The Netherlands is a hub for talent, especially if you were focusing on electronic music. Most people will immediately think of Hardwell, Afrojack, and Martin Garrix, but there are three men who have been trailblazing dance music in a big way for over 10 years now. They are Kraak & Smaak.
Kraak & Smaak is comprised of Oscar de Jong, Mark Kneppers and Wim Plug. Together they produce riveting dance music that is anything but average. In fact, even if you don’t call yourself a lover of electronic music, leave it to these guys to take your heart. They are more than dance music producers. They are artistic visionaries. Don’t believe us? Run through the five albums they have done together, including their latest, Juicy Fruit, and tell us otherwise.
Furthermore, they’ve got a live show that will blow any DJ set out of the water (even their own), and they run the exemplary imprint Boogie Angst. A lot of artists talk about paving new trails and creating new experiences, but Kraak & Smaak walk the walk. They’ve done it for years. Now, they’ve entered the dojo to talk a bit about their past together, as well as their latest album and what is in store.
TMN: Can you tell us a little about “Juicy Fruit,” your latest album?
Well, it’s our 5th and feels like a bit of a return from 2005’s Boogie Angst. It’s open, organic, warm and above all funky in the traditional sense of the word, so in that sense different from Chrome Waves, which was far more electronic and clubby. There is a big difference though between then and now: on our first album it was mostly sample based, including the vocals and songs that were on there. Since then we have mastered the art of using more and more live instrumentation and getting vocalists to work with us. I think we can be proud of ourselves again to have found such great songwriters and vocalists such as Eric Biddines, Cleopold, Meeka Kates, Mayer Hawthorne, ALXNDR London and Parcels, but also our own live band singers Ivar Vermeulen and Berenice van Leer.
TMN: How did you go about choosing remixers for next the single ‘Alone With You’?
We always start out with a longlist of ideas based on current favorites and a bunch of names that have been circulating for a longer time. From thereon we look if certain remixers could be a good match and pick out the best ones. Then we ask them and just hope a) they don’t hate our music b) they are available and c) they don’t cost too much 🙂
TMN: What inspired the artwork behind the LP?
With the album title Juicy Fruit became definitive, our first ideas were inspired by the paintings of Henry Rousseau and more in general Brazilian album artwork. I mean, with that title and the music it was only logical to have something colorful, fresh, organic, etc as the cover. Again we asked Jimmy Turrell, who also did the Electric Hustle album artwork, to come up with a few ideas. And among those, the final one immediately stood out: this big explosion of colorful objects, bulls eye!
TMN: Talk us through the live aspect of Kraak & Smaak and how it has evolved over the years?
Of course we started out Djing – which we already did for a longer time, but now under the K&S banner. But when the first album was up for release our then agent convinced us to start a separate live act because it made the music – which was essentially dancefloor based – more interesting to a bigger public. So we assembled a live band for the album presentation and it was an immediate hit: at the time there were only a few bands that performed that type of music in a similar manner, and certainly not in the Netherlands. So from thereon it really got bigger and bigger and alongside our dj sets we were able to develop the band further in terms of adding further live instrumentation, sound, lighting, etc. Our current band is more or less the third live incarnation of K&S but for us also the best ever. Above all it’s cool and logical for us to be able to both live shows and dj sets. It’s a best of both worlds but at the same time they are both quality.
TMN: You’ve been together for over a decade, how have you made it work between the three of you, and how have you maintained staying relevant?
I guess – especially with three people – it’s all about giving each other space and trust each other in ideas, expertise, etc. Ego for example has never been such an issue that it threatened the K&S project. I guess we were – and still are – very aware of what we have and are still accomplishing. Not many dance acts can say the same. And I think the relevancy is still there in the sense that we are still coming up with new and original material, against the grain of time perhaps.
You’ve survived several albums together, which is each of your favorite?
Oh dear… They’re all really good to us, just different! But If we all really look in the mirror I am sure we will all say the first one, Boogie Angst. Above all because it was our first, and with first albums it feels like it’s sort of the apex of everything you have done and thought of before. It’s the album you just had to make. After that it’s a whole different ball game – you just feel happy if you can develop your sound further and keep people interested – which I think we did.
TMN: You now also have your own label, Boogie Angst. What drove the decision to set this up and what has been the biggest challenge in creating a label?
We just came across some very good unreleased music and artists once in a while, and we thought: why not try and releasing it ourselves? It perfectly made sense when you came to think of it. And it’s definitely nice to put your own experiences and know how into new and young artists, real cool. Plus there is definitely still a need for labels to get new artists and music through. For most releases putting it just on Soundcloud and sit back is not enough. An important challenge for the time being though, is that it takes a lot of investing before you get a return. In that sense, as we are a relatively new label, we still have a long way to go.
TMN: What can fans expect for the rest of the year, and beginning of 2017?
Of course we will be rolling out the new album and its singles further this year and into 2017. Lots of DJing and playing live across the globe. Some upcoming remixes and DJ mixes going online. Also keep an eye out for new releases on our own Boogie Angst label and a remix album further down the 2017 road!