In our latest feature interview, Panamanian duo KEENE share their early influences, life in Berlin and their go-to tools in the studio.
Over the last few years, Berlin-based brothers KEENE have slowly settled themselves deeper and deeper into the cities musical landscape. Back in 2018, the duo became a part of Watergate family, and last year they had releases on labels such as Club Bad and Nervous Records as well as their own imprint Cacao.
Despite their efforts in Berlin, the group still have strong roots back home in Panama where they manage the roster for Late Night Music’s shows giving them a chance to influence the style of music within the city that made them who they are.
In light of their latest release on Club Bad, we spoke to the duo on their achievements thus far and what they have planned next.
Interview by: Matthew Richardson
Born in Panama, how did your love for electronic music come about and at one point did you see yourself pursuing it as a career?
It has been a journey we can say. We were both exposed to a lot of music from an early age. A lot of it was electronic, but we didn’t have a clue at the time. We have two uncles who were DJs themselves too, and they would mix Depeche Mode, with disco, but also with Salsa, The lambada and Reggae too. Later on, we finally got involved with electronic music through going out with friends. Kevin started at an early age to go out in Panama City, which was predominantly dominated by what was hot in Miami at that time. But also traveled to raves in Colombia and Argentina. Creamfields in Argentina. Lloyd was attracted by a lot of trip-hop at first, but in 2007 a trip to Berlin changed his views on what was actually electronic music and the scene. In 2010, we met in Panama again and started the KEENE project until this day.
You are now based in Berlin, what was it that pushed you to move to the German city? Also can you tell us about your relationship with Watergate?
After a few years of making events and running 2 venues in Panama City, we started building a serious bond with Berlin since we would come to visit during summer, but also the music connections we developed with some labels and artists because of the events we would invite them to be part of in Panama. After three and half years of living in Berlin and going to all the nights we thought would have interesting music for us, it happened that we started to meet other regulars, the staff, and other residents. This led us to the idea of showcasing Watergate in Latin America which showed us that we could collaborate well together.
You run your own label “Cacao Records”, can you share with us the full ethos behind the project and what pushed you to start your own label?
We started Cacao 6 years ago with our brother Gonzo from Guatemala. In the beginning the idea was to make a Central American label based in Berlin, that was releasing dance floor music. Music that we would want to play as DJs too. It was meant also to be a place where we could express ourselves through music the way we wanted to, and at the same time gives us the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded friends and artists in general. Now that Gonzo is not anymore with us, the label has morphed naturally towards KEENE, and we have taken the opportunity to explore our Panamanian heritage of cultural diversity. Not only from a human perspective, but specially from the music, visual and cultural side of the tale.
With 2021 coming to an end, what are your goals for 2022?
Even though the coronavirus has been a nightmare and we don’t even know if we’re over with it. It has also showed us how resilient we can be and made us leave our comfort zone in order to grow as artists and humans. In 2022 it makes sense to continue on this path of musical explorations and new collaborations. We would love to see our Cacao City project get some consistency in Berlin and in Panama our new Late Night Music project called Panama Crossroads become a new important chapter on the evolution of its young electronic music scene.
What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
On all fronts, as DJs, event producers and venue owners, and also as label owners; that we have somehow always been naturally attracted to creating our own space, on telling our own stories.
Currently what are your three favourite pieces of equipment in the studio, and what sets them apart from the rest?
We have started to work with a lot of samples during the past years. The time stretching tool has become super important now for us. Our upcoming Club Bad release is the living proof of that.
Then the xoxbox 303 clone gave us the chance to bring some acid lines while being very different from the original Roland. Lastly, the Maschine MK3. After going through the 1 until the 3, this piece of software/hardware is one of the most powerful rhythm machines we have ever worked with.
If you could produce a track with any artist past or present, who would it be and why?
Nina Simone. Underrated pianist, unique voice, and a supernatural capacity to express through harmony.
On the 3rd of December, you’re going to be releasing a new EP on Melé’s Club Bad. What can you tell us about it?
We’re super excited about this one. We’ve been following Krissy (Melé) for a few years now, and then when they came up with the label, it became one of these labels where we would like to release music for sure. It is a two tracker that combines stories and memories from the late 80s, early 90s on it. ‘Legendary Mother’ features some percussive tendencies, bells, trumpets, and vocal cuts from the Golden Era of the ball movement in NY. ‘Central’ is a Brazilian funk influenced house track that reflects memories from a place in our hometown’s city center called “Avenida Central”. Images from both places at that time were somehow similar to us.
KEENE ‘Avenida Central’ EP is out now on Club Bad.