ShadowPlay caught up with Kelpe main man Kel McKeown to discuss DC Recordings, gigging in communist outposts and electronica reworkings of Christmas carols
As we wait anxiously by the letterbox each day to hear whether ShadowPlay’s Dutch choral beatboxing demo has been picked up by Warp Records, we can empathise with the feeling Kelpe’s Kel McKeown must’ve felt when his bedroom audio daubings were picked up by DC Recordings. “I was into the label when I was younger and DJing, really into Depth Charge and that stuff. Then quite a few years later a friend told me they were still releasing a lot of good records and recommended I send a demo in to them, they were keen and phoned me up straight away and we worked out an EP of material,” he says. DC has provided a swish, cool home to the likes of Padded Cell, The Emperor Machine and White Light Circus and gained a kudos in clubs rarely afforded for long. “They were always into releasing stuff that was different from the norm, some quite gritty, hard-edged stuff but also a lot of funky, sleazy stuff and a lot of hip-hop-inspired music and disco. Then later they got more into live bands with a krautrock feel,” he adds.
Usually home to Sensible World of Soccer fanatics, the Amiga computer kick-started Kel’s fervour for computer aided sounds which he has honed since. Combining the less than trendy machine with a sampler and cassette deck aged 14, he moved on to a four track and then PC as he formed Kelpe in 2002 and released his first material a year later. Rich in experimental, gravel-y sounds, Kelpe has always mastered the art of sounding like a man in a field rattling a handful of curtain hooks with a genuine ear for a tune which has left him DJing across London, playing live with drummer Chris Walmsley since 2008, curating countless mixes and most importantly, creating the most incredible electronica-prog theremin heavy version of Silent Night you’re ever going to hear. Fact.
When ShadowPlay caught up with Kel, he’s just returned from SATTA festival in Lithuania, playing live in a run down outdoor communist lecture theatre packed from lecturn to top step with 2,500 people under a full moon. “[I was there with] with Paul White, Machinedrum, Gaslamp Killer, 100names. Debruit, Loops Haunt, and a load more top names in that type of music,” he explains. “It was generally a raucous time partying with my friends and musical heroes, and the kind of weekend that makes you feel its all worth doing.”So how have things progressed in the studio? “I recorded a lot of drums and synths last year and need to get the recordings into shape. I think as a lot of electronic musicians will tell you, I've got like 100 half finished tracks, and its about selecting the ones that are worth pursuing.” With the new record just weeks away from release, and several 12”s in the pipeline, expect Kelpe to return in fine style.