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Interviews

Getting to The Edge Of Everything with Krust

We have an extensive talk with the Drum & Bass legend about his latest forward thinking music and how he’s only just getting started with his art.

When it comes to jungle and drum & bass, Krust has been there since the beginning, and his music has always been cutting edge and forward thinking and his work with Reprazent, Full Cycle, Dope Dragon and as a solo artist is so influential. Krust released his latest album The Edge Of Everything late last year, his first in fourteen years, and the forward thinking nature continues to be a dominant force in his musical as the album is an intense and immersive listening experience. Krust has followed it up recently with The Edge Of Everything – Remixed which sees reworks of the albums tracks by the likes of Calibre, UNKLE, Four Tet and Damian Lazarus. UKBM had the pleasure of talking to Krust about both of these albums and the creation of them as well as the cinematic nature of his music and the journey it takes you on, the importance of Wild Style, his Adapt The Canvas programmes and the highlights of his illustrious career and journey through music.

Your latest album The Edge Of Everything came out late last year. The album is an immense and huge sounding listen. Did you feel that you were unleashing your creativity even more with this album?   

I felt like I had to sort of go to a new place. I had to try and understand the creative process and figure out how to take that to the next level. I didn’t want to just write new music that people had heard me do before. You know, the energy is Krust. The tempo is Krust but there’s a new element to it, there’s new textures, new arrangements, a different sense of adventure. I was telling a different story for a different time and I was using different sounds and equipment to do that, so it was an ambitious project I was trying to achieve. I mean, it definitely stretched me. It definitely stretched me as a creative and as an artist and as a human being.

Is it an album you’ve been working on for a long time? It’s obviously been quite a long time since your last full album.

Yeah. I think probably overall it’s probably about five years, the inception stage was probably about two years. Really thinking and meditating and visualising , drawing and sketching, collecting sounds, you know, collecting tools, softwares, synthesisers, and I just really, kind of immersed myself in this new sort of way of thinking, trying to acclimatise and trying to get used to what I was gonna attempt. Then the actual sitting in the room production wise, that was a solid two and a half years, three years.

With the diverse array of sounds on the album, from the the strings at the end of Hegel Dialect to the menacing intro to Fields Of Liars. Did you way to have a cohesive cinematic vibe on this record?

Yeah, really the way I approached it, it wasn’t like I was trying to make a record. I was trying to create an experience, and the way I approached it, it’d be like a film director. I tried to figure out, if this was a film, or I actually said, I’m making a film. How do I want people to experience this film, what is the journey that they’re going to go on.  In telling that story, we were looking at all the best pieces to be able to accomplish that, so strings are a big part of my journey, my own story and working with orchestras, tunes like Future Unknown or on my album Coded Language, we feature these large strings, so really it’s looking at how do all these instruments work together to tell this story and to take you on your journey. If I’m thinking like that, i’m going to use use all these tools as a narrative to draw you in and help you have an experience. The strings and all of the sounds are really designed to take you to somewhere else, it’s crafted  in a way that from start to finish, you are going to go into this place and it’s going to be like Star Wars right? You go into the world of Star Wars or Raiders Of The Lost Ark where you were immersed in this whole experience for an hour and a bit, and when you come out with it at the end, you’re like, wow, what the was that? All of the pieces play a vital role in that and they come in at a certain time and they’re drenched in a sort of feeling and effect to help him kind of just tune into that  place I want to take you.

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Is that that a universe you’d want to explore again with your music? Almost sort of a sequel to the album.

If you listen to the album and you get how it starts, its very much like a film.You listen to the very first track, it just just comes in. Hegel Dialect just comes in. There’s no real buildup. It’s just like this car crash effect, boom and then it’s just straight into this energy, and it kind of just builds up. There’s nothing about it that tells you that it’s going to do what it’s going to do, because you can’t anticipate what it’s going to do. Then by the end, it finishes off with this really high energy filmic crescendo that leads you to the next door, the next part of the story, and so we’re building these parts of the story that really take you through the journey. So in the beginning, it’s the exit from the ordinary world.

You’re taken from your safety of what you know, and you’ve been thrown into this environment that’s completely alien to you, then the next part of the journey is you’re trying to find your way but all the time you’re going deeper and deeper into yourself, deeper and deeper into the story. You’re trying to get back to this world that you find safety in but really what’s happening is that world’s gone, has been destroyed, it will never come back, but you as the hero, the protagonist in the story is trying to find some sort of homeostasis, some sort of balance to make you feel good to make you feel safe to, to help you recognise that the world that you’re in it may be seem unfamiliar but you still have to push on because it’s not what you want, but the deeper you go into that story, and you recognise that the more you go in, the less of you is actually going to come up but what that means is that you have to rise to the challenge. You have to go to that next level and you have to overcome whatever demons that you had, that’ve held you in a position of vulnerability, of being scared, of being fearful. I’m telling that story all the way through, and you get to make every turn. The third track in, Negative Returns, the title says what it means, After this point, there’s no going back. Then go right through all of the songs, 7 Known Truths, Deep Fields Of Liars and I might uncover in these deeper motifs, these deeper stories, but really I’m just excavating my own psychology, our own psychology and exploring what is there, until you get right to the very end, Only God Can Tell. That’s  your own interpretation of what that means it as you get through to that end, the doors open. You’ve just been through this journey of hell and the. The elevator door opens on ground level and you come out on Oxford Street! You hear all the traffic and all the people walking up and you might think you’re there, but really what’s happened is you’ve completely changed who you are and the world doesn’t seem the same anymore. If you think what going to happen next, what happens next in a sequel or a trilogy where you k ow it has to be a different part of the journey, of your experience. What I feel for me is going to be next will be something in the same level of adventure but completely new and out there again.

Have you had thoughts about that yet?

Yeah, yeah I’m already working on it.

Have you got a timeframe for when we can expect that or is it just when it happens.

Yeah, it’ll drop when it drops.

With this album telling the story it does, have you thought about turning it into a film or a screenplay or doing music for films?

I’ve been learning to write screenplays and short stories for about 10 years now. I’ve got lots of ideas and I was very fortunate to work on AntigravityLove on the album with Michael Francis Williams, who is a film director and a good friend, so he’s created a really amazing story for that. We’ll be seeing that soon and yeah, I’d love to score films, that would be something really interesting and something I’d really get into. I’d love to get one of my films developed and put into development in the next two to three years. These are all projects that we’re working on. I’m going to be writing things I’m working on, still in development. Yeah, we’ll see what the future brings, man.

The remix album for The Edge Of Everything has just come out as well. Are you happy with how that’s been received and did you choose the artists personally to remix?

No, I didn’t. Damian Lazarus chose all the artists, we just talked about it and his selection was impeccable. I mean, I didn’t have any arguments with it. I suggested Flynn do something, but when he suggested the list, it was close to perfect and there was no real need to change it around. The way the album has been received is great. What better compliment to the first album than a remix album that’s with all those top tier artists that ave contributed to the project. It’s been amazing. It’s been an amazing journey.

Throughout this pandemic period, you have been putting out the Adapt The Canvas videos online, where you’re dropping knowledge, creativity and beyond. What has the responses to those videos been like and have you enjoyed doing them?

Yeah, I’ve been doing coaching and mentoring for like 15 years now and really it developed out of my own need for help and coaching and mentoring, and it’s just grown and developed. It’s gone through different iterations, so Adapt The Canvas and now there’s the Adapt The Canvas Academy where we’re specifically designing education for manager level, director level and artists and producer level, so we have a different ways that we can work with different groups of people. It’s been great. It’s been growing over the period. It’s been really amazing. It’s designed to help people think differently. You know, I don’t teach people how to make music, but I will help and guide people around how to think about that, how to choose your sounds, how to place your projects, what to be thinking about in the sense that what type of artist you want to be. The whole concept around me doing what I did for my project was the blueprint, was the calling card to say, look, I’m using these techniques, and this is what I’ve been able to do. We use these techniques in Full Cycle and look what we were able to do. It’s trying to understand all those moving pieces and then take it up a notch. You know, I studied hypnosis, I studied creativity, consciousness. I studied spirituality, business, marketing. And then we put them all together into this melting pot and said, okay, what is the hybrid of all of these things? If we look, if we look 10, 15 years into the future, what’s coming down the pipe that we can bring into the mix, that’s going to help people have the unfair advantage, how people think differently, how people be unique, how people create a brand that stands up, create sounds and projects that stand out, that take them to that next level.
That’s been our task, and so every week on Adapt The Canvas, I’m giving hints and talks around this, but the next stage is now the Adapt The Canvas academy, which are our paid courses, which I’ve mostly been running for the last two years. I do that on a Wednesday afternoon and we have a paid course. We have all the recordings. We have a Facebook group and we have a proper website as well, where all the records from Adapt The Canvas are on there and all of our content is held on there too, we’re growing that business. We’re taking it to the next level. We’ll have new courses out in October. We’ll be expanding that out to hopefully doing live shows next year, where we’ll be doing Adapt The Canvas to live audiences and two day seminars, that’s the goal for that. It’s all designed to help creatives really understand how to get to that next level and not just think we need another plugin, or they need to watch another tutorial of how to make basslines. It’s beyond that now, and it must be obvious to creatives out there that it’s not enough to know that I can just use serum and turn up the bass, that day’s done. Everybody’s got serum, everybody’s got massive, everybody’s got logic. What’s the difference that makes the difference. I like to do the comparison between Andy Murray and Roger Federer, these are both tennis players at the top of their game. They’re both millionaires, both getting hundreds of thousands of pounds a year from sponsorships. They wear the vest trainers, the best clothes. Both are good on clay, both are good on grass, what’s the difference on the actual day?  It’s to do with the psychology, it’s how they show up on that day. We’re all in that same position, when they levelled the playing field 15 years ago, and everybody could use logic or could use pro tools, everybody could get all the cracks and the reasons and stuff from your mate down the road, that levelled the playing field. The next stage now is about musicianship and this psychology to take your self to that next level, that isn’t common knowledge that isn’t being taught, so that’s where Adapt The Canvas comes in.

 

Going way back. You’ve mentioned that seeing Wild Style was a pivotal moment for you. What was it about that film that was so influential at that time?

Culture. All about the culture. I grew up in this, working class, council estate called Knowle West and there were very few people that looked like me. There were very few positive role models on the TV that looked like me, so my future wasn’t looking that great, to be honest. It wasn’t until I saw Wild Style and what it showed me was that there were people in America, who had less than me, that had figured out how to create something, where they could create a culture, they could create a community. They could create a sustainability, they could create something that gave them their self-worth back, that gave them their significance, and that was so highly visible and valuable to a young black kid growing up in poverty in a council estate and it just piqued my interest, they’ve got nothing, how are they doing what they’re doing? In any of the hour and a half video, I couldn’t see them being any different from me, I just couldn’t. I said that if they can do it with what they’ve got, which is nothing, surely we can do it here with what we’ve got, and that was the big “aha”moment for me and the thing that sent me over the line and opened up all the opportunities because what I realised, it’s not a situation where you need to have resources, you need to be resourceful, You just have resourcefulness. You need to have the mindset and that was my first look at adapting my own canvas because what me and my brothers quickly learned, and  a few of our friends was that we could do everything. We just need to put our minds to it. That was what I got from Wild Style, that was the blueprint of how to get shit done, you know, and the whole B-Boy mentality as well. Before Wild Style, I was a mod. I loved The Specials, I mean, I still do love all the mod stuff, but what I recognised with the mods is that they didn’t really do much. They looked good and the rudeboys dress well, but Wild Style and hip hop was the culture. It had graffiti, it had the language, it had rapping, breakdancing, DJing and it was a whole sort of cultural wrapped up, ready to go, so when as a 14 year old, you see that, it’s so attractive, it’s like there’s an ideology, there’s a philosophy built into that. It it was just easy for us to go down that road and to emulate what we were seeing. Then  over time we started to innovate and be original and authentic ourselves.

You’ve got the track B-Boy Culture, the b-side to Jazz Note II. Have you always had that B- Boy mentality, that vibe running through your for your whole career?

Yeah, I mean, it’s who you are it’s your identity levels. LikeI said, was a mod before that, but it was more because there wasn’t anything else. The thing about being a B-Boy is that it’s who you are. You can embody B-Boy-ism in everything you do, so it’s the way that you talk, it’s the way that you act, its a way to convince your identity. It’s about being flamboyant, original, authentic. It’s about understanding codes, cultures, respect ,ideologies and it’s the way that you present yourself and it’s the way you think and the way you look at the world in the sense that, you look at certain things through an opportunistic point of view from how original can I approach this, is there a way that I can deal with this situation and still look good, feel good, take myself to the next level, raise the community to that next level, how can I really be authentic in it? All of this stuff is built into, for me anyway, is built into what B-Boy is. I approach making jungle like that and all my businesses that I’ve started, I have approached like that. So being original, being futuristic, being authentic. Looking at how I can create something that the culture can get something from and helps us all grow and expand, and in the process, how am I teaching? How am I interpreting the message of this? We can grow together. We can learn, we can share, this is something sustainable, and how can that message be taught to some individuals so that they get the deeper aspects of it and it’s not just a superficial idea. I just want to be famous or popular,  it’s like, no, what’s the real significance of that culture. Like, how does that really affect the community growing, and what is it that we’re trying to achieve?

So for me, that’s kind of what I get out of it all the time and I’m always trying to figure out how to instill that in my projects, and you can see from Full Cycle and even before that with Fresh 4, me and my brother, that’s entrenched in it. We had a cycle company we did after Fresh 4, that’s entrenched  in it and after Full Cycle, and I did Disruptive Patterns and that was entrenched in it. I started a CBD company, that’s entrenched in it. It’s really looking at all the pillars and making sure that all of the pillars and the foundations are firmly rooted in these ideas, because for me, that’s the culture, that’s the foundation. When the pillars are there, when I obey the rules of the pillars, things work out and when I skip the pillars, it doesn’t work.

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What were some of the best times you had to leave with Reprazent, Full Cycle and Dope Dragon and do you still look back at them with fondness?

For sure. That’s the legacy man. That’s how I got here, Full Cycle was the family, you know, me, Roni, Die, Suv, D Product, Becky, Chris Lewis, Surge. Again, look at the model, we created something from nothing. A few of us were educated, some left school with not much but we found common ground and we were able to focus on what makes each of those people unique. Each of those people had a unique role within that system and we made it work. We created a family outside of our family and we made it work for like 15 years.We worked together, we lived together, we traveled together and it was amazing. It was fantastic. I look back on those times as big growth spurts for me, learning about life, learning about relationships, things I learned about music and business and art and creativity. I often reference the successes and the failures about Full Cycle in my talks and my workshops, because a lot of people just see the successes and the highs, they talk about the Mercury’s and Reprazent but they didn’t know about some of the failures that we went through and how we coped with them and how we dealt with it as a team and things that we worked on, things that we had to work on. Those things are really powerful and really important. They need to be discussed and talked about. Those are things that have really helped me now, today, as a creative and as an artist, to understand what it is that I need to learn, what it is I need to do to keep growing  and striving forward. Those times were big growth spurts forI us and great blessings, I wouldn’t change any of it.

How does it feel to still be creating such vital music so long after you started and how does it feel to be revered as a pioneer of jungle and drum & bass?

I feel like what we did and what we achieved was just something that we did because we couldn’t do anything else. I tried to get a job, my mum said, look, go and get a job as a backup. I said, I alright mum for you I’ll give it a shot. I’d always been doing the music, when I saw Wild Style at 14, the next day, me and my brother started doing it, so by the time I was 15, I was just in it. When I was 17, I looked for a job for my mum but after 6 weeks, I was like fuck this job shit! I couldn’t get a job and I remember throwing my tie over this bridge into the river, saying fuck it, I’m never going for a job again and I’m going to devote a hundred percent of my time into the music. That was my commitment, and what that showed me was the focus and the persistence of this young boy that once he found his passion, that would light up this world. That was a huge, big learning lesson for me to learn at such a young age, was that commitment. I wasn’t interested, I was committed and I did whatever it took to learn how to use the equipment. I learned for years studying in my brother’s back room, sleeping on his floor, I mastered the sampler, I mastered the Atari, with his help, we learned together and he taught me and I learned how to do that. That focus and dedication means something and if you understand that, you can do that and you can learn and it really changes your mind because in school they said, I was a slow learner, in school, they said I wasn’t going to amount to much. There’s no much opportunity for someone who comes from Knowle West, let alone a black kid who comes from Knowle West! there wasn’t much opportunity or hope and so all of a sudden, I figured out something I could be good at. I figured out something I could be significant at. I figured out something that not many people could do at the time, and that was a huge, huge confidence boost, not to my ego, but to my confidence to say that if you could do that, I wonder what happened if you just moved that a little bit over there then, because in school I had no interest in education. I had no interest in reading, nothing. I didn’t even read a book properly. So I was like 19/20, and that was a manual for a sampler. I didn’t really care, but when it came to music, it was a whole other thing. I was so deeply ingrained and passionate, focused and into it, and everything worked. All my stars were aligned and that was a huge win for me. Then, meeting Die and Suv, Roni and all of having the same thing. Then we create success. You got to imagine, I wasn’t even qualified to push wooden pallets around the warehouse. They said, no, you can’t have that job, but then, seven years later I’m flying business class to Japan, playing at Womb in Tokyo!

It’s a completely different level of understanding what you can achieve and how we were able to achieve. We created something from nothing that’s now a billion pound industry. We were a part of that. We were part of sending this music all around the world. We were part of being signed to Def Jam in America, winning the Mercury Award, winning the MOBO award, signing to Talkin Loud and doing 3 albums with them. Signing to V records to putting out maybe 20 albums. We have been at the forefront UK electronic music culture for over 25 years. That is a significant achievement, so I am immensely proud of being part of that. I’m also immensely proud that, people who were deemed as not educated or not eligible for the system were able to create their own system and were able to create their own culture. That’s now being populated by millions of people all over the world and has been embraced by the same people who told us we weren’t relevant and are now giving us awards. Now they’ve got classes in their schools that teach them what we figured out for ourselves. We’ve accomplished a lot and we’re just getting started. We’re the first generation of electronic producers that are touching 50! We’ve got a long way to go. Quincy Jones was 50 when he produced Thriller, Herbie Hancock is still going strong at 70. I look at these guys, I mean Herbie Hancocks got like 20 Grammys! These people really started going when they hit 50. I feel like what we’ve been able to create with the scene, with jungle into drum & bass, I feel that it’s going to evolve into something else. I think my album brings together lots of these elements, jungle, drum & bass, Afro futurism, of cinema, creative and cultural referencing. Economics, business, pandemics, war, terrorism but also love. All of these things are all wrapped up in this narrative that’s pushing into a new area where it feels like we’re getting into the new Renaissance. You know, this new period of hyper growth, hyper creativity, where we’ve seen these types of changes happen all the time. Whenever we have deep recessions, we have high culture because the people revert back to the only thing that they cannot be held back in and that’s expressing themselves through their art forms, through pottery, through music, through dance. If you look out there, there’s more music being made today, through the worst recession there’s ever been, than ever in history. There’s more art, there’s more creativity, more people uploading content online expressing themselves, their views and ideologies. That’s because when you have an imbalance in one area, it needs to be rebalanced in another area. I feel like I’m definitely contributing to that . I’m definitely a pioneer in that. I’m definitely trying to figure out what’s next for me. How am I now going to connect these different types of dots because it’s not just about music, it’s about how we express ourselves through the technology that’s available. That’s what I’m excited about. It’s like, how am I going to look at what’s going on in the world, on all levels? What is the opportunity that’s there to really contribute to this melting point of all these ideas that takes us to that next level, that’s, what’s exciting for me right now.

Buy The Edge of Everything here and The Edge of Everything – Remixed here.

Follow Krust across all of his socials here: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

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