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Keith Kenniff (Helios)

Hi, Keith.  Firstly, thanks for agreeing to do this even when you're so ill and have a lot on, I really appreciate it.  I'll try to keep it short and sweet but your answers can be as long as you like!

1. When did you decide that a career in music was what you wanted?

I think early on as a kid I really graviated toward wanting to play music, it was always around me in the form of my Dad playing and recording, and him always having music on.  It seemed natural to me to do it, and I found it to be a wonderful outlet to be express myself, espeically in my teenage years. 

2. We recently interviewed Kerry Leva and Matt Lange, both Berklee grads. How do you feel you benefitted most from Berklee? And do you think you would have still been where you are now if you hadnt gone there?

Berklee was a good learning experience, not only for the technical tools they gave me but I think more importantly to see how musicians interacted with each other, learning from teacher's experiences, and the social aspect of the music world.  I grew up in a rural town in Pennsylvania so my experience had pretty much just been limited to that and being in Boston and in an environment with many people from all over the world that attended Berklee gave me a variety of experiences I found very valuable. 

It's hard to say where I would have been if I did not attend Berklee; I feel like I learned a lot about what I did and didn't like about making music.  That period of one's life is a time of self-discovery and feeling out different environments but I think I could have very well stayed in the town I grew up in and not experienced quite as much.  In Berklee, I focused a lot on how to play music as a performer, and I think I just continued my composing as it had started before I went to college; different tools informed me as I learned them but I still went very much on instinct with my personal projects and made it a point never to infuse a lot of technicality to it. 

3. Some people are meticulous planners with short and long term goals and targets. Do you find that way of thinking is essential to be a successful musician or do you believe great music will shine through? 

I think both ways are good.  If there are ways to say what a "successful" musician means, I think a lot of it has to do with dedication to the art itself first and then also discipline to follow through on one's goals.  It's important to ask what you want to accomplish from it, different people have different experiences of writing and playing music, but for me I keep writing music because I always believe the next song will be better (or will communicate more clearly) what I am trying to say by making music (which I think is a wordless concept, more of a direct feeling generated by the music).  That drive helps me to keep on task. 

4. Has your view on this changed as your career has developed?

When I started writing music I had no goals in terms of releasing records or touring with my personal projects, it was more of an inward thing (like a personal journal) to help me sort out my feelings, and I focused on being a performer as a drummer.  As I started to share music with people via releases and also started composing for film and tv work, I started to be more of a writer than a performer.  Ever since I was young I was always in bands and trying to put out little cassette releases or booking shows, so I feel like I've always had that drive to create and do a lot of different things musically, and that hasn't changed.

5. What are your thoughts on piracy and how the music industry is evolving? Do you think music on demand is a good thing or devaluing the art?

I tend to think music on demand can be a good thing, but it can be overwhelming.  If someone has a collection of music that they will never get through now that everything is accessible in a couple of mouse clicks, it makes it harder to focus.  I liked having to search for a release for months, then finally getting the CD in the mail, going through the artwork etc...; nowadays you can find just about anything by doing a Google search.  It really is the listener's resonsibility, labels and artists are just reacting to the technology and access to listeners via online presence, social networks etc..., so I think having all this access and the ability to "steal" music easily is an evolution that started a long time ago and things are so overwhelming that it's kind of like the wild west, but I do think that people need to think responsibly in how they access music.  If you like the music, purchase it, go to their shows, contribute to their kickstarter campaigns etc...because it helps artists do what they do. 

6. While sales in other more commercial areas of music are thought to be declining due to piracy or other reasons, what is your experience within your style and with having your own Unseen imprint?

I think a lot of control can now be in the artist's favor because of things like Tunecore, CD baby, online e-commerce, social networking etc...My experience with the genre of music I seem to write is that it has always largely been dependant on word of mouth.  Good music will always find it's place, I think it may take a while but if it's meaningful to people, they will find it.  Sales are down generally and services like Spotify are controversial in perhaps contributing to that decline, but I think word of mouth is still strong and that artists have to move away from the idea o traditional album sales being a primary source of income.  It's hard to figure out how to navigate the waters, but the industry has to find a way to adapt. 

7. You're a bit of a master when it comes to music sync, especially with the covetted iPhone ad music! Can you remember the first time your music got used in a TV show/Ad and how that came about?

Just after I finished my degree at Berklee, a piece of mine from an album I released as Goldmund got placed for a Toyota commercial, somewhat randomly.  It was really the first glimpse I had into that world, and soon after I started working at composing to picture.  It's a pretty demanding and competetive arena to be in and I've worked very hard at it over the last five years, but I never would have forseen that being a path that I chose when I was at Berklee, it was always much more about performing for me then.

8. What would you like to be doing musically in 5-10 years time? Do you have any big plans or visions? More live productions or movie scoring?

I'd just like to be able to keep doing what I've been doing.  I enjoy all the projects I'm involved in and the people I've been able to meet along the way, so as long as that keeps happening I'd be very happy. 

9. If you had to pick one of your tracks and one of someone else's to take with you to a desert island, which would they be and why?
I think if I had to pick one thing to bring with me, oddly enough it would be Bruce Hornsby's "The Valley Road".  That album was something I had on during my early childhood and it brings back a lot of happy memories, so if I had to choose one thing it would definitely be something that contained nostalgia, and good memories. Unfortunately one song can't contain all the memories I'd like to take with me, so I'd have to bring at least two albums. 

10. And finally, would you like to highlight any forthcoming releases, music sync or gigs that our readers may be interested in?

I have a new Helios full length album I'm working on, as well as a Helios remix cd featuring Rhian Sheehan, Hammock, Rafael Anton Irisarri, my brother Colin, Ben Boysen, Arms and Sleepers and Ulrich Schnauss that I will be self-releasing.  After that there is a more ambient project that my wife Hollie contributed to, and we also have just released an album as Mint Julep, called "Save Your Season" which we're very happy about.  On the film end I've just finished a project together with Warner Brothers to help relief efforts in the horn of Africa (www.wecanbeheroes.org), as well as quite a few other commercial projects (most of which can be found on my website) and I'm contributing music to Stacy Peralta's new film, "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography", an exciting documentary called "Blood Brother", and another documentary called "Chasing Ice" all out this year. 



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