Kon has been marking records with his own tag for over 25 years, capturing the attention of the Hip Hop scene with his deft sampling of Jazz, Disco, Funk and Latin tracks and infusing them with B-Boy inspired breaks. The Boston producer and DJ has contrived beats for some of the biggest names in Hip Hop and has since been making strides in the electronic music scene thanks to some infectiously groovy disco infused productions. The self proclaimed King Of Nothing has been letting his hands do the talking since 1985 and ahead of his appearance at Mint Club in Leeds next month, we got the chance to speak to the man himself to find out what has enabled him to be one of the most prolific and sought after producers of the last 20 years.
The upbringing is always one of the first and most import building blocks for the development of a musical mind, for Kon, it featured extensive research, listening to records, no matter what the genre. The likes of Al Jarreau, Dr.Buzzards Original Savannah Band, Donna Summer, Talking Heads, Rick James, Al Green, Kate Bush and Chic could all be found spinning on the household turntable, a perfect education for the would be crate digger. “I grew up with young parents that smoked a lot of weed and music was in the air. My father took me to see KISS in 1979 and it blew my mind. My parents split when I was 4 and later on my mother remarried a man who was in a band called 'Face to Face' and was signed to Epic records, they were produced by Arthur Baker and had a top hit '10-9-8'. From 1980-82 my house was filled with the likes of Spyro Gyra and other notable music acts from Boston.”
Being exposed to so much music from a young age is what Kon believes gave him the ability to intrinsically seek out even the subtlest sounds on records, an essential skill for a producer coming up in the hustle and bustle of the late 80s Hip Hop scene. “All of this chose me. At the very young age of 4, I began drumming on my fathers set and would sit and play albums like The Moody Blues and Eldorado by E.L.O. [With] so much going on musically, my ear locked in to how the arrangements were structured as well as wondering why the drums sounded different on tracks, things like that helped shape my ear” he explained.
Like so many artists, Kon owes a lot of his inspiration to the place that he grew up, alongside the records he was listening to from a young age, Boston served to help shape his sound and style as he and his crew looked to make waves. “Growing up in a rough neighbourhood of Boston certainly shaped me. I would say I am street smart. I used to be a B-boy, though I don't dance much these days, I still have that B-boy opinionated frame of mind though, a take no s**t kind of attitude.” This kind of attitude seemed ever more necessary as it is revealed the harsh realities and experiences that occurred coming up in a tough part of the city. “My high school was filled with gangs and my street in the 80s was notorious. Although it has settled down a bit, there are still shootings and a few people have been murdered on my street in recent years, that said, love is the message.”
Kon, a part of the Mikst Nutz crew, began to channel these experiences, producing a byproduct of some of the hardest Boston underground Hip Hop beats. A quick listen to Mikst Nutz and you begin to understand why drumming from a young age was crucial to Kon's future productions. The raw sounding drums are enough to draw your attention alone; the rapturous snare perfectly acompanies the flow of the MC laying it down, subtly extracted bass lines amalgamating together to form one unavoidably infectious rhythm; the type of sound that was prevalent in Hip Hop at the beginning of the nineties, most noticeably on one of Kon's favourite records of the time, Wu-Tang Clan's 36 Chambers.
In an age were collecting vinyl is on the rise, Kon's record library would put any would be vinyl connoisseur to shame, “I really do not have that many records, about 12 thousand, quality over quantity. I couldn't tell you how many I have sampled, more than a few.” It is this kind of drive to consistently seek out new sounds that has enabled him to be able to piece together so many beats through the years. Renown for his crate digging abilities, Kon believes there is no real technique to being able to unearth so many invaluable records, “these days all the best records are online... now it just takes money and resources, but the one thing money can’t buy is good taste, that you are born with”.
When he isn't sifting through his record collection, Kon finds time to indulge in the more simple pleasures in life, expressing the desire to speak more about himself than his music he informed; “I love warm weather, swimming at the beach and I hit the gym often. Cooking is also therapy. Sneakers are also an addiction and has been since the 70s . I had a pitbull who was the sweetest dog ever, died in my arms when she was 15. I also have a cat whose name is Everett, aka Big Evs, they were best buds. Evs has played keys on a few of my tracks, my secret weapon.”
Fast forward to more recent times and Kon is producing dance records that have an undeniable Hip Hop feel to them whilst continuing to remix a catalogue of tapes that producers would kill to get their hands on, his remix of Donna Summer's Bad Girl a particular standout. Not resting on his reputation Kon is continuing to make moves with a number of new projects that have the valued addition of his skills, “I have various projects going on, official remixes for Salsoul, TK, BBE and some things for Star Time as well as original work. Also working with my brother from another mother Breach/Ben Westbeech on his upcoming LP”.
Kon will be taking to Mint Club on November 13th where he will be offering an intimate insight into his 12,000 strong collection. “Disco is always on the menu, but aside from that it will depend on the crowd. I try to incorporate a bit off everything I have soaked up over all these years. Only two types of music, good and bad”.
Words by Elliot Ryder
Photos courtesy of Kon & Subotage