Los Angeles, synonymous with western opulence and a graphic example of the cultural divide found all over the United States, has always been a cultural hotbed for talented new producers from all walks of life.
The ‘Beatsmiths’ have been homing their skills, refining their art and now are effectively making the world listen. Some, due to the stellar nature of the industry, you may have heard of. Flying Lotus, and the Brainfeeder imprint, Daedelus donning his 18th century gentry attire, or perhaps the subtle nuances of Nosaj Thing? Regardless Kone has been there from the start, getting his tracks dropped on the dance floors in the early days of the legendary ‘Low End Theory‘ events.
Coming across as deeply philosophical, and a humble human being, Kone exemplifies the very best qualities of an artist, working with photography by day and music by night. Hotly tipped by Alpha-Pup Records, his debut album ‘The Tractatus‘ presented a unique blend of “psychedelic gangster funk”, assembling an array of samples, heavy fluid basslines, signature big dirty drums and sinewy synths that recall the early days of Los Angeles rap. We caught up with the man to squeeze out a few west coast vibes, and discuss his recent endeavors.
For those less acquainted, could you tell us who you are, where you’re from and what you wanted to do when you grew up?
My name is KONE, I’m from Los Angeles, California, and I make beats. I’ve pretty much always wanted to make beats for a living. Well, once I realized I wasn’t gonna be tall enough for the NBA.
What records did you find yourself listening to back then, and have you had any formal musical training?
My folks were always into music. I inherited a nice, diverse collection of vinyl from them. Lots of Rolling Stones, a lot of blues, a lot of good soul, some good reggae. Then I found rap music, and it kind of all made sense. I took a lot of piano lessons and later guitar lessons as a kid, but nothing that I would call “training.” Just enough to learn to feel my own way around instruments. There is nothing “formal” about my musical knowledge and abilities. More like something I picked it up on the streets.
LA’s musical heritage runs deep and a great deal of talent has developed on those hills, where do you think the inspiration lies?
It’s because the history is still being written and we have no glory days to live up to, or become complacent by. LA’s glory day is tomorrow. It’s still the wild west out here. We like to think our societies have evolved a long way from where they started, but they actually haven’t. We have iPhones but the roads are still crumbling. The world goes to the movies and thinks they know what ‘Hollywood’ is, but really its just a neighborhood where the hard working people who carry this city on their backs try to scrape by just like anywhere else. Plus no one likes LA so that just makes us want to crush everybody. Which we’re doing by the way.
I wanted to try to express a few more complex ideas, or commentaries, than instrumental music typically allows. I wanted the listener to take away something beyond just the sounds, and to know that these compositions were intended to be a form of dialogue.
I chose Wittgenstein’s ‘Tractatus’ because even though it was intended to be a very analytical survey of the relationship between logic and language, it sort of has this beautiful metaphorical side that relates very closely with the concepts i was trying to express.
For instance in the Prologue of the album, it says “…the reason why I give no sources is that it is a matter of indifference to me whether the thoughts have been anticipated by someone else.” What I am actually referring to is the use of sampling as a musical medium.
The album is incredibly melodic, relaxed and thoughtful. Was this intentional or a by-product of writing the music? Why do you think it evokes these feelings?
Probably a little bit of both. The heavy melodic element was definitely intentional. I wanted to make a beat album that you could whistle along with, or hum the songs. My stuff kinda walks the line between electronic and organic, and if I ever feel it lean to heavily one direction, I try to steer it back. I always like to keep moods and tones on the ambiguous side as well. If something is sounding too happy I will do something to keep you from forgetting that that there is evil in the world and vice-versa. I guess those things together help to create a thoughtful or introspective kind of vibe. I’m definitely trying to raise questions.
Alpha-Pup is a prestigious label to sign to. How have they helped shape your sonic journey?
It is truly an honor to be on the Alpha Pup roster. In my opinion that is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to the future of beat music. To be included in that lineup is very humbling and it’s a perfect fit. It’s very motivating to be on a label with other artists you respect, it drives you to keep pushing the envelope.
The mix we asked you to put together, was there any particular motivation or motif behind it?
I sort of decided to take the whole “how deep is Los Angeles” thing even one layer deeper. I wanted to showcase a few artists who maybe haven’t made the leap to national or int’l looks yet, but basically, I just wanted to give a sneak peak at all the amazing shit that is going on right now around here. This is all brand new, much of it unreleased.
What are your instruments and software of choice when producing music and why?
Ableton has obviously changed the game. For me it just took recording music on a computer and catapulted it to where the line between performing/recording live is hardly noticeable. The ability to record while keeping a continuous workflow is huge. as far as instruments, I’m most comfortable on the keys. I am no piano player but i write lots of music, even for other instruments, on the keys.
What can we expect from ‘Kone’ in the future? Any projects, collaborations, live shows or parties we should know about?
YES! At the moment I’m putting the final touches on the brand new EP for Alpha Pup! It’s about the time before we altered the earth’s destiny permanently, when it was just the gods and the wind and the water and the land. But that’s all I can say now… STAY TUNED!
I’ve got some shows here in LA and getting ready to go to SXSW. the live is getting better and better and I’m having a blast performing. I’ve also got a project in pre-production with a couple of my favorite LA emcees, I’m really trying to make a good rap record this year.
But I’m feverishly working on getting myself out to Europe and the rest of the world. The response has been so warm from other parts of the globe that I can’t wait to get out and connect with folks through this music. Any promoters out there, drop me a line, let’s do this.
What do you like to do when you are not making music?
I work in the world of photography. I produce photo shoots for advertising campaigns, editorials, fashion, and other commercial work. I have done this as an independent contractor for the last 10 years. i have been a part of a few films as well and hope to stay closely connected to these fields.
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
Just be yourself. Don’t worry about nobody else thinks. They don’t know shit.
1. Fat Albert Einstein – Horror
2. Octagon – Dnaebeats
3. Jincallo – Kickits
4. Young Jeezy – Way Too Gone
5. Schoolboy Q – Tookie Knows
6. Walter Gross – Collide Scope
7. Kone – Black Hole
8. Pure Filth Sounf feat. Busdriver – Nails In The Coffin
9. Elos feat. Zackey Force Funk – Bloodstain Burial
10. Jansport J – Skinny Niggas
11. Zack Sekoff – Belly Beat
12. House Shoes feat. Quelle – Golden
13. House Shoes feat. Danny Brown – High
14. Lo Fi – Let’s Go
15. Kone feat. Haz Solo – 2nd Night Back
16. Kone – Funk #1687
17. Post98 – MNDSGN
18. Kone, Knxwledge, & MNDSGN – When You Move
19. Kone, KNX, & MND – She Was Here
20. Nocando – Westside Rentals
21. Dave Betamax – Sex Tape
22. Virtual Boy – Sandias
23. Mast – The Great Wave
24. AADM Our Hatley – Compliments