Raised in Detroit but currently residing in "Uranus", Kris Wadsworth has been scrapping away for some time now, hitting big with releases for the likes of Morris/Audio, Hypercolour and One Records. But it was his 'It's Time' release for Get Physical that signalled just that, with the Berlin label signing him up for an album. Speaking with a searing, brutal honesty, he told us his views on Detroit, why he's back stronger than ever and just what the future holds...
Kris's 'Team America' release co-produced with Butane is out now on Alphahouse. You can read our piece on Kris in the March issue of DJ Mag available in shops or via DJmag.com/shop
First up, we didn’t realise with the Detroit label so often slapped on you that you live in the UK and were born in Atlanta. Is that correct? You’ve been pretty negative about your home town in the past. How do you feel about it now you’ve been away for a while? It’s something you reference in the lyrics or titles of your own tracks still. And what’s your take on being a resident of London, a city which definitely has its own wide array of advantages and deep pitfalls?
“There is really a lot of crap right here so I am going to try to take it apart piece-by-piece and hopefully people actually take the time to read this and make notes. First of all, yeah I was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1984 and my family moved to Detroit in 1987. I have lived, basically, my whole life in Detroit aside from that special moment when I exited my mother’s birth canal as the true spawn of Satan in Atlanta. I do not live in the UK, nor have I ever lived in the UK. I have spent more time in London than anywhere else on Earth aside from Detroit, but with a heavy heart do I inform you and my beloved London that this recurring line of bullshit is exactly that. I am not sure who started this. It wasn’t me. I told people I live in Uranus, which is the truth. I have been coming inside and outside of Uranus for a long time. Uranus is pretty 'tight' as we say in The States.
“As far as being negative… dude, fuck that. I just tell the truth about my experience and what I see and know to be truth — to me. If you want to call it negative, go ahead. What I say is not gospel for some people. Outsiders are just stupefied by this multiple-decade mystique that Detroit tries to play off on everyone. It’s a shitty, violent, failed, industrial rust bucket that is racist, corrupt, bankrupt, and has the suckiest fucking scene for a city with such a vibrant musical history, electronic music and otherwise. That is the truth.
"You know why I say what I say all the time? Because of all these little dip-shit scene kids and haters and that music festival everyone uses as the champion of Detroit electronic music. I never played along with all these morons and their little scene politics. So, guess what that means? These motherfuckers dis my ass for over a decade and now 'It’s Time' to show these squares who-the-fuck’s the boss. And it’s not Tony-fuckin’-Danza. The funny thing is, they all try to suck up and kiss my ass if they get a chance (the ones who really don’t know me well), and when I’m around I stay the fuck away from them and their fake-ass, run-down, ratty motherfucking parties and pretentious, self-absorbed, delusional little microcosms. I can name names any time, but why give these losers any press? They suck. What I mean to say is that they can suck my dick. That is what I really mean to say, yes: 'Hey promoters and the entire scene in Detroit, MI, USA… suck my motherfucking dick.'
“As far as track titles and personal expression through sound, hey, I like the city from an inspirational stand-point, I have said this before, but I have the ability to leave finally so that is what I am doing. You know what I mean? And the people there that know me, for one; are laughing pretty hard right now, and two; know what I am about. I can name my shit anything I want to, for the record (no pun intended), and I express myself and the ideas that come to me from experiencing the city of Detroit or anywhere else on Earth, as accurately as possible. I am not, repeat, not jocking the city’s namesake and I’m not one of these 'having-no-music-which-reflects-the-city’s-vibe' chumps. Ask those lack of vision kids about how nothing they make sounds like the city, but yet they’ve been running around all over sucking on it as hard as possible for years until the funny Berlin accents started. Now it’s ridiculously stupid Andy Warhol references as though there is some sort of fucking parallel between Warhol and you? Yeah, right. Puke. Jocking the fuck out of shit seems like a policy for some people. Not me. I’ve made music about the city, of the city, in the city, around the city, all over that shit. I lived there for over 20 fucking years of my life, so how the hell would I not be influenced heavily by any surroundings anywhere after that amount of time? I’m a huge phoney-big time fake, and I’m on a 'quest' of my own to smoke any of these fake-ass, perpetrator, motherfuckers like crack rock.”
How and when did you hook up with Butane for the latest release? Is it fair to say it carries on where your Get Physical release left off in techno and electro territory? The latter seems to be having a renaissance — is electro something that’s in your musical DNA having lived in Detroit? Or is it from the wider sound of the horribly vague term ‘bass music’?
“Andrew and I were headlining a rave in Chicago. It was love at first sight. He was dressed as a pretty fucked-looking clown and looking really cute with his little Boss pedal. I had no shirt on and a pair of butterfly wings I borrowed from this girl who was next to another girl in a cat suit that I was making out with. Andrew came on stage as I was finishing my set and was pointing at more hot girls in the crowd while playing filth half-naked. Halloween is a holy day and it was a match made in Hades. He’s cool and we just kind of clicked, man. The collaboration between us is really natural and easy flowing which is rare for me. I have tried to make music with a lot of other people and it is always lacking spark or definite direction. I guess it is fair to say, Butane is a gem in my musical journey thus far. He’s an independent artist who speaks his mind and is true to himself and his people, so when you sit down with a cat like that, real recognizes real, more or less. Plus, he’s done time too so, ha ha… we are just two bad American boys who straightened out and got focused on positive shit like music in order to have better lives. Collaboration is not just, 'Oh, this person has a hot name right now. Let’s force some music out or do vocals on an established producer’s tracks to get some gigs and try to hide the fact that we ain’t shit'. You know people do that, right? It’s disgusting and it’s really obvious, just look around. Quite a few people have come to me on that bullshit and that is why you don’t hear anything with me and those kinds of people. Andrew is a real-deal motherfucker who’s really talented, so that’s what’s up.
“It is not fair to say it follows anything because it is a collaborative effort between two people. I like techno. Andrew and I made techno, no need for sub-genres. I have been making rougher, synth-based stuff the whole time; it just got called house music by other people. In my mind, electro and techno have always been underlying in all my tracks. Tough, deep, house or whatever people say. To me, it has always been present and to progress musically, as I feel I have especially with Get Physical and other labels, some of my masked production techniques needed to come forward and be more obvious for me to stay engaged and interested in my own sound.
“People seriously need to stop asking me about Detroit. I am getting tired of repeating myself and almost getting tired of talking shit. I am not defined by Detroit. Listen to all my records and remixes, only a small percentage have references to that city. The rest are much more personal, which to me, is much more interesting from an artistic stand-point than riding the fucking city into the ground like so many other people from Detroit do. You’re from Detroit. Cool. You were a geek with braces, but now your PR is slating you as some hood-ass, rugged genius while you do b-boy stances in front of the skyline and all the old men hype your snotty little bitch-ass up. Yeah, I said it and I don’t give a fuck if you can connect those dots either. And if you’re not from here, motherfuckers, stop making pseudo-Detroit tracks like dumbasses before you get DDT’d.”
A year or so back you kind of took a break from DJing. Why was that? What did you do during that time and how does it feel to be back?
“You know what? It’s awesome to be on the road again. I love it. I got my shit together, that’s what I was doing. I finally got away from some seriously demented and toxic people and some negative shit within myself. I pounded out some tracks and remixes, got healthy, got even more focused and serious, did a little jail time, and now it’s back to business. I know a lot of people think about 'earning their keep' or 'paying their dues'. Dude, I went to jail to make sure I could gig again. These assholes wanted to keep me pent up for two years without being able to travel. After about eight or nine months, I said: 'Fuck that shit, kiss my ass, I’m not a hoe so don’t try to play me like one'. The system is fucked, I know because I grew up in it. So I had to take care of that bullshit.
“How many people you know out here go to jail so they can do this? None. Mainly because they don’t have the background I have so they are never in a situation to have to make that decision, but then again, dually, I am not like most other people in this. My personal life in the past is almost book-worthy I am told, so to have a 'farewell party' to the bad-guy life in jail— to have it purged out of me as my father died and releases were hitting, being away from music and everything normal… and being locked-the-fuck-up and unable to deal with any of it… it really changed me profoundly. I am not the best example for people to look at in the past, but I promise any of you, I have earned my little tours and opportunities. I needed everything that happened to me in the last year. I was an ungrateful, out-of-control, train-wreck in some weird hell and it was something saying, 'hey kid, get your stupid shit together or you’re going to die or go away for a long, long time.' In fact, one judge even told me that a few years before all this. So, you either get with the fucking program, or you fuck your whole life off if you got what I got. Straight up and down; left, right and center. So that is what I was doing. Getting positive and being the strong, healthy, intelligent, talented, funny, handsome, cool young man that I was always meant to be despite all odds, or any people who tried to tell me otherwisein my life. I was standing up the way a grown man should. If you want to hear my complete feelings on this topic, please guide yourself to Pantera 'Shedding Skin'.”
You started producing tracks aged 14. What was it that inspired you back then? Previous interviews show you have a pretty healthily wide love of different kinds of music, so why choose what you did?
“I like metal a lot. I wake up with it about five days out of the week. But I also like real hip-hop a lot which led me deeper into the underground as a young kid where I heard booty music, or what people call ghetto tech. I found all sorts of electronic music based on this exposure. Where I am from, you turned on the radio at night and heard DJ Godfather or saw DJ Assault mixes in the shops, or your brother or sister (in my case, my sister) would bring home mixtapes and act like a nerd dancing in the house. You heard shit like that and if you fished around on the radio dial or whatever, you’d hear college stations or public stations with DJ Krush playing, or Wu Tang, and so-on. I skateboard, so the whole independent ethos and culture that should exist like it did when I came into it sort of nurtured all sorts of music and creativity, where the traditional high-school popularity atmosphere didn’t. I got expelled from three schools almost as young as twelve, so that should tell you something about me as a young kid.
“I started making crappy tracks when I was 14-years-old in my mom’s kitchen on a shitty little computer that had a floppy disk drive. I grew up, let’s say, not wealthy. So if I could get a free little program and mess with it, I did. I moved onto hardware and stuff shortly after and really got into the whole thing. I started out playing guitar. I got a cheap, used electric guitar for my 11th birthday. I’d play and play and play and fucking play, sometimes learning — no joke — like six or seven songs in a day. When I realized working with bands and four other creative egos in the room wasn’t for me, I was disappointed. I felt like I had finally found what I needed, even at such an early age, and it wasn’t until I really got into fucking around with electronic music at age 14 that I felt I found 'it' again. I was inspired by escapism. I needed escape. I still do. The world is a weird place and people are really screwed up, so to remove myself from people and surroundings and conditions in healthy and positive ways like zoning out by myself to old Plastikman records or Black Sabbath or Mobb Deep was, and is, crucial for a guy like me. Music saved my life. I just happened to be an electronic musician because I suppose there are no accidents. I didn’t have parents who sent me to art school or big names to hype me up or any of that. For sure, there has been no ass-kissing and 'chosen one' scenarios with Kris Wadsworth. I work really hard and do my own thing and electronic music allows me to be me, so I love it — it’s my life. It chose me.”
Did ‘Cowboy Trap’ really get banned from Radio One? How did they get hold of it in the first place? Are there any more plans to lend your vocals to other people’s tracks? You seemed to be disparaging about DJs that did that.
“I don’t know, ask Alex Jones. It is my understanding that they took it off because of my filthy mouth, or maybe because they thought it sucked or something. I’m not sure, but it happened. My vocals on that are totally sarcastic. It is me simultaneously making fun of someone and also Alex and I’s screwed up sexual humour. Alex is funny. Funnier than me a lot of times even, so when he and I hang out, my face hurts and we giggle like little fucking kids almost the entire time. He’s one of the funniest, nicest dudes I know. A real friend for many years and with me, that is at times rather difficult. It takes a seriously weird person to deal with me all the time.
“And as far as people doing vocals on stuff… do I really need to be any more specific on that? Really? You can tell I had a hand in the production, listen to it. And you can tell Alex did as well. You hear my stupid voice but what you don’t hear is Alex and I snorking and laughing like mental patients. Mr Jones had to leave the studio a few times to get himself under control. I love Alex.“
Will there be any more releases for Get Physical or Hypercolour?
“I’m doing this European tour called 'Back On The Block' which Physical Booking has organized for me — from the jail to the jet, bitch, watch me. If you want to see the dates, go to the Physical Booking website. I finished my last North American booking in Houston the other weekend. I turn down people’s podcast requests still because I’m an asshole and I do what I want. I did a mix for Fabric, though, because they are awesome and I hear Judy and the crew are pretty nice. So that is what is up with my DJing.
“As for production, there is a new Morris/Audio release from me called 'Ex-Girlfriends'. That is Butane and I’s collaboration obviously, there is a collaboration with me and this stupid asshole in Paris on Syncrophone which is due out pretty soon called 'Self Enemy'. There will be some remixes hitting, including a long-awaited remix I did of Maya Jane Coles among many others.
“Hypercolour have a nasty new track for an EP I am doing for them, so that is almost done. Get Physical have formally asked me to do an album for them, which is huge, totally. I am so honoured to be asked to do this and especially since it will be my first full-length ever… and on Get-fucking-Physical, no-less. Wow. That is all I am saying about that, just… wow.
“All the labels I am currently with make me really happy. The people I am working with right now like my agents, Alexandra and Maralina at Physical Booking; Andrew at Liaison; the entire Get Physical family; Jamie, Alex, and Ste at Hypercolour; my old Swiss yodeller Stefan at Morris/Audio; Nic and Mark at Saved; the super cool people who keep me busy as hell with remixes, and just the whole crew working with me right now is absolutely top-drawer. I am happier than I have ever been and I feel like I finally have the right people standing next to me artistically and professionally to really flex on these fools out here and see what I can do. The album with Get Physical is definitely some flexing.
“Last, but certainly not least, I have started my own vinyl-only, no-promo, no-digital label with only my tracks, no remixes, nobody else. That means art by me, everything by yours truly, and super limited edition for every release. This will hit some time this year, but I am really busy at the moment so you might have to wait a little until Uranus is available in the shops.”
How much is your wad worth?
“Best interview question ever, I love this. Let’s say: if you partake in swearing, dancing, laughing, good music, good food, coffee, tea, tattoos, being weird and hate the dumbasses and flakes in this industry… it’s free of charge. But you better be seriously hot, you better like it from behind, you better not want to get married and you better not call me crying about nothing at 4AM. Otherwise, that shit is priceless XXX.”