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KR!Z Italian Debut — Exclusive Interview!

KR!Z, founder of the famous Belgian techno-label TOKEN – for the first time in Italy! – gives us an exclusive interview thanks to TheFRAG, between youth memories and actual influences…

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Versione italiana

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Let’s start with something about your origins and your place of birth: it will be your first time performing in Italy, so we’re really curious to start this sort of ‘intercultural deepening’!

I grew up and still live in a small town in the North side of Belgium. Quiet & peaceful, but close to the major cities like Ghent, Antwerp & Brussels. Belgium is so small you can get anywhere with an hour car drive.

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What do you remember about other musical genres that influenced you in your earlier years, as for example hip hop? Did you approach it in your own country or did you have to move and travel a lot?

Hip hop – in its many forms – still has a big influence on me today, it always had. I think what first grabbed my attention at a younger age was probably the dj, scratching. It blew my mind that you could make this kind of sounds with a record player and actually make the track even cooler with it. The technique behind it fascinated me, and so did the technique of rhyming, where the vocals are able to give the track some kind of extra swing. I only became interested in the actual hip hop beats a few years later. Now, at this age, the beat is the first thing that has to be right for me to like a hip hop record and I listen to a lot of instrumental hip hop.
Next to hip hop, there are a lot of genres I listen to, like jazz, electronica, soul, funk and so much more. I opened my mind a lot more over the years and that’s still an ongoing process.
I never really had to travel to other countries to discover new music; we have access to most of it here.

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When and how did you get into the Belgium techno scene, how old were you? How was it at that time? It was in the first 90s, isn’t it?…

Probably when I was 16 years old, so mid of the nineties. I discovered techno like I discovered most of the other genres: through my local public library, picking out random cd’s, taking them home and recording them to cassette for my walkman. That’s how I found Daft Punk’s ‘Homework’,  Ken Ishii’s ‘Jelly tones’ and Aphex Twin: by accident. My first real techno “party” experience was at a festival where I went to see hip hop and drum & bass artists, like DJ Krush, Kid Koala, Goldie, The Herbaliser etc and accidentally I discovered Steve Rachmad, who was playing in the one techno tent at that festival, which was hosted by Fuse (the main techno club in Belgium). He blew my mind that day.
After that I started to go out to the 2 main techno events in Belgium that time: Kozzmozz & I Love Techno.
Kozzmozz launched a DJ contest, I sent in a tape, got selected, played some of their events and eventually became a resident DJ for them. Same for I Love Techno: entered a contest, got selected and got the chance to play there and from there it ‘blew up’ for me. I was still pretty young, living with my parents, no driver’s license, but playing gigs every weekend across Belgium. Exciting times!

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Belgium, apart from being a wonderful country, it’s also very generous regarding music, especially for electronic sounds. In 2007 how did you get to decide the establishment of your own label Token? How was your ‘professional life’ before it?

I’ve been dj’ing since ’97, doing techno since early 2000’s. I think ‘techno’ received a big blow to the head when the so called ‘minimal’ kicked in around 2004-2005. That was a time when it was really hard to find new records for me to play out as a DJ. I knew all these great artists were sitting on so much great music but it just didn’t get it released, because labels went bust or sold their souls. So end of 2006 I decided to create my own platform and release the records that I was actually searching for in the shops but couldn’t find. I contacted my favorite artists and Inigo Kennedy was the first one who trusted me. The first release was a real blessing. Inigo delivered a crazy 3 track EP. It really hit hard and we immediately got people’s attention. Inigo’s been with Token ever since.

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In the almost 6 years of its existence, Token has released great results and made us really happy launching tracks & remixes from Inigo Kennedy, Phase, Luke Slater, James Ruskin, Marcel Dettmann, Blawan, Surgeon, Ben Klock, Xhin, Sigha & Peter Van Hoesen and much more… The new Xhin record – recently ‘baked’ and out now – is gorgeous, very inspiring. Which are your future plans? Is there some interesting news for techno (and Token) lovers?

The plan is to stick to our guns, stay consistent. Token is slowly growing and I don’t want to rush things. The 2 most exciting plans this year are definitely the debut album by Phase and a first Token compilation. Next to that there will of course be more singles by Inigo, Ctrls, Phase and others: some new names, some established names..

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Tell us something about the most known local producers but also about emergent talents that you’d like to point out. Would you like to suggest us some local clubs/events/festivals that we should enjoy in your country? You know, Italians are everywhere and still travel a lot, we’re very dynamic people, despite our social and political situation…

I guess the most know Belgian techno producer nowadays is Peter Van Hoesen, but he doesn’t live here anymore so I don’t know if that counts? I’m a fan of his music either way. There’s not too much competition in Belgium nowadays when it comes to techno producers, but you should definitely check out the sounds from Arrestar, Sagat, Mr. Mau & Roebin De Freitas.
Event wise, the best rave is definitely Kozzmozz, standing strong for almost 20 years now. Fuse is still the main techno club to go to. Festival wise there’s Tomorrowland & I Love Techno. If you want a small party with good sound and a cozy atmosphere, I can strongly advise going to one of the TRAP parties in Ghent.

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Are there some Italian artists that you’d like to mention and why?

Italy is doing a really good job when it comes to techno lately. I particularly love what Max is doing with the M_rec label. He also didn’t get the overnight success, but slowly built his catalogue. A lot of quality music on his label. Next to that I love & play a lot of music by Lucy, Ascion, Shapednoise & Obtane. I also enjoy Donato Dozzy & Dino Sabatini. There are so many to mention, Italy has a really interesting scene now I think.

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Do you have any musical obsessions right now? …

At the moment I like the last Nosaj Thing album, heavily into Thom Yorke’s ‘Atoms for peace’ album and the new Lapalux record. Hip hop wise, everything coming from Doom, the Odd Future camp and Action Bronson. For techno, I’ve been listening a lot to Function’s debut album, everything by Stanislav Tolkachev and of course I’m absolutely excited about the forthcoming stuff by Inigo, Ctrls & the forthcoming Phase album.

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Thank you very much, Kr!z. We’re waiting for you impatiently, it will be your first time in Italy! How do you feel about it?

Definitely excited. I’ve been in Italy for holidays several times so I love Italian food, coffee, history & of course the weather. Can’t wait to experience the nightlife.

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Interview by Divna Ivić

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