A Sit Down With DJ Kutski
When we think about the free birds in hard dance, many think no further than the multi-talented Kutski. This legendary DJ and producer has been around for yonks, piloting the hard dance scene in the United Kingdom as well as spreading his Keeping The Rave Alive concept worldwide. Aiming to showcase all genres in the harder styles, Kutski not only approaches KTRA with an open-mind but his performances are filled with diverse sounds and are always exciting!
In a short time hes upheld many successful residencies as well as regular appearances for a number of well reputed brands such as Tasty, Hardcore Til I Die, Hardcore Heaven, Fusion, Resonate, Defqon 1 (both Dutch AND Australian events), Creamfields, Global Gathering, Dance Valley, Escape Into The Park, Planet Love and has managed this string of whole scale performances at hugely respected events in a number of countries that include the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Tenerife and many more besides.
"Id like to think in 100 years time someone could listen back to any year of my shows and get a true reflective representation of the grander picture of hard music was like during that period."
What does your name mean?
You probably understand that I am a huge player and the ladies are coming to me as bees on honey, so it was not difficult to choose that name haha! No, that is faint, I am even the opposite of a player. Equally serious: in the time that I was busy learning about turntablism, I listened to DJs who had names like Cutmaster Swift, Mixmaster Mike, Jam Master Jay and so on. I used to call myself 'Kutmaster J', where the J stands for John. I made it a sport to scratch and cut a lot (use pieces and samples from records) when I was mixing. I turned one night in a local bar, where an organizer heard me play and wanted to book me for his event. He wanted my phone number to book me, but telephones were a little less advanced than they are now. The name 'Kutmaster J' did not fit into the memory of his phone and so it becameKutski . That name also appeared on the flyer, which was also the first flyer I was on, and that is how that name came about.
You are one of the most all-round DJs I have ever heard. I've heard you play Hardtrance, Hardstyle, Harddance, Hardcore and even Dubstep. How did it come about that you started to run that 'broad'?
It has always felt very natural to me to run and control multiple styles. Many DJs nowadays start as producers and due to their popular sound they are more or less forced to turn. That was totally different for me. When I was very young, I was always busy with records and tapes and everything that has to do with it. I was obsessed with the DJ culture and I did not get enough of mixing records, scratching, learning how turntablism works, making mixtapes. In addition, I have a general love for music, I like almost everything, as long as it sounds good. Because of that I thought it strange to have to put myself in a musical box and to have to choose one style. I think it's always great when I see a DJ at work who combines all kinds of different styles into one larger whole. It is about making fun, that is all that music is ever meant for, I think. And of course you can not mix everything just like that, but I have created my own genre with which I can basically do everything I want. It really has become my style.
When did you discover your passion for technical mixing?
Right from the start to be honest! The first CD that I heard that was mixed was Hixxys CD on the first Bonkers album. It was a three deck mix with tons of scratching. I was about 14 at the time and knew nothing about DJing at all, I was listening to it and thinking I knew these tracks but theyre kind of all blended together. It was at that point I knew I wanted to DJ myself and it was that technical mix that set me on my way. From there I discovered things like the DMC championships and the rest, as they say, is history!
Youve been an artist since you were 15 years old. And few even use the term rave anymore. Can you explain the vibe of the parties when you first entered compared to now?
As I mentioned earlier, the music has evolved greatly, but the vibe has always remained pretty constant. In the 80s peoples fashion, skin colour, lifestyle and so forth lead people to a scene where they would be accepted by people of the same ethnicity, sexuality and so on. When the rave scene came along in the early 90s it was a melting pot of cultures. Bi/straight/gay and even punks, skinheads and rasters all in the same clubs together. I think if you look at the cross section of people at raves today, I still think this holds true.
Who is your favorite artist from EDM outside your own specific genre?
I really listen to a lot of different music, all kinds of different styles. As I mentioned earlier, Im very interested in whats going on with trap music at the moment, as this is so heavily influenced by hardstyle production at the moment, but also the early hip hop movement with the whole 808 thing. Im obviously from the hardstyle scene, but as you can guess from my DJing style, I have a great appreciation for the early hip hop sound and culture. So this seemingly unlike fusion of sounds is very interesting to me, and Im currently listening to a lot of stuff from Baauer, Luminox, Yellow Claw, Flosstradamus.
What is your fondest memory involving music throughout your lifetime?
Probably the happy hardcore of the mid 90s. This is when I had just got my first belt drive turntables and was so obsessed with the music. Listening to music from this period always takes me back to doing my paper round and not being concerned with hour early in the morning, or how cold it was, because that money was going to buy me more records at the weekend.
Youve provided legendary mixtapes over the years, including your most recent Origins Mixtape. Do you think it is important to document and preserve the sounds of past eras?
Yeah for sure. Its not like making mixes of early influential rave tracks from the late 80s is going further to my career. These things are just passion projects that I do for myself but want to share with other like-minded people who are interested. Ive always been obsessive about music, reading, listening and researching as much as I can. When I find out all this stuff I find super interesting, I guess its only natural that I would want to share it with others. I guess Im just short of documentary making at this stage, and Id be lying if I said that hadnt crossed my mind also haha!
What is the most difficult thing you had to deal with surrounding your career?
Balancing a personal life along with this career is always a difficult one. You have to spend so much time dedicated to what you do as an artist. You are always traveling, and when youre not traveling for gigs you need to be in the studio, presenting radio shows, and working on a million other things, so this doesnt leave much time for anything else! Relationships are difficult etc, but there is so much I love about what I do, any negativity gets washed away!
The Hard Dance scene seems to be close knit and banded together compared to other electronic music genres out there. Do you think there is an underlying reason for this?
I guess because its an underground movement. You find that with anything like this, any niche scene. Fashion, sport, etc Also, the nature of the music can be quite polarising, its not something you kind of dont mind. If you like it, you fucking love it which is why the fans are so passionate, and obviously that generates a strong community between like-minded people.
Is there a difference you could point out between UK and US producers?
I dont think there are any general differences that could be held up across all styles. Its tempting to look at the explosion of trap music at the moment, Flosstradamus etc, and say this is the result of producers that are making EDM, but have grown up with the hip hop culture in America. But at the same time you have acts like Atmozfears from LA, who are making straight up hardstyle, with the same production style as the Dutch. So I think there are differences, but it varies from act to act, and no more so than any two countries!
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