Kamen is a man making moves. By combing the finer elements of classic 90’s hip-hop, RnB and jazz he’s been able to forge a sound of his own that’s as unique as it is inspiring. We recently sat down with the Cornwall based beat-smith to chat all things hip-hop, travelling, his favourite pieces of gear and all things in between.
Hey Kamen, great to see you.. tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey! I’m Kamen, a UK based producer dabbling in every genre possible but focusing mainly on hip-hop and R&B. At the moment I am a music technology student at Falmouth University, which I guess qualifies me as a part-time music producer… I’m originally from Bulgaria where I started producing 4 years ago.
Do you feel your location has any direct effect on your musical output or style?
Although I study in Falmouth, I tend to hop around from place to place every three months or so. I’ve lived in Falmouth (obviously), London, Aberdeen, Sofia (the capital city of Bulgaria) and Shumen (my hometown). I’d say location is one of my main inspirations, every place I go to, has a different and unique vibe and makes me feel a certain way, which I then express through music. It’s quite a refreshing experience and I never get writer’s block because of this.
Tell me about your production style and process. Do you look to focus on any particular genre or do you enjoy jumping from sound to sound?
I’m very straightforward when it comes to production style, there isn’t any particular formula I follow, I just do what feels right (yes, I know how cliche that sounds haha).
Everything starts with inspiration for me, it could be something I heard in a song or a sample I found or a nice kick sound, literally anything that lights the initial spark. It’s all following the vibe after that. I try to get all of my ideas down before they’re gone and focus on details and mixing later, this way I never overthink anything or get lost in the tiny details which can easily happen.
Sometimes I end up with a finished track in half an hour, other times I get so into it, that before I know it, the day has passed and I’ve done nothing else.
What were your biggest musical influence whilst growing up? Anything doing it for you currently?
Oddly enough, growing up I listened to music completely different than what I’m making now. I’m not sure if it’s even considered an influence since my music genre-wise and stylistically has little to no resemblance to my favourite artists/bands growing up. I listened to a ton of Linkin Park all throughout my high school years and I got into Eminem when I was 16. Once I discovered Slim Shady, that was the only artist I listened to.
My music taste nowadays differs dramatically. I’m in love with genre-defining greats such as Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, James Brown, Michael Jackson, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin and far too many more to name them all. An album that maybe had the biggest influence on me is ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ by Kendrick Lamar, a mind-bending sonic experience that made me appreciate the musicality that hip-hop can have.
From then on, I’ve been exploring every genre and listening to all the greats trying to appreciate their art.
With all this moving and changing location what effect does this have on your production process? Guessing you travel light?
So yeah you’re right.. I find myself living in a different place every 3 months or so which can be an issue but to be honest I can’t imagine having a ton of gear and moving it from place to place. I’ve gained the mindset that for me personally having hardware is a touch unnecessary.
I literally just use is a Macbook Pro, a MIDI controller and some headphones (I’ve even stopped using the MIDI controller if I’m honest).
When it comes to software, I’m an Ableton Live 10 addict. I love it and it’s the only thing I’m proficient in. I’m trying my best to learn how to use Logic and use it for mixing but for now, Ableton does exactly what I want. In terms of mixing I’m using mainly stock plug-ins on both DAW’s.. for me it’s more about how you use them than whether they’re made by a certain company or person.
Do you find that you’re including samples in your production process or are you more a blank slate kind of guy?
Samples are always the starting point for me. My initial inspiration must come from some sort of a sample, otherwise, I just won’t start making a beat.
You recently made a sample pack called Crystal Soul.. Can you tell us a little about the pack.
My sample pack is called “Crystal Soul” and it’s full of funky, jazzy and soulful compositions that hopefully help people out with ideas for beats and tracks. In fact, I’d love to hear what people have created with my loops just out of curiosity. It’s been such a fun process, challenging myself to create some smooth chord progressions or bass-lines, synth lines that I myself would consider useful. I guess I did find it useful as I made a whole EP out of it haha.
OK wow. Do tell?
Following the release of “Crystal Soul” I wanted to put out a project showcasing what producers could do with the pack. This turned out to be the last instalment in my seasonal EP collection. The EP is called “Heat” and came out near the end of the summer.
Each track incorporates a loop from the sample pack and develops it into a full song. Once I finished the beats, I sent them out to some of my amazingly talented friends all around the globe in order to get some vocalists to hop on the instrumentals. The end result is undoubtedly my best work to date and I’m so proud of it.
You can hear the whole project here:
OK the serious stuff.. Desert Island Discs – 5 albums you couldn’t do without.
Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino
To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
Flower Boy – Tyler, The Creator
Astroworld – Travis Scott
Any Kanye album.
Feeling inspired? You can check his Crystal Sample collection HERE
The Touch Loops team.