'That Krafty Style' with Krafty Kuts

We spoke to celebrated turntablist Krafty Kuts about the golden age of hip hop, the importance of keeping things fresh and funky, and the secret to connecting with your audience.

Mike Warburton

Date published: 13th Nov 2014

Photo: Krafty Kuts

As one of this country's most celebrated turntablists, Krafty Kuts aka Martin Reeves has been continually honing a sound that seems to know no limits.

From the early days of hip hop and funk DJing through to his current all encompassing style, Krafty Kuts has continued to incite raving of the highest order with every DJ set, cutting and scratching his way through the past 30 plus years of music and instilling it with a fresh and funky vibe (witness that in his Essential Mix below) that has bagged him three Breakspoll Best DJ awards as well as one in the coveted Outstanding Contribution category.

Ahead of his headline slot for Back to the Beats on November 29th, we thought we'd grab five minutes with the breaks hero to find out more about how it all began, how he keeps things fresh and funky in the digital age and the secret to connecting with his audience. 

You’re heading to Liverpool for Back to the Beats at the end of the month, how do you rate the scene in the city? Have you enjoyed playing there in the past?

Obviously being a big Liverpool fan I love this city - it has a big history of great club nights such as Chibuku and Cream. I've had many crazy nights out there, and remember an amazing line up at Cream, with Grandmaster Flash, DJ Q Bert, DJ Marky & myself all in one room it was ridiculous!

Do you have anything special up your sleeve for the show?

Absolutely! I’m Krafty and will always bring my battle weapons, especially to Liverpool. It's going to be a night to remember for sure. With A.Skillz & JFB this is a monstrous line up so I need to bring all my special edits, remixes and latest bangers!

How would you say your style has evolved since you started out all those years ago, and how has the digital age affected your DJing style? What setup do you use for your performances?

I move with the times embracing new sounds and new styles yet still keeping things fresh and funky. The digital age has changed the way we digest music. It has become very throw-away and no longer has the shelf life it used to have.

Having said that there are still a lot of great dance floor bangers out there making my sets much more cutting edge. The setup I use is four CDJ 2000s and a Pioneer DJM 900.

What was the moment when you knew you had to get into turntablism? Was there a particular DJ you saw or heard that made you think, ‘man, I’ve got to learn how to do that!?’

It was when DJ Cash Money (see him in action below) won the World Mixing finals back in the day. I was a young kid and blown away by the skills, sounds and style from one of my favourite DJs.

I was bitten by the bug to collect hip hop and funk tunes and started practising day in day out until I was good enough to showcase my talents live. It was like an addiction and I still get a buzz every time I perform.

You’re renowned for your ability to get crowds whipped up into a frenzy, what is the secret you think to really connecting with your audience?

Always show your enthusiasm and respect to the crowd like every show is your first. I try to bring a big selection of different styles to suit the area I am playing.

Different cities around the world like different flavours so it’s always good to be prepared to rock the house with a solid set. Get there early to check the DJ who is spinning before, so you can get a vibe and of course check he is not playing some tunes you may drop. I make sure I have an intro and classic last tune to go out on a high.

How much work goes into practising routines and perfecting structure to your sets, or do you have more of a freewheeling approach, or a bit of both?

I like to be spontaneous and roll with the vibe of the crowd, also depending how much time I have to work on a set.  It is always good to be organized and be well prepared to overcome hurdles like dodgy mixers or faulty equipment. I try and practice as much as possible but having a hectic touring schedule, being a family man and squeezing some studio time in is tough.

Which for you has been the most important era musically?

The nineties, for me this is where I got all my hip hop and funk knowledge. I loved all the party hip hop from guys like Gang Starr, Pete Rock, Brand Nubian, PE, Main Source, the list is endless. These really helped me work on my skills as a DJ, getting two copies and beat juggling and scratching over instrumentals... it was infectious. 

Listen to Krafty Kuts' 'Golden Era of Hip Hop' mix below.

Your sets typically take in styles from right across the spectrum, what makes you, when you hear a tune think 'this is going in my set?'

If it's funky has a vibe and has that Krafty style then I'm on it. I love so many various genres and styles from hip hop to funk to drum&bass to breaks.

I try to mix things up, thrown in some other flavours and catch people by surprise. Prodigy tunes are always a winner and I like to put my own twist on a classic track. I get sent loads of great music so I am pretty much ready to rock with so many cool tunes. 

How is Instant Vibes going? Have you any new stuff due for release on it, either from yourself or others on the imprint? And what lead to the decision to finish Against The Grain and start up Instant Vibes? 

With Against The Grain, my old business partner Skool Of Thought emigrated to Australia so it became impossible to run the label as well as the club night Supercharged. After a few years, I decided the time was right to maybe start a new label with my manager and Finger Lickin’ head honcho Abel Reynolds.

We have had so many great releases and remixes form big acts such as Dirtyphonics, Drumsound & Bassline Smith, Marten Horger, Freestylers (check out 'SkAcid' below), Dodge & Fuski, Featurecast, Ed Solo, Deekline and many more. The label is going from strength to strength. We have some really solid releases coming from Krossbow, Wicked City myself and loads of new signings, it is very exciting times at Instant Vibes HQ.

Last question, you've been asked to curate your ultimate rave. You can have on the bill and DJs from past or presents, alive or dead, who would you have join you, and what track would you play to define the night?

I would do a huge party on a beach in Australia somewhere and the line up would have a festival vibe with loads of different stages including James Brown, Parliament, Prodigy, Gang Star, DJ Jazzy Jeff, A.Skillz, Andy C,  Earth Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Run Dmc, Featurecast, Z Trip, DJ Craze, Grizzmatik Live, Flume Live, Freestylers Live, Eric B & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Buraka Som Sistema, Kool & The Gang (1969 -74 era), Bob Marley, Pharrel with his band N.E.R.D, Beastie Boys, Jurassic 5 with DJ Numark & Cut Chemist, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Prince, Wu Tang Clan, Tracy Chapman, The Beat, The Specials, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, A Trak (Hip Hop Set), DJ Shortkut Reggae Set, Fatboy Slim Big Beat set, DJ Qbert vs D Styles (Electro Set) & my band Wicked City. It would be the best Festival ever!

The track I would play to end the night would be Bob Marley - Could You Be Loved … Perfect!

Thank you Krafty Kuts! Get Krafty on the dancefloor when he hits Back To The Beats at Camp and Furnace in Liverpool on November 29th. Get your Krafty Kuts tickets here.

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a turntable demon, head here to find out more about the Back To The Beats DJ competition.

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