Q+A: 5 Minutes with Keys N Krates

 Image credit: Mitch Brown

Let’s pause to consider the vast nature of “dance music” and all that it entails. Between the pillars of house and techno, you’ll find your unmistakable legends of the industry. In the vast outdoors, you’ll venture into the likes of trance and D&B and within the underground world, Footwork and Moombahton will carve themselves a space. Today, we’re venturing into the great crevasse of the underworld and speaking with Keys N Krates about their recently released LP, Original Classic.

Despite being off the beaten track and defying traditional classifications, Original Classic has already been supported by tastemaker publications such as Billboard, Complex, CLASH Magazine and This Song Is Sick. Highlights of the LP include the gently rhythmic ‘Dreams Of Oceans’ as well as ‘Siento Mi Destino’ but really, no matter which song you start with, you’re in for an experience. Join us as we chat with Adam Tune (on drums), David Matisse (on the keyboard) and Jr. Flo (master of the turntable) as we find out how the trio creates their unmistakable sound.

Stream / Download: Original Classic LP 

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Because none of us could imagine doing anything else but music.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

It’s different every time. Sometimes the sound informs the idea, and sometimes the vice versa. Sometimes we like to start with chords and then replace the sound until something feels interesting, and sometimes we wait until we find an interesting sound and it tells us what to do. We have so many different processes, there are really endless ways we come up with stuff.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Yes. Often vocal collaborations and occasionally producer collaborations. Either way, we all have to be fans for the collaborations to work.

What’s on your current playlist?

Tsha, Sofia Kourtesis, Kaytranada, Caribou, Vince Staples, Solange, Little Simz, John Glacier, Floating Points, Badbadnotgood, Brent Faiyaz, Knxledge, to name a few things.  

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

I think, like most dance acts, we definitely feed off their energy.  If they are feeling our vibes, we are gonna be having a good time and they are gonna be having a good time.  It’s about a mutually good time.  

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

All kinds of stuff. We like to sample old music, but we also like to make little samples and then resample them weeks or months later, after we’ve forgotten about making them, so that we approach them with more objectivity. We also love just taking weird synth sounds and running them through a bunch of plugins until it sounds really interesting and try and play around with it until we find an interesting loop.  

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

We arrive, sometimes just two of us, sometimes all three of us. We talk shit, play each other music we are digging, play each other ideas we’ve individually started, and then we jump off one whatever idea we are all excited to work from. We might start from scratch, or a sample someone has brought also. We work on that idea, until nobody wants to work on it and then work on another idea.  But there’s also a whole other kind of day where we have a song or multiple songs that are more developed and need to be either furthered or finished.  Typically two of us will tackle that.  Coffee happens every time though.   Inevitably, everyone is going to get coffee at some point.  

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

We’ve just all been doing music to some extent since our teens.  

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

A clock and some water.  

Any emerging artists on your radar?

We listen to so many people for inspiration. We never know how new any artist we are listening to anymore really is. We are usually late to the party.  We love what Rochelle Jordan is doing. She’s been around for a minute, but she’d probably still be classified as new.  

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Listening to great music or going to a great show or party and experiencing great music in context.  

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

We work with hardware synths like the Moog sub phatty, Juno-106, Mellotron, Dx-7, but also use a ton of Kontakt banks for sample-based organic instruments, or new kinds of weirdly processed janky synths. A lot of cool 3rd party Kontakt banks; there’s a whole world of stuff.  We use Soundtoys a lot for processing stuff, whether it be echo boy, little alter boy, decapitator, rc-20, Valhalla plugins and also just a lot of Ableton stock stuff and Ableton specific techniques.  Also have been messing with the Serato sampler lately for flipping samples and that has been really fun. We use waves and ozone stuff on our master.  Lately we’ve gotten better results from mastering our own stuff.

Any side projects you’re working on?

Matisse has a more classical piano/Rnb side project called “Low Key” which he does intimate live events around Toronto whenever he feels like it.  We are all starting to work with other artists on their projects.  We did some songs for Peyton’s album that came out in the summer.  We have some songs we’ve made with Bibi Bourelly for her projects, and we are working with other people we’ll talk more about when that stuff really starts to materialize more.  

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

We’ve just tried to become better producers and song makers.  Always trying to take the good of what we’ve done, shed the not-so-good, and learn new things that’ll make us better.  

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

Our album has just come out, and we are going to travel around and play DJ sets that will bring the world we’ve tried to create with our album into a dancefloor context.  We are also already working on more knk music so expect more music soon.  We have too many ideas to stop releasing stuff right now.  

Famous last words?

Try to be kind and compassionate to one another


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By Sarah Britton