NYC label Kraftjerkz has been at it since 2002, not just releasing some of the most authentic Electro to hit the bins, but re-cultivating the New York scene slowly but surely, helping it to blossom to a state where it is heartwarming to say that the city that gave birth to Electro Funk, once again has a plethora of proper Electro nights, stores, and artists.
In this rare interview, we sit down with label founder Kid Ginseng, a highly dedicated purveyor of our sound who talks about how he got started, his studio techniques, and what's happening in and around New York these days. Let's begin!
Welcome to the Electric Kingdom! Thank you for all the hard work over the years with your label. Let's begin by talking about your humble beginnings and how you came to be in the scene. Where are you from, how did you first get into music; particularly Electro?
I was born in Nassau, Bahamas in 1982. The first music I heard as a child was the funk of ZAPP, Reggae of Gregory Isaacs, and “Trans-Europe Express”. I remember these sounds as a toddler learning to walk in Long Island City, Queens. I firmly remember Grandmaster Flash “The Message.” My dad bought every record on the Sugar Hill label and exposed me to early Rap which used a live drummer. He was a big fan of Sugar Hill’s live band.
I later grew up skateboarding in suburban Connecticut outside Manhattan, and got my turntables in 1997. I made my first 40-minute Electro Funk megamix cassette in ‘99 which was distributed by Fat Beats and Turntablelab, it was called “Germanik Robotz". Oakland’s Hip-Hop Slam label then released a turntablist track by my first DJ group in 2001 on a compilation compact disc called Scratch Attack. We called our group “Kraftjerkz.” Shout out to Billy Jam, Eddie Def, and Frank Casiano for their hard work releasing it!
You have an interesting background, a little different and perhaps more organic than most people we interview. When you were young, how was the Electro scene in New York? Did you get to witness first-hand some of the old school vibes when it all first started?
I didn’t turn 21 until 2003, so all I experienced was some of the Gigolo artists like Hong Kong Counterfeit, who I played with at CBGB, and then seeing Adult At North Six in Williamsburg in 2004.
Let’s talk about New York post-9/11, and the effects on the music scene with laws enacted such as the R.A.V.E. Act, and the enforcement of the very archaic “No Dance Law”. How did you personally witness the decline of the club culture in the city?
I was too young to go to the huge clubs that closed. I never experienced Limelight, Club USA, or Tunnel. I heard about it in High School. Everything was small illegal parties in lofts and Bushwick bars. When Legowelt came through in 2008 it was dope and it was at a loft:)
Enter Kraftjerkz the label, let’s talk about how it started. What led to its foundation?
Like I said before, Kraftjerkz was the name of my first DJ group in 2001. In 2007, Toolbox in Paris distributed the first few releases until 2010 when Downtown 161 in Manhattan got it sold at Clone in Rotterdam. It was proper Electro thanks to Entro Senestre, MANASYt and myself.
One of the things I am most intrigued about you and your label, is that it has quietly, very slowly but surely brought together a very healthy Electro scene in New York City once again; something that most people believed to be long forgotten and perhaps impossible to achieve once more. What’s the vibe like these days at a party like that? How do you personally see the city and the people receiving the music of your label and its artists?
I think it is a very healthy time for Electro in Brooklyn thanks to a devout, core group of DJ's, and freaks that consistently come out. In addition to Kraftjerkz, the Remedy parties have been going for several years and Capriccio brought Egyptian Lover I think in 2014. More people are open to the “Numbers beat”. People believe in timeless music, like your reference to Twilight 22! :)
Indeed! We can't forget our roots, that foundation holds something special! So in general, how do you see the Electro scene currently worldwide?
I see it as a golden time in general for Electro worldwide. I would just encourage people to not put too much compression in mastering. Deep drums have a long history, so why defeat the purpose?
"More people are open to the “Numbers" beat. People believe in timeless music..."
I agree. Let's hope the loudness wars and people's obsession with compression is subsiding. With that though, let’s talk about in-studio a bit. For your works as Kid Ginseng, a project with very obscure yet authentic Electro vibes, closely rooted in true Hip Hop, what’s a session like for you? Are you more software oriented, perhaps hardware?
I am hardware-only, laying it down to my 24-bit 16 track recorder. For a track, I like to work with the MIDI for 2 days. Then later, a short editing session on Pro-Tools. I still do 5 minute megamixes laying down vinyl onto my 16 track. It takes me about 11 hours to lay down a megamix. All manually overdubbing and punching-in using Technics 1200's. I like to include some scratching so it keeps with the B-boy culture I have studied from mixtapes, books, and videos since I was 13.
How about vinyl? Kraftjerkz is from my understanding exclusively an all-vinyl label, is it not? How do you see sales in general these days. Do you think that vinyl has truly made a comeback? What about the high-prices? Do you think people will continue supporting the $20 for an EP, nearly $40 for an LP range?
I must correct you about Kraftjerkz. Digital versions of the records are released after the vinyl comes out. My DJ heroes are still using vinyl and they are the gold standard for how we should be measured. We forge ahead with the records and try to keep the prices low for people.
Talk about Halcyon Records, the shop. This place sounds phenomenal, even if small and intimate. When did it come about, and are there more places like this popping up in the city since the Cabaret Law got repealed?
Halcyon The Shop IS phenomenal! They keep prices reasonable too. It started at a different address back in 1999. I first played there in 2002. Places that hold 1000 capacity seem to be doing ok right now. As far as record shops, Material World has been selling my Electro stuff since 2012.
What’s in store for the future for Kraftjerkz the label, and its subsequent event series?
Remora - Death Of Caligula EP will be in the shops soon enough. Then another one in the Machine Funk series. Just released the digital of Remora - Symbiotic EP. The next Kraftjerkz party is Jan. 16th 2019 in the Bad Room at Good Room, Brooklyn.
Vinyl is available at Halcyon The Shop. Digital available on Bandcamp.
Thank you! Keep up the great work, can't wait to hear more.