Daddy Kev

Hip-Hop Core: Since "Slanguage", it seems that you've decided to really go for a jazz sound and try to find new directions for the jazz-rap subgenre. It's a pretty important change compared to your "old" sound. What gave you the will to do that and what's exactly the goal of your approach?

Daddy Kev: I don't think of it as too big of a change, rather a continuation and evolution of the direction I have always been going: that is, to produce innovative music. If you look at some of my earliest releases, like Phoenix Orion's "Zimulated Experiencez" in 1998 for example, you can see that I was doing experimental music from the start. There's a song on "Zimulated" called "Prophecy" which is over ten minutes long and is basically seven different beats woven into one long song.

HHC: You've done "Slanguage" with Awol One, "Sound Advice" with The Grouch and a third LP with Busdriver. Those albums all seem to be a part of your ongoing jazz experiment. Can you explain your approach?

DK: There're actually five in the series. One of them was Existereo's "Four Way Window Pain" which came out as a single and as an album track on Exist's first solo album rather than as an all-inclusive project. And the fifth project in the series would be "The Green Mile" with P.E.A.C.E., Kitts and Awolrus. It's doubtful if that will be released anytime soon.

HHC: Let's talk about the "Cosmic Cleavage" project… It sounds like something "between" Slanguage and Sound Advice, when did you record it actually? Did you work with Busdriver as you did with Awol & The Grouch? Must this record be regarded as the next step of your "mutation" into a jazz-rap explorer?

DK: It was recorded after "Sound Advice," and I consider it perhaps the best arranged record I've ever done. In regards to my "mutation," I think "Slanguage" was the defining record. There's was a whole bunch of things happening when "Slanguage" was put into motion. 9/11 had just gone down. I had just met my fiancée Danyell, and her record collection was opening me to who a whole slew of new sounds. I also stopped using the Akai MPC2000, and started using Pro Tools for making beats.

HHC: How did you get in touch with Big Dada & Will Ashon? What can this deal bring you?

DK: I've known will since the late 90s and I was sending him Celestial records to review. He's always been very supportive of the whole West Coast underground. When Busdriver's "Temporary Forever" came out he was really digging it, and I offered him the opportunity to hear the newer material I had been working on with Busdriver. Will was digging what he heard, so we put things in motion and signed a contract. Insofar as what it brings us, I really hope for more exposure in Europe. When the homies tour over there, they seem to get a good response, so I would assume that the records are well received as well.

HHC: D-Styles is involved on every one of those albums. Could you tell us a few words about your collaboration and about what you think he brings to your compositions?

DK: Basically, there's few DJs that I am truly blown away by. There's actually only three: D-Styles, Mix Master Mike, and Q-Bert. I met D-Styles back when Celestial was really booming in 1999, and he wanted to me to do the engineering on a 12-inch he was putting. I told him I was down, and we became friends through the mixing process. Then D-Styles was visiting L.A. during the Christmas break of 2000, and I happened to be engineering "Souldoubt." He stopped by the studio to hear what I was working on, and immediately I had him jump on two tracks. From there we just kept hanging out, and he's been the only DJ I've recorded ever since. Insofar as what he brings to my tracks, I can't even begin to describe the depth of musicianship that D-Styles brings to any project. It's like the frosting on the cake. It's reached a point where I don't quite feel like my projects are finished until
D-Styles has done some cuts. That may change considering the fact that I just finished engineering Mix Master Mike's new album "Bangzilla" and he's pretty open to doing cuts on some of my new projects. Time will tell.

HHC: How do you work on a track when you're alone? Do you start with a loop andarrange everything around it to build a great track or do you have a precise idea of what you want to accomplish in terms of ambiance and just try to find the right sample to convey this? Give us some insight in your work please.

DK: It almost always starts with the drums. I'll grab a loop from somewhere, and start cutting the loop apart. Then I'll grab a stack of records and start sampling all sorts of bits and pieces. At least twenty or thirty different things, not knowing exactly what will work and what won't. Then I just start experimenting with the samples, pitching them up or down, just seeing how they can fit with the drums.

HHC: You were in charge of the mix for many projects (The Weather Lp, for instance….). What does your job consists in when you carry this? Are you involved artistically in the conception of the project?

DK: It varies from project-to-project. For example, on "The Weather" record, Daedelus recorded all of the songs at his house and brought me all of the Pro Tools sessions on disc. I then spent about two weeks by myself, mixing the hell out of those songs. When Daedelus came back to hear what I had done, he was blown away. I had brought out bass lines and all kinds of other frequencies that he didn't even know existed in the music. So that's one extreme. On the other hand, I just did the engineering for Mix Master Mike's new record "Bangzilla." In that situation, Mike was coming over to my house everyday for about three weeks. He was there for every minute of the mixdown, very involved with what I was doing. So it can be very different. I think it really depends on how involved the producers want to be, and if their schedules allow for it.

HHC: You've worked many times with Awol One. What makes your relationship so special?

DK: We definitely relate on the more negative aspects of life. When we get together, it's like a couple of elderly men, talking about how the world sucks. But we definitely do it with a sense of humor, which is what I think makes our relationship special. I'm also in love with his lyricism. It's funny because there's a saying that goes "all rappers want to be producers, and all producers want to be rappers." On that note, if I could be any rapper, I'd be Awol One.

HHC: Last year, many people thought that "Four Way Window Pain" was one of the most impressive tracks of the year. How did you create that track with Existereo? What was the whole idea?

DK: I had been hooking up with Existereo because I was doing the mixes for "Dirty Deeds And Deads Flowers". Plus, me and Exist were becoming homies from just hanging out, drinking and puffing bowls. I then crafted the skeleton beat for what was to become the "Four Way Window Pain" construction. We did a few rounds of recording vocals, which I didn't think was really necessary, but Exist is a perfectionist and wanted to get things a certain way.

HHC: At the end of the 90's, Celestial has played an important role in the development of the whole west coast scene. Why did you create the label, in the first place, and could you tell us what memories you keep of this adventure?

DK: The label definitely holds a special place in my heart. A lot of dreams were coming together at once, from my dreams of being a music producer to my dreams of owning a record label. I was also a lot younger back then, and still very naive about the music business. I've become a lot more jaded since then, but hopefully we can all agree that my mixdowns have never sounded better.

HHC: You were very close to the Alien Nation at one point. What's up with them now?

DK: There was a big beef for a few years. Then me and Phoenix Orion kept running into each other at clubs, shows, etc. At first it was really awkward, seeing Phoenix in the flesh. Our beef had been pretty extreme, to the point of death threats and all sorts of other craziness. So we just kind of ignored one another for the first few encounters, but then it was like we couldn't avoid each other. I kept running into him on what seemed to be a weekly basis. So we started talking again, and eventually we squashed the beef. I'm really glad we did because we were the best of friends at one point, and the beef had nothing to do between us personally. It just goes to show how the music business can tear friendships apart. On another note, I just saw Supernatural about a month ago. We were both performing at this rave out in the California desert, so I went up to him and we talked for a bit. It's a shame that things got fucked up between us, although I learned a lot from the situation.

HHC: What are your feelings about the evolution of this scene. Doesn't it tend to go "overground"? I mean, It seems to be spreading all over the world… for instance, both Living Legends and Shapeshifters Crew came to France in the last months as well as The Weather, your new project will be released by a European label…Is it an illusion or do you really feel this change from where you are?

DK: Things have definitely gotten a lot bigger, and I feel that it's a good thing. I remember shows when there were only 20 people showing up. Now Awol can pack a nightclub by himself. It's been awesome to be part of the movement, and I can only hope the momentum continues.

HHC: Are you a crate-digger? If, yes, what kind of music are you looking for and what do you like about your digging activities?

DK: I used to dig exclusively in vinyl shops, but I've extended my palette to any audio source. Los Angeles has some awesome jazz and classical radio stations, so I sample the radio a lot. There's certain shows where old school jazz guys come on and start playing their unreleased tapes. Super rare vault stuff. I actually can't believe what I'm listening to sometimes. It's sick, so I record a lot of that stuff to DAT and go through it later.

HHC: Are you an assiduous music listener? Mostly rap?

DK: I listen to many forms of music. When I'm in the car, it's primarily classical music. It calms my nerves. If I listen to rap music when driving in L.A. traffic, I get all aggravated because I'm stuck in gridlock. We call it "road rage" out here. It's not a good thing. But when I'm at home I just put the iPod on shuffle mode and listen to whatever comes out of it. My iPod has a mind of it's own, and tends to like playing Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn songs.

HHC: Why did you release the DVD-Audio "Penchant For Buggery"?

DK: An old friend Todd Roberts was signing a bunch of stuff to be remixed in surround sound. He called me up, and I was open to the idea. I think the whole music-in-surround-sound thing is still ahead of it's time, but it was fun to see the whole process.

HHC: Could you tell us a few words about "The Green Mile"?

DK: That project was awesome. P.E.A.C.E. and his cousin Kitts were in town for a few days, and I scheduled an all-day session with them. We hooked up in the morning, and killed a twelve-pack of brew in less than an hour. Then Awol came through with more beer, and we began recording. The entire vocal recording process took about eight hours. I still don't know if "The Green Mile" will ever see an official release.

HHC: What are your current projects?

DK: I have two songs on the new Shapeshifters record, which is a bangin record. Also just did remix of Curtis Mayfield's "Pusher Man" with Mix Master Mike. That's coming out next year. My current focus is the new AWOL record, which will probably come out Summer 2005. We'll see. Also my new record label, Alpha Pup Records, will be putting out it's first release in March – an instrumental album from Paris Zax.

HHC: Last Word?

DK: Thanks to all the fans who buy our music instead of stealing it. Shouts out to Harbor City, my hometown, and surrounding areas Carson, Wilmington, Compton, and East Side Torrance.

Interview by Kreme & Cobalt
Photos by Danny Miller (Mush)
September 2004

NB: These questions were asked when "Cosmic Cleavage" had just been released.

Daddy Kev's website:

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