Klassik shared a taste of what's to come with 'Klass Notes'
All December, Radio Milwaukee is paying tribute to our favorite Milwaukee releases of 2020 and speaking with the musicians who made them. This is Milwaukee Music’s 20 of 2020, presented by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Kayak.
2020 was (insert adjective) for Milwaukee’s musicians. For Kellen Abston, also known as Klassik, it seems from my conversation with him, that it was a kind of incubation and chance to try some things out and explore the inner landscape. As an artist whose work is almost typically excellent, winning Milwaukee Music Awards with nearly every new venture, it’s no surprise that his straight-to-digital-for-free release "Klass Notes" lived up to his usual high standards.
I got the sense from the interview that Kellen has made good music this year, but that the journey was just a part of what we may hear whole in 2021, making "Klass Notes" a sort of appertif. But it is good, and not only do we talk on that subject, but also the book he helped pen and still further, what remains for 2021.
Listen to our conversation below.
Marcus Doucette: So it's a year between your last album, which was, I really felt like, you coming into your own. You stepped up in I think every regard, obviously it had that theme. And then 2020 happens. What was 2020 for you?
Klassik: For one, I think I'm someone who always has moved at his own pace. We had the vinyl release show a week before everything shut down, like March 6. So that was like really the end cap of the album cycle for me. And I was already kind of working on new material. I just was like, you know, everything's shut down. I want to read more and write more and experience more of the things that I really care about. It's allowing me to write from an even more introspective place, if that was possible. I'm growing as an adult and growing in my artistry. I put out “Klass Notes” like, “hey, I'm here," but like, also there's no rush for me.
There’s never been a rush for me, like, “I’m going to give you a single next week.” Here’s a body of work that I'm not going to promo and push, but this is just really taking some pages out of the notebook as I'm working through larger scale ideas for next year. This is me at home making these things and working through different styles and approaches all in like a very concise little presentation.
Marcus Doucette: As music, it’s like your notebook. Am I correct in kind of reading that way? And as it turns out, it was really good for 2020. It’s not a physical release, but is it available for people to pick up?
Klassik: Yeah, for now it does exist on SoundCloud for people to listen to it. So I believe you can download straight from there. I plan to make it more available in more ways, but for now it is available for free on SoundCloud because that's kind of guy I am.
Marcus Doucette: You also have a book you are working on. Can you tell me about it and who you are working with?
Klassik: That is the brainchild of Joey Grihalva, who has done a lot of really dope writing for local publications and I think he was at 88Nine for a while. Super good dude. He did the Milwaukee jazz book, and even further back we have a connection in that him and I also ran cross country together in high school. So that's when I actually first met Joey. So he's known me for awhile. And then at the beginning of this pandemic, he approached me with this idea to write a book about me, but also more than me, like the actual Milwaukee story and tying in a lot of like the history of the city. So he’s going back 20 years and tying in my father’s murder, and more recently my struggles with substances and like alcohol. So this is my story, but it's more than that. I always say that the city is a part of what I create, and this gives great details on that.
Marcus Doucette: So would you consider “Klass Notes” almost a companion piece to this?
Klassik: I would say that everything has been very synergetically connected. So “Klass Notes” is more so bleeding into the next body of work that I'm working on, which is like equal parts a live touring kind of mobile experience that I'm working on and also like a project, but I'm pretty sold on the title and the theme because it picks up what “Klass Notes” basically was introducing. This would be a project called “Master Klass.” So it'll be like a masterclass and what it is, this is the next evolution of what I'm doing, a continuation. So I think that that will probably be more end up being more of a companion piece, because the book comes out actually on what would have been my father’s birthday, Feb. 23. So I've got some things that were already in the works, and during this pandemic things have lined up in a way that I can only be grateful for.