Exploring the studio with Khen — progressive’s rising star
Khen‘s name is synonymous with quality. Throughout the last half decade or so, the progressive house magnate has proven himself to be one of the greats after being taken under Guy J’s wing and releasing on virtually all top labels in the subgenre including Lost&Found, Bedrock, Vivrant, Sudbeat, and beyond. His track “Children With No Name,” which Dancing Astronaut premiered, ended up becoming an anthem that was has been rinsed far and wide across the progressive sphere. His releases on Jeremy Olander’s Vivrant and John Digweed’s Bedrock have earned similar success, earning him further acclaim in the producer sphere. Outside of that, he’s well-proven his excellence behind the decks, continually hypnotizing his audiences with complex mashing and bootlegging on the fly through Ableton—and of course, with his keen curatorial and storytelling ear.
The end of 2018 brought along a particularly momentous occasion: the release of his highly sought-after “Closing Doors,” which Anjunadeep had been fighting for since the track emerged in his and others’ sets well over a year ago. It’s a hugely emotive and melancholic piece, simultaneously catalyzing introspection and somehow, joyful nostalgia underneath its bittersweet melodies. “Burgundy,” a sultry afterhours weapon, follows. No surprise here as to why James Grant and his associates wanted to snag both for a landmark output that broke the label’s status quo.
Obviously, Khen produces from the heart and soul; the passion he pours into his work is palpable in each of his tracks. However, there’s a certain technical brilliance to each as well, and we were determined to get a glimpse at this side of the spectrum as well. We sat down with the Tel Aviv native to discuss gear, with him kindly pointing out some of his favorite studio pieces that help make his releases so well-rounded and ethereal.
Roland JUNO 60
My precious baby. Warm and overall amazing sound that I use for basslines, pads, and crispy leads. I used it on both ‘Pecas’ that came out on Lost & Found and ‘Closing Doors’ that just came out on Anjunadeep. I use it to layer melodies to make them sound warmer; this is another thing it’s really good for. In essence it’s a very simple synth, but the sound is very rich, even to the extent that that I usually don’t need to add any delay or reverb.
Dave Smith Prophet 12
My main studio hardware synth. Analog and digital hybrid. This one has a very broad and varied capacity in terms of sound output. I mainly use it for melodies, pads and as a sequencers. It sounds different from any synth in the world I’ve tried, and you can find a very different, crazy sounds with relative ease without the use of distortion and modulations. This one was key in the making of ‘Closing Doors.’
The Tanzbar is an analog drum machine and one of the best I’ve every worked on. This is where I get a lot of my kick drums from. I actually like it so much I sometimes use it to make a bassline out of a kick drum. Sometimes I add a second bassline on some tracks for that added groove.
Pedals(Strymon Tape Delay and DOD Envelope Filter)
I use two different pedals. One is the Strymon tape delay and the other is a DOD Envelope Filter. Both usually work great with the top loops to make them more sparkly in sound. Also, using the delay with a long feedback on different sounds, recording it and then chopping and cutting it up can make for cool FX using existing parts from the track.
Padshop Soft Synth (Steinberg)
Very much my go-to synth for pads, atmospheric and hypnotic sounds. It’s a granular synth that used samples of stuff like strings, guitars, vocals and other stuff and transform them to make them sound way cooler. I also use it to layer melodies, which gives added depth to the regular lead sounds.
Photo credit: Facebook/Khenmusic