“The curtain went up before I knew I was on stage.”
Ambivalent aka Kevin McHugh
Currently working out of Berlin, Kevin McHugh has spent the last decade living in the German capital
or New York and in a sense; these two metropoleis represent the contradiction at the heart of his
Ambivalent persona. On the one hand the reckless freedom and hedonism of the Berlin subculture, on
the other the more considered, conceptual approach of its New York counterpart. As a result his
idiosyncratic sound lies somewhere between the two, a precarious balancing act that manages to
infuse stripped down, finked up minimal techno with a distinct sense of purpose, often defined by a
pearl of an idea around which his skeletal grooves revolve.
After growing up in Washington DC on a balanced diet of Acid House, Go-Go and Punk, his active
involvement in the electronic scene began in New York in 2002, producing a series of memorable
parties for Creative Time in the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Fusing house and techno with
experimental multimedia and urban installations, Kevin was quick to recognise connecting patterns of
value between these art forms, with temporal, physical, spatial and minimal elements among the most
obvious common denominators. If one person embodied these principles through music it was Richie
Hawtin. The pair were soon working together, co-producing the Plastikman show at Mutek in 2004.
The planning process meant spending the best part of a year in Berlin during which time Kevin
assimilated into the scene. Energized, he returned to New York and besides co-presenting the Nerd
Tank on East Village Radio, he began working on his own compositions, which quickly led to a debut
release on Camea’s Clink label in 2006. His event organising activities also intensified, buoyed by the
network of DJs and producers he’d met in Berlin.
It was after one particularly intense party, that Kevin set to work on a new track. Extreme images from
the event were still flickering across his mind as he picked up his studio mic and, in a flash of
inspiration, laid down a twisted, one-sided conversation in a single take. He passed the resulting track
to Troy thinking it was just a bit of fun, a tongue-in-cheek parody for his friends to play. Within days
Richie was telling him - the track was blowing up, the dancefloor reaction to R U OK was unbelievable.
What followed was beyond his wildest imaginings as the track went global, topping charts around the
world aided by Ali Demirel’s tripped-out video interpretation. By 2008, the gravitational pull had
become too strong to ignore and he returned to Berlin, hooking up with the Minus community and
embarking on a non-stop schedule of live shows and DJ gigs. 2009 also saw him join the line-up for
the London Contakt special as well as the release of several remixes, a JPLS collaboration and his
own follow up EP is 5.
2010 holds even more promise for Kevin, with back-to-back releases. Rumors shows another quirky
wordplay, voiced by a character twisted in knots trying to learn the meaning of all the gossip floating
around. His second release of the year comes on strong with a dancefloor bouncer Down
accompanied by an aggressive vocal challenge. With a DJ mix and an album in the works, it's already
becoming more interesting by the day.
Ambivalent by name, ambivalent by nature, Kevin McHugh insists we shouldn’t read too much into his
ideas, but as long as he continues making such bold musical statements, that