Kris Menace interview
Acclaimed international producer Kris Menace unleashes his first vocal album project, ‘Features’. News.traxsource caught up with the future-tronic pioneer to find out more..
‘Features’, whose name pertains to the collaborative nature of the beast, includes a plethora of incredible performances such as Julian Hamilton from The Presets, Miss Kittin, house music Legend Robert Owens, Romanthony, German soul singer Xavier Naidoo, Chelonis R Jones* and Simon Lord. In addition, some of the coolest talent on the synth pop block make an appearance including New York based tv-star Lawrence LT Thompson (The Kiki Twins), Black Hills (South Dakota), Unai (Sweden), Thomas Gandey (Cagedbaby) and Dominique Keegan from The Glass (Plant Music).
What made you decide after all these years to finally make a vocal album?
I have always wanted to make a vocals album; I just never had the contacts before. It’s only recently, after years of remixing and travelling that I finally had the chance to work with the vocalists that I really wanted to.
Why did you name the album ‘Features’ and tell us about the artwork?
‘Features’ says exactly what the album is, an album with featured artists. It’s not my usual album that is just about me and my music. The ‘Features’ album is very much a collaborative work with some amazing artists. I wanted something very clean and understated. I was a graphic artist before I was a musician, and the concept was devised together with a talented up-and-coming designer based in Germany. We developed this idea of a 12-sided circle; each side stands for one track, but all tracks are linked to make one whole.
Did you have a plan for the album or did it just grow organically?
I started working on ‘Features’ a few years ago with the aim of making quality pop music again. I loved the 80s and the spirit of the music, this is a big influence on me. Nowadays a good pop song is rare. For me, most commercial music is a rip off of a rip off of a rip off, with little originality and innovation. With ‘Features’ I wanted to combine classic song writing with the electronic sound I started to develop a few years ago.
How did you go about choosing the artists that you wanted to work with?
Every artist has his/her own story…With The Presets and Julian Hamilton, I did a remix for them, met the guys and we really clicked. I wanted Romanthony on the album because I simply love his voice. My timing was good, because when I asked him, he was available. Miss Kittin was always high on my list. I really admire her and the role she has played in electronic music; trail blazing as one of the first female DJs. I first wanted to work with Simon Lord after I heard his band Simian. Naturally most people know Simon’s voice from ‘We Are Your Friends’, their track with Justice. I also love the way Simon writes and will try to work with him more after the Features album.
Thomas Gandy from Cagedbaby played with Boys Noise, when they provided the support for my first ever London gig! I obviously know Laurence LT Thompson from my own Stars On 33 disco project and wanted his personality to balance the mood of the album. Dominique Keegan from The Glass and I wanted to work together… I did him a remix and he offered to give me his vocals for a brand new production. While I remixed Unai right at the beginning of my career, so we go way back. Again I just love his voice.
Xavier Naidoo was another target that was very high on my ‘wish list’. In Germany he is a platinum selling mega star. However, we also share a long musical history that started way back with the beginning of Drum ‘n’ Bass. For Features, I wanted to challenge Xavier musically and do something very different for him. Robert Owens is simply a legend and made one of my all-time-favourite songs ‘Mine To Give’. While I was working on a remix for Lana Del Rey I realised that Robert shared the same management, so I cheekily put in the request to work together.
How long did the album take to make?
It took a while… some of these basic track ideas go way back. There have been many ups and downs with the recording. I had to put a lot in to this album to complete it. I sweated blood at times. But it was worth it.
Did you travel to record the vocals for the album, or did you record it all in your own studio?
A bit of everything really, some of the artists like Simon and Lawrence flew all the way to my studio to record their vocals over a few days. For some artists this wasn’t convenient so I sent them a basic sketch idea or a pretty complete instrumental, they recorded at home and sent back their vocals to me where I finished the structure, production and mix in my studio. However, Miss Kittin and I sent ideas backwards and forwards, as she was touring and a lot of it was done via skype, through her headset of all things. At the other end of the scale Romanthony rented a big studio in New York City and I had to pick up the bill!
Kris Menace & Miss Kittin ‘Hide’ (Nhar Remix).
What are the concepts behind the videos for the singles?
It’s not often I put forward a video concept; I prefer to let the directors offer their own interpretation of the track. For me videos just have to look beautiful and be cool, rather than some big narrative arc based around the lyrics.
Have you experimented with any new recording equipment or gadgets on this album?
Not really, I’m not actually super interested in that side of music. I think that technology can take over from the music sometimes so I just use what is needed and nothing more. Having said that, I do use and endorse Cubase and Waves, plus I have a few items of equipment made to my very own specifications.
Who would you like to work with next?
I have a long list of people I would love to work with. Once you start on this trip your dreams become bigger and bigger. But the barriers are always the same, the budget and making the right contacts. Having said that, my dream would be to work with Kate Bush. She might be the perfect match for what I want to do. Obviously she very very rarely collaborates with anyone, which is also part of the appeal.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
Yes, I am always working and juggling projects. I am just finishing the first Stars On 33 album, preparing the release of a new Black Van single and working out how to take the ‘Features’ album into the live show environment.
Kris Menace ‘Features’ is out now on Compuphonic.