Darren Keen is back with Problems; new album on Knightwerk; live stream release tomorrow…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:54 pm December 3, 2020
Darren Keen is Problems.

First time I met Darren Keen was almost 20 years ago when he and his band at the time, Musico, dropped off a CD of their latest recordings to a house my then-girlfriend now-wife and I were renting on Izard St. Darren would go on to form The Show Is the Rainbow — a one-man psych-rock hip-hop project that was as much about Keen’s live performances as his trippy merging of rock, rap and good humor.

Since then, Darren has reimagined his sound a number of times, been involved in other bands (Beep Beep comes to mind), moved to New York City and moved back to Lincoln. And now he’s back with a new synth-powered project – Problems.

“A lessen I learned from Joel (Petersen) in the Faint. He said, ‘Your guitar stuff and bass sounds good, but you do not understand how to make a synth sound expressive.’ That quote changed my whole perspective on what a synthesizer can do.” Keen said. “Why do some synths sound so much more visceral? I’ve been trying to figure that out for 12 years.”

I think he’s cracked the code.

Those comments came after I asked why some local synth-based recordings (to me) sound like remixing of pre-packaged, canned synth sounds, while others take it to the next level. Keen’s work on his debut Problems LP, Ought Not Be Overthought, which drops tomorrow on club music label Knightwerk Records, takes it to the next level, and the proof was my wife asking from the next room, “What is this? I love it.”

Keen calls the sound on Problems recordings “subversive house” but “I know it will get lumped in with other genres,” he said. “Some people are comparing it to electro artists like Mr. Oizo, Justice and Daft Punk. It’s not techno; it’s dance music. I start with a four-on-the-floor kick drum on every track. Putting limitations on it allows me to explore creatively in a way that’s deeper than I could before.”

His process on Problems material involves spending a couple weeks setting up what he calls “good templates” — the fundamental kick drum, cymbals and synths. “It’s sort of like the gear a band would acquire and bring into the studio,” he said.

Once the templates were in place, Keen said he recorded and mastered the album tracks in three days. “When it came time to write, I started on a Monday and by Friday was putting out a record.”

He’s celebrating the release of the new album with a free live stream performance tomorrow night, Dec. 4, hosted by Lincoln’s BLACK MAGIK and DJ KevyCav. The stream will be on twitch, here: http://twitch.tv/blackmagikpresents . More info on the stream here.

Keen’s already working on more Problems, with another single and full-length slated for release on a different label next spring. “That one will have a limited physical release,” he said. “As will the one after that.”

“As some form of gigging comes back (post-COVID), it will make more sense to make stuff again,” he said. “People are still at home looking for things to do and want to buy records and cassettes to support artists. I’ve spent more money on music post-COVID than before I moved back to Nebraska.”

Pre-order the new album at the Problems Bandcamp page.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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