Name: Dec Lennon / Krystal Klear
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Euphoric Dreams/Miyoki on Running Back
Recommendations: A painting: Anything by Stephen “ESPO” Powers. - “Your ever after is all I’m after.”
A book: Subway - Bruce Davidson.
A song: Bill Evans - A Haunted Heart. - How to smile and be sad at the same time.
A film: Maestro - for anyone starting out who wants to learn about what you already love but don’t know it yet.
If you enjoyed this interview with Krystal Klear and would like to know more, his facebook profile and soundcloud account are the best places to start.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started making electronic music when I was 15. I was listening to a lot of fundamental introductory dance music (Honorary mention to Perfecto Records) and hip hop (Tribe, De La, Nas, MF Doom etc). I became obsessed with the culture around making beats and production. Dreams of rocking LRG/Karl Kani clothing (I was already doing this to my detriment to be fair) with an MPC1000 in the LV rucksack rolling to the HIT Factory in Miami to work with Timbaland or Storch.
Artists like DJ Shadow, Daft Punk, J Dilla all lead me into wanting to ACTUALLY make my own music and opened the introductory stage of learning about music production to PROPER dance music culture (not just Mauro Picotto and 6 tins of Dutch Gold). Once those wormholes opened up I quickly became familiar with all forms of electronic music from Sven Väth to Larry Levan to Etienne De Crecy to Aphex Twin to MAW to Kraftwerk and everything in between. Teenage years are the best primer to any creative endeavour because you have so much time on your hands to hate the world, hate your parents and explore every inch of the art form you love.
I guess at the time my biggest influences were ‘Homework’ by Daft Punk and eventually ‘Donuts’ by Dilla. These two records taught me so much while blowing my mind about music. I’m slightly OCD (my friends would say totally) so when I discover something I like, I simply HAVE to know everything about it and that’s exactly what happened with me and electronic music.
I am also quite an emotional guy. So from the age of 9 or 10, I learnt that music managed to harness and create a sense of exploration within that emotion. Listening to music helped me express that and to be honest, I think it’s the defining thing that makes me love a piece of music. If the music has soul then to me, its genre is irrelevant purely because it’s managed to make me feel a certain way and that’s what drew me to music.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Well “Krystal Klear” as a project is a by-product of me realising I was spending too much time failing miserably trying to be Hudson Mohawke or J Dilla. I woke up one morning and realised I was making music that didn't sound like me or the person I am at heart to which I decided to throw the drawing board out the window and start from scratch - which ultimately was the best decision I ever made.
I think when you first start making music, emulating others is an important learning curve. It will teach you production techniques and maybe force you to learn important principles of making music that have been put in place by a number of your favourite artists. However, I think it’s important to be patient and that’s where I see a lot of problems with producers these days in that they are more focused on social media, gigs and ‘getting content out’ rather than harnessing their talent.
The 10000 hours theory is something I have a lot of belief in so I think there is a point where you wake up one day and creating the ideas in your head becomes second nature. You gain certain wisdom about what it is that you are doing and what you are trying to achieve that is extremely enlightening. It took me the guts of 8 years to get to a stage where I know EXACTLY what it is I want to do and how to make it. Up until that point, I was constantly battling certain demons in the studio … mainly ‘what are other people doing’ which is dangerous and as far as I’m concerned is creative cancer.
The day I genuinely, wholeheartedly said “fuck what others are doing” in the studio was the day my whole sound, approach and career changed. Everything became more genuine, more authentic to me and more in sync with the person I am.
As you get more experienced, the naivety you had when you first started quickly fades. That charm because the “hadn’t a clue what you were doing” factor is gone and you start to become perhaps too formulaic. I believe that sticking true to what you love and trusting your gut instincts when making music re-creates that naivety and that charm in a different way.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
At the risk of sounding like an old man … DJing now is a lot different to when I started. The “DJ BOOM” hadn’t remotely occurred so getting gigs and getting out there was certainly more obtainable while now, being a full time DJ first and foremost isn’t really realistic with the amount of amazing DJs there are out there …
… and the amount of shite ones too!
I am a producer before I am anything else and when I started DJing out in clubs as Krystal Klear, it was really just a by-product of making music. So I would always say to anyone who wants to try DJ at a bigger level to focus on making tunes and let the tunes take you to the clubs you want to play in.
I never really had any major DJ goals. My focus was always directed at the studio but naturally there were clubs I always dreamt about playing, or even playing on line-ups with certain DJs was another one. If I was to be honest, those things still tickle my bones and the more and more I DJ, the more obsessed I become with wanting to play better sets in amazing clubs alongside some of my favourite peers.
What’s interesting about DJing to me is that I am given the opportunity to create an atmosphere for a group or crowd of people using an arsenal of different music and it’s that interaction that entices me to the art of it.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
I don’t really consider myself a “DJ”. I personally cringe saying this but to be totally honest I like to consider myself as an artist more than anything else.
I’m not a brain surgeon or a magician so I tend to treat the job for what it is and that’s for me to entertain an audience of people to the best of my ability with music I love and I think anyone who over-sensationalises it is full of shite. I feel truly blessed to be in such a privileged position so the last thing I am going to do is start walking around like I can walk on water because I played a super unknown Nick Holder B-side at peak time and it went off … sure, that’s interesting and part of it but glorifying it … to me … that’s not what it is about.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
It was the classic set up, 2 Technics 1210s, a gold Vestax PMC mixer and a spotty 15 year old kid at the height of puberty who couldn’t mix flour and water never mind two records!
My set up has always really been based around a set of turntables. For the longest time, I was using Serato which BLEW MY MIND in terms of the possibilities when mixing records. I had never used CDJs so things like loops, etc just weren't part of my style. So once Serato came into play, everything changed. Being able to have ALL my music at my fingertips increased the creativity by 1000 and I think Serato really had a lot to do with the style of a lot of DJ’s between 2011-2015 from Ben, Jack, Oney, myself etc as it blew the door off multi-genre mixing.
Eventually, I got bitten by the CDJ bug after getting sick of laptops getting mashed with the hustle and bustle of bringing them into nightclubs. Once I got going on CDJs I really started to enjoy the element of not having a screen in the booth, not falling into old routines or habits, which unfortunately I was falling into with my Serato. It just got me back bringing records out more, it changed it up for me and I think at that point in my career I needed that.
So now, a solid sturdy set up in the DJ booth is the most important piece of gear for me as my set up has reduced to 2 technics and 3CDJ’s. Having the 3rd CDJ is a huge help. It allows me to play chess with the audience in a sense, allows me to have another sketch pad of songs I might want to have cued up etc and it keeps me on my toes, keeps me moving and keeps me thinking 2/3 steps ahead.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Humans excel at feeling. They understand emotion from pulsing euphoria to raging anger so it’s the human element that dictates the feelings that technology emotes. Technology is like an expensive golf club, a fast car or wooden spoon. It’s the person holding the club, driving the wheel or mixing the cake that makes the end product what it is.