Ken Downie

The Black Dog’s Ken Downie pulls up a chair and faces down the quick-fire question machine

Where are you right now and what can you see?

“At home in Sheffield, nothing but fields. We’re starting a campaign to make 
it more grey.”

‘Music For Photographers’ is an interesting title. What’s behind the thinking there?

“It’s a description of what it is – that’s who it was made for and tested on. It’s part of two years of working on projects that involved music and photography. Putting them together made sense and they just kept feeding each other.”

The Black Dog has also been photographing local architecture. What’s the appeal of the bréton brut?

“It’s part of our youth and influence. It holds some beauty in our eyes and is often misspoken about and that’s enough reason to be interested. The fact it gets people’s backs up makes us laugh.”

You say photography, like music, is a constant battle that needs to be practised. Care to expand?

“All art needs to be practised. To find the ‘soul’ of what you’re doing, you have to search for it. It doesn’t just appear, you have to learn how to look properly.”

So the album was made at the same time the photographs were being taken, on location?

“That’s correct. A lot of the music was written on the road and in the car.”
There’s also a new EP, ‘Brutal Minimalism’, which was produced “within the architecture of the car parks, streets and nearby green spaces”.

That must have provided some challenges?

“Not really. Sitting in the car with a MacBook Pro and Ableton while it pisses it down outside is pretty easy after a while. It becomes normal while you’re waiting for the light or the right weather.”

One of the rules you set for ‘Music For Photographers’ was that it should be played in full when visiting any location. What does that mean in practice?

“It meant staying at the site, often for a couple of hours, finding the photograph and checking that the music worked for the purpose. Lots of tracks didn’t work so they got dropped, and a few were just too miserable.”

Does that rule apply to the listener too? A map would be handy?

“That’s something we can’t decide, but I think we’ve turned a few people on to Brutalism so maybe a map would be useful for the future.”

Have you thought about listening parties in the shadows of these great monoliths?

“We’ve played at Park Hill with Richard H Kirk, but aren’t listening parties a thing of the past?”

Why are music and architecture such good bedfellows?

“We’ve always made music about where we live. It makes perfect sense to reflect that back – I think people get a better idea about where we live from the music and photographs… well, we’ve sold a shitload so they must do.”

You know what’s coming now… is this the ultimate “dancing to architecture” album?

“I think it’s part of something. The next EP could have you dancing, mind!”

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