Alex Kenji: From Metal to House

Italo-dance DJ, producer, and remixer, Alex Kenji, is a 10-year vet of the scene whose rep has increased in recent years. No surprise there, with the success of his singles ‘UP’, ‘A Lot Of’, ‘Adelante’, ‘Gimme Five’, and ‘Pressure’ all reaching #1 in the Beatport Top 100 chart, Alex is possibly the hottest property in house right now. JUICE speaks to the man on his Japanophile-sounding name, the importance of pseudonyms as a DJ, and how he transitioned from being in a metal band to doing electronic music.

Hey Alex. Randomly, three of your stage names (including this one) are Japanese-sounding, we take it you’re a bit of a Japanophile? Tell us a bit about it.
Hey guys! (Laughs) Random first question but well-timed because I am actually on my 2013 Japan tour right now! I was a graphic designer before I pursued music as my full time career and when I first started producing electronic music, I quite liked Japanese animation and thought the Japanese names sound quite cool! But it was kind of a phase and since 2007, I decided to keep my artist name as only Alex Kenji.

Keeping to the pseudonym topic, why is important for DJ-producers to have different names when they are doing different kinds of music?
In the beginning I changed names a few times while I was still trying to find my sound but I soon decided to stick with Alex Kenji as my name and everything I released under this name was to be true to my sound. I think for many DJs, it is a way of moving between genres without alienating their fanbase but for me now, I am simply “Alex Kenji” so anything you hear from me is true to whatever style I am feeling at that moment.

They say you like to jump genres, but tell us what remains as your one constant and why.
House music has always been my true love since I first started listening to electronic music. The sounds of dance music have changed so much and I had many different tastes along the way from electro, tech, funky, deep, even some minimal. Right now I am enjoying the more progressive, club house sound, but I will always keep house music at the centre of what I do and this allows me to do many variations while still retaining my signature sound.

Besides being a DJ, you run 2 labels. Is it easier for you to do things yourself rather than go through an established label?
I think my decision to start the Hotfingers and 303lovers labels with Manuel De La Mare and Luigi Rocca gave me the freedom to make and release my own music without having to answer to anybody else. It meant everything was my own and I would take the full impact of failure or success. Luckily I found almost immediate success as my first few releases on Hotfingers all did really well on Beatport and I got 3 Beatport number 1’s in a row with ‘Adelante’, ‘A Lot Of’ and also ‘UP’ on Starter Records. From then on, my name became well known. Now, our labels are actually two of the most successful labels in Beatport’s short history with over 300,000 sales to date, so we are delighted that we have built really successful labels. However, I do still release my music with other big labels like Toolroom and Spinnin, so the mix is good for me.

If we were to explore Italy’s EDM scene, who would you suggest us begin and end with?
I think many people are surprised by the impact Italy has had on electronic dance music in the past and continues to have right now. Italy was the birth place of the Italo disco genre in the ‘80s, which a lot of today’s nu disco is heavily based around. And also Italian DJ-producers like Mauro Picotto, Benni Benassi, Bloody Beetroots, etcetera, have had massive influence on dance music over the years. Right now, the clubbing scene in Italy is strong and there are so many Italian DJ-producers that are amongst the most popular in house and techno music… Marco Carola, Pirupa, Riva Starr, Davide Squillace, The Crookers, our good friends and production collaborators Federico Scavo, NDKJ. And of course, most importantly, the Hotfingers and 303lovers crew of Alex Kenji, Manuel De La Mare and Luigi Rocca! (Laughs)

What would have you done now had you not discovered electronic music?
I think I would have found some role in the technical side of music eventually. Music has always been my passion along with computers so if I did not come across electronic music, I think I would have eventually become a sound engineer or something like that.

How did the transition from metal to house happen anyway? They’re 2 ends of the genre spectrum.
From metal to dance music? As I explained already, I have always been into all types of music. The first time I met electronic music was somewhere between 1992 and 1994. I was discovering dance music from Snap, Corona, Haddaway, Digital Boy and etcetera, and I used to go to see their shows in a  nearby discothèque here in Pisa. Then in High School I started to make rock music but after about 6 years drumming and playing synthesiser in a band, I started listening to some drum’n’bass and house music, and immediately began wanting to start to understand how to make electronic music. That’s where it all started I suppose.

Describe to us what your idea of a perfect set is.
A perfect set is one that gives the crowd the soundtrack to the best party they have ever had!

What can we expect from you at Global Sound System: Official Music Festival for Music Conference ASIA?
A set full of energy and groove that is designed to make the crowd dance from start to finish and to give them a great time!

Alex Kenji is slated to perform at Music Conference ASIA’s official festival Global Sound System on Saturday 27 April ’13.