Hey, DJ: Lenny Kiser

DJ Lenny Kiser talks about his production school, Sequence One, and bringing retro sounds to new music.

With his upcoming release incorporating sounds of an actual dial-up modem, producer and DJ Lenny Kiser’s track “Dial Up” is a bass-infused ode recalling the days of Windows 95, AOL, and A/S/L. Kiser, who first jump started his career as one half of electro rock/house duo Girls n Boomboxes, describes it as “the Internet prank calling you.”

Since going solo four years ago, he’s made music a full time profession by not only steadily releasing singles and DJing, but also as an instructor at his production school Sequence One. We chatted with Kiser about bass house energy, making music with modems, and what he’s looking forward to in the New Year.

Catch him for House Gangsters this Friday [12/23] at The Great Northern  and next year opening for Red Light and Laser Native [1/7] at Audio SF.

Give us a brief history of how you got into DJing.
I got into DJing after I saw a turntable battle in Seattle when I was 16. After that I started to DJ and play hip-hop at house parties. Later Burning Man and my move to SF inspired me to start DJing professionally. I’d say I really started DJing professionally eight years ago when my friend Harald Boyesen and I started playing and touring as Girls n Boomboxes. I’ve been DJing and producing solo for the past four years.

What attracts you to the bass house genre?
I like bass house because of the emphasis on the low end and the energy it has. It’s fun to experiment with bass because it’s the part that people will physically feel on a sound system. There’s still a lot of room for experimentation with this genre, which I’m testing out more in my upcoming tracks.

Reflecting back on 2016, what was your biggest musical accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment was having my upcoming track “Dial Up” get supported and played by a lot of big DJs that I really respect.

It’s also going to be released January 23rd on Golf Clap’s Country Club Disco label. What were some inspirations going into “Dial Up?”
I was inspired by the sound of old dial up modems, you know… Pshhhkrrrrkakingkakingtshchchchchchchchcch*ding*ding. I wanted to make the song feel like the Internet was prank calling you: something weird, fun, and bass-heavy, of course.

Justin Martin also played it (track is at 28:00) on his Beats 1 mix. How did it feel hearing that?
I’ve always been inspired by the whole Dirtybird crew and their music. So when Justin dropped this in his mix, I was pretty excited that someone whose music I’ve respected for a long time was playing my track.

Tell us a little about your school, Sequence One.
Sequence One is my music production school in Oakland where we teach Ableton Live. I love teaching and making music, so a couple years ago I started the school. My business partner Stefanie Andersen and I are running Sequence One so people who are interested in producing music have an affordable and local place to learn about production and connect with the community. We offer introductory courses, sound design, music theory, and mixing and mastering courses.

What’s a surprising struggle that people discover when learning Ableton or production?
I think people struggle with finishing songs. When you learn about music production, you start to realize how deep it can go. There are limitless options, so it’s hard to know when a song is done. I created Sequence One to help people learn how to create a workflow for themselves so they can create and finish the music they want.

You also have a recent track called “Cool Guy Sounds.” I like the actual diction of “effects effects effects” and “reverb.” Are these “cool guy sounds?”
That’s just me being weird and recording it (laughs). I made “Cool Guy Sounds” as a reaction to the “Super Cool DJs” who take themselves way too seriously. I don’t like the idea of the “DJ on a pedestal” that has stemmed from the rise of EDM. This track is a reminder to myself to stay humble and make music because it’s fun and I enjoy doing it.

Where can we catch you hanging out when you’re not DJing?
Either at Sequence One, the SF Ableton User Group, or stuck in Bay Bridge traffic!

Any thoughts going into 2017? Relief? Excitement?
I’m excited for 2017. There are several new track releases already in the works, an online training video course I will launch, and a bunch of fun shows!

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