We find out how the super cool Krafty Kuts became one of Britain’s best DJs as he heads for his first gig in Dubai this week. Listen up.
He’s a three-time winner of the Breakspoll breakbeat DJ awards, is repeatedly declared one of the world’s top 100 DJs by DJ Magazine, has composed music for video games and even had his tunes featured on a Coca Cola ad. Yep, life’s been pretty good to UK-based spinner Martin Reeves, better known as Krafty Kuts.
His secret? Staying ahead of the game. ‘Music scenes change all the time and you’ve got to move with them,’ Martin explains. ‘More than that, you’ve got to be one step ahead of the rest. So I’m always making sure that I have the best tunes that are available, but putting my own spin on them to make them special.’
In Krafty’s case, that means reworking classic and obscure tracks to create a cohesive set in his trademark breakbeat style. ‘I’m taking other peoples’ music and re-layering it, adjusting it and making it bigger and better,’ he notes. ‘I take electro house and techno records and make them into breakbeat records, slowing them down or speeding them up, making the drums right, layering the music. I’m turning these magnificent pieces of music into something of my own.’
Krafty doesn’t just repurpose other peoples’ music – he’s also working on his second album; get it right, and his name could be up there with Groove Armada and The Chemical Brothers.
He’s even working with talent like Jazzy Jeff and DJ Craze, as well as previous collaborators A Skillz and Ashley Slater. ‘I’m developing 14 tracks at the moment, and I can’t get them out of my head,’ he says excitedly. ‘It’s like, I wrote a track last week and now all I can think of is how much I want to get finished. I feel like an athlete when the Olympics are coming up. It’s really exciting and all I want to do is play the singles and see what people think of them.’
The flipside of this kind of passion, however, is dissatisfaction. Despite his numerous achievements, and a career that has seen him travelling to 45 countries over the past decade, Krafty’s conversation is peppered with remarks about how he feels he can still improve, and how hard he has to work to maintain his success. It is, he admits, an attitude that leaves him under a lot of pressure. ‘That’s true, and it’s probably why I’m stressing out so much. I don’t have a girlfriend or a wife, so maybe I’m putting too much effort into my music career and not putting enough effort into other sides [of my life]. But you can’t have your cake and eat it, can you? Nothing is ever perfect. You dedicate your life to something and unfortunately a lot of things get put to the back.’
This may sound like just another tortured artist, throwing aside everything in favour of his art, but Krafty’s no fool – he knows that other things are just as important. ‘I have children and I dedicate all of my spare time to them. It’s just hard to balance everything out and I’m trying to find the middle ground for it all. But DJing is what I love and what I do.’
That love becomes more obvious the more Krafty discusses his plans for his upcoming Dubai gig. Like pretty much all DJs, he relies on spontaneity and improvisation to construct his set, letting the audience’s reactions dictate where he’ll take it. But he does have some rough guidelines and theories that he’ll be putting into action.
‘You have to have a different approach for each country – some people like it heavy, some people like it funky... Dubai’s a very hot country, so people are a little bit more relaxed and laidback at the start… It’s all about getting the ladies dancing – once they’re up there, the guys will make a move and start to enjoy themselves.
‘You also have to entertain in a slightly more cool, cutting-edge way and show people that you mean business,’ Krafty continues. ‘Maybe do some tricks on the turntables that make you stand out from the rest, and just play the music that seems to have the energy that people are expecting.
‘Musically, I’ll try some different things – come in with new stuff, but also play tracks that they’re familiar with, slightly changed to my own style. It makes it that bit more special, and shows you’ve put in that bit of extra work. I’ve put in a lot of a capellas, different versions of music that people can recognise, a Chemical Brothers remix that people like, and loads more. I’ve always got some tasty treats.’
And, in keeping with his high-pressure lifestyle, Krafty will be leaving Dubai almost as soon as he’s arrived, jetting straight off to perform another gig. Is he ever going to give himself the chance to unwind? ‘That’s a good idea,’ he yawns. ‘Maybe I need a holiday. Maybe Dubai will help me out with that. Just have a nice day in the sun.’