Kenny Larkin is a techno icon- a Detroit-born originator who has been making deeply expressive, compellingly rhythmic and breathtakingly ambitious electronic music for almost three decades.
After a hiatus of several years, Kenny has blasted back in full eff ect with ‘Step Back’, a 14-minute mental trip of a track that’s so fi ercely intense that it should come with a public health warning. Responses from the world’s most respected DJs to the promos of ‘Step Back’ were impassioned. Josh Wink described it as “powerful and epic”. Laurent Garnier was even more enthusiastic: “Played this monster last month, and the party went completely MMMAADDDD. This is HHHUUGGGEEE,” he wrote.
After returning from serving in the US Air Force in 1988, Kenny dived into Detroit’s emerging techno subculture at clubs like the Music Institute and the Shelter. “It was amazing to see a scene being born in front of you, all these people dancing to this weird-ass electronic music,” he recalls. He soon made his first recordings, even though initially he only had one keyboard that he shared with his clubbing friend Richie Hawtin. From 1990 onwards, Kenny’s music has been released by some of the most influential techno labels of all time. His first two 12-inches, ‘We Shall Overcome’ and ‘Integration’, were issued by Hawtin and John Acquaviva’s Plus-8 label. His first album under his own name, ‘Azimuth’, was released by Warp Records; further releases have come out on Transmat, R&S, Planet E, Peacefrog and Rush Hour. ‘Step Back’ meanwhile is a joint release from Kevin Saunderson’s KMS and Kenny’s own label, Art of Dance.
A self-confessed perfectionist, Kenny’s output has been intermittent but inspirational over the years sometimes atmospherically abstract, sometimes s jazz-tinged and melodic but consistently funky. “Whatever I put out, it has to be special. That’s why it sometimes takes so long,” he says. He followed 1994’s ‘Azimuth’ album with ‘Metaphor’ (1995), ‘The Narcissist’ (2004) and ‘Keys, Strings, Tambourines’ (2008). In recent years, instead of releasing his own music, Kenny has put his energy into highly imaginative remixes. In addition to reworking Ben Klock’s ‘OK’, he has released a series of chart-topping bangers, beginning with Radioslave’s ‘I Don’t Need A Cure For This’, which earned the #9 slot on Resident Advisor’s Top 100 Tracks for 2010.
In 2012, he conjured his magic on a remix of Inner City’s ‘Future’, which was #1 on Beatport’s Top Techno Chart, and ranked #15 by Resident Advisor in its Top 100 Tracks for that year. Then came his deep yet powerful and funky remix of La Fleur’s ‘Nightfl ow’, which landed also landed at #1 on Beatport’s Tech House chart, and at #2 in Resident Advisor’s Top 100 Tracks for 2013. “I want each one to be individual, unique and unforgettable,” he says.
Fast forward to 2018, and Kenny plans to focus on his own productions again, beginning with ‘Step Back’, and then a new album. “It’s funky and it’s soulful, even though it’s electronic. It plays with your emotions,” he explains. “It’s music with a special kind of feeling.”