An Old School Soul Prospering In A New School World – Interview w/ Kennedy Jones

*written by A’Damaged Pro

Welcome aboard Buygore Airlines, where the horizon of possibility is just a track away. Please sign your waivers and prepare yourselves. Kennedy Jones is your Captain for the day. Enjoy the ride.

Some call him “Mr. Suavamente 2013.” Some refer to him simply as one of Buygore’s rapidly rising stars. Nicknames aside, the man known as “Kennedy Jones” has more layers than he has aliases. He illuminates the method to his madness by exploring: the driving forces behind his music, the direction he wants to take his craft, and the inevitable evolution of the EDM scene.

A’Damaged Pro: Where did you grow up?

Kennedy Jones: Not sure if I am grown up yet so ask me that question in like ten years. I can tell you I was born in Orange, California then moved around Southern California most of my life between Corona/OC.

A’Damaged Pro: What were your earliest musical influences?

Kennedy Jones: Merle Haggard, Michael Jackson, Daft Punk, Etta James, Marvin Gaye, Rage Against The Machine, Dr. Dre, Nate Dogg, Britney Spears, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Justin Bieber. That’s just to name a few.

A’Damaged Pro: When did you realize that you wanted to start making music?

Kennedy Jones: Since I was a kid, I was always involved with something musical. I started really seriously playing percussion in 3rd/4th grade and just never left it alone. I always messed around with DAW’s but didn’t really try to do anything too serious until I was about 18/19. Prior to that, I was making hip-hop and recording verses with Maddox and other producers. One day I just decided; I am not “just a MC,” I’m a musician and there is no reason to not go for what I want!

A’Damaged Pro: What equipment did you start with?

Kennedy Jones: Production-wise, I started with an OLD Gateway desktop as a youngster, then had an IBM that I got from a very dear friend, then graduated to a Lenovo that mimicked an old school Gameboy.  I worked and learned on that as much as I could until the CPU simply couldn’t handle it anymore. I then I had a monster of a PC built, thanks to Joey and Jeff (@ObsidianMusik and @Jrabbitmusic) and I work on that now.  Just added a new latptop to my arsenal which sports a 4th generation i7 so I am excited to push the limits with that thing while I am on the road, which seems to be a lot lately.

A’Damaged Pro: Do you feel that where you’ve lived has affected your style of music?

Kennedy Jones: Of course. Where I have lived and with whom I have lived really shaped my musical idea.  When I was young, I lived back and forth between divorced parents who both were very keen on music.  My father was HUGE into old country, old rock and roll, Motown, blues…Old school stuff.  I wanted to hate it but I couldn’t, some of the songs were incredibly catchy and somewhat relevant to what I went through as a kid so I stayed into it.  My mom was the more liberal type when it came to music and thank god!  She introduced me to really really epic Rock and Roll like Genesis, Journey, Sublime, Heart, and other bands like that. Also, she let me pretty much shape my musical idea a lot more freely than my father. I was growing up smack dab in the middle of the Biggie/Pac beef and damn did that make me a die hard West Coast Hip Hop fan. I grew older and fell in love with underground hip hop from New York / East Coast tho.  Stuff like Non-Phixion, Apathy, Brother Ali to name a few.  That stuff really made me start writing poetry/hip hop at a young age. You can hear it in the hip hop tunes I release now I feel like and man am I glad. In Orange/Anaheim and Corona, there was always a huge presence of mainstream kids that liked whatever was cool at the time and of course there were the “Back That Ass Up” and “I Wanna Know” type songs that would never get old but I always found myself surrounded by a group of music fans/musicians that found the dopest music with me that only a select crowd knew about.  That’s why in my live sets today, you will hear me sometimes play a song that 30% of the audience is singing at the top of their lungs and the other 70% is pretending to know it.  That’s just me showing ya’ll I know what’s up and I am a real person. Not just some DJ guy.

A’Damaged Pro: Who are some artists that inspire you?

Kennedy Jones: Really this sounds cliche, but every artist inspires me in their own way.  If I had to name one it would probably have to be Brother Ali. The dude is an incredible person. This man has a rare condition of Albinism which has caused him to become legally blind and the man makes hip hop tunes about just keeping it real and doing the right thing. Enlightened by pure life experience and an extreme amount of education in the best way. I don’t mean college, I mean just go getter education, learning the absolute most he can about what he believes in. On top of all of this, he has a family of which he takes excellent care of. Here’s a guy that has been picked on his whole life, moved around constantly, and keeps a spiritual balance so well that he makes music that would shut the biggest cynical asshole right up. Literally one of the most uplifting and inspirational person to ever walk this earth in my opinion.

A’Damaged Pro: What aspects of their music speak to you directly?

Kennedy Jones: The authenticity and reality that Brother Ali talks about in his music is what speaks directly to me.  Taking it a step further and understanding him as an artist in the abstract and applying it to myself. You can tell that he is a self-taught, headstrong, and incredibly driven individual that I look up to greatly. He talks about some subjects that for the average person can be somewhat uncomfortable but I admire that. They are usually elephant in the room topics that need to be spoken on.  Anyone that knows me knows I am that guy.  I will say what others are thinking and I try to do it with respect, dignity, and in some kind of informed fashion but you can’t please everyone, lol.  Being authentic is what I am all about, it’s literally something I can not control.  I spent my whole life moving from city to city, musical circle to circle, was always the new guy, and on top of it, the new “redhead” guy.  I was always looking for ways to fit in with the people I would meet until one day when I was about 13 I said “Fuck It”.  Fuck trying to impress everyone or look and act like them.  Fuck trying to get what they had so I was the same as them.  My mom (who is my best friend) has always been the biggest advocate of living with authenticity and dignity and that day something just clicked. From then on, I always just lived as me, myself. I pursued hip hop, lyricism, musicianship, composition, and family like my life depended on it.

A’Damaged Pro: How would you like your music to speak to others?

Kennedy Jones: In so many words, I just want my music to say, “Hey, I am here and will always be”. I want to write timeless music that can make you feel what you’re trying to feel.  There are so many songs in history that just will never get old.  With Electronic Dance Music, it is so awesome to have such an open playing field to incorporate a sound or a feel without even using vocals.  Some songs I write, much like “Butterfly Effect” (Kennedy Jones and Soul Define) (http://tinyurl.com/n8n3p33), that came out on the Buygore All Stars Volume 2 earlier this month (September 2013), contain lyrics and a feel to them because I want to help someone going through the same things that I am when I write the tune.  As you can tell, that one’s about a bad break up lol.  Then you hear a hip hop tune like “Your Excuse” (http://tinyurl.com/nxc4bgm) which I released earlier this year and you can hear that I am just trying to explain my position where I was at that time in my life.  Then, there’s tunes like “Suavemente” (Kennedy Jones Remix) (http://tinyurl.com/cnrlmk2) that I make purely to see people having a good time.  I feel like alot of the EDM songs I make have that idea in mind.  When you look at a song like “You Lose” (Kennedy Jones Ft. Nikki Rose) (http://tinyurl.com/lfpbc5v), that was an awesome thing for me to try out.  Blending the Trap/R&B/Dubstep feel with a phenomenal vocalist talking about a love story gone wrong made me so excited to see the responses.  I still get tweets today talking about how those tunes are “on repeat” when someones going through a tough time and that is the most special thing in the world for me to experience.

A’Damaged Pro: You called the “Trap” scene “wide open.”  Could you elaborate on that?

Kennedy Jones: When I said the “trap” scene is “wide open”, I meant that I am constantly seeing people online calling a progressive house song that is just made by a predominately “trap artist”, trap.  That is a bad thing of course because it confuses the masses who are not well versed on the genres BUT it’s also great because we are in a way, fooling these “Hardcore Trap/Bassheads” into enjoying other genres of EDM that they normally would not.  For example, when Dubstep was at its peak, I personally wasn’t leaving a Noisia set to go watch Avicii on another stage.  I wasn’t running to watch Calvin Harris while Funtcase played.  I loved heavy bass music more than house/trance/progressive at that time.  Then you get a genre like Trap that comes out of nowhere and all of a sudden you have those same “hardcore bassheads” partying to songs like Kill The Noise – “Roots” (Brillz Remix) that go from a Trap oriented drum pattern to four on the floor with a HUGE lead over it.  At 140 BPM or not, ladies and gentleman, you now have been exposed to a four on the floor type tune that you actually fell in love with.  I feel like out of nowhere all of my Dubstep/DNB supporters were all of a sudden HUGE Progressive House Fans.  My song “Came To Party” (http://tinyurl.com/knf9v5p) that I released on Mad Decent earlier this year was a prime example of this.  I had spoke of this concept with my dear friend and manager at the time, Steven Pahel, and said that I was going to make a tune, at 140, that sounded like Dutch house but later in the tune would transition into a trap breakdown and we would see of which genre would be more fond of that tune.  The vote was obvious when the tune came out and it really was well liked by trap enthusiasts over House Heads, in my opinion. The first drop of that tune is 140 four on the floor, NOT “Trapstyle” but everyone accepted it as a “Trap Song”.  I love that.  I love that a genre came into play and allowed musicians to just be musicians again.  I <3 ALL OF YOU FOR THAT!

A’Damaged Pro: Now that you have officially established yourself with the “Kennedy Jones” project, are you more open to collaborations, having solidified yourself as a solo force?

Kennedy Jones: That is a very good question. Skrillex and Pendulum have been begging me to form a supergroup for a long time now and I have had to turn them down sadly enough.  I have been too busy producing Lil Wayne and Katy Perry’s new album that I just don’t have time (completely kidding, would be awesome tho, lol).

As of right now, Kennedy Jones project still has many sides to show so for now yes, solo force. I had a project prior to this one with my brother, my best friend, Maddox that was predominately heavy bass music with hip hop/grime inspired vocals.  I had to put that one on hold to get the Kennedy project going. However, recently, Maddox came with me to play DC, NY, and Philly and MC’d my set and we still have that on-stage chemistry.  So keep an eye out in the future for collaborations and side projects maybe. As far as musical collaborations go, I am working with Ookay right now on our debut collab song and am working with a few undisclosed artists. You should have more information as soon I get closer to completion dates!

A’Damaged Pro: With the recent success of your track, “Came to Party,” making moves is nothing new to you.  Any projects on the horizon we should be on the lookout for?

I have a new progressive house song called “Uprise” that I have been playing out quite often that I will be releasing on Buygore, I believe, in the coming months.  Uprise isn’t the only original I have plans to release, but it will be the most recent release when this is published lol.  Also, of course more remixes and bootlegs will be given to supporters for good behavior.

A’Damaged Pro: If you had to pursue only one aspect, either DJing or Producing, which would it be?

Kennedy Jones: Man that is such a tough question.  I would have to say music production because without that, there wouldn’t be any DJs.  There would be no music unless the DJ only played AC/DC and stuff like that. I am a musician to the very core of my existence and could not survive without creation.

A’Damaged Pro: What is your dream gig?

Another tough question.  I feel like after I answer this question I will look back on this interview in five years and either laugh or cry lol. When I started, I thought my dream gig was anywhere in Miami, Avalon Hollywood, or The Fonda Theater, having played all three of those now, I would have to say EDC Las Vegas Main Stage.  That would be an incredible feeling to have so many people come to watch me share my music with such a grand audience. Hopefully, that will happen for me sooner than later and I say that with full knowing of just how much work that will take to get there.

A’Damaged Pro: Do you feel artists have a responsibility to scout new acts to keep the craft moving forward?

Kennedy Jones: Absolutely. Borgore picked me up after he heard a remix I made of “Mutfakta” and after I showed him my whole catalog, he was willing to put me on Buygore.  Right after that, at Dim Mak Studios Hollywood, I was MCing my LAST SHOW as “Klepto” EVER.  gLAdiator, Sliink, and Trapaholics played that night.  Closing the night was a little masked dude named Ookay.  I decided to stay and MC until the very end as it was after all, my last MC gig I was going to take.  A small crowd of about 60 people stayed to watch Ookay close the night out.  Dude had this place on FIRE right out of the gate. Two songs into his set, I hear one of my tunes.  Another ten minutes goes by, another one of my tunes.  I was flattered and also stoked because Ookay had no idea that the ginger MC standing next to him in fact made those.  In between my songs were a BUNCH of Ookay’s originals and remixes.  The dude’s stage presence was UNMATCHED and ability to DJ was stellar.  After the gig, I approached him and gave him props.  Got his contact info and had him come hang out with my manager and I for a day.  I wanted to make sure that this guy got the love he deserved.  Steven and I showed Asaf (Borgore) Ookay’s music and immediately he wanted to meet with him.  The rest is history.  I am so honored that Ookay and I got the opportunity that we did with Buygore.  All that because one artist, (Borgore) and Steven (another one of my “brothers, my best friend) believed in pushing the craft forward by bringing in new talent.

A’Damaged Pro: Does “Friends in Low Places” makes you want to sing?

Kennedy Jones: Of course. I think I am going to upload a YouTube video of me singing it completely Karaoke style now

https://twitter.com/KennedyJonesTHO
https://soundcloud.com/kennedyjones
https://www.facebook.com/officialkennedyjones