His name is Strahil Velchev, best known as KiNK, one of the most successful electronic musicians of our time, who has played in clubs and parties all over the world. Here he tells us about music, vinyl and the internet platforms that took over from record companies.
By Chris Dilowski
Hello KiNK, you are an artist who has created a serious name on the electronic music world stage. How did this music spark your passion?
The most popular platform in electronic music is to be a DJ, playing records of other artists and I did this for a long time, but for the last ten years I’ve entertained the crowds by playing my own music live. The DJ abbreviation dropped off many years ago. I decided that I wanted to make music in the early 90’s when I discovered electronic music. I noticed many similar elements in the tracks I listened to, but there were motifs and parts in the record that I thought were unnecessary. I imagined removing the elements I didn’t like and prolonging the ones I did. Technically I was still not aware how this could be done, but I could imagine it.
You need to have a wide range of authorship and personal artistic style to succeed at world level. How did that transition happen with you?
I started creating music as a DJ with standard equipment, players and records around the mid 90’s, with no success and that continued for quite a while. I was about to give up around 2006, thinking of getting a regular job, when I discovered social networks. The MySpace platform was very popular back then and many artists and record companies responded through it. I managed to get connected with publishers and producers who began to promote and release my music on vinyl, which is our calling card, our ID in our field. The internet and social networks helped the most. I started travelling, so I could afford more instruments for my studio and I did a video demonstration on my YouTube channel after every purchase, and people started watching them. I was invited to one of the best techno clubs in the world, Berghain in Berlin, thanks to a video I had just released.
People still think that an artist can succeed through record and production companies. How did contemporary communication technologies and social networks change this?
Well, the internet did change a lot of things, the situation now is not much better, it’s just different. Before, the big companies had the power to create and establish an artist. They also had the power to own them by telling them what to do, how and what to play, and had big budgets. Today these companies still have power, but much less than before, because sales have dropped drastically as well as physical imports. Now a lot of artists have the freedom to promote and sell their music themselves, every artist is a channel who can send their message to their audience. The problem is that there are millions of channels these days, everyone can be an artist. While some 20 years ago there used to be fewer artists with bigger audiences, now it’s more artists with less. So in a way, networking is regarded as a necessary “evil” (laughing).
What are the benefits of a huge online audience?
I can talk about my own field which is not very commercial. I’m not sure about pop music, but in my field it is very important for an artist to develop and establish a good profile in every possible online platform, to have a steady fan base, because the incomes from streaming or any kind of broadcasting are scarce and not enough at all.
A famous rock musician said that bands make most of their income from touring these days, because record sales have dropped and music is downloaded online. How is it in your field?
If this is the tendency in rock music, it is even more intense in my field, because there is a smaller audience compared with music played on TV and radio. Techno music is completely isolated and has no presence on TV and radio. The are some specific shows, for example Essential Mix on BBC1, a long running show presented by Pete Tong, but in terms of airtime percentage, our music has no more than 10 % compared to pop music. Our presence is mainly on stage, and people who buy vinyl records tend to be collectors.
The passion for vinyl is growing, Tell us, why is there a different attitude?
Vinyl has specific sound qualities and that’s why a lot of people did not give up this format for many years and it is popular among some young people too. The digital sound for example is too perfect, but cannot be modified; it is the way it is recorded. The sound that gets pressed on a vinyl (imagine the wax seal on an old letter) can be modified by the record player. The needle vibrates and it can function as a mechanical musical instrument. That’s why a lot of people consider the record player sound softer and warmer.
How did you come up with the “KiNK’’ name?
I I needed a nickname. Strahil Velchev is relatively hard to pronounce especially overseas and especially in the clubs where the music is very loud and it impossible to tell a listener what my name is. I started a search for a pseudonym around 2004 when I was still studying animation and graphic design in NBU and a friend of mine suggested this word that he saw in the dictionary. He gave me the idea of spelling it with capital letters except the “I”, so it can look like a logo, no matter what font is used. It’s short and easily remembered, but there’s a detail that I didn’t know back then – ‘’kink, kinky’’ in the English language, apart from “a sharp twist or curve in something that is otherwise straight” also means strange sexual preferences. It was around the time when I created my Myspace profile and and I was very surprised why so many weird individuals started adding me, but in the end, sex sells, so I kept the name. ( laughing)
This kind of music has a big stage in Western Europe. There are plenty of clubs, which are fully packed on a regular basis, what is the situation in Bulgaria?
Unfortunately, the stage is not quite big enough in Bulgaria. By that I mean for the artists to support themselves and make a living professionally.
A lot of Bulgarian artists like you work overseas. What advice would you give to newcomers who want to succeed in the field?
People who want to start doing that should not be discouraged by the moderate scene in Bulgaria, because the music is online today. You can start at home with small investments for pleasure and still be seen and heard throughout the world. Territory is not that important for artists these days, we can be everywhere.
What’s your opinion of the future in your country?
I’m an optimist, because laws are more liberal regarding how clubs and bars function. In countries like the US and UK, in most towns clubs have to close about 2am or 3am and that is very inconvenient for many promoters inviting artists, because they only have a short window from 11pm to 3am. The problem is the difficult economic situation and if people live better, the economy will rise, the arts will rise and electronic music along with it.