Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1081

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Feature

Karizma: Still solid

Karizma @bluesandsoul.com
Karizma @bluesandsoul.com Karizma @bluesandsoul.com Karizma @bluesandsoul.com Karizma @bluesandsoul.com

Klayton confined himself to the studio between this January and March, producing over 40 new tracks based on everything from swinging house and edgy soul-tech to deep dub-groove, snappinテ「 hip-hop and smart downbeat.テつ 39 licks were subsequently confirmed for release, spread between Wall Of Soundテ「冱 expansive vinyl, CD and download formats. It was a hugely creative spike for Klayton after so much doubt and indecision.

テ「廬t [Wall Of Sound] got me back to the music,テ「 he opens.テつ テ「廝efore I started it I was wondering what I should do.テつ Iテ「冦 getting older now, and that made me question my relevance.テつ I seriously questioned what my future might look like and whether this career was really worth it anymore.テつ The answer, thankfully, was テ「yeah Kris, it is worth it; what else can you do with your particular skills... how else can you live?

テ「廬テ「囘 definitely have left music without this album. Itテ「冱 the album every artist has to have at some point in their career...the テ「selfishテ「 album.テつ Every single track came from deep down inside; exactly the tracks that I wanted to make.テつ There was no compromise.テつテつWall Of Soundテつis a very personal album.テつ The wider problem today is that so much music has nothing behind it.テつ Itテ「冱 cool, itテ「冱 hot, but thereテ「冱 no feeling or substance.テつ That really scares me, but after questioning my own place in music I realised I had to take a stand.テつ So thatテ「冱 what Iテ「冦 doing.テ「

Klaytonテ「冱 place has been thoughtfully established over the past two decades or so. He premiered on Baltimoreテ「冱 colourful club scene as a young teen, playing parties around the city with a fusion of hip-hop grind and house bounce. He progressed to playing hip-hop on local college radio, running with Baltimore club crew Unruly and then hooking up with Baltimore house dons DJ Pope, Oji and, in 1995, Basement Boys associate DJ Spen.

The Basement Boys pushed Spen and Karizma closer together. The pair remixed Mary J Bligeテ「冱 Beautiful in 1999 and never looked back, advancing to bouncinテ「 soul-house re-rubs of Louie Vega, Shaun Escoffery and Kim English. The partnership has continued near enough to the present day, whilst original productions have landed on the Basement Boysテ「 own eponymous label and Spenテ「冱 influential Code Red.

But then thereテ「冱 Klaytonテ「冱 considerable solo output as Karizma, as well as Kaytronik; output for influential house imprints including Black Vinyl, Defected, Frankie Felicianoテ「冱 Ricanstruction, Dennis Ferrerテ「冱 Objektivity and London-based R2 テ「 home to Wall Of Sound, as well as its predecessors A Mind Of Its Own (2007) and A Mind Of Its Own テ「 The Upgrade (2009). There have also been slick remixes of Marvin Gaye and Blaze, and relentless gigs all over the world.

Those gigs, in part, explain the long four year gap between Wall Of Sound and Karizmaテ「冱 last long player. テ「弋hereテ「冱 been a lot of touring and Iテ「冦 not someone who likes to juggle DJing with production.テつ I canテ「冲 sit in-between, I need to be able to focus my energies on one discipline or the other,テ「 he declares.テつ テ「弩orking this way has given me time to breathe with the music.テつ I donテ「冲 worry about trying to do everything, or feel pressured to rush out records or appearances every week just to keep my name out there.テつ Iテ「冦 quality over quantity.テ「

Despite recent career テ「waveringテ「 can Spen recognise his many past achievements? テ「廬 still find a lot of things surreal, like doing this interview, or speaking to a fan in a club who can talk passionately about something Iテ「况e done.テつ And when I think aboutテつWall Of Soundテつbeing my third album... all of it... Iテ「冦 like テ「wow, I actually did thatテ「!テ「 he explains. テ「廝ut Iテ「冦 never totally content. Iテ「冦 always thinking I can do better.テつ This is a journey for me and I donテ「冲 want to get caught up in any one place.テつ I donテ「冲 think Iテ「冦 the best DJ-producer, there is always work to be done テ「 as a musician, a DJ, a person....テ「

This cautious, considered approach wholeheartedly drives the new album. テ「廬tテ「冱 really good; as I say itテ「冱 helped me turn things around and put things in focus but Iテ「冦 still not 100% about itテ「 he confesses. テ「弋hat said, I donテ「冲 think any artist is truly 100% happy with their work. If they say they are, then theyテ「决e lying.テ「

Karizma is perhaps more self-analytical than most. On a non-stop, party-hearty scene now led by younger digital protagonists making shallow, often reactive music decisions based on publicity fads, short-term trends and other such two-dimensional minutiae, Karizmaテ「冱 thoughtfulness and constant self-analysis is refreshing. Plans and productions are created テ「徙ff the cuffテ「 but there is considerable thinking and calculation behind them テ「 Karizma-tic reason. テ「廬 wonテ「冲 produce just for sales or a trendテ「 he asserts.テつ テ「廬 need emotional content whether Iテ「冦 playing out or producing; everything needs a genuine reason behind it, even a re-edit.テつ I draw a lot of feeling from what Iテ「冦 experiencing at that time; Iテ「冤l be like テ「露テ「冦 feeling good today about such and such a thing, so this is how Iテ「冦 gonna roll....テ「凖「

Klaytonテ「冱 newfound momentum is perfectly timed. Todayテ「冱 loudly publicised revival of Nineties-style vocal house and garage sits perfectly with his far-reaching soulful dance agenda; it has already returned many of his テ「veteranテ「 contemporaries to the limelight.

テつテ「廬tテ「冱 real coolテ「 he agrees. テ「廬tテ「冱 given me the chance to come back and share my sounds. But whilst the current house thing is good for the old cats, we need to see the kids absorbing it and taking it forward to create the future. I have massive respect for people like Ben Westbeech and Disclosure. What Disclosure have done is dope, theyテ「况e worked a major label set-up well without damaging the quality of their music. I mean Iテ「囘 play their records.テ「

What is Klaytonテ「冱 take on EDM テ「 mainstream Americaテ「冱 recently discovered love of (big, brash, pop-lite) club music? テ「廩onestly? Itテ「冱 a joke. Itテ「冱 like warming up old soup. I think itテ「冱 bad that the so-called godfathers of the EDM scene arenテ「冲 really godfathers at all. There are always new people coming through, which means thereテ「冱 a lack of respect for artists and that carries through to the music. Thereテ「冱 no substance, no real godfathers; the turnover of artists and records is incredible. Where are those truly respected artists who can pass some genuine wisdom...some genuine ideas... to their audiences?テ「

Even on the underground, Klayton has picked up on a significant shift in audience attitude and vibe. テ「廛Jing has changed drasticallyテ「 he sighs.テつ テ「弋he audiences are so different today. It used to be about grabbing a girl, a drink and then embracing the music. Itテ「冱 more of a social event now. People go to a club because they know a certain star DJ is playing and think they should be there. Itテ「冱 no longer about the actual artist and the journey theyテ「决e trying to take you on. Itテ「冱 about making a social point, even to the point of sharing that by a phone or whatever else on the dancefloor.テ「

Klayton, who prefers to play on three CDJs (but really doesnテ「冲 mind what the set-up is so long as good music gets played), is prepared to fight for control of our modern dancefloor. There is a new steely determination to protect his position, and elevate its time-honoured values. テ「弋he current situation canテ「冲 be helped so Iテ「冦 committed to doing what I canテ「 he stresses. テ「弃eople donテ「冲 wanna take a ride now they wanna drive the bus. There are always gigs like that so youテ「决e thinking to yourself テ「露 might have to go to that particular place and get them to trust meテ「; you do that hopefully by making the right record choices, reading the crowd well and playing with feeling. You have to filter down to the right things.テ「

Far from degrading that process, Klayton believes technology can actually help accentuate it. テ「弋echnology is all goodテ「 he comments. テ「廬 have an issue with DJs using the sync button because that takes the fun out of playing. But otherwise, technology is good. Itテ「冱 potentially a platform for DJs to show off their skill and creativity in a way that hasnテ「冲 been done before...create that unique journey.テ「敕つ

Karizma, safe to say, is wholly back on his. And weテ「决e all along for the ride....

Karizmaテ「冱 new albumテつWall Of Soundテつis out now on R2 Records.

TO READ MORE FROM THIS INTERVIEW WITH KARIZMA CHECK OUT OUR PRINT ISSUE - CLICK BELOW OR VISIT YOUR LOCAL MAG OUTLET (inc: WH SMITH AND JOHN MENZIES)
Words BEN LOVETT

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