This is the first in our series of mentor profiles, to share some insight into the personality and experience of the official mentors for Class of 808 in Producer Dojo. This month’s profile is for Evan Gilsdorf, aka RIP KENNY. He has just released his EP Awakening on the Producer Dojo label, which hit #1 on the Beatport 100 for Dubstep, and also hit #6 overall (across all genres) on the Beatport Top Releases chart. He was also the curator for the recent CYPHER 006 production challenge, which resulted in a killer mixtape from the Class of 808 artists, including a really unique ending by RIP KENNY himself.
Author’s note: being a producer DJ myself, I always want juicy technical details and tips from the artists I look up to, so be prepared for some surprising questions and answers!
How long have you been producing, and what led you to become a producer?
About 5 years. It was just a pure love for the music, wanting to express myself through it.
What was your most interesting project/release in past year or two?
The Awakening EP. It marks the birth of a project that’s been roughly 2 years in the making.
What inspires your songwriting?
What do you try to communicate to your audience through your music?
Emotion. I want you to feel those deep-rooted pangs, the gut-wrenching, goosebump-inducing stuff (good or bad) that makes you feel alive.
Do you write with specific genres in mind?
No, not really. I write what I want to listen to. That’s definitely influenced by artists I admire, but no genres.
Are you also a DJ?
At shows do you mix in songs from other artists, and if so, who do you favor for that?
Definitely. Nero, 1788-L, Kursa, Seppa, (Old) Zeds Dead, Omar Linx, I try to find stuff that is musically adjacent to what I’m doing. A lot of stuff my taste is inspired from.
What gear do you use for practicing your DJ sets at home?
I’ve got a Pioneer DDJ-SX from a while back, it works okay for practice.
USB sticks and CDJs, or do you take your laptop and other gear to shows?
USB’s & CDJ’s. Its just so easy to show up and play. I wish I had a set to practice on though, I don’t get real crazy with my live mixing.
What are your thoughts about label deals versus self-publishing and self-promotion?
Well, a label’s primary responsibility in today’s musical sphere is promotional. It provides a co-sign on the record and an additional fan-base. If releasing with a label, you just need to make sure you’re getting out of it a requisite amount of promotion/audience to the rights you sign over. If you aren’t, self-release it.
Are you a member of any producer collective?
You ever heard of Producer Dojo??? Haha.
If you’re part of a collective, how does it benefit you?
It’s amazing. You have so many supportive people around you for feedback, constant advice, tips, & encouragement — all the kinds of things you need to be immersed in music and really create something special.
What operating system do you use for production, and desktop or laptop?
I’ve got an iMac, running El Capitan (operating system it came with). I’m kind of a nut about leaving the hardware using the operating system it came with. We know that works, and works well. It’s a desktop.
What DAW do you use for production and what do you like/dislike about it?
Ableton. To be honest it’s what I started on and have used this whole time so I don’t have much of a comparison, but I just like how it looks and feels. I feel a certain sense of “If you can dream it you can do it” now that I’ve used it long enough.
What monitors (and size) do you use and what do you like/dislike about them?
KRK Rokit 8’s. They’re fine, what I dislike is having a small room to work in. Even with extensive acoustic treatment there’s huge peaks & valleys. I basically gave up and almost exclusively use headphones now.
What headphones do you use and what do you like/dislike about them?
Sennheiser HD600’s. They’re great. The only thing I don’t like about headphones is the sides sound louder than they really are, you can compensate for that though.
What audio interface do you use and what do you like/dislike about it?
Audient ID14, it’s real solid both sound & recording quality wise. DI is low noise. If I had to spend the money again though I’d probably get an Apollo. Those UAD plugins… drool.
Any other notable gear you love and use frequently?
Not really, for some reason I’ve been using less and less gear lately and been getting better results.
What are your top 3 “desert island” soft synths/samplers you couldn’t live without?
Let’s see. I could probably get it all done with Serum, Omnisphere 2, and the Ableton Sampler.
What are your top 5 “desert island” processing plugins you couldn’t live without?
Fabfilter Pro-Q, CLA-2A, Serum FX, Izotope Exciter, & definitely a digital guitar amp emulation of some kind, I couldn’t choose just one though. The Metal Collection on Amplitube 4? That’s tough because in general I hate that plugin but it can get great results. You really need more than 1, but I’ll just leave it at that.
What size room do you work in, and does it have acoustic treatment? Do you think a treated room is necessary for quality production?
I have a small room, with hundreds of dollars of acoustic treatment, and I still rarely use my monitors other than for A/B referencing. Their frequency response is still just too uneven & changes widely depending on where your head is at. My advice? Save the money on acoustic treatment & get some nice open-back headphones. Just gain stage your sub correctly and reference in your car.
What loudness target do you usually master to?
Usually 7-8 LUFS/RMS. Loud enough for Soundcloud/Beatport but not squashing to death.
What other artists’ reference tracks do you rely on most?
For BIG mixes my go-to is Knife Party. I reference Sullivan King to know if I’ve gone too far with the distortion/compression. It’s tough to get a good reference on the guitar sound I’m going for in an electronic space though. I usually just end up referencing metal stuff I’m listening to and then try and adapt what I hear.
What are your top 3 tips for newer producers just starting out?
Be genuine, be humble, and don’t be a dick. That’s just life advice in general but I really think those are pillars for success in every field.
Any teasers you want to share about what you’re exploring next?
I’ve got a lot of finished tunes I’m sitting on, finding the right time/place to release them. Working on a follow up EP then an Album! As far as the music itself, I’ve been really into Neuro stuff lately so incorporating some more unique, experimental sound design.
What’s one surprising fact about you or your work that other producers or fans probably don’t know?
My previous life obsession was downhill mountain biking. I turned pro my senior year of high school and raced all over the country until I was about 22.