Home | Music Journalism | Interview with A. Skillz and Krafty Kuts                                                                               Contact Christine

Interview with A. Skillz and Krafty Kuts
, July/August 2004


written by Christine Moritz

This article on A. Skillz and Krafty Kuts was the cover story in the July/August 2004 issue of Innerloop, which was Washington, D.C.'s premier dance music magazine from its inception in 2002 until its passing in autumn 2004. Christine Moritz served as editor in chief of the magazine from February 2004 onwards.

Download PDF version of article with artwork (illustrations by Nils Davey)
          Part 1
          Part 2

Cover design (right) by Ivan Cottrell, Innerloop art director
          (larger version of cover image)

Article reprinted by permission from Innerloop.




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 London’s 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 Technology”—this one featuring the vocals of Afrika Bambaataa’s son TC Izlam—and the track “Ain’t 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 album’s 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 album’s 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 album’s 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 you’re also considered to be breaks producers.
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 don’t 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 it’s 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 Records—I 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 You’re Satisfied.” The record shop is now long gone—about three years ago—but I will always remember that was where it all began.
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 DJ’d before. Had you never ever DJ’d 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 didn’t 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.
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 we’re planning on taking our show to a live level soon where I’ll be back on drums!

What DJs and producers have influenced you? Which of your DJ/producer contemporaries do you most admire?
DJs such as Cashmoney, Jazzy Jeff, Q-Bert and Fatboy Slim, who is such a great entertainer on stage. Producers—well, so many: Dr. Dre, Timbaland, the Neptunes, DJ Premier, Plump DJs, Stanton Warriors. I admire anyone in their field who puts together a great tune.

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 together?
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; what’s the overall balance among samples, independently-generated sounds, and the work of live musicians?
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 album’s 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 didn’t want to risk losing it.

Wasn’t there a James Brown sample in the 12-inch version of “Tricka Technology”? It’s not on the album version.
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?
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.?
This is high on our agenda and something we can’t wait [for] to happen, but it will involve some serious organization to make sure it is perfect. We feel it’s 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 you’ve done, what have been your favorites?
I have been lucky to have had some incredible gigs around the world. Some highlights are New Year’s Day in Sydney in 2002, 2003, and 2004; New Year’s 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 Year’s 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?
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 a possibility.

What other upcoming releases, remixes and events should we look out for?
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-Monic’s 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.


This page created May 2005 - Last modified May 10, 2005

Home | Music Journalism | Interview with A. Skillz and Krafty Kuts