Filed under: Interview
“Two guys came to my house at one o clock in the morning, knocked at my door. I opened the door and they shot me. That’s the quick version of it. The police never caught the guys and they told me ‘Somebody knew that you were away and they were going to rob your house, they either thought that your girlfriend was there by herself, or you weren’t there, and when you opened the door and surprised them, they pulled the trigger’. I got shot on the day that I returned from Europe.”
Sitting in the conference suite of a 5 star luxury hotel and positively glowing with enthusiasm and vitality Detroit techno star Kenny Larkin chuckles as he recalls the moment he found himself staring down the barrel of a 357 Magnum. Flying back from an overseas DJiing jaunt, he’d gone to bed at home only to be woken by a knock at the door, which had made him nervous enough to pick up his own gun though not quite nervous enough to refuse to open the door.
“I looked outside and I saw this little black dude standing at my door. He looked about 15 years old. I was trying to reason to reason with myself – maybe his car broke down or maybe he needs my help; really stupid shit. Like an idiot I just opened the door, with my gun behind my back.”
The moment he opened the door, however, a second larger attacker lunged into view yelling at his accomplice, and charging, he recalls.
“He was running full speed, then when he saw me with this gun by my side, he just pulled out this big ass 357 and pulled the trigger. It was weird because I got tunnel vision,” he recalls.
“I zoomed in on the big gun and I saw its muzzle. The muzzle flashed, and I felt the bullet go through me. It didn’t hurt – it was like – I felt that, ow! But the first thought in my mind was ‘that wasn’t that bad’. Then I held my gun up and pulled the trigger and nothing came out, because I forgot to cock it though when I held the gun up, they both took off, then I cocked the fucker (his gun) and started shooting at them, because I didn’t want them coming back. I slammed the door and said to my girlfriend – ‘call the police, I got shot’. She was like ‘No you didn’t’. I said ‘didn’t you hear the gunshots?’, and I showed her the wound. She started screaming ‘Oh my God’ and called the police and in the meantime I’m walking around my house going – I got shot, I can’t believe I got shot, and there’s this big hunk of meat coming out of my back. Then I couldn’t stand up any more, so I had to sit down.”
In the confusion, he managed to fire off his own gun at the now fleeing attackers, prompting neighbours to call the police (‘They hated me, a black dude living with this white girl in this house with the fast car’, he laughs) who themselves treated Kenny as a criminal rather than victim when they arrived.
“The police threw a cordon round the house and eventually said to my girlfriend ‘go open the door’, so she opened the door and they kicked her to the ground. They thought it was a drug deal that went bad or some shit. Then later they were like ‘somebody came to assassinate you’. I’m like – who the fuck am I? I’m like this little nerdy ass guy, who’d want to assassinate me?”
Despite being attacked in such terrifying circumstances, Kenny admits he adopted a stoical stance to the incident, pointing out ‘after the shooting I never had one bad dream, no nightmares, I knew that I wasn’t going to die, and that was it. I cried one time when I went to Belgium, four months later and I just started crying out of nowhere, and said: ‘Thank you God’, and that was it. That was all the mourning that I did. Everything else was cool. Obviously I can’t open the door to strangers anymore, and I’ve built a studio outside the house, somewhere I can go to, and I had a gun at the studio – I didn’t want whoever coming back or whatever, but that was it,” he says.
Ten years later, his life has taken several more unexpected turns, including his decision in 2002 to quite making music altogether to concentrate on becoming a stand-up comedian. Articulate, charming and charismatic, he’s certainly suited to standing on stage, though last year he reconsidered his retirement from music to release The Narcissist and now his new album Funk Faker: Music Saves My Soul’ (released under his alter ego Dark Comedy’). Dramatically different from the techno he made his name with, the album veers from bluegrass electro to melodious techno funk (as the press release puts it) reflecting his own determination to reflect his tastes and background of a life lived to the full.
“Music Saves My Soul came from the idea of people relying on music to get them through a lot of heavy things in their life, be it gospel music, classical, or the blues,” he explains.
“Personally I rely on music to get me by a lot of stuff, like heavy things like the shooting, or a girl cheating on me, whatever.”
Interview by Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff) : You quit making music in 2002, what inspired you to start again?
Kenny Larkin : I was able to put on a new hat when I moved to LA three years ago and to start drawing from different inspirations again. For whatever reason, I started listening to older, funkier stuff, more bluesy music by people like James Brown and John Lee Hooker. I was putting all these different styles of music on my Ipod alongside thousands of other tracks and that’s when I got into the idea of listening to old stuff. Then the light went on in my head, and I thought, maybe I can be true to the music I grew up with, and add a new electronic flavour to it. I wanted to do something different that will totally differentiate this sound from what everybody else is expecting me to do. So that’s where the idea came from.
Skrufff : Jeff Mills said recently that he sees techno’s audience as ageing and said he’s now actively making music for older people, what’s your stance on that attitude?
Kenny : I’m trying to do the same as I think Jeff is doing. I’m trying to mature, he’s taken himself to the next level – he’s doing movie scores and videos and I’m trying to do the same thing – to progress to the next level. Whatever that level is, who knows? I’m not trying to stay in the same box and do the same thing over and over again, that’s so boring to me nowadays, so I’m allowing myself the freedom to do whatever my mind wants to do. It will always be electronic in nature but I can’t tell you what I’m going to do tomorrow. Tomorrow if I wake up and I want to do some electronic Brazilian salsa gospel music, I’m going to do it.
Skrufff : You’re DJing at Fabric tonight, What’s in your box?
Kenny : Funky, swingy, pumpy, jazzy, tecky stuff.
Skrufff : Is it easy to find that kind of music?
Kenny : No, because most of the music that has come out recently is shit. I can be in a record store for 2/3 hours, listen to 100 records and come out with three records. That’s the bad part. The good part is that when I don’t find new music, I make do with older music. That way I’m able to introduce older music to all these kids that are new to the scene. I can tell a story or show a history, by blending the old with the new. I’m playing Lil’ Louis’ French Kiss at the moment, and they’re asking, what’s this? They’ve never heard it before and they go crazy over it. It’s that kind of shit, being able to do that kind of stuff.
Skrufff : How are you balancing your stand up comedy career with DJing?
Kenny : It’s not easy, but I’m trying. Luckily I don’t have to work for a living – ok, what we consider work, is not really work compared to somebody waiting on table 18/19 hours a week or whatever. So when I’m at home in LA I try to pursue the comedy, and I’m trying to get on stage as much as I can. I’ve made my living for the last 15 years travelling and DJing, so that gets in the way a bit of me trying to get on stage and unfortunately a lot of the times when I’m travelling is the days when I would be onstage. So when I’m not travelling I try to get on stage and perform.
Skrufff : Your old friend Richie Hawtin talked recently about considering about buying a plane in the 90s, did the shooting experience change your attitude towards materialism such as flash cars?
Kenny : Hell, no. I still love cars, that will never change. But having said that I’m very careful that the people I have in my inner circle, are who they claim to be. I’m not blinged out like hip hop guys.
Skrufff : How much did that watch you’re wearing cost?
Kenny : It cost a penny, but you don’t see no diamond encrusted watch; it’s a Rolex….it’s like ?5,000 pounds. This is me, this is it. You’ll never see no diamond encrusted pinky ring. I like cars, I have (Porsches) 911’s and all that kind of shit. But with regard to planes, I wouldn’t do no shit like that, no.
Skrufff : Is stand up comedy as lucrative as DJing?
Kenny : No.I don’t make any money right now. I’m trying to work towards a paid regular spot at this club – The Laugh Factory. It’s still like bullshit – pennies, so I’m not trying to do comedy to make a living right now, I’m just trying to get noticed. I going to continue to do this DJ shit till that shit (comedy) pays out.
Skrufff : Is the goal become a movie comedian?
Kenny : Yes. I want to be the next Eddie Murphy. There I said it. In the 2000 and 21st century way, because he sucks now.
Skrufff : Is it right that you were also in the army at one point in your life?
Kenny : …I was in the Air Force….’86, got out in ’88.
Skrufff : Were you in any hotspots?
Kenny : If you consider Florida a hotspot. No, that was it. I actually got out early because I didn’t like the structure and the environment, plus I wanted to do stand up comedy. The air force wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and I wasn’t happy. I called my mom and said I wanted to do stand up comedy. She said come on home and do it. Pursue that shit, boy. So I went home, I started doing comedy, then I met Ritchie Hawtin at the same time and saw this new sound coming out of Detroit and I was like :Wow, what’s this? Because I always had this love for music. I had a little tiny keyboard and I’d dink out what I heard on the radio and think I can play that. I was listening to house music heavily when I was in the Air Force. In high school I started to listen to house music, and Terence Parker got me into house music, because I went to high school with him. Then in the Air Force I was best friends with a guy from Chicago, and he had all these house music records. All we used to do was play house music, so when I came home I was already tuned to that alternative sound. Then I heard this new techno shit, and I was like what the hell is this? Then I met Ritchie and we both said: yeah lets do some music together, so I got sidetracked from the comedy thing and the music took off, and I was like, OK I’ll do the music for a while and go back to the comedy later. In 1991 I started coming over to Europe and I had to make a decision whether or not to stay in school and pursue what I was doing, or just throw things up in the air and go for my artistic, go down that road. So I decided to say – fuck it, I’m going to do this music.
Skrufff : Were you technically a brilliant DJ when you started playing in public?
Kenny : Hell, no. I sucked at my first party, I fucking sucked. I played with Carl Craig in 1991, it was on a Friday, in Belgium and I totally sucked. I said I will never, ever come over here again without knowing how to DJ, that’s how bad I was. They were like: who the fuck is this guy? It was horrible, I think Carl wasn’t that good either. We just had a fucked up night. That’s when I started taking it seriously, then people started really noticing the music I was making then it really took off.
Skrufff : So you went home and practiced a lot ?
Kenny : Here’s the funny thing. I never owned turntables. I have them now, but coming up I never had turntables. Richie Hawtin was spinning in this club called the Shelter and I would go over to Ritchie’s house to practice and I got the opportunity to spin in a club where he was spinning – when he wasn’t spinning I would substitute for him. I got proficient in that way, I say proficient, not good. As the parties kept coming, I got better and better, so now it’s like second nature, but in the beginning, I sucked.
End of the interview
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