Kyle Jensen '17: International DJ Mekanikal

Her Campus American University: Tell me a little about yourself. What made you decide to go to AU?

Kyle Jensen: I’m a current sophomore at AU studying Audio Production and planning on minoring in Technical Theatre. I’m from upstate New York and am a part of AU Ambassadors as well as the crew for the Greenberg Theatre. I decided to go to AU mainly because they had the major I wanted without the musical audition and portfolio requirements that some other schools I was looking at had. Audio Production is not a common major and so I had a very small pool of colleges to apply to. Of the ones I visited AU just felt right, the campus was very appealing and the students who we interacted with were friendly and would happily go out of their way to show you where the bookstore was or how to get back to Katzen. 

HCAU: What kind of music do you produce? 

KJ: I produce a style of dance music called hardstyle. I could go into a pages-long breakdown of what it is and the different styles within hardstyle, but I’ll give you the sparknotes version. Hardstyle shares a lot of the same characteristics as other styles of dance music (or “EDM,” as people refer to it) - a melody, really bass-heavy climax parts to get people dancing and jumping, and some form of sing-along vocal track in what’s known as a breakdown. The key differences that set hardstyle apart is that it’s usually faster than songs that one would hear on the mainstage of a giant festival, usually around 150 beats per minute. It also has a very heavy and distorted kick, which is what the style is most famous for.

HCAU: What originally got you interested in making your own music?

KJ: I was a creative kid from the very beginning. My mom likes to tell the story of when I was three and I pulled myself up to our piano and sounded out a melody that kind of sounded like actual music. I played piano up through high school and cello until college, so beginning to produce my own music and express my creativity that way felt like a natural route to go. I dabbled around in different styles of dance music for a while and did a brief stint of hip-hop producing when I started out but ultimately found that hardstyle was what I enjoyed producing the most. From there I concentrated on creating my own sounds and original tracks and, well, here I am now!

HCAU: How did it feel to get signed to first Headliner Entertainment, and then Platinum Agency? How have these groups helped your career grow?

KJ: I actually got contacted about joining Headliner right before my first ever international gig in June of 2013, so I couldn’t really process what was happening at the time because it still didn’t feel quite real, like that this was all actually happening. Once I did join the group though it felt amazing to have such a big player in the hard dance scene backing your dream and helping it become a reality. When I joined Platinum Agency it came as a shock because they represent the biggest names in the hard dance scene! Both these groups have offered image and brand management consultation and have set up gigs abroad and in the states that get your name out there to people.

HCAU: Who do you look to for inspiration for your music?

KJ: I look to a lot of other dance music producers for inspiration, especially those producers who try something different and make unique music. If they make music that doesn’t stay within the confines of what has been established and deemed as “acceptable,” chances are some element of that production will find its way into my next track.

HCAU: How do you think the Audio Production program at AU has helped your DJ career? 

KJ: The Audio Tech program has taught me a lot of really intricate stuff especially on the production side of my music. You learn a lot about how to use the professional equipment in the studios and through that gain experience and skills that you apply while composing, mixing, and mastering your tracks. It’s one thing to be producing something on your headphones in your dorm room, but quite another once you hear what you created coming through a professionally tuned sound system. You can pick out the flaws that at the end of the day will take your production quality from amateur to professional.

HCXO: Tell me about your radio show you contribute to. 

KJ: It’s called Q-Dance Presents: NEXT and each week an upcoming artist gets a 1-hour slot on Q-Dance Radio to showcase their sound to listeners around the world. What’s really cool is that in each show there’s an exclusive track - a new unreleased work by the host that is often being debuted worldwide - that gets special promotion from Q-Dance on their social media channels. It started up a year ago and I usually do a show once every three to four months or so. I actually recently did the last episode of 2014 for them, so I filled the show with my own tracks and a selection of some of the biggest tracks from the past year. Sometimes it’s even more fun to mix these sessions than producing the tracks that go into them, but I guess that depends on what mood I’m in, to be honest. 

HCAU: Why did you change your DJ name from being Enceladus to Mekanikal?

KJ: [Laughs] Oh where do I start. I guess the main reason was I didn’t like the name in the first place. It worked fine when I was DJing house parties and school events because there no one really paid much attention to the DJ - they were there mainly to socialize and have a good time. Once I got backed by Q-Dance and Headliner Entertainment and I began doing events overseas, the problem became even clearer because Enceladus is a hard word to pronounce if you don’t speak native English which, as many of the emcees at these shows were Dutch, gave way to some very creative pronunciations.

HCAU: What major shows have you had the opportunity to play at? What has been your favorite, and why? 

KJ: I’ve had the opportunity to play at some really big events both abroad and closer to home. In the Netherlands I have played at the DefQon.1 Festival and Decibel Outdoor Festival and in Belgium I got to play at the Qontinent Wild Wild Weekend Festival (look these events up on YouTube and you’ll see some of the amazing production value that Q-Dance is known for). Meanwhile in the United States, I’ve played at the first editions of both TomorrowWorld and Mysteryland USA. I’ve also done some smaller shows (in size, not in quality) around DC, like playing back-to-back with my roommate Lucca Vaselli at Ultrabar and opening for Karmin and JoJo at the AU Student Union Board’s Fall concert. As for my favorite show, they all hold a special significance to me, but I would have to say that Mysteryland USA was hands down my absolute favorite event. The location of the famous grounds that played host to Woodstock 1969 as well as the positive energy all the festival attendees had made it an amazing and unforgettable experience, to the point where I had to drag myself away from the festivities because if I had stayed any longer I would have gotten home at around 4 in the morning. 

HCAU: Any other exciting moments we should know about the DJ lifestyle?

KJ: Getting to go to all these festivals for free. No, but in all seriousness, there’s so much exciting stuff being a DJ it’s hard to pick out just one. As a producer, it’s always fun to remix or bootleg a song, try out some new production techniques, but as a DJ, when a song you’ve put your heart and soul into is loved by the crowd, there’s a rush like no other. Like when the song is building, building, building, and then that first kick hits and the fog goes off, the lights go crazy, and everyone is jumping up and down in sync to something you created, it’s something you can’t describe. 

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