Ken Park is known around the Toronto scene from bands like Ostrich Tuning, but recently he's set his sights in Europe. He recorded his debut LP as Ken Park, You Think About It Too Much, last winter in Berlin, blending analogue synths with a sound influenced by the club world he's recently found himself in (a bit of a cry from the noisy guitar bands he's played in here at home).
So, to go along with the debut of his lush new song "Stay At Mine" (which is an easy cousin to fellow sometimes-Toronto-sometimes-German-based Digits), we thought we'd get him to share some of that perspective. Below are Ken Park's photos from his recent European tour, with some great stories to go with them.
Ken Park's debut LP You Think About It Too Much is out July 15 on Daps Records. He plays Milk Glass Co. on July 18 in Toronto.
Ken Park: I was next level excited for Iceland a couple reasons. The first was that my good friend from Berlin, Skugga had, like me left crazy Berlin behind and moved home. This was another chance to see her. In fact I write you from her place in Reykjavik (Icelandair has this weird thing where they give you cheap ass flights to and through Iceland but you have to stop for at least a day there, and drop some cash. Joke's on them though I have a friend here who put me up and fed me). The second reason was that it was the start of the tour and I'd never toured my solo stuff before and it's ICELAND!
Pictured above is me, Apes from Phèdre, Skugga and her lovely partner Marco. I added this picture because the bar Skugga runs here, called Boston, is my favourite bar in the world. Skugga's aunt (who owns Boston) was super involved in Iceland's now very exported art and music scene (including, yes, Bjork - she's gonna DJ there Thursday!?!) from its beginning. So as a result, this is a bar that has contributions on the walls and in all of the decor from Gabríela Friðriksdóttir and the Chapman Brothers (a gift from Matthew Barney).
The magic thing about this place was that people were not treating it like a museum. People in Reykjavik party HARD, and they do it at Boston.
So many shows on this tour were special because of the dream-come-true venues we got to play in many of these cities. In Amsterdam is was Vrankrijk, which means "France" in Dutch. So Emma, who brought Phèdre and I here, runs this amazing squat in the heart of Amsterdam with 100% focus on Queer and Feminist politics. Emma moved to Amsterdam something like 8-years ago and has since built up one of the strongest and weirdest queer scenes I've ever seen.
Pictured is us at the dinner that Emma and all her volunteers put on every Wednesday (5 Euros, all vegan, a real community building exercise). It is really a perfect example of what she's doing here. Dinner's in the evening, batshit crazy all-night DJ and performances at night. This is a promoter who really, really gives a shit about her community above all else. It was so beautiful to see.
After an awesome show in Madrid for Valle Electrico (HI MANU!!) we were off to Barcelona. After our show together there, Phèdre had to go play shows in Mexico for a week, so I was left to fend for myself in Barcelona for 9 days. When we got there our promoter Edu put us up at his house, aka paradise. This was a house full of queers who had like 7 video game consoles, ate yummy dinner together every night and watched shitty TV while doing it.
After Phèdre left, I wasn't sure where to go, so Edu offered me to stay at his place until Phèdre got back. It was crazy I felt so bad. We shared his room for 9 days! It was cute though, I was a kept man for those days, trying to fold his laundry and make his bed every morning to not be a bother. My time in Barcelona while everyone was at work was spent walking around pensively (like happy-pensively) enjoying their amazing weather and beautiful people.
The picture above was taken by the amazing Adrian Juan. It's me and a Spanish crew (Laura, Adrian, Edu, Nico) on our way to shoot a video. I told myself the only way to merit being in Barcelona that long was to get some work done. Adri found this beach that nobody seems to go to with industrial ruins everywhere. It was a dreamscape for sure, and exactly, EXACTLY what I wanted for the video.
These guys were amazing, all film school trained, but all having big trouble trying to find work in their field in the struggling Spanish economy. I guess like most places, arts funding is one of the first things to go. So they were all happy to be working on something/anything. The generosity I experienced in Barcelona won't be soon forgotten.
Wow. Those who know me know that I've been obsessed with Russia for a very long time. Going to Russia became extra "interesting" in light of old and ongoing political situations - one involving LGBT people, the other Ukrainian people. Leading up to Russia we'd run into people from Ukraine and elsewhere whose advice was simply to not talk about either. So by the time I got there, there was a very real paranoia running through me.
Once I met our amazing promoter Misha I was put at ease. A sweet, caring and hyper-responsible 21-year old from St. Petersburg who on the regular lost hundreds and hundreds of euros to bring people like Pharmakon (for example) all the way to St. Petersburg to play for not that many people.
The photo above shows pretty much the greatest thing ever for me. Moscow since the wall came down, etc., has had a rough but relatively quick journey from gang wars and street crime in the '90s to extreme CA$H MONEY now. This photo was taken in a Soviet style cafeteria, a left over from the communist era (and not at all a tourist-y situation) that we had the chance to eat at before the show. The meatballs there were incredible.
Poland is the shit. First we played this incredible experimental (I know, how'd I sneak in there?) festival in Krakow and met so many new friends for life. Krakow (sidenote) has the best damn food EVER. Bigos, Goulash and good god those Potato Pancakes - so deadly. But the memory that stands out most from lovely Poland was our show at the Distorted Animals festival in Warsaw. I was in love again with architecture here (see also: Moscow, St. Petersburg and former East Berlin), but nothing could prepare me for playing the Palace of Culture and Science.
Originally we were going to play in this epic public square, so our promoter Pawel got a f*cking FUNKTION-1. It got rained out which meant the party moved inside to this majestic Soviet designed hall/club. It was definitely a personal best show for me. The sound was incredible, and there were mad people there dancing (aka my goal for every live show) and I was cloud 9ing playing a Soviet Art Palace.
Berlin was the last stop on the tour, and I got to spend a wicked week and half here trying to write new songs and partying my face off. Missions accomplished. I basically hit up every awesome party I could and my body hates me now: Homopatik, Magic Waves and I made sure to hit up Berghain on Sunday. I feel so silly. I totally wore all black for fear that things had changed so much that I wouldn't get into places. No issues though, phew. Miss the place like crazy. It's so inspiring outside of all the craziness. It's gotta be one of the most historic cities of the last hundred years and you can totally feel it.
The photo here is one from a video that Henri Faberge (who's there trying to find himself) is shooting for me. This is probably one of my favourite places I've ever been. It's the Soviet War Memorial. It's said that over 30,000 unnamed Soviet soldiers are buried under the monument and surrounding Treptower Park. You can feel them there, this place commands silence and solitude.