Friday, November 7, 2014

Klute, Among Other Things, Is Helping Bring Tribes Together in San Diego [Interview]

The OG DJ and producer known as Klute (I asked the origin of his name, yes it was a hokey question and no he did not answer), has been in the drum and bass game legitimately longer than some of us claim to have been in it.  Over the span of his career he's put out some of the essential dnb tracks which defined the genre, worked with Metalheadz and Hospital Records, and started and run his own record label, Commercial Suicide, which now has its own impressive lineup and discography.  

Honestly, if you're reading this blog you'd better damn well know who Klute is.  I'm not here to drive my SEO, man.  It's about recognizing what dnb powerhouses like Klute bring to the table, and the answer is a hell of a lot, past and present.  He's just released a new Invaderz EP on Commercial Suicide to critical acclaim, and will be wrapping up a U.S. tour in San Diego this week.  After 20 years in the game, Klute is the gift that keeps on giving, and in a scene which is changing and getting punked by the new EDM culture and group divisions, it's the mainstays like Klute who will dig their heels in with us and get us to the other side.

Another mainstay of dnb culture is Bassdrive, and once again I have to say if you're reading this blog and you don't know about Bassdrive, pause your reading and go educate yourself. is the best and most heavily visited live Drum and Bass streaming player we have going stateside, and also in many countries where dnb is even more marginalized than it is here.  We know Bassdrive pretty well in San Diego as we have two shows from local DJs here: HEAT Live and Impressions DnB Radio, run by Delano and Indentation respectively. 

What I suspect many DnB heads didn't know, however is that Bassdrive is now a booking agency, representing both international heavy hitters like Klute, and some of the lesser-known djs who have shows on Bassdrive and may not have been able to get representation otherwise.  "The launch of Bassdrive Bookings Drum&Bass Talent Agency is part of a natural progression of Bassdrive. It was at first to provide much needed representation for the Bassdrive Radio Staff DJs and look out for select few top quality international headliner caliber artists in the states and Canada," Bassdrive Operations Manager Dvus told me as we were putting this all together. That's good enough for me; the more we can get both heavy-hitters and up-and-coming djs moving around the country and the world, the more of a chance we have of survival and of showing people what this music is truly about. Using its connections with major international talent, Bassdrive is helping spread the love.

The Klute show marks a convergence of minds and talents in the microcosm of the San Diego dnb scene as well. Every city has a few crews within their individual scene which take on the responsibility of throwing parties, and it seemed to some of the promoters in San Diego that a bit of fractionation was going on, where loyalties had built to specific venues, djs, sound systems, etc. This party will be unique because of the fact that all these factions have come together to bring this party to a neutral venue and pool all of their talents to make the best possible party. "We didn't even want people to know which crew was throwing this thing," one of the promoters told me. It's true, when I first saw the flyer I was like "OK, what is going on with this. Who is throwing it?" For lack of a better term, they're calling the group, representing multiple crews "Converge." I'm not allowed to name all the separate parts that went into this event, but if you take a look at the local talent on the flyer and you know the groups in San Diego, you'll see that the promoters are really trying to make sure everyone is represented fairly, and that the best possible party comes out of it. Klute via Bassdrive is an excellent place to start.

So, this post is listed as an interview because as a cranky old scenester stuck in the crosshairs of these many elements of dnb both local and global, I was lucky enough to get to interview Klute, who just by the virtue of who he is is able to help bring together all these people, crews, countries, sounds. I wanted first and foremost to find out what's going on with Klute, his record company, and any new releases, but also what he thought of some of these bigger questions. If you haven't already scrolled down to get to the good stuff, here's what we talked about:

DWS: You just got finished with Sun & Bass, and now you’re wrapping up a pretty whirlwind U.S. tour. How does it feel to go from the chill atmosphere of Sardinia to clubs in the U.S.?
KluteThere's no real way to answer to answer that, I really enjoy the intensity of travelling and seeing different places and different people. The main thing is that places and people are different and that’s the beauty of it all.

DWSIt looks like you and your label, Commercial Suicide, are really excited about the new Invaders LP, New Found Dialect which is releasing officially while you’re here on tour.  How did you come to work with The Invaderz and what do you like about their style?
KluteI've been a close friend of Darrell from the Invaderz for many years now. We both debuted on Metalheadz at the same time back around 2001 and we’ve kept in close contact ever since. We share a similar sense of humor so eventually it seemed only natural to put their stuff out.
These days there are precious few artists who can diversify their sound, and that’s what I love about the Invaderz. They’re a three piece and all three bring a range of styles and influences to the table. It’s a great album, I thoroughly recommend everyone at least check it out. 

DWS: Are there any upcoming releases for you  yourself on the horizon?
Klute: Yes! 2014 was a slow year for me on the release front. I put out one single with a Calibre remix. I wrote plenty of music so theres plenty to come in 2015 starting with a solo single on Commercial Suicide in January.
On the compilation side of things I have tunes on forthcoming albums on 31 Records and DNB Arena. Look out for them.

DWS: You’re going right down the coast of California on this tour (with a brief stop in Puerto Rico!), and you've been to all three cities, SF, LA, and SD many times before.  From your vantage point as a pioneering Dj and producer from the UK, what do you see are the differences in crowds and fans from each of the three?

Klute: People are people at the end of the day, and with that also comes time, things change .
For awhile there San Fran reigned supreme in the USA as the home of DNB but I think things are spread around more evenly these days. Its been a few years since I was in San Diego, so im really looking forward to checking it out again, but these days, I’d say my fav’s on the west coast are def Respect in LA, Stamina Sundays in SF, the Baltic Rooms in Seattle and not forgetting Portland which just totally rocks.

 DWS: Same question East Coast vs Midwest vs West Coast (if any), and what you find interesting or weird about U.S. dnb heads in general?
Klute: I was born in the US so I'm not really in a position to judge Americans (or maybe I am!), but I really like coming out here to tour, I love the diversity and distance of the cities. I love to fly around. It's my fave country in the world I don’t want to single out certain cities only to make others feel bad cos they're all awesome in one way or another. Favorites include Chicago, Boston, NYC (my sister lives there)...everywhere.

DWSYou’re finishing the tour up in San Diego, and obviously this is a San Diego-based blog.  Any specific observations for San Diego heads? 
KluteI had the best burrito of my life so far in San Diego.

DWS: The sub-genres in Drum and Bass seem to be disappearing as the music evolves and styles merge.  For many producers and fans who have been around a while, however, you’re seen as one of the pioneers of Liquid Drum and Bass, but you got started in a hardcore punk band called The Stupids, which is pretty hard stuff comparatively.  What draws or inspires you towards the prettier and more ambient sounds you create in your dnb music?  Is it expressing that musical side of you versus punk, or do you feel dnb is a more flexible genre to create those kinds of sounds?
Klute: I wouldn’t say I'm synonymous with “liquid” at all to be honest. My palette of sounds has always been pretty random, it might be that I make better "mellower” tracks or whatever but I have to say that the balance of styles and emotions is all part of nature. I like the rough with the smooth, otherwise I think it gets pretty boring.

DWS: Some of the older electronic acts are starting to get fed up with the current EDM culture, with Dj Craze and the Prodigy putting out releases which are anti-EDM in no uncertain terms.  What do you think about what’s going on with the mega-star EDM producers and the culture that’s popularizing them? 
Klute: I think EDM and corporate culture has infiltrated a lot of “our” culture. It's about money and making lots of it very quickly, strip mining a culture that has grown organically over decades. 

That was a very poignant note to end on, but think about the evolution of this culture, and the fact that suddenly we are being "strip mined" for our parts, jammed together into more palatable sub-genres like Dubstep and Trap, and infiltrated by festivals and newcomers who not only don't get it, but have no desire to even try to learn (aside from an awesome few who have made a tremendous effort, you know who you are).  It's no wonder people hold onto their crews so tightly.  

It takes a special type of person to be able to break down those walls some of these wounded warriors have put up, and try to bring everyone together for the sake of the music.  Something I've realized over the past 8 years or so is that in drum and bass in the US we can't really afford to be too crew-oriented anymore.  We're all fighting for the same thing: the glory of the bassline. 

Corporatized electronic music has come around a few times in the twenty-odd years since jungle and dnb were born, and we've managed to beat it back and keep our integrity, but each time we loose a few soldiers, and each time the scene is diluted a bit with new infantry who may not be quite as Spartan as we are, who aren't as sure what we're fighting for.  The San Diego crews on the microcosm and Bassdrive and others like them on the national front are providing a way for us to keep fighting, and our main weapons are unity and the ability to bring Klute and the like to cities everywhere, and let the music speak for itself.  

I know most of us feel this way: drum and bass and jungle have given so many of us so much, and in some cases it's saved our lives.  It's brought a group of people together who otherwise wouldn't have known each other into this shared reality of fast, hard bass music but also of integrity and valuing the respect of the few over the adulation of the masses.  Unified, we're big enough to give back to the music and keep it going for a long time coming.  Klute's not going anywhere and neither is Bassdrive.  Let's make sure San Diego stays strong so we can keep the bass rolling.

I want to thank Klute for taking the time to speak to DWS during a very busy tour, and to Bassdrive and the promoters from San Diego for facilitating all this.  We all look forward to his performance in San Diego on November 8.  Click here for details.