Kris Wadsworth is a name synonymous with original sounding techno, in both meanings of the word. Growing up and absorbing the electronic music culture in Detroit set Kris on a path that would lead him to becoming one of the Techno Titans of our generation, a stature consolidated by his recent signing to Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic label.
Kris is strictly a vinyl only DJ because, as he says in his interview with Bomphcast (below), he sees “vinyl as the cornerstone of [techno] music’s identity”. We at Bomphcast couldn’t agree more. Vinyl DJ’s will by default consistently bring a party with deeper dimensions, as the skill involved in mixing records commemorates the DJ’s appreciation for the music and therefore the appreciation of a heaving crowd. His sets are no different.
Read more of the insightful and wide spanning interview below the mix.
I first heard your record Uranus 333b from an Andy Hart podcast for Heist Recordings and it blew me away. Immediately after I had a listen to the other works of URANUS and began to wonder if there was an overarching direction/concept that the tracks were following and are to follow? Is this label a constant stream of consciousness and the tracks resulting from it? Or do you selectively produce and pick tracks to be on this label?
If you look into the astrological meaning of the planet Uranus, you may notice similarities in some of the things I have done with the label. Uranus inflicted a generational influence on human beings here on Earth. While my little label is not remotely as significant, the planet’s influence is without question. URANUS tracks are places I travel inwardly, where I really touch a nerve, which hopefully translates to others through the music outwardly. That is the feeling. It feels right or it does not. Only I know and I cannot describe it.
Also, it is strictly vinyl-only because I am still a vinyl-only DJ. Culturally, as a DJ and producer of electronic music for over 16 years, I see vinyl as the cornerstone of this music’s identity. Without vinyl records, there would be no model for CDJs, there would be no USB technology, and the acronym “DJ,” by definition, would not exist. It is the master medium for this music and always will be.
Aside from URANUS, you have a second record label called BREED. What differentiates the two labels from one another?
I think it’s important to release other people’s music. So after releasing my own music on URANUS without any association with nearly any other label for a period of years, I wanted to perhaps “give back,” and take on the responsibility many others have with my music in the past. URANUS is me. BREED is where I release stuff from people I know and will more than likely release specific things of my own.
Also, I recently signed with one of my oldest friends, Jimmy Edgar, for his label Ultramajic. The first release with me involved is collaboration between him and Truncate which I have remixed. Then coming shortly after that is an Ep of original music I made for the label. This is really important to me because it is the first label that is not mine which I have released on in years. Of course, also because Jimmy and crew are some of my favorite people in the game.
URANUS is up to its 5th release out of a series of 6. Any word on when shall 666 grace our ears?
The final release in the series, the sixth, will be out before the end of 2015.
When listening to techno, what do you listen for/what qualities are important in a track for you?
Again, the feeling, also the way it’s constructed. There’s a way to make tracks and then there is a way to make songs. I try to pick tracks which people have made in a certain way. I also like stuff that’s totally out there and difficult to mix, or requires a few listens to learn what happens. Tracks with strange timing elements are really fun too. It’s not hard to bang up a track with loads of predictability. People who use a mixed method of structure and unpredictability are usually my favorites.
I’ve read that you don’t actively listen to lots of the techno that’s out there so as not to influence your own music too much, but do you listen to much music from other genres?
When you’re a pro DJ, you have to listen to this music. Be it house, techno, etc. Obviously I love it whatever category it’s in. Club music…in my free time, or personal time, or whatever time…isn’t always appropriate. It was when I was like, 18, but then again not all the time. I think all real music people listen to all sorts of things and the things which they are most often influenced by doesn’t always come from peers. For me, I grew up in the 90’s, so take your pick. Hip Hop, Metal, Grunge, Industrial, etc. I also grew up in Detroit, so my whole life was dominated by the local flavors there. MoTown, most notably, and also other stuff I would hear around the house or on the radio. Think about DJ Assault, Marvin Gaye, Theolonius Monk, Kool Keith, Black Sabbath and beyond. I just love music and being raised in and around one the great music cities of the world definitely helped shape me.
You are originally from Detroit but have since moved abroad and have found yourself in Berlin. What was it about the city that drew you in and was it what you expected/hoped for?
Berlin is a really nice place to live. I first came to Berlin about 7 years ago as part of a little tour. I didn’t like it at first because I didn’t really like anywhere. But as time went by and I came back a few more times, I came to stay here as a base for one of the best tours I’ve ever had and knew I wanted to stay. I went back to Detroit for a few months because I only had a tourist visa. I packed as much as I could take on one plane trip and have not left in 4 years. Berlin isn’t for everyone, no matter how much they would like to think it is. There are some very prominent parallels between here and where I grew up too, which would take ages to explain and document even. An easy sell for sure, is that Techno City (Detroit OG) and Berlin…have been and always will be sister cities via the music which provides me an amazing life. So, where else, really, should I be? For now, its home and I love it more and more.
A few clubs that are notorious around Berlin are obviously names like Berghain/Panorama Bar and Tresor. Aside from all the world renowned venues, I feel like there has to be more going on in Berlin. Has anything about the city/its people/the German culture/the music scene left an impression on you?
Yes, there is more to Berlin’s music and clubbing than the clubs which everyone knows. I’ve played both, and of course, they are well known for good reasons. However, while these clubs are very well known, perhaps even to the extent of being tourist attractions these days, my favorite places are the ones which try to do their own thing in their own way, while still keeping the Berlin music culture intact. Smaller places or illegal places which are not crammed full of tourists more concerned with “getting in,” than any music on offer. That is a sad fact known by many people, not just me, simply because nobody can keep a good thing a secret for long. Things will change, again, and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next five years or so. Hopefully the energy from all the hard work and love these and many other clubs in Berlin have contributed to the world will stay here and reincarnate again and again.
Berlin is a massive influence on me, as is anywhere you live or spend some years. I try my best to speak German, which is the best advice for anyone coming here or living here. It is Germany, after all. Respect that. I know my neighbors and landlords appreciate my absolute German way of garbage disposal and recycling, etc. These are the kinds of things that are simply good practices for people anywhere, but seemingly more prevalent topics in different cultures. If I was to leave Germany this second, my life has been changed–for the better–without question.
As a producer myself, I’m always curious as to the working process of others. What are some of the core components of your studio setup? How do you like to run your studio sessions?
I use whatever I can. I think most people do too, if they are being honest. I have analog stuff, I have digital stuff, I have computers, I use various different DAW’s and plug-ins and effects units, etc., for a variety of reasons. Sometimes surely out of comfort or familiarity, but I am always trying to learn new things or do stuff I have not yet done. I like to sit down or stand up and just let it go. Sometimes I get an idea in my head or hear it when I am going through life and try to represent that in music. I don’t really do “sessions,” I don’t think. I just make stuff: if that’s at 2PM on a Tuesday or an early morning corporate style thing for a week at 9-12, taking a break, back to it until 5PM? Depends what a project needs, but generally when and how I feel like it. That keeps it fun and natural, at least for me.
I noticed that a while back you posted a photo of an Intelijel Metropolis sequencer, which I lust for more than any other module. Have you found that a modular system felt natural to use or did you need to adjust your compositional style in order to get good results from it? When using the modular, do you tend to build a track around the modular’s recorded part? Or do you lay down the majority of the track and essentially improvise with the modular over the top.
It all depends, man. I record stuff and mangle it deeply in post. I record live and maintain it best I can to the original recording…etc. I don’t know what to say about it really. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re not learning, you’re standing still. Composition is part of the creation process. So then, of course, you should progress forward without a second thought–no matter what you are using–to make whatever tools you have do what you want them to do for you. That’s huge in any form of art.
The Metro sequences sound like nothing else. I really love running it with my Oberheim SEM Pro and with some other nasty little tricks, as well as into anything else I can get it hooked up with. It’s one of the gnarliest pieces I have ever touched, let alone owned. I can’t imagine ever being done with it.
Do you ever get writer’s block when making a track? If so, whats your method for dealing with it?
Do something else. Come back when you are ready. Dude, sometimes that can be months in the worst cases. Or sometimes you go years making music constantly. Forcing things is generally not a good idea with creativity. You get “forced” sounding results and its unneeded stress on the human body. Keep it fun and you’ll always enjoy it, even if you make nonsense for a little while. Oh well, right?
To me, DJ sets are introspective and emotional journeys, and it’s up to the selector to craft what type of journey s/he’ll take the audience on. What were you trying to convey with this mix? Was it focusing on a journey/state of mind/emotional idea?
People are surprised sometimes by my sets, man. They always have been until they “get it.” Bear in mind, I grew up in Detroit. I live in Berlin. I think anyone from The D gets a “hood pass” to make and play whatever we want. Actually, the same applies to anyone from anywhere, because there are no rules. For me…a “progressive” style (no genre connotation) is my style. I can cover lots of ground and still make it sound like “me.” I think that’s what I do as a DJ, and also…if you will, as a producer. So that style fits me and makes a lot of sense.
These are some of the sounds of this summer from my bag, with some of my stuff at the bookends. It’s special to me, played some of this stuff at some wicked gigs, and I hope it has the same effect here. I recorded it in one take, so there are a few imperfections because I’m human…no edits, just…me on the one’s and two’s, as usual. All vinyl as you can hear, also as usual. No super processing or any of that. My usual presentation style.
Was there anything that you learned the hard way in regards to working in the producer/DJ industry?
I’m not touching this question with a ten foot pole. Haha! Probably so, my man, but then hopefully the lesson(s) stick, right? That’s the idea. I’ve learned a lot and keep learning more and more every year, about all facets of life, which is very cool. Means I’m on the right path and that I’m awake.
Is there any parting wisdom to whisper upon the disciples of techno (the readers)?
Always leave people better than how you found them.