When Woodstock took place back in 1969, there were definitely no DJ sets. The festival’s lineup featured some of the biggest names in rock music such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin and many more. Flash-forward to 2016 and it’s safe to say that Bethel Woods, which is now home to Mysteryland USA, has been taken over by DJs. That being said, three dudes from Toronto managed to add to authenticity of the weekend by bringing a drum set and keyboard in addition to their turntables. Their names are Tune (drums), Matisse (keys) and Flo (turntables), but you probably know them as Keys N Krates.
Roughly two weeks ago, the trio had the Mysteryland USA main stage crowd going berserk during one of the first shows on their Summer Mass Tour. The tour, which is in support of their Midnite Mass EP, will be rolling through major festivals such as Wayhome, Osheaga, Camp Bisco, Life Is Beautiful, Shambhala and more. We were lucky enough to sit down with Keys N Krates just moments before their performance to chat about live shows, Woodstock and hip hop as well as a few other topics.
You guys have always been known for your live show and it seems like more and more electronic acts are beginning to incorporate live elements into their performances. Why do think this shift has been occurring as of late? Are you excited to see what your peers come up with?
Matisse: Yeah, for sure. Music evolves and changes and it’s a lot more difficult to make it live, so it’ going to be more interesting as well as engaging. That’s always been the reason that we’ve done it. We started off that way and it’s nice to come to a festival and see other people doing it.
The three of you recently won the Juno award for ‘Dance Recording of the Year’. It seems like you guys take pride in being a Canadian electronic act, so was that a big moment for you?
Tune: Yeah, I would say so. When I was growing up, the Junos were a lot bigger than they were for the past five or six years, but it’s starting to ramp up and become a big deal again. I think Canadian music is exciting again, so by default, the awards are exciting again.
Along with being proud Canadians, you guys also love to rep Toronto. Last summer, you threw a wild Keys N Krates birthday party. What was that day like for the three of you? Can we expect something like that in the near future?
Flo: So good, man. We’ve always wanted to do something like that. It’s kind of like our own mini festival, so we’re excited about trying to make it an annual thing.
Since we’re here in Bethel Woods, I have to ask you guys a Woodstock question. When you’re walking around the grounds or getting ready to go on stage, do you anticipate that the historic festival will cross your mind?
Matisse: It’s nostalgic. Any time when you go to a place and there is a history of music, you appreciate what’s been there and you do your thing and add to it. I think we’ll mostly be focusing on not freezing our asses off.
If there was one classic rock artist (dead or alive) that you could collab with, who would it be?
Matisse: I’d love to get my hands on a riff from Jimi Hendrix. (David and Greg agree)
It’s safe to say that the Keys N Krates sound is rooted in hip hop. In the electronic music world, we don’t get to hear about hip hop producers and turntablists too often. Who are some of the artists that you look up to or admire?
Flo: J Dilla, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Just Blaze, Timbaland, The Neptunes. I think a lot of the early 2000s stuff like Just Blaze and Timbaland especially inspires anyone who is making our kind of shit. Currently, there’s so many dope producers like Lido, Mura Masa, Cashmere Cat, Hudson Mohawke, Rustie and Porter Robsinon.
Do you guys find yourselves listening to more hip hop or electronic music?
Flo: Everything. If you listen to our music, we’re definitely pulling from everything. I think the way we kind of pull from different music is very much like the way a rap producer would in the sense that it’s not always super informed. Like we’ll just take a drum n bass break because we want to, not because we know the deep-rooted history of drum n bass. We’re just like, “Yeah, that sounds good in our track, so we’re going to fucking do that.” That’s kind of the way we operate as producers. We’re down to take on anything that we think sounds really good whether or not we’re super informed on it. We’ll hear something at a festival or a gig and be like, “That’d be cool to incorporate” and so we do it. We get asked a lot of questions about drum n bass because we have a lot of amen breaks in our songs, but it’s really nothing other than we thought it would sound cool, so we did it.
These days, there is no shortage of solo producers coming together for joint side projects. Since Keys N Krates is already a group, if you three were to each form solo side projects in a different musical genre, what would it be?
Matisse: Oh, that’s easy. I’d be doing piano lounge. I was a soul guy before all this, so I’d be doing some Ray Charles type of shit. Maybe have a couple singers in the background, but make it something new and fresh and go play and small rooms and stuff. The complete opposite of this world.
Tune: I’d probably be doing some form of pop music. I’d be drumming and singing. I’d be Phil Collins.
Flo: I think I’d make some weird soundtrack-y stuff with no drums. It would just be weird sounds and noises. I’d be making film scores or something.
Last but not least, we already discussed future performance plans in the form of another Keys N Krates birthday party, but there are definitely a lot of fans out there who are craving more new music. Is there anything in the works?
Tune: Just more original stuff. We’d love to shoot for an album. I think we’re just getting in the studio and having fun.
Flo: We’re going to slow down for a second. He (Tune) nailed it. We kind of want to be in the studio with no pressure and what I keep saying is that we want to feel 16 again in the studio. I just want to fuck around and intrinsically make stuff. We want to do stuff in the studio that we fantasize about and we want to do it without rushing things. We have so many cool ideas and when we’re making EPs, we have to rush to get things done, so we’re going to take our time with this next one.
You can view the full list of Summer Mass tour dates below and for tickets, head over here. Keys N Krates also recently unveiled the Midnite Mass Remix EP featuring Stööki Sound, KRNE, Autolaser and more. You can purchase it here.