Return of the Krush
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
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
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
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
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