Pete Tong interviewed Kenny Dope and Lil Louie Vega at IMS 2017
You may know them as Kenny Dope and Lil Louie Vega, you may know them as Nuyorican Soul, you may know them as KenLou, or Groove Box, or Voices, or Black Magic, or People Uderground or MAW Electronic or even as 200 Sheep, but know matter what the alias, they're tunes stand head and shoulders above the crowd.
The duo have been putting out classic after classic for 25 years, with a work ethic virtually unparalleled in the scene. As part of IMS 2017, Pete Tong sat down with Ken and Lou for a keynote interview. The hour flew buy with insights and anecdotes from a quarter century of dance music, but below we've listed our 13 favourite facts.
1. Kenny met Todd Terry at a record store he worked at when he was 16. Todd had been working on some house tracks and needed to come up with a name to release them under. Kenny suggested 'Masters At Work'.
2. After meeting him in the record store, Todd Terry became a mentor to Kenny. The main thing he learnt from Todd was how to use a drum machine, "how to take nothing and make it something". Todd was one of the only people Kenny knew who had music making hardware, although it wasn't always the best equipment - one of the synth's had been found be Todd in the garbage.
3. Louie first got introduced to house music by his older sisters. They were quite the socialites and would regularly go out partying at iconic nightclubs such as The Loft and Paradise Garage.
4. The two first met when Louie invited Kenny to his studio. Louie had heard Kenny's stuff and was eager to meet the man behind the sound. It wasn't all innocent though, always on the hustle, Louie was secretly hoping that Kenny would ask him to remix some of his records.
5. When asked how they managed to keep the quality up through so many releases, their answer was simple: the mantra. The mantra was a decision they both agreed on before working together - if either one of them wasn't feeling a track, they'd immediately stop and start working on something else, no questions asked. They've stuck with this rule ever since.
6. When asked how they managed to create such a large volume of music, they put it down to their work rate. When they get in the studio they can do four or five tracks in a night.
6. The reason they had so many aliases was purely practical. They wanted to have as many records out at once as possible, but labels wouldn't sign a track if you had just releases one on another label. So they would create multiple tracks under multiple aliases and release them on multiple labels at the same time.
7. One of the factors behind the wealth of music coming out of New York at that time was because all dance music makers in the city would hangout at the Sound Factory on Wednesday nights. The night was ran by Louie, but would be the place where Kenny, Todd Terry, Armand Van Helden, Roger Sanchez and Eric Morillo would come to try their new tracks out on club systems. This healthy competition engendered an industrious work ethic.
8. The same club night was frequented by two young singers - India and Mark Anthony. Both of them would stay until kicking out time and wow the DJs with their vocals, singing the last tracks of the night as they waited for taxi's outside.
9. Their musical direction, though firmly grounded in New York, was also shaped by early trips to the UK. The early days of rave was the first place where they played to thousands of people outside. "The Nervous Track" was inspired by a visit to The Southport Weekender. They walked into the jazz room and saw loads of people dancing in suits. Kenny watched the dancers and came up with the beat in his head, just by following their movements. What he would go on to create would become the first broken beat track.
10. The only did the one album due to the cost of touring it. The cost of taking a full band on the road and touring it around the world was too great to bare. It was 1993 and dance music didn't sell out the size of venues it does today, so it was impossible to break even, never mind make a profit.
11. They started some tracks when they were at IMS last year and they've booked some studio time on this trip to finish them. These will be released under KenLou and will be out as soon as possible.
12. Kenny is always buying the latest hardware or plugin, while Louie is into his classic equipment. He has only just switched from a rotary mixer, after trying Richie Hawtin's PLAYDifferently Model1 in Ibiza last year.
13. What do they hold most dear about what their job? Louie - "making people smile". Kenny - "being able to pass music on to other people".