Music

5 things you should know about KiNK

© Daniel Mathieu/Red Bull Content Pool
Find out everything you need to know about Bulgarian techno producer KiNK, whose hypnotic DJ sets saw him voted Resident Advisor's favourite live electronic artist of 2016.
Written by Chris ParkinPublished on
Strahil Velchev set out on a path towards techno stardom way back in 1991 when he heard techno for the very first time on a Sunday evening radio show at home in Sofia, Bulgaria. It changed his life. "I didn’t know any other people who listened to this music; my parents or friends they would think, this is not music, it sounds like horses running around,” Velchev told Red Bull Radio recently in an exclusive Fireside Chat. But that didn't put him off.
Now better known as KiNK, Velchev started out creating music on a series of modular software synths, a process that has given KiNK's music a distinctive warm feeling down the years. He also gives his productions and DJ sets a unique live twist, experimenting with gadgetry, new and old, to seek out the right sound. He's definitely found it now. In 2016, KiNK was voted the best live electronic act in the world by Resident Advisor.
KiNK released his second artist album, Playground, for Gerd Janson’s Running Back label earlier this year. It's a fun, uptempo record that pairs his intense obsession with music technology with the excitement he felt as a kid discovering electronic music for the first time.
You can listen to Velchev's Fireside Chat interview in the player below. In the meantime, here are five things you should know about the trailblazing DJ and producer.

1. KiNK's record collecting was curtailed by Bulgaria's communist government.

One my earliest memories is a party my parents had in their house and there was a record playing. I started to buy records very early, in the mid to late '80s. It was really interesting at that time. Bulgaria used to be a communist country until 1989 and at that time the government was pretty much the selector. It would choose what kind of music. By the time I started to buy records, in the record stores there would probably be a choice of 40 records, 40 albums. As I was into disco and dance music, I would probably be able to buy about ten records. So after one or two years of buying records, I had all the records available. The thing is, I hadn’t visited other countries at that time so I couldn’t compare. I thought it was a pretty normal way of living. You can buy ten records and that’s it.

2. KiNK owes his eclectic style to the pirated cassette tapes that dominated Bulgaria after communism.

For the next couple of years my only source of music was buying pirated cassettes. So at that time, at the wild moment when Bulgaria was moving on from one political system to another, we become a free country but we had too much freedom, and also the economy collapsed because we haven’t got the support of Russia. There was no market for singles, for vinyl records. It was just those shops where you buy cassettes and they look completely normal, like real ones. On one record you would find Future Sound Of London, Prodigy, Joey Beltram, Richie Hawtin and Shy FX, some early jungle stuff. I quite like that and I guess that’s why I don’t have a style. Because in those early years I don’t have the chance to focus on one direction. It was just all together.

3. You can thank the Bulgarian armed forces for KiNK’s first foray into production.

In the late '90s I knew I would really, really love to produce music and I realised it was possible because a friend of mine had a computer and he told me I can produce music entirely with a computer which doesn’t cost a fortune. Unfortunately, in 1998 I had to go to the army. You are supposed to go for one year. But they put me in a very good position. I was doing an office job in the headquarters of the border police so they had a computer room. So after the big bosses, the important people, left the building me and my colleagues would go to the computer room. My colleagues would play video games, and I would make music. I started to experiment with different types of software.

4. He’s changed his mind about his old arch-nemesis: melody.

There was a time I thought melodies are overrated and I thought the European traditional scales and system of writing music is just boring. At that time nobody wanted to sign my records or play my records because they were too obscure. Then in 2008 I made a collaboration, which helped me out to breakthrough. I made a record that was so important for my life as an artist. I made a record with a friend of mine – his name is Neville Watson. He’s based in London. We didn’t really know each other that well at that time, we hadn’t even spoke on the phone. We just had a common interest in music and a very similar sense of humour. We would just talk over Myspace. He would send me samples and I would play around with them. At that time I was very beat-driven and Neville was more melodic… But I liked what Neville sent me and I thought, we’re doing a collaboration, I would like to respect the source of my friend… And that was my first successful record. I thought, wow, melodies are not overrated!

5. He found his perfect sound when he started using the E-mu SP-1200.

I’ve always liked sound with colour. I can't find a better word to explain. I listen to electronic music and then later on I discovered jazz and funk and soul that was recorded in '60s and '70s. It was recorded on tape and was run through different tube gear, which would put some sort of texture and print over the sound. Actually, most of the music I love there is some sort of fingerprint on it, which unfortunately I don’t find in some modern productions. For a while, I’ve been looking for the perfect colour. In the technical world that means distortion. I’ve been experimenting with plug-ins a lot and I've been destructing my drums. I remember one or two years ago, I talked to a very big DJ who told me, 'I love your music, but there is something with your sound that is a bit two-dimensional, a bit squashed, what do you do with your mixes?' When I got that E-mu SP-1200 I got that colour without sacrificing anything else.