Kelly Lee Owens is one of the most interesting producers the UK has, well, produced in a long, long time. Coming to prominence with her pulverising 2015 rework of Jenny Hval’s ‘Kingsize’, a subsequent steady stream of singles eventually culminated in last year’s self-titled debut; a focussed, inventive record that could be condensed to tech-house but doing so would be entirely reductive, rather an effectively dissonant fusion of techno 3am floorfillers compounded by 7am quasi-ambient meditation music – the latter inspired by Owens’ vocal interest in music’s healing and spiritual potential, the former by her fondness for an unfussy banger. After an immensely successful 2017, she spent the past few months touring the US meeting up with the likes of Four Tet and her long-term friend Daniel Avery. I spoke to her last month about what happens next.


How was the US tour?

It was amazing, part of me always suspects that no one will turn up, so the fact I sold out venues and it was always at least three quarters full I feel incredibly grateful, and it’s reinvigorated me to get back into the studio and make new music. There was such a special energy, connecting different people who enjoy your music, and it injected me the enthusiasm I need to do the next one.

I saw you played with Four Tet at one point?

I played with Kieran [Hebden, Four Tet’s real name] at a festival in the US, he asked me to play before him. It was just amazing. I went with [Jon] Hopkins to see him do the dangly lights show at the Village Underground, but at this festival he just had two lamps; he said to me “Kelly, I’m all or nothing.” I can see what he means. I always tend to go back to Morning/Evening, especially the Indian sample on the ‘Morning’ side, so when he played that section in the Village Underground under those lights I was similar else. I love him because the organic sounds he makes are so individual and unique, but everyone loves him don’t they.

When you mention things you’ve taken onboard from the tour, is that stylistically? Where do you see your music going next?

I try not to think too much about it because I am very much about focussing on the moment, I know that sounds a bit airy-fairy, but I guess what I'm more being pulled towards production-wise is more hi-fi kicks and beats, I was listening to the new Jon Hopkins single [‘Emerald Rush’] and loving just how much that slams. I’m really enjoying that type of production. But with him he has so much space and expansiveness within the heavy beats as well, so that’s what I’m enjoying just now but the end result might change. I think I did well in following my intuition on the first one, creating a drone-y ten minute track and then some techno tracks in there. It means live I can build up a set of tempo and mood and almost a journey, or trance, before it goes into a banging set towards the end, its own beast. For the second one it’ll be the same thing, a variation of tempos and a journey of sorts.

I went to a few of your shows last year and it was really interesting to watch the audience reaction to your show at End Of The Road, because obviously quite a lot of people hadn’t listened to your music before and were unsure at the start, but by the time you got to the ‘Kingsize’ rework [Jenny Hval original] they were fully onboard.

Somehow I’ve managed people to get into it, cause they’re just standing there at the start and you want them to free their inhibitions, cause that’s what music’s there for man, especially at festivals. They start closing their eyes lost in their own little world, and then by the end we’re all in it together, moving and letting go. I’ve enjoyed seeing people doing that and having fun.

You tend to jibe people for not dancing properly.

Yeah I’m confrontational about it [laughs].

With the gong baths and crystal bowls, will that be something you’ll incorporate into your recorded stuff, or stick to the live shows?

I think it’s inevitable that it’ll find it’s way into my actual music, it’s too interesting for me personally for it not to be explored. I’m only making music for myself, and if it connects to others that’s a bonus. I’m interested in particular mics and stuff, and it’d be fascinating to know whether you can get across the same epicness of a gong sound bath in a recorded sense; I don’t know. It’s just me being a geek and worried about what tones might be lacking, so that’ll be a nerdy journey I might delve into the next few months.

Your biggest reworks have been of the avant garde, Björk, Jenny Hval, St. Vincent, why did you choose those particular artists?

I only chose Jenny actually, which is where I started from everything. Back then I thought “oh wait a minute, there aren’t many women remixing other women, why is this not happening?” I never thought about it before, and when the ‘Kingsize' rework came out other people started commenting on that fact. After that I got offered St. Vincent, and Björk asked directly for me to do something, it’s been such an honour that these people reached out – it was the day after a piece in The Guardian where I said Björk needs to let me remix one of her tracks, and then she emailed her manager to contact my manager to set things up. Back to your question, I think they connect to something I’m hopefully doing, maybe it’s that law of attraction thing, or just the opportunity to have a young producer reinterpret their work they’ve been doing for a few years.

Every time I’ve seen you you’ve ended with ‘Kingsize’ and I’ve not seen you since you’ve made these reworks, where do these new reworks fit into your liveshow?

I’ve not used any of the other reworks yet, because ultimately they’re not my stems and they’re not my parts. They’re Annie’s and Björk’s, I dunno if it’s weird. The Jenny one I wrote and produced the music for it, so I have more ownership, that was just a singular vocal track. The others I used their stems and it’s their own works, so I guess I feel respectful towards that.

I heard your 'New York' remix in XOYO a few weeks ago, so it’s definitely getting use.

That’s cool, it’s kind of overwhelming sometimes to hear these things but ultimately I’m a music fan so these experiences are surreal, like when you put on the radio and you hear “oh that’s me”, that’s something I never tire of; people putting Instagram stories of them DJing my music or messaging me, even Jon Hopkins throws out ‘CBM’ and constantly tells me so, it’s wild.

What are you listening to at the minute?

For someone who still works in a record store when I can, I’ve been going back to people like Alice Coltrane, Dorothy Ashby and transcendental, chimey tracks, but also Avalon Emerson, Laurel Halo, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, a lot of female producers, because I’m desperate to hear what these women are creating and thinking; and then people like Hopkins and Daniel Avery who are moving into that expansive space, just where I’m at in my own head at the moment.

Ahead of Farr Festival, how you feeling about that?

I don’t play too many UK festivals so if I don’t have to get on a plane I’m chuffed, but the line-up looks fantastic, I toured with Mount Kimbie and obviously love Caribou [who's playing under his alternative dance-centric moniker Daphni]. It’s a great lineup, we need to rep more home festivals.

What’s the rest of your 2018 looking like?

I’ve just gone back into the studio for the first time in a while, because I can’t be the person to force it otherwise it’ll be shit, it’ll take however long it’ll take. I dunno when it’ll be done, but someone is remixing my work, which I think is the first time that’s happened, and I’ll be announcing that soon. I’ve got lots of special projects coming up, that’s all I’m going to say. It’s going to be a balance between playing and creating new music.