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Kraftmanship

An interview with Krafty Kuts

Krafty Kuts, aka Martin Reeves, is hands-down one of the most enthusiastic and hard-working men in music. In an exclusive interview with DJmag.com’s Jessica Seckington he talks about perfecting his craft, new label Instant Vibes, and how a bit of bingo calling and trifle testing paved the way to touring the world globally…

Which came first, DJing or producing?
DJing was the first thing that got me into music. I love watching DJs create such incredible sounds through turntablism.”

When did you learn to be a DJ and how?
I basically used to run a breakdance club and we had some decks set up. I didn’t know how to DJ but I collected records, so the guy who played there let me have a go around the early 1990s. I would play two copies of the same record and learn by watching videos of Grandmaster Flash and Cash Money. I entered the DMCs as I always used to watch them and did quite well, and then I ended up DJing for a reggae band, Big Corporation, a really good local act from Worthing.”
 
Where did you get the name Krafty Kuts from and what does it mean?
“When I first started DJing I didn’t have a DJ name. I was learning to scratch and whilst I was teaching the breakdancers in the club I worked in, one of them said ‘That’s a bit crafty’, because I also really liked the Beastie Boys song ‘She’s Crafty’ as well, so I instantly thought the name was a good idea. I used the Krafty name in mixing competitions. From the mixing and scratching I thought of the Kuts but with a K which made it look different.”
 
Out of all the tunes you have, which one 'never fails'?
“‘Out Of Space’ by the Prodigy (1992). I always mix the original sample by Max Romeo in with it as well as others like Deekline’s VIP mix; I’ve made a medley, I guess, for an ‘Out Of Space’ Krafty Kuts live mix.”

What can we expect from your new album?
I’m always digging in the crates to find the funk. The new album goes right back to my roots with funk, disco and hip-hop, plus touches on all the other genres like dubstep, electro and breaks, but with the Krafty twist. This is definitely my best work to date, it’s real music with proper songs. I am only two songs away from finishing it, so it’s an exciting time in the studio.”

Why have you started up a new label? What's happening with Against The Grain?
“Against the Grain is a joint venture with Lloyd from Skool Of Thought. He moved to Australia and because he was more of the ground worker with the labels it was hard to keep pushing it. It was his hard work and effort that kept the labels going to be honest as I wasn’t around to nurture them, He was creative with the logos and branding. I decided to start my own venture so I can channel my music through it and be a little bit more creative and look out for tracks that I want to sign and look for new and exciting artists from around the world. I’ve called it Instant Vibes. I guess I’m looking to go back to the origins of A&R like I used to do at the beginning, that’s really exciting.”

So how is the scene in your eyes at the moment?
“It comes and goes. It’s like when it seems to go flat in one country it booms in another. Hungary, Romania, Asia, Bulgaria, Russia, North America and Canada are booming for it; they’re on fire for breaks. You can get up to 2000 people for a breakbeat show on any of those nights. I’m headlining a 5000-capacity rave in Salt Lake City for example at the end of the month, so breakbeat is certainly not dead. Within two nights last weekend over 1800 people saw me DJ in two different countries — that’s a testament to breakbeat and tells me that it is not dead.”

You're touring the UK at the moment before going on to Australia & New Zealand, but what's this pop-up gig in London on Oct 15th all about?
It’s a unique venue, like an old warehouse, it hasn’t been open for around ten years. A company called Counter Culture have kitted it out for the next three months with events, exhibitions, theatre performances, and live music. This was a great chance to expose all the music genres that Krafty Kuts likes; it’s a 700-capacity venue and I don’t play in London enough, so it’s great to have my own showcase for my London fans.”

What is the most bizarre experience you’ve ever had at a gig or whilst on tour?
Being attacked by loads of really crazy insects in Texas and Perth, Australia was a bizarre experience. Because of the lights on the stage and the heat, they attacked me! They were everywhere; in the mixer, in my ears, my mouth, my clothes — it was like a scene from Indiana Jones. When I got back to the hotel I emptied my bag and hundreds of them fell out of it!”

You’ve collaborated a lot with Dynamite MC, what is it that he brings to the table that forms the Krafty experience?
“Dominic Dynamite is the most professional artist I’ve ever worked with. He is always on time, he is efficient, he entertains the crowd to perfection, and he reads what I do as a DJ perfectly.

“In the studio he is always on point — he is a great friend and we are both on the same wavelength. I’ve had the best gigs of my life with him — the best experience was the Big Day Out Tour to 40, 000 people. If I hadn’t have had Dynamite with me, I would not have stood out like I did. Because of his energy and creativity he takes my shows to another level.”

You're an ambassador for breakbeat - what do you think of the state of the genre at the moment?
“It takes a lot of flack, a lot of people like to have their two pennies, but at the end of the day the results are on the dancefloor and wherever I go worldwide people like to come and hear breakbeat and an eclectic set. Breakbeat is at the forefront of what I do. If breaks were dead I wouldn’t have my gigs, so it’s a complete contradiction for people to say that. I know that Deekline, Stanton Warriors, A-Skillz and others are constantly DJing week in, week out — so for people to say that breaks is the devil’s music is like saying dubstep is not worth making.”

Give us a tip on making a great record…
“Take all your musical influences that you’ve liked and loved and try to create that music in your own way in your own style. Be original and creative, rather than copy, but always gain influences.”

In terms of DJing out, are you using Abelton or Serato?
No. Simple CDJs. Three CDJs and one turntable – old skool.”

Skream has said he is trying to bring rave back, and we’re hearing a lot of hard breaks in his new material – do you think breakbeat is on a comeback?
“If you listen to his music, much of it is breakbeat orientated — he has breaks in all of his tunes, what he is doing is a great thing. I’ve always loved rave music; it’s exciting, vibrant and energetic and rave is where breakbeat started. It has just done a full circle and come back again in a different way.”

Is it true that you were on supermarket sweep, you once were a trifle tester and you were a bingo caller? Do you think those jobs had any influence on you career in music and if so what did you learn from that?
Those experiences taught me to be a stronger, more confident person and believe in what I do for many different reasons. Being a bingo caller when I was 16, when all your mates take the mick out of you, makes you a stronger person and it opened me up to a different world. I became a real person because of it; these jobs helped boost my confidence and keep me jumping up and down behind the decks, and it has made me grateful for life and the music.”

What other fundamental elements are important to become a successful DJ?

You can never have enough knowledge, the more you know about the music you’re playing — or the music you have grown up with — the better. If people don’t know about classic rave for example and you drop an old record like ‘Sweet Harmony’, it can influence someone to then play that record or go and listen to it. Most importantly, learn the equipment, get MC shout outs, show people you know how to do tricks with the equipment — these always enhance the DJ to be better. Everyone is trying to be better than everyone else, so aim to stand apart and be unique.”

www.myspace.com/djkraftykuts - For more dates and info.