Krystal Klear

New Jack swing, boogie, r’n’b and 80s disco feed into the colourful music of Dublin producer and DJ Krystal Klear.

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 16 Aug 2013
  • min read
Dublin and Manchester are perhaps not best known as the sunshine capitals of the UK.

However, DJ and producer Krystal Klear, who was raised in the former and now calls the latter home, is doing his best to overturn these perceptions with his colourful take on 80s boogie.

His releases to dateincluding the excellent Addiction with vocalist Jenna G and slow jam Never Thought You Would Go with Hudson Mohawke collaborator Olivier Daysoul - have secured him a reputation as a passionate, dancefloor filler.

The last few months have been big. Krystal Klear (also known as Dec Lennon) has laid waste to the likes of Sonar festival and Manchester’s Parklife while continuing to draw on the best in soul, funk, old skool house and disco to come up with underground music bursting with mass appeal.

He’s also a resident at Manchester club night Hoya:Hoya (alongside revered locals Lone and Illum Sphere) and has been spreading his musical vibes via his own show on Rinse FM.

M quizzed him about his love for all types of dance music and how attending the Red Bull Music Academy opened his eyes and ears to new ways of songwriting…

How did you first get into electronic music?

I’d been playing in guitar bands, then started listening to a lot of hip hop when I was 13 or 14. Three Feet High and Rising by De La Soul and Entroducing by DJ Shadow initially caught my attention. My cousin also got me into fiddling about with Ableton and buying little samplers.

Did you always want to make music?

Music has been it for me since I was young although the context of what I wanted to do has evolved. But I’ve always wanted to be involved in something creative. I’ve never been great with the 9-5 idea although I have great respect for it. I always wanted to pursue something else.

How did the Red Bull Music Academy help you?

It opened my eyes to my potential. You meet guys at the academy whose core equipment may be three machines all in the box but the way they use them makes you think in different ways.

The core ethos of the academy is based on sharing and collaboration. It wasn’t about going in and trying to churn out 15 tracks with x, y and z and hoping you get a chance to work with one of the mentors. It was more focused on learning through other people, being able to collaborate and be in small, creative spaces with for long periods.

How about songwriting?

When you go into the studio everyday it can become semi-formulaic. The academy opens your perspective to different approaches – from sequencing a track to coming up with different drum sounds. It makes you go in new musical directions.

As a producer I listen to music all the time. Whether it be the new Justin Timberlake track to something from a Oneman mix on Rinse. And that all influences you in some ways. But I found it was when I watched others using fresh studio techniques that it had a lasting impact.

You were raised in Dublin and now live in Manchester – have your surroundings influenced your music?

Moving from Ireland to the UK opened up my perspectives on music. I would never have touched on d’n’b or dubstep when I was in Dublin. Dubstep filtered through via a lot of the hip hop I was listening to. When I started going clubbing in the UK, it was invigorating to see what else was going on.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by a lot of creative people in Manchester. I might be having a real funk in the studio for three or four weeks and all it will take is a coffee with peers of mine to regenerates my creative juices. That's been the biggest influence on my sound.

I’ll see Jon K from Hoya Hoya DJing and he’ll play something I’ve never heard before and it’ll push me towards something different. Me, Jon and Matt [Lone] will meet up for a brew and we’ll start with a fart gag and end with discussion about studio. There’s no smoke or mirrors when you hit a creative slump. Everyone is willing to help each other out.

Which do you prefer - DJing or producing?

Making music is definitely the most creatively satisfying. DJing is a different feeling. I find that when I’m making music my ideas are a lot more there. I DJ a lot and find it a challenge to break out of tried and tested formulas. You’ve got to remind yourself to keep it fresh.

Does your DJing impact your productions?

I rarely play my own music out - I need to change this because I find people complaining. Which is surprising! I don’t go into the studio to make dancefloor bangers. But the music I make I like to keep different all the time. I might be making a slow jam one day, then something more upbeat and housey.

Which songs are you most proud of so far?

Generally everything – not in an arrogant sense but I wouldn't have released it unless I was happy with the songs. I’m really pleased with Addiction, the tune I’ve done with Jenna G. I spent a lot of the last year releasing house records for my own stimulation but I never wanted to be pigeonholed. I wanted to do more pop disco kind of stuff which is where it came from. I don’t want to be known as someone only capable of doing one thing.

Was it a natural connection with you and Jenna on the record?

Jenna is a beast. She’s so easy to work with and we’ve got a great rapport. She’s been around for a minute, and knows how to approach a song incredibly naturally. We started Addiction at the end of a session. We just threw it out there and didn’t really love it. Two or three months later we were like ‘wow’. We locked it down in a day.

What’s next for you?

I’m doing a follow up to Addiction with a singer called Yasmine and a Donna Summer remix. The Donna Summer. Rest in Peace. I’m trying to focus on the new records reaching their full potential. Once they’re done, I can assess where I’m at and whether it’s album time.