Artist Interview: KAHN 美的
KAHN 美的 is a future funk and vaporwave producer based out of Perth, Australia who began to produce vaporwave music under this project in early 2016. Recently, his album Big City Nights was featured and released by RKM Records – home to artists such as Suli Hyuga, Cephei, and クレードル（株）. Sunbleach sat down with him (at least, as much as one can when the participants are on opposite sides of the world) to discuss old-school video games, Blank Banshee, working with netlabels, and revisiting songs in one’s creative past.
S: How’s Australia this time of year?
K: Ironically enough, it’s really cold. Usually when people think of Australia, they think it’s always hot (it usually is though), but recently it’s been really cold. I’m not complaining though, I really like cold weather.
S: You’ve put out an impressive string of releases in the past year: according to your bandcamp, there’s eleven in the past six months alone! What inspires you to make so much music?
K: I put out a lot of music due to my terrible memory. Usually if I have idea for a song, it has to be put down somewhere before it’s lost forever. I also just like releasing a lot. Making album covers and coming up with weird tiles is a lot of fun. If I’m talking about the people who inspire me to release music frequently, it comes down to Bones, Max Black and Blank Banshee. Bones is a rapper whom I enjoy a lot, and the fan base of his really enjoys how frequently he releases. Max Black, who’s a friend of mine, make really cool grimey yet ethereal beats. He releases a bit but not frequently. So I guess I try to fill the gap for him in between releases. Finally, Blank Banshee. He’s made some of the best (if not the best) Vaportrap to ever come out of the genre. However, for anyone following the release of his next album, it’s been hell. So part of my releases is not letting anyone debate to when the next project comes out.
S: How did you get involved in the vaporwave scene?
K: I really don’t know to be honest. I remember watching the Brief History of Vaporwave by WosX and wanting to know more, and that lead me to FrankJavCee, who basically taught me how to use FL Studio through his tutorials. FrankJavCee also inspired my name too. In his video Vaporwave: Meme gone mainstream, he interviews a fictional Vaporwave producer by the name of WindowsBukkakeHentai95 (followed by Chinese symbols). In a weird cut, Frank says “BoonKahnKay”. I thought “Kahn” sounded cool, so I added the most common thing in vaporwave “Aesthetic” and put it into Japanese. Thus KAHN 美的 was born.
S: You take a lot of inspiration from video game art and media – for example, the Wavestation EP and Live from the Grave. What inspired that?
K: I grew up playing PlayStation and Nintendo consoles a lot, and I really loved the look and sound of them. With Wavestation, I made that dedicated to a friend of mine who brought me out of a really terrible time to where everything was more simple. Those simple emotions I felt made me think of me playing video games when I was younger, and I thought it’d be fun to put those emotions into sound.
S: Do you play any retro video game consoles? I unabashedly adore my NES, and I still have my original SNES from ’96 as well!
K: Yeah, I still play my Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 2 from time to time. I’ve recently been playing Sonic Gems Collection for Playstation 2. My favourite game included in it is Sonic R, even though it’s notoriously bad. The terrible controls make winning races more rewarding I guess.
S: I have a particular love for Zelda II on the NES, even though it’s considered one of the worst in the Legend of Zelda franchise because of its side-scroller genre, level-up system, and difficulty. Favorite game made is probably Super Metroid though; I’ve had it since the mid-90s, and it was one of the first games to introduce me to darker sounds and textures. I understand what you mean about the simpler emotions part too – playing RuneScape makes me feel that way! What other games, sounds, and activities bring you back to that?
K: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 for sure. Burnout 3 Takedown is always a favourite in terms of classic games. Weirdly enough, I’ve never played Legend of Legaia, but I plan to eventually. Hearing songs from video games I grew up with always brings back memories(even “Can You Feel The Sunshine?” from Sonic R). Drawing old characters I made as a kid is really nostalgic too.
S: Quite a few tracks of yours appear influenced by trap music – again, the Wavestation EP comes to mind in particular.
K: I’m not super into trap music, but I appreciate the production that goes into the instrumentals, so I try to take that style into consideration when making vaportrap or a song with a lot of bass.
S: What process do you use to make your album covers? Any place to which you look when making new artwork for inspiration or source material?
K: For single tracks, I usually try to find cool, dark, out of place frames from anime I grew up watching as a kid. For full albums or EPs, I try to capture the whole vibe of the album in one picture. I usually look on the “vaporwave” tag on tumblr or reddit for inspiration. For Live From The Grave, I took inspiration from the cover of Garbage by Bones. The cover of Big City Nights was tricky, as all the covers I had at the time were really dark, which really contrasted against the future funk sound/ typical aesthetic. The cover of Busted is actually a picture of my friend Mariam, who was really happy to have it as an album cover. Contrary to popular belief, it’s red cordial, not blood.
S: Any artists to whom you’re listening at the moment who particularly interest or inspire you?
K: Yeah as I mentioned before, Bones, Max Black and Blank Banshee. Then FrankJavCee, Joji, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tyler, the Creator, Mac DeMarco, Yung Lean, Star Printer, Macintosh Plus, Saint Pepsi/Skylar Spence, Luxury Elite, Sandtimer, Getter, Daft Punk, Moe Shop to name a few. Some of them I’ve listened to for years, then there’re some I’ve just discovered.
S: What’s a bit of your background that you’d like to share, other than your experience as a vaporwave artist?
K: Well I’ve been making electronic music for 9 years. I started with basic chiptune music with my busted up GameBoy ,then to electro with old synths my Dad had laying around, and then tried to combine the 2 genres. After that, I went into a phase where I’d go through every type of music I could think of. Then I came across vaporwave, and I think it’s my favourite.
S: How was working with an established netlabel like RKM Records in putting out Big City Nights?
K: It was really good working with them. I was on Reddit and they hit me up. I wasn’t sure about what I was going to do with the next album I had planned (Big City Nights), so I thought it would be good to release it with them. We talked for less than a week and the album was released.
S: Big City Nights uses a lot of uptempo and club music, especially on “Not Sober Forever.” What samples did you use that you’d like to share? What inspired you to take a future funk route?
K: Big City Nights is actually a collection of songs I made before I knew about vaporwave, future funk, etc. a few years ago, and I was feeling creatively drained, so I went back through my collection of old songs and revamped them to make them more future funk based. As for the samples, I was really into Modjo and Stardust at the time, so I had a look at the samples they used and went from there. There was an artist who made Italian disco in the 80s called Clio and I really liked a song of hers called “Faces” so I tried to base elements of songs off that.
S: What artists of the eighties and nineties most interest you?
K: David Bowie for sure, Kraftwerk, Daft Punk and their anonymity has really inspired me, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Hall and Oates, J Dilla, and a lot more.
S: What do you have next in store?
K: I’d like to revisit my earlier works. There’s a lot of things that can be improved upon. I’m working on a remix of “2002,” the first song I produced under the alias of KAHN 美的. It was later used as an instrumental for Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s song “15/16 (Rocketship).” I really like the sample for it, it’s the main menu theme from Legend of Legaia for the PlayStation One. Other than that, I really want to do more live shows. I find I have more creative flow behind my decks on stage. Yeah, hopefully it goes well.
Check out Big City Nights at RKM Records below: