Date: July 2000
Its raining, big time. Oh yes. Down the road, the home of the FA are thinking of more ways to waste a million. Lancaster Gate on a wet afternoon. Oh yes. Wrong turning out of the tube and this must be it. Wrong again, but we don't stop to ask the commissonaire outside the Royal, he's to busy arguing with a driver. It must be this rain. Back past the tube. There it is. Remember the scene out of Trainspotting when they hit the hotel? We expect Begbie to be waiting.
Never judge a book by its cover. First impressions don't last. This is your average hotel. But hey this ain't no Michelin guide that has to be written, DJ Krush is in the building and he's keeping it real.
Minus the trademark baseball cap, Krush is in the lobby. Sporting new blond highlights in his hair, he's rounding off another interview before we get to him. We hit the coffee and look for those all important photo angles.
With the Ryu collective, 'Ga' and the mix album, ..... Krush has added another two great releases to the long list of solo work, collaborations and remixes that stretch back to the early '90s. At 38 his love of hip hop related music stretches further back than most to the early '80s, when on seeing 'Wildstyle' he was immediately turned on to the new Stateside sound. By his own admission, "a bad boy without a job" before, this wild young man on the streets of Tokyo, first turned his hand to breakdancing, forming the Krush Posse in '87.
Playing in the underground clubs, the posse formed a reputation as one of the best hip hop acts in Japan before their demise in 1992. Going solo Krush grabbed the attention of many with his use of the turntable. Manipulating them as instruments and creating new sounds and productions, he along with DJ Shadow gave Mo Wax its international reputation as all things trip and hop. With his love of both hip hop and jazz and with influences ranging from Miles Davis, Hendrix to Grandmaster Flash he created the early sounds of today on work like 'Lost & Found' and 'Meiso'. Numerous collaborations and remixes have followed with the likes of Ronny Jordan, Vadim, Gallino and most recently Black Thought of The Roots.
Krush is in a relaxed mood for someone who is about to end a large European tour rounding it off at the Essential Music Festival, in Brighton at the weekend. Along the way its taken in places like Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. Before Europe it was the USA. A long tour. Finishing where it started. The UK. But starting unfortunately in everyone's favourite shopping precinct come club, the capitals 'Home' in Leicester Square.
"The Home DJ set I didn't really enjoy" he explains, with coffee and Marlboros at the ready, "due to the size of the venue the sound howled around the poor sound system".
Anyone who has been to Home can tell you its not a great place on any night. DJ Krush's music sailed over the heads of the mainly student crowd who were more into largin it upstairs to Jason Bye. An opportunity lost on this his supposedly "exclusive UK date".
"The crowd were too near to the booth which was open facing the crowd and it was hard to concentrate." But like his music, Krush is pretty down tempo and its only when delayed flights result in angry promoters that he gets upset, "I'm more mild these days, I only get moody if I play badly".
With all the sell out tours around the world Krush has had to replace his passport many a time because of the amount of custom stamps in them. His word travel lets him dip into the international world of hip hop giving him the opportunity to listen to all styles.
"I like the UK sound. People like Vadim, The Creators, Roots Manuva and the skills of The Scratch Perverts."
Always working on new ideas, Krush's RYU collective sees him teaming up with DJ Hide( pronounced He-de) and DJ Sak. Hide is from Kemuri Productions, a DJ collective from Japan. Sak is an up and coming player on the Japanese DJ scene, but his previous work as a musician has allowed him to bring the more traditional Japanese sounds to the LP.
"Sak was around from the days of the Krush posse", Krush explains, "he brings with him a knowledge of the traditional Japanese drum". Sucking on a cigarette he continues, "the album is like a journey of parts. RYU is the Japanese for flow and together we have made this trip along a current of differing elements. Our backgrounds are all very similar, we have a love of hip hop but we all wanted to create something unique."
Its certainly that. For the record, Krush, Hide and Sak have drawn on many influences and the talents of various collaborators. There are not only traditional Japanese elements but Tunde Ayanemi brings percussion from Nigeria, Africa and Anita Jarrett, a name familiar to most of us, gives guest vocals that have made her a name on the work of Pressure Drop. Hip hop of course is also there a plenty with the Tokyo hiphop crew 'Tha Blue Herbs' 'Boss The Mic' guesting and the 'Beat Knuckles', Japans answer to the 'Skratch Picklz' mixing it up on 'Beataholic Reformatory'.
At this point the lobby of the hotel has turned into what looks like a Middle Eastern version of 'Suprise Suprise'. Theres a ten strong family reunion going off. All of them, snapping photos of each other around the sofas. My Dixons budget tape recorder has a battle on its hands so we up and leave to a quiet bar room with, unfortunately, drinks locked away behind the pull down grill.
The Krush continues.
"We're hoping to take it out live, but with all the other work I'm involved in its going to be a while. I only have one body!" he laughs "I want to perform the RYU work with proper musicians on stage especially the Japanese and African percussion that features on the LP. As well as that we want to combine the music with displays of Japanese writing (check the LP artwork) and maybe clay pot making."
A whole new idea to the term the wheels of steel? Pot making. Maybe it'll start a trend. Brass rubbings at Movement or knitting at Fabric. Who knows.
Its a long way from those early days starting out on the streets of Tokyo as Krush explains.
"It was hard getting hold of those early hip hop tracks. 'Cisco' was the only shop you could get the records from and it was a small selection that disappeared really quickly. The scene was mainly breakdancing at first and there were no real hip hop DJs."
When his break came as a solo DJ he was seen as a weird Japanese guy making trip hop. His tag as the 'godfather of trip hop' is something he is not really pleased with.
"My music is my own style and if people want to describe my music, then please describe it as Krush."
Almost at the big 4-0, Krush is most happy and relaxed when he's with his kids in the park. Apart from a new hobby of photography, music is still his number one occupation and theres still not enough time to do all what he wants to do. More work to come, with solo projects lined up from the three RYU members. Theres the live plans to sort out, collaborations to do, more DJ'ing and of course the promotional work that naturally follows. Others are waiting. Luckily its stopped raining.