Kabuki is the drum and bass alias of Frankfurt-based producer Jan Hennig. A pioneer of the German d&b scene, Kabuki co-founded one of the first German labels dedicated to the sound in 1996 along with Mainframe (Frank Marheineke).
A long-term friend and collaborator to the likes of dBridge, Jenna G and Cleveland Watkiss, Kabuki has released music on labels like Exit Records, V Recordings and Liquid V, whilst often crossing genre borders and daring to experiment with the unfamiliar, with notable examples being his remix for the movie score godfather Ennio Morricone and his work with American songwriter Vikter Duplaix.
His most recent production effort is the fourth volume of his Beat Excursions series. Collaborating with Arp X, Perera Elsewhere, and Berlin-based dubstep all-star Orson across the four tracks, it’s another testament of razor-sharp bass weight from the legendary sonic explorer.
With his studio full of rare vintage gear and generally a producer’s haven, we requested an invite to his laboratory to take a closer look at some of the machines he holds dearest to him, and to ask why.
1. SP 1200
Pete Rock was one of my favourite producers, and I studied his production style in depth. Since his early beats were all produced on the SP1200, I just had to have one at some point. It’s fairly limited in specs (there are only 11 seconds sample time divided among 4 memory banks, leaving you with a maximum sample time of 2,5 seconds), but the architecture of the machine makes up for this. Once you spend some time on the SP, chopping up drums and sequencing them becomes a matter of muscle memory, allowing you to get lost in the process.
2. AKG BX20
This is somewhat of a secret weapon, my tower of dub with up to 4 seconds of stereo reverb time. The AKG BX20 is the largest spring reverb ever produced, and was manufactured by the Austrian company AKG during the seventies. It’s very sensitive, so I had to have it transported mounted upright on an euro palette to avoid the tube holding the springs snapping off in transit. Fun fact: this is the only existing photo of a AKG BX20L to my knowledge. These units were normally housed in a wooden case, but the one that I own came in a sturdy metal casing.
The father of the 808, and the very first analog drum machine with the capacity to hold 4 programmed rhythms. While possibilities are a bit limited since all sounds are mixed down to a single output, it’s a lot of fun to manipulate the machine during the recording process and then process the resulting loops further in the sampler. What I find amazing is that the unit still “speaks” to my modern Eurorack gear via analog clock, and it’s even the possible to add shuffle to the CR drums by manipulating the clock signal!
4. Moog Minimoog Model D
To me the Model D is the quintessential mono synth, with just the right amount of controls to add variety to each sound. I often use just a simple mix of triangle and saw waves, with the filter tuned to the fundamental of the note. This way I can get a rock-solid sub that still has interesting overtones. Other techniques I like to use are frequency-modulating the filter for crazy metallic sounds, or feeding the output back into the external input just to see the overload light come alive.
5. Modular 2
While the majority of my studio gear was built prior to 1979, I also use a lot of modern Eurorack modules in my productions. Most of my Modular gear is following a West Coast philosophy and might seem a bit esoteric, but it’s super-inspiring to work with modules like the Rene Sequencer or the Telharmonic. I almost consider the Modular to be a musical sparring partner in the studio, with me defining the parameters, and my Eurorack spitting out ideas that I simply have to chose from. Thank you Tony Rolando and Make Noise for the inspiration!
If I want to get really out there I might build a physical device or instrument that generates sound and sequence data in a way that no existing software or hardware does, such as this pendulum sequencer that I recently exhibited. Once everything was running I recorded the audio and used the loop as the basis for one of my upcoming tracks. With Max/MSP, Arduino and a soldering iron there are no limits to the imagination.
Beat Excursions #4 is out now.
Buy it here.
Featured Images: Jan Peitzmeier