INTERVIEW: KIM (THE PRESETS)

KIM, otherwise known as Kim Moyes and one half of Australian electronic duo The Presets, has earned international acclaim through defining and re-defining the Australian face of techno, electro and electronica. During and post the storm of previous albums with The Presets, KIM has provided his unique imprint to many projects, for acts including Digitalism, Kirin J Callinan and body music duo, Forces. He has also forayed further into his solo sounds, with 2014 EP Kloser, via Motorik.

We’ve been waiting for such a long time to chat with Kim about his inspirations, portfolio of work and current projects. Finally we can present to you…KIM.

You’ve been a musician for a very young age, however when did you first start working with electronic music?
My first exposure to actual hands on electronic music was when I was studying my bachelor degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Around the 2nd or 3rd year of my degree, I took a couple of elective subjects in the composition department, one of those was specifically in electronic music. We learnt basic midi sequencing, programming and recording. I took lessons in programming with Csound and MAX which was really quite above my head at the time. One of my projects involved attaching contact microphones to percussion and recording really distorted, live percussion instruments. Looking back it was very crude and primitive but at the time I found it so exciting and liberating and knew it was a world I wanted to be apart of.

It was a great environment to be in, the Lecturers were really inspiring and encouraging and turned me on to a heap of interesting electronic music like Alvin Lucier and David Tudor plus instrument builders like Harry Partch. We had access to a Fairlight CMI which was extremely hard to use, but the really frustrating thing was there was a Moog Modular sitting in pieces in one of the practice rooms, I was always pining to have a go on that, it looked like a lot of fun.

What was the first piece of hardware/software you owned?
Around 1997-98 I borrowed an old Fostex 4-track tape machine from the Con and taught myself how to use it. That was fun until a flatmate spilt a glass of beer on it. Our old band, Prop, bought a Fostex digital 8-track machine which we used to do overdubs for our first record, ‘Small Craft, Rough Sea‘. After that I think I bought my first Mac Pro on hire purchase and Pro Tools LE Digi 001. At that time I was mainly recording live instruments and whatever drum machines and synths I could borrow off friends.

What does your studio look like now? Do you have a favourite piece of equipment?
In 2010 I was lucky enough to build my own studio that is on the ground floor of my house. It has 2 rooms, a larger ‘live’ room for recording instruments, musicians, vocals, ambiance and re-amping etc. It has its limitations but its good enough for what I need. I then have a smaller ‘control’ room which is where I do most of my work – recording, editing, programming, sound shaping/design and mixing. I have some good outboard with a heap of nice pre-amps. I also have my collection of synths and drum machines. I run Pro Tools HD and to a lesser extent, Ableton Live. My computer is full of great plug-ins and soft synths. My studio is kind of designed to give me the flexibility between working in an acoustic or live instrument world and then being able to move easily to an electronic and computer world. Being able to combine or jump between the electro/acoustic is really what I’ve always been interested in the most.

I don’t really have a favourite piece of equipment, but I recently did some treatment in my control room which made my monitoring sound the best its ever sounded. At the moment i get great pleasure and an excellent perspective from simply just listening to music in my studio.

You were such an integral figure in pioneering the indie electronic sound of the late naughties, not only with The Presets but also many of your publicised collaborations, remixes, affiliations and post production. Have you ever felt pidgeon holed into a sound?
When I was still at University, I guess it was around 1996, I went to a Orchestral music camp held at Geelong Grammar over the summer break. Two things happened around this particular event that had a significant impact on me.

The first thing – on the drive down to Victoria, we stopped in on a friends house in Canberra on New Years Eve and I tried ecstasy for the first time. Like most of us, my mind was blown. The second thing was when we were at the music camp. The entire focus of the of the camp was to discuss the role of the musician in the 21st Century. Was it simply enough for a musician to be able to play and instrument well? To be a good ensemble player? Or does the musician need to be flexible in there approach to their craft and apply themselves to other areas? If so what are the possibilities?

We discussed these ideas amongst budding music students and professionals. I came away from that camp hungry to throw myself at all aspect of music that I had always been interested in, being in my own band, writing music, making recordings and electronic music. I no longer was content with the idea of being a Percussion player at the back of a someone else’s Orchestra. I still carry this idea with me today. I don’t see myself as just a drummer, a vibraphone player, a percussionist, a dance music producer, a record producer or a DJ. I certainly don’t ever feel like I am defined by the music that I make, its just a by-product of who I am at that specific moment. Do I ever feel pigeon holed into a sound? No, not really. I feel capable, competent and flexible enough to be able to work in whatever area or style of music that I feel genuinely interested in.

It’s passion, interest, excitement and quality that keep me moving forward.

Your most recent solo EP Kloser is incredibly diverse, moving through a range of stylistics from pared back house and displays more negative space in the construction.What was influencing you during writing?
The tracks in the Kloser EP are relatively old. I made ‘Kloser‘ in 2009 when i was on Holidays in Berlin. I guess i was trying my hand at something with a little more of a slow burn to it as opposed to a ‘banger’.

Frozen‘ I made on a Xmas eve in 2010, I have a feeling I was very drunk when I made that one. I plugged in a a couple of synths and made a very simple drum machine loop and messed around with sending the raw signals to a few different echo units and shifting the time out of phase. I played the main, woozy synth part a 9th above the bass line to give it a slightly dissonant disconnect.

I was really interested in seeing what I could do with all the classic Roland ‘Techno’ units, namely 909 and 303, those instruments carry such stylistic weight to them, it can be hard to make them not sound of a specific era. I was trying to unlock something different with them, something almost mantra-esque. When I played the vibraphone part I was imaging Sade going for a vocal take, I wanted the melody to be somewhere in her world. ‘Casiopea‘ on the other hand was an exercise in a longer cross-rhythmic effect that doesn’t feel like the groove locks down. I wanted to make something that ebbed and flowed, something with a swell to it. Again like ‘Kloser‘, not really a banger, something to sink into. I added the melody at the end to give the track a hint of cosmic melancholy.

I see you’ve also been busy with some arrangements and mixing for Kirin J Callinan and Forces. Does your thought process change much when you’re collaborating or advising another’s sound?
Most of what I do is collaboration, whether its the Presets or working with Jack Ladder or Kirin as you mention. Very little of my work is purely solo or without other input. I get great reward working with artists who have a very strong identity and idea about what they are trying to achieve. Working with Jack Ladder on ‘Playmates‘ for instance was great. He has a fantastic grasp on lyric writing and that’s really where his magic is. I was able to help him find the right ‘outfit’ or direction for his songs, some came easy, some through trial and error and some through a difficult struggle.

There is a lot to take into account when working on others music. There is a very personal attachment to the work and sometimes, obviously, it can be a bit of negotiation and discussion as to what the best course of attack should be. When there is trust and confidence in the collaboration then its fun, but its not always easy and I really am a from believer in the idea that it should not be easy, that great ideas and great work are the result of traversing difficult terrain.

Who/What has been on heavy rotation on your audio player of late?
My 4 year old son is obsessed with Daft Punk. In the car we have been relentlessly listening to the whole Daft Punk catalogue for the past year, and I mean everything. At the moment its the Tron Legacy soundtrack.

What is the track you last [cmd] ‘S’d ? ([ctrl] ‘S’ to PC users) [in other words, last project you saved]
Jules and I are working on a new Presets album at the moment, the last session I saved was the beginnings of some new Presets material.

Finally, have you any advice or words of warning for producers/musicians developing musical works in progress to play at CDR? (CDR info at top of email)?
Not really aside from all the best! I am sure they all have it under control.

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