Master At Work: Kenny Dope
The word ‘legend’ is one that’s very much overused when it comes to figures in electronic music. One such man who is undoubtedly deserving of such praise, however, is Kenny Dope. One half of seminal house loving duo Masters At Work, Dope AKA Kenny Gonzalez, has represented the genre with distinction since he first burst on to the scene in the late 80s. Dope, a veteran of New York, is also, it’s fair to point out, one of the men responsible for putting the city’s love of house music on the global map. And even after all these years, he still maintains a tireless energy and a love for music that’s almost without peer. We caught up with Dope recently at Pacha London to talk Ibiza, inspirations and what the future holds…
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind past while for you, right?
When you say whirlwind, I’m assuming you mean crazy busy. But yeah, I’ve been keeping super busy this past year. I have my Kaydee label that’s running like a small machine now, DJ gigs and Masters at Work is back, so I have MAW gigs and a band, a project called “The Fantastic Souls” in the works. It’s a 12 piece band with 5 vocalists, all of whom are well known, and my artist Rasheed Chappell’s sophmore album coming up… all hopefully by the of the year. I’m running on fumes at the moment!
Did you ever consider taking a lengthy break from music? Do you think it’s something you might have benefitted from?
Although I was forced to take a short break a few years back, I don’t think my drive and passion for producing would ever allow me to take a break. I did benefit from 6 months down time back in 2009 by getting the rest I needed and having the time to regroup.
Strictly Rhythm is a label that’s obviously been hugely important for you over the years, yet unlike the label, your sound has remained strictly ‘underground’. Is that something you’re conscious of when releasing on the label?
I think that’s just my sound, the music I produce is the music that naturally comes out when I start making it. If I touch on more commercial sounding tracks it’s not always intentional, it’s just what happens when I start a project.
‘True’ house music seems to be making a huge comeback, particularly in Ibiza where you’ve been a bit of regular this year. Was this something you anticipated?
I honestly wasn’t looking forward to spending the summer in Ibiza initially. I had originally expected it to slow me down. But surprisingly enough it was the complete opposite. Playing in Ibiza this year and hearing all the new “good” stuff that’s out has truly inspired me again. All I wanted to do when I got back was get in the studio and especially play out.
Has the scene changed for better or worse over the past few decades in your opinion?
I think it just changes. Trends come and go, and things always come back full circle. This is where it’s at now for me.
How do you source new music these days. Who’s really doing it for you musically right now?
I source music via the web and by listening and sharing music with friends and fellow DJs. I’m loving the Disclosure album right now.
I touched on Ibiza just there. The Masters At Work gig with Carl Cox has become something of an annual event for you these days. How did it go this year?
Carl Cox’s Space party is a great party and always has been. The sound and the energy on his night is crazy. This year was especially good because I heard new music I felt I could play. Records I’m really feeling. Last year and this year were 2 different monsters. This year was crazy. I appreciate Carl having us back 2 years in a row and look forward to hopefully having the opportunity to do it again next year.
Do you approach a MAW set differently to how you approach a Kenny Dope set?
I feel I have in the past, but this summer I approached it differently because there were so many new tracks that I’m feeling that I think I went into the MAW set with more of a Kenny Dope vibe. But whatever we do together you can always tell who’s playing what and how different we play from one another. But that’s what makes us “Masters At Work”. Nothing is ever discussed or talked about we don’t share music; we just get to the gig and do our thing. And it always turns out better then the last time.
When you DJ, do you see it as your responsibility to educate or to make people dance?
Both, but my main goal is to make people dance. If they’re dancing they’re being educated.
Do you like screwing with people’s perceptions of what a Kenny Dope set should sound like then?
I don’t screw with people’s perceptions, I just play what works for every crowd. I think that’s a DJ’s job. I never play the same set and I never really know what I’m going to play. Even when I do, it never goes the direction i thought anyway. I just take my time and feel the crowd. My job is to get them moving and keep them moving. That’s it. Sometimes I get hired for a certain set and it goes somewhere else but I make it a point not to disappoint.
And what keeps you so hungry after all this time in the game?
Love for music. Great music. Period.
Finally, what else can we look forward to from Kenny Dope over the upcoming months?
Over the next year you will see more rare and reissued vinyl releases on the Kaydee label. Rasheed Chappell’s 2nd hip-hop album “Brick & Mortar”, the Fantastic Soul’s album will be released. As well as numerous dope wax tracks and MAW releases. And numerous remixes, some in the works and more to come. I have my hands full. I am excited for the upcoming year.