Not all extreme sounds originate with amplified analog instruments. Former Carcass sticksman Ken Owen has found ways to invade your ears without a guitar in sight, and you’ll still wonder what the hell hit you. These days, Owen blends synthetic atmospheres with jittery beats and quirky melodies using a computer. It’s a way for him to carry on musically after the last 15+ years dealing with extraordinary medical issues.
We had the chance to interview Mr. Owen for an article in Issue #136 (Feb 2016, Abbath cover), but we had to cut down our man’s responses to fit in the space available. Now you can read the entire interview, and hearing Owen’s freakish tunes is now only a click away.
How long have you been making music of this style? What got you started with it?
I started writing electronic music a long time ago probably just after I moved to Nottingham in 1991. I used to hang out with some friends who lived around the corner from me including Johnny Carter who was in Pitch Shifter another Earache band that Carcass toured with around the States in 1990. I was also heavily into my Detroit style techno including Jeff Mills, Robert Hood as well as more traditional metal bands, I studied music technology at Carlton Road College, Nottingham and at Confetti which happened to be set up by Craig Chettle who had been working on the road with Carcass as sound engineer and tour manager. I went on to achieve a distinction/ distinction/ merit grade for a Btech national diploma in music technology which gave me a good grounding in the use of some music software programs such as Cubase and Reason. I used to go clubbing with my friends from Nottingham at the Orbit in Morely, Yorkshire and at the Que club in Birmingham.
Do you enjoy work by other electronic music artists? Who? What excites you about it?
I’ve always admired artists such as Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, but also enjoy pop acts like James Arthur and Coldplay. I enjoy the energy of electronic music and how raucous it can sound and the fact it is limitless.
Does your recovery process influence the musical ideas you played with on Symbiotic Possibilities?
Certainly I wanted to make the album as positive as possible reflecting my attitude to life and I’ve written another album called Socially Dead (not a full stop but a coma) about my illness and ongoing recovery which has darker elements and obviously I needed it to sound rather bleak as was the prognosis of my case when it happened. I suffered a massive brain haemmorhage in February 1999 caused by an a brain aneurysm which left me in the deepest possible coma without being brain dead for over 10 months and the problem was still present afterwards and there was an 80 percent chance it would burst again so that is why in June 2000 I elected to go back into Queens Medical Centre to have it surgically removed which was 100 percent successful but due to encephalytis and other complications post surgery including contracting MRSA left me very unwell and in order to recover from this ordeal I had to undergo an induced coma for a further 5 months. I spent the best part of 3 years in hospital and became almost totally institutionalised. I believed at one point I’d never get out of hospital. My father took me out on an unauthorised excursion out of hospital one day to show me life still existed outside of the wards as it was plain to see I was losing hope, when my folks managed to eventually get permission to get me out of hospital, I went to live with them in a nice, friendly and quiet village in North Nottinghamshire, but I was left in a wheelchair for a few years which was the most depressing point of my life. But with love and dedication from all of my family and certain care workers I managed to make the first tentative steps using a zimmer frame and using care workers shoulders until I could manage to walk unaided.
How are you doing health-wise now, sixteen-plus years after the aneurysm?
These days my health is back up to a level that I would consider exemplerary, I go to the gym and spend 45 minutes on cardiovascular equipment such as cross trainer and treadmill, I go to a Pilates class in Nottingham plus I often go climbing at Nottingham climbing centre and usually complete up to 5 roped graded routes in a session. I still suffer from shortened tendons on the left side of my body caused by 10 months where I was immobile, however I try not to let anything hold me back and I’m very happy with my physical progress
Your site mentions a trilogy… What do you have in mind for the three recordings as a whole? Do other parts already exist, or will you be creating these in the near future?
The trilogy comprises of Possibilities, Socially Dead and I’m currently working on a new album entitled Fatigue which is progressing nicely. As already stated, I believe Possibilities has some of the characteristics that I applied to the music I helped write when I was writing for Carcass.
Do you have any interest in using electronic music to approximate any of the extreme heaviness of your past?
I think that extremity is a mindset and must be built into my genes. I’ve tried to emulate the harshness of my accident and previous music into my current work and am happy and content with all I’ve achieved in life as well as my musical career. I’d like to add an additional thanks to Jeff Walker and Bill Steer for bringing me back out with them on the road touring again with Carcass which was a pure pleasure and being able to perform a brief drum solo in front of the many fans and supporters made me realise the importance in music and the links to my past were still strong.