“We ONLY play our own productions in our DJ sets/live performances. Until we’re really drunk, and then sometimes things get confusing.”
Proving that sarcasm (the duo) and soulful groovy beats (their music) can live in harmony, Ryan Murgatroyd and Konstantinos “Kosta” Karatomoglou have hit the big time with their catchy dancefloor friendly tunes. Having met at the Soul Candi Institute of Music, where Ryan was lecturing and Kosta a student, the two have gone on to form one of the most distinct and appealing sounds under an equally distinct and appealing name: Crazy White Boy.
Not content with a SAMA nomination for record of the year, or having the fastest chart-climber in 5FM history with their single Love You Better ft. Ruegroove, the group has spun their unique brand of “ghetto tech” all over Europe and worked with international labels like Toolroom Records and Ministry of Sound amongst others.
Nathan Kabingesi caught up with the boys just before they jetted of to Europe to chat about the meaning of ghetto tech, being big in Canada and the release of their first studio album, Zoma:
I smell a story behind the name…?
RM: There are some things that should remain a mystery….
You describe your sound as ghetto tech, what does that even mean?
KK: Ghetto is the term we use to describe its roots and tech is just the closest genre we could link it to. It just sounds the way it does and the name suits it.
What were some of your (individual) early musical influences?
KK: Well for me it starts as early as Phil Collins and from there it evolved from Daft Punk to early German techno. Music that influenced CWB directly would be Booka Shade, Patrick Chardronnet, Stimming, Robert Babicz….
RM: Kosta wanted to say Michael Jackson but he is dead and he gets OCD about that stuff. Don’t believe that Phil Collins cover up for a second.
There’s no small amount of 90’s Kwaito elements in your productions; if you could work with any of the OG artists from that period, who would it be?
RM: Okay, you caught us, we’ve been using a Tkzee drumloop in every release since White Men Can’t Dance, sometimes we turn it up, sometimes down, but it’s always there, always, [laughs].
What production tools do you prefer using?
RM: Most of the CWB stuff starts off in Reason, where we write chord structure and play with the groove a bit and when it starts to gel together it all goes out in midi to Cubase. From there things get a little more technical. We use Omnisphere a lot, in my opinion it is the most unique sounding synth in the world and really organic which is refreshing. And then its all about the right mix – we gain structure a lot, take everything down to a nice low level before we run any compression or EQ on it. We use a lot of Sonnox and even some of the older Waves plugins for basic vocal processing and Eqing. We went through a phase where we used to sum everything in analogue – bounce stems out and take them into the SPL mixdream, sum them, and record them back in through a good DA converter. It made a huge difference – that’s what we did with Love You Better, and that track translated perfectly on every single system we ever played it on. So ja, summing is really important too.
Best (or worst) times/places for brainstorming?
RR: That is the toughest part; inspiration can come at any time and sadly most of the time it can be difficult to just start writing so we have loaded up both our Macbooks with everything running in our studio.
What fuels you during marathon studio sessions?
RM: Shhh, I hear narcs…
Do you play a lot of your own productions in your DJ sets?
RM: We ONLY play our own productions in our DJ sets/live performances. Until we’re really drunk, and then sometimes things get confusing.
With gigs all over the country and the amount of time you spend in the studio, do you still have time for your projects outside of CWB (Electric Sushi etc.)?
RM: Yeah, we have gotten pretty good at time management. I still work very closely with the Soul Candi Institute of Music, as their Educational Director, and Kosta and I both produce music under other aliases.
You went on a European tour last year and you’re about to head out again.
What’s your verdict on these tours?
RM: Its tough playing overseas until you are REALLY well known. Our first tour had some amazing moments, and some very challenging ones too. But we played 20 gigs, and we returned a lot wiser, and that experience translated into a clearer idea of what we wanted and didn’t want to do with the album, and in general, in terms of the future of CWB. The biggest lesson from overseas is that, despite the proliferation of soulless, intentionally generic house-pop rubbish into commercial club-land, there are still small pockets of highly educated house music lovers who want to hear new, fresh, and authentic sounds. And we’re gonna keep working until we’re playing the right venues, the right sound systems, and the right crowds, all the time.
KK: Europe has actually kind of become our second home and we are currently on our 40th odd gig here this weekend.
Did you pick up on any shifts in music trends/tastes while over there?
RM: Yeah we LOVE David Guetta now.
You’ve had chart success in Portugal and Canada of all places; any countries you’ve been surprised to find your music being well received?
KK: London is somewhere where we didn’t really expect to work in but have already started gigging here and it has been really well received. People know all the words to some of our tracks and that is truly a blessing.
You’ve had your music released on some pretty influential international labels, has this helped raise your profile overseas?
RM: It has definitely helped us; the bottom line is in this day and age DJing just isn’t enough. Production is the way into Europe and the rest of the world with good support from labels.
Apart from promoting your new album, what’s next for Crazy White Boy?
CWB: We will be shooting the Zoma video soon and after that we will be doing album tours and a lot of other little surprises on the way!
Having just released your first album, Zoma. Is crossover appeal something you work towards or is it a passive result of your artistic inclinations?
RM: I think CWB is a cool opportunity for us to explore our deeper, groovier, artistic leanings. Also, because it’s not what we as individual producers work on every day, we put vocals down on CWB tracks that we would never use in our individual productions. Sometimes, it helps to not be so judgemental about what is cheesy and what is ‘underground’, you kinda have to in order to make songs, as opposed to tracks.
KK: I think the crossover appeal is ‘cos we really draw influence from a lot of different styles, and we put them together, with good vocal hooks, and that’s it.
Your sound is easily recognisable without being generic, contrasting Love You Better and The Forgotten People for example; do you approach/tailor each track with an end product in mind or is it a more spontaneous sort of process?
KK: It is purely spontaneous, especially in the beginning it all started out as Ryan said with a chord progression or as a drum groove. Love You Better was a session that Ryan had made in class as a project for example….. which later became a full track. The Forgotten People was actually engineered by Behr Ellips a very talented producer from Cape Town- you should look him up; we just gave the track a rework more than a collab. The last year or so we have been experimenting a lot more with groove patterns basically making the drum tracks a lot more intricate.