One might not expect that multi-talented artist Rey&Kjavik is originally from the Rhine-Main-area hence his chosen DJ- and producer-moniker and also because of his eclectic musical approach. But matter of fact Rey&Kjavik is one of the few artists that represents the once so blooming region in the middle of Germany, whilst ‘blooming’ is to be understood in regards to the current development in the electronic music scene and its subcultural life in the Rhine-Main-area. Unfazed by the aforementioned the artist just released his second long-player, ‘Mountiri’, on his own label RKJVK, which depicts two topics the artist wants to emphasize: a holistic musical approach combined with cultural diversity – just like Rey&Kjavik’s hometown, just like Rey&Kjavik’s life as a touring DJ. Shortly before the release of ‘Mountiri‘ Torture the Artist caught up with the artist to gather some more insights to the album release, the local subculture and much more. Additionally enjoy a very special mix by the artist while diving deep into the interview.
Torture the Artist: Hello Alex, tell us something about your day.
Rey&Kjavik: I woke up early and started the day with a cappuccino by a little Italian place in Offenbach where you can find me very often in the mornings. Afterwards, I went to the studio for an all-day interview marathon. Frankfurt is grey and wet when I look out of the window – a good day for interviews. Tonight I’m playing in Paris and have to catch the train later today. So, quite busy as usual these days.
Torture the Artist: A new album of yours, ‘Mountiri’ is about to be released on your very own label, RKJVK. ‘Mountiri’ is a neologism and, therefore, a word that has never been used before. Aside from this intentional or unintentional move to be on top of every search-engine, what’s the idea behind the word, and what does it represent to you personally?
Rey&Kjavik: Basically it’s pretty simple. ‘Mountiri’ is a result of the journey that I went through in the studio last January when I produced the album. I still use a notebook – even in times of smart-phones – in which I write all my ideas. When it comes to the point that I need track names or anything like this, I’m always prepared. This time round, the name came to my mind on a road trip through the mountains of Spain. My first album was called ‘Rkadash’ (arkadas is the turkish word for friend), and my second one is now called ‘Mountiri’, and I like it a lot. I will never think about search engines or anything promotional when it comes to names. The best example is my artist name – it’s very difficult to get for a lot of people. Also, my music is very personal to me, and so is everything around it like the names or artworks too. Rey&Kjavik and ‘Mountiri’ is me in every point of today.
Torture the Artist: ‘Mountiri’ is a concept album and – according to the press release – it follows the ‘good old style of a mixtape’. How difficult was it for you to remain with a certain creativity to make the tracks fit into the concept of the album? And, linked to the question before, does the album follow either a mental or a more logical approach?
Rey&Kjavik: There was never a plan to do an album; the album planned itself in January when I took time off from touring for an entire month. I used the time to be in the studio, and the result was ‘Mountiri’. I think the mixtape type of thing came in because the whole process was done in one consistent flow. The way that I worked on ‘Mountiri’ was different than before; I could felt the steps that I made and I loved it. I just let it happen and tried to capture that particular time into the music. My mood and emotions are completely in there, as always. I ́m very happy with the result.
Torture the Artist: Coming back to the ‘mixtape’. As widely known, mixtapes used to be a common medium in Hip-Hop culture and have experienced a sort of revival within the past couple of months. To what extent does the approach of the mixtape date back to your musical past, or is it rather that you’re just fascinated by the medium itself?
Rey&Kjavik: I remember my first tapedeck and my first tape like it was yesterday. I even remember where and when exactly in my room I pressed play for the first time. Tape was my first own physical music experience as a kid, so I thought, why not bring it back for my album?
The sound seems to go deep in one specific direction, and not with the typical dancefloor arrangements or with a classic DJ tune in there.
Torture the Artist: What made you decide to come up with a concept album in the first place; was it something done intuitionally or more a strive to find a different approach to your music? Or was it even perhaps because a concept album represents a journey more clearly, meaning you start at one point and arrive at another?
Rey&Kjavik: Totally with intuition. In the period where ‘Mountiri’ was happening, I was sure about everything with it. The way I worked on it was different; after every piece I could see more and more the whole picture. You could hear that this would be a longplayer, and not an EP. The sound seems to go deep in one specific direction, and not with the typical dancefloor arrangements or with a classic DJ tune in there; it was just not the sound and time for it. It was all perfect like this for me.
Torture the Artist: As each track most likely has a personal meaning or represents a situation/event in your life, what’s your favorite anecdote or story to tell for one of the tracks from the album, and why?
Rey&Kjavik: This time, the whole album tells the story; the meaning is in there, and it came straight from my soul. That ́s how ‘Mountiri’ was born. It’s true that situations in life bring music and creativity to a certain level and I’m always up to let this influence my work in the studio. The story for ‘Nahimana’, for example, came together on a walk through Venice Beach, where Indians on the street sang a song. I tried to capture that vibe in my head and used it for reference the whole time creating the song.
The biggest challenge is to say: that ́s it, I ́m done and happy with this. I always try not to overthink it whilst I ́m working in the studio.
Torture the Artist: What challenges did you find with the album, including the issues that you might have encountered at a personal level, and how did you overcome them?
Rey&Kjavik: The biggest challenge is to say: that’s it, I’m done and happy with this. I always try not to overthink it whilst I’m working in the studio. I just let it all happen and trust my method. ‘Mountiri’ is maybe not the thing that people were waiting for or thinking of, but I love the result of this period, and that’s the most important point of all.
Torture the Artist: You’re touring quite a lot, and the interval between your last album and ‘Mountiri’ is round about one and a half years. While other artists tend to take off some time from touring you barely do.
Rey&Kjavik: It’s a big part of my music, influences and life to tour a lot out there and travel the world. I ́m also not a guy who thinks in time frames, so there is no problem for me to release another album after one and a half years if I feel like it. As I said before, ‘Mountiri’ was not planned at all; it just happened and I will never stop me during the creative times that I’m into. That would be a failure (in my opinion) and I will never work against my ideology. I always travel with all my stuff and I enjoy using the time on the road – in planes or trains – to produce music. I think that time flies for all of us and my travel time is never somehow lost in that way. That’s a work flow that I developed for myself over the last couple of years.
Torture the Artist: How do you remain creative with such a busy schedule, how do you give yourself a break from your job as an artist and what does an ordinary day in the life of Rey&Kjavik look like?
Rey&Kjavik: I don’t see this as a job, that’s why I don’t feel like I work a lot. I just do what I love, wherever and as much I want. That’s a gift and I’m thankful for that great possibility! An ordinary day is: wake up, have breakfast & coffee and then start the day. Most likely I’m in the studio or having meetings with my team. It’s a full-time passion and eats a lot of time when it comes to doing anything else except this. We also do the bookings, management and label work in-house, which gives me and my team full control over our goals – but also a full schedule.
Torture the Artist: Speaking of touring, what are three items that you always have to have in your hand-luggage, and what are the reasons why?
Rey&Kjavik: Oh that’s easy: my macbook, a midi-keyboard and headphones to produce whenever there’s time for it. This way I always can capture my ideas in music and do what matters the most – being happy.
Torture the Artist: What’s noticeable when it comes to your productions is the fact that you barely feature other artists on your tracks. Firstly, do you wish to keep your tracks as ‘Rey&Kjavik’-like as possible, and secondly, what’s an artist that you would love to work with on one of your future productions?
Rey&Kjavik: I did work with a few vocal artists before and will also be doing so in the future. There are certain plans for this in the coming months. For now, it’s good as it is – and I don’t feel as though I was missing anything – but if it comes to the point that the universe brings us together then I’m open for that. I don’t have someone in mind yet, but people out there will know it too when a collaboration arises.
Torture the Artist: The album and the way that it’s produced is proper remix material. Knowing from past releases of yours, you seem to appreciate a varying musical approach to your music; what’s an artist that you’d be keen to do a remix of one of the album’s tracks, and which track should get the remix-treatment?
Rey&Kjavik: I stopped producing dance floor tracks only but at the same time I appreciate having a club version of the tracks that did not aim at the dance floors in the first place, so having other artists remixing one of my tracks feels great. For ‘Mountiri’ the remixes are on its way. We’ll be announcing the names and remixes soon. Which track the several artists choose, though, is not my decision – the artist having complete control is what matters and I will never give them directions.
One idea we maybe missed in recent years is to stick together and support each other.
Torture the Artist: You are one of the few artists from the Rhine-Main area that has made an impact on the electronic music scene in recent years. Still, it’s a pity to say that the region has lost its attraction regarding its subcultural identity, and even long-time representatives like Roman Flügel have left. What makes you stay in the Rhine-Main area and to what extent is it of your interest that the region has a flourishing subcultural scene?
Rey&Kjavik: Thank you! Yes, that’s right, the last years have been hard for the scene. A lot of important clubs have closed over the years and artists did move out of the area. The scene has lost some of the old heroes. The impact of Frankfurt and Offenbach for the international scene is still there if you look at who had their roots over here. One idea we maybe missed in recent years is to stick together and support each other. As you can see by our soccer team, Eintracht Frankfurt, they have great support, are famous all over the world and I think it’s because of the great community and the unbreakable love for their city. The city’s government also needs to care for the music scene and ist nightlife too. The rents are impossible – it doesn’t really open the market for alternative clubs or art-spaces. Maybe a night mayor – like in Amsterdam or London – could help out here too. If you like to be an international city you don’t just need more and more industries and banks; the nightlife and diversity is needed so that a scene can grow and be interesting again for creatives and musicans. The point why I haven’t moved until now is because of my family and friends. I grew up here in the area and have lived here my whole life – here is my base. Also, I think that if you grow up in a big city, it’s not really necessary to move to another big city. Berlin would indeed be interesting as nearly everyone is there, so the scene there can have more of an impact than here right now, but I travel the world by doing my passion and feel at home when I come back. So I will stay in Frankfurt.
Torture the Artist: To what extent do you still participate in the local subculture and its life, knowing that you played your part quite well before becoming ‘Rey&Kjavik’?
Rey&Kjavik: Since I play and travel so much, it’s not that easy anymore to do a lot more than call this place mine and the RKJVK label home. Before that time I ran festivals, concerts, events, bookings, and I was editor-in-chief of a Nightlife Magazine. But I’m always up for new stuff and to help out or share my ideas, whenever it’s needed.
Torture the Artist: Who’s a person you’d appreciate to be abducted by aliens?
Rey&Kjavik: There isn’t any specific person that I have in mind, but I would love to travel back in time to see New York and London in the old days, around the late 19th to the beginning of the 20th Century. That would be interesting I think.
Torture the Artist: Thank you for taking your time to talk to us.
Rey&Kjavik: Thank you for the invitation!
Interview by Holger Breuer