We’ve explored the role that DJs play in the community of groove and what gifted turntablists can do when they innovate in a live setting.
Now, let’s dive deeper into our exploration to discover how Toronto-based remix trio, Keys N Krates creates new rhythmic palates and musical canvases via the real-time remix.
When I think of my favorite remixes they all have one thing in common. They take the essence of the original track and re-contextualize it in a way that’s fresh, unique and unexpected.
Now, most great remixes happen when an artist works hard in the studio.
But what about the craft of live remixing?
How does a trio of players innovate the art of the live remix? How do they combine musical and technical elements to move the bodies and elevate the minds of fans during a live show in real-time?
More importantly, how does the live remix stir up the emotions of fans and curate an atmosphere of creative and communal transcendence on the dance floor?
To answer those questions I asked Keys N Krates — a three-piece comprised of DJ Jr Flo (turntables), Matisse (keys) and Adam Tune (drums) — to explain how they use a mix of original and classic tracks, samplers and live musical instruments to make the live remix experience communal, organic, dynamic and synergistic.
Keys N Krates is currently on tour opening for OK Go, Metric and Big Bio. And to get you ready to experience them live, they also told me how the Arcade Fire inspires them, what their dream venue is, how remixing Drake influenced them, what “Little Things” they think are the most important to look for in the crowd during a show, and more.
LF: How have your live shows influenced and inspired your approached to remixing in the studio, and recording the last year’s Live Remix 101 and your new mixtape Almost 39 Minutes?
Flo: Well, basically the live mixtape pretty much reflects how a live show of ours would sound and feel because the mixtape is not really produced up. It was recorded live off the floor to two inch in the vein of Motown recordings. There was no multi-tracking or real production aspects. 3 dudes in a room making noise, which is exactly what our live show is. Studio remixes such as our “Let Me Know” reinterpretation of Drake’s “unforgettable” was an idea we got in the studio, so we straight cooked that up studio-style.
What’s interesting right now is there’s live stuff we did on the mixtape that are now turning into the basis for studio tracks, and in the case of “Let Me Know”, that is a studio idea that we’re going to have go and interpret live now. It goes both ways. Live, real time jams inspire production, and production inspires the live real time jams.
What role does the real-time remixing play during the live concert experience? Since fans come to dance and they expect to hear something somewhat familiar, how do you give them what they want and introduce something new to them at the same time?
Flo: In our live show we re-contextualize samples, snippets, and entire audio works the audience is often familiar with. It’s kind of fun because you get to see the audience say “Oh shit, they made that sound like this? They made MGMT sound like Dilla?” I guess it kind of allows us to win the crowd over by trying to make them enjoy things they already know in an entirely new way.
Since you guys love to experiment with and innovate the art of live remixing, what elements of your live show guide that process the most? Is it the vibe form the crowd? The band chemistry? Or do you guys trade off leading at varies points during the show like a jazz trio?
Matisse: It’s all of the above. We generally have a set structure for our sets that has moments that we want to happen. However, we’ll often jam within those boundaries according to the vibe of the show. If the crowd is crazy over a groove we’re playing we might signal each other to stay on that part and jam it out.
As an artist, what “Little Things” do you look for during a show for real-time insight or inspiration?
Tune: People dancing, people with there hands up, people scrunching their faces up like something smells funky, uncanny attentiveness from the audience. We love these little things.
As a fan, what “Little Things” have you noticed during some of your favorite concerts?
Flo: I’ve noticed the intense discipline in all the members of Arcade Fire, to play really simple parts but for a high purpose.
Matisse: It’s amazing to see lighting and visuals highlight what’s going on with the audio. Myself and Flo were watching some Sade footage once and for one of her songs she performed the whole first half of the song behind a screen and all you could see was her silhouette. So dramatic and amazing!
When did you guys first start experimenting with real-time remixing? What was your first live concert like as an artist and what did you learn from it?
Tune: We started 3 years ago. At our first show we had no clue if anyone was going to dig or even get what we were trying to do.
If you could play one “dream” venue in the world where would it be and why?
Flo: That’s a tough one. So many great venues in the world. I think playing huge festivals like Coachella, Bonaroo, Glastonbury etc. is kind of a dream of ours.
If you could take one element of your favorite concert you experienced as a fan and use it to inspire your own live show, what concert and band would it be and why?
Tune: Probably all the shows I’ve seen where the artist is just performing extended jams of their songs and the crowd is loving it because they don’t want to hear it exactly how it’s done on the record. I like live shows where the band or artist takes the time to make their music make sense in a stadium or where ever they’re playing.
What do you love the most about performing live? What elements of club and DJ culture would you could change if you could?
Flo: I’d like to see more performance aspects come back. Too many laptop acts. I like seeing people play instruments, whether it be a guitar, a turntable or an MPC. Not a huge fan of watching people stand behind a laptop and stare at a screen. Also not down with a lot of bands that have like 5 or 6 guys and still rely on a backing track for most of their sound. If come to see you play live I want to see you actually play.
What is something unique about your live performance that fans might not realize or be aware of?
Matisse: I think one thing that’s unique is that we’re only 3 dudes and we use zero backing tracks. Everything is done in real time. This is pretty rare now, especially with any bands in the electronic vein. I think that makes us pretty unique.
Thanks to Keys N Krates for taking the time to share their insights and live concert experiences. Check out tour dates and both remix mixtapes below. If you’ve seen them live before or have a question for the band, post it in the comments below.
Almost 39 Minutes:
Live Re-mixing 101:
2010 Tour Dates
11.8 – Aitken Centre w/ Metric & OK GO – Fredricton, NB
11.9 – Memorial Centre w/ Metric & OK GO – Peterborough, ON
11.11 – Guvernment – Peace Dot Love Featival w/ Big Boi – Toronto, ON
11.13 – Market Square w/ Metric & OK GO – Victoria, BC
12.9 – Lee’s Palace Toronto, ON
12.11 – Ritual Ottawa, ON