This week, I bring you not one but two live DJ sets, both by Bulgarian house and techno producer KiNK. Our man Strahil Velchev is known for his hands-on live sets, which feature little pre-programming and a lot of composing on the fly. He even occasionally enlists the audience’s help to craft an original track live. He has a knack for old school sounds, as he explained in a 2010 interview with Resident Advisor:
“I’ve listened to house and techno since late ’91. So this specific sound is very deep in my heart. I was 12 years old when I started to listen to that kind of music, and it left a very big mark on me.”
That we probably could have guessed, given his preference for traditional analog gear. Gear heads and fellow knob-twisters will likely appreciate the first DJ set of this week, below, in which KiNK treats a Bulgarian radio station with a live analog session (admittedly more of a live performance than a DJ set, technically speaking, but I trust you’ll let that slide).
In this video, we get to see which analog gear KiNK uses as he bounces between controllers and improvises without any kind of digital screen in sight. His girlfriend and occasional collaborator Rachel Row also makes an appearance, lending her vocals and claps as they bob along in unison. Adorable. At points Rachel breaks into laughter, which is picked up by the mic and absorbed into KiNK’s mix with a heavy reverb. It’s the producer’s version of a casual basement jam session.
KiNK looks like a natural – so it might be surprising that he hasn’t actually been at it for very long. Up until a couple of years ago, he was more of a DJ than a live musician. He says,
“I had a pretty good reputation as a DJ in Bulgaria but never managed to make it internationally. Then when I had a few successful records the promoters starting booking me as a live act. I really didn’t know how to do it and was really reluctant but I realized that was my ticket to the international scene.”
Hours of practicing and intense dedication has since paid off in some big ways – he’s an international favorite, and was even picked as one of RA’s top twenty live acts of 2012. It’s pretty clear why in the second DJ set of this week, below. Featuring his live set at Cocoon in Ibiza, this one’s for the clubbers.
KiNK’s success as a DJ comes not only from his skill as a musician but also his ability to engage the audience. He’s clearly having a blast, sporting a huge grin and bouncing around throughout his set. As he slowly begins to tap out a new beat, he looks up to gauge the reaction of the crowd and, upon sensing their approval, smiles widely as he launches into a new track.
He has an impressive selection of both digital and analog equipment at his disposal, the most visually intriguing of which is the EoWave Ribbon Synth, which looks like a mini lightsaber or some kind of rave sword. He explains, “It’s useless but people love it. When I hold it up, it’s one of the few cheesy things I do but it makes the performance more visual. I guess you can say I found a good way to show the audience what I do.”
It’s a testament to how KiNK is able to balance quality musicianship and crowd-pleasing tricks to create a gratifying live show.
This is precisely why he’s such a great DJ: he has the skills to make quality, original music; he engages with and entertains his audience; and he genuinely enjoys himself while he does it.
Take it from our pal Alyce Currier, who was lucky enough to catch him at last month’s Decibel Festival in Seattle and shared her experience over at Earmilk.
I know. I’m jealous, too. But not for long! The bookings wizards at Mmmmaven, who always have a knack for selecting artists with the freshest sounds and most danceable sets, are bringing KiNK to their weekly party Make it New at Middlesex Lounge this very Thursday. I’m excited to see what gear he’ll have in his arsenal (fingers crossed for the rave sword … I like shiny objects) and to experience his live set up close in such an intimate venue. One thing is certain: comfortable shoes are a wise choice.