Not many 12-year-olds grow up listening to Plastikman, or list hardcore metal heads Pantera – authors of the anthemic “Fucking Hostile” - alongside Jeff Mills as timeless influences. But then not many 29-year-olds working in the industry have the big-balled honesty and individualism of Kris Wadsworth, the Detroit son relocated to the techno bohemia of Berlin.
His current album, 'Popularity', earned him exactly that in the DJ Mag offices for its gritty blend of steel forged beats, bubbling acid bass and that rarest of qualities in techno, humor, while also passing wry comment on the current marketability of DJs and the growing commercialization of electronic music, as embodied in the money driven excesses of EDM.
This is, after all, a man who named his vinyl only label URANUS, a kick up the ass (or should that be anus?) for the usual furrow-browed puritanism associated with limited edition runs.
After previously releasing on Boe Recordings, NRK Music, alphahouse, Get Physical and Morris/Audio, Popularity also seals Kris' relationship with UK label Hypercolour, who released the album five years after first welcoming him to the fold. There's no escaping his fierce criticism of the music industry's many failings, but support Kris and there's he'll back you to the hilt. Something label owners Alex, Ste and Jamie discovered when he dedicated album opener, “Hypercolour Theme,” to the team.
We asked Kris to pick ten tracks he can't live without, and got a selection as raw and uncut as his iconoclastic attitude...
1. Pantera - “New Level”
“Phil Anselmo and I actually have quite a bit in common. Not all things, but we were both born in the Deep South, similar background in many ways etc. Lots of Pantera tracks pick my head up and this one in particular is pretty much my attitude every day: 'Now a new look in my eyes, My spirit rise. Forget the past, Present tense works and lasts. Got shit on, Pissed on, Spit on, Stepped on, Fucked with, Pointed at by lesser men. New life in place of old life, Unscarred by trials. A new level of confidence and power.'”
2. Jeff Mills – “Robot Replica”
“This is one of the greatest melodies in techno. I have loved this record from the second I heard it. Many people are inspired by Mills for many reasons, but for me it’s about his music. One of the greatest DJs, excellent philosophy on the industry, etcetera, but you cannot listen to this track and tell me it’s not above and beyond. This is Bach or Chopin in a factory, and as a matter of fact part of a score he wrote for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. He always has been and always will be in a category of his own.”
3. Neil Landstrumm – “Takks”
“Some track I heard and never knew what it was. I remember when I found out what it was. I also remember finding a near mint condition copy of it at Gramophone Records in Chicago and getting chills on my arms. I buy so many of Neil’s records; he really is one of my favorite producers. He has some seriously heavy hitting history he could just ride on like other people do, but he still pushes forward, still doing new things, new tracks, still bangs it better than most. There’s something to be said about that. Dude is a boss.”
4. Studio 1 – “Untitled” (Silber/Silver)
“Wolfgang Voigt is absolutely one of my biggest influences. This series was so far ahead of its time. Think about it; in ‘96 this concept was explained as being 'Pop techno.' OK, so seeing into the future and calling it nearly a decade in advance is worth mentioning. This is true minimalism way before the mass marketing and perversion of the genre into whatever it became. You know, like, the douchebag kids with genre names in their DJ names? Jake Minimal Face and bullshit like that? This is what real minimal records sound like. Make a note of that please.”
5. Farben – “Live at the Sahara Tahoe, 1973”
“Farben, the German word for color, is also an alias of Jan Jelinek. The first time I heard this was on a Daniel Bell mix CD for Tresor. A few weeks after, I found this record at a place called Neptune Records. I was pretty stupid and asked the guy what was up with the track title. I thought it really was from 1973 somehow. No. Herr Jelinek was referencing Isaac Hayes. When people call some of my music 'house,' I always get annoyed. I never wanted to make 'house.' I wanted to make whatever this music was called.”
6. G-Man – “Quo Vadis”
“This was on some Richie Hawtin mix, which is one of the best mixes ever. Gez Varely made this track. I never knew what it was ‘cause I only had a bootlegged cassette of the mix and there wasn’t something called Shazam. You either knew or you didn’t. I was in Detroit and heard some DJ play it. I ran up to the booth like, 'Dude… what is THIS?' All I could see was the i220 logo and didn’t want to bother the DJ asking more. Few months later, I come across a double pack from i220. That was it.”
7. Plastikman – “Plastique”
“Speak of the devil, I love old Plastikman. Almost everyone does. Shit like this, along with metal, industrial and hip-hop is what I listened to when I was about 12 years old. Come to find out, Richie made this album, along with most of the other Plastikman albums, when he was around 22 and 23 years old. Let’s take any current hyped-up kid getting called 'genius' and compare their ragged little distorted drum tracks to this legitimate genius. You cannot fuck with the old Plastikman albums. One of the very few that will always be in another league.”
8. Vegas Soul – “Junk Funk”
“As with pretty much anyone else, I first heard this on a Danny Tenaglia mix CD. Vegas Soul is a Chris Cowie alias. Perfect blend of hypnotic minimalism paired with big room dance percussion and arrangement. This is dance music, plain and simple. Name some genre if you want, I don’t care. It’s heat. File it under 'one of those tracks that makes people dance through the floor.' I own this, but I never play it out. DT played it, made it 'famous,' so it’s just one of those things I have for me at home. I love it.”
9. Ricardo Villalobos – “Panpot Spliff”
“Most people my age are influenced by the minimal sounds of Perlon. I never heard of the label, any of the artists, nothing… just heard this record in a store and lost my shit. It’s hard to pick a single track from Perlon, but this track and Pantytec’s 'Micromission' are tracks which changed the way I heard music. I played this record so many times; I couldn’t even begin to guess. I love it. I never heard of Moodymann or Theo Parrish or any of the Detroit house that other people think I should have. I heard shit like this.”
10. Square Pusher – “Tetra Sync”
What genre is this? At 2:04-2:05 there is this sound that puts chills on my skin. Every. Single. Time. This is the stuff I listen to and think, “Dude, you have no clue about music. Nothing.” Listen to this big fat synth line that comes in; the drums, the slap bass, the effects? Not many people can come close to this sort of production, let alone pull it off live. Think about the DJ popularity race, the beach music brands and all that. All that is just some sick joke, right? Well this track isn’t. Here’s your 'school'… study it.”