Kenny Campbell: “Thought I was the best DJ in the world”

Kenny Campbell at the period of his first gig
Soon after we bumped into each other at Ruigoord Kenny Campbell told me about his first gig. "That's when things went wrong."

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We bumped into each other at Ruigoord for the first time, British DJ/producer Kenny Campbell and I. Soon after, we agreed on an interview about his first gig. "That's when things went wrong."

“My first time spinning was in the summer of 1996. I was sixteen then, and before I even set foot behind the decks, I thought I was the best DJ around.” (laughs) “After a few minutes, I realized I was wrong!”

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One mix after another

“I had been buying records since 1991 and got my first turntables when I was fourteen. They were terrible. Soundlab DLP-1 belt-drive turntables and a basic mixer. They looked like Technics SL’s but didn’t work like them at all. Yet, I loved them. I would spend hours a day on those things, recording one mix after another. And honestly, I was good.” (laughs)

Rezerection Event 2

“During that time, I also started going to raves. Rezerection Event 2 was my first. By 1996, I had attended every Rezerection since the second edition. I also traveled to Thunderdome and Mysteryland in the Netherlands. I saw the DJs, and I knew I wanted to do that too. Artists like Lenny Dee, Manu le Malin, The DJ Producer, Gizmo, Bass Generator, Technotrance (with whom I now have my label), and many, many others. It looked so easy.”

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Old warehouses and farms

“Of course, I was still too young to play in clubs. However, I lived in a small village, quite a distance from the big cities. This meant we organized raves in old warehouses and farms. From 1994, there was one almost every month. Over time, I also got to know the promoters. I begged them for months to let me play and constantly handed them mixtapes. Until I finally got my first gig. I was so happy.”

Lugging around a record box

“So, on July 20, 1996, I went to the rave in question. The event took place in an abandoned warehouse, about 8 miles (12.8 km) into the countryside. I didn’t have a driver’s license, so I had to walk there, lugging my record box. I didn’t have to play until seven in the morning, but I always arrived early at parties and was there from the beginning. The rave was crazy. There was plenty of ecstasy. The crowd was totally ready for the event. I thought everything would go smoothly. After all, I was an overconfident sixteen-year-old and was convinced I would be the best DJ at the rave. I was ready to blow everyone away with my set.”

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Complete panic

“Then it was seven in the morning. Time to play. I felt great. I had no nerves at all. So, I put the first record on the turntable, Strychine with The Sacrafise, released on the Industrial Strength Records label. That’s when it went wrong. I had never used Technics turntables before and completely panicked. The Technics didn’t even look like the turntables I had been practicing on at home for two years. As a result, I completely messed up my first transition. And the second. And the third. I was freaking out! Thankfully, I realized that most of the attendees were under the influence and paid more attention to the sounds than my dramatic mixing technique. After about twenty minutes, I understood how the turntables worked and could finally mix as I had planned all along. The rest of the set literally flew by. My last track was Dogge Team with We Came to Hool (Kotzaak Unlimited). Probably the only good track to end this set on a positive note.”

Disastrous set

“Then I packed up my records again and handed over the reins to the closing DJ. I wanted to slip away unnoticed after the disastrous start to my set, but was greeted by the promoter who was thrilled with what I had done. So thrilled, in fact, that I was then allowed to play at his raves every two months until he stopped these events in 1999.” (laughs)

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“What I learned that first time was that I should never be too sure of myself. And of course, it’s important to know the equipment you’re going to play on!”

This interview with Kenny Campbell was originally published in May 2018 on This Is Our House.

Who is Kenny Campbell?

Glasgow based DJ Kenny Campbell is rapidly gaining a reputation for his talents playing tech music. Possibly the most versatile and technically talented DJ to come across, able to play a set seamlessly, combining a variety of different styles, with ease. Be it techno, minimal, tech house or deep house, Kenny Campbell will play it, if the time is right and the crowd wants it. Some of Kenny Campbell’s bookings include OM96 (Berlin), Red Bull Music Academy Afterparty, Studio 24 (Edinburgh) and King Haakon (Isle of Skye). Also, Kenny Campbell likes an after party or two…

From a very young age Kenny Campbell has had a keen interest in electronic music. This interest was to become a life long passion upon hearing Mescalinum United’s We Have Arrived. This track triggered something. The track was darker than anything Kenny had heard before. It had drive and bite. It was to become the track that made Kenny decide that DJing would be the path he would follow.

Heavily influenced by the harder techno sounds of the early nineties and the second wave of Detroit techno, Kenny Campbell began hammering underground clubs and free parties into submission. His style became more twisted, more extreme. Hardcore was dominant in the underground but it wasn’t enough for Kenny Campbell. He wanted it harder still. More importantly though, he wanted it to be techno.

As time progressed Kenny Campbell moved away from the hardcore scene in general and back to his roots. Techno is what he wanted and it was techno he was going to have. Taking inspiration from artists like FUSE, Speedy J and Plastikman, Kenny Campbell was more determined than ever to succeed within the techno scene

2005 was to prove a pivotal year for Kenny Campbell and the path he would follow musically. Minimal techno was starting to become more popular and Kenny Campbell was already on it. After seeing Richie Hawtin at Sonar that year Kenny Campbell’s mind was set on this new, stripped back techno. He replaced hard, brash tracks with spaced out grooves. The transition between these styles was seamless and Kenny most definitely felt at home. His sets now seemed to flow much more naturally.

During this time Kenny Campbell was fortunate enough to pick up some international bookings. He played in Dublin, Ireland and Antwerp, Belgium. A chance meeting also lead to a slot in the famous Bootleg DJ Café in Rotterdam, Netherlands. In 2008 Kenny Campbell decided to move away from traditional DJing using vinyl and CD’s and moved to a completely digital set up. This move allowed him much more creative freedom when playing. His sets no longer moved along track by track, but were built from layers and loops. Mixing/remixing/editing all in a live format. Armed with this new technology his sets became more dynamic with each one being a completely new experience. There was a freedom to create that had never been possible before.

2009 saw Kenny Campbell host his first radio show on Liquifi Radio, an online radio station. The show ran until the station closed down and allowed him to reach a new audience and experiment with different styles of music. From this, he is now a regular contributor to several radio shows with guest mixes and has several mixes released across differing podcasts. This year also saw Kenny achieve one of his main goals and play in Berlin.

With regular bookings at both home and abroad including his residency on the remote Isle of Skye the future for Kenny Campbell can only get better. As the technology he has embraced becomes more powerful so do his performances. Behind the blinking lights from a host of controllers Kenny now conducts the dancefloor in the way only he can. He now blends minimal, techno, tech and deep house with such ease that the change of styles is unnoticeable. No one is left disappointed when Kenny Campbell is in control.

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