Kevin McKinney – QueTheWash

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?

Cooper FX Generation Loss V1 mix knob.  Something about the oversized knob, the smoothness with which it moved, and the symmetry of the 6 knob setup with the mix knob proudly in the middle…I ended up parting ways with it to fund the V2 and i have to say, i miss that knob.

Cooper FX Generation Loss V1

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

The Digitakt is so powerful and versatile, I have used it to make beats, ambient loops, and everything in between. For me, I have always wished that it had more playable keys/pads.  I am actually currently looking into pairing it with some kind of external pad controller to fully maximize it’s performance playability.

Elektron Digitakt

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?

The OP-1. I almost put this answer for the previous question as well, because just think if it had bluetooth! That would make the already quintessential travel companion undeniably perfect.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

I run my studio completely DAWless via the Squarp pyramid, so I don’t have much experience with software synths beyond some of the ones I play with on the iPad. There was this one I remember playing with, ‘Poseidon Synth’, that had a function where it would just randomize all the settings and leave you with something ridiculous. I think that would be fun on a piece of hardware, like say, my DSI Rev2 😛

Poseidon Synth

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I regret selling my Tascam Portastudio 424 Mk1. I ended up making a pretty penny on it thanks to the recent boom in cassette music being made, but I definitely miss it. I have other cassette recorders, but that one was something special.

Tascam Portastudio 424 Mk1

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

I compose everything at the piano and then move it to the saxophone, or my electronic gear, or wherever I envisioned it. So, while it might not technically be ‘gear’, it was my first instrument, and everything I do, both electronically and acoustically, stems from the piano.

[Editor: I’d definitely say it is gear 🙂 ]

Kawai Piano

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

If I had to start over I would probably buy a really nice audio interface first. I currently run everything into my studio through an Allen & Heath qu-16c, which acts as both mixer and audio interface for me. I have always wondered what things would sound like and how my workflow would change if I was working with an interface from Universal Audio or something comparable.

UAD Apollo

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without

Probably the Keeley compressor on my sax board. I couldn’t live without it because some of the patches I have are really hot and require the use of both a programmable EQ pedal and this compressor/limiter pedal to tame. It’s only annoying because it is not programmable like the EQ, and every time i get my board out of the case I have to readjust the knobs to where I need them.

Keeley compressor

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

A lot of people complain about the OP-1 internal engines sounding extremely digital, tinny, and somewhat like a set of children’s toys. I achieve full, warm sounds on the OP-1 pretty easily with the use of the Elektron Analog Drive at the end of the effects chain. Even just the clean boost setting with a bit of tweaking on the highs and a bit of drive goes a long way and adds a great depth of sound.

Elektron Analog Drive

Artist or Band name?

My name is Kevin McKinney. I play saxophone/effects for the stinky garage jazz band, ‘Doctor Pizza’ in Detroit, Michigan.

Doctor Pizza Stickers
Doctor Pizza Band

Genre?

I am an improviser and saxophonist, although I do a lot of ambient/soundscape work with my electronic instruments.

Selfie?

Kevin McKinney

Where are you from?

I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio.

Cleveland Ohio

How did you get into music?

I got into music as a toddler. I had a little toy piano that I carried around with me and played all the time. My parents noticed this and started piano lessons for me when I was 4 years old. I was hooked for life.

Toy Piano

What still drives you to make music?

I am a new father of boy/girl twin babies, so I have a lot of trouble finding time to make music lately. What drives me to make music, when I do have the time is definitely the way it makes me feel, and the way it can make others feel when they experience it. The rush of holding an altissimo note while the crowd screams..or, contrastingly, the calmness of playing piano alone in your studio with all the lights down… those moments are what make music making so special.

Twin Babies… seeing something hilarious

How do you most often start a new track?

I have lot of gear, so sometimes it can be a case of too many options. I like to pick one piece of gear that will be the focus for that session and then build everything around that. Sometimes I will just pick a single pedal, or a synth, or a set of drum samples…anything that can be a launching point.

Novation Bass Station

How do you know when a track is finished?

With my band and often with my own music, songs are an ever-evolving thing…I will bring in a loose idea, or a lead sheet with some basics and then we shape the rest together during rehearsal.  A lot of times solo sections, the general form of the tune, and even sometimes the melodic information are all up for discussion and debate while we are working through the new idea.  I may go back to things I created years ago and change them if I am having trouble coming up with something new.

Kevin’s band at rehearsal

Show us your current studio

Kevin McKinney’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I forget who told me this, maybe Dave Liebman?… Anyhow, I remember being in a masterclass and being told that you don’t truly know a song, a melody, a transcribed solo, or whatever it may be until you can SING it. The human voice is the most fundamental and primal of instruments and having that connection to your voice before picking up any instrument and attempting to play something is crucial. As an improviser, I try to employ this same thinking… only let out of your horn what you hear in your head as being complementary to the music that is happening around you.

Kevin singing with sax-iness

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

Check out my band Doctor Pizza! We are recording our latest album in mid July and hope to have it out later this year. We are on YouTube, Spotify and all major platforms.
www.doctorpizzaband.com

Doctor Pizza Band

Close your Eyes – Wide Open

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?

Feedback knob on my Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo. I like balancing on the edge of a wild totally uncontrollable feedback. Or even crossing this edge sometimes 🙂

Strymon El Capistan

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

Red Panda Particle 2.  For me it’s a perfect granular delay pedal. It can go from gentle reversed echoes to the wall of glitch and chaos in sound. And it’s stereo! It is important, as I use to process synths, drum machines or even groups of tracks through it.

Red Panda Particle

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?

I’ll go with Digitakt and Hokema Electro Kalimba. Digitakt is an in-a-box workstation which allows sketching, playing jams on my own or with fellow musicians, and almost to do a finished track, while this kalimba is just tiny magic.

Elektron Digitakt and Hokema Electro Kalimba

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

It’s a tricky question, because all of my favorite plugins already have hardware prototypes. At the same time, I’m not a big fan of software to wish anything hardware turned into soft.
Nonetheless, recently I discovered amazing plugins by Puremagnetik. Although they obviously have some hardware inspiration, the plugins are truly unique and have strong personality in sound and usability. So yes, I wish I could have these in hardware.

Puremagnetik Plugins

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

The only thing I got rid of without any doubt was an AKAI MPK249. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing midi controller which is perfect for its purposes, it just doesn’t work for me personally, cause I’m not really a controller-kind person. In this case I clearly realised that I cannot rely on computers in creating music. With this MPK249 in setup, I had an almighty controller and a laptop with awesome software, but I couldn’t come up with any idea for weeks.  Being honest, I actually don’t regret buying it, because it helped me finally to understand that midi-controllers are not my thing, speaking on composing workflows.
Talking about selling, I didn’t sell that much to regret something.

APC Key25 (the midi controller that stuck around)

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

Definitely my piano. If you’d do me the favour to call it “gear” 🙂

Piano money shot

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

No surprises — a piano! 🙂

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

Definitely any computer. Now I set myself a goal to reduce the computer part in my music production and live sets. However, I’m far from this right now, the computer still does lots of work. I don’t like endless possibilities which computers give, preferring a simple gear which is capable of very limited things — but does it perfectly.

MacBook

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

Turning a three-headed cassette recorder into a tape echo by creating a feedback loop on a mixer. I do it with my Marantz PMD 222, it sounds lovely.

Marantz PMD222

Artist or Band name?

closeyoureyes

Genre?

electronic

Selfie?

Close Your Eyes wide open

Where are you from?

Saint Petersburg, Russia

How did you get into music?

Melodica, Ukulele and Xylophone

I was obsessed with the idea of playing guitar in high school, so I tried to self educate. I played several bands, something like indie/funk/rock, we all know this good old story. Then I realized that composing music with the band doesn’t work for me personally, and no matter how awesome the band is. So I quitted all bands and started to search how I can do music on my own. This led me to electronic music — as a field where I can compose and perform alone. Nonetheless I still love acoustic instruments, therefore I use a lot of them in my production. Like ukulele, melodica, kalimba, flute, toy pianos, obviously not to mention guitar and piano. So the outcome is an electronic music filled with tricky processed acoustic instruments.

Pedals and Toy Pianos

What still drives you to make music?

A conviction that for me it’s the very best way to communicate with the world and to release feelings and ideas that I carry inside.

How do you most often start a new track?

I start with a piano or polyphonic synth mostly. The very first thing is the sound. Usually, I need to prepare my  piano with felt because a quiet sound with a lot of rustle going on is what I really like, and also do some experiments with mics positioning. At the same time I may apply some effects like delay or granular stuff because these effects  drastically change the way I will play the piano. When the sound is ready, the next step is to come up with a nice chord progression or/and melody. At this stage I try to catch the idea of the whole track with all its changes and turning points, and then use other instruments to amplify the emotions which are already included in the piano part.

Behringer DeepMind 12

How do you know when a track is finished?

I listen to it a lot. Mostly while walking in the streets, I listen and ask if I want to add something or get rid of it. When everything’s fine, it’s finished.

Show us your current studio

Close Your Eyes Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

There were two actually.
1) Listen to your most inner voice. You have a lot of inner voices, but there’s one that always was there since your early childhood. Find it and listen to it.
2) Start to compose with the opposite of what you used to associate with yourself. You will add all this to your common features later, but the start should be far far away from your familiar territory.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

Well it’s been a while since I released new music, but something new  is coming really soon, so I’ll leave these links in case you want to stay in touch:
instagram.com/closeyoureyesmusic
(here I share most recent news, studio sketches and some daily music related routine)
youtube.com/closeyoureyesmusic
(here I share live sets, both electronic or acoustic, gear demos, tutorials and all this YouTube stuff 🙂
And if you want to support what I do, you are always welcome to my bandcamp
closeyoureyes.bandcamp.com


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw a comment below…
]