Grime’s production scene is in rude health, and Kenny Davis is very much a part of it. A producer known for his work as part of Earthspin Recordings and as a beatmaker in his own right, his tunes have received plays from Sir Spyro, Sian Anderson and more. But like many eventual grime beat scientists, the introduction to music starts much earlier. For Kenny, “it was whatever my mum was listening to. I’d always remember being in our little flat, and she’d have all the 90s garage.”
The early teen years act as a conduit for personal development. As Davis started high school, he took a deeper interest in music. “When I found my passion in making and DJing, that was around first year, secondary school. So, like the typical youth club sort of days, everyone gets into music around that time. And it was drum & bass and jump-up, mainly.”
“I got into drum & bass for about six years. For six years or so I was a drum & bass DJ, buying vinyl was non-stop. Every bit of birthday money just buying vinyls, vinyls, vinyls. And then one day it just slowly started turning into dubstep, because the DJ side of things isn’t my forte. I took a lot more interest in the production side of things”
His interest transitioned from dubstep to grime, and it was the “raw side” of the genre that initially caught his ear. He explains that grime’s DIY infrastructure and independent approach only added to his love. “I’ve always liked the underground. I didn’t like the idea of playing out in a massive club in front of thousands and thousands of people, that sort of thing didn’t interest me. I liked the whole bedroom-y, MC on a set and that sort of thing. That was everything.”
While artists like Hazard, Harry Shotta & Erb N Dub stood out to Davis as a kid via workshops delivered at his local youth club, grime’s potential to accommodate a range of styles was what drew him to the genre. “The spectrum is so big, from using real instruments, or you could go mad with it and have some basic tune based around the percussion. There are no rules”. Is there a specific set of instruments that he likes? “I love choirs, strings. It seems more real if that makes sense. As opposed to just synths and wobbly basslines”.
Davis’ latest venture is a V.I.P. subscription service launched via Bandcamp. Grime labels like Slimzos Recordings and South London Space Agency have set one up, and I’m keen to find out why Kenny has followed suit. “I had the idea early last year. I was thinking, what have I got?” he tells me. “I was constantly thinking: what can I do? And I thought, by the time I’ve done it – at the end of January – that’s a year gone”.
Bots EP is the first material released from Davis’ VIP membership. The EP started as just one track, but Davis explains that “all the sounds on Bots EP are from ‘Bot Riddim’, they were edits.” It was a way for him to launch his new venture and “use the subscription service to put them out”.
At the heart of Davis’ ambition for the VIP service is community building. “My main idea was anything that goes on to the exclusive membership is quite literally going to be just for them. It might go to one or two DJs, but I’m not gonna mass mail out these tunes. The people that do like my stuff and do support it, by buying it, at least they feel like they’re getting exclusivity to that tune. It’s not going to be something that everybody’s got in their arsenal. I want to build some community with the people that are willing to put their hands in their pocket and sign up.”
“Maybe one day I’m gonna be like, okay, I’ve got a few tunes here, maybe I’ll be able to put a private link together or email some clips to these people that are subscribed and give them the choice of what is comes next.” In time, he hopes to build connections with budding producers. Explaining that “Maybe, in the long run, there’s a young producer that’s buying my stuff and likes and subscribes and starts messaging, and who knows, maybe I’ll do a collab or help them out in some way. Or they like that exclusive tune that’s gone up, I can give them the stems and say do something with it.”
Bandcamp has been a trusted platform for musicians looking to earn proportionately from their work, but since 2020, it has come into focus across a range of underground scenes. Their annual ‘Bandcamp Day’ — which occurs on the first Friday of each month — sees the platform waive their revenues as a show of solidarity to independent musicians. Kenny feels that Bandcamp Day itself is “brilliant”, explaining that there aren’t “many negatives at all”. However, he does feel that in the sea of music, “things get lost”, and he’s critical of artists who “hold on to just releasing for Bandcamp Day.” Which seems like a natural by-product of holding one day where artists can earn the maximum amount.
As the monthly event has been running for two years, music heads have offered ideas towards different ways of operating Bandcamp Day. Kenny tells me he thinks that “it could be more like a back catalogue day. Rather than everything new, maybe go and pick something up that you haven’t picked up from my collection.” Critiques aside, Davis is keen to point out that “you do earn a hell of a lot more than you would do if you were streaming or just having it up on iTunes. Because, you know, not a lot of people are really spending money on iTunes like that nowadays.”
As our conversation winds down, and with Kenny’s eventual ambition to link up with up-and-coming producers via his subscription service, I’m keen to find out what tips he’d pass on to them if he could. After a clearing of his throat and a few seconds to consider, he tells me: “Experiment, just do something. If you’ve done all that you can do and it sounds good on your equipment, just go for it!”
Sign up for Kenny Davis’ V.I.P Subscription here
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