One half of Mount Kimbie opens up about his creative process.
You should be more than familiar with Kai Campos and Dominic Maker by now. The London duo, recording as Mount Kimbie, have been a dominant presence in UK electronica since they unleashed their breakout 2010 debut LP for Hotflush, Crooks & Lovers, before following that up with 2013’s brilliant Cold Spring Fault Less Youth on Warp.
One of the recurring themes throughout their work has been the intricate use of field recordings and samples, and as they currently work towards their next album, Kai recently spent a day in the studio creating a collection of percussion and synth recordings for the Converse Rubber Tracks Sample Library. Kai then used these recordings to build a spellbinding new track – ‘Jupiter’ – which you can stream below. For those with an interest in production, you can check out the free samples he used here. We caught up with Kai over email to discuss the process of making these samples, how Mount Kimbie’s approach has changed over the years, and what we can expect from their next album.
Tell us about the process of putting the pack together for Converse Rubber Tracks. How did it come about, and what was involved in making it?
We went through the library and just listened and downloaded a lot of bits from different sessions; sounds which generally left a lot of room for different contexts, although we ended up using some electric piano chords, which is something we wouldn’t normally do. The feel of the session was just me and Dom having fun throwing stuff around in the studio, letting things run and develop in a fluid way.
Our approach has changed over the years as we’ve been working to try and incorporate older equipment and sounds alongside expansive new ways of working that are constantly developing in the software world. At some point we covered some chord progressions to MIDI, which has the great benefit of being a slightly imperfect technology. From there we could send the MIDI around the studio to other gear.
It’s an interesting take on the idea of sampling, to take the performance, expression and information from a sound and transpose it on to other instruments and get straight to the best part of sampling, creating something that both the original artist would never have done and pushing you to do something you would otherwise have not.
It seems like right from the start you’ve used samples in a lot of creative ways: sampling from other people’s records, field recordings, sampling instruments in the studio and then replaying the sample, and so on. Has the way you like to use samples changed over the years?
Not massively. The technique has stayed remarkably similar since the early days because I think it’s something you could spend an entire career exploring and not exhaust.
You’ve mentioned in the past that you were quite heavily influenced by early 2000s hip-hop. In terms of production techniques, has that influence shifted to other genres or eras along the way?
Yes, naturally you find other things that excite you in music and want to explore areas that you’re unfamiliar with. I was just enjoying listening to A Tribe Called Quest and realising how long it had been since I’ve put any of those records on. Finding enjoyment in a new area of music is one of the exciting things that can happen, and having your head turned in that way is always very powerful.
One factor that I think has always been a major part of your sound is the way elements are processed to give a really distinctive colour to your tracks. Does thinking of music in those quite broad terms of texture and timbre make sense to you? Is that part of what you’re aiming for, just as much as something like melody or groove might be?
Certainly one of the appeals of the way we’ve made music is the ability to sculpt the world in which your songs exist. That has also been as much a songwriting tool as anything else as well. Sometimes just creating and listening to a sound will reveal what it seems to want to do and what notes to play. There’s a lot of our early work that doesn’t really fit the bill of being a song at all. In terms of creating that I think it comes from a lack of interest in the technical side of processing. I think everyone has a unique way of interacting with sound and just listening and following your instinct is what seems to be the best way of representing that.
You seem like you consider your process quite carefully. Does that make life easier or harder when you’re making music?
I think about process because I find it really interesting. It’s something which you can never “master” and requires constant revision. Thinking about process is something to do outside of the making aspect of this though. Much like listening to music, I follow my gut while it’s happening and think about it another time. There are definitely negatives to thinking about what you’re doing, or worse, what you’re going to do. Being aware and curious is not a bad thing though.
I hear you’re currently in the studio working on the next album. How far into it are you?
It seems like you can’t be too sure of that until it’s suddenly seems about 90% done, which it’s not. I don’t think.
Has your process changed much since you made Cold Spring Fault Less Youth?
Yes and no. Despite all that I am interested in process I don’t think it should have any influence on the value of the finished music. Being told that a record was made a certain way as if that demands a particular kind of appreciation never seems right to me. It’s close enough to make us appear as the same band I think.
What can we expect from the new material?
Something different, more stripped back and direct so far. Feeling excited about the different ways it’s going at the moment. It feels freer to me at the moment. Freedom.