With over 20 releases on some of electronic music’s most celebrated labels such as Bpitch, Ghostly International, Shitkatapult and Touchin’ Bass, Kero (Sohail Azad) has established himself as a leader within the growing pack of producers successfully infiltrating contemporary art circles worldwide. Recently he has shared the stage with Speedy J, Ken Ishii, Funkstorung and Flying Lotus and brought his high-tech graphic visuals to the Butthole Surfers North American concert tour. Kero is also continually working on his own critically acclaimed Detroit Underground Records, as well as Kerohand Records that he runs with Detroit techno producer Kelli Hand. Over the years, drawing on his experiences as a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, Kero has established a reputation for his unrepentantly brash, yet cultivated compositions and unforgettable live performances
For Kero, the ephemeral nature of electronic culture, “rave” experience and aesthetics offer a microcosm to explore similar elements in popular culture. The result is video art which stirs faint recollections of print and televised media.
His innovative approach to music (which blurs genres from hip-hop to the most rarified of techno experiments) and visual design (which feeds on the detritus of popular electronic culture), makes Kero one of the most compelling producers and visual artists in the electro-cultural world today.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how and why you got into music, and a bit about your history and how you became successful?
I first started [becoming fascinated by] music by going to underground techno parties and DJing in Detroit in the mid 1990’s. I eventually pursued making music with a Phatboy controller and Rebirth on my Pentium 266. I began experimenting in the visual arts by using Nato+55 software and using midi controllers, such as the icube, with the software. Such midi controllers have been important to me since I started making music and visuals.
How did you discover JazzMutant’s controllers?
I first saw the JazzMutant Lemur online. I am always looking for new controllers and I was somewhat of a midi controller enthusiast. After seeing the Lemur in several magazines, such as FutureMusic, and noticing that several new programs were OSC compatible, I thought it was time to upgrade from the old midi protocol.
Why did you choose to use the Lemur above other products on the market?
The amount of patches and software templates available online made the Lemur attractive, and I loved how customizable it was. Plus, operating it feels like you’re on the Millennium Falcon. It gives you the feeling of futuristic, next-level GUI. It has been a progressive entry into a new decade for so many software companies that are transitioning to the OSC protocol. By taking advantage of the JazzMutant Lemur I can stay on the cutting edge of the technology with music and video production!
How has using the controller changed the way you work?
The Lemur has allowed me to morph on a daily basis. For example, while I was working for Vsquared Labs on the Butthole Surfers concert tour last year, the Lemur was an important part of the set-up. I used the Lemur’s Jazz Editor to modify the varying camera feeds needed for the shows (which were in different types of venues), by using the Lemur controller.
Many venues had different screen set-ups and room sizes, so Jazz Editor allowed me to constantly change and adapt for each show.
What do you find most useful about it in terms of features?
The ability to create your own GUI is probably the most useful feature, as well as the gravity functions and the balls bouncing. Being able to see the visual feedback from software is amazing. Usually I’m playing at some dirty warehouse, so I like that the lemur is built like a tank and never fails. I have spilled stuff all over it, abused it hundreds of times, and it doesn’t need any protective case because it’s strong like a diamond in the rough.
What would you like to see in future revisions of the software?
I’d like to see some modules for scripting that show up in the GUI of the Jazz Editor that are drag and droppable. That would be helpful for n00bs [novices or new users who are still learning] like me. Also a wireless card built into the Lemur that has the ability to control midi and OSC wirelessly would be another feature I would like to see.
What are your plans for the near future?
Working on my labels, Detroit Underground and Kerohand records, VJing, making music and doing video installations using the Lemur.