From the first moment I heard ‘Chunks of Funk’, I was hooked on Krafty Kuts. Here was a track so funky, oozing with so much ‘coolness’ that I simply couldn’t ignore it. After getting down to the big beat sound, which quickly became a pale mockery of itself, out of leftfield comes this stormer of a track with the vocal “not because we can… Coz we want to!” which remains a funky dogmatic greed of my day to day life. At the time I thought Krafty Kuts was black, that’s how funky his sound was to me! Little did I know he was some pale white English Geezer called Martin Reeves. Then, he disappeared for a year or so, subsequently booming back onto the scene with a vengeance.
“Yeah, a few years ago I got myself into a bit of a sticky situation”, Reeves relates over the phone. “I wanted to release some records so badly, and Ministry of Sound didn’t want to release any more records or 12 inches. There was this guy who promised me the world, and I signed this contract that I should have never had done. I wish at the time I had a manager, because he would have said ‘don’t sign it!’ I could not release a single thing under the name of Krafty Kuts for a year, and I had ten records ready to come out, and it was probably my best ever products… it was around the time of Chunks Of Funk, Gimme The Funk, and it was that party hiphop, funky breakbeat stuff.”
As you can probably tell from those titles, Reeves loves his funk. “I think it stems form a constant listening to 70’s style and a lot of black music” he muses. “It’s all I listened to, all I wanted to buy. I was a complete obsessive; I used to get up at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning at weekends to go to car boot sales.” He explains that car boot sales are something akin to our Trash and Treasure markets. “It hit in the mid 80s, and it was quite a phenomenon; everybody was selling their records, and you can imagine the records I brought… it was just AMAZING! I was just up at the crack of dawn every weekend, wanting to buy records, and that’s how I started my record store, I just bought this massive collection off someone, who said they had loads more at home… He was a DJ and had about 10,000 records at home and just wanted to get rid of them, and that’s how it all became an obsession.”
Reeves is obviously proud of his collection. “I’ve got some amazing records, stuff you wouldn’t even dream about!” he says excitedly. “Stuff that only got released as promos, stuff that never came out, and stuff that is really hard to find.” Along with his outstanding collection of records, Reeves is well known for winning a DJ comp when he was only 12 years young, after never touching a turntable before… or so the legend of Krafty Kuts goes. I had read conflicting reports about this, and decided to clear it up for myself. “I was 17”, he states matter of factly. “I wasn’t old enough to get into a club, so I had to enter an under-18 DJ competition. I didn’t have any turntables, so it was my first experience with real turntables.” Real Turntables? “My best friend, who actually beat me in the final, he had decks but they weren’t technics, but he was really good at mixing on them. The comp had technics of course, and I was so excited to get on them and see what they were like; I had played on his turntables before, but they were belt drives and kept jumping and weren’t really great to mix on.”
“Once he let me have a go on his decks, it was like eating chocolate, but only a piece, not being able to eat the whole thing,” he continues. “Or like eating a pringle… you eat one pringle and you’ve got to eat more. You can’t stop, can you? You have GOT to have another one, there is no stopping!” he laughs. “It’s like when you collect things, if you’ve got that stance in your head, you have to continue it. I had to carry on DJing, I HAD to enter that competition, because I knew if I didn’t I wouldn’t fulfil any ambition. It took a lot of courage really, I wasn’t that good, but I managed to put a few good ideas together, and people were cheering and that, and I thought then that this is for me.”
Reeve’s knack for putting “a few good ideas together” has earned him a lot of respect from audience and peers alike. “I met Q-Bert last year when I was in Australia, and to be honest I thought he wouldn’t have a fucking clue who I was”, he says of one of his brushes with fame. “Then you speak to someone who’s just such an idol to me, and I introduced myself … ‘Hi, I’m Krafty Kuts’ and he says (and here Reeves puts on a generic American accent) ‘yeah, I know, I’ve heard a lot about you, blah blah blah’, and I was speechless! It was like Cash Money too, one of the first DJs I ever saw, and at an awards night last year he comes up to me, gives me a big hug and says (donning the American accent once again) ‘well done Krafty, you deserve it!’ and I’m like ‘oh my god, this isn’t real’… people I idolise coming up to ME, and giving ME respect for winning an award. Not only was it great to win the award, but it was amazing to have someone you admire to give you props, it’s like a double whammy!”
But what is it about the Krafty Kuts sound that makes people sit up and listen? When he did a mix for mixmag called Instant Party, Just Add People, it sold like absolute hotcakes, and is quite a sought after CD, up there with Coldcut’s Journeys by DJs and Andy Smith’s The Document. “It’s kinda about being clever,” he says, “in general, thinking about what people are going to like. That’s the hard thing, trying to choose a collection of records that make people think ‘these work well’. And I think I’ve done that in the past” he says without a hint of ego, “and people have come to expect the unexpected with me, and they think ‘I wouldn’t have done that, that’s a good idea’, and that’s what I try to do.”
His latest mix CD These Are the Breaks captures the essence of Krafty Kuts. “I’m absolutely thrilled with this mix, it’s a proper representation of where I am at the moment and what I do as a DJ. It’s got the party hiphop element on the one CD, and on the other it’s got all the proper really good current and classic breakbeat tunes. I think people can listen to and dance around in their living room, or bop in their cars to it,” he continues. “It’s one of those CDs that I think will stand the test of time, it hasn’t got any throw away tunes… there’s a couple of tunes people will think “that’s a bit ‘now’”, but you’ve got to have some of those on it. I try and capture elements of past, present and future, people listen to it and think “oh my god, what’s that!” or hear a mix and think “how did he do that!”
Similarly, his live shows are much the same. “It’s quite a strange phenomenon, really, because as soon as I walk in I look and feel the vibe, I’ve gotta take in this intense situation within seconds, and think ‘right, where am I going with my DJing’. I always try and do something different; I never play the same set twice, EVER. I don’t sit there and have my records in order, no way, that’s not me. I’m about taking the vibe from an audience into me, and giving it back. There’s certain records that you’ve got to play because they work so well together,” he muses, “but generally speaking, I can be getting into something, and see that they’re down with this hiphop vibe, and then maybe start the breakbeat, play the slower tempo but funky new stuff, and slowly build up, but I’ll play a lot less break beat and cut out my drum and bass tunes… Or if it’s an up for it mad crowd then obviously go for the more up tempo breakbeat stuff and move into drum and bass.”
“It’s the crowd that dictates where I’m gonna go. I do choose records in a small way, but I’d rather let the crowd choose for me, although theoretically they don’t know that. It’s weird; I have to read what they want collectively, and give that to them”.