What seperates the best from the rest? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself forever, and on the 26th of May I set out to London to seek the answer. Camo & Krooked launched their fourth album ‘Mosaik’ in Fabric, the legendary underground haven.
We all know Camo & Krooked from their bangers. In 2008 the duo gained enormous popularity with extreme hit songs like Numbers, Stand Up and Climax. Their music was accompanied by intense DJ sets full of homemade remixes of classics such as Beat It, Thunderstruck and Raise Your Weapon. In 2011 the duo added to their success with Cross The Line. The energetic album guaranteed that no party went by without a Camo & Krooked tune played and earned them the ‘Best Producer’ title at the Drum And Bass Arena Awards. The duo were at their absolute prime. Or were they?
In 2012 Camo & Krooked decided to step up their game. The dancefloor slayers threw all of their previous work out of the window and embarked on an expedition to redefine their meaning of drum & bass. In a 2-year journey the duo took the genre, stripped it down to its core and rebuilt it in their own way. What they returned with was Zeitgeist: A highly experimental album where funk, techhouse and disco were incorporated in a realm of minimalism. Creating huge waves all around the world with their ‘Less is more’ approach, Camo & Krooked established themrselves as pioneers of modern drum & bass.
A New Journey
The Zeitgeist tour was barely over when Camo & Krooked locked themrselves back in their studio. What followed was nothing but silence for almost three years as the duo imperturbably built further on their ideas. After four (!) years of experimentation and refinement Camo & Krooked release their 4th album: Mosaik: An absolute behemoth containing 17 tracks, every single one crafted with the greatest dexterity and patience. I know I’m not alone when I say I have never been so excited for an album.
For the Mosaik Album Launch Camo & Krooked picked an intense complementary line-up with Dimension, Mefjus, Spectrasoul and more. In the depths of Fabric I investigated what goes on in the minds of this exceptional duo. We talked about their mindset, thought process and vision on drum & bass. It’s quite something, let’s dive in.
‘Ember’, Camo & Krooked’s first Mosaik release.
What is Mosaik all about?
Krooked: I think Mosaik is about putting together fragments of different ideas into one big picture. We had quite a different approach on this album. First of all, it took us longer than the other albums. We took one year and a half longer than for our last record [Zeitgeist], so we had way more phases of our life to get inspired by and different sounds we were into. I think it’s a very colourful album and that’s also the reason we called it Mosaik.
How did the creation process go?
Krooked: The funny thing is, when the album was more than halfway done it didn’t even make sense to us! At some point we found a line through all of the tunes and we started putting ideas together. For example we had a little loop from one project and an intro from a completely different project. We put these together and created tunes like that. We thought more in a mashing up ideas kind of mindset rather than thinking “I’m going to write this very song”.
Camo: We now have 17 tunes on the album, which is a lot. But when you listen through the album it feels like 30 tunes because most of the second drops are completely different from the first one. It’s an album you need to get to know. With the first listen-through you’ll only hear maybe like a third of the content that’s actually there!
I really love music that’s appealing on first listen, but you also keep hearing new things later on.
Krooked: Yeah, exactly! Our favourite artists released an album like 10 years ago and we listen to it constantly, like at least a few times every month. And throughout all those years you still discover new things within the songs every time! That’s something really interesting because it’s almost like a treasure hunt. Suddenly this part of the track becomes your favourite part, while first it was a different part!
Something I noticed about the album is it has something Eastern, something zen. Can you tell me about your inspiration from that?
Krooked: I think there is a lot of ethic elements on there because we loved listening to a lot of tech house for a while. When we dove into this we found some really cool weird ethic music that felt kind of untouched and pure and thought we should try something like that in the Camo & Krooked way. I think the most important aspect in making music for us nowadays is: You hear something, for example you listen to a soul record from the 70’s like Donna Hathaway, and the next tune you listen to is a Trentemöller tune and you’re like… Add those two that are completely contrary, in some way combine them…
And you use like drum & bass as a melting pot.
Krooked: Exactly! Drum & bass is the melting pot. Ideas approach us and we put them together in that pot. The weirdest kind of combinations can come out! For example, the collaboration with Mefjus starts as a rollery, deep tune and goes into this trippy hiphop kind of thing. It’s maybe offputting at first listen because it’s something that hasn’t existed before, but when you listen to it again you start to get it.
“We don’t listen to drum & bass at home anymore.”
What inspired you to take such an unconventional approach to drum & bass?
Camo: I think we always strive to do something new.
But you often see artists who keep reproducing their old work after they had a popular release, because they know that gains them success. Why is it that you try something so different, what inspires you to do that?
Camo: I think at some point you’ve done enough of the same thing. Our 2011-ish sound, with Cross The Line, The Siren remix and Hot Right Now remix… At some point it was enough and we wanted to explore other stuff. We’re always trying to innovate because making music is not just making a product, it’s discovering and exploring the sounds and bringing our knowledge to the next level with every tune. Not just producing the next tune that everybody will surely love.
How did the process go? Something changed between making dancefloor drum & bass and Zeitgeist.
Camo: “I have an idea, let’s try being shit! We haven’t done that before!”
Krooked: I think the quote “You have to know the rules to be able to break them” describes this very well. It’s just that within the dancefloor realm that we did… I think we’ve done it well and we liked doing it, but we kind of grew out of it. And to be honest we don’t listen to drum & bass at home, basically no drum & bass at home.
RY X, one of the many different inspirations from Camo & Krooked.
That actually brings me to my next question, what are your inspirations outside of drum & bass?
Krooked: Everything besides drum & bass. From psychedelic rock, to progressive rock..
Can you name some artists?
Krooked: Tame Impala, Stephan Bodzin, Pink Floyd, DJ Koze, Stimming, andhim, Trentemöller, RY X, Flume, Jamie xx… It’s a weird melting pot! I think the main reason we don’t make this kind of [dancefloor] drum & bass anymore is because we don’t listen to that kind of stuff anymore. Because even if you don’t want to be influenced by something, you get influenced by it if you live in that realm. It’s really satisfying to write a tune, then you go on to the club the next weekend, play the tune and see it go off. But there is so much more to music than just the dancefloor side of things.
Camo: There are some dancefloor bits on Mosaik. I mean they are not your obvious dancefloor tunes but they still work great on the floor!
Camo: Ember, Honesty… there are a couple more we haven’t released yet. Only because you strive to make something new all the time doesn’t mean you can’t bang one out here and there, haha! Like BAM!
Is that how it works? Like “Okay now let’s make a sick dancefloor tune”?
Krooked: Actually you know what? It’s quite easy to write something that is a bit more generic and goes by a recipe. The biggest problem when you write stuff like we have on Mosaik is: There is no reference. You just tap in the dark the whole time. But with dancefloor tunes it’s super easy sometimes because you know what works.
“The tunes we learn the most from making them mean the most to us.”
What are your goals with Mosaik? When is it successful to you?
Camo: World domination.
Krooked: I think it’s already exceeded our expectations I would say.
Camo: Yeah, because the feedback was so good! We changed style a little bit because we wanted to try new things and it really worked. People get it, you know? They appreciate that it’s not your usual drum & bass, that it has a little bit more to offer in some parts, a little bit more thought into detail. That’s actually one of the most important parts, because when you try something new and people already start complaining with the first single it gets hard. So we are thankful for the support.
‘Passion’, Camo & Krooked’s most recent release.
What’s your favourite song off the album?
Krooked: For me it might be between Last Of The Tribe and Tagtraum. Last Of The Tribe is a weird tribalish minimal tune with some interesting bits. It also completely changes in the second drop. Tagtraum is as the name says. It’s quite dreamy and it’s some offbeat, subby drum & bass tune. In the second drop it switches to 110 bpm in some kind of minimal tech house bit.
Camo: For me I think it’s still Ember actually. I think it’s one our biggest tunes, we’ve used it for an intro since we made it. For an album it’s maybe more one of the obvious tunes, but it’s just a straight-up drum & bass big tune for me. And then obviously the underdogs that are more going into detail, a little more working, more subconcious. Like Markus [Krooked] said, the Tagtraum thing. I think for us the tunes we learn the most from making them mean the most for us. When we do something really new that was really exciting for us doing at the time.
Krooked: I think I might add The Sloth to that.
Like sloth, the animal?
Krooked: Yeah, because it’s a draggy half-time thing with a really draggy groove. And it was the very last bit we made on the album and by that time it was so easy making tunes. We had some time in the beginning where it was kind of a struggle because we kind of changed the approach on the production a little bit. But at that point we had kind of perfected everything. It was done in like 3 days! By comparison, Black Or White took us maybe a year to finish.
“For us, making music is not just making a product. It’s discovering and exploring the sounds and bringing our knowledge to the next level with every tune.”
So let’s talk about your label, Mosaik. I’ve heard you want to sign artists at some point, what kind of artists are you looking for?
Krooked: I think we’re looking for artists that have the same mindset as we have.
Krooked: Experimental, trying to have their own sound. Trying something new and not really making things that already exist.
Anyone on the radar?
Krooked: There are a few acts we’re on the lookout for, but we don’t know yet. It all depends on how the label is performing. Right now we are super busy with what we do and we don’t really have the time to take care of a full label at the moment, so we’d need to get some people to work for us… Right now it’s all super overwhelming and we don’t have the time to think about all this, but the idea is definitely there! We just don’t want to sign an artist and then feel like we don’t do anything for them. If we sign somebody we want to put effort in building a career for that very artist.
Camo: They put the trust in us and we want to deliver. And at this point we can’t guarantee we can do more for artists than at their recent label. They want to join Mosaik, because they like the ‘movement’. But we can’t say “Yeah man come to us, let’s do this!”, because we don’t have the energy at the moment. But when the time is right…
Krooked: I think ‘movement’ is a really good word for that. We want people on there who understand this movement and the ideas behind everything and share a similar mindset. It forms a really strong community in a way between artists who share ideas, share knowledge and also growing a fanbase together. We want to build a family.
If you could one piece of advice to an aspiring producer, what would it be? From the both of you!
Camo: I think you need a lot of patience at the moment. There is such a big amount of artists trying to make it, you really need to take your time and craft your own style. In drum & bass the scene is so strong that if the music is good you will get discovered. I actually think it’s way more easy nowadays to get picked up by a big label than it was before, because the roster’s getting bigger of all the big labels.
Krooked: I’d say: Don’t get influenced too much by the music you want to make. Try not to worry if something might not work in this very realm, because actually maybe this is the next big thing. Don’t be afraid of trying something that you think might not be right for the masters [those who bring out your music].
At the start of this article I asked the question: What seperates the best from the rest? I think I have an answer.
Camo & Krooked are as good as they are because they have an infinite willingness to improve. They enjoy and embrace the learning process, no matter how good they are. Because of this they will always have an advantage over those who are focussed on results. In addition, Camo & Krooked have balls. They are willing to deny what the masters want so they can do what they want. They are even willing to risk their career by diving into something entirely new, creating music their audience might not like, purely to broaden their knowledge of music. They quit doing gigs, missing out on a lot of wealth, just so they don’t fall back to making dancefloor music and get distracted from their learning process. The dedication these guys have for becoming better than they were before is simply extraordinary. Mosaik is the result of years of retaining this mindset and will beyond a doubt create huge waves in the drum & bass scene. I can’t wait to see how!
Mosaik will be out on RAM Records the 23rd of June. Pre-order here to get a signed copy!