Dollars to Pounds: Kwes

June 17, 2010

About two minutes into Kwes' bonkers six-minute space jam "No Need To Run" it becomes obvious the young London producer looks at music a little differently than most. And he does, literally. He has a (very awesome) form of synaesthesia, a kink in his perceptual experience, which means he sees music as colours. Like his brain has its own built-in iTunes Visualizer. He made us this kaleidoscopic, genre-hopping mix, which features everyone from dude-de-jour James Blake to Randy Newman. We had a chat about his new EP and Kwes explained how his amazing brain works.

Kwes' Dollars To Pounds Mix
Actress - Wrong Potion
James Blake - I'll Stay
Jamie Lidell - You Are Walking
Todd Rundgren's Utopia - Utopia Theme (excerpt)
These New Puritans - Attack Music
Big Boi - Shutterbug
N*E*R*D - Run To The Sun
Slum Village - Climax (Girl Shit)
EHHHM - Middle Name Period (excerpt)
Sinatra/Count Basie & The Orchestra/Quincy Jones - One For My Baby (excerpt)
Konono No.1 - Paradiso
Paul McCartney - Secret Friend (excerpt)
Oneohtrix Point Never - Laser to Laser
Yuzo Koshiro - Streets of Rage II Level 1 music (excerpt)
Randy Newman - Mama Told Me Not To Come
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Can't Hear My Eyes
Joanna Newsom - Go Long
Kwes - Canary

Download: Kwes' Dollars to Pounds Mix

The first track on your new EP is called "Hundertwasser." Are you a fan?
An early and lasting influence. He created some of the most beautiful work I've ever seen.

You have synaesthesia, so when you listen to the song "Hundertwasser" does it look like a Hundertwasser painting?
Hundertwasser was just someone I loved as a kid, and I still do. It was the first track on the EP, so I thought I'll name the track after him. Beginnings. Synaesthesia is normally a coupling of two or more of the senses with the byproduct normally pertaining to set colours or tastes. I've got the hear/see music to colour form, where each note on the 12 tone scale equates to colour, any chord surrounded by whichever note I'm hearing will be a version of the colour. Generally it looks like this to me:

G - orange. D which is always yellow/green, E which is yellow/gold, F which is violet/blue, C-Blue, A-light blue, B-yellow/gold/green.

Also it's something that is quite unobtrusive, it's pleasantly normal. It's what I've always seen so I'm not startled or surprised by it, every time I hear music it happens.

It sounds like you play a lot of different instruments on the EP. Does it take a long while to put the songs together?
I play bass guitar, drums, keyboard and I record/sample various objects wherever I am, I haven't spent enough time on any of the traditional instruments to REALLY call myself a PLAYER of them, but I play them. With this EP, it was all very instinctive as usual, I didn't really think too much about it all, and it took a few days to put together. Generally speaking the time to write a song varies, minutes/hours/days/months.

The press release for the EP says you play "objects."
Well an example are the hi-hats in "No Need To Run," they are actually chopsticks I was hitting on a metal surface. I did some really heavy gating and distorting after recording them. Also did some gated key shaking in the chorus of the same track. In this EP, I didn't really use as much found sound as I did on the first single, where I recorded thunderstorms, tissues, mugs, various birds. Found sounds will be returning in full effect in the future though.

As well as your own work you seem to be producing for a lot of other people.
Normally when working with someone, I've got to hear/see some evidence that they are doing music because they REALLY want to do it. There's nothing worse when witnessing someone's heart isn't fully in it. It's an added bonus if they are bringing something authentic from their own end also. A couple of them include: Elan Tamara: Crazily talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/artist. I've just finished producing her second EP, which I'll be releasing on my own label Bokkle at the tail end of summer/beginning of autumn. Big things in future for her.
Dels: One of the best and most creative rappers in the UK no doubt. He's coming in from a different angle, he's just signed with Big Dada/Ninja Tune and I'm honoured to be part of his forthcoming album.

I enjoyed your mixtape with Micachu. Are you buddies?
Thank you! Yeah I would say we are, I love her, She's completely true to herself and her art, and just a lovely selfless being.

"No Need To Run" ends in an interesting way. What is going on there?
If you are talking about the very very end. I'm just messing about really. If you are talking about the fadeout you are hearing delay business on the drum/objects. I'm also reconstructing a bass guitar riff I had deconstructed before hand, and playing various keyboard parts.

Kwes' new EP is out soon on Young Turks.

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Dollars To Pounds
Dollars to Pounds: Kwes