British producer Blawan first surfaced on vinyl in 2010 and almost immediately, the magnetism of his creations pulled a sizable chunk of the post-dubstep sphere toward techno. Since then, he’s continued to craft dark, hulking pieces of modular techno, both solo and with collaborative projects like Karenn and Trade. Now residing in Berlin, Blawan doesn’t often sit down for interviews, but with his new Kilner alias debuting this week via the Walk Type EP on Shifted’s Avian label, the elusive artist chats with host Shawn Reynaldo for RBMA Radio’s First Floor about his musical past, present and future.
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When you started putting out records, there was a lot of attention around your music, but in the past few years it seems like you’ve been maintaining a lower profile. Are you purposely staying out of the spotlight these days?
I’m not a very outgoing person. It’s the age-old scenario of “let the music do the talking.” I stepped back from the whole press game and tried to concentrate on producing something real rather than just talking about stuff.
In the interviews that you have given, and also on social media over the years, you’ve mentioned that you deal with some kind of chronic illness. I don’t want to pry too much, but are you all right?
Yeah, I’m all right. I’m not dying or anything. Without going into too much detail, it’s an ongoing problem that can affect me quite quickly and over the past few years, it’s had quite a dramatic impact on whether or not I’ve turned up to or have been physically able to play shows. Ask anyone who’s got a chronic problem: you really wish you didn’t have it, but there’s not much you can do and so you just have to live with it. As my tour schedule got heavier I found that it was more difficult to keep under control, so at this moment in time I’m just trying to find a balance.
Why did you decide to create a different alias for this EP?
It gives me a fresh avenue. It’s not other people’s preconceptions that I was worried about – it was more my own. Everyone knows that it was me who wrote the record, but people who do multiple aliases find that when you attach a different label and name to a production or project, you’re immediately in a different frame of mind in the studio and your goals are very different. When I did the release for Avian – the Kilner thing – I needed a fresh goal.
Listening to the Kilner record, the thing that really jumps out is that the tracks are not “functional” club tracks. Were you trying to make something that was more experimental?
Yeah, I definitely was. They were supposed to be “useful” for the club but it never turned out like that. I never even intended it to be for Avian, to be honest. That came after I did the first six or seven tracks as demos, trying out some new bits of equipment that had this raw, gritty sound; I really liked it and I did the album’s recordings from the same setup.
Do you think that you’ll continue to make Kilner material in the future, or was this a one-off project?
I really enjoyed it. Obviously, you constantly worry what it’s going to sound like on the sound system in the club, whereas with the Kilner stuff I’m not worried about peaking frequencies and some of it sounding harsh because that’s the whole point of it. It’s very refreshing for me to have an open door to do whatever.
You moved to Berlin last year. Berlin is known for techno, but when you were living in the UK, you were putting out more techno-sounding releases than a lot of your peers (who were still messing around with post-dubstep or bass music). Nowadays, though, it seems like lots of young producers are making raw, dark techno. Do you feel like you helped start a trend?
I don’t know, man. I couldn’t really say that, to be honest. I was definitely part of a group of guys that were playing around with that stuff because we were into post-dubstep, but we were always really into house and techno anyway. A few of us were already playing around with different stuff and thinking about how we could incorporate a sound that we were getting known for into a more functional type of music. In my world, it just took some time for us to develop and get accepted into the techno scene.
I have seen a steady rise, though, and it seems endless at the moment. You can speak to people like Surgeon and they will tell you that [this music] is probably bigger now than it was in the ’90s. There were definitely a bunch of others who really wanted to move it in that direction.
You have to give a lot of credit to certain clubs like fabric and Berghain – they gave people like me [a chance]. When I got into techno, it was when the whole minimal thing destroyed this kind of techno in the early ’00s. I missed the heyday of it, but fabric was my first real experience of hearing the music that I loved actually functioning properly in a club. I hadn’t really been exposed to that in London. It was the same with a lot of my friends who were involved in the labels that I was involved with. We had these great experiences and we could see ourselves playing in places like this.
This is a pretty deep subject, to be honest, but the scene that we were involved in had run its course, I think. Inspiration-wise, it dried up – or at least it felt like that – and we were striving to find something more interesting. That’s why we drifted into techno, really.
Is there anything that you can tell me about what we can expect from Blawan next year? Do you think you’ll make a Blawan album?
Yeah. Without saying too much, [an album] has definitely been in the planning process for a little while. It’s something that I’m spending a lot of my time on at the minute (but it’s going very slowly, I might add). I would imagine that maybe [it will be released] next year at some point. There will be some more EPs, probably another Bored Young Adults and Kilner thing and a few remixes. Hopefully, if I can find some time and if I’m happy with what comes out, there should be an album at some point soon.