Sunday, 10 June 2012

RIP Kenny Hawkes - and Kenny's Synth School

One year ago today, on Friday 10 June 2011, the wonderful Kenny Hawkes tragically passed away at a tragically young age. To this sad anniversary, I thought it would be good to remember how funny Kenny was and have revived this post.

On a professional level, Kenny was hugely influential in British house music. He was an extremely talented DJ and producer, he jointly ran the seminal late 90s London house night Space, and equally important Girls FM pirate radio station. It is difficult to overstate the significance of Kenny’s contribution - without him house music in London simply wouldn’t have be the same.

On a personal level, Kenny was a friend. A warm person, who was generous with his time, knowledge and kindness. There was no pretence and definitely no pomposity, from someone who had achieved so much in his chosen field of endeavour. To put it simply, he was just a bloody nice bloke. And moreover, he was properly funny.

Kenny had a great, if slightly crazed sense of humour, which came easy to him. One of the best examples of this effortless, almost Pthyon-esque wit, was an innocent, maybe even slightly boring thread about various synths used on various tracks, over on the faith fanzine forum, which Kenny rapidly turned into his own, very special synth school…

Question: What's the synthesiser they use on the opening of 'Supernature' by Cerrone?

Kenny: It's the 'Oberheim Matrix 6' or the "Mounilnex Clairvoyance 4' in the arpeggiator mode, I think... There's also a 'Crazy Fingers' setting with the other 8 preset sounds, that you could use. Then you want to use the 'Drwow' or the 'Dwat' wave forms, and set the envelope to look like Mount Fuji. If you're using the 'Stereo Fizoo' wave form, set your frequency to 6, then go around the back of the keyboard and set your shit level to low.

And then you'll need to give yourself a long delay, I recommend a photograph of Camilla Parker Bowles (Hahahahhahaha - Sorry, that's just an old synthesiser joke). Then cut and paste it all into a XL Spread Sheet (don't use the midi files, as they're as worse as paedo files), and then place it in a folder and name it: "Doctor Beat, Doc, Doc Doctor Doctor Beat".

And remember, keep the noise level down really low - think of the neighbours.

Question: Hey Kenny what’s the sythn playing on Sammy Gordon and the Hip Huggers ‘Making Love‘?

Kenny: OK, this is a common question, and it comes up daily. Now, I know what you're thinking, it's 'The Vox Hall 2000' right? Well NO! Don't switch it on! I can almost see you reaching for it, but don't touch it, as you're too stupid and it's just going to confuse you (I'll cover that in an advance class in a few weeks).

It's the 'Amstrad Miz-Take' with the inverted keys.

Question: Can you please tell me what synth Rick (Wakeman) is using in this clip and also what his settings are ?

Kenny: I’m not too sure if this is a trick question or not! A lot of people think this is the 'Roland Rat D7' but it's actually the 'Amstrad DX Kackhorn 14' which was favoured by synth legend 'Howard Jones', who funnily enough taught 'Rick Wakeman' at Northhob Music College in Eastbourne. No need to adjust the settings as it only has 1 preset and a factory setting of zero on the the wave form. The only trouble is, it's a digital keyboard, so you could just buy an iPhone and give all your money to Hitler, burn down an orphanage and buy the 'Polyphonic Wiggle Application' . It works for me.

Question: Can you name all of the seven deadly synths?

1 - The Synthetic Lightsaber Crystal (commonly referred to as The Sith-Crystal)
2 - The Korg Sorcery 6
3 - The Korg Warlock 8000
4 - The Moog Lockerbie 103
5 - The Roland Brownout
6 - The Vox Hall 7
7 - The Academy i-Raq

Question: Many years ago, I was told I could "get my rocks off" with Synthia Pain. Never understood what on earth they meant. Until now, help me Kenny.

Kenny: Sadly the 'Synthia Pain' was discontinued in the early 80's. Most synthesizer fans found the sound too dry and had to use lubrication on the bottom end. Try eBay.

Question: I've heard herbie hancock used a cumdorian based anthrax modulator on 'rockit'. Can you recommend any settings to achieve that backwardsy sort of noise in the middle eight?

Kenny: OK, I'm going to try and explain this to you, which is going to be really hard, as this is really advance stuff and you're not very intelligent, so you might want to put your tin foil hat on at this point...

The key comment here is you "Heard" that Herbie Handcock used the Cumdorian Based Anthrax Modulator on 'Rockit' - it's just a rumour that's been spread around amongst record shop sales staff. But the truth is, he actually used the 'Vox Hall Cavalier 3000' with the 'Brown Love' foot peddle control, and pushed the sustain level up as far as it will go (Level 3).

Rumour has it, he was working at home and his girlfriend was saying "Have you finished that fucking 'Rockit' track yet?", then (apparently) he planted his face into his hands and at the same time, his pet cat walked over the synthesiser, thus creating the 'Backwardsy' in the middle 8. I'm not too sure how true this rumour is, but I recommend you eBay "Cat" if you want to achieve this sound.

Question: So what were the Japanese using on this?

Kenny: The best thing about the interweb pipes these days is there's actually a mode that will give you the actual sound that is playing in the music clip. I know, it's crazy isn't it, but let me give you a little tutorial..

You probably spent hundreds of american pounds on your computer and was only using $70 pounds worth. Now I'm going to open it up for you, so you can reap the benefits of this modern technology, and you can start using the full $350 pounds worth.

If you look at the Youtube video, down on the bottom right hand side you'll see a football icon. Press that and vouloir, you get the real sound, click it again to switch it off! I hope this helps...

Question: My juno 106 has been in a cupboard for some years now. It hasn't been plugged in for all that time. Can you suggest what might be wrong with it?

Kenny: HA! This happened to me once with the 106. Try tweaking with the top end nipples on the arpeggiator, this helps with the whole lubrication of the bottom end (which you have to squeeze really hard), but I won't go into that right now on this class, as it's too complex for your small brains. Instead you should be focusing on drums!

This is called "The Rhythm Section". They are right there - in the "Product Keys". EVERYONE loves drums, it's an instrument EVERYBODY loves!

There's the Bass Drum.
The Snare Drums.
Crash Cymbal.
Open and closed Hi Hats.
Tom Toms.
(and more importantly) WARM PADS.

Try all these together, but remember to say (in your mind):

One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three, Four.

This helps with quantising, you can even use double hi-hats in your creative process.

It can de-humanise the music, but at the same time, this can humanise the machine, so it's all swings and round-abouts and very organic. A personal interaction with people and the music is SO important, so never be afraid to fondle with your Modulation Wheel, thats what I do in my laboratory.

And more importantly, this helps sell more records.

Question: Hi Doctor Kenny, can you name Chaz Jankel’s ’3,000 Synths’ alphabetically please?

Kenny: This is a trick question, right? Any Synth head will tell you that Chaz Jankel only had a 'Stiff Polydor 800' and the 'Polio X1 Kilburn'.

Question: Kenny what are your tips on triggering a pre patched Roland 303?

Kenny: I got this tip from DJ Pierre when he was in the 'Hoxton Squares'. Put a massive ashtray on the side of your 303, and fill it up with ash and fag butts, and when you get to the point of having no idea what the fuck you're doing, while all the time your girlfriend/wife is bitching at you, saying "have you finished that fucking 'Steve Walsh' remix yet". Roll your eyes in your head, tell her she doesn't understand that you're an artist, and then go down the pub, and sip away on a warm ale, on your todd! Come home, hit the keys really hard, just to make a point that you're home, and BINGO!! Patch Triggered - And you're up for another 24 hours.

Question: For some reason, the thousands of pounds i ploughed into hardware in the mid nineties is now worth around fuck all. I'm not really looking for any tips, just for someone to tell me I can claw back at least a monkey for my JD-800 (never gigged), a carpet for my Matrix 1000 (studio use only, smoke free environment) and a long 'un for my Mackie 24-8 (unwanted gift - first to see will buy!)

Kenny: Well, I don't think you should get rid of these classic synthesis contraptions, as ultimately they're priceless, and nobody could ever afford them anyways. And replacing them with plug-ins would mean going digital, and I don't think you really want to do that, do you? It's rather like inviting your mother-in-law around while the wife is away, filling her up with rohypnol, and then doing a poo on her stomach!
It just wouldn't go down too well, plus you might feel guilty about it afterwards.

Instead, try out the Mackie 24-8, and just near the battery slot underneath there's a noodle switch. Switch that on, and set the envelope to automatic loner mode for less friends. Works for me.


Kenny: OK, here we are onto to week 8 of my synthesiser tutorial. Now it's time to step it up a gear into David Cameron league. So, if some of you people can just take off your 'stupid hat' for a few minutes, cause I'm not sure you're going to understand this very well, and maybe have a pen and paper at hand, yeah?

First of all, get about a five foot (1.524 meters and 33 Khz) sheet of aluminium foil, then fold the sheet 4 times into 5 parts and make sure you keep the shiny side upwards (this is very important), then use scissors to cut one corner from one end to the other, then bend the foil and squash it over your head and use scotch or gaffa tape to make it secure, and protecting your Cranium.

Beware of using commercial tin foil, as you should trust nobody, always construct your own tin foil hats to avoid the risk of subversion and mental dwowling of the Wii.
(Hahahaha, that was another in-house synthesiser joke)

Sometimes Tin Foil Hats will be sold on eBay, but even if the seller seems trustworthy, they may contain back doors, blip holes and other degraded psychometric circuitry, or other methods of mind control, I really can't stress enough how important it is to have the shiny side pointing upwards. This is needed because of psychotronic radiation, and these new satellites can read your mind thoughts with their mind reading equipment. While the dull side can actually absorb it, there is no protection from Trojan Horses. I suggest getting a 'Naynah 406' sound card which would also help with this.

OK, that's about for this week. Any questions? Feel free to ask. And tune in next week as I take you through the rich green pastures of compression.

P.S. And once you've placed this tin foil hat, please re-read this tutorial, as you'll find a hidden message

Question: Dear Kenny, I have been told that in an emergency a hot towel can be substituted for a tin foil hat. Something to do with compresssion. Is this true or just and urban myth?

Kenny: I'd like to start off by saying thank you for your informal, but informative question. Hopefully I'll be able to answer this without confusing that one last brain cell you have left in your head.

A hot towel will "NOT" (and I can't stress enough on the word "NOT" without making it bold and in a different font) deflect the 'Gammer Rays' from todays modern Satellites, with their modern mind reading controls. Hot towels just don't have enough Reggae in them to deal with the Ska. Unless you buy all of Reggae's LP's (some of them are good).

I don't want to go into this too deeply just yet, as it's a tutorial that I'm saving for mid November 2014 (you're going to love it). When I don't have any tin foil, I normally put my cat on my head, if you Google the word "Cat" you might find one. I hope this helps, and feel free to call me if you want me to rewire your studio (just as long as it's not digital)?

Question: Paging Doctor... Kenny (not Beat)

Shiny side up, or they will fuck you up,
Shiny side down, you silly clown.

A little something I put together to help me remember which side of the foil to use. Thing is, am I right? D, D, Doctor, Doctor... Kenny (not Beat).

Kenny: That doesn't sound like a question to my advance synthesiser tutorials, that sounds like a cool kicking rap rhyme, I think the kids will love that. Here's a video tutorial I did that might give you some inspiration:

It helped me get through some those awkward moments with the 'Roland Hastings 1066' and the middle 8 problems

P.S. I don't do paging by the way, I only have a fax and a telex machine, but I intend to get a computer one day, so I can use all the interweb pipes, but that would mean going digital (which is weird).

Question: Dear Kenny, I'm trying to re-wire my speak and spell toy from when i was a kid (please see photo if you don't know what it is)

I'm trying re-wire it so i can get some really demonic voices and so far i can only get my voices to sound like alan ball can you please tell me where I'm going wrong?

Kenny: This is your problem, you're putting too much attention on 'Alan Ball' so it's never going to work, as he had Ginger Hair and was very short, plus he played for that 'Other' club in Liverpool, that we don't ever mention. Instead consider using the 'Bruce Forsyth' mode - and go for the Cuddly Toy and press the 'nice to see you to see you nice' button. Just don't midi it up, cause that would mean going digital, and that would be wrong and might do your head in! Then you want to convert it to digital, so you can midi it up.

Question: Hi Kenny, I just can't seem to get the yodel reverb working on my Castrol GTX 303 Velux Semi Pro. I saw them do it on Tomorrow's World in 1982 and ever since have been trying to replicate this unique effect. My mother has been very patient since I gave up my job in 1986 and moved back in with her to concentrate full time on this important task, but I just can't seem to get it. I've tried pretty much everything, most recently adding extra dampling but this as expected had the classic knock on effect in terms of the uplighter and acrostic overspill in the mid range and as a fellow perfectionist you can imagine that this really isn't acceptable to me. I had thought of inserting padding to fill out the extraneous back trimming but have doubts. Finally, just a silly query, vanity really, but there's a nasty smear on the walnut veneer of my Ultralow Forward (Cordless), just won't rub off, blast it. Any tips?

Kenny: OK, I'm very willing to school you on this, but you don't seem very intelligent, and you being a bit of a fucktard (like most the people on this site) I'm going to have to type REALLY slowly so I can get it into your thick skull! You know that big round thing on the top of your shoulders, it's called a "Head" inside that "Head" is a brain, you may have one or two brain cells left, so try and use them on reading this? I normally charge £3000 per hour for tutorials, but as I'm nice, I'll give you a free-bee! Just imagine me as a Thai Ladyboy you met in Bangkok.

OK so, I'm glad you asked me this question, as 'Castrol GTX 303 Velux Semi Pro' was a subject I was going to cover in my next tutorial, but I'll do it now I guess, as I'm more intelligent than everyone on this website. What you want to do is rob your mum's credit card and then ask her for her pin number, then move out to vietnam and order 18 'Mac Pro's' from Ireland and sell them to kids for twice the price. Then go outside into your garden with your 'Korg Backyard 3000' and your 'Roland Sultan of Brunei 1973' and make some smash hit records.

Here's a video tutorial I made earlier:

Question: If I was thinking of starting an all boy electronic supergroup, say in the vain of Kraftwerk or Bronski Beat. My question would be what synthesizer/organ should we all use ?

Kenny: You'll need the "Euclid Teardrop Explosion 8000' with the inverted keys and the 'Draught Excluder 2.0' plug in, which will stop any draught

Question: Which synth has the best dog sounds please? I'm thinking Doberman rather than poodle, can you please help?

Kenny: HA! Some of you people are so, so stupid, that's why I'm much more intelligent than all of you. This is such a common question that I get asked all the time.

It was the "Matrix K9 Special 1979" which was used on the theme of Dr. Who and "Cat Stevens - Was Dog a Doughnut (from 1977)". Not to be mistaken for the "Roland Yorkshire Terrier 106" which just didn't have the same bite to it. Also you had to bend over it, around the back and click on the "Walkies" button for it to do anything (and it stank).

This reminds me of an email I had this morning from some bloke in 'Beristan headmans', asking me advice on his 'Swine Flu'! I told him to ring the "Swine Flu Hot Line" and ask them to sort it out for ya! He got back to me an hour later saying there was too much Crackling on the line! I told him to put some Oinkment on it...

Kenny: OK, we're now into week 384 of Synthesiser Tutorials.

I hope you're all keeping up and not at some Free Rastafarian Street Carnival in that there West London, or something?

So, get you're pencils and papers ready!

OK, so you want to get yourself a 'Macro Minimoog' they are Massive and hard to come by, but I think you can find one on eBay for about 883.60p English Yen.

I got this information from Dr. Bob Jones (who's the godfather of the modern Synthesiser), and I'm 100% sure he wouldn't mind me sharing this information with you all, but it's rather complex, so I'm going to type really slowly so you can all understand me, cause as you all know you're a bit thick and I'm much more intelligent than you.

So, the first thing you need to do is invest in a 'Macro Minimoog' which is from 1843 and made by Dr. Sharon Carlos (he had a sex change), but it's the best Synthesiser of all time, and fortunately it's analogue, so you wont have to use one of those computers, which give you that Aids thingy, but not Aids in a good way, I'm talking about Aids in a bad way.

So, it's analogue and you can do wave forms that look like Mount Everest, and it plays one note at a time, so it may take you 5 years, but it has an isolator. IT'S AMAZING!

The isolator has a wave form, you can make it into any shape, like car parks, a triangle, a hexagon and that 'Gherkin Building' in that there city of London, it also does circles. And with all those harmonics, you can also shape the sound with filtering through a Kettle and you can also cut these harmonics out by using a rubber!

But it has an envelope, which does 4 things, attack, so you might want to buy an M16 machine gun, the decay and sustain and release, that's when you want to bring in a photo of Margaret Thatcher into the Studio for a long release.

I really have no idea what I'm talking about, but it sounds good eh?
And I hope you're listening?

Tune in next week when I cover 'WOW Peddles'

I hope this helps.

Good luck.



Love you all.


Bye Kenny. We love you too.


domski said...

Says it all.

Cheers Dr. Kenny...

Aidan kelly said...

Very funny very sad thanks for using my shot of Kenny

stuart Mc Corrisken said...

so sad.

lee grainge said...

Wow never knew Kenny knew so much about synths. What a brilliant chap. Greatly missed by many. Peace My H. x

harri said...

Magic : D Love and miss you mate x

tee cardaci said...

Thanks for sharing that bit of synth-laden comic genius. Kenny spent a lot of time in my old lower haight neighborhood of san francisco and he was known for twisted sense of humor as much as he was for being a great guy and a wicked dj. rip kenny.