Interview: Lex (of Kalhex)
Over the past two years, French trio Kalhex and their indie label Akromégalie Records have become one of our favourite outlets for jazz-infused hip hop and limited release vinyl records. The small but impressive catalog of Akromegalie releases features the works of Kalhex members Lex, Parental, and Le Makizar, as well as collaborations with Grap Luva and Rob-O (InI), Shing02, and Pete Flux.
Lex is one of the main men behind Akromégalie and has recently dropped his highly ambitious sophomore instrumental LP, Full Cycle, which featured Shing02 and has recently been released on CD in Japan through Rockwell Product Shop, a label created by Takumi Koizumi, one of the main guys behind Hydeout-Tribe Records (Nujabes).
Akromegalie should be on your radar as one of the top small indie labels, be sure to keep an eye out for their upcoming releases which include another Parental & Pete Flux record and an instrumental release from Le Makizar.
What do you use to make music?
I strictly use vinyl records that I sample. To produce beats we have an old basic software called Magix Music Maker (2006 edition!). It’s a very simple one but we can do more than you would expect with it. For instrumental live performances I also use an SP404 & 303.
What does the name Full Cycle refer to?
The title came to my mind when I started working on what became this album, in 2011. Back then I was living in Berlin for a few months for my Art studies. I did half of the LP there and the second half in Paris. Full Cycle refers to the period we are living in and my feelings about it. Thinking that we’re at a point things are going to change, musically and spiritually.
Half of the LP was made during this period. I used to sample some digital files there because of the lack of gear. At the same time I was searching for those original records to re-sample/re-do the beats properly. The title came a little from that experience too, from the back and forth between Paris and Berlin. From records I found here and there, and beats I made and reworked in those two places.
Full Cycle has a more abstract and darker sound that your previous album, Perfect Picture. What music have you been listening to while creating the album?
After Perfect Picture I started to search for different vibes and sounds. Since then I’m really into Free Jazz, Jazz-rock, and Fusion Jazz. That’s the music I love to listen to and that inspires me. I humbly try to do with Hip Hop what musicians like Miles Davis or Weather Report used to do with Jazz. Searching for different influences and push the limits of musical genres.
How did you link up with Shing02?
I met Shingo for the first time in 2010 in Paris. We spent 2 days together, chilling, listening to music and visiting some exhibitions without recording anything. We stayed in touch and when he came back to Paris last year I was finishing my LP. We recorded two joints for it – one in English and one in Japanese.
Shingo wrote and recorded them the same afternoon, it was crazy. I really wanted two different language tracks. I love the idea of not understanding anything about Japanese. It’s strictly musical and I think it gives a different perspective from English spoken rap.
Influence of Gil Scott-Heron can be heard on the two tracks “Fast Forward” and “Circulations”, with a delivery atypical of most modern hip hop, sounding more like spoken word poetry.
I didn’t want to do a typical “rap featuring track” on my album. I wanted those joints sound like spoken word, jazz records from the 70’s; because it’s timeless music. Straight from the heart and universal.
We were thinking about Gil-Scott Heron of course, but also about Rick Holmes or Doug Carn’s LPs. I truly love what Shingo did and I’m so impressed by his capacity to adapt to any musical situation.
What is your favourite instrument to sample? Why?
I used to sample a lot of Rhodes and Piano (and still do) but now I’m really searching for sounds and textures, which means not only one instrument, but mixtures that can let you hear different melodies or harmonies. That’s why I love sample based music, the way you can deliver unheard music and notes by putting different layers together.
Where do you dig for records?
Basically everywhere. In my own city (Paris) of course. Shout out to our local records stores: Crocodisc, Music Avenue, Groove Store, Betino’s… Berlin is a great city to dig too. Every time I go back there I discover new shops. Sometimes when I really need a record I can buy it on the internet, but I love digging and discovering. It quickly became addictive to me. I also dig a lot in my father’s collection, a lot of Reggae and Prog Rock music.
What are some of your favourite labels for old records?
A lot of spiritual jazz labels like Impulse, ECM or Black Jazz records, a lot of Blue Note 70’s releases or CTI. I also really love MPS catalog from the same period.
Do you have any preference of year or decades when digging?
What I love to listen to and sample from is basically records from late 60’s to late 70’s. I’m still impressed by the musicians from that era, the way they kept changing music and genres. From artwork to liner notes, you can feel that those decades were specials in many aspects. It seems that there was a true respect and interest for music, close to something divine.
What are some of your most prized records?
I usually don’t spend too much in one record. But I’ve gotten a few rare releases that I was really looking for and was blessed to find.
George Duke’s The Inner Source. I also recently found my ‘Miles Davis holy grail’: Pangaea, original Japan pressing. Crazy artwork and music… I got The Wailers’ Catch A Fire first pressing with the Zippo cover, from my dad’s collection. In hip hop I got an unofficial rare pressing of InI’s Center of Attention. This version contains interludes and one of their very first joints called “Keep On”.
Do you have a “holy grail” record you are looking for but can’t find, or is too expensive?
I’m really looking for Miles Davis’ Complete On The Corner Sessions CD box (around $200). There’s also Monty Alexander’s Rass LP (one of my favorite record covers), never found it yet.
What is a song you heard recently that blew your mind?
My father loves Frank Zappa, and I recently took time to listen to his music more carefully. I would say “Black Napkins” (off Zoot Allures LP) really takes me somewhere else.
If you could go digging in any country in the world, where would you go?
Japan! Whithout a doubt, hope to be there very soon.
Beat by Le Makizar and animation by Lex.