Being a music writer, I get the chance to hear and meet some pretty amazing artists. Just when I think I’ve heard it all here comes five other musicians that blow me away. Artists doing their own thing in a unique way. And not only that, but my eyes are opened to music and music creators that I may not have seeked out on my own.
Expanding my musical horizons, one creative soul at a time.
One of those creative souls is Jon Kennedy. I recently heard his release Pour Feliciter, a collection of beat-driven tunes that included himself as well as guest artists. It was released on his own record label, The Jon Kennedy Federation, and it’s a great collection of low key electronic music in the vein of Massive Attack, Zero 7, and even Boards of Canada. As well as being extremely proficient on several instruments, Jon is a bit of a engineering wizard and has his own unique voice when it comes to creating sounds and textures. Jon and I sat down and discussed his musical history and his music, as well as what he has planned for the near future.
J. Hubner: Hi Jon. So why don’t you tell me about your history? Where did you grow up?
Jon Kennedy: I’m from Stockport, which is just outside of Manchester in the UK, famed for Tennis legend Fred Perry, a massive viaduct, cotton mills, and The Buzzcocks.
J. Hubner: Growing up near Manchester, that seems like it would be a good place to get into music. When did you first start getting into music? When did you first get into wanting to make music? What was the first instrument you learned?
Jon Kennedy: I was listening to music from around 8 via my parents who were pretty alternative for the time, with my mum being a fan of Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of The Worlds’, David Essex ( also a drummer ), and ELO.
I got into the rhythms and began to pursue drums from about 11 years old. I knew I was good at it, natural, since other drummers were having lessons weekly for something I could do immediately.
J. Hubner: Who were some of your main musical influences growing up?
Jon Kennedy: Hendrix was a staple diet for me and still is. He also played in Stockport, opposite where my Dad owns a shop to this day. War of The World’s always fascinated me. The idea of music and still pictures taking you somewhere else was something I knew I wanted to try to achieve. At this early stage I would have NO idea how I could do the same, but as technology became available to me my vision started to become very clear and I started to lay down loops on an old 4- track Tascam, playing drums, then a bit of guitar, then singing a bit, maybe slow it down, sing backwards in slow motion, just playing with sound really.
J. Hubner: So you’re learning how to put sound together, even manipulating it by slowing down the tape and recording backwards. This eventually would lead to playing in a band. What were some of those early band experiences like?
Jon Kennedy: Oh yes… I was playing when I was 14 in pubs in and around Manchester. I was always the young looking one so I had to sneak into venues, then hide behind drums. We played all the major venues in Manchester and surrounding towns by the time I was 17. We rehearsed in The Buzzcocks’ old studio down a dingy alley in Stockport.
J. Hubner: You go from being a drummer in a band to being the band, creating music on your own. What’s your songwriting process like? How would you describe your music?
Jon Kennedy: I don’t have a set pattern, to be honest. I have notes and scraps of paper all over the place with ideas, lines of lyrics, things I’ve seen to remind me of a melody, etc. Then I somehow decifer it and get it onto my stone age PC. She is a dinosaur, but a strong, solid one. Recording drums, bass, guitars, keys and anything else I can do myself. Those I cannot I grab people I know who can play or sing. I like to use unheard of folk, I’m not one for industry back scracthing and step-ups.. quite the opposite in fact. My early gear was super chill, downtempo and I hit that scene at the right time, around Massive Attack, Portishead, Ninja Tune, etc… so now I have people, fans who have grown up with my music from their early teens. I get told once a week something of this nature and it truly is inspiring and what drives me to continue. The legacy I wanted to achieve when i was just one little boy is right here now.. a beautiful progression.
J. Hubner: Your newest album ‘Pour Feliciter’ is remixes, with you as well as other artists. How did this album come together? Did you facilitate the album, or were you brought in?
Jon Kennedy: This LP is a compilation of artists on my little record label, The Jon Kennedy Federation. Highlighting some of the more chill side of what we as a label represent. It has been put together with the help of Dancing Kitchen in Prague, where I live, to celebrate 2015 and was initally free.
J. Hubner: Have you been out promoting the album with show? Do you have any upcoming gigs you want to tell us about?
Jon Kennedy: I have so many gigs coming up I’m exhausted just looking at the list(laughs). www.jonkennedy.co.uk/events has more than I can type here.
J. Hubner: Are there any artists you’d love to collaborate with at some point? Any future projects you can tell us about?
Jon Kennedy: I am working on my new LP which has taken so long to get back in the production saddle for me personally. After some crazy life rollercoaster I have stopped, stood still and finally collected my thoughts. Thankfully they point toward music. It’s a beautiful thing. An amazing feeling, this magic I know that touches others eventually needs to be set in stone right now for me. I am looking at 2016 for a release of my own LP finally. I spent three years remixing others, with over 50 remixes under my belt now, moving the label forward. DJing, touring… crazy time… but I would not have it any other way. Trust I have done shitty jobs and worked for corporate cocksuckers too(laughs).
J. Hubner: So what does 2015 and beyond hold for Jon Kennedy?
Jon Kennedy: Well, as above really… mad touring and creative juicing!
Jon Kennedy seems to be ready to put his own music front and center now, so be on the look out for his new LP. Mad touring, creative juicing…it’s all in the mix. And from the sound of it, the new stuff is a little more upbeat and sure to get folks moving. Keep up with everything Jon Kennedy right here.
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