There's a searching, restless quality to the electronic music Kevin Kennedy records both solo under the name FBK and with musical partner James Johnson in 2016 Alive Band to Watch the Fallen.
Even when the foundational beat remains static, such as the booming, bass-heavy thump at the core of “Modular Life,” which opens the new FBK album,More Stories from the Future (out April 12 on Rekids), there are a host of percolating sounds spider-webbing, mutating and shifting uneasily just beneath the surface. It's a trait Kennedy traces to a natural curiosity inherited from his mother and developed in adolescence, where his quest for knowledge drove him to devour the dictionary and encyclopedias with a thirst more recent generations reserved for Harry Potter.
“Exploration of self, exploration of sound, exploration of life, have all been really helpful for me in making sure that I don't just get stagnant, or stay in a safe place,” said Kennedy, who will perform a rare DJ set at Spacebar on Friday, April 19. “People always say, ‘Well, you know, all techno sounds the same,' but the thing about my own music is that if you get past the bottom of the track, you know, where the kick drum is or what have you, and you start listening to some of the other elements, you will find nothing else sounds alike. … I don't sound like anybody else does, in that respect.”
Kennedy further credits this revelation to his omnivorous musical tastes, fostered by his parents, where hip-hop, house and hard rock shared listening space with classical music, a genre to which the producer still credits his ear for composition, which he's been developing since crafting his first tracks in 1994.
Despite this decades-spanning career,More Stories from the Futuremarks the debut long-player from FBK, which helps explain, in part, why its creation proved difficult for Kennedy, who struggled with the weight of expectation as well as a desire to make a grand artistic statement, ditching an early draft of the album that felt too high-minded and too musically ill at ease.
“I've never put out a vinyl double album, so this was monumental for me, and I kind of got stuck,” Kennedy said. “I wanted to do something conceptual and I wanted to do something, I guess you could say brilliant. But then I realized what [Rekids co-founder Matt Edwards] wanted was for me to be myself.”
The process — and eventually the album itself — mirrored Kennedy's personal evolution, which has seen him grow more comfortable with his track in life. As a younger man, the musician was imbued with a singular drive and an outspoken nature that left some in the scene to label him angry (incorrectly, he said). And there were times early on he felt he didn't receive the credit due to him as a pioneer of the form.
“When you're a certain age, you see these other people succeeding and you're asking yourself, ‘What do I have to do?' And I've stopped asking that question because I realize I've had a lot of opportunities in my life, and done a lot of things I never could have dreamed when I started,” said Kennedy, who will perform his first European shows this May. “Truth be told, I'm thankful I've made it this far. But I've got so much farther to go.”