KMRU interview: working with Big Thief & how to find peace in chaos

“It’s really been a ride. I fell in love with sounds and listening, and this is the story. It’s been a listening journey”.

This is how Joseph Kamaru, known professionally as KMRU, describes his music career to date.

Born and raised in Nairobi, his relocation to the colder, concrete-laden shores of Germany’s capital took a while to get used to.

“Sonically, it was a bit hard moving here, as the Berlin soundscape is quite different from Nairobi. It did take time to attune to the place.”

These words reflect an artist whose ambient neo-classical productions wield clear influence from their geographical surroundings.

“My music became louder, inhabiting the city. I’m sure my surroundings do impact how my music will sound.”

KMRU spoke with Ableton back in January

In the spawning months of 2022, KMRU’s joint LP with Aho Ssan, Limen, presented a rich work characterised by volume, dissonance and fractured emotion.

Given his penchant for cultural osmosis, I can’t help but feel that this record’s intensity is representative, intentional or otherwise, of the pandemic that ensued around it.

The quality of KMRU’s work didn’t go unnoticed for long, as he soon found himself on tour with Adrianne Lenker’s Grammy-winning band Big Thief.

“Touring with Big Thief was the best experience I’ve had traveling and playing shows. It was exciting, as the audiences were different from the usual shows I’d play.”

“I really appreciated audiences listening, you could hear 2000+ people listening. This was a wild experience.”

Big Thief have received critical acclaim with a host of revered albums

Adrianne Lenker’s powers are well documented in the industry, both with Big Thief and as a solo artist, which concentrates the poignancy of KMRU’s remarkable journey even further.

“Adrianne is an absolute genius. I love how she thinks. The whole band is special and I’m so grateful to have been on the road with them.”

Tours are known to be taxing beasts, and for KMRU it was no different. His latest record, epoch, was a chance to step back and explore the calmer elements of his surroundings.

“The creative process wasn’t that different [between the two records]. Epoch was made in between and after intense travel, and I needed to make an album that would find solace after the tours.”

The music industry of today is a noisy place, oftentimes saturated by presence and rapidity, which renders any artist’s mission to convey stillness and tranquility a tall challenge.

“I think for me it’s just about being present and aware of things happening. There’s so much going on in this ‘industry’ – sometimes it’s best to pause, observe and reflect on the things that are going on.”

KMRU’s ambient set for HÖR Berlin

Adding strings to his already plentiful bow, KMRU’s recent work on an immersive art installation for Porsche caught our eye.

“Art of Dreams was an immersive installation commissioned for Porsche, curated by Ruby Barber, founder of Studio Mary Lennox. Ruby creates sculptural floral artwork and she invited me to work on a sound piece for the exhibition.”

“The Project explored the connections between nature and modern human environment – and the possible interactions between botanics and technology. Was really fascinating to see this pairing.”

Porsche’s Art of Dreams installation exhibition

As the interview ends, it’s clear that this is only the beginning for KMRU. An artist whose humble beginnings in Nairobi have since seen an acclaimed tour, multiple LP releases and a range of projects across art and science.

Our final question, as always, was to plan for a roadtrip with KMRU at the helm of the AUX cable. He chose:

KMRU performs with the London Contemporary Orchestra at the Southbank Centre on Nov 27th. You can find out more here.

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