For the next installment in our MIXED BY / series, we are happy to present a mix curated by none other than CRACKAZAT (soundcloud)! As always, we have included a full guest interview which you can read below. Uppsala based Crackazat aka Ben Jacobs has been a rising star in house music circles over the last several years. Originally located out of Bristol, he released his first EP through local favourites Futureboogie Recordings. Since relocating to Sweden, he has hooked up with the Local Talk crew composed of Mad Mats and Tooli who helped to release his debut LP “Crescendo” in March of last year.
Originally coming from a hip-hop and downtempo background, Crackazat really emerged when his sound decided to go in a more house-leaning direction. Warm jazzy chords, swung grooves and quirky melodies are a staple in his productions and can be credited to his formal training in jazz composition and performance. Disco and boogie influences are also very prevalent in a lot of Ben’s work, sounds that he credits as having helped him make the transition into a more 4/4 oriented sphere.
To start off, can you tell us a little about your foray into house music? You mentioned that it was a bit of luck that your housier productions received more attention than your beat-oriented stuff, due to them being released on the well-known Futureboogie Recordings.
I think it was safe to say that the beat scene was already beginning to end by the time I released my first EP. The house revival was already well underway, and I think I made some sort of decision to jump on that wagon. After working with FutureBoogie records, it became clear to me that I wanted to continue making dance music. The functionality really appealed to me. Plus all my earlier experience in playing jazz, funk and disco helped me create my own sound.
Is your passion still in the hip-hop sphere? Do you see yourself going back to your roots a bit more in the future?
No I don’t see myself returning to music I have made in the past, but I will always love hip hop. The process of releasing this beat tape has been a bit of a nostalgia trip. I learnt a lot about production and sampling during that time, and no doubt impacts the music I make today.
Why & when did you decide to compile these tracks for the Beat Tape?
I have had these tracks sitting in a folder for 7 years. After releasing my first album, I suggested releasing the idea of a mixtape featuring these unheard beats. Tooli suggested we do an actual tape release, and I happily agreed.
How much has changed production wise if you compare the process back then to now?
First and Foremost, I now use Ableton, where as all these old beats where made with Reason and Cubasis. Most of these old beats were made with little to no automation, where as my current productions have a lot of automated synth work and effects.
If Crackazat today could go back in time and tell something about the tracks back then – what would that be?
As it would be my current self traveling backwards in time, I would repeat then what I have said now, then vice versa in the equivalent parallel universe.
Is there any of the track(s) on your Beat Tape you enjoy listening to these days?
I have been revisiting all these tracks over the years. My favorites are Ballad of Seas, Machine Heart, Setting the sun and Ouch Row. Perhaps now they are released I will look back less often.
Can you give us some insight into your formal jazz training and background? You were also teaching guitar and piano lessons, do you still do that or has the Crackazat project taken on a more full-time role?
I discovered Jazz around the same time I found Hip Hop. I heard so many jazz samples in Hip Hop, and I just became fascinated with the harmony. I then realized that this is where it all began for me. My problem was that I couldn’t work out what musicians where doing on Jazz records. It was like a hidden language, so I decided to study it at university.
I have always taught music, and to some extent I think I always will. I get a huge satisfaction from teaching. I currently teach evening classes to both children and adults. I then spend the rest the time I have on Crackazat.
“About Jazz” is the name of a mix series that you curate. What was the premise behind these mixes? Is it just a way to share your love of jazz with the world or was there something else behind it?
Yes it is pretty much about sharing the Jazz 🙂 “About Jazz” is my tribute to the golden era of jazz. Mostly 1940’s and 50′, or pre “modern”. It was also a time when jazz was both a dance and intellectual music. clubs. I also grew up tap dancing to jazz with my mum, which is why have strong links to this era of Jazz.
Tell us a little bit about the mix you recorded for us. Since you primarily play a live show when you’re booked for gigs, is it nice to step away from your own material every once in a while?
This mix features the music I associate with the beginnings Crackazat and my newly released Beat Tape on Omena Records. It’s a mix of downtempo beats and hip hop. At this time (the mid to late 2000’s) I was discovering underground music and culture. I started digging digitally, burning my mp3s to CD and doing my own artwork on each CD. As I don’t have CDJs I had to import these CDs to my computer to make this mix. I am not a DJ foremost, but I really enjoy making mixes and DJ’ing occasionally.
What does your live show entail? Tell us a bit about the gear you use. Is it any different than what you have at home in the studio or is the process fairly similar? You were planning on adding a bass guitar to your live shows as well, has that happened yet?
My live show a one man set up, where perform my own songs on keyboard, bass and controllers. All my synths are soft and run through Ableton which I control with and APC40.
There is a strong emphasis on improvisation, whether that be taking extended solos, Looping new ideas, or changing the structure of the music as I go. As I play often in clubs along side DJ’s I like to have the freedom to control the builds and drops for each song. I recently did my first show with bass guitar, and am hoping to add vocals soon.
Can you name some of your artist influences, past and present? Anybody out there right now who’s really got your ear?
Some early influences are Jamiroqaui, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Madlib, and James Brown. Some artists I have followed for a while are Floating Points, Lone and Leon Vynehall. Some more recent cats are really blowing me away like Jacob Collier, Tom Misch and Louis Cole.
You’ve got an EP out right now that seems to really be in demand, especially as it’s not available in Europe or North America yet. “Coffee Time” is the Japanese EUREKA! crew’s debut release and the title track features vocals from an a cappella group. What made you decide to work with these vocals and how did the release end up all the way over in Japan?
The sample is from an A acapella group I know personally called Vocado. I had been listening to their album, and this song ‘Coffee Time’ kept getting stuck in my head. The lyrics are graceful, the harmonies are beautiful, and the bassline is tremendous. Upon the signing of the EP, I contacted Vocado asking for permission to sample their music and kindly they said yes.
The Japan release on EUREKA was orchestrated entirely by Mad Mats at Local Talk and Midori of EUREKA!. Together they orchestrated this project, and I was more than happy to supply the music.
Finally, a question we always have to ask. What else can we expect from you for the rest of the year and possibly beyond that? Any notable gigs, new music?
I have a couple more remixes coming this year. Most of my time is going in to my second album, which will be released 2017.