Interview by Jeremy Pelley
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Return of the Krush Groove

   Everybody wants to be a DJ these days. All it takes is the necessary stereophonic equipment and the time and money to spend on vinyl shopping sprees. Once all of the essentials are collected, it’s fun and easy to match beats and figure out little tricks that sound good. All of a sudden—BOOM—you are a certified DJ and are the envy of all of your friends. Right?
   Nope. While one might easily be able to gather all of the necessary elements to play with beats and scratching, to be a unique and prolific DJ, one must be willing and able to put the same effort into learning turntablist techniques that one would put into learning any musical instrument, or for that matter any martial art. It takes practice and dedication, but most importantly it takes an unwavering passion for turntablism that exists above all other things.
   But being a DJ wasn’t always the most desirable position. Before Japan’s prodigal son DJ Krush stepped onto the scene, the DJ as a band member was often overlooked and pushed to the back of the stage at hip-hop shows, relinquishing all the limelight to the MC’s. The DJ merely provided a background of beats and grooves for the rappers to float on, thereby relinquishing most (if not all) of the credit.
   That all changed almost 20 years ago, when Krush first utilized turntables as musical instruments while playing with live musicians on stage, thus leaving an indelible mark on hip-hop (and subsequently on most modern music as we know it). While most might not realize it, it was his inventiveness and unmistakable style that helped shape and create trip-hop, acid-jazz, and instrumental hip-hop. At the same time, his turntable techniques blew the doors wide open for musicians from all genres to experiment with sampling, scratching and beat
juggling.
   DJ Krush embodies the undying passion for the art of turntablism, but more importantly he understands what it takes to kick out the jams. More of an urban composer than a DJ, he creates what could easily be described as urban chamber music. Often described as beat-heavy and smooth, his style in early works was primarily instrumental—hip-hop without the rapper—but as he has progressed his music has grown to incorporate all elements of music making, including (gasp!) lyricists.
   At one time Krush was a glue-sniffing street-thug and troublemaker, and it was the classic hip-hop movie Wild Style that pulled him from his nefarious ways into his creative direction of turntablism. It’s a good thing, because he has impacted the music world in ways that we can’t even comprehend. And the last thing this world needs is another wannabe thug.
   Venues got a chance to talk with Krush via email and translators, and here is what he had to say about his tour for his upcoming release, Jaku, amongst other topics:
To aid their progression, many artists and musicians relocate to a more accessible place once they get noticed, but you never left Japan except to go on tour. Do you think that staying in Tokyo has helped or hindered your career? And how does living in Japan affect your overall creative production?
   Krush: Tokyo is my home and I would not be able to live anywhere else. Tokyo is my inspiration for my music and life. My family is here I have never been one to follow so I never even thought about relocating. Tokyo is a vibrant city and it affects my music to its core. I sometimes think of it as a soundscape of Tokyo.
You did the cover art for your ‘Zen’ album. Do you often express yourself in other mediums outside of turntablism?
   K: I like to paint. Not as much as I used to. But I got awards at school for my painting back in primary school. I don’t know if I told anyone that before....
In the past you have done tracks inspired by current events and the geopolitical environment. How do you feel about what is going on in the world today, and how has it affected your music production?
   K: Just watching my children, I feel afraid of what kind of world we are giving to them. The concept of my newest album Jaku relates to that. The theme of this album is ‘WA.’ WA is a Japanese concept with many meanings. Harmony, Peace, One, Circle, ‘things Japanese.’ I felt this concept is missing in the world today. The world seems so divided with war and cruelty. I wanted to make an album that counter-balances all of the nonsense.
In an interview early on in your career, you stated that you were content with your traditional set up of an Akai sampler, a midi keyboard, turntables and a mixer, so you had no real need for a computer except for storage. Do find this to still be true with your newest efforts, or do you find yourself utilizing computers more to aid your work?
   K: I just started using computers. Really late, right? My new album Jaku was made with help from my computer. I am still learning, so it took a while to get it, but once you get it, it is a lot easier. But I return to the old fashioned way for the fat sound that I want sometimes...
Due to the internet and countless computer music programs, it is easier than ever for anyone to make beats and loops in their home studio. How do you feel about the ease and accessibility of electronic music production and how it has affected the music world?
   K: It is good as long as you are doing something creative with the tools.
You have been at the DJ game for almost 20 years now. Do you find that you have a different approach now than when you were just starting out?
   K: No, not really. I just like to share a time, a space with the audience. It’s not really about making them dance or going crazy, it’s about a mood, sharing “air.”
How does being a father influence your music? Do you try to encourage your own children to create music?
   K: [Being a father] influences album concepts. I just want my children to be happy whatever they do.
It seems that the Japanese hip-hop scene has grown considerably since you first began mixing records. Do you have some favorite artists from Japan right now? Anyone the world should look out for in the near future?
   K: [All of] the Japanese artists on my new album Jaku. Sakata, Ken Shima, Tetsuro Naito, Mr. Morita. Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif are awesome.
Where do you find your inspiration?
   K: Everyday life.
Do you have a certain direction that you want to take your music, or would you rather your music create its own path?
   K: I don’t force it. I know I will be doing this until I die. I tell people, I have a vision of myself when I am 70 or 80. I will still be spinning and making music and my nurse will be feeding me via I.V! It’s a never-ending process.