Drummer KJ Sawka plays like a machine 

Drum and bass head gives electronic music the human touch

Every once in a while, a musician of such skill and dexterity comes along that seeing him perform live makes you stop dead in your tracks and say, “Whoa.” Seattle drummer Kevin “KJ” Sawka is one such musician. The collegiate-looking jungle/drum and bass head has mastered the art of what sounds like drum machine music by playing drums like a machine.

“Electronic music can be a little boring to watch sometimes, but that’s where I differ in a big, big way,” Sawka says.

As a one-man spectacle, Sawka transcends the pitfalls of seeing a guy slouched over a laptop, playing live electronic music. His movements are fast and metronomic as he rattles through a precise set of broken beats and obtuse rhythms with mesmerizing energy. “It’s an eyeful for a lot of people, especially for a lot of drum and bass fans who aren’t used to seeing a live musician playing the music,” he adds. “I have a big variety of stuff that I do and with me playing drums in the middle of it all. It really adds a live essence to the show rather than coming off like seeing a DJ.”

Videos litter YouTube with Sawka performing anywhere from his basement to clubs to a rooftop over looking the Seattle skyline – each offering a hypnotic solo run through his staccato beats. Live, he fortifies his drum kit with some electronic drums and triggers, and runs it all through a laptop. Of course, the end result is very dance floor-oriented as he rolls through a repertoire of newer and older strains of drum and bass, breakbeat and dub step. “I definitely try to contour each set to the type of crowd that’s there watching me play,” he adds. “If it’s a lighter crowd I will play lighter stuff, but if they like it harder I will play darker, harder stuff. That’s how I build my set and play off of how the crowd is reacting to keep the music interactive.”


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