Brighton Beats Memoirs
By Christine Moritz
Located on the southern
coast of England, the seaside city of Brighton attracted the partying
Prince Regent in the early nineteenth century and has been hopping
ever since. In the past fifteen years, the city has fostered a thriving
dance music scene, particularly with regard to funky breakbeat and
downtempo, launching labels such as Skint, Southern Fried, Tru Thoughts
and Lumenessence, and producers such as Fatboy Slim and Quantic.
It was this environment
that nurtured A. Skillz (Adam Mills) and Krafty Kuts (Martin Reeves),
whose full-length Tricka Technology was released on
Londons breakbeat/funk-oriented Finger Lickin label
late last year.
The two met in Krafty
Kuts Brighton record store in 1999. Older by a decade, Krafty
had extensive solo credits as a producer and DJ. Though newer on
the scene, A. Skillz had already demonstrated substantial talent
as a drummer in a live band and as a producer.
Not long afterward, they
began working together, and in May 2003 released the 12-inch single
for Peaches. Featuring the vocals of L.A.-based rapper
Droop Capone and singer Yolanda, the track was backed with the stunning,
James Brown-sampling Tricka Technology. The single for
Gimme the Breaks, featuring legendary rapper Kurtis
Blow in a reinterpretation of his own 1979 classic The Breaks,
followed later that year. It included as B-sides a different version
of Tricka Technologythis one featuring the vocals
of Afrika Bambaataas son TC Izlamand the track Aint
It Funky. The latter was reconceived on the album as Roll
Over Baby with vocalist Ashley Slater, best known for his
work in Freakpower with Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim).
A significant contributor
to the full-length was Lukasz Dr. Luke Gottwald, a New
York-based producer who has collaborated with Liquid Todd and Ursula
1000, and plays guitar for the Saturday Night Live band. Gottwald
co-wrote, arranged, or produced seven of the albums 16 tracks
and played all guitars and bass.
The album begins with
a short introduction and is punctuated by similar brief interludes
between every few songs; the first full track is the album version
of Tricka Technology. Unlike the single version, it
features the vocals of TC Izlam almost throughout. Lyrics are not
the albums strong suit; vocals on this and other tracks are
sometimes repetitive or uninspired. However, A. Skillz and Krafty
Kuts have a talent for creating catchy hooks. Some of the albums
standout tracks are the horn-driven Ill Type Sound,
featuring TC Izlam; the R&B-flavored Give You That,
featuring Obi and Real Elements; and On Your Own, an
album-concluding downtempo surprise featuring the breathy vocals
of Cathy Burton. Overall, Tricka Technology aims to
rock the party with funky beats, and in this goal it succeeds.
How would you describe
your sound? Much of it seems to have a party hip-hop feeling to
it, but at the same time youre also considered to be breaks
Krafty Kuts: This is a concept that I have always wanted
to do from the first time I started making music, but never had
the opportunity to do until now. Previously most of my work has
been breaks, but when I hooked up with A. Skillz the time was right
to make this funky hip-hop LP.
My sound is hard to define but it is taking influences from the
music I love and grew up on, i.e., hip-hop, electro, funk, and disco,
and putting them into a melting pot and bringing the funk back.
I just love to see people dance, and that is what I feel my music
does. I dont like to be pigeonholed with my music, but breaks
is the music I have been making for the last seven years and it
is only recently that it has been getting the credit it deserves.
I love the way breakbeat is progressing and moving forward, and
I am actually in the process of starting a breaks LP on my own imprint,
Against The Grain.
A. Skillz: Tricka Technology as an album is definitely
more hip-hop than breakbeat, but its influenced by funk more
than anything. We wanted to create a good positive vibe, which is
what we think we have done. Finger Lickin is traditionally
a breakbeat label but funk is the common factor in all their releases.
Did you both grow
up in Brighton? How did it affect you musically? What did you each
listen to as kids, and what were the first records you ever bought?
Martin, do you still run a record store in Brighton?
KK: We both grew up in a place just outside Brighton and
I moved into Brighton over the last few years. Living here is very
inspirational as it is a hive of activity musically with great club
nights, record labels, and DJs. In fact, Brighton is a little London
by the sea.
As a kid I listened to the Jam, 2-Tone (the Beat, Madness, the Specials)
and then moved into early rap and electro. I was a huge fan of Kraftwerk,
Kool and the Gang (69-76), James Brown, Blue Note RecordsI
just love funky music. The first record I got actually was given
to me; it was an amazing funk disco LP by BT Express, Do It
Till Youre Satisfied. The record shop is now long goneabout
three years agobut I will always remember that was where it
AS: As a kid (not that long ago!) I loved the Jackson 5 and
early Michael Jackson; in fact I still do! First record I bought
was the Commodores Machine Gun album. Still one
of my faves!
Martin, your bio says
that at 17, you made it to the finals of a DJ competition, despite
never having DJd before. Had you never ever DJd before?
Or had you been a bedroom DJ?
KK: The actual truth behind this is I had never used Technics
decks and was desperate to see why everyone used these decks. I
didnt have my own setup at home, but had a few mates who had
belt-drive turntables and was starting to get the buzz for DJing.
I entered this competition and got to the final, where I was beaten
by one of my best mates who had decks for a few years already. It
was a great experience and I have never looked back.
Adam, tell us a bit
about how you started as a drummer in the rock band Sabio.
AS: Well, my brother played guitar and we used to play in bands
together from our early teens. We got signed [in Sabio] and were
touring around Europe for a few years until I started getting into
producing and DJing. Eventually that took over and I had to quit
the band. I miss it sometimes, but were planning on taking
our show to a live level soon where Ill be back on drums!
What DJs and producers
have influenced you? Which of your DJ/producer contemporaries do
you most admire?
KK: DJs such as Cashmoney, Jazzy Jeff, Q-Bert and Fatboy Slim,
who is such a great entertainer on stage. Producerswell, so
many: Dr. Dre, Timbaland, the Neptunes, DJ Premier, Plump DJs, Stanton
Warriors. I admire anyone in their field who puts together a great
How did you meet and
come to work with one another, after having had successful careers
on your own? Are you still making music independently as well as
KK: We met in my record store five years ago. Adam played me
some stuff he was working on and I thought, wow, this guy is into
exactly the style that I was digging at the time. We got together
some time after that and created Tricka Technology.
We are both still continuing with our own musical careers, but we
plan to do another LP early next year.
What equipment do
you use to produce your music? There are musician credits on the
album for guitar, bass, Moog and Rhodes; whats the overall
balance among samples, independently-generated sounds, and the work
of live musicians?
AS: Everything is recorded edited and mixed in Pro Tools on
a Mac. There are actually hardly any samples on the album; we replayed
a lot of things to avoid copyright issues. The tracks normally ended
up sounding nothing like they originally did, which was sometimes
good and sometimes bad. Peaches [the albums only
track with a sample credit] is based on a Detroit Emeralds sample;
the whole flavor of the track relied on the vibe of that sample
so we didnt want to risk losing it.
a James Brown sample in the 12-inch version of Tricka Technology?
Its not on the album version.
AS: That was just an old version; we re-created the new one
as we knew it would be expensive to use the sample.
I remember that in
Miami, you were given an introduction to the new, very sophisticated
Technics SL-DZ1200 CD turntable about half an hour before performing
on it! What were your thoughts on this new piece of equipment, which
closely mimics the capabilities and feeling of a vinyl turntable?
KK: We usually use the Pioneer CDJ-1000s and have been playing
around with them for about a year now; they really are a great CD
player. It was quite hard to get to grips with the new Technics.
After a while they were pretty easy to understand, but there is
so much depth to these CD players it is unbelievable. To take it
to the next level would take some considerable time to get to know
your way around them, but they have some amazing features; it is
ridiculous. Hopefully will get one in the post soon!
Any plans to do a
tour of the U.S.?
KK: This is high on our agenda and something we cant wait
[for] to happen, but it will involve some serious organization to
make sure it is perfect. We feel its very important to break
the U.S. market and we believe our style is exciting to the Americans
from previous experiences.
Of all the gigs youve
done, what have been your favorites?
KK: I have been lucky to have had some incredible gigs around
the world. Some highlights are New Years Day in Sydney in
2002, 2003, and 2004; New Years Day in Melbourne in 2004;
the Sony E3 party in Los Angeles in 2002; and Glastonbury 2003,
to name a few!
AS: Closing Field Day in Sydney on New Years Day 2004
for 25,000 people was the ultimate buzz for me. Glastonbury 2003
was the bomb!
The Tricka Technology/Peaches
and Gimme the Breaks singles came out in advance of
the full-length. Are there plans for further singles from the album?
KK: Yes, the next single is Simple Things with a
rather interesting remix package. Not sure if there will be any
more tracks to come of the LP, but Give You That is
What other upcoming
releases, remixes and events should we look out for?
KK: Well we have a few things in the pipeline. I am working
on a new LP for my own label Against the Grain and a few remixes
with A. Skillz. I just finished a remix for [Toronto breaks DJ]
D-Monics Pure Phunk label.
AS: There are so many things to be getting our teeth into.
The next year is another exciting time for both of us, with tours
around the world. We are going to be extremely busy!
For more on A. Skillz and Krafty Kuts, see the website for the
Finger Lickin label at http://www.fingerlickin.co.uk.