It night have been beats and jungle that led to drum and bass being what it is today, but it’s the old school players like Master Ken that have cultivated the scene to its powerhouse status. Kenny Ken grew up in Hackney, what he terms a “rough part of London.” A solid and difficult upbringing to be sure, he spent his first 25 years there – a place where opportunities were scarce for most, “unless they were particularly good at school,” he says.
“I wasn’t good at school – I’ve always liked music but never thought of being a full time DJ but my influences were music like reggae, hip hop, RnB and soul,” he expresses with pride – and jest. Initially, he enjoyed a diet of reggae and soul but it wasn’t until the rave scene started in the UK that Kenny decided bringing beats was his calling. It was the music that encouraged him to get involved in something that he found inspiring, “along with the likes of Carl Cox, Grooverider and Frankie Valentine. It was about the music, the excitement of building new tunes, working in the studio and traveling around the world.”
Yet all these years later drum and bass has achieved critical mass. It has spawned styles and movements only a high-quality genre could – it has spread from the UK to New Zealand and Australia, the USA and South America. It has even arguably spawned altogether new movements, like dubstep. Regardless, as a genre, it is here to stay but remains respectful of its early roots. Beats are belting, sounds and vibes deep, sometimes dark, other times more uplifting – but always laced with funk.
And Kenny agrees. “Drum and bass is everything it used to be and more. Over the years the quality has gotten better, top-notch producers have come into the ring and beats are always changing. But like any industry, it’s hard to stay in the spotlight. That’s why you have to be good at your game. I've managed to change with the times and listen to the new producers and work with new promoters.”
On the production side, he has kept on keeping on, bringing the new material. He even has a stepson who is now in the game, and what better a mentor than one of the genre’s biggest names. “Yeah, I’ve done work with my stepson in the studio; we’ve done plenty of EPs and remixes and things over the times.” Needless to say, Kenny productions are always solid. And it’s difficult to recall a time when Kenny Ken hasn’t absolutely torn a venue apart.
This time, he’s back to tear things up with Skibadee and SS as part of a sort of old school reunion, Jungle Fever. “Man, it’s great to be coming back to Australia, I love playing around the world and keeping it real.” These are the boys that have been around since the beginning and know better than anyone how to work a crowd into a frenzy. Indeed, there is nothing like a DJ and MC who feed off one another. “We generally get on really well which is important. I haven’t necessarily got a favourite but we’ve worked together over the years and you sort of adjust – everyone has a slightly unique style.”
And being a jungle rave party and all, you can probably expect to hear a few classic tunes on the night. The list is endless and working the hot picks is nigh on impossible. There might even be some tracks from his various labels, whites, edits, remixes and even material that is unreleased. Long and short, expect the great man to have dug deep in the crates to find his greatest and most classic material from the jungle era. No doubt it will be spiced up with the odd tid-bit from elsewhere – where specifically, who knows? Until then, the hard and dark road continues. Expect a quality energetic set covering the broad gamet of music from across appropriate genres. SS, Kenny and Skibadee are coming. And they can’t wait to touch down.
Oh no, they’ll never kill Kenny!
Kenny Ken [UK] takes on DJ SS [UK] refereed by MC Skibadee [UK] at Brown Alley on Friday August 10.