“It’s part of my identity” – KIMYAN LAW

Kimyan Law
(c) Kimyan Law

We barely talk for two minutes and already end up on the topic of food. NICO MPUNGA aka KIMYAN LAW likes to pick restaurants and bars based on their vegan options. At Café Eiles, cups and dishes clatter, and the Viennese producer with Congolese roots orders tonic water. Over the next hour and a half, we talk about the meaning of silence, nuances of grief, and inventing languages. Also, KIMYAN LAW has just made his short film debut. This is the first time he’s given insight into a universe that has existed in his head for years. Why you can find more than drum ‘n’ bass – one of KIMYAN LAW’s many disciplines – in it, we find out in the conversation, which begins with a discussion about vegan cheese.

Kimyan Law: I make art that deals with nature and our relationship to it. That includes the gustatory aspect as well. If I have the time available, I explore it – in order to discover something new.

What led to this openness?

Kimyan Law: People often use the word empathy in this context. Yet, some things transcend the empathic, even if there is no term for it except the word love. I trace these areas back to my childhood. Since then, I have had an intimate relationship with nature because I grew up in the forest.

In the outskirts of the city in the 22nd district.

Kimyan Law: On the edge of town, in the Lobau, that was my playground. When I listen to my past albums, which have a lot of nature sounds on them, I recognize the influence that this environment has had on me. It’s part of my identity, where I retrospectively recognize patterns that led me to where I am today.

Are you a reflective person?

Kimyan Law: Do you mean someone who thinks a lot, or thinks too much?

We’ve been talking for five minutes. I can tell you’re thinking a lot about yourself and your surroundings.

Kimyan Law: Well, then! I can’t turn that off. When I’m faced with a conflict or dilemma, I ask myself: can this be resolved? If so – what does that solution look like?

“I was self-reflective, early on […] It has to do with everyday racism and discrimination that I experienced from a young age.”

It seems to me that you are very conscious of yourself. That requires reflection.

Kimyan Law: I was self-reflective early on, yes. It has to do with everyday racism and discrimination that I experienced from a young age. There was also a strong dissonance. When you’re a child, you don’t see the pigeonholing that’s projected onto you from the outside. In my parents’ house – I’m Congolese and Austrian – I experienced love. At school, it was racism. That triggers a coping mechanism. Either you fall into depression, or you find an outlet with which you can treat this dissonance.

For you, that was art.

Kimyan Law: Drawing, painting, making music, yes. Interests and skills that feed off of coming to terms with my past, and, at the same time, lead to me being able to live with it. “Coeur Calme,” my first album from 2014, was processing my childhood. That’s when I was 13 or 14.

You produced the first album when you were 14?

Kimyan Law: I started with electronic music when I was 14. Before that, I was learning percussion. But my parents told me that I’ve been tapping rhythms since I was a baby. It’s part of my being and a language I use to express myself. My mother tongue may be French. I speak music just as fluently. There are accents, different dialects and speech patterns that can be acquired and that other people understand.


Those who speak the language, belong. Those who don’t speak it remain excluded.

Kimyan Law: That’s why I don’t think in genres, but from an origin of music. What happened in the last 40 years doesn’t interest me while making music. Of course I listen to music, I am interested in it. But I don’t think about it when I make music. I just make it.

The thoughtfulness that makes you you becomes impulsive in music.

Kimyan Law: If nothing changes over eight beats, I get bored!

Something has to change continually. Are you a nervous person?

Kimyan Law: You know, I don’t like a lot of music at all. That helps a lot because it’s more important to know what you don’t like before you can pick off what you think is cool. Today, music often sounds like a failed tongue twister. The rhythms rarely make sense.

Do you have any examples?

Kimyan Law: The relationship between kick and snare, the timbre and clashing of different instruments.

Noise …

Kimyan Law: I even like noise, although it clashes there especially! Nevertheless: The evaluation remains subjective. It’s like looking at a picture – and it doesn’t do anything for you. Maybe you understand the context because you read through the accompanying text. But it doesn’t speak to you. I often have that.

Art only speaks to you when it creates a dialogue. If it is overloaded with meaning, no conversation can arise. It crushes you.

Kimyan Law: Art becomes a product.

That can be consumed.

Kimyan Law: Like television. I try to exempt myself from this logic. With Kimyan Law, I try to create a soundscape that is ideal for me. I haven’t achieved that yet, so I keep going.

“If my music was perfect, I would stop producing it.”

You are a seeker.

Kimyan Law: If my music was perfect, I would stop producing it. My drive comes partly from the fact that I’m not satisfied yet. That’s why I’m a tryer.

(c) Kimyan Law
(c) Kimyan Law

In trying, there is also temptation – to become even better, for example.

Kimyan Law: Yes, I strive for a warm, organic sound that has a fingerprint. In my music, you find a lot of textures from everyday and natural sounds It’s like carving. You can tell it’s not perfectly carved out, it’s handcrafted.

In some tracks it crackles, pops and rustles. That’s how you situate the music, I think.

Kimyan Law: I treat this crackling like instrumentation. So I don’t just place a texture so it’s there. I’m giving it its own rhythm.

It gets lost in the grand scheme of things …

Kimyan Law: But makes sure the pieces have durability! People keep writing to me that they still discover new elements in my pieces after listening to them many times. That makes me very happy.

Some pieces you can listen to thousands of times without them wearing out – maybe because you can always continue to enter into a dialogue with them?

Kimyan Law: There are songs that I know longer and better than some people. Precisely because you change over the years, you hear the song differently. Still, it triggered something then. It triggers something now. The feeling may not be the same, yet one feels addressed. That’s not just the projection of oneself into the music – music is too alive for that, it triggers too much in us for that. You can’t break music down to an argument.

(c) Kimyan Law
(c) Kimyan Law

You circle around the meaning of music, but you will never grasp it linguistically.

Kimyan Law: I’m very happy with that because …

It would be captured at the moment it is understood?

Kimyan Law: One could no longer see it in the same light as before.

That’s why we talk about music without talking about the music.

Kimyan Law: That makes sense. Otherwise, you often get lost in empty phrases like the question: How are you?

“I like awkward silences a lot.”

It’s a phrase to get around the awkward silence, isn’t it?

Kimyan Law: I like awkward silences a lot.

Because you have to endure it?

Kimyan Law: Silence is humbling for everyone. You can tell that a situation feels awkward – a lot of people don’t like that at all. The thing is: I don’t always have to talk. I’m much more likely to appreciate people’s company as beings. So awkward silences show that it’s not always necessary to utter any words just to fill them. What if you don’t need to say anything at that moment? 

I like people with whom you can share silence and feel connected through it.

Conversations echo in the background, cups clatter. We pause briefly, silence reigns between us for a few seconds.

Kimyan Law: Right now, that silence … that wasn’t awkward!

Because we are both invested in the conversation – and thinking.

Kimyan Law: Isn’t that super important? To think when you’re having a conversation. Imagine just blurting out words so it’s never quiet.

Doesn’t that happen all the time? You keep scrolling through your timeline, the stream never stops – everything hits you, no one asks you if you’re OK with it.

Kimyan Law: We’ve been conditioned to never let our smartphones out of our hands. We’re the only ones who could revise that, too.

Isn’t that unfair?

Kimyan Law: Of course it’s unfair! But how many things in this world aren’t unfair?

You have to take responsibility for something that you didn’t initiate in the first place?

Kimyan Law: I’m not saying you’re the one to blame. You are the one who can change it because nobody else cares about you! This abundance brings nothing but profit – for other people but you. You are the bottom end, the consumer. Therefore it is not interesting who is to blame. What is important is who holds the lever.

Do you know Mark Fisher? He was a British theorist, wrote a lot on the subject, but also wrote about artists like Burial

Kimyan Law: Burial, the producer? I have a strong relationship with his music, as do many other people I know. I find feelings in it that are so layered that they remind me of my childhood. That inspires me. I want to convey emotions with my music that go beyond a few basic emotions like grumpy, happy or sad. After all, there are infinite nuances of sadness. Because I am often sad, but just as often happy, I want to express the in-between. And so I’m also happy to be sad.

(c) Kimyan Law
(c) Kimyan Law

Can you elaborate on that?

Kimyan Law: I know that I don’t hide my emotions. That’s why when I talk to other people, I always try to open up a space where they don’t have to hide theirs either. Simply because it hurts me when I realize that people swallow their emotions.

You said earlier that you were happy to be so sad. That sounds like melancholic euphoria to me. Both poles are allowed to go together.

Kimyan Law: Who taught us that both poles are not allowed to be together? I don’t think that’s right.

Every playlist suggests one mood to you. Never more than one.

Kimyan Law: It’s about feel-good vibes or the opposite. But there’s so much in between. You just have to look for it. For example, on Bandcamp. That’s the real world of music – with real people making music. Spotify is what everyone knows, but think about it: you pay ten euros for every song ever produced on this planet and offered there? Are you mad? What is left of that for music creators? This is a system that can’t work. At least not for musicians. Nevertheless, people use it because it is convenient. You push around a bit and create a playlist. It gives you the feeling that you’ve done something. At the same time, you pay a few euros a month, so you own the music.

Which, of course, isn’t true. It’s the most blatant devaluation of music ever.

Kimyan Law: We don’t see the full extent of it. That’s why I appreciate people who are involved with music and buy records, for example. They have part and support the art. A lot of people don’t understand that. Some people unfortunately forget that people who create art shed sweat and tears to make what they believe in. Art is not only their existence, but their essence. If you practice another activity in its place, your soul withers away.

At the same time, people are discussing fractions of cents for streams – a discussion that attacks the symptom but never the disease.

Kimyan Law: Yeah, it’s not even a painkiller. The system is broken, yet some still believe it can be saved. My question to these people is, what are you defending in the process? The consumer behavior that one has been conditioned to? What is this really about?

You’re one of the people involved, you started a label a year ago. That says a lot about you as an artist – you stand by it, you want this now, so you do it because nothing else works.

Kimyan Law: That’s actually true. When the pandemic started, so many artists lost a big part of their livelihood all at once. Concerts were canceled, a whole year of planning dissolved, nothing was left. Starting a label at that time wasn’t easy, but it was the right step – and jumping in at the deep end, because I had no idea how to run a label. I still don’t know, but within a year I was able to try out and learn a lot. In the meantime, I realize that it can work. After all, I was always an interdisciplinary artist and for a long time I painted more than I made music. These disciplines are now also combined in the label. I just have to hold on to it and show it.


The first project is “Emblem of Peace” – four EPs and four strains converging into one album.

Kimyan Law: Exactly. The symbolism for this project has been in the making since the third album. Also, I’ve constructed a language that works in this universe. Add to that the artwork that I painted. The colors, the visuals, the iconography along with the language and music all come together. Inside of me, it’s always been that way. However, this is the first time that I can represent it in its entirety to the outside world.

You’ve already moved things in this world that others can only begin to open up.

Kimyan Law: That’s why it was important to me to make a short film for “Emblem of Peace”. The idea of depicting Kimyan Law’s universe on film had been around for a while. But I promised myself that I would only realize it if two circumstances came together: the money and the right people. A year and a half ago, I had both. I knew it was time to put the idea into action. Now I’m starting a new chapter in filmmaking.

Video: Kimyan Law – Uaminifu (Short Film)

It’s the beginning of a new story for Kimyan Law.

Kimyan Law: Yes, a new beginning that can continue. The ideas are there, the resources are still missing. There is a lot to plan. Just the face paintings of the characters of the tribes have different meanings. I draw every accessory, every symbol, translate dialogue into language – because I have to tell this story.

Where does this urge to tell stories come from?

Kimyan Law: I think I’ve always had a vivid imagination. It’s my calling. I was born to do this, like other people are born to do other things.

You think so?

Kimyan Law: My mother is an educator. In my opinion, one of the most important professions for people. She raises people – with her wisdom, love and kindness that you can’t explain. That’s what I mean when I say there are callings.

You feel called to tell stories.

Kimyan Law: So far without, but soon with words – it only took seven years.

Tolkien spent forever writing his universe for Lord of the Rings. You are also building a universe – with your own language.

Kimyan Law: I grew up trilingual, my family and friends speak many languages. When we speak a person’s language, we have direct access to them. That’s why I developed a conlanguage. There are two possibilities for this: a priori or a posteriori. Klingon, for example, would be a priori, it’s created from scratch. A posteriori is based on existing language syllables. Kimyan Law’s language is a posteriori. I experimented with phonetics that I know and that feel good to me. The intention was to create a sound that sounds emotionally deliberate and spiritually wise because: How people treat each other is often already present in the language. I also wanted the language to work internationally. I didn’t want it to be traceable to a single tribe.

The language is not locatable.

Kimyan Law: For me, it’s about Umoja – in Swahili, that stands for the principle of unity. With that, I want to break down all pigeonholing, not with hate or tirades, but with unity. That happens through immersion in the film. The main character lives in the forest, a bit like a forester, until he gets the message that he should take the emblem to the tribes. So he sets off to see the firstborn of the Wetland Tribes. It has to do with honor and respect.

(c) Kimyan Law
(c) Kimyan Law

Let’s stop here, any further explanation would hinder the ability to fathom the film itself. But I’d like to end by asking you something that I often ask in conversations when I feel like it fits: What do you love about yourself?

Kimyan Law: I believe in true peace – I’m convinced of that. It’s a state of being, not so much a quality for me.

It goes along with a naive belief because the world suggests to you …

Kimyan Law: That it is not. That the most real reality is not peace, I know. That’s why you associate the belief in it as something childish. But: You can also come to a realization even though you were disappointed and hurt before. I have seen true love, or rather, I have recognized true bliss and true peace. These feelings of being true were never connected with wealth, materialism, greed or addiction. It was and is a feeling that comes from within. Having recognized this fundamental love, I not only believe in peace, but know that it can exist. You can’t overturn that.

You can’t un-recognize it anymore.

Kimyan Law: It is a realization that has not made my life easier. However, it is in suffering that I have realized that there can be peace. That’s why I hope to reach people with my art on a soul level. So that they open up at the core.

Thank you for the interview!

Christoph Benkeser

Translated from the German original by Itta Francesca Ivellio-Vellin.