Happy Friday everyone, and welcome back to the Lights/Out Selection. This week we bring back the guest mix and all its glory, inviting a duo that is making serious waves across the pond. Having just released their album with Tronic, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce you to Drunken Kong. On top of this, we sat down for a little chat about their production process and everything that went into creating their new album. Below you will find a stream of the album, and at the end is their guest mix and accompanying tracklist. We return next week with episode 28!
Drunken Kong Studio
First, thank you both for taking the time to sit and talk with us. Your studio looks to be a mix of both classic and new, hardware and software. Tell us how you came about building your current setup? What lead you to buy the synths and rack we can see?
We always wanted to have a mixture of newer and vintage hardware, along with software in our studio. My friend has a vintage synthesizer online store in Tokyo named Otaku Tokyo, so we got to play around with different vintage synths and drum machines. There are many amazing hardware options but personally, I really like the Juno-106. It’s very simple to use and the sounds are great. We also love our Moog Sub37. We use both of these a lot in our tracks along with the King Korg. When choosing hardware, we like to use something that is simple and quick. For us, when producing, it’s all about having a quick and smooth workflow.
For the racks, this was always something we wanted for the studio. Software such as UAD are awesome but eventually, we wanted to own the real thing and we don't regret this at all!! It takes a bit of practice to get used to, but amazing texture you can get from hardware compressors and preamps. We mainly use our Manley Variable Mu and Rupert Neve MBC on our main sounds such as drums, synths, and basslines. It really gives depth and its own space in the mix.
What are both of your backgrounds with electronic music? How did you get into it, and at what point did you realize that it was what you were meant to be doing?
We both have been into electronic music for a long time, but starting in the mid 90’s we went to a show where we saw Aphex Twin and were blown away. It was also the time when the rave scene was really big in Japan, and you were able to find parties going on most days of the week. It was really amazing but dangerous as you were always going out! Everything sounded so new and futuristic, but at the time we weren’t really into any specific genre, we liked whatever we thought sounded cool and different. That includes artists such as Brain Eno, Jeff Mills, Underworld, Ken Ishii and Takkyu Ishino – they were all influential for us.
After a few years, we both started to DJ and eventually this led into producing music. Kyoko was focused on organizing parties and I first started to produce in 2001, with a software named Fruity loops. I still really like this program. Also, I used a lot of Propellerhead Reason. It was purely amazing!
If your studio was on fire, and you could only take one piece of gear, excluding your computer, what would it be?
Wow, that’s a hard question. I would say the UAD satellite. We are in love with so many of the UAD plugins that our sound would never be the same without it!
There are two of you and only one chair. Tell us about your work process. Who does what? What are some of the benefits and challenges of being a duo?
Ha ha ha, good question! Actually, we have more chairs in the studio but they’re just not shown in the pics.
For our work process, I usually create 5-6 loops. Just writing random ideas. Then Kyoko joins and we talk to see which loop we want to proceed with. I then create the rough sketch of the track and then we both discuss and make detailed fixes and complete the track. This usually takes a day or two.
We then go into the mix down. For the mix down, we both sit in the studio and work carefully. We are constantly giving each other, ideas and opinions.
Definitely, a benefit would be that we have two sets of ears. This is really great since we can both point out things which the other person didn't hear or realize.
Challenges for us, are when our ideas clash. Sometimes we have completely different views on how the track should be. In this type of situation, we just try both ideas and see which one actually sounds better and run with that.
So let’s say you’ve just sat down to start a fresh track. Run us through your methods of getting from a clean slate to a finished track. Do you do all your own mastering?
We first start by creating random loops and just played around in the studio. We also look around for samples etc. Anything that gets our minds going. Once we create different loops, we sit and listen to each one and choose one to proceed with.
We then create more sounds so that we have parts to make sure the track evolves. At this stage, we already start to have the picture of the layout and we use the mute and solo function to just get a brief feeling of the break and drop. Once it has enough elements, is usually takes a few hours to complete the rough version. We then try to take a break and listen again with fresh ears and make detailed edits.
After this, we do the mix down. We put a loop on the part of the track which has the most sounds and we start to work on the levels and EQ and then work on applying the compression when necessary. At this stage too, we set a lot of the tracks in groups (drums, synths, vocals, fx etc.) this is so that we can apply bus EQ or compression.
We don't master our tracks but we have a limiter as master effect so that the levels are at -2 or so.
You’ve completed an album, to which we give a massive congratulations. How did this come about? Was there an overall theme of the album, or a story you were trying to tell? Did all of your gear make it onto the album?
Thank you very much. We always wanted to make an album, and finally, it was the right timing for us. The overall theme of the album was to have dance-oriented tracks with different styles so that these tracks could be played in different timings and situations. We wanted each track to have a different concept.
For the album, yes we used all our gear :)
You run both Ableton and Logic. What do you like and dislike about each program? How do you two use them in conjunction?
We only use Ableton in the beginning of the production stage. I really think the Ableton loop and edit functions are very cool and easy to use. When sequencing, I do everything in Logic since I am more used to it. Tempo syncing audio loops, Logic is a bit more complicated so we prefer Ableton for this.
Logic is great for sequencing and mixing down. We really like the sound of Logic too versus Ableton.
Japan is an incredible country, with a diverse culture. How has this influenced you as artists, and how did it influence your album? What is it about the country that you love so much?
Definitely, the electronics, technology, and games of Japan have influenced us. We grew up hearing many futuristic sounds when walking into Japanese gaming centers and going to places like Akihabara so this definitely had an impact on our ears.
We really love Japan because it’s an amazing place with many different sides. You can party every day, all night long in places like Tokyo and Osaka, but you also have a very peaceful, spiritual side when visiting shrines, Japanese hot springs etc. The balance of history and future is just amazing to see. The art in food and sake is also something you can only experience in Japan. Definitely recommended for those you have never been yet.
Every artist suffers from creative blocks from time to time. Can you tell us how you break through them? Any weird tricks you use that could maybe help us and our readers should we fall into such a situation?
Wow, that’s a tough question. I think it really depends on the situation but when we have creative blocks, we just stop making music. We go out for walks, meet people or go have a nice dinner and drinks with friends. Watching movies is also great to reset our creative side. Whatever works to get our minds refreshed!
What does life look like outside of the studio? What are things you two like to do when you’re taking a break from kick drums and basslines?
We love to go out and just hang out with people. Drink good sake and eat good food. This is really endless in Japan so we always find new restaurants. Also, we really like camping and to go to hot springs in the mountains, it feels like a total escape and everyone needs that from city life now and then.
In parting, do you have any advice for any up and coming producers looking to break into the scene? Maybe some things to avoid or mistakes you’ve learned from that could help our readers in the long run?
One thing we would advise is to not take too long working on a track. I think the creation part is about feeling so if you take few weeks or a month to make one track, it’s very difficult to have the same feel to it as when you did when you first came up with the original loops. I try to finish the layout of a track in 1-2 days then I focus much more on mixdowns. This is something you can take your time with, but sometimes letting go and moving on is a very important lesson to learn.
We used to take 2 or more weeks to complete the layout of a track and in the end, we never really liked it since we had lost the passion for the track over time. So for us, the important part is quick and smooth workflow for our ideas.
The Signs Within is available now on all major platforms . Click here to buy.
1. Drunken Kong - Life We Knew - Tronic
2. Atroxx - Trust Me - AnalyticTrail
3. Hatzler - Another Life (Metodi Hristov Remix) - Stil Aor Talent
4. Moby - Go (Victor Ruiz Warehouse Mix) - Suara
5. Drunken Kong - Only Way - Tronic
6. Jay Lumen - Black Stabs (Roberto Capuano Remix) - Footwork
7. Arjun Vagale & Ramiro Lopez - Oddball - Odd Recordings
8. Alen Milivojevic - Dementio (2017 Remix) - Yin Yang
9. M. Fukuda - Backtrack - Octopus Black Label
10. Drunken Kong - Mission - Tronic
11. Drunken Kong - The Rhythm - Tronic
12. Moby - Porcelain (Julian Jeweil Remix) - Suara
13. Drunken Kong - As it - Tronic
14. Affkt - Notch - Noir Music
15. Buitrago - By Gum! (Matt Sassari Remix) - Enter Music
16. Drunken Kong - Perfect Dominance - Tronic