dubstep, UK garage or other uptempo examples, this interviewee is a phenomenal bass veteran who’s known by many monikers, labels, (incredible) DJ sets — and, of course, a much sought-after music catalogue many agree to be timeless. We are, rather obviously, discussing the many talents of the mighty J:Kenzo…
The Kent-based producer began his adventure as dubstep curator as the founder of Soul Shakerz, an imprint which he launched in the golden years the mid 2000s. Back then, he’d already acquired a specific Tempa-esque sound that would catch the attention of the DJ Youngsta — resulting in a relationship that’s to date produced eleven EPs/ singles and an album.
It didn’t take long for J:Kenzo to garner support from the biggest names in the sound; and the quality releases followed. And, in 2012, Jay joined forces with Mosaix (the duo were producing together at the time) to launch Artikal Music UK — a label that’s become one of the most respected in 140 BPM. He followed up with the launch of Lion Charge Records the following year. Both imprints have catalogued the duality of the dubstep sound — Artikal homing the deeper material and Lion Charge focusing on the dubwise.
As both labels’ following grew, Jay’s sound continued to develop — matching the evolution of his hand-stamped releases on Lion Charge and the army of FKOF fam signing to Artikal with the dub-oriented Sound Control project. Sound system shakers like the awe-inspiring Electrocution Dub and Salute The Rockers soon followed (not forgetting the VIP version that surfaced on limited-to-50 7" Lion Charge release).
It’s safe to say, with his countless dubplates blowing up the dance (not forgetting the Rinse FM airwaves), J:Kenzo’s become a favoured dubstep tastemaker the world over. If you don’t know his UK garage Jodo Kast alias (supported by Roska’s Kicks & Snares), you’ll do well to check last year’s Start the Chase EP too.
As long-time fans of the producer, we’ve been after a sit-down with Jay for years. We recently found the opportunity to exchange a few word thanks to our friends at Outlook Festival — discussing Jay’s vision, forthcoming releases and what to expect in Croatia this summer…
Hey Jay, how goes? I’m good thanks.
How are Artikal Music & Lion Charge doing at the moment? Both labels are keeping busy with releases lined up until the end of year.
Lion Charge has a 12" from Moresounds coming in July that I’m really looking forward to releasing.
What challenges have you faced managing these (now successful) labels? It’s all about managing time. Planning and preparation to meet deadlines and release dates is the hardest with a very small team running a label. There is also the risk when pressing vinyl… But we are still selling records so that’s a massive plus.
How do you assure that the quality of your label is on a continuous level (e.g. what makes an artist fit to break through in your eyes)? If we are talking music wise it’s hard to say… I can usually tell whether I want to sign a track to the label after a couple of listens. If it has a certain flavour I’m looking for it’ll hit me instantly. A track has to have an identity in some way.
What’s your view on the current 140 scene? What are your thoughts on its move into various sub-genres? To be honest, I’m not sure of what sub genres have been created now. The 140 dubstep scene seems a little fragmented but the original players are still about doing their thing. There are new producers and labels coming through from all over the world which is good to see.
How do you find combing managing the multitude of labels you run with your personal life? It’s tough but I enjoy doing it. Working on projects and planning releases. Working with established artists and also bringing new artists through and giving them the platform to have a wider audience hear their music is something I take pride in.
After the madness that was Electrocution Dub, when can we expect some new Sound Control material? I hear that new material is coming soon… Keep your eyes peeled!
What do you enjoy the most: remixing a track or building a VIP? That’s a tough one… Remixing another artist’s work and giving your own spin on it is something I enjoy doing in the studio. With the VIPs, they are like a challenge for me to try and better the original. I can’t really choose between them if I’m honest.
What’s your formula for good sub bass? Any tools you’d like to recommend to the producers of today? I’m a sucker for an 808, although they can be one of the hardest elements to work with in the mix-down process.
You can’t really go wrong with a sine wave if creating from scratch. Add some distortion, some saturation and a bit of processing… The most important thing is making sure that nothing else in your mix gets in the same frequency range as the sub bass.
Of those you’ve played on, have you got a favourite sound system from your career? The Void soundsystem I played on in Leeds for Youngsta’s Contact event was proper.
Subtle Soundsystem in Christchurch, New Zealand — shout out to Figzy.
The PK Sound rigs in and around the US and Canada are always a pleasure to play on.
You’re at Outlook again this summer — what do you look forward to the most and what makes this festival so special? Outlook Festival for me is full of good vibes. A time to link with friends from the music scene and connect with the ravers from around the world.
It’s special because it grew with the dubstep scene and is an experience of soundsystem culture that everyone who appreciates bass music should have.
Have you got any amusing or memorable experiences from Pula you can share? There are so many good memories that I’ve taken from Outlook. Playing at the Dock stage in front of 3,000 people in 2012 was crazy… Also, in 2014, playing the Moat stage for Contact was something special.
One of the funniest moments was a drunken taxi ride from the festival back to our hotel with dBridge, SP:MC, Ash and very well known garage producer. I can’t divulge the details but the whole taxi was in tears.
Looking at how Outlook’s grown over the years, what’s are yout thoughts on the hype around festivals (in general)? Festival hype is always going to be there. They are a great way to see your favourite DJs and artists in one place over several days hopefully with decent weather.
Any final words or shoutouts? You can catch me playing at the Moat stage at Outlook Festival this year as well as the Contact and Hatcha and Friends boat parties.
Also new music soon come on Artikal, ZamZam Sounds and a return to 31 Recordings.
As we’d hoped, it sounds like there’s more than enough material coming to keep even the most ardent J:Kenzo, Sound Control, Artikal Music or Lion Charge fans satisfied in the coming months.
We can’t wait for the 2016 J:Kenzo appearance in the Pula sunshine or the new music from the producer (and his artists). As with anything, consistency and quality is key to maintaining superiority — and Jay epitomises executing both with his own material and that he signs for release.
Thanks and love to Jay and Outlook for the opportunity you’ve read above — see you all in the Croatian sun with your FKOF t-shirts on!
Peace, love and respect,