**Featured Image Photography by Gabriel Iriarte**
We are proud to announce that Kevin Salinas (Mufunka) is our newest Producer Dojo Purple Belt and Class of 808 Ninja of the month. Kevin has been featured on 6 Producer Dojo Cyphers (Cypher 3, Cypher 4, Cypher 5, Cypher 7, Cypher 11, Cypher 13) and he’s got a scorching hot EP in the works for future release on the Producer Dojo label. In this interview, Kevin shares insightful details about his musical journey and expounds on the importance of time management and following your dreams with courage.
Kevin, tell us about your musical journey and how did it lead you to ill.gates, The Producer Dojo and the Class of 808?
I grew up listening to my older brother’s CD collection which led to a really eclectic taste at an early age ranging from 60’s psychedelia to early west coast hip hop to UK breaks and dnb. I had an interest in making music but never really had any desire to release or perform. I found ill.gates when bassnectar first dropped ‘mesmerizing the ultra’ and I went digging for similar artists. Fast forward many years I saw a remix contest for ‘Flying (ft. stephen jacobs),’ I knew that my skills were nowhere near the level they needed to be at to win, but I couldn’t resist the idea that I might get feedback from THE ill.Gates so i entered with a really sloppy (not in the good way) remix. The contest got a massive amount of entries and I realized that there is no way in hell someone as busy as Dylan, with as many tracks to go through, would ever feel the need to hit me up. I was shocked and humbled that he cared enough to extend the contest by another 3 weeks so he could properly listen to all of the submissions. Eventually I got an email with feedback on my track and in this email I realized a few things about him and the dojo… He was able to see where I was trying to go with my music; He would never influence my music in a way that would make my art “not mine” (I have trouble finding the proper words for this); and I was able to see that the dojo was more than just a school or a label, I saw a collective, a community that I actually wanted to be a part of. Shortly after that I took the plunge and joined the Class of 808.
Where are you from originally? Can you describe your life using only song titles?
Chicago born and raised,
Firestarter – prodigy
Recreational Chemistry – .moe
On the run – pink floyd
Pick Yourself Up – Big K.R.I.T
Reverberation – The 13th Floor Elevators
What made you want to become a music producer? What do you do when you are not producing music?
The very first time I heard a wobble was at a rave in Chicago and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I had never seen an actual synth before so I had no understanding of what that sound was and I remember thinking “if I wanted to make this at home tonight, what the hell would i need to do it?” From this moment on I have had a burning passion for sound design. I still remember it too, it was smooth, phat and harmonic, definitely a square wave not a saw. I can now make that sound in less than 10 seconds on hardware I’m used to. My ultimate goal is to create the same experience for others.
Music is my life so when I’m not producing, I’m at home listening and out at local events pretty much every week. I’m not sure what would happen if I went a month without music but it wouldn’t be pretty.
I don’t really leave myself with time to read anymore but I love sci-fi and there’s been a ton of good shows (I’m super stoked for the next seasons of Westworld, Altered Carbon and the venture bros).
You’ve had some interesting live shows recently. Can you share your experience with us and let us know what’s coming up?
Well I’ve had 3 gigs so far with Moonsplatta that have all been wildly different. The first was opening up for iLL.Gates and Stylust Beats at this butcher shop in Chicago that happens to have a dope venue in the back. I was super nervous because this would be my first time performing for a crowd and my first time using cdjs but I’m happy to say that it went way better than I expected!
The next show was in a nice looking nightclub that probably had no idea that a bunch of wooks were about to flood the place. I felt way more confident this time around and was super happy to see a crowd of maybe 40-50 people really gettin’ down to our set! It was the first time I ever saw a stranger whip out a phone and record us.
Most recently we closed out this smallish loft party after UHNK [Shout out to fellow Chicago dojo fam Pawel L.P. for putting that together and then booking us]
My next show will be a solo set opening for Black Carl! and Murkury in Chicago. Im hella stoked for this one, while mixing at home I realized that most of my set consists of unreleased tracks that I’ve been fine tuning for the past year and they really make me want to dance.
What is your recording studio set up like?
It’s not 😛 — I just moved into a new apartment and I’ve been torn between buying a larger desk or some monitor stands… lately I’ve been using my AKG k702 cans and after testing them against some more expensive monitors, I found that they sounded very close so I keep putting it off.
Also, I definitely use a lot of gear that isn’t mine. I have a huge collection of mudpies that I have recorded on other dojo members’ gear that I constantly rip sounds from. If you look at moonsplatta’s answer to a similar question in his album release interview you will see all the gear I use. Besides that I’ve downsized my plugin folder and have been working with the ableton stock synths and effects for a bunch of my recent sound design.
What are your plans for your music (both near-term and long-term goals)?
Near term I’d like to expand my reach outside of Illinois. I’d love to play my music out at spots like the black box and wormhole. I recently released a track thru the west coast collective Fuzzy Puddles which I’m honored to be a part of. I’m currently in talks with another west coast label that I am a big fan of for releasing some of the weirder shit I’ve been working on.
Long term, I hope to build a legit connection with my audience. I hope to see familiar faces in the crowd over time. As for the general experience I want to create, I am aiming to paint something very specific. Very particular visuals with the right sound to help the listener transition to a dimension of pure beauty. I don’t believe I will ever feel like it is perfected but every new try should result in something unique and hopefully more breathtaking than the last. I think it will be something that people will want to experience and be a part of.
What are the top 3 “game changing” lessons that you learned as a member of the Class of 808?
The importance of contrast – If everything is loud, nothing is loud. Things like negative space are critical to a balanced contrast in your art.
The value of time – It is the one single thing you cannot get more of… value your time and use it wisely! (that also means free time… give yourself free time to just live!!!)
Stereo Imaging techniques – I am still learning more about stereo imaging but it is fascinating how we have the ability to trick the mind with psychoacoustics and how many different techniques there are for creating the illusion of depth.
If you could go back 10 years ago and advise your younger self of just 1 thing, what would that advice be?
It’s ok to be different. Other people’s expectations mean nothing, don’t ever let them hold you back from accomplishing your dreams and generally being you. It’s your story, feel free to throw a plot twist in whenever you want.
Do you ever experience writer’s block in the studio? How do you overcome it? How often do you make music?
I experience writer’s block pretty often in the studio… There are a couple things I like to do to stay productive at times like this.
1) Do sound design – If you don’t feel like writing, try taking some time to explore making new sounds. This stage often gives me incredible sparks of inspiration.
2) organize your samples and make them EASILY accessible. I do this at least a couple times a month now as I seem to get better at organizing and my workflow has improved from it.
3) go see live music – I pull a lot of inspiration from live events.
What are your favorite genres of music at the moment and who are your top 5 favorite artists right now?
I grew up with dubstep and techno but my current favorite style is a blend of things, some trippy downtempo, some psybass/psydub, some glitch hop. To put it simply, I like music with groovy beats and very psychedelic sound design.
Top 5 favorite artists at the moment: Tipper, kLL sMTH, Globular, Keota, The entire Slugwife crew
Are you involved in any other music production communities?
Not really production communities but these are some music collectives I work with for shows and/or compilation releases:
- Fuzzy Puddles
- The Good Music Collectiv
- Swampwoofer Productions
If you met with a music producer that was on the fence about joining Producer Dojo what would you tell them?
Read this interview.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Don’t be afraid of your dreams. I left a career in chemistry (which I loved) to pursue music full time. I’m hella broke and I work more than I ever have in my life but I have never been happier. I don’t think i could work a 60 hour week at any other job. People were disappointed in me, throwing all this time I put into school down the drain. The first time Dylan and I met face to face, we had a long chat about life and stuff. One of the most important things I took from our conversation was the importance of time and how I use mine. I really hope that anyone who reads this, who has an important decision with a lot of risk, don’t let being scared to fall stop you from reaching the stars. I recently got to hear my track played on the mainstage at electric forest after bassnectar closed out. I had never heard my music on a system like that and it was a dream come true. It never would have happened if I let my fear of failure grow stronger than my desire to succeed.