Kennedy has always remained in full-time employment. As such, independence has been a running theme in his career. As he explained over Skype from North London recently, this has allowed him to circumvent the financial perils of life as a DJ, giving him extra security and, most importantly, artistic freedom. "I like organising my life that way," Kennedy says. "There's no pressure like, 'I've got to do a single this month. Let's put out any old crap.' I try and keep family and working lives separate, and do music the way I've always done it: as a passion. It's pretty important to me. Obviously it's not cheap living in London and having a family. I'm a bit older than some of the kids around now, so I need to feel a bit more secure."
Considering Kennedy's full-time work commitments, the amount of music he's released is remarkable. He's dropped over 100 singles, beginning with 1996's Bond EP. The following year saw him sign to ZET, a label founded by a then 20-something-year-old Karl O'Connor. A string of punishing, industrial-tinged singles followed, and Kennedy's reputation around Europe steadily grew. His first gig abroad was in Slovenia, thanks to a friendship with Umek, who was also on the ZET roster. Kennedy spent the next few years building his profile, regularly returning to Eastern Europe for DJ appearances.
During that time, Kennedy operated under a number of aliases. The most prominent after his own name was Reducer. Others included Helki Törsnum and Tomito Satori. There were no stylistic reasons for the monikers—Kennedy was simply producing so much music that it made sense to spread it over a number of channels.
In 1999 he founded Asymmetric, the label that's hosted close to half of his output. With it, he eventually embraced electronic music's digital revolution. Asymmetric stopped pressing vinyl in the early '00s, and from 2004 everything on the label was made available as a free download. "I grasped on to doing digital stuff quite a long time ago," he says. "A lot of people were a bit hesitant about it. The distribution wasn't there so I did it myself. I didn't shift a lot of downloads, but that wasn't the top of my agenda. I just wanted to put the music out there so people can have it."
Kennedy's affinity with digitised sound runs deep. Since the early days, he's experimented with in-depth sound manipulation, and today his studio is completely software-based. Many have embraced this type of production setup for its convenience, but Kennedy did so to explore its capabilities. Generating unlikely sounds is a core aspect of his working method. "There's so much you can do in software now," he says. "I've always liked the more obscure digital stuff. Even back in the hardware days, rather than buying the obvious TR-909s or whatever I ended up buying weird, interesting digital synthesisers. They're a lot of work to program, but give you really unique sounds."
When he's in the studio, Kennedy tries to explore the unknown. He wants to relinquish control and allow machines or, in his case, software to work independently. "When you're working with software and you're not completely in control, it's a symbiosis," he says. "You're trying to guide a computer to make music that you're imagining, but you're not directly in command. One of my releases a long time ago was called Entertaining Accidents. That summed it up for me. If you can create the environment where you can make accidents, sometimes they sound great."
Inigo Kennedy's ties to Eastern Europe go a long way back. We had him pick some of his favourite techno cuts from the region.
Rumenige - "Fastfood"
A huge percussive riff, and pretty much an anthem in the early-to-mid-'00s. So catchy and brutally effective on a big system.
Fishguard - "Rubato (A1)"
One of the best examples of that offbeat style that really characterised the sound of Czech and Slovak techno at its peak. The production level on this one is particularly good, and there's a perfect little melodic hook that sticks in your head long after you've heard it.
Olga+Josef - "Olga+Josef #4 (B1)"
This is simply an utterly raw and seminal sound. It's quite Millsian in its influence, but it's a phenomenal wall of sound on a good system.
Umek - "Gatex"
Umek and I started out at the same time and on the same label (ZET, a sister to Downwards) and his native Slovenia is where I first played outside of the UK. It's hard not to include this track. It was a massive hit in Slovenia and all around, and it's unusual in that there is no kick or percussion, just a really powerful synth arpeggio that ebbs and flows.
Hu - "Mary, Hu and Anna"
A slightly more obscure but pounding release from Hu—definitely one of the scene's talented underdogs.
For the most part, Kennedy's output has been distinct. In the early days, he dished out gritty tracks that banged as hard as anyone's, but there was always something extra going on, whether it was the repetition of a catchy bleep or a strange glitch. More recently, as BPMs have dropped, the Inigo Kennedy aesthetic has become glossier, and undoubtedly more individual. "I've always liked melody," he explains. "My listening background was originally synth pop and things like early Autechre and Aphex Twin—producers that massively use melody, not just percussion. That's the way my techno has developed. I like music that sticks out. You can get a huge energy buzz from raw percussion, but it's still very difficult to remember the next day. Melody is a really important thing. That's what sticks in your mind and makes a track emotional."
Kennedy has a self-described "machine gun" approach to getting music signed. Rather than crafting EPs, he'll simply produce a barrage of individual tracks, and send a collection of work off every month or so. But in the past few years he's become aligned with one label in particular: Token. Since inaugurating the label with Identify Yourself, he's become a core artist, releasing 11 more singles. Token is not just any old techno label, either. Founded by Kr!z in 2007, it's one of the most important labels to emerge in the past decade, breathing new life into a genre that, throughout the mid-'00s, was seen by many as struggling. It's the first destination for everything Kennedy produces, and it's hosted the very best of his recent work. "Token is my priority at the moment," Kennedy says. "I'm trying to cut down on the other stuff I've been doing, like remixes and so on, because I think the label is going in a really good direction. It's kind of like family."
"We always have open conversations about the music," Token boss Kr!z told me via email. "Inigo usually sends me a quite a lot, so we just pick from there and sometimes save tracks for later. I think it's pretty important for him to work fast, intuitively. Inigo is not the kind of producer that works on a track for months. He'll probably get down 80% of a track in the first few days and then finish it on another day. It’s crazy."
Earlier this month, Kennedy released his fifth album, Vaudeville. As he explains, it feels like something of a debut because, for the first time, he was producing tracks with an album in mind. At the request of Kr!z, it was completed in just two months, forcing Kennedy into a time restraint he wasn't used to. "It was a new way of having to work," Kennedy says. "I'm quite a fast worker, but when someone actually puts the thumb screws on you and says, 'We need an album,' there's no guarantee you're going to get it done. So I was so chuffed to get ten tracks finished. But it does mean that they were done in a lot shorter time than I might've done before, so they kind of gel together a lot better.
"This does feel like the first proper album," he continues. "I did one on Missile a long time ago, but that was more like a collection of tracks. It's the most consistent album I've done. It has a journey. Part of that is credit to Kr!z, because he's really good at A&R."
While Kennedy's raw early work continues to appear in DJ sets around the world, his comparatively slicker, more affecting newer output garners even more support. It's won over fans that might've missed him the first time around. While he certainly appreciates the increase in exposure, his feet are still firmly on the ground. "I am comfortable with the way it's going at the moment," he says. "It's a great buzz to play good gigs, and to even just make that connection with one or two people in a night. Fingers crossed, the album will drop and go down well. That will be taking me to another level, I hope."