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Songs We Love: Idjut Boys, 'Kenny Dub Headband'

U.K. DJs Idjut Boys will release their new album, Versions, on August 28.
Yaru Haruimai
Courtesy of the artist
U.K. DJs Idjut Boys will release their new album, Versions, on August 28.

London DJs Conrad McDonnell and Dan Tyler formed Idjut Boys in the early 1990s during a particularly exciting time in dance music history. Acid house and breakbeat had infiltrated the British mainstream, and new scenes were blossoming to fill the void in the underground. One London party that McDonnell and Tyler considered especially influential was Space, a Soho weekly co-founded by house fanatic Kenny Hawkes. The club night championed the catholic playlists of world-class selectors like DJ Harvey, François K and Andrew Weatherall, becoming a North Star of sorts for the city's subterranean 4/4 community.

Idjut Boys, <em>Versions</em>
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
Idjut Boys, Versions

Hawkes sadly passed away in 2011 at the age of 42, after a long battle with liver failure. A year later, Idjut Boys paid tribute to their friend with the disco dub cut "One For Kenny."

"The choice to name our track 'One for Kenny' was an easy one," McConnell told us via email. "We considered it our best, and he was one of the best of us."

Later this month, Idjut Boys will release a collection of reworked material called Versions, and the unquestionable highlight is an extended edit of "One For Kenny" called "Kenny Dub Headband." Helmed by a hypnotic piano riff, the song drifts along at 106 bpm atop a steady kick drum. During its 10 spacious minutes, it touches on house, funk, reggae and disco — much like the party its namesake started 20 years ago.

In order to give the instrumental track some context, we asked the Idjut Boys to share memories about Hawkes via email. Tyler responded with a funny, heartfelt note:

If I think of the times we had with him, I remember them with happiness. He was always laughing. In fact, when he was being serious it felt slightly wrong, and never lasted very long. ... We laughed a lot together, we had lots of great nights playing at his and Luke Solomon's night Space, colliding on the road or simply attending and taking a royal midweek beating with a bunch of mutual friends. Great times.

He was very supportive and enthusiastic about our music, even if he did complain it was hard to mix in time, which he was politely informed was very deliberate in his case. What happened to him was so sad, and it is testimony to the warmth and humour he exuded that so many people felt this and demonstrated it when he died.

Dedicating a song to him was the most genuine way we could express our love for him. He'd probably say "couldn't you at least make something bloody half decent if you're going to put my name on it?!

There's a bench dedicated to him overlooking the seafront in Brighton. Lovely, it reads "Kenny Hawkes 1968-2011, I would have sat here but i'm far too busy." I can hear him laugh, "Perfect."

Versions is out August 28 on Smalltown Supersound.

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