Loop Dreams: Kenny Segal

Loop Dream returns as Max Bell speaks to the vaunted producer about playing cello in middle school, soundtracking a commercial with Kevin Federline, and more.
By    November 13, 2020

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Max Bell gets five-dollar phone cards from the corner store.

Kenny Segal has never had a producer tag, but you know a Segal beat immediately. The drums drop like desks around layers of jazz-inflected organic instrumentation, the deftly chopped arrangements colored by the warmth of the SP-404. His beats sound nostalgic, for life and rap, in the most human (also read: least fetishistic) way. They echo from an aisle of the boom-bap library no one else has explored. If otherground rap (in the broadest sense) has an Alchemist, someone who bends their inimitable style to fit the styles of renowned rappers, it’s Segal. The 40-year-old Maryland/DC transplant’s list of collaborators is long, including but not limited to Busdriver, R.A.P. Ferreira (Segal worked with him as Milo, too), Open Mike Eagle, Billy Woods, Elucid, and Serengeti. 

Decades before he and Kenny Beats would be mistaken for one another, Segal attended USC on a computer scholarship. Between classes, he made beats and DJed in a drum and bass crew. After impressing the Project Blowed rappers who bought weed from his roommate, Segal took the first steps of his winding career. He DJed for Abstract Rude, made an album with P.E.A.C.E., and spent nearly a decade composing music commercially, expanding his producorial range and using the dividends to finance projects like his 2008 album Ken Can Cook. After Busdriver connected him with R.A.P. Ferreira, though, Segal’s work began to reach more ears. One Ferreira record led to work with someone else and so on. The core elements of Segal’s sound haven’t changed radically, but he’s refined and expanded that nostalgic thump in a myriad of ways.

You can hear it all on Kenstrumentals Vol. 4: a lot on my plate. Arguably the best in the series, it a lot on my plate is largely a compilation of beats from collaborative rap albums released in the last year: Back at the House (with Hemlock Ernst), AJAI (with Serengeti), Purple Moonlight Pages (with R.A.P. Ferreira and The Jefferson Park Boys). Earlier this month, Segal breaked from setting up a chicken coop in his backyard to discuss his career, his philosophies on inspiration and collaboration, his gear and grind, and much more. Come for insights on creativity and the life lessons of a two-decade career; stay for Segal’s story about working with Kevin Federline on that infamous Super Bowl commercial.

You’re 40 now. Do you ever feel out of touch with contemporary rap outside of your circle of collaborators?

Kenny Segal: Sometimes I have moments where I’m like, “Oh, shit, I’m the old guy.” There’s a lot of stuff with autotune generation of rap that totally misses me, but I don’t know if that’s about age. I’m really blessed to have a lot of close friends—both music friends and friend friends—who are about a decade younger than me. I’m exposed to a lot more stuff through hanging out with them. A lot of the Team Supreme guys and people of that ilk, or even Rory. One of my favorite things is when Rory and I go on tour and he’s in control of the music we listen to in the car. I normally have a note on my phone open where I’m jotting down almost everything he plays, so that I can listen to it more on my own.

You’re from Rockville, Maryland. What was that area like? How did growing up there impact you musically?

Kenny Segal: We lived in the suburbs of DC and Maryland. Right around middle school, my parents moved to an area that was kind of like the boonies. If they hadn’t moved, me and Billy Woods would’ve gone to the same high school. Once we became friends later in life, we realized we lived that close to each other and used to go to the same comic book shop. But I grew up in the suburbs of DC. Pretty liberal overall. I don’t know how it contributed to my musical upbringing. Certainly, the first hip-hop I was into was all East Coast stuff. I wasn’t aware of any of the Project Blowed stuff until I moved to LA for college. I listened to Wu-Tang and all of DJ Premier’s stuff: Gang Starr, Jeru the Damaja, Group Home. Though I was really more into like Nine Inch Nails and stuff like that, too. The only regional musical influence is that back then I was pretty into Baltimore club music, which is a little bit like Jersey club. It’s like breakbeats but at house speed. They would broadcast that on the radio stations on Friday nights directly from clubs in Baltimore. I loved that shit, and all of my homies hated it and would yell at me to turn it off.

I believe you played cello in school. Did you play other instruments? Do you think that foundational training has helped you as a producer?

Kenny Segal: I took some piano lessons in elementary school. I started playing cello in middle school when they had orchestra and band. I think no one was playing cello, so the teacher encouraged me to play cello. I was never really super great. I was always third chair, though I played all the way through high school. According to my parents, I was interested in making music more than learning to be great at the instruments. I was making little piano songs when I was playing piano and writing stuff on my cello. My parents got a computer back when the internet was brand new, around ninth grade. I had some music software on there, so that was my first introduction to computer music. I also had a four-track. I never had the patience to get great at any of the instruments, but early on I was interested in recording and making things.

How did you get that software? What was the functionality like?

Kenny Segal: There was a whole kind of movement back in the ’90s on computers. It really started with Amiga computers, and they had these programs called trackers. They were basically like a sampler and a sequencer all in one on your computer. It was pretty revolutionary at the time. None of them were very pro. They were all made by college kids. I downloaded this program FastTracker, which let you have eight tracks of samples that you can sequence on top of each other. Then I was off to the races. There weren’t any sample libraries back then, so you had to collect your own sounds. I became very big on recording sounds. I had these walkie talkies and didn’t know what a pickup was, like on a guitar. So I took apart a walkie talkie and taped it to my cello. I would have it broadcast to the other walkie talkie, which had a little headphone output that I could plug into the Sound Blaster sound card. So I would record my cellos through the walkie talkies. That was my first real attraction to sample based music making.

You attended USC on a computer engineering scholarship. From our previous conversations, though, it sounds like you were more like a weed dealing Rick Rubin on the West Coast, right?

Kenny Segal: [laughs] A little bit. I went there for computers, but I didn’t do very much. I quickly fell in with some drum and bass DJ guys. That led to Konkrete Jungle. And yes, I had a roommate who sold weed. That led to becoming friends with all the Project Blowed rappers. Them coming over definitely changed my whole course from being very electronic to being more hip-hop focused because there were all these really cool, talented people around who could rap dope on the music I was making. I started focusing more on that. You made it sound a little funnier than it really is, but you pretty much summed up my college experience.

When you were producing for the Project Blowed guys, what production equipment and software did you use? What did those beats sound like?

Kenny Segal: It was all FastTracker. All my beats up until maybe 2007 were done in FastTracker. And then I had this other program called Cool Edit that I think now is Adobe Audition. Cool Edit Pro was like Pro Tools for PC, a multitrack recording program. So that’s what we do the vocals in. And FastTracker was somewhat limited in all of the things you could do in it. I would often take things back and forth between the two programs. I would export loops and then fuck with them in Cool Edit and put them back into FastTracker. I also used ReBirth, which was before Reason. It was an emulation of a 303 and an 808. I would use that to make loops. I would export like sounds out of that. As far as what the music sounded like, the funny thing is I still sometimes tap into beats from way back when. The first Kenstrumentals project is almost all FastTracker beats. They’re not necessarily from the ’90s, but they’re definitely from that era. The album I did with P.E.A.C.E. called Megabyte is from that era. Some of those beats are from high school. Me and Serengeti have yet another project coming out, one more epilogue for AJAI. It’s all beats of mine from 2005 or earlier. They’re all FastTracker beats. It’s all from an old beat tape of mine Geti got a hold of and did his thing over. That’s one of the things that fucks my head up. I really like the stuff that I’m making now, but when I go into the archives and listen to old stuff, I’m like, “Dang!” I was sometimes having better or at least comparably dope ideas back. The difference was I just didn’t know how to bring them all home at the time. But the core ideas were often there.

When and how did you get into composing music professionally/commercially? What was so valuable about that work and work environment?

Kenny Segal: I was at a drum and bass gig at a club in Santa Monica that used to be called The Pink. Raymond Roker from Urb would throw a drum and bass night there, and me and my crew were DJing there with Phoenix Orion. There was a woman DJ before us named Meredith, and she was like, “Hey, my boyfriend runs this company and all of you guys should come down and check it out this week.” I almost didn’t go. I went on a lark with Ed from the Glitch Mob because he was one of my best friends back in college. Me, Ed, and Daedelus ended up getting hired as interns at this company called tomandandy that was a music house that made music for video games, movies, TV commercials, and all sorts of shit. That was my entryway into the whole business. Meredith’s boyfriend, now husband, Scott was the one who eventually hired me at the company where I worked for seven years doing the TV stuff. He was both mine and Ed’s mentor in that industry.

That experience is super valuable, even though it’s required me to do all sorts of wack and sometimes soul crushing music that’s not what I want to be making. When you first start making music, you have so much inspiration. I used to run home between classes in college just to make a beat in 10 minutes. Then you get past that stage and start wondering about your inspiration or Muse. You have times when you’re more inspired and times when you’re less inspired. When you have a job like I did at ELIAS, where you have to show up to work every single day and create on demand and do whatever they want you to, you start realizing that you have a lot of unlocked potential. You start realizing how to tap into that in ways that you hadn’t before. It certainly taught me a lot about my muse and inspiration. It also let me do a lot of crazy stuff. I was chief studio engineer at that company, so when we did a session with 30 string players with an orchestra, I was recording them with a bunch of expensive mics. Or when you’ve made a piece of music for some Visa Olympics thing where they could hire an orchestra, then all of a sudden, I get to have a 30 piece string section come in and play the music that I wrote on a keyboard. We had tons of top notch session players coming through to play on your stuff. It just taught me a lot about all sorts of music making stuff outside of just like beat making that isn’t always directly applicable, but it also adds to the richness—it’s not just the palette of sounds that you have, but it’s the palette of skills that you have, too. Working in that industry expanded that palette a lot.

For the readers, will you please recount working on Kevin Federline’s Super Bowl Commercial?

Kenny Segal: I thought everyone had forgotten about that, but it was pretty funny at the time. At that job that I used to work at, there were a whole bunch of composers, and we all competed against each other for every job. It’s like being on Top Chef or something. They’re like, “Alright, we’re all writing rap beats for Kevin Federline for a Nationwide commercial,” or, “We’re all writing rock songs for this movie.” So I won that one. When they come in, normally, the composer works one-on-one with the vocal talent. If it’s a big time ad, some executive might come in. Because Nationwide was spending so much and it was a Super Bowl commercial, like half of Nationwide wanted to be there. There were like 20 ad people in the studio. Then Kevin Federline shows up with a small entourage, like two bodyguards and one other person. He got in the vocal booth, and he was like, “Yo, everyone has to get the fuck out of here.” So they made everyone leave, except for me, one other engineer and one person from the ad agency. He recorded it super quick. We recorded it, and then he went out on the patio lounge area of the studio and smoked cigarettes in the corner surrounded by his bodyguards until he left.

What advice would you give to someone working a full time and trying to make art outside of it? What about time management?

Kenny Segal: I don’t know if this is good advice for everyone. For myself, it was, “Don’t force it.” There were times during those seven years at ELIAS that my personal music waned. I would make music all day, and then I wouldn’t be inspired to make music at home. But then there’d be times where I’d be super inspired to make music at home. Ken Can Cook happened while I was at that job, so you can do it. When I’m inspired to make something happen, it happens very quickly. When I’m not, it’s just depressing and like pulling teeth. If I’m not in the zone for my personal stuff, I try not to worry about it. Obviously, if I have a client with a deadline, I don’t have that luxury. For my stuff, I just try and follow those ebbs and flows.

One related piece of advice: I think it’s good to have a day job in the beginning. I see young people try to monetize their art very early. Or they’re worried about monetizing it right away. Don’t worry about that shit in the beginning, just have fun creating. You should have years of creating for the sake of creating and not thinking about an audience. I think a lot of people start off making music on some, “I want to make lo-fi beats study to,” or, “ I want to make like progressive house.” They have these very narrow focuses of what they’re trying to do right off the bat. To me, that seems like the totally opposite approach. Even back when I was doing drum and bass, I didn’t think of myself as a drum and bass producer. I just made music of all sorts… I was experimenting and having fun and just doing whatever the fuck I wanted to do at the time. I think a lot of people can miss out on that by focusing on success. Even if you have some early success, that normally doesn’t translate into a career. If you haven’t gone through the process of coming up with your own unique perspective and thing that you do, then it’s probably not going to last.

To that end, do you feel that you have a style/voice/sound? Do you ever think about this consciously?

Kenny Segal: I used to think that I didn’t have a signature sound and that was one of the things that held me back. This was thinking of mine like five or more years ago. Now, when I look back at my catalogue, I realize I had a signature sound all along. For some people, their shit is always going to be jazzy and feel good, or it’s always dark and crazy. It’s not that type of signature sound. I think it’s more of an overall aesthetic maybe. But I try not to really dwell on that type of shit. The only reason why I even think about it much now or admit that I have a sound is because now that people care about my music enough to write about it and review it, I sometimes read what people say. Obviously, it’s hard to completely ignore what people write. But when I’m making music, I don’t think, “Is this on brand for Kenny?” That’s the last thing on my mind. I just try to make what appeals to me.

I’ve described your beats—have heard your beats described—as “nostalgic.” Does that resonate with you?

Kenny Segal: Yes, in that I’m drawn to nostalgic aesthetics in my regular life. If you look at the video games I play on Nintendo Switch, I love all the 16 bit, 8 bit throwback versions. I was just playing one called The Messenger, which is like a throwback to Ninja Gaiden. Even my house is full of thrift store furniture. All my gear, too. For the most part, I don’t really go in for the newest flashy gear. I like older stuff. I like records. So yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if my music evokes some nostalgia.

Do you have any guiding principles for collaboration? In-studio rules? Advice?

Kenny Segal: Some producers that I know have a very rigid system of how they do their thing and don’t like to break out of that. I find, certainly when it comes to working with vocalists, that’s not the way to go. I try to be a real producer in the Rick Rubin, Dr. Dre sense of the word. I want to bring out the best of the artists. There’s always some growing pains when we first start working together, but I try to match their workflow. I want them to be doing their best work. If that’s them writing at home and sending me verses over the internet, that’s what we do. If it’s them sitting in my living room for eight hours and writing while I play the beat all day, that’s what we’re going to do. If it’s me having a say in the topics or giving them advice on that shit, then I’ll do that. If it’s not, then I won’t. I try to hone in on what’s going to make the best album.

If you envision a track going differently, do you push back?

Kenny Segal: Definitely. I mostly work with people that I feel comfortable doing that with. There’s always growing pains in every relationship, and there’s a little bit of a dance in the beginning as you feel each other out creatively. That’s why I most enjoy working with people that I am close with. It’s no holds barred. We can say whatever we feel, and I have no problem being quality control on things if I need to be. I also have no problem sometimes saying, “Yo, I don’t get this, but I understand that this is what you’re trying to do. Could you explain it to me better?” Or sometimes I’ll just hold my tongue and be wise enough to realize, “I don’t think this is good, but I also see that this is the way that we’re going to get to shit that I thought was really good by this person in the past.” I definitely give criticism and advice, but I also try to do it appropriately.

Of all of the collaborative projects you’ve done in recent years, is there one that is particularly special to you?

Kenny Segal: All of them are special in some way. I’ve been super lucky in that I’ve put out a string of albums where, when each one was done, I’m like, “Dang, this is the best thing I’ve ever done.” As you mature as an artist, you start to recognize that not everything can be the best thing you’ve ever done. As far as an album, I have to say Purple Moonlight Pages. It was a culmination of a lot of ideas, a master’s thesis of a lot of things that I’ve been working on for many years. That’s not to take away from any of the other albums I’ve done recently, because I think all of them are really dope. But I got to pull out all the stops on that one. I did a number of things that I’ve done in the past, but I got to do them in their best form yet.

As a producer, how important is it to be part of a music scene in your city?

Kenny Segal: That’s changed so much over the years. With the internet and pandemic, everything is so weird right now. I don’t know how valid my feelings on that are at this moment. But for me, a community has helped me in a number of ways, from being part of Project Blowed and meeting all those guys to Team Supreme. And I’ve been very lucky to be part of teams that had very talented people attached to them. I’m always trying to learn from people around me. When I’m on a team with someone who’s dope, I’m trying to find out what they’re doing. Not to steal it or copy, but just to add that to my arsenal. That’s what I love about Team Supreme: everyone was dope in such unique ways. It was really easy to share all your secrets with everyone because no one was directly competing. It wasn’t like I was going to become Mr. Carmack Pt. II or something. We’re able to share a lot of techniques and make everyone stronger for it. That’s more of a crew than a scene. I’d also say scenes are important. I got into hip-hop by being around that drum and bass scene that Daddy Kev had going on at Konkrete Jungle. Low End Theory is slowly fading in the memory, but it was super instrumental as far as the community that it provided. There were spots before that, too, like Sketchbook. Community is the catalyst of things.

You have a fairly extensive home studio that I’ve had the privilege of visiting. What gear is in there today?

Kenny Segal: The brain of the operation is a Mac tower that’s getting quite long in the tooth. It’s a 2012 model. I need a PCI card to run my sound card, so I’ve been dreading the fact that I’m probably going to have to upgrade to the new cheesegrater Mac. Then I have some choice analog gear. One of the main pieces I have is a Neve Portico II channel, which is like a channel strip. It’s like a preamp compressor and EQ. Then I have a Mohog MoFET 76, which is a remake of an 1176. To me, it’s the best sounding one. I’ve worked in studios that had both vintage and newer versions of 1176’s, and this one sounds a lot like the vintage ones we used to have at the studio I worked at. My main sound card is a MyTek Converters, which are not the typical thing you see in studios. You see them in mastering studios but not in typical home studios. I got a lot of guitar pedals and some weird keyboards. But the preamp, the compressor, and MyTek are my main signal chain that everything’s going through.

How often do you buy new gear?

Kenny Segal: I buy gear sporadically. Sometimes I go on a gear buying spree, and then sometimes I go months or even a year without buying anything. I find that if I buy too many things I don’t actually learn to use them well. I almost always buy things used. If something I want is available, I’ll sometimes get it and not even open it or use it for a while just because I’m not ready for it yet. Even if I’m not buying new shit, I normally have something that I bought in the past that I still have on my agenda to crack open and get into. One piece of advice I’d give to people on that front is this: don’t buy too much stuff all at once. Back in the day, I had very limited equipment and knew every inch of how to use everything I owned. Not so much anymore. I wish I knew every single thing I own like the back of my hand.

Over the years, I know you’ve used the SP quite a bit, at least for live shows. Which iteration do you prefer? What about it appeals to you?

Kenny Segal: I prefer the OG one. That’s the SP-404 that’s not SX. Each 404 and 303 has slightly different effects. To me, 404 OG has most of the versions of the effects that I like the most. And the 404, performance-wise, is interesting in that it has a sound to it. The 404 SX is a little bit cleaner. When you load up a WAV file of a fully finished beat, it pretty much sounds the same way it sounded on the computer. The 404 OG does a little something to it, which is usually a good thing. Sometimes it can even make a beat that’s maybe not fully dialed in sound a little bit better than it really is. For live performance, when I’m trying to play some unfinished shit, is a cool factor. Once in a while, though, it rears its ugly head when I have like a fully mastered song from a finished thing. It doesn’t quite sound right on the OG one. But I own both for 404’s because they both have their uses. When I’m performing, 9 times out of 10 it’s with the OG.

How does the SP factor into composing music?

Kenny Segal: I definitely use it as an effects pedal and run audio through it. I often use it as my way of sampling vinyl because the turntables are in a different room than my studio. A lot of times, the easiest way to sample vinyl is I’ll just bring the 404 SX out to the turntables and hook it up and record a bunch of shit onto it and then dump the card onto my computer afterwards. Rarely, I do make beats on it. It’s not like I’ve never made beats on it. I don’t love the workflow on it. Maybe like four or five years ago, I made a real concerted effort. I was like, “I’m going make an album on the 404.” I just kind of like petered out on it. There have been 404 beats on projects. It’s not like I don’t ever use it, but it’s not my main composition tool. I have used it in band settings as a sample player. It’s something like a Swiss Army knife. You can do a lot of things with it.

What DAWs do you use?

Kenny Segal: Over the years, I’ve used a number of DAWs. For a long time, I was a Digital Performer guy, which is kind of weird. Not a lot of hip-hop producers use that, but that was partly from my old job. That was the main DAW we used. I just was used to it, and it’s also a very powerful program. These days, I’m almost exclusively in Ableton. I don’t really use a lot of the tools within it. What I like about Ableton is that it’s as simple or complicated as you want it to be. I normally use Ableton as a recorder. I record audio into it and edit like you would probably do in Pro Tools, but it just has better editing capabilities, at least in my experience. I don’t use a ton of the built-in stuff. I do use some of the built-in things, like the EQ and the compressor. I don’t use a ton of the synthesizers. In fact, I sometimes marvel at how ignorant I am of Ableton features. Mike Parvizi, who’s in the Jefferson Park Boys, teaches Ableton. He knows all the tips and tricks, and he’ll often point out how I do something in a stupid way, or I’m missing out on a shortcut that would save me a ton of time. But sometimes I take joy in doing things the hard way. I don’t know why.

Where do you get your drums?

Kenny Segal: Everywhere. I’ve been collecting drum sounds since the mid ’90s. I have a large digital collection of drum sounds. Over the years, I’ve gone through phases. There was a long phase where I was super into having non-traditional sounds as drums. At a certain point, I decided that my shit would bump better if I used more normal sounds. In more recent times, as I became friends with the Team Supreme guys, and Carmack actually lived in my crib. He’s a huge believer in using just random noises for drums and like shaping them into what he wants. And he kind of taught me that I was totally wrong, that things can totally bump using random noises. I often layer some sturdier sounds when I’m using weird noises for drums, but I’m a big believer in anything and everything from classic breakbeats to shit I got off of YouTube to shit I got off a movie to field recordings.

I feel like so much of your recent stuff has been composed of live instruments that you’ve then sampled, rearranged, etc. Is that true?

Kenny Segal: 100%. That’s been a part of my workflow since the early days. When I first was making beats in college, one of my best friends, Ryan Crosby, played guitar. He played guitar and bass on all of my early songs. Very early on, I realized the power of that. I think me and Ryan met at a party at SC once, and he came over to smoke weed afterwards. I was playing him my beats, and he had his guitar with him and started jamming along. I was like, “Holy shit, that sounds dope on this one. Let me load up another one.” I used to have him come over, and I’d play like eight beats in a row. He would just jam whatever hot takes he had in his head. Not only did he just give me all these dope ideas for the beats that I have, but now I can resample these and make new beats. That kind of started me off to the races of this whole mentality of like recording lots of live stuff.

Who’s playing for you?

Kenny Segal: I have a pretty close knit group of people that I know, but I do have random people I work with too. Mike Parvizi and Ryan Crosby, you’ll see them on pretty much everything I do. Aaron Carmack plays on a lot of stuff. Aaron Shaw. He’s a saxophone player from this band Black Nile and also plays flute. My homie Jordan Katz, who plays trombone, trumpet, and a couple other things. Jason Wool. He’s on Purple Moonlight Pages. He’s a virtuoso piano player.

Kenstrumentals Vol. 4 features beats that appeared on other people’s projects. What does putting together one of these records look like?

Kenny Segal: This new Kenstrumentals leans very heavily on beats that have already come out on albums. If you look at the previous three, they’re divided in thirds. If there’s 15 songs, five or six of them are beats from existing rap songs, five or six of them are brand new songs, and five or six of them are remixes or other things that came out in some way but didn’t have like a real home. For numerous reasons, I don’t always believe in putting out the straight instrumentals of albums. When I’m putting together a Kenstrumentals, I look at it as a DJ set. I grab a whole bunch of beats that I think are the ones that I want to put on there. Then I try to fit them together in a way that’s not the way that they were originally put out. I try to find some new context to fit them all together.

What’s the difference between “[dub]” and “[VIP dub]”, which you put at the end of track titles?

Kenny Segal: That’s a throwback to the drum and bass days. When you would have dubplates plates, a lot of times there’d be versions of songs and the “VIP dub” was the version that the DJ made just for his homies. In drum and bass context, it was the version that was easier to DJ intro. For me, the ones that are labeled “dub” are just straight instrumentals of the song as it appeared on the album. When it says “VIP dub” that means I did something to change the instrumental in some way. A lot of beats have more elements than we use. I might make a beat and have like six or seven things I’ve thrown in there, but I don’t think that all of them are necessarily going to fit the song. Once I hear the lyrics I’m like, “Half of these don’t even go at all.” If we’re putting out the instrumental, why not give those the light of day? A lot of times I load up these beats and unmute all the muted parts. Sometimes I’m horrified, and I put them back on mute. And other times I’m like, “That shit is dope. Why didn’t we put out the real song?” And there you go. “VIP dub” is born.

Will there be a sequel to Happy Little Trees?

Kenny Segal: That’s what I’m working on right now. Over quarantine, I had that 80% done. Two months ago, I had a moment of truth, where I realized that Kenstrumentals Vol.4 had to happen before the Happy Little Trees follow up because so much time had passed from the beats that were on collaborative albums. Yesterday was like the first night that I had loaded up some of the sessions from that album. It’s not going to be called Happy Little Trees 2. Tentatively, the working title is Indoors. It’s much more electronic than my normal albums, and maybe more electronic than Happy Little Trees. But it still combines a lot of live playing and jazz. It has a few darker songs that tap into where I was during Hiding Places. I’m very excited to have people hear it.

What do you think needs to improve with regard to the coverage of beat music?

Kenny Segal: I feel like that, partly due to you, coverage of instrumental hip-hop, or just beat music, is as good as it’s ever been. There’s a number of fairly high profile outlets that regularly cover it. I feel like for most of Low End Theory’s existence, it was rarely covered by major outlets. I also realize that I’m probably in a little bit of a privilege bubble. Somehow, the last couple years, I’ve been one of the chosen ones that people seem to write and talk about. I was not that person for a majority of the 20 years I’ve been making music, so I totally understand how it feels to be on both sides of that divide. I might not be the best person to answer that. I feel it’s being pretty well covered, and I know that my shit’s been really well covered in the past few years. I think that there’s a lot of thoughtful discussions going on.

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