New Music
12.08.2010, Words by Ruth Saxelby

Kwes interview: "I like imperfection."

Technically, this isn’t a Next piece. KWES isn’t Next – he’s already here. He’s been making waves since his Hearts In Home release in 2009 and his kaleidoscopic ‘Kwesachu’ mixtape with fellow unorthodox musician Micachu. Dummy wanted to interview him back then but alas it never came to fruition. A few months back we tried to do it again but at the time he was too busy. But now, on his return from supporting Leftfield in Ibiza, our stars have aligned and I am perched on a curb in Brick Lane chatting with the incredibly charming, insightful and switched on fella. Supping on a mango juice and hot on the heels of his ‘No Need To Run’ EP on Young Turks, KWES is talking me through the booty he’s just bagged from Rough Trade East. His selection includes a Brian Eno & Jon Hassell CD, which he tells me he loves because “Eno makes Hassell’s trumpet sound damaged. It’s beautiful.” There’s also Mount Kimbie’s ‘Crooks & Lovers’: “It’s brilliant they’re bring this grainy and hazy sound to the mainstream.” And an Omar S release: “He’s a mad eccentric which I love and his stuff just sounds so gritty. I’m really into gritty sounds.” I tell him that the words he uses to describe the music that he likes are exactly the kind of words I’d use to describe his sound. “Yeah, I guess,” he replies. “Well, I just love rubbish sound.”

His ‘No Need To Run’ EP is four songs worth of bliss. Both In And Out The UK and No Need To Run (download above) are two solid songs of direct beats but with a unique rough edge, which, well, gives them their edge. Hundertwasser and Canary are both more dreamy spiralling tracks. I’m about to ask him how he got that guitar sound on…but I don’t need to finish my question because he knows what I’m about to say. “That’s not a guitar.” You what, mate? His EP opens with Hundertwasser and a hazy, eerily sublime “guitar” solo that sounds like something Hendrix would be proud of. “Nah that’s a keyboard. I distorted it, did a lot of harmonic distortion, did a lot of delaying, gating. I played a lot of instruments on this record. All heavily processed. The keyboards sound like guitars and the guitars sound like keyboards. I like tricking people with sound.”

I bring up the fact he likes Omar S for his eccentricities and ask if it’s the same reasons he likes Hundertwasser, the contemporary and controversial Austrian painter and architect. His constructs appear like wonky building blocks of insanely bright colours that appear to have been cobbled together without a spirit level or a blue print in mind. “Hundertwasser’s buildings seem impossible, structurally impossible,” says KWES. “But the structures are strong and sound. But you know, he didn’t like straight lines. And I feel like that with music. I like imperfection. Things that are pristine are not perfect to me.”

So it’s structure he’s interested in – what about colour too? You can tell KWES doesn’t approach music like the majority of producers that are out there. He has synaesthesia. His brain is wired that bit differently to yours or mine. “Each note of the twelve tone scale corresponds to a colour,” he explains. “Chords around the C note are usually blues and violets, E is more orangy/yellow. Ds mainly Blue. Fs are blue. Those colours are always the same – never block colours but moving between. I don’t get any red. A lot of the sharp keys are greens and white. Apparently we all have [synaesthesia] before we’re born but as you grow the sense separate but some people’s don’t separate.”

KWES is developing a live set – a gig he played last week at the Boiler Room included a lot of his reworks that nobody had heard before. While he says his live show is still a work in progress, he really gets animated when he talks about Bokkle, the label he is starting. He mentions Elan Tamara will definitely have a release but the rest of the artists he’s keeping hush hush for now. Look out for Bokkle releases soon. That said, he tells me that first and foremost he considers himself a producer: “You know, it’s not just about the final product… it’s about the journey getting there. I’d love to take some of the people I produce out to record in the woods or somewhere, just to get that different sound and feel.”

It’s almost time to say goodbye but I have one complaint about ‘No Need To Run’: it’s too short – I want more. KWES laughs: “It was only ever meant to be an EP. But don’t worry, there’s more where that came from.”

‘No Need To Run’ EP by Kwes is out now on Young Turks. Download the the title track above.


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