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Interview: Kvkn

Pioneer, passionate, and flag-bearer of the techno movement that defines Latin America.

  • Andrés Sustaita
  • 24 April 2024
Interview: Kvkn

Artist, cultural manager, ambassador, and interpreter of the city of Quito, known for sweeping the dance floors of the capital's underground scene with energetic DJ sets, drawing attention for the way he incorporates various genres and subgenres, exploring different styles of the spectrum, including Techno, Acid, hardtrance, hard groove, trance, and their variants in a single session. After a successful tour of Colombia in 2022, where he played at the legendary Túnel de Pereira, he revolutionized his collective "El Semillero" to turn it into one of the favorite delivery points for international DJs in record time. This experience and his rapid rise in the national scene led Kevin to create the first line of the "Purgatorio" circuit under the concept of creating free and safe spaces for the LGBT+ community.

With his iconic party "El Purgatorio," he knew how to impose his imprint and attract emerging glories and techno legends like Parfait, Slam, and Patrick Mason to the DJ booth, with whom he expiated the capital sins of an increasingly larger audience. Kvkn has been classified in the last year as a pioneer and visionary of the Ecuadorian scene by delivering his maximum potential and artistic experience for the formation of experimental and safe scenarios for the raver community, thus creating the first Techno Parade of the City together with the LGBT+ pride table with more than 3000 attendees.

Tell us in detail about yourself, how did you spend your childhood and adolescence, and what events or experiences in your childhood left a lasting impression, inspiring you to develop a deep interest and passion for the arts and music?

For people to know me a little more in depth, music and entertainment have been present in my life since I can remember.

A memory that I have always kept present and that perhaps forged my path in the world of arts and entertainment was the first time at 7 years old visiting the circus in my city. I think at that time I didn't think like children of that age who only visualize the show but I was always aware of how it developed. What I mean is, it was to analyze when the artists entered and left in their different disciplines and the musical atmosphere they gave in each appearance. Upon returning home from that show, I remember asking my mother to help me record a CD with music similar to what I heard at the circus and repeat each act. I played being the artist and being the circus director. After that day, I remember going to every show every day, getting to memorize the whole show until one day the circus left my city and never returned. That led me to look for a space where I could be part of and express my art.

Growing up in a home where I could be free with my artistic tastes allowed me to make my way every day to seek more growth opportunities. I remember that my parents gave me the opening to do what I liked, but the opportunities and all the costs had to be covered by me, that forged my character and constancy to now reach this point. I danced in classical dance companies and shows with world-class artists. I remember studying in the morning / afternoon and practicing dance in the afternoon / evening, having a childhood and adolescence wrapped in art and discipline, living a life nothing like that of a normal teenager. But at the same time living wonderful experiences on stage.

How was your first approach to electronic music and at what point did you decide that "that" was what you wanted to do?

I remember that my first hints with electronic music were around 2012 with House. But it was much later that I had my full approach and it was at a party where AE:THER was performing that I was able to fully immerse myself in the dark and at the same time celestial sounds of their set. I remember that after that night I didn't stop investigating and delving into Melodic Techno and later immersing myself in Techno and Trance where I found DJs like SPFDJ or KI/KI, that's when I knew that my life was going to be about music. Within that research, I found great artists with complex techniques like the genius Avalon Emerson, Jeff Mills, and Schacke.

Were there any difficulties in getting started in the electronic music world? How can a person position themselves in the scene of a big and important city?

Yes, this career is a long path with many ups and downs where earning a place takes a lot of discipline and focus on what you want to achieve. The biggest difficulty I had at the beginning was making myself known. I think that like in all arts, part of the obstacle to position yourself in this industry is taking the first step, which is making yourself known. I remember that an important part and the essence of our collective was to create this space for emerging talents that had a voice and art but didn't know how to show it to the public. I remember many talks with my friends where we touched on the subject that in the scene of our city there were more artists exploring and exploiting genres and sounds. The mission was to find them and help them show themselves. So we started with me, with the creation of the collective. It was for me that space where I could show myself, since I was new to the industry not many scenes or collectives wanted to hire me. So I created my own stage, that "spotlight" to show myself to the public and make my art known. But the work didn't end there, but creating healthy and trusting relationships in work led me to bigger opportunities. I think the best advice I could give to emerging artists is always to be perseverant and sure of themselves. Opportunities sometimes come on their own and sometimes you have to look for them with hard and constant work. You have to lose the fear of knocking on doors, sending emails, or messages. The world of social networks has impacted how the industry works. Now connecting with promoters or growing scenes is much easier. Networking is a fundamental part of the scene. Going out to events and making connections leads many novice artists to success, we are always one or two people away from our life opportunity. We can't always expect that call to luck: there are artists who are born with this talent and gift and opportunities come, but to a point, but there are others (which are the ones that surprise me the most and I have seen that go far) who are the ones who work day and night looking for that opportunity to fulfill their dreams and make that leap.

On your social networks, you have posted some photos with your husband, how does this impact your life as an artist? How difficult is it to sustain a marital relationship in such demanding professions?

Well, that's one of the topics I like to talk about the most. I have been married to my husband since the first day I met him without realizing it. They are those times when you meet a person and instantly know that there is something. I remember that with just 1 day of having met, I took him to a rave. It was the first of many but it was the most important of all: it was the one in which I gave him the first kiss. At that rave, I remember talking about my life ambitions and how I wanted the person who accompanies me for the rest of my life to be part of them.

My husband was the first support in my career with just 3 days of knowing each other. He was willing to bet on me and my talent for my first tour in Colombia and so it was. After the tour, many doors opened in Ecuador and a long path of successes and constant opportunities began. But whenever we sought to expand, he was present, from the first international DJ to the biggest event we had. He bet on my vision without hesitating for a second. That was the biggest impact that has led me to what I am now as an artist and manager. I believe that without his vote of confidence in me as an artist, I would not have taken me to what I am now and I will be eternally grateful to him. For us, there were no major obstacles in our relationship because we understood being partners and spouses. We understood that work and life as a couple were similar areas since when we worked together we worked for this joint life project, and for our relationship and work to function, communication and trust from one to the other is the foundation.

What is your approach when selecting songs for your sets and how do you manage to be eclectic in your performances? How do you conduct a session? To please the audience or play what one wants?

I have always wanted my sets to be a journey. Musical selection has always been meticulous in finding tracks that have different atmospheres, melodies. The details of these tracks are what make my sets have this certain characteristic of being fresh. Wandering and immersing oneself in different genres lead to an unexpected journey for the audience. Part of this musical selection is understanding your audience and song by song introducing them to my sound universe. A great "crowd-control" that highlights DJs in their sessions is to find these tracks that the audience doesn't know, but they are excited to hear them. I think the mission of new artists is to reach that, to instruct the audience and take them through these new or old sounds that are overwhelming to hear. Working as a dancer and artistic director gave me the opportunity to understand how the human being works in depth with music. One of the favorite subjects I studied was anatomy applied to dance and in it, it explained to you how the human being is influenced by sounds and how you can evoke emotions through them. Human beings by primitive behavior are herd beings and follow the behaviors of our herd. That's where I have looked among the public when playing for this factor or individual external who does not follow the rest and that song by song manages to integrate them into the group. That eclectic vision has been very present since my choreographies that have now been brought to my sets. That has been an advantage to understand the behavior of my audience when playing and how to deliver a memorable experience.

How do you incorporate elements of Ecuadorian culture into the music you play?

Ecuador is known worldwide for being a diverse and magical country. The beautiful thing about my country is that you can know different landscapes and ecosystems by just transporting yourself a few hours. You can know the thick jungle, mysterious moorlands, or paradisiacal beaches all in one country. These diverse ecosystems influence the sounds and musical genres of the artists from each region. An example is people from warm climates who are more attracted to genres like House. From where I come from, which is the Andean region, we look for colder and more forceful sounds like Techno and it is the same with the jungle which is more attracted to genres like Psytrance and Goa. What I look for in my sessions is to travel through different scenarios and environments in a single session. Immersing myself with the public through these sound ecosystems that lead us to live different experiences both internal and external. Ecuador is a country very interested and developed in magic and mystery where elements like music and dance are part of esoteric scenarios that lead to rituals of both healing and darkness. That is why the Ecuadorian public sees raves as spaces of healing and release similar to shamanic rituals.

What led you to create "El Semillero"? Was there something that prompted you to do it?

El Semillero is a life project that began as a conversation on a trip with friends where we discussed and shared experiences at the time of the current scene, always finding what "that" was missing from each of the clubs or scenes we frequented. I remember that we found in clubs like Odonien or Roberth Johnson that magical and minimalist atmosphere that didn't go unnoticed because they had a certain mysticism. A fundamental part was the creation of these queer spaces where respect, freedom, acceptance, sharing, and valuing art are the primary values. In addition to giving an experience to the public since for us the biggest investment that people who come to our events can give us is their time since time is not recovered and in those 8 hours that they attend our events, we will fight so that their time is worth it and we give them an unforgettable experience. Each event is meticulously thought out at an artistic and musical level to become a delight for the attending public. The trigger for our collective was the experimentation of a mini-event in the Beach department of one of the people with whom we founded the collective and the great reception it had that in the blink of an eye we had the department bursting with a diversity of people and all connected. When I got home, I talked to my friends and we decided to do more events and all with the characteristic vision of the nursery which was to leave a life experience at each event.

Tell us how was the process and experience of making the first Love Parade in Quito.

Part of my first connections with electronic music in general was the Love Parade. I remember during the pandemic I had an obsession with knowing the whole history of electronic music and certain historical events that made electronic music reach the masses and the Love Parade was the one that captivated me the most. Watching videos from 1999 where DJs like Tiësto, Sven Väth, or Marusha took the streets of Berlin and turned them into a dance floor for the attendees. It was then that in 2023 I got in touch with my colleagues and proposed the idea of carrying out this event, without contacts, budget, or a fixed path. We took this leap into the adventure for electronic music. At that time against the clock in the project, we had the help of our allied collectives Konqueer and HFT and sponsors like Full Services, Revé Audio, and Ecoled supported to carry it out. Taking the direction of this project was more than a challenge, a dream to fulfill, and seeing my city grow every day was inexplicable. Watching close to 7000 attendees take to the streets of the city, come to light, dance, and occupy spaces that always belonged to us was an increasingly greater impetus to make Ecuador a benchmark in the global electronic scene.

Why do it? What impact do you seek to achieve with these types of events?

Quito is a conservative, Catholic city, where dissidents or marginalized groups are somewhat frowned upon. Being the first time that techno music takes the streets of a city was to generate this intrigue to the masses of what is sounding and what we represent and thus create an impact on the crowds. This kind of events in broad daylight and in public spaces gives the opportunity for marginalized people and groups to know that we exist and that it is okay to be who you are and to express yourself freely; it is part of our goal. Queer, trans, drags, gays, non-binaries, and lesbians will always be our honored guests at these events.

The music scene in South America has been growing in recent years, how do you perceive the evolution of the electronic scene in your country?

The Ecuadorian scene before the pandemic was ruled by scenes much more attracted to genres like minimal, electro, and tech-house. The boom of the techno scene attracted new attendees, but at the same time, it opened up space for entrepreneurs and visionaries of the scene, thus giving rise to the creation of new collectives that sought to express their voice. Great powers of the industry like Colombia, Chile, and Mexico have helped that world-renowned artists decide to visit South America. Ecuador is a country rich in culture and tradition, the electronic scene has taken a quite interesting form in recent times, since the Ecuadorian public is willing and open to the musical proposals of all national artists and the international ones who come to the country. We can find scenes of electro, minimal, house, techno, progressive and all share much of the same public.

What has been done to position Ecuador alongside Colombia, Chile, or Argentina where there is a large and strong local scene but at the same time attracts international DJs?

Ecuador has a versatile scene and has great national producers and DJs who have become internationally known in the global scene in various genres. The peak of the Techno scene has made Ecuador become a mandatory stop for many tours of great DJs. The amount of information and evolution both musical and scenic that both national artists and the public have had has given way to international DJs to explore and exploit their entire sound universe and be well received by the Ecuadorian public; thus the artists are captivated and seek to return to the country.

Is the interaction between artists and the public in Ecuador different compared to other regions?

I think that each region and country has that something that characterizes them and what makes Ecuador special in my opinion is this personal and human touch that young audiences have. Being a small and growing scene makes it a more personal interaction between the public and the artist and I could venture to say that each session is so intimate that the artists perceive this intense call from the public to receive their art.

We know that in July of this year you will have a tour of Europe, could you tell us in which countries or cities you will be presenting and how to adapt your musical selection to ensure that you connect with audiences of various cultures and tastes not so similar to those of South America?

In July, my residence in Europe is planned and to continue with my personal project as a DJ and dancer. My headquarters will be Marseille and later Berlin is in my plans. We have been in conversations with different collectives and clubs that I can soon tell you about, in the meantime, I can tell you that I will be in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. Well, for this tour I think I will go with what has led me to stand out in my region, which has been to be unpredictable when playing, but always open to understanding the new audience.

You have shared the stage with many international DJs, is there any experience with them and/or learning that you want to tell us about?

Each of the DJs I have worked with has given me a life lesson, some of the highlights are:

Slam; these legends of techno landed at our end-of-season event and the incredible thing was that on the same day of the event, I got married! The party with Slam turned into our wedding celebration. The conversation about how the scene has been evolving was rewarding and receiving advice on how to create an organic and musically open scene made many things make sense.

Parfait; has been by far one of the stars that our collective has had in the last year. One of the first DJs I heard was her and a learning I had from her was that there is always room for new artists and that we are managers so that they can come to light.

Lacchesi; was one of the artists we wanted to do with my husband and who was always present in our lives. The humility and humanity that Lorenzo has was what enamored us and marked us for the rest of our lives. Thanks to him and the work we did to have him in our city, it opened the opportunity for me to work as a sub-agent for his agency Raise Agency where I met wonderful people like Margaux and Jakob.

Patrick Mason; by far the showman. Patrick was one of the most ephemeral, but most impressive visits to our event. The level of performance and delivery on stage made the audience go frantic. I remember seeing many attendees cry with emotion at seeing him give his performance. We will always remember this magical man.

And finally, a great friend of the house, Metaraph was our first international booking, but by far "the favorite" for their world so mystical and at the same time magical with an impeccable performance.

Besides from your European tour, what can we expect from you this year?

I just returned from my March - April tour in Colombia where I was able to immerse myself in more scenes and bring the sound of Ecuador, it has been quite an incredible experience. Well, now we are developing the agency for Latin American artists. We are working on expanding the Semillero in Europe and additionally, my jump into music production. Well, without further ado, it's a year of a lot of growth and new experiences.

Thank you very much for the interview Kevin, we wish you the best of success in your future projects.

I thank you for the space and the interview, for us it is very important to be able to reach more people and show them the art and musical proposals that are born in our country. We are waiting for you at the next El Semillero events and as a personal project at the end of the year I will be announcing a surprise for all my audience.

Thank you so much!

Photography: Dennis Silva

Art Direction: Dennis Silva & Camilo Ayala

Styling: Camilo Ayala

Hair & Makeup: Franchesca Ordoñez

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