Are you lot ready for a Funky fix? Jalapeno Records, the UK’s HQ for everything funk, soul, disco & Motown are taking over here at Juno! The imprint has been on fire throughout 2017 with a whole host of A-list albums and compilations from some of the scene’s most exciting acts. One of those acts is of course the legendary Leiden trio Kraak & Smaak! We caught up with the guys for an in-depth chat to discuss their latest exciting projects, we also managed to nab you a juicy free track and a specially recorded mix!
Formed in the late 90’s by producers Skeewiff, Jalapeno is a label that has encompassed many genres with one proviso – it’s got to be funky.
In the early 00’s the label was mainly focused releasing music by Skeewiff and IKON (both aliases of label founders Elliot Ireland and Alex Rizzo but one of their first outside signings - Kraak & Smaak proved to be the start of a long and extremely fruitful relationship that has set the bar and the tone for many of the Jalapeno artists that followed.
Initially a producer led project – Kraak & Smaak were the first to establish themselves as international touring artists and with their full live show continue to be in heavy demand (in 2017 they headlined the main dance stage at Glastonbury) with their latest album Juicy Fruit one of their most acclaimed and successful.
While the label always has time (and indeed a soft spot) for creative producers, as time has continued live acts like Smoove & Turrell, ephemerals, Izo FitzRoy and Alexia Coley as well as Kraak & Smaak have increasingly dominated the release schedule.
In 2002 label boss and now owner Trevor Mac took over running of the label and in the years that followed as well as the 250 releases that Jalapeno have racked up there have been multiple sub label imprints – Illegal Beats / Floorplay / Lost Tribe / Boogie Angst all either partnered with or on behalf of artists.
The label now encompasses soul, funk, jazz, blues, disco and house with the focus split between album led touring artist projects and producers making records for the dancefloor.
A happy intersection of those two priorities are The Allergies who are about to release their second album for Jalapeno while making a reputation as dancefloor destroyers both with their DJ sets and productions.
2017 has already seen album releases from Izo FitzRoy and ephemerals, with new album projects from Smoove & Turrell, Skeewiff, Dr Rubberfunk and Aldo Vanucci all in the pipeline.
Hi Guys how are you all doing? How is summer treating you so far?
All good here at K&S HQ. Busy performing live and DJ across the globe these months, and in between working on new single material and various remixes.
You have recently dropped the remix package for your Juicy Fruit album and it boasts a gobsmackingly good roster of artists. You must be pleased with the interpretations of the album?
Definitely! I think everyone must have felt that there were some cool remix possibilities here, with all the diverse tracks and vocalists available. And from our side, it’s great to have had the opportunity of hauling in excellent names in such as Eli Escobar, Purple Disco Machine, Richard Dorfmeister and Kon for example, plus upcoming buzz producers like Fouk, Snacks and Moods to name just a few.
The album and remix package are being released via premiere modern funk label Jalapeno Records. It seems like the perfect home for such an album. We know you have worked closely with Jalapeno before so was it always your desire to release the album on the label or did they approach you to sign the release?
Of course we have a long-standing relationship with Jalapeno: our first ever release – Money in the Bag - saw the light on it, and since then we made numerous singles, remixes and five full albums with them. Like you said, it has always felt like a natural fit; vice versa we were always able to profit from their particular label background and the network that came along with it.
Did you handpick the remix artists yourselves or did Jalapeno have a heavy hand in selecting the remix roster?
In general we both come up together with all kinds of names, but this time around we proposed most of the remixers. Still, we always discuss their pros and cons together, including the decision to go for one or the other.
Do you know if there were any instances of artists insisting on remixing one track in particular because they were feeling the tune so much?
Not really no. It’s not that we gave everyone carte blanche to pick a track or anything. But we did have the idea that some combinations could work magic, and for instance with Eli Escobar, who did U R Freak, you hear that it was just waiting for him, to give it that classy NY house treatment.
Ok so the next question will be a tough one we are sure… if you had to pick one favourite remix from the Juicy Fruit album which one would it be and why?
Phew…. I think the Snacks one stands out for me, great vibe, lovely intro… That quirkiness the Snacks guys, like ourselves, also have. Works great, big fans of what they’re doing.
Do you guys have any remix work lined up over the next few months?
We just finished one for the one and only Omar – up for release quite soon - and there’s one on the pipeline for the young French producer Roman Kouder – he featured on our first Boogie Angst label compilation as well. But to be honest, for now we’ve focused more on original material lately and continue to do so, individual singles that can stand on their own. One of those, Hendo, has just been released by Exploited, and there is more coming in the next couple of months.
You worked with some fantastically talented vocalists on the album but do you ever record any of your own vocals?
There is only one recorded instance if I remember correctly. That was Oscar doing his thing on ‘Your Body’, on the 2013 Chrome Waves album. Was fun but at the same time, in general we prefer other people’s voices ;p. I mean, there are so many original and good vocalists around – and writers not to forget. Why try and re-invent the wheel in that regard?
Now the name Kraak & Smaak might seem quite a provocative one, especially to English speakers with no knowledge of Dutch. Can you tell us the meaning behind your name and how you came up with it.
It’s a Dutch proverb that we twisted around. It means ‘crunchy & tasty’, and used to be the name of my one-man DJ company, before we started to produce together. We totally forgot to think about the consequences when pronounced in English, lol.
If you could succinctly sum up the Kraak & Smaak style how would you describe it?
This has always been difficult for us. We always hear from other people that they recognize our sound immediately, how diverse the track is: electronic, disco, downbeat… I guess there apparently is an original and particular sound to us, but to put that in specific words? We hate the word, but only ‘eclectic’ comes to mind, as we mix up stuff from disco to funk to electronic sounds, yet also love to move from cinematic soundscapes to pop music and to club music.
If you could get your hands on the Stems and do a remix for one classic track from any artist dead or alive which track would it be and why?
‘Follow Me’ by Aly-us would be a nice one to do. Very soulful, lots of vocals to work with… such a typical 90s house track that takes you on a journey.
On the flipside of that question, if you could throw one song/album/artist into Room 101 who would it be and why?
Oh dear… to be honest, I can’t really think of anything right away. We’re no fans of EDM, trance, etc. but at the same time they serve a purpose too as lots of people like it? As long as I don’t have to be personally exposed to it I guess.
The album cover for Juicy Fruit is amazing! Who designed it?
Jimmy Turrell from the UK – he also did the artwork for our album Electric Hustle, back in 2011.
Did you give him any kind of brief or offer any inspiration for the design?
No, not a very extensive briefing, just some keywords and the album title and tracks to get a rough idea of the vibe of the album. And the definitive cover was right on the money, we all knew that immediately.
Do any of you have the cover enlarged and framed on a wall somewhere? It is definitely a wall worthy album cover.
Actually a couple of big canvas prints exist here in Holland, which were made for record shop PR purposes. They indeed look great. Still need to find one though – apparently they were quite popular among shop assistants ;p
Have you found that your production style and musical influences have changed much as you have matured as a group?
Well, of course over the years we were lucky enough to be able to invest further in our studio, buy new gear, etc. So the level and quality of productions has certainly evolved in a good way. And at the same time ‘live’ instruments and vocalists have become much more important since the days we just used only a couple of basic keyboards and samples. Style-wise, we have always swung between – or mixed up – organic and electronic sounds. It really depends on how the feel and mood is at a particular moment in time. Juicy Fruit felt like much of a return to our first album, Boogie Angst, while Chrome Waves, a far more electronic and clubby one, also felt like the logical album to make at the time. Still, one way or the other, everything always seems to come back to that original and particular K&S sound we make.
There are countless moments of beautiful synth work on Juicy Fruit, what synthesizers did you use on the album?
Oh dear, too many to mention really. One synth we always and often use is the mighty Roland Jupiter 8. We are very lucky to own an original one – it sounds so good! And, given the more organic, funky disco sound of the album we blew the dust off of our Hohner Clavinet. Hadn’t used that one for a long while.
Your music is generally always feel good and upbeat do you ever make music with a little more anger or angst?
Hmmm… In general the music we make is indeed, you might say, playful or at most has a melancholic tone, so there is no open or hidden profound message or anything, whether happy or angry. Which doesn’t mean it cannot be intense in other ways, for example in musicality, vibe and vocalists and songs. In the end it just has to feel right, whether it’s something to listen to at home or for the dancefloor. But I must say that there is always quite a nice dose of rough, edgy rock n roll attitude in our DJ and live shows. Maybe we express that there instead?
I genuinely LOL’d when I watched the music video for Alone with you. Was that your idea? Do you have any plans for music videos for this album?
Haha, no not really. It was written by the American video director who also produced the whole thing. But he understood the meaning of the song very well and we love the way he treated the subject, just the way it should be. For now no new plans for a video though, although we still have a really cool one on the shelf for Toxic Love Affair, not really shot as a video per se but as a set of various dance moves inspired by that song, shot in LA. But it won’t be shelved for long anymore, I promise – it’s too good.
You have a lot of HUGE gig dates upcoming on your calendar, are there any sets you are looking forward to especially?
Yeah, we were already blessed with an USA live tour in May and a live show at Glastonbury this Summer, but there is fortunately still more to come. In particular this major dance festival in Poland – Audioriver Festival, at the end of July - but also a DJ tour in California midway through August.
Will all of the upcoming dates be DJ sets or will some fans be lucky enough to see you play as a live band?
USA fans will have to do with DJ sets for the time being (sorry!), but our shows in Europe will be quite varied in terms of DJ or live. So please be sure and check our event page on Facebook!
Any final thoughts and shout outs?
Of course a big up to all of you who have supported us over the years and see you somewhere soon!
France's deep house scene seems to be in rude health right now. Bordeaux-based Leon Revol may not be the highiest profile of Gallic producers, but his track record is nonetheless impressive. Here he returns to the home comforts of Monologues following a recent outing on Future Disco. He begins with the sun-kissed, bossa-tinged jazz-house loveliness of "Pink Coffee" - all Pat Metheny guitar flourishes, gentle Afro chants and Nicola Conte-goes-house drums - before wrapping spine-tingling piano motifs around a rolling groove on the delicious "Embers". "Sun is the Place" sees him saunter into the sunlight in the company of woozy synths and yearning deep house drums, while "Birds" effortlessly joins the dots between contemporary French deepness and the '90s Italian dream house movement.
Since diving headlong into the world of music production earlier in the decade, Sebb Junior has been unstoppable. Remarkably, his latest outing on Large Music (his sixth for the long-serving Chicagoan imprint) is his seventh EP of 2017 to date. As usual, there's much to enjoy, from the bouncy deep house/disco house fusion goodness of "We Bring The Party" - where choice guitar and vocal samples weave in and out of a boogie-tinged peak-time groove - to the tension-extending builds, booming bass and swirling strings of French Touch style closer "Make Love Every Night". The track sandwiched in between, piano-heavy old school deep house rub "Feel The Same", is also rather impressive.
Blair French has dropped his second single this year and there were initially only 300 copies on vinyl! Following "Standing Still Is An Illusion" on Rocksteady Disco come two more sublime Balearic affairs that fit Claremont 56 like a snug pair of speedos; "Sandbar Caviar" wafts and sways with island waves as gentle arpeggios ebb and flow creating harmonies and cosmic textures while "Inland Island" adjusts our seats to a horizontal position with its snaking bassline and spacious percussion gradually opening into a heavenly vocal and guitar lead that's tantamount to transcendental.
Fabio Barker's back on the boisterous Ganbatte imprint after that sweet, sweet LP he put out not too long ago; much to our appreciation, they've decided to launch a remix attack of the wonderful "Dance Dance Dance" number. The radio edit kicks off with a smooth cut of that lovely boogie swing at the core of the original - a true vintage disco revival piece - but there's much more old-school resurrection here, starting off with Evil Smaty's lovely piano house take, followed by Sare Havlicek's gnarly electro bass uplift which gives the tune even more fervour on the dancefloor. Slync's version is our favourite of the four remixes, a magnificent blend of melodic house and synth-heavy boogie, but Phil Disco's much dubbier take is certainly not to be underestimated either. A full-blown dance frenzy!
Those with long memories may remember soul singer Maysa Leak's cover of Gil Scott-Heron classic "The Bottle"; the Incognito-produced cut was something of an underground club favourite when it first surfaced back in 1999. This first digital download edition boasts all of the mixes featured on the now in-demand vinyl edition, though it's the original full length version - a sunshine-friendly mixture of rich, jazz-funk informed musicality, slick house beats and spine-tingling vocals - that still shines brightest. Of the alternative versions, we're particularly enjoying the fuzzy, nu-disco style rub from DJ Shaft, though Venom and Ski Oakenful's "Black Widow" mix - a crunchy, West London style broken beat outing full of moody chords and bustling bass - is especially potent.
Earlier this year, Eagles & Butterflies (AKA producer Chris Barratt) enjoyed a club hit with "Love", a rather large slice of vocal deep house/tech-house fusion on Noir. On "Arpeggiator", his first single for Sapiens, Barratt changes tack, layering picturesque, undulating arpeggio synthesizer lines on top of a rock solid drum track to breathtaking effect. Its beauty and rush-inducing qualities - emphasized by the cut's 14-minute length - are matched by the track that follows, a deep Afro-house workout full of glistening marimba lines entitled "Ayeme". To round things off with a bang, he pays tribute to Floating Points' most memorable house moments on stunning closer "Prophet".
Most instalments in the Shag Edits series tend to see Jamie Trench (Roots For Bloom label boss) cantered in a four-way action scenario with other equally endowed (musically) talents. Here is now different, with Trench slipping between the sheets to deliver the dirty and edgy jacker "Take Off Your Shirt". He's joined by L'Atelier, who delivers a handbaggy rework of an old vogueing classic, whilst Oli Furness turns in a fuzzy, distorted, loop-heavy diva disco jam, "Always Go Back Again" and Ghetto Chords takes control with closer, the super-upbeat Latin house shimmy, "Along The Way".
Originally released earlier this summer by All Around The World., "I Wanna Feel" was a huge party anthem due to its combination of Bliss' filthy and sparse techy backing track and Fel Fel's nonchalant London drawl. Now it's back on 3Beat boasting a host of new mixes. The original's here of course too, along with a single edit and a breaks-heavy club version. Remix-wise Kyduss goes straight for the dancefloor with a repetitive, chunky four to the floor house workout, whilst Renel LaVice's "Feel The Bass Crunch D&B Mix" is a crazy fusions of moody pauses and well, crunchy bass noise and speedy beats. A Total rush.
No doubt a highly anticipated release for minimal techno aficionados: New wave Romanian minimal heroes Cristi Cons and Sublee appear next for Cesare Vs Disorder's esteemed Serialism imprint, with some deep futurism that you've come to expect from these two producers on the rise. The subtle and rolling groove of "Way Home" bears similarities to each respective producer's recent work, on the likes of Meander or Metereze. "Trapped" is as equally lean but more ethereal, with trippy synth textures and celestial sound design creating a lush atmosphere. Finally "One Wave" sees them save the best for last on this epic dancefloor journey that wouldn't sound out of place on a heaving Saturday night dancefloor at Sunwaves, or on Sunday morning at Club der Visionaere alike.
London's Lex Luca doesn't mess about. Having 'launched' himself back in 2012, he's quickly ascended to some pretty dizzying heights - producing both B.Traits and Roger Sanchez's respective radio shows, as well as DJing internationally and releasing his own stuff on labels like Dopewax, Undr The Radr and Simma Black. Here he is on another fave of his, CR2, delivering a one-shot knockout of a jam, "Don't You". The track is over six minutes of lively, fresh tech-house completely with skippy hi-hats, rolling bass and quirky 'pops' and noises. Elastic and bouncy and a true dancefloor filler!
Vincent Caira is a DJ and producer hailing from Toronto, Canada. He draws his inspiration from the sounds of the early '70s and weaves his sonic creations into modern, but timeless house music records to move any dancefloor. His new exciting single entitled "Lovin'" is an absolutely electric serving of funky house. With its tough enough rhythm section, uplifting house pianos and hands in the air vocals loops: it's truly about working the room into a frenzy. Stay tuned for more from this young talent.
Since debuting in 2009, Click Click has showcased his wares on an impressive array of labels, including Exploited Ghetto, Smoke 'n' Mirrors and Cajual. Here he returns to the Palms & Flamingos imprint he established some years back with two bumpin', club-ready workouts. He begins with the low-slung heaviness of "Netto Houze", where cut-up hip-house vocal samples rise above a killer bassline and crunchy, speaker-bothering drums. Musically, it sits somewhere between DJ Sneak and Dancemania style ghetto house. Virtual B-side "100%" is similarly inclined but marginally deeper in tone, with the German producer wrapping trippy electronics and simple vocal samples around a rolling late night house groove.