Camo & Krooked discuss their Essential Mix debut, Mosaik Recordings and the future of Drum & Bass [Interview]
Visionary— a word that wouldn’t be out of place when describing the dynamic duo of Reinhard Rietsch and Markus Wagner, popularly known as Drum & Bass group Camo & Krooked. Much the virtuoso production group, they fearlessly operate on the experimental vanguard of a genre which is converging into a dull blend of overused bass-lines and drum samples at an ever increasing rate.
This insatiable urge to constantly innovate and to renew the frontiers of classical Drum & Bass was clearly evident in their latest album, Mosaik. “We always strive to reinvent ourselves and Mosaik is definitely an exciting experiment, but we are glad we have been brave enough to go through with it without making too many compromises.” The duo also acknowledged the risks associated with releasing such music to a previously untested audience “as you never know how something so different will go down within your fan-base.”
“It was even more satisfying getting all the good feedback and to see that your following is ready to come along on your musical journey.”
It’s this enterprising attitude and style that shines through and captivates anyone getting into their music. Such energy and drive to better themselves as artists has been palpable since their 2013 LP Zeitgeist, where the duo introduced their “new sound with tunes like All Night and Ruhepuls,” while still featuring a lot of classic-inspired D&B pieces. After four years of fine tuning, their fully developed sonic signature has been brought to the fore in spectacular fashion on Mosaik. In particular, “We concentrated on our new trademark sound to be able to stand out from other D&B productions and have a handwriting that will be recognized as Camo & Krooked,” stated the outfit of their methodology for the album.
In fact, over “a year of studio binging” went into ensuring the album was “more grown up” — for they wanted to fashion a body of work that “carries lots of different emotions, rather than being just straight in your face as lots of D&B nowadays.” Camo & Krooked made sure to go the extra mile, buying analogue gear to add authenticity. “We fell in love with the vintage vibe, departing from the plastic culture of recent EDM to follow a more organic sound,” they advised of their vision for Mosaik. The last part of this statement rings especially true in recent times, where ti seems minimal effort goes into making chart topping tracks which are produced in order to be greedily lapped up by casual listeners.
Camo & Krooked are trying to depict the polar opposite of the message through their music. Their tireless work ethic and musical refinement is all but lost on listeners who mindlessly promote the same ‘plastic culture’ that they have tried to dispel through their music. Luckily, their endeavors haven’t gone unnoticed within the industry, as they were invited to deliver their maiden Essential Mix a few months ago.
“Doing an Essential Mix was on our bucket list for a very long time already, so it felt great to be able to tick this one off.”
A lot of work went into its preparation: “We have been listening to essential mixes of other big DJs for over 10 years and it felt like it has always been a proper statement by that individual artist, not just a regular DJ mix.” The majority of this the work was done after finishing their album. “We went straight into preparing the mix and had about 1 month until the deadline. We made that time worthwhile and worked every day and night to find some new mixes or dig for hidden gems. We finished it on the evening before the deadline and are happy with the result,” they noted of their last-minute completion.
The finished mix was just about as bold a statement as any of their contemporary work, as Camo & Krooked featured over 100 songs in two hours — a daunting task for even the most seasoned DJ. However, the number of tracks featured is immaterial, as duo believes that “it’s not about how much tunes you get into a mix, but about how well everything is harmonizing with each other.”
“It’s a fine line between keeping it exciting and over-mixing, but I think we found it quite well in this mix, especially since it includes some slower sections as well.”
Their Essential Mix also featured a considerable amount of unreleased music from their album Mosiak, which the the two fondly looked back upon as “an exciting experiment to reinvent ourselves.”
“We had quite a big spectrum of musical influences for Mosaik, for example Tame Impala, Moderat, Stephan Bodzin, Woodkid and many more.”
Mosiak also marked the release of their own label which shares the same name, simply because they “felt this album isn’t classical D&B anymore, [so] we felt the urge to create a brand for it without any preconception or already given boundaries.” The label was established within the existing framework of RAM Record and BMG, which allowed them to “find the perfect balance between creative freedom and a great network that we can make use of.”
Despite having achieved so much over the past decade and in 2017, Camo & Krooked refuse to slow down, hoping to capitalize on their momentum in recent months. ”At the moment we are working on our new live show that will have its first run in Europe in October. We will bring analogue synths, special midi controllers, live VIP versions and a specially produced visual show, we can’t wait to premiere it in Vienna on the 6th of October.” To add to this this, he duo have also lined up a remix version of Mosaik “for later this year and its shaping up to be very good.”
They had some choice words regarding their beloved genre as well, and feel optimistic about the future of Drum & Bass overall. “We think D&B has a great and solid fan base and is getting very popular — especially in Europe, [where] it’s part of almost every festival. We would like to see it steadily rise and become bigger over time, as this creates a loyal following that isn’t just gone when the next trend kicks in.”
“But it’s true that in comparison to the recent explosion of EDM, especially in America it’s still a very small cultural phenomenon. ”
It is clear that Camo & Krooked are rather analytical in everything they do. Every decision is carefully weighed, and every opinion is the product of a deep train of thought. It’s no surprise that they are at the forefront of Drum & Bass, and are already influencing the new generation of producers with their fluid, genre-transcending style. It won’t be surprising to find this intrepid duo at the helm of the inevitable revolution that will define the genre’s future — until then, just enjoy the maestros in action.