Ahead of weekender, Pleasure Principle, we spoke with one of the rising stars of the line-up about hip-hop alter egos and...his penis.
So, Pleasure Principle is a new music weekender helmed by Glasgow collective, Numbers, and the team behind Dedbeat festival, taking place in Cornwall at the end of April with a mammoth roll call including TNGHT, Just Blaze, Ruff Sqwad, David Rodigan, Jackmaster, Oneman and more. I know, no big deal.
As a regular collaborator, I teamed up with the guys to warm up for the event by speaking with rising UK producer and purveyor of bastardised boogie, disco and early '90s house, Krystal Klear, about fan-boying Sky Ferreira, fan-boying even more for Daft Punk, hip-hop alter egos and...his penis. Enjoy!
Noisey: Hey Krystal Klear! So, how old are you?
Krystal Klear: Me, 25, wait – [deliberates] – ’87…oh my God, I’m 25. I only turned 25, that’s why I’m asking; I’m so clueless, Jesus.
That makes you the same age as the 5’3” Texan model with a 34C bust, who has appeared in T.I. and UGK’s “Front, Back, Side to Side”, been a cover model for ‘Mo Bounce’ magazine and once hosted a Shaq O’Neil club party, also known as Krystal Klear. Given the chance, would you rather have her life or yours?
Is that factual, what you just knocked out? That is incredible. I would rather her life probably met my life and we had a little life together for about two hours. But I’m content in my shoes; I’m happy enough. I’ll take mine, but no disrespect to the missus.
Sweet. While disco and house are natural bedfellows, I’ve noticed you’ve shifted more towards the styles and sounds of 1984-1994, perhaps a little less about the 70s disco. Was that a conscious decision or that just how it’s naturally gone in the last few years? Tonight was quite a hard set, comparative to what I saw a year or two ago.
Yeah, I’m not trying to move with any times, but I’ve got to keep my own interests. I’m definitely feeling for a little more aggressive music, and it’s not the most aggressive – its not fucking gabba – but I mean, I like playing harder stuff now than before. To me, the music I’m trying to play is soulful. I’m not talking about motown and Smokey Robinson but more in the same way an Omar-S tune, or something by Thomas Bangalter/Kerri Chandler.etc has that soul, it’s got soul. Even if it’s a kick and a bassline, it’ll do for me. I've also been put a bit into a realm now with a lot of gigs that I’m doing where it’s a heavier club environment and I will play what I want to play, I’m not going to jeopardise that, but I do have to acknowledge the fact that I am in a club and there are young guys out there trying to get off and have a great night. I can throw in a bit of a disco and throw in an odd blender into the mix, but by the same token you’ve got to keep a bit of a steady romp going on, keep it going. I’m happier now playing a lot more of the heavier stuff then I used to..I think it fits and I think heaviness and deep-sounding music didn’t just come out the woodwork in the last five or ten years; it was happening in the 80s and 70s.
You mentioned Kerri Chandler – your More Attention EP came out on his MadTech label. How did you get picked up by him, and was it daunting working with an idol?
It was mad. I did these things for Red Bull in Ireland – promotional for the Academy in New York – and Kerri and Just Blaze were involved. I played with Kerri years ago and true to his reputation he remembers everyone, doesn’t forget a face. He remembered mine, and that was mind-blowing to me. He’s so sound. I gave him my 12” at the time –
My flaccid penis -- haha, no I’m talking about my record, which was "We’re Wrong", released on All City; I just thought he might like it. I gave him it and lo and behold, a week later I got a DM from him on Twitter being like, “look man, I love the 12”, can we talking about doing a tune?” I was like, “yeah definitely, are you joking me!!!” I sent him two tracks I had on the go and he was like “perfect, done, signed, sealed, delivered”. It was real simple and I was just ecstatic man. In this game it’s nice to get a bit of credit from your peers, be it one of the gang playing your tune in a set – that means a lot. But to have somebody who has meant so much to your sound and career, in influence, for him to give you the nod and say “I want these tracks”, that obviously is a big deal, and I was super ecstatic.
On the topic of releases – you featured on the inaugural Hoya: Hoya 12” back in 2010. How much have things changed for the label and club night since then in the last three years?
Popularity with the club night, but nothing’s changed with the vibe or the ethos by any stretch, and that’s a good thing. It would have been so easy for us to fall into different paths with how we wanted to do things because the popularity of the night, and how things swung. I know we had full confidence in what we were doing, but we never expected it to become something that was renowned. Regarding the label, it’s a natural thing. I have no input in the label, and that’s not because I’m not allowed, but as much I’m part of Hoya: Hoya it’s Ryan [Illum Sphere] and Jonny [Dub]’s baby, their child. The label was something I know Ryan more than anyone always wanted to do, a dream of his. The best thing about it is when he feels the time is right for everyone, he’ll be “I think we should release this”, and it’s like “yep, definitely.” In my opinion, it’s a quality structure, campaign-like; it’s not about getting something out every three months, just keeping this thing alive – it’s not about that. You don’t make money from the records, there’s no such thing as money with records, there’s no such thing.
No, not really. You know, obviously you’ve got lads like Disclosure – they’re obviously making cash. But just in a grand perspective, if you’re an indie label and you’re releasing a record, you press 500-1000 max; if they all sell out it’s a bonus and if you do a repress it’s a gold medal. But at the end of the day, you release a record for one principle alone: you have pride in the music and the idea behind it. That’s exactly what Hoya:Hoya does with the label. You release people that you’re into, that you’re about, and that’s exactly how it is; it doesn’t get more complicated than that. We’ve got something coming out in the next few months – James T. Cotton, a Dabrye alias. Serious, deep New York shuffly house. We all got the proper masters back today…heavy. It’s Dabrye, it’s always incredible, it’s a joke, it’s amazing. I think the label’s going to come a bit more in swing this year because with everyone, despite having less time on their hands, we’re all in a more comfortable position, so we don’t have common stresses as much as we used to. So for Ryan especially, he can hone in on the label and say “you know what, time to release something – I want to release this, we should do it.” And we’ll all get behind it naturally.
"Everything Is Embarrassing", one of the best songs of last year – in my opinion one of the best pop songs of recent years, a really amazing song –-
The remix of Sky Ferreira that you did, how did that come about? Is it officially licensed or is it something that you felt like doing?
Oh no, totally official – you wouldn’t have got that acappella for nothing. Her people got in touch with mine…
I mean, the song after twenty listens still stands up as so good.
I know man. Devonté Hynes just destroyed it on the production of that, he’s like a young Prince. The sound has got a rusticness to it, it’s consistently evolving. Sky Ferreira though, I was in fact enquiring to work with her for a long time, and then the remix came through and obviously that opportunity of working together came to fruition. With the remix, personally I didn’t break any boundaries; I know I tried some other ideas that I had, but I felt like with her vocal it’s quite precise, and if I was to go along a more natural aspect of doing a boogie / Prince vibe which I employ with a lot of my music, it would have been pointless because of what Devonté did. So that’s my drawing line with a lot of my remixes – is this a KK house remix, or is it a Krystal Klear remix? With the Sky Ferreira one, that’s the angle I took. It’s nice when you do something like that when it gets appreciated.
A friend specifically asked that I pose this to you: your music is pretty sax-heavy in places; what’s the appeal of the music to you, and do you have a favourite saxophonist?
Well, I have a favourite sax player – that’s Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band. He’s like the king. For the kind I’m into it, it’s like that synth sax sound. It’s on MK Dubs of Chez Damier tracks, you hear it and it’s just a raw sound. I like it. It’s cheesy in a lot of people’s eyes but, yeah.
That leads perfectly onto my next question, and it’s a big one. With regards to Cheryl Lynn’s indelible "Got To Be Real" – which is one of my favourite songs of all time, and I know you’ve said it’s one of yours as well – you said in an interview that you didn’t care if it was considered cheesy, you’d still play it because it’s a banger. Why do you think that disco, with the exception of maybe power ballads and country music, is regarded as the ultimate guilty pleasure? Do you think that someone like Nile Rodgers is being disrespected by the fact he gets booked on Sunday night “joke slots” despite being one of the greatest producers and songwriters of all time? Does it piss you off that you have to like it ironically?
It does yeah; I wouldn’t say it pisses me off, I understand. I think you’re totally wrong with your Nile Rodgers comment – I don’t think it’s referred to as a “joke slot” by any means. There’s a place and time for everything. In the same fact that you’re not going to have DJ Stingray playing at 5 in the afternoon, Chic with Nile Rodgers at 6 or 7pm at a festival, that’s what you want. It’s perfect. It’s going to lead you in, it’s step up time, it’s an upper, like taking a musical pill at the beginning of the night. To go back to guilty pleasures thing, disco music has so many connotations because, naturally, its origin: the gay scene in New York. That’s exactly where it comes from, it’s a lot of expansion from that. You know, heterosexual males when they’re standing in a club, sometimes them guys may not be so secure with aspects of their sexuality amongst other people naturally,so in to order to be comfortable to stand up, put their hands in the air and embrace the emotions they choose to acknowledge it as "my guilty pleasure.” That’s the get out of jail. Personally, I don’t give a fuck. I just think it’s good music, and that’s my bottom line with all of this stuff. It’s soulful music, written from the heart, with emphasis towards a good idea; that’s important to me.
With disco music, like you said, there’s an energy in those tracks that even some of the best dance music in the world hasn’t ever reached. It’s not something I can quote or describe, or even something you can write – it’s a thesis material subject – but there’s an energy involved in it that’s uncomprehendable but just incredibly engaging. You can pull the guilty card out all the time, but that’s bollocks generally, it’s bollocks. It’s just good music, admit it. Just fucking chill out, it’s great music, you like it – no problem. If more people were secure about that factor I think the spectrum of this sound would be even wider in unexpected places.
Following on from "My Love Is Burning", I’d like you to rank the following, best-to-worst: 'Burn" by Usher, "Burnin’" by Daft Punk, "Burning" by MK & Alana and (burn baby burn) "Disco Inferno" by The Trammps.
OK, burn baby burn at the bottom, "Disco Inferno" by The Trammps.
Yeah, definitely. It’s nothing to do with anything except it’s just not my kind of disco tune. Daft Punk’s "Burnin" is no. 1.
Yeah. Daft Punk are the greatest group of all time. There’s nothing they can do wrong in my eyes.
Human After All?
Is incredible. Oh, it’s like when people used to give [DJ] Shadow shit because of his records – what, do you want him to sit around and make "Organ Donor" for seven years? Do you know what I mean? Daft Punk are so forward thinking. Look at Justice – one of the biggest groups of 2006, was it?
Where do you think their sound evolved from, to be honest? Human After All is a sick record, it just wasn’t what everyone expected, and that’s why Daft Punk are incredible; that’s why "Burnin’" is at the top for me. Then "Burning" by MK is obviously a banging tune, flawless to an extent, and MK is obviously a huge influence on my sound. "Burn" by Usher is another great one, but I’m being honest when I say it: it’d have to be "Disco Inferno", Usher, MK and then the kings.
Ha. So, you’ve been described as “rising” for quite a while – do you feel like you’ve risen yet?
What’s the benchmark?
Oh man, I’m not gonna open you up to discuss my benchmarks. I’m very ambitious. I think you have to be. If I didn’t have a high goal or dream that was beyond my comprehension or means, getting up in the morning mightn’t be worthwhile. You have to aim high. Like, successful and happy would be, I dunno, making great music with some of the best producers in the world. Maybe doing a track with Nile Rodgers; that’d be the top of my list. The “Rising” thing has been thrown out a few times and it is what it is. I’m steadily doing what I’m doing. I’m my own worst enemy because with what I do when I’m DJing and musically, I shift gears in certain ways; I like to try and keep the quality consistency but the genre consistency I definitely don’t stick to. I take a pride in that because when I signed up for this I let the world know I make music from 1980-94, influenced specifically so. I was never just going to be disco, I was never just going to be boogie and I was never just going to be house. I want that to be acknowledged and for the first time people are really starting to get that. That’s opening the door now for what I want to do later.
If you were ever to pursue a career in rap, would you still call yourself Cristal Klear?
Nah, I already know my rap name.
Are we allowed to know that?
Oh no problem: Dec Threats. It’s just a classic, it’s a nice pun. [Someone makes a background comment about Inspectah Deck]. Exactly. Believe me, those five years when all my mates at school were Wu-Tang when we were 14. Yeah, Dec Threats, but don’t worry, I won’t be involving myself in any rap any time soon so I don’t think anyone has to worry about any Dec Threats again.
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