Keys N Krates

Call & Response: Keys N Krates

I last spoke to Toronto's best (and only?) live remix crew Keys N Krates about a year ago and they have been blowing up every since. From touring across North America numerous times, to playing Juno parties, to getting glowing reviews at high profile SXSW and CMJ Music Marathon showcases.

Earlier this year they were featured in URB Magazine's "2009 Next 100" issue. That's a big deal. So is their free show tomorrow night at Harbourfront as part of Beats, Breaks and Culture Festival with TMDP and others. I spoke with Jr-Flo (turntables, effects), Matisse (keyboards) and Tune (drums) about the crazy year they've had. One word sums it up: Berlin.

A lot has happened to you guys in the past year. What have the highlights been for each of you?

Tune: I would have to say Germany would be at the top of my list. Highlights include, strolling into a minimal techno club upon landing at 9am, playing to the one of the best crowds in Berlin, and driving 200km an hour between shows on the Autobahn. The girls in Stuttgart weren't hard to look at either.

Jr-Flo: Probably our Berlin show. Was totally insane vibes all the way through. Also just loved that city and the people there.

Matisse: Ahhh hmm, for me I'd still say that first few shows we did with Red Bull where we were on a Red Bull bus with 60 people and the Red Bull girls. That bus was built like a moving night club man. Strobe lights and everything. Saw some of the weirdest things on that trip.

How were the German crowds? Any crazy stories from the road?

Tune: The folks there are really hospitable and treat artists really well.

Matisse: Our Berlin show was off the hook. That crowd was bonkers. The people treated us like we were kings in between the shows. Mad hospitality in that country. Nothin' too crazy on this trip but I'll always remember us getting up to 200km on the Autobahn and wilding out about it.

Have any bands/artists approached you about doing a live or studio remix for them?

Flo: Yeah a couple, and we're totally into the idea of it. Always just finding the time. But we are going to really get into that in a minute.

Matisse: A few artists have but we haven't officially done a remix for anyone yet.

The "We Are Your Friends" live jam is great. Are there any other jams like that you're planning on leaking online?

Matisse: Of course. We're always working on new remixes. Always. We're gonna continue putting out new material from our site. We just finished new shit. Mixtape on the way.

Flo: Yes! Tons! You'll see some rehearsal footage leak later this month of some new stuff that's both on the original tip and on the remix tip.And eventually some original music that we have already started workin' on.

Any official releases in the works?

Flo: Yes, workin' on stuff but don't want to get ahead of ourselves by speaking to soon on anything.

Tune: You'll like the Paul Johnson remix - kinda DJ Premier meets afro beat interpretation of "Get Down".

Are you using any new pieces of gear/effects on stage?

Tune: Yes. I've started using a SPD drum pad so I can play out grooves using heavy sampled drums. Has really changed our whole sound dynamic.

Matisse: Right now I'm still rockin' my Motif 7 and Evolver keyboards on stage. On the side I'm starting to work a lot with Ableton and VST instruments. I'm hoping to start adding them into the set sometime soon.

Flo: I'm using a Korg trigger pad which I'm using to trigger and flip samples. I fried my Pioneer effects unit in Germany when plugging it into the wrong power converter. I'm looking for a new effects unit now, probably not a Pioneer but something with more variety and depth.

What's your favourite city to play in right now? Why?

Flo: My favourite city to play in right now is Berlin. But I find that changes by the month now.

Matisse: Berlin 'cause the crowd really went crazy for us and I loved the vibe in the city
and the women haha.

Tune: Berlin.

What can Toronto learn from other cities you play in now (music-wise, food-wise, etc)?

Matisse: You know not much - Toronto is really starting to get her shit together. It's really a world class city with a vibrant music community and great, great West Indian food. We're starting to come together.

Flo: Toronto is a pretty open-minded, and international city and truthfully I've been really stoked about the support we've received. However on a whole they could learn to support their own artists a bit more. It has been rather weird to watch Toronto sleep on their own artists who've eventually won them over after blowing up south of the border. I remember people sleeping on Drake at his release party 2 years back and myself and this other Toronto DJ (shout out P-Plus) were shaking our heads in disbelief and saying to each other how these people had no clue what this dude was doing and about to accomplish. Now all those same people are all on the nuts which is kinda funny.

Other cities - particularly in the US and in Europe - blow their own artists up first and then other places hear about it and embrace it. Toronto could definitely learn from that sense of pride and community. There definitely are influentials who have taken it upon themselves to bolster quality hometown talent: 1LoveTO, Craig from YYZ, Ty and Rez, and other people. I have nothing but respect for all those guys cause they're definitely making an impact and increasing Toronto's love for it's own talent.

What can people expect to see/hear/feel at your Harbourfront show this Saturday?

Flo: Bangin' ass live compositions.

Matisse: Yo - we go off son. Expect to see Tune's cymbals fall apart on stage. Me to rock
back and forth and hump my keyboard and Flo to transform into a robot.

Beats, Breaks and Culture Festival presents:
Keys N Krates, TMDP, others
Saturday, July 11
Brigantine Room at York Quay Centre
235 Queens Quay West
Doors: 10:30pm

Call & Response is a series of Q&A's with bands from or playing in Toronto. Photo: Keys N Krates.

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