Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Keenan Kilgore Discusses SEPTEMBER, Keenan & Karma Remixes & His Genre-eschewing Body of Work (The Witzard Interview)


Keenan Kilgore AKA Daniel K. Felicetti FKA Digitalfel & FEL, etc. is a Vermont-based producer, artist, and creator. For over a decade, Daniel Felicetti has been consistently recording and putting out instrumental and collaborative Hip-Hop and Electronic music under a number of aliases at quite a rapid rate; this including, but not limited to, Digitalfel, FEL, ham american, Cord5, DigitalDankin with producer/rapper Dominic Primus, Keenan Kilgore, and JWLS VRNE & Different Trucks with frequent collaborator Gruff Lion. Daniel Felicetti also, runs a few websites to host his music, production work, and visual art: first, DigitalFel - the "digital" representation of "fel" AKA his music site, next, MAN-GOES CO. - essentially, an "all-around portfolio" of various projects Felicetti and his wife have produced/curated together, and finally, TONERELATIONS - a new platform, still in development, to showcase new projects with physical copies. His most recent releases include a remix album, Keenan & Karma, with Lt Headtrip's we are the karma kids crew and his latest instrumental solo album, SEPTEMBER.

"SEPTEMBER is an Instrumental Hip-Hop album that reinforces the scope and possibilities within the construct. This latest solo effort is full of complex sample-based beats intertwined with bits of narrative and creative song structuring. SEPTEMBER came about from a culmination of life's struggles, travels, triumphs, oddities, and observations. It is not your average beat tape. SEPTEMBER sets the soundscape for you to swim through the summer and beyond. It is a collection of global jams for you to carry along your journey, as you explore and get lost, only to find your way again," Felicetti writes on his Bandcamp page. Below, you will see a comprehensive interview recently conducted between Keenan Kilgore and The Witzard, which has been lightly edited for overall clarity.


I. How did you initially link up with Lt Headtrip and his we are the karma kids crew for what eventually, became a remix comp. cleverly called Keenan & Karma?

I got linked up with Headtrip through my good friend and music collaborator, Adrian AKA Gruff Lion. In my disjointed journey in producing, I always got down in the studio with Adrian about once a year and I heard and watched The Karma Kids grow over the years; it's really dope that I have been getting to work with them lately!

II. What are the separate purposes of each of your various art/multi-media sites: DigitalFel, MAN-GOES CO. and TONERELATIONS?

So, Digitalfel.com is my personal music site. I've had the domain for years now and it has always been the "digital" incarnation of "Fel" (Felicetti)—so. it's where I have always showcased my productions/linked to them. MAN-GOES.CO is more of an over-arching portfolio and portal to works that I've produced/curated—alongside Michelle, my wife, who is a really great artist. TONERELATIONS.com is a work-in-progress. Right now, it's somewhat redundant with Bandcamp, in that I sell CD's and tapes of some music... but, in the future, I envision TONERELATIONS being an alternate place to view/listen/read about/buy any project I have had a hand in, all in a clean unique website. We will see what happens.


III. How do/did your various projects: DigitalFel, FEL, ham american, Cord5, DigitalDankin with Dominic Primus, and JWLS VRNE & Different Trucks with Gruff Lion - differ from your latest incarnation as Keenan Kilgore?

I think, that when I decided to do music as "Keenan Kilgore," I believed that I had honed in on a more distinct sound. I took on that moniker after I made an album in Texas with Keenan Kilgore (2014) as the title. After trying a bunch of different techniques and using a a few different softwares, I think, I settled in on ways that worked for me and found methods that became more of my go-to methods in producing. Thus, the era of Keenan Kilgore was born haha. All of the other projects I have done under different names and [collaborations] are different for reasons I just explained or simply because when I work with other artists, there's an inevitable compromise in the creation because there's multiple people making decisions. So, the end result will always sound differently than if it was solely my production. Don't get me wrong, though—the compromise between artists' creations can be beautiful and completely unique—those, usually, are the most fun projects by far.

IV. What were your typical beat-making, sample sourcing, sound-bending, production, recording, etc. processes like while creating SEPTEMBER?

For SEPTEMBER, I was generally inspired by finding samples on vinyl records, sitting and listening through them, and then, recording into ProTools. When I'm really energized in the studio, I can work super-fast, so I often have to slow myself down and listen through samples and dwell on the process more—but I usually, want to move quickly. Once I find sounds that inspire, I will chop them up/edit them, put them into a sampler and find BPM's, etc. then, start layering. I try to layer as much vinyl as possible—usually, mixing as I go. At a certain point, I turn towards my various keyboards, which are a couple of dope Korgs, a mad old and kinda cheesy Casio, and rarely, I cued in some soft synths or FX with a USB keyboard. Other than that, I filled out the songs and layered with sparse recordings of my drum set and percussion and I have a lot of [sound effects] recordings I've collected over the years doing film work. I took a lot more time mixing this album than other albums. I listened to it and took mixing notes for a month, then, went back into the studio on each song and tweaked things; then, passed it on to Willie Green for the mastering.


V. Now, I well know, sometimes, this is a bit of a taboo topic for some producers to talk about... but where did you find the samples used throughout SEPTEMBER?

I live in VT, and where I am, the best source for vinyl is thrift stores or Craigslist and you have no idea what the Hell you will find, which can be amazing or really sh**ty. I also, make a point to get to Burlington or a town with an actual record shop. I'm also, always on the lookout for records, when I'm traveling—I still find samples from LP's I've picked up all over the world—literally. As for what are these samples exactly!? You'll have to keep listening!

VI. Not only artists and musical benchmarks, but what were some of your greatest sources of personal inspiration, influence, and driving forces that affected SEPTEMBER?

It doesn't take much for me to feel inspired. Song ideas or feelings/moods for songs will pop into my head constantly; but certain things will definitely trigger inspiration, as well. I always loved movies that use subtle sound and silence to convey the feelings in the story. Things are often quiet where I live, too, so, I hear the sound of nature and depth—the human is in the background and the wind or the birds are often in the foreground. I also, have just always had an intense desire to create art of all different kinds! Ever since I realized what was possible and started hearing more variety of music and seeing more interesting art, in general, I was hooked to the feeling of creating. My youngest years being sheltered from a lot of music and growing up in rural VT/NH definitely affected me, too. I have a deep, genuine appreciation for nature and plants, but I also, felt like I missed out on a lot of interesting art growing up. This dichotomy is definitely a part of the making-of SEPTEMBER.


VII. What's the story behind the unique cover art you designed for SEPTEMBER and how exactly does it relate back to the content within the album?

This cover was designed by my wife, Michelle. She is a painter and artist. I asked her to do the cover and I think, she captured the feeling of the album pretty well. The duality of nature and man—exploring life, opportunities, choices, people, and differences—the idea that some humans are just doing our best to make sense of the world we live in... I also, added to the art and it's direction, so it's technically, a collaborative cover by the two of us!

VIII. Now that SEPTEMBER has been unleashed into the terribly unsuspecting world, what else do you currently have in-the-works or set to be released fairly soon?

Well, I'm always cookin' up something. And I've been done making SEPTEMBER for a while now, so I'm itching to produce new material. Right now, I have a long-running project with my buddy, Dom [DigitalDankin], who lives in South Carolina. We have worked on a lot of tracks that we are still putting together in some way. I'm not sure when we will release anything. I'm also, planning on releasing more solo instrumentals and I would like to [collaborate] more with The Karma Kids. I will, likely, do another project with Gruff Lion soon, when the stars align!


IX. What was it like working alongside co-producer Dominic Primus (DigitalDankin,) mastering engineer Willie Green, and artist/designer Michelle Felicetti on SEPTEMBER?

Anyone interested in helping me with my work is so awesome to me! I love having people genuinely give me feedback and help make my vision as good as it could be. Dominic and I made the track, "Eternity" a couple years ago, actually, but it was much shorter and more simple. I took what we did and stretched it into some weirdness! It's a pleasure working with Dom because he has a great ear and it allows me to step back and kind of produce a little more backseat in certain areas. We work well together. Willie is a pro! I was so psyched to have him master this project—I met him at his studio in NYC and we talked about SEPTEMBER and kinda came up with a game plan, then, he put the finishing touch on the album and really made it snap! Working with Michelle was easy because I've done it a lot. We've had joint art shows and worked on a ton of stuff together over the years, so that naturally, came together pretty well.

X. What, in your humble opinion, is the ideal listening scenario or suggested set-up while digesting SEPTEMBER?

Well, I always recommend good speakers or headphones, but as far as scenario, I think: a rooftop cafe that sits on the edge of water—the view below is bustling people of all different types. On the horizon are mountains that pierce the sky and channel the wind to a pleasant breeze. Patches of trees cover the plains around the base of the mountains and taper off approaching the city. You're sitting alone with your favorite sandwich and a cup of coffee; the bread is fresh and the crust is crunchy. No one bothers you and you can sit in peace, while listening to SEPTEMBER on your expensive headphones, while enjoying a great meal. That sounds like a great place to listen! Otherwise, bumping it while traveling in a car or walking is how it was developed...


XI. Now, let's just say, hypothetically, you were indefinitely stranded on a desert island; what would your Top 5 "Desert Island" albums be to listen to for the rest of eternity? Why for each?

Definitely tough choices. {RJD2 - Deadringer, 2011} I still think this is RJ's masterpiece. It's ingrained in my thoughts about making music. {Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise, 2011} I seriously, have never been so impressed by the editing and mixing skills in Instrumental Electronic music than I have with this dude. This album is epic! {Can - Tago Mago, 1971} this project is timeless and really stuck with me. I think it's so cool how it was put together—down to the members of the group—to the way they compiled the album from hours of studio sessions. {Destroyer - Kaputt, 2011} something about the saxophones and the backing vocals. I just can't help but love this record! {OutKast - Aquemini, 1996} I love André 3000 & Big Boi. This album is one of the greatest Hip-Hop records, in my opinion. (EXTRA 1) * {Nujabes - Metaphorical Music, 2003} Nujabes was just such a G. His music is so dope and uplifting.

XII. Who might be on your list of "dream collaborators," if you were to have an unlimited budget for your next project? In all honesty, how close are any of these collaborations to actually coming to fruition?

Oh man, lots! I would love to work with the producer Lee (Asano + Rhyuhei.) He is on another level with his beats and his visual art is DOPE. I also, would love to work with Weyes Blood, get her voice on some tracks because it's so beautiful and powerful. She was featured on a track called "Suddenly" from an album called The End of Comedy by Drugdealer; that song was one of my favorites from 2017. Thundercat because I always want better basslines and because he's a brilliant musician. André 3000! Can I say that? haha. I love when rappers really explore their range—André would blow my mind with his musicality. There's a lot more, but those are definitely some of my dream collaborators! Thanks, Matt! It was a real pleasure answering these questions!

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