Hailing from Coventry, that much derided chasm of inspiration-sapping, post-war concrete, Blank & Kytt, could be considered part of a current trend of West Midland’s based producers taking the original J Dilla format and splicing it with their own DIY production ethics to create beat music that’s giving the LA-to-London sound a run for its money. Except, much to our favour, they don’t like trends.
Having released an abundance of free music in recent times, the production duo are favourites of the increasingly replenished UK beat scene, counting the likes of Young Montana?, S. Maharba and Letherette amongst their peers. With a recent show at London’s Streets of Beige, and their status as one of the UK underground’s most promising unsigned acts looking increasingly threatened by label interest, we emailed the duo to talk (un)inspiration, intellectual property and the future of B&K, and host 2 exclusive tracks for free download.
Interview/ Josh Thomas
Hello Blank and Kytt, would you like to tell us a little about yourselves, how you met and what kind of music you produce?
What’s up friends, family and strangers. Firstly I’d like to thank all you guys for taking the time to listen to our music. We really appreciate it. We’re just two regular guys having a tonne of fun making music. I’d like to say we met in a suede covered VIP lounge somewhere in LA many moons ago, but that would be a massive lie. We knew each other from sixth form, parted ways, and met up a few years later at a show. We got talking, enjoyed some beers, and the rest is history. We make instrumental hip-hop, pure and simple.
When did your involvement with music begin and how has it progressed to the stage you’re at now?
Kytt: My Dad has always been heavy into his music, so I was pretty much a sponge in my childhood; sifting through his vinyl collection enjoying anything that was new to me. From there everything snowballed naturally. I started playing instruments, started exploring sound a little more, and then one day I sat behind a laptop. Haven’t been able to move yet.
Blank: I was in a plethora of bands throughout my teens, mostly playing the drums. I was always looking for new rhythms and breaks. I produced a lot of Drum and Bass and Jungle at the time. In sixth form I learnt a lot more about musical structure, sampling, production techniques and gradually moved away from the muddy D & B stuff and more towards Hip Hop and IDM.
Your music draws influence from various sources; talk us through your influences from past-to-present?
Kytt: I have a lot of influences. Artists like Yann Tiersen, Jon Cowherd, Chick Corea and Brian Eno have taught me a lot. Madlib was a huge influence on me when I started making beats, and then I got hold of some Dilla. Naturally, that was fantastic. Samiyam is up there too, mainly because his stuff is really crap. In a good way.
Blank: My parents are both really in to their music, so there were always records being played around the house growing up. Lots of post punk and prog rock from my Dad. Stranglers, A Certain Ratio, early Gensis. Lots of alt rock and world music from my Mum. Prefab Sprout, Fela Kuti etc. I got into electronic music in my teens. Aside from Aphex Twin, it was mostly tracker based productions, I was in to at the time. Bogdan Raczynski, Machinedrum, Venetian Snares. Mellowed out a lot in my late teens and discovered Hip Hop through Dilla, Madlib and Pete Rock. Studying in the South West opened my ears up to the Bristol bass scene, artists like Headhunter and Pinch have been a big influence.
Could you name-drop some artists that you’re feeling at the moment?
Kytt: Not that he needs any more press, I find Young Montana? on my phones regularly. He’s a good friend of ours so i’m lucky enough to hear some exclusive nuggets here and there. It’s all nuts. Make sure you grab his debut album this year, coming through on Alpha Pup Records. Right now i’m listening to a lot of Deniece Williams, Shigeto, S. Maharba and The Brothers Johnson.
Blank: Our good friend Young Montana? is one to watch this year for sure. From what I’ve been fortunate to hear off his new record, I’d say it’s going to change everything.
Other than YM? I’ve been listening to a lot of Fennesz, Vessel, S.Maharba, Addison Groove and Lapalux.
There is an influx of notably interesting producers coming out of the West midlands. Can you shed light on whether there’s something in the water or is it purely coincidence?
Kytt: I plunge bare juices into Seven Trent’s supply. I’m really not sure. I hate dwelling on locations and ‘scenes’ too much, but I’d say that the Midlands is a pretty uninspiring place. With that, a lot of people are simply locking themselves away and creating stuff with no persuasion or preconception. Obviously there’s an aspect of third party influence, but ultimately it’s all relatively fresh.
Blank: It’s a coincidence we all know eachother. In terms of active producers in Coventry, we all found eachothers beats on the internet. Location isn’t very important. Especially seeing as the music we’re all influenced by comes from a multitude of times and places.
Being from the Midlands I understand that it isn’t the most fruitful place to try and flourish in music, are there any signs of improvement?
Kytt: I kind of like the fact that the whole beat thing isn’t big at all here. Mainly because it doesn’t really matter anyway. It’s nice that every once in a while we get to travel down to London and hang out with like minded people, in a place pumping decent music. If I was around that too much I’d probably take it for granted.
Blank: Most of our gigs so far haven’t been in the Midlands and it doesn’t matter too much. It’s a lot more fun playing shows to real hip hop heads elsewhere.
Can you talk us through your production process, what equipment and software you use? You seem to work at quite a prolific rate judging by your output thus far?
Kytt: Real basic my end. A Macbook Pro, a turntable, an MPD and Ableton. The production process changes every time. That said, I usually know what I want to do and where it should go, so the track itself is usually done quickly. That’s why we churn out as much as we do, but it’s also about giving people our stuff regularly and for free. Even if it’s a fifty second loop that we know people will dig, we throw it out there.
Blank: For me, it’s just my Mac Mini running Ableton, an Akai MPD24 and a Pioneer Turntable. The workflow tends to be fast chopping up samples and such.
In time I’d like to integrate more hardware in to my setup. I’d love a Moog Taurus 1 to noodle with.
You’ve given away a lot of content so far and allowed people to name their price for your recent album ‘Fast Slow Jamz’. So you guys just doing it for the love? Would you like to make a living from music?
Kytt: Intellectual property should be free. If I have an idea i’d like you to listen to, an idea that is new or different, why would I put a price tag on it and risk putting it in a select few hands? Some people simply don’t have the money, some people refuse to pay. If you want to get it to as many people, and service different parts of the world you wouldn’t normally be able to service, then it should be free. Of course, when an artist has put a lot of time and effort into something then it should be paid for. But I’m solely talking about our music right now, and we don’t see it that way. Our music is yours too, have it. It’s free. Enjoy.
Blank: Most of the our productions wouldn’t be ready for commercial purposes, so we put them out for free to whoever might enjoy them.
Have you had any approaches from labels?
Kytt: I’m not sure we’re at liberty to name drop just yet, but we’ve had some interest from a fantastic label in London. We’re in contact and are extremely excited at the prospect of getting something out ‘officially’. However, nothing’s been signed, stamped or marked in blood just yet. All I can say is we’re getting the ball rolling. Stay tuned!
Blank: Mentioning no names, we’ve been in touch with a great label in London and more recently a few the South West. I’d say a 2011 release is possible.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2011?
Kytt: We’re exploring new ground on a daily basis, so 2011 will be full of brand new, different stuff. We’re spending a lot more time on what we do and really refining the B&K sound. As always, expect a new album this year.
Blank: I’m going to finish my Degree here in Bath and make beats. Expect a new Full Length album from us this year!
As there are J Dilla celebrations going on at the moment, could you both name your favourite joint from the man himself?
Kytt: For me it’d have to be Time: Donut Of The Heart.
Blank: For me right now it would be Workinonit