''Soundtalks'' series of podcasts and interviews to feed your mind and soul by Georgia.

G: Hi, this is Georgia, I am sitting in a lovely East London pub with Lorenzo AKA Kensa. We will be talking in depth about his new Soundtalks (podcast) for Zabam.

L: Hi Georgia! Thanks for having me!

G: I listened to the podcast. Beautiful. Really nice vibe. Let’s start with the inspiration for the podcast. What made you feel you wanted to select these tracks for it?

L: Thanks for the feedback. I was feeling very nostalgic when I put those tracks together. I wanted to do something not so ‘dancefloor orientated’ sort of.

I wanted to pay tribute to those records sitting on the shelf – many of which I don’t get to play on the dancefloors that often. So it’s only fair that someone gets to hear them at some point because if not, you buy and collect but they are sitting there with just your room listening to it [Lorenzo laughs] 

It starts with a very ambient track, which I wanted to incorporate because I’m in love with Electro music – as you can hear from the podcast – but I wanted to include some ambience in the intro because when you tell a story, you don’t jump straight away to the end part. You start from the beginning – from intro – to middle part – to outro, right? I was feeling very nostalgic about the old times in London with friends. So all these records that you hear in the podcast – every record - recalls a moment that makes me remember feelings like “ I miss this.. oh, I miss that as well” because at the same time we are growing up, we are getting older. Nostalgia keeps you attached to the past in a positive way. Good memories are good memories so if you can somehow remember those and put them in a session, then that was my aim. 

The aim was to create a story – to be interpreted as you wish – but my story was talking about the experiences I have had, the people I have met and the years spent in London. When I moved to this country [from Italy] I didn’t know anyone, just a few people such as Nicky and I slowly started to get into the community and nowadays I feel very grounded and part of it.

G: How would you describe the sound in this podcast? I’ve always considered your sound quite dreamy. 

L: Definitely. Dreamy but also melancholy. I collect stronger records - of course - but it is really important to have everything. Being versatile is key here. I took the opportunity to think ‘ok this is a recording - it’s something you can play when you’re in the shower, in the car or while you are chilling with your mates’. You will definitely find dreamy records along the journey but also some more powerful ones with a hint of ‘dreaminess’.

G: Would you say that the pandemic had some effect on the direction that you decided to take when recording this podcast? An introspective time to go back through your collection. 

L: Yes. All of us DJs, Artists and Producers mostly went through a hard time. Everyone felt the loss or felt lost. And when you’re lost, I think it’s a good way to find yourself again! And when you don’t play music in front of lots of people, you re-evaluate a lot of things.. That made me rethink. Having time to go back digging through my collection and during the lockdowns – there was not much economical support – so discovering B sides of my records was like ‘wow, where did this come from!?’ Many of those records in this podcast are B sides. So yeah lockdown was a big knockout for me but at the same time – someone once said ‘you can grow flowers from shit’.

G: So with this podcast, did you have an idea of structure and which tracks to include? Or did you approach it from a free-flowing, non-linear perspective?

L: I pre-planned that I wanted to develop it in three parts. Intro, middle and outro, playing records and keeping the recording on. Starting from the first record and going forward with the selection I made. The first take had a different intro for example – like a jam session. My aim was to have kind of a linear flow going up incrementally. I was recording mid-way of the podcast and I saw one record standing on the floor and thought ‘maybe that would fit in there’ and so I put it on and in the moment of mixing it was fine but then when I listened back I was like ‘nah, it was not fitting in the way I had hoped’ so I realised I wanted to make sure that it makes me feel right with myself because my inner critic knew this wasn’t working. I’ve been recording several times – in the night – in the morning. So at some point I had to understand that in order to put together those 10 or 12 records – sometimes best to stick to an original plan and try not to get influenced by your own ideas as ‘worst enemy’. So by the end, I had a few different takes and I just chose the one I felt most connected to. I have to admit that putting together this podcast taught me a lot on how to work certain things out using skills I developed on my musical journey. 

G: So with the podcast in mind – just thinking about the last podcast I recorded (for NorthSouth Records). When I submitted it, I got in my feelings and felt that a couple of the mixes were a little wavey. How do you feel with your podcast? 

L: There are some parts of the recording where I feel like it’s a bit ´wavey´ but I’ve done one test which – for me – is the proof I need for feedback I care about. A person who is a reliable critic and that is Nicky. I asked him to listen and give his honest opinion. I sent it to him and after a few days I received a nice and positive response which I was happy to get. Nicky is someone I respect most in this scene. We’ve known each other since we were 16 years old. We have grown up together as friends and music lovers so his opinion is really important to me. I also tested it with my girlfriend and some friends whose opinion I value. 

There are a few wavey moments in the mix which at the end of the day gives that ‘human’ feeling to the session, where achieving perfection it's just an abstract concept that each of us interprets our own way. Then I also realised I was over-listening to it so I decided not to listen to it for a whole week. After a week, I listened back with fresh ears and thought ‘you know what, it’s there! I’m happy with it’ so I was pleased with the result. Zabam also gave me free reign to do what I wanted and so I used the opportunity to choose records that really meant something to me. I finally felt accomplished that I had done what I set out to do. 

Picture by Eleonora Boscarelli

Another thing that we have to contend with as an enemy of ourselves – and because we are humans – is that thing called comparison. It can be such a creative killer. But we all have moments when we have this natural feeling to try to compare. Comparison and social media nowadays can be such a negative thing. It’s controversial because social media is everything at the moment. If you are not there, you can be the greatest DJ in the world, but no one knows who you are, so you have to be present and try to make a healthy use of it. Even though it feels like a sad new reality we all need to compromise to. Being there is like being dropped in the jungle. And you need to have a fucking knife in your teeth [we both laugh]. I firmly believe that in order to achieve inner happiness, it’s important to stick to your strongest values, to work harder on your personal music identity and don't get too influenced by what is trendy or what is spinning around you, eventually this would lead to reaching authenticity. So these were the guidelines I used to make this mix, going my way, putting together these records which truly represents me. I ended up recording this on a rainy Sunday afternoon which felt right. I turned off my phone, no distractions and went down the rabbit hole. 

It’s also important to take a break from over-listening. An example would be : If you are in a room for a week with the same people, must probably, you’re going to get bored of that, or at least I will. To enjoy that, I need to dip in and out. So when you leave and come back, that process wakes you up. So with music and recording, I think, it’s good to leave that room for a bit and go back to it. Having said that, everyone has different approaches and for me, it’s about finding what works best for my own. Even in life, I try to take this approach (not for everything, obviously ). Spend some time, step back, reflect, assess whether it is even healthy for you as well and sometimes, you may step back and realise it’s not worth going back because you realise it’s not healthy for you. The music scene can be intense when you over-expose yourself in certain ways. I think it’s really important to be able to see things from different angles and perspectives.

G: What did you want to achieve with this podcast? What are your hopes from the listeners?

L: I wanted to create a story that could be interpreted the way people want to interpret it. I hope that it will create some nice moments or feelings for the listener or even some moments of self-reflection. The mix was based on the ‘nostalgia’ feeling. A lot of things have happened in the last few years – also in my life – some good moments and bad moments. You need to sometimes go through dark times to see the light again so I hope the listener is going to feel that but also that they will feel to dream! Feelings of hope. A reflective retrospective. 

G: Let’s talk Discogs. I know you’re a buyer. Do you also sell on Discogs and can you talk a bit about the cycle of replenishing your collection and your buying and selling experience?

L: So yes, as you said, it’s good to keep the cycle alive. I like to buy double copies of records that capture my attention. Even if I get tired of one record, I like to try to keep it because it was part of my journey, however, sometimes I feel if I don’t need this record to be part of my collection anymore for no particular reason other than someone else is going to love it more than I at this moment in time. You know we are in a time – especially in London – when everything is so expensive and you need to be a bit of a hustler. Not that you become a Discogs shark but if the market is there, then it’s reasonable for you to exist in that market too. The quest for record searches is real. We all have a wish list and perhaps your wish list is growing faster than you can keep up.

G: Do you have a preference for in-store digging or prefer to spread where you dig across online stores, friends collections, Discogs etc. 

L: Obviously Discogs is needed. Also because you don’t have the chance to go every day to a store and the way I am I feel like a junkie for this. I work in hospitality – odd hours – sometimes arrive home late, have my shower, relax and then dig until around 3/4am in the morning because I need it. I feel I can’t go to sleep without listening to that quantity of music everyday so it’s about balancing time. Physical digging is the best, in the store you can go through everything. You grab every single bit – you go through your pile and you find yourself going ‘yes, this is for me, no not for me, wow – this is in my want-list but I couldn’t listen online so yes, I’ll get it’

G: Yes and also the opportunity to listen to the full track. Online stores mostly only have clips and sometimes you need to hear the full track to know. Whereas in store, you sometimes discover a wonderful intro or outro or that a track has such a structure or progression that it’s almost like two different tracks.

L: Exactly, but also in the store there is sometimes actually someone playing nice music on the system and your ears catch it and then you can ask ‘oh what is that one you’re playing’. There’s a lot of positive points about physical digging. At the same time you have some minuses there, one could be the fact that going through every single bit, you might come across a lot of music you are not interested in but hey, that’s part of the game. 

G: Going back to the origins of names, your actual name is Lorenzo and your artist name is Kensa. Can you tell us about your artist name?

L: When I moved to London, the first stop was Kensal Rise in West London and quite a moody part of the city. And of course when I arrived, I had minimum English and as I was trying to establish myself in the city – and also happened to be a smoker - I ended up hanging out with a cool crew of nice guys. At the time, I hardly understood what they were talking about because my English was very bad. When I was going there to Westbourne Park, I didn’t know there was some sort of gang rivalry between them and Kensal Rise. So when I mentioned to them I was coming from Kensal Rise they would take the piss out of me, saying ‘Kensa’s coming!’. I ended up playing PlayStation with them all day long but for me the main thing was being accepted. Coming from a village in Italy, dropping myself into a big city to end up on a sofa surrounded by rude boys. But they accepted me. For me this was a huge kick of confidence. I thought my English must be shit but they didn’t care and they made me feel alright. And that was an important starting point. I also played in a house party in Kensal Rise where everything started and it was the first time I played music out there. The origins. 

G: Talking of origins, what attracted you to music and specifically electronic music? I was really into Hip Hop when I was a kid which impacted the direction of electronic music I took. 

L: We have that in common with Hip Hop and Rap. I was engrossed in the culture of Hip Hop too even down to what I was wearing and how I was expressing myself. I was massively into 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, Eminem, Lords of The Underground, Wu Tang Clan and a lot of different acts that were very explicit. My mum would be like ‘I don’t understand any of that but this sounds rude!’ [we both laugh]. I’ve never been much into Italian music except for certain Italian artists that I truly respect because they have shaped the music culture touching every corner of the country with different genres. Even though I was in Italy, my musical roots were somewhere else. It’s very important to be open minded when thinking of music. My family was never too much into music, the only exception was my dad. This was a discovery that I made for myself. Having said that, I will never forget the car rides with my dad, listening to Depeche Mode, New Order or Pink Floyd . His choice of music. He had a nice collection of cassettes, records and CD´s which I had the chance to go through.  Putting the pencil inside the cassette to rewind it back and tighten the tape. [we both laugh]. . Like with a Depeche Mode or New Order track, that is not far from what we play nowadays. It’s very powerful, New Beat, Synth Pop and EBM sort of. Which again revisits the nostalgic theme and feeling. It’s all connected. 

G: Top places to dig for records? 

L: To be honest, it’s tricky in London because you have a lot of talented diggers too so the pickings can be slim if you don’t time your trips right. For example, maybe a shop will get a big delivery from a collection but if you see that the day before you go, some big DJs or diggers went there, you’re maybe not going to get the full package and just the leftovers. Having said that, your tastes can vary so what is one person’s trash could be another person’s treasure! 

One of my favourite people to shop from is Jay ´Plastic Vinyl Dog´. For me he’s a guru. He has a huge knowledge of music. Every time I visit there, I go home with at least ten to fifteen great records and a smile on my face. 

I also have to mention Japhy. Every time I went there, I left with a big smile and a big haul. Another super lovely guy. Always willing to help and understand what you’re looking for. He wants to help and he loves it. The passion is clear. Also good hospitality and will even drive me back to the station in his car. Great service and again – huge knowledge of music. 

For a physical store though, I would recommend Phonica for those coming to London and wanting to visit an iconic store which stocks good music. 

Picture by Eleonora Boscarelli

G: And is there a local record label that you’d like to give a shout to that you feel are doing good things?

L: Yes, I’d like to shout out Oscuro. It’s a young label, I’ve watched their process and development as close friends of mine. Jonny, Jack and Joe have done a really good job with their label and deserve the support. I would love to mention Opia, run by good friend Tam Fallan, another great collective that has been making waves in London for a while now.

G: And any local artists that you’d like to give a shout to that you feel are doing good things?

L: There are a few names which I would like to spotlight. I have to mention Vass. He’s an exceptional collector, and great DJ! He has his own style too, his own mark. Unai is another name I have to mention. One of the reasons why I am here is because of him. Unai has been a truly inspirational point for me, someone I always look up to. A very constant and consistent worker.

I’d like to mention Jorge Escribano. He is absolutely smashing it now. I always used to say to him that I felt he would go far 100%. A good friend who is getting the recognition he deserves. Last but not least, I need to send my love to Gabbs. He’s another old friend who's getting recognised all over the world and that makes me proud as we both come from the same town and have grown together. An extremely talented digger and DJ. 

G: Thank you, Lorenzo!

L: Thank you G! Also thanks to Zabam for having me on board at this beautiful project! One love to the Zabam! 

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