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Music: Jon Kennedy An Odyssey Through Space and Time

Upon reading writer John Hubner’s latest post on the multi-faceted musician, Jon Kennedy – we were instantly intrigued. We’d never heard of him. And after listening to a few of his tunes, we were impressed. Not only is his music diverse – with sounds ranging from hip-hop to electronica to r&b;  international collaborations with various artists and proficiency on several instruments – he also has a charisma that seems contagious. We asked Hubert if we could publish his review of the artist’s release ‘Pour Feliciter’ and, because we liked him so much, add a few bits of our own.

Hubner writes: “’Pour Feliciter ‘ is a collection of beat-driven tunes that included Kennedy and guest artists. It was released on his own record label, The Jon Kennedy Federation, and it’s a great collection of low-key electronic music in the vein of Massive Attack, Zero 7, and even Boards of Canada.  As well as being extremely proficient on several instruments, Jon is a bit of an engineering wizard and has his own unique voice when it comes to creating sounds and textures.”

Photo: Giota Sunshine Photography

Hubner: Tell me about your history? Where did you grow up?

Kennedy: I’m from Stockport, which is just outside of Manchester in the UK, famed for Tennis legend Fred Perry, a massive viaduct, cotton mills, and The Buzzcocks.

Honeysuckle: How did you get from England to Prague and is Prague now your home?

Kennedy: It is indeed. I have always lived abroad or travelled since a very early age and have never seen England as a place for me to stay, It has shit weather, it’s expensive and thinks it is better than it actually IS, as you can witness with any ‘Brit Abroad’ they just moan about how NOT like England it is – “Fuk off home then”!! It’s hard to explain what Prague is to a regular ‘tourist’ who only knows drinking it’s beer and going to the titty bars. Prague is a really incredibly fucking magical city. It has housed many a musician, writer, artist and alchemist for centuries. Whether it’s in the ground, magnetically or the layout, I cannot explain, it offers, me personally, solace and comfort as a biological, evolved monkey, it’s primal…

Hubner: Growing up near Manchester seems like it would be a good place to get into music. When did you get into music and first start wanting to make music? What was the first instrument you learned?

Kennedy: I was listening to music from around 8 via my parents who were pretty alternative for the time, with my mum being a fan of Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of The Worlds’, David Essex (also a drummer), and ELO.

I got into the rhythms and began to pursue drums from about 11 years old. I knew I was good at it, natural, since other drummers were having lessons weekly for something I could do immediately.

Honeysuckle: What inspires you in song writing?

Kennedy: I take a lot from all over to be honest. Traveling a lot is always a massive influence but then in the same sentence where I live is also inspiring, the world is a huge place and I mean really really big and to get away from any musical, graveyard towns full of the same people flogging the same musical horse is uplifting and what pushes me forward.

Honeysuckle: Are your song based on personal experiences? For example, you have one called ‘Love Sick,’ was that based on something you were experiencing at the time?

Kennedy: The title of that particular one has nothing to do with being IN love, more SICK of the love that was being given at that time ;). I write most of my lyrics but I also feature other songwriters and vocalists so naturally I honor the writer’s lyrics in the titles, or at least try to. I have suggested changing some song titles for not wanting them to sound to pretentious…

Hubner: Who were some of your main musical influences growing up?

Kennedy: Hendrix was a staple diet for me and still is. He also played in Stockport, opposite where my Dad owns a shop to this day. War of The World’s always fascinated me. The idea of music and still pictures taking you somewhere else was something I knew I wanted to try to achieve. At this early stage I would have NO idea how I could do the same, but as technology became available to me my vision started to become very clear and I started to lay down loops on an old 4- track Tascam, playing drums, then a bit of guitar, then singing a bit, maybe slow it down, sing backwards in slow motion, just playing with sound really.

Hubner: So you’re learning how to put sound together, even manipulating it by slowing down the tape and recording backwards. This eventually would lead to playing in a band. What were some of those early band experiences like?

Kennedy: Oh yes… I was playing when I was 14 in pubs in and around Manchester. I was always the young looking one so I had to sneak into venues, then hide behind drums. We played all the major venues in Manchester and surrounding towns by the time I was 17. We rehearsed in The Buzzcocks’ old studio down a dingy alley in Stockport.

Hubner: You go from being a drummer in a band to being the band, creating music on your own. What’s your songwriting process like? How would you describe your music? 

Photo Giota Sunshine Photography

Photo: Giota Sunshine Photography

Kennedy: I don’t have a set pattern, to be honest. I have notes and scraps of paper all over the place with ideas, lines of lyrics, things I’ve seen to remind me of a melody, etc. Then I somehow decipher it and get it onto my stone age PC. She is a dinosaur, but a strong, solid one. Recording drums, bass, guitars, keys and anything else I can do myself. Those I cannot I grab people I know who can play or sing. I like to use unheard of folk; I’m not one for industry back scratching and step-ups. Quite the opposite in fact. My early gear was super chill, downtempo and I hit that scene at the right time, around Massive Attack, Portishead, Ninja Tune, etc.… so now I have people, fans who have grown up with my music from their early teens. I get told once a week something of this nature and it truly is inspiring and what drives me to continue. The legacy I wanted to achieve when I was just one little boy is right here now, a beautiful progression.

Hubner: Your newest album ‘Pour Feliciter’ is remixes, with you as well as other artists. How did this album come together? Did you facilitate the album, or were you brought in?

Jon Kennedy: This LP is a compilation of artists on my little record label, The Jon Kennedy Federation. Highlighting some of the more chill side of what we as a label represent. It has been put together with the help of Dancing Kitchen in Prague, where I live, to celebrate 2015 and was initally free.

Hubner: Are there any artists you’d love to collaborate with at some point? Any future projects you can tell us about?

 Kennedy: I am working on my new LP which has taken so long to get back in the production saddle for me personally. After some crazy life rollercoaster I have stopped, stood still and finally collected my thoughts. Thankfully they point toward music. It’s a beautiful thing. An amazing feeling, this magic I know that touches others eventually needs to be set in stone right now for me. I am looking at 2016 for a release of my own LP finally. I spent three years remixing others, with over 50 remixes under my belt now, moving the label forward. DJing, touring… crazy time… but I would not have it any other way. Trust I have done shitty jobs and worked for corporate cocksuckers too (laughs).

Honeysuckle: Would you say those dark times made you the musician that you are today or would you have preferred to do without them? Can you elaborate a little on what you were going through?

Kennedy: I was already on a roller coaster before music came into my life from a very early age. Being a known, producer or DJ or whatever in any town attracts others to you, 95% of the time people will latch onto you for their own gain and I naively ‘helped’ so many budding producers, musicians, DJ’s etc. only to have them rear their ugly heads over time and show the real reason they ‘hang out with me’. I don’t have any more time or energy for these types these days and can literally see them on the horizon with a huge “I am a complete cock” sign above their heads. My problem, I am told, is that I give too much to people, too quickly and recently I got fucked hard by a number of folk. I still, to this day receive, threats and emails calling me out, saying this, that, or the other about who I am, what I stand for. Be sure these fukkers check my music out though; they can’t help it, Love and hate, ying and yang… Any press is good press… look at Kanye West’s recent antics! His PR agent is a FUCKING GENIUS! And trust I haven’t done anything to deserve such negativity, it’s normally people who tried the music industry, failed and now work in offices pushing paper around or cleaning portaloo’s with their faces 😉

Honeysuckle: How do you decide who to collaborate with?

Kennedy: I check people out for a few months, watch them, see how into what they are doing they are and eventually will contact them. Alternatively if I think someone is outstanding from the start, via remixes I have done for them or gigs I have been to, I will approach them for possible collaborations.

Honeysuckle: Is it hard to maintain a (romantic) relationship in your business?

Kennedy: Not if you don’t give too much of yourself away on social media. If you can take the press, people’s words, and comments typed in a tiny box on the world wide web as a joke, you’ll be fine. I don’t tell people what I’m eating, who I’m faking, sorry, being ‘romantic with’ ;), where I went on holiday. If you can find a person who can accept you will get attention from both sexes, and trust you and you trust them, your life in music will be perfect. Trust I have had completely fuccking mental partners rifling through my computer, stabbing up my hard drives and downloading numbers from my phone… haaa… fuksake!

Honeysuckle: Tell us more about your record label. Do you want to grow? What kinds of artists do you represent?

I’ve had the label on the back burner since 2007; this being a result after watching the way labels in my genre and scene were going at that time. I realized I needed to have a back up to protect my own sounds legally. Whether it be a hip or trendy sound, I couldn’t 2 fuks, what I know is that they are my sounds, my ideas recorded, solidly to last for ever and for my kids and other people to enjoy, an audio legacy, and I didn’t want them to get buried because some middle-class white guy running a record label, that my music is attached to, suddenly got bored and ran it into the ground. We are growing, slowly and we are getting exposure in some pretty interesting places, films, TV, so you know, it’s ticking along as it has for the last 15 years with my sounds. This is interesting in itself! I still get people discovering and enjoying my first LP, which was recorded and released in 2001! CHECK OUT

Hubner: Tell us about your upcoming gigs.

Kennedy: I have so many gigs coming up I’m exhausted just looking at the list has more than I can type here.

Hubner: So what does 2015 and beyond hold for Jon Kennedy?

Kennedy: Well, as above really… mad touring and creative juicing!

Keep up with everything Jon Kennedy right here.

Corporeal remix available here, scroll to the bottom of the page for a sample:

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  1. Pingback: Jon Kennedy's "HA!" - Honeysuckle Magazine

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