The life & times of a jazz musician working in the dance music industry.
Crackazat’s been doing a little this… a little that… for more than a minute. Tap dance and jazz as a kid, hip hop and jazz funk as a teenager while playing multiple instruments and producing. Five years ago he released the downtempo and synth funk Explanation EP on Astrodynamics and today he’s crackin’ us over the head consistently with funky fusions of house and jazz and a new LP on Local Talk… and this musician is just getting warmed up.
First thing I have to ask about is the story behind the Jamiroquai a cappella arrangement on your soundcloud? It’s amazing!
The a cappella group are called Vocado, they are fantastic performers and composers and have played across the globe. They also live in my resident town of Uppsala, and I got to know one of the tenors who was a fellow student at the university. Knowing I was a musician, he asked if I’d like to arrange a song for them. I chose Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai and a week or so after finishing it for them they sent me a live recording of it. It was so good I had to share it.
Your last album Crescendo and releases since then have had a great response from big names in the house world. based on some of your past interviews house seemed like just another new avenue to explore and expand musically for you…
I think of myself as a jazz musician working in the dance music industry. I’ve learned so much since I started working with house in 2012, creating a sound and sticking to it, how sales work, building an audience, sharing platforms, and of course the art of DJing. I think my background in Jazz and musicianship has defined my house sound, plus I have found labels to work with that support and nurture my musical inclination. I have learned about deeper house heritage as I’ve gone along, but a lot of my experience with dance music stems from my childhood and teenage years spent in Bristol, exploring hip hop and bass music.
Was there anything, in particular, you were looking to create or accomplish on this new album Rainbow Fantasia? What were some of your sources of inspiration? How was it put together? Give us the goods!
My first album was more of a compilation of my work thus far and was overall very upbeat and explosive. ‘Rainbow Fantasia’ is in many ways my first true album. It is a more cohesive journey through my musical vision. I wanted to create an authentic, subtle, deep and musical album. My inspirations are always the same. Herbie Hancock, Jamiroquai, Stanley Clark and much more jazz/funk. As far as current inspirations go, I have really admired the statements made by Lone, Floating Points and Leon Vynhehall with their various LPs.
I’ve noticed you sometimes amp up the intensity of a track as it progresses toward the end. “Coffee Time” in particular comes to mind, but the title track seemed to me almost like an exercise in pushing the boundaries of wackiness…was it? What is it about this track that makes it the centerpiece?
I think your description of the title track fits well. It was, in fact, an exercise to fit a fully composed piece of modern jazz music on top of a house beat. The wackiness perhaps is a byproduct of the harmonies which are some of the most angular on the album. It was Mad Mats at Local Talk who suggested we call the entire album “Rainbow Fantasia.” Listening back to the album now, I think that the title track and the whole album have taken on their own interpretations of the title.
Also, “The Only One” I think was probably the biggest curveball on the album, in a good way. Not something if I heard I would think hey that’s Crackazat, but still really cool and playful…late night type of sound. Can you talk about that one?
“The Only One” is perhaps the darkest track on the album. I wanted to write a bassline that could describe subtle harmonies, rather than just writing and playing chords like I usually do (like on Sundial for example). I paid a lot of attention to the tracks various details and nuances. For example, the various melodies that reply to each other, the flute sample I found that amazingly worked with the chords. The drums are somewhat more dubby, but coming back to my earlier statement, it’s all about the bassline on this track.
As someone living between the worlds of classical training and music made by a dude with a laptop, where do you see some of the most significant differences musically, and how does one world influence the other for you? Do you have any recommendations for the dude with a laptop that could up his game musically? Do you take any significant lessons from the dude and incorporate that into what you’re doing?
I think we are all dudes and dudettes with laptops, it’s what defines our generation. Anyone with an interest in production can start producing. I think it’s what you bring to that medium that will define you. I started producing and learning instruments at exactly the same time, and both will always be a part of what I do. For me, it is the legacy of jazz, not just because I studied it, but because I grew up tap dancing to it and was a part of my childhood. I nearly chose to study music production at university, but instead, I spent 3 years immersed in the academic study of jazz musicianship, something I am very glad I did. Jazz in academia also has its own risks of elitism and a tendency to shelter itself from other genres. Producing electronic music is in many ways my antidote for that. It has taken me a long time to truly unite these two sides of me, and it is an ongoing process.
You’re a live performer as opposed to a DJ. What’s your setup these days and have you added any new elements to it that you’ve wanted to?
My live set has developed over 10 years and has grown both with my own abilities, and the current tech available. My setup is Ableton Live, with two keyboards, and an APC 40. I have the ability to navigate freely through my tracks, as well as loop and create new parts on the go. The newest additions are Bass Guitar and Vox, which both open up a whole world of possibilities.
Do you see yourself continuing to make house? Will you soon be moving on to the next musical expansion of the Crackazat journey?
I have strong intentions for both.
Crackazat’s Rainbow Fantasia is out now from Local Talk.