Interview: KRTS

An interview with this week's Guest Groom KRTS discussing his new album and living in the Big Apple.

Posted on Jan 14th, 2013 in Features and Interviews / By Matthew Bayfield
Interview: KRTS To coincide with his Bearded Guest Groom we caught up on the blower with Brooklyn based beat maker KRTS to talk about his debut LP on Project Mooncircle and the sound of New York density.

Bearded: Hey, how you doing Sir, you good?

KRTS: Can't complain, can't complain... Well there's always room to complain but you shouldn't.

What's been going on then?

Just doing a bit of freelance work at the moment to pay the rent. I quit my job at the Museum Of Natural History after seven years and I had a good friend who runs a company, said I could help out there freelance doing video production. It's a bit gruelling but it's fun and pays the bills. I've been editing footage twelve hours a day for the past five days, so I haven't been able to touch my studio, but the rent was due so it was just a case of "Yo, fuck it, I'll do this if it pays."

Necessary evils I suppose? Did you fit recording the album in around working freelance then?

Actually no, [the album] is the first time I've done a project with as much time as I ever needed. I quit my job in March to go on tour in Europe, so when I came back I had no job, just some money from the tour and that was it really. I realised this was the time to sit down and really focus. I got back in around May time and the last pieces were down in late August / early September, so it took around four or five months to complete the record.

It must just be amazing to be able to go all in on a project and not have to think about anything else?

That was the main thing about it. Apart from the album the only things on my mind were rent, money and bills. I was DJing a bit on the side, doing the freelance work when it comes, and it's not like I've never been broke before; I'm used to that, but this was my first time being steadily, completely broke. I couldn't do much but walk my dog and stay in my apartment. People were like "oh you must be loving it just chilling all day" but it was more like "yeeeee...naaaaah" haha! It has it's moments where you think "oh this is great", I can take a walk round New York and see places I've not seen in a long time, or ever, but then of course there are the times where it's like "oh shit" because you've got three days to pay rent and about three hundred dollars. The rent's about $1500 a month.

Shit the bed that's steep.

Yeah that's New York for you man. But London's no joke too you know? There were moments when Dad was like "you know you can always come home?" and I was like "I coooould" but I stuck it out and it's been great for the most part. It was scary at first but I wouldn't trade it in for anything. It's just a hustle I suppose.

I'd say it was worth it, the album genuinely did amaze me... And I'm not just spouting that shit because I'm on the line with you now.

Thank you, I really appreciate that.

Project Mooncircle have had a really good year all round, what with this, the Kidsuke and Submerse releases. This one really did intrigue me though. It's funny you should say about living in New York, because the album... It's not necessarily suffocating but it's so, so dense in structure.

Yeah I think this city has definitely had an influence on things. This is such a dense city, it is just five boroughs of complete density. I've always been a fan of thick, densely layered, cinematic music but New York definitely, definitely plays a heavy part in this album. I live amongst density haha. If it's not my neighbours downstairs it's my neighbours upstairs, or my neighbours to the right or left. The music (I hope) is reflective of that.

I was actually really worried about that when making it, I was listening to every song trying to work out the best play list for it, but actually my boy Chris, Christopher Salyers, ended up doing the play list for it because I couldn't make it sound the way I wanted. I was worried the songs would all sound way too thick. It doesn't ease up.

No it really is quite immersive. Without trying to get too pretentious it sort of swallows you. Once it's playing it doesn't feel like a series of tracks, it moves in a very organic manner.

Again I've got to give the credit to Chris on that. It's really hard to do a play list of your own music because you are so close to it. I spent a couple' weeks trying to sequence that and it got to the point where I didn't want to even hear my own music and I really trust him, so I gave him the list and said "this is my idea, let me know what you think". Five of the ten tracks we had the same, but he switched up the other five and when I listened to it I was just like "Yes." So I'll definitely hand all the applause to Chris on the flow of the album.

Whilst I've been listening I've been trying to pick out what music you listen to, because there are so many different ones buried in it, but it doesn't just feel like you've said "this is my garage track, this is my hip-hop track", it all blends so subtly.

Oh I listen to every single style of music that's not on the radio in America haha! I can't just say on the radio because when I listen to the BBC y'all pumpin' out some real stuff out there.

Yeah if you stay away from the daytime schedules the BBC have really pulled their socks up lately.

Oh that's true yeah! But for us: daytime, night time, breakfast time, half time... It's all complete shit. No offence to the people out there doing their thing but there's a lot of garbage out there. But no, I listen to everything. In the last couple of years I've been listening to a lot more house. I don't think my knowledge on house is that good yet, I have a lot of learning yet to do as far as the history of it and where it's still going now... Drum & bass is something I still love to pump out here and there, dubstep and reggae, underground hip-hop, jazz. You name it really.

There's a couple of bits that have a really nice garage shuffle to them, I was really feeling those.

Yeah I'm still learning about garage and all it's offshoots, I don't know too many names and I'm still learning about what separates garage from other styles... In fact there’s a tune... Oh man I can't remember who was it... Wiley? Someone was doing a flow about "don't call this garage, it's not garage"?

Oh that'll probably be 'Wot U Call It?' by Wiley...

...Yeah that's it, that's the one. That's one of my favourite tracks man, I heard that a minute ago, but it's like it's talking about me in a way haha! Because I never know where the line is drawn on this stuff, and that track feels like it's addressed to me!

Speaking on tags and titles, the title of the record intrigued me too. What's that all about?

The Dread Of An Unknown Evil is based on something which isn't an official term but is widely known as pan-phobia. Pan-phobia is literally the dread of the unknown. It's very common for people to have these moments of dread, I think mine are a little more intense than others and it's something that kind of troubles me. I get this awful, awful feeling that something bad is gonna happen. I don't know what it is or why I feel it, but it actually stops me getting a lot of things done in life. It can be difficult and sometimes I have to just step back and not do anything. It usually only lasts for a couple of minutes, but that's what it is sort of based on.

Sonically is that again why the sound is quite suffocating track by track?

Yeah, the album is actually based around all different types of fears. Every song represents a different fear: fear of moving on in relationships, fear of moving to different cities, fears of love. A lot of people are afraid to stay in love with anything, people are afraid of attachments.

I love the way in the centre of the record there are the two tracks 'Knuckle Under' and 'Strange Boys In Blue' where the energy really ramps up a gear to a ten minute stretch of surging panic.

Oh I appreciate you got that. I'd say 'Knuckle Under' was my strongest track as far as panic... Yeah panic was a perfect word for that. That track best sounds out New York for me. 'Knuckle under' means to submit, and it's all about submitting to NY's density actually. It's funny that you brought that up earlier. For me submitting to NY can be a good or a bad thing, I think you find a lot of, say, homeless people have submitted to how NY can just beat you down and destroy you throughout the day. It's also like how people that have lived here a long time or are New Yorkers properly, were born here, can just ride the subway and ignore so much of what's going on around them. But the answer is quite simple I think: if you actually lock in to everything around you in NY you'll just go mad. You have to be able to go inward a bit and shut down to keep sane here! If you don't it will just take you under and that's what I tried to do with the ending of that track: it just swallows you under.

Are you going to be taking this record out live and doing shows with it?

Oh definitely. I DJ on the side but I'm a live performer really. I've got a brand new set... It's kind of hard to call it a set actually. The way my set-up is, it's not pre-programmed like a lot of stuff. Mine is like a jumble of loops and a jumble of full tracks, and some will have missing elements so I can really be free with them. It makes it more difficult and more of a challenge for me to keep it flowing as I have to do times changes, tempo changes and I've got to know when it's good to drop out a beat and start a new loop or whatever. It gives me the freedom to make something different every time I play. So you never get the same set. As well as manipulating it all live I've started adding effects with my voice through a microphone too so it's a much bigger sound for me to play with.

Oh wonderful! Is that coming to Britain at any point?

Yeah as soon as I have my VISA and all that paperwork haha!

I'm hitting up Europe in January / February and it's looking like April may be a possibility for the UK. I might have some things cookin' for then and I really want to get back to London. I even did a show in Nottingham a while ago and that was so much fun. So yeah, I got to bring it back to England. It'd be rude to be in Europe and not stop in.

Listen to KRTS' guest mix here

KRTS debut album The Dread Of An Unknown Evil is out now on Project Mooncircle... You should all go buy the vinyl version, it's one of the most beautifully presented packages of 2012.