Rgb Bolade Banjo Mount Kimbie 2022 09 1400

After over 15 years of synthesising various strands of dubstep, indie, ambient and krautrock, last year Dom Maker and Kai Campos of Mount Kimbie surprised fans by announcing that their next album MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning would be, in essence, two solo albums released as one. Yet as the title suggests, the album is less of a rift à la Outkast‘s Speakerboxx/The Love Below than an interstitial, a chance for Maker and Campos to showcase their respective strengths before a return to regular programming. To commemorate the release of City Planning, Campos commissioned American artist Tom Shannon to create a public sculpture called Four World Set to be installed on Tottenham Court Road. Unfortunately, two days after it was unveiled, strong winds caused the sculpture to detach from its base, destroying the work and leading to frenzied press coverage in the likes of the Telegraph. With half a year‘s distance, Campos is bashful about the incident but remains proud of the project, and has recently released a remixed version of City Planning. Listen to Campos' TANK Mix below and read our interview, in which he discusses new town burnout and the benefits of limitation.

TANK City Planning is completely devoid of vocals. Its title and some of the soundscapes have an urban, dystopian quality. What was the aesthetic vision for the project?

KAI CAMPOS I was thinking about it in terms of an imaginary city or a new town like Milton Keynes, but slightly more sci-fi, and the absurdity and artificialness of that. It's a city with no people in it with this quite clinical aesthetic to the buildings, a city before it’s been lived in. There's a mixture of that and then the cracks around the edges once the inevitable human interaction starts changing things.

TANK What equipment went into the making of City Planning? I heard it as a love letter to Detroit.
KC There's a lot of influence there, even in terms of thinking about the city as something to draw inspiration from. There are so many parallels to Detroit because the natural world has taken over these deserted urban spaces. I think there are parallels within electronic music, that you want humanity to come through what is perceived as white, cold machine music. Equipment-wise, the 606 is a classic drum machine that's synonymous with lots of music from Detroit and so I leaned pretty heavily into that. Also digital synthesisers from the late-1990s and early-2000s – the key period of Detroit techno in my opinion – when people were embracing the possibilities of the digital. Growing up, analogue was very fetishised, so it was interesting to try and go in a different direction. 

TANK In that sense, City Planning reminded me of some of your earlier records like Love What Survives, which was encased within this motorik beat. How does limitation manifest in your creativity?
KC It's very, very difficult to work without a firm idea of limitation. In my experience, it’s when you brush up against issues or perceived issues that you find the good stuff, or you find something unexpected in that tussle. I've made the record three times: the first two were pretty shit and that was quite a disheartening experience, but a familiar one. I was pushing it in terms of the time we had to get the project over the line. I took the equipment I was making the music with down to the mixing studio and started pulling the songs apart to try and find what was actually good about them. That ended up being how the record came together. The mixing process is usually taking a finished song and making some changes to the way things sound, but the structure is already there. This was a very different approach, taking the song, pulling it apart and putting it back together whilst mixing it, a technique that I took from dub reggae.

TANK Has the way you make music changed since Dom moved to LA?
KC Not really. We don't do anything until we're in the same room together, it's just the times that we do it have changed. It's slightly more focused and intense periods of time that are spaced out a bit more rather than a little bit all the time, which is what it used to be. I will go over for a month, Dom's over semi-regularly in the UK. We'll just bookmark a period of time to be really working on it, in a more intense way. There are obviously differences between records, but the process is similar to when we started. 

TANK What was the main impetus for splitting Die Cuts | City Planning in two?
KC Generally, we really don't do a lot of remote work between the two of us. Normally if we're working on stuff then we're in the same place and it's never really been a very effective option to try the remote work thing. I can travel to L.A. and Dom can travel to London. A lot of these ideas would be stuff that we would have been showing each other normally, not necessarily for Mount Kimbie but just seeing if there was anything in what the other person was doing that we found interesting. It was like a prolonged period where nobody could travel and so we were finishing them off in a different way by following our own intuition with it rather than getting that feedback. It seemed like a good time to experiment with it. 

TANK You were reading The Rest is Noise by Alex Rosswhile creating this album. Did that seep into the tracks?
KC If anyone's ever feeling jaded about music, it's such an amazing, well-written and exciting book, regardless of your interest or knowledge about classical music. It took me a good year to get through it because you inevitably end up having to pause and have a YouTube tab open, digging into the little things that come up. The turn of the century in classical music was quite an exciting time and I think there are a lot of parallels between kind of electronic music and 20th-century classical, more than most other genres of music. There was a possibility in electronic music, in that it promises a new frontier. There’s a similar kind of freedom within classical music, which was still tied to commercial success in some way but was ultimately music for the sake of music. 

TANK How do you view progress as a musician?
KC The only time that it feels interesting for me to work is when I'm trying to do something that I don't know how to do. As soon as I feel like I know how to do it, and the mechanism of it has become obvious to me in some way, then I physically can't do it anymore. I have worked with people who are able to push through that and their craft of what they do matures. I always look back on my work and think that was almost there. I don't know whether that's a self-preservation tactic, to preserve my ego.

TANK You had your DJ-Kicks release a few years ago, and you’ve been DJing more recently. How do you think your responsibility as a performer changes from DJing to playing in a band?
KC I think it’s a detriment to both art forms that they've been mushed together in the last decade or so because they are completely different interactions with music and different interactions with audiences. They're both at their best when they have nothing to do with each other. There are obviously reasons that tie in with the market and capitalism. DJing has become this person on a stage facing a crowd above them. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it's the most cost-effective way of staging events without too many overheads. I don't ever think of them crossing over in any way.

TANK How did your fanbase respond when you did your own thing?
KC I understand why they expect to hear Mount Kimbie songs, and at the same time, I just would never do it, you know? You can always spot those people, there's a look of excitement, slight bewilderment, and then a bit of anger. There have been times when I got to the end of the set and it felt appropriate to play a Mount Kimbie song, but it's happened maybe three or four times. 

TANK How did the installation Four World Set come to fruition?
KC I was having a conversation with Frank Lebon who has worked on all of our projects in the past. We were talking about how we'd approach the artwork for it. It felt like it was time to throw stuff at the wall.  I had been talking about a sculpture exhibition that I'd enjoyed, and Frank said, “It sounds like my friend's dad's work” and bought this book off the shelf, which was Tom Shannon's stuff. It wasn't his work, but it was coming from a similar place. Instead of taking all the money that we could get for things like music videos, we wanted to put it into having something made in the world. We were talking about the elusive nature of music campaigns these days and how quickly things fade into the recent past – six months is like the new version of five years. We wanted to make something permanent, a permanent piece of public art. That started the conversation which took another nine months to a year after that to get to where we were. They ended up being impermanent, which was funny. 

TANK The sculpture had a bit of a viral moment, obviously not exactly in the way you wanted. How do you view it now, with half a year's distance?
KC It felt like a bit of a fever dream. Every day was - Oh this is a problem, and this is a problem, and the council’s saying this, and it's actually going to cost this much money, and that's impossible, so actually seeing it up was such a relief. It was a miracle that it got up at all. The morning that I woke up to it being all the way all over Oxford Street was pretty crushing. We were just getting to a stage where it was ready for lots of people to see it, the two days that it was up was us making sure it looked right. It was a shame that it happened, as quickly as it did, but, it's the harsh reality of working in big outdoor public spaces. I look back on it with a lot of fondness because the buzz that we got from that was unexpected.

TANK For the remix album, what were the parameters for the artists you chose to remix the tracks?
KC At the beginning of the process, I thought I’d be making something that would fit into my world of DJing. What I ended up with was undanceable music that I would never play in a club. I felt like all the ingredients were there for a bit more of a classical approach to the remix. All the ingredients that had gone into it were from various areas of club music. I felt like it would be good to return it to that in some way.

TANK You've been releasing music as Mount Kimbie for over 15 years. How do you view the older material? Do you cringe or smile?
KC Both, definitely. It's like somebody else made it at this point. There's definitely a period where I was deeply uncomfortable with hearing it, and then you get past that. It just makes me feel old because it's like a home video of you running around in your pants as a toddler. ◉

City Planning (Remixes) is out now on Warp.