On 17th of August, one half of Masters at Work - the legendary Kenny Dope - drops "Dope Jams", a collection of slick beats compiled, mixed and cut up as only the original beat master can.
Over the years, Kenny has developed a reputation as a bit of a tyrant when it comes to interviews, but it's a reputation that seems unfounded - at least now. Ahead of the release of the mix and specially made collection of Kenny's edits, we caught up with him to talk about his aversion to downloading tracks, his recent health issues and why he doesn't mind being interviewed any more...
Question: I've worked for Defected for 6 years now and I have interviewed you 2 or 3 times, each time you didn't seem to enjoy it. What has changed now?
Answer: The thing with interviews is that I don't mind doing them as long as they're good interviews. I've been doing this since 1990 and in a lot of interviews the person talking to me hasn't done their homework. It gets very frustrating when they ask you silly-ass questions which have nothing to do with the music, or me, or whatever we're doing or what the goals are. I'd say that was definitely what it was like in the past, but now I'd say the people are more into the music and are more educated in terms of what's going on.
Question: Over the years a lot of people have said that you have a tough-guy image and that you're a very serious artist. Would you agree?
Answer: I think some people pass this judgment of me a lot of time because they don't know me. When I go to the studio to make a record I make sure I'm always on time and that I'm not showing up 4 hours late. When it comes to DJ-ing, some people do say, 'Hey why aren't you smiling when you're DJ-ing!? blah blah blah' and the reason for that is because I'm into what I'm doing. It's not because I'm mad or that I don't want to be there or any of that. I just want to do the best I possibly can every time I'm making records or DJ-ing.
Question: I read somewhere that you don't download MP3's? Is that true?
Answer: Personally I still miss the whole record thing, I'm a purist. I hate the whole process of getting an email and putting in codes etc...it's not like getting a crate of records in the mail that you can flick through and play on the spot. It's a pain in the ass. Downloading is just too tedious for me.
Question: Here is a question coming from a fellow 39 year old: When you're out in the clubs and see all the 18 and 19 year olds heads bopping, how do you connect with them?
Answer: I try to read the crowd and see what they are moving to. At the moment a lot of the records being produced are just too minimal for me. I think a lot of the young producers coming through need to go back and re-evaluate older tracks, otherwise all that the kids will know about is the tech side of things. We have to move the scene forward but keep looking back.
Question: Most producers do not have the skills to produce a song…?
Answer: Honestly though, I think I started the same way. I didn't know how to produce a song when I first came into the game, but I learnt from playing music. For me the computer stuff is the easy way out, everyone has a computer and everyone has a program to make a record. But I think people have to dig deep and make the programs work for them. A lot of these pre-made loops and beats take away the essence of recording.
Question: I have seen you DJ many times and recently I've seen you using Serato. It looks like your still playing vinyl but your not, its hooked up to a laptop. Does that help keep the feel for you?
Answer: I'm still trying to get used to it. When I played vinyl I would always pull out the next 5 or 6 records I was going to play. With the computer there are so many tracks available its mind boggling. I'm not really a set-list DJ, I won't stick to the same set each time. I bob and weave, and so with Serato it's like 'Wo!'. I haven't mastered it yet, but I'm getting there.
Question: Tell us about your latest project: 'The Dope Jams Mix'.
Answer: Well I had access to a lot of music from Strictly and Defected, and Simon Dunmore wanted to do a series of these Dope Jams, master-mixed down from my perspective. I was like, 'Sure, I love doing that!' . That, for me, is a mix tape when you have a lot of things going on at the same time- not just playing a record and mixing up that record and then playing another record and doing the same again, to me anyone can do that shit.
Question: Did you edit any of the mixes especially for the release?
Answer: I did most of it on the spot. For me, those mixes came together like a puzzle, I do piece by piece. As I was doing them I would go in and do some re-edits and then after I'd finished the whole mix they said they'd like to release some of edits separately. I was cool with that, and people can now download the separate mixes.
Question: We need to ask you whether you're comfortable about talking about your health, as you've had a few health issues recently…
Answer: No, I'm cool with that. The main thing I want people to realise is that I'd just come off of some really crazy stuff. Last year in August I came home from Greece, and I was just coughing and coughing until my ribs hurt. I knew something was wrong, so I decided to check myself into the hospital. I was diagnosed with heart failure - I had an enlarged heart, blood-clots and also pneumonia - all at once. It was crazy and I could have died.
Before all this happened I was maybe only sleeping for 4 hours a day. One night I could've been playing in Ibiza and then the next day I would be in the studio and then off to Germany or somewhere in the evening. It was just constant for so many years.
I was in the hospital for 7 weeks and it gave me the chance to see what I was doing right & wrong and to put things into perspective. A lot of people don't know what happened, and I did have to cancel a lot of gigs because of it, and I just needed time to rest really.
Question: So is everything alright now?
Answer: Well I'm not 100% I'm still on a lot of medication. I need to rest and be careful until my heart gets smaller. I can't really over-exert myself and try to run around like I used to. I have to take it easier now and take care of myself because I want to be here.
Taken by Toni Tambourine for Defected Records