A main fixture on forward-thinking Ghent-based label KRAAK, the self-taught Jürgen De Blonde aka Köhn is a seasoned musician and producer when it comes to all things experimental, ambient and minimalist. This mix mainly compiles electronic music that’s had an impact on Köhn, and has stuck with him. Its aim is to take you on a musical journey as fluently as possible, sometimes taking questionable turns – perfect for late night chilling or working. A chance to (re-)visit his influences and mastery in light of his brand new LP Kreis Plön – rightfully celebrating his twenty years in avant-garde electronica – scheduled to come out alongside its Recyclart release party this Friday 9th of June.
Can you describe yourself in a few words?
My name is Jürgen De Blonde, born on a snowy Good Friday in a rural pig farmers’ village named Knesselare which lies in between Ghent and Bruges. Later on I got completely entangled in the Bruges’ underground out of which eventually sprouted KRAAK, and have been making music for over twenty years – largely autodidactally. My main outcome as a solo artist has been under the moniker Köhn, and focuses on electronic music. My music can go in many directions; depending on the mood, the inspiration, the circumstances, and available gear.
How did you first start making music? How does it fit into your life?
I started around the age of twelve with a small Casio keyboard, and then later some bigger keyboards and a double tape boombox that had a quirk which allowed me to do overdubs. And so I started layering sounds and tunes from my keyboards. Back then I was very much influenced by the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze, Kitaro, Vangelis, Jan Hammer, Enya, Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd, New Beat… Anything that fits into the synthesizer category – and some Heavy Metal too. Later on I picked up an electric guitar, a sampler, a drum machine, a sequencer and a four track tape machine and recorded lots and lots of material, ranging from lo-fi space rock anthems over noise pop to sample experiments to soundscapes. It was all about absorbing as much music as possible, from as wide a scope as possible. And so I was heavily into shoegaze and some IDM thanks to MTV’s 120 Minutes, until grunge arrived and changed the world. Some of my favourite bands back then were My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, Boo Radleys, Slint, Nirvana, Catherine Wheel, Chapterhouse, Seefeel, Aphex Twin, Julian Cope, Talk Talk, His Name Is Alive, Dead Can Dance. Later on came my wave of lo-fi with early Beck, Guided By Voices, Sebadoh. By the end of the nineties I slowly drifted back to electronic music and discovered Microstoria, Oval, Fennesz, Mouse On Mars, Germ and post-rock bands like Tortoise, Trans Am. In the midst of all of this I also picked up a lot of jazz, and experience in improvisation by playing in a couple of jazz-oriented combos and noisy guitar bands at the same time. The problem is there is so much to mention and so many phases I’ve gone through, I could continue writing on for hours. Nowadays, my inspiration comes from listening to what happens around me, recordings I’ve made, setups I come up with, books and articles I read, and ideas that either pop up in my mind or coincidental associations that occur through my environment or conversations.
Can you describe the mix in a few words? What is its overriding influence, where would it best be enjoyed, what makes it special?
It’s an honest compilation of tracks that I like. Some I’ve known for ages, some I’ve just recently discovered. Some are early influences I can still enjoy, some are more recent pieces that I like a lot. I think it can be enjoyed as a background mix while doing late night work or creating, or maybe while reading or even when watching a documentary with muted sound. It will take you on an absorbing journey along sometimes unexpected places. It does work on a subliminal level too: things get weird towards the second half. I’ve carefully selected a wide variety of tracks that have some connection to my latest album, or instigated the makings of Köhn. I’ve also paid attention to how tracks fit together, sometimes for less obvious reasons leading to unlikely combinations. Nevertheless, there are still some essentials missing.
Can you tell us about the exclusive track on the mix? Why did you chose to include this one? If it isn’t one of your own productions, how did you come across the artist?
I’ve included an exclusive track by myself called ‘Krummbek’. It’s one of the many tracks I produced in the making of my new album Kreis Plön. I chose this one because I’m very fond of the way it sounds and the way the mesmerizing loop is beautifully interspersed with blistering noise. I thought it fits quite well at that spot in the mix.
When and where did you record it?
I recorded it in my bedroom studio. I made with a Casio HT-3000 layered in a looping pedal and sent it through my no-input feedback mixer. I usually look at the sky through my rooftop window, when I’m not looking at the buttons I’m tweaking.
What’s your favourite track on the mix?
Probably Tomita’s amazing version of Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question”. Ever since I found this version, it’s been haunting me.
What do you have coming up in the next few weeks?
I will be presenting my new album at Recyclart on the 9th of June; a wonderful soirée organised by KRAAK and Vlek featuring Rashad Becker, Yann Leguay and myself. I’m very much looking forward to seeing Yann Leguay’s act. Besides that I will be making recordings of old printing machines at MIAT in Ghent. I will also be playing a concert in a forest near Kortrijk towards the end of the month, together with cello player par excellence Benjamin Glorieux on a great all-night festival organised by Wilde Westen.