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David Harrison

Q&A

UKF15 – Camo & Krooked

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UKF15 – Camo & Krooked

Camo & Krooked have pushed the boundaries of D&B ever since the inception of UKF. Over the past 15 years, the Austrian duo have contributed to UKF throughout and have given us some of our most memorable moments. From early releases during our tentative steps into the world of Youtube, to their legendary UKF On Air sets and more recent UKF releases, such as “Sientelo”, which is among our most listened to.  

Their self-proclaimed Schnitzel Power has helped shape D&B over the past decade and a half – by pioneering new sounds, dreaming up new collaborative projects and becoming renowned for their unconventional set locations and heavyweight live sets. 

Reinhard “Camo” Rietch and Markus “Krooked” Wagner are constantly surprising us and the whole community with the tunes they produce and as UKF turns 15, the pair have a treat in store – a new tune called “Falling”, which the pair have released on UKF to kickstart our birthday celebrations.  

David Harrison sat down with Camo & Krooked to find out more about the new tune and reflect on 15 years of UKF…

How was 2023 for you both? What were your stand-out moments? 

Krooked – At the beginning of 2023, we thought it might be a bit more of a quiet year for us, but in the end, it was really busy. We had a super hectic schedule, lots of great shows throughout the whole year and some C&K releases, single releases with Martin Mefjus and remixes etc. Pretty busy in the end.

Camo – I think the highlights for me were celebrating the anniversary of Zeitgeist, our third studio album, where we had a few guys remix a few of the tunes and they turned out really well. We released “It’s Over” on our own label MODUS, we also worked with Let It Roll on their EP for their opening ceremony and worked with some of our producer friends to release “Nebula” for them. We also went to Hospitality on the Beach and the DnB Allstars festival, it was a good year and full on. We think this year will be the same. 

We now have more time to produce too and we are super motivated, with a big bag of tunes ready to go.

With the Zeitgeist anniversary album, how did you go about selecting the artists who would be entrusted with that project? 

Krooked – We always have a lot of artists on our radar and we’re always looking to sign new talent to our MODUS label, so there are a few kids who we really wanted to do a remix, because we knew they would smash it. The most interesting phase is when they already have found their sound, but they still need the exposure, so those are the kind of artists we picked – it’s a good opportunity for them. Meanwhile, we also picked Emperor who has been around a long time, but he’s a good friend of ours. It’s a mixture of long friendships and fresh talent for us. 

Camo – For us, Zeitgeist still feels fresh and not that long ago, but actually a lot of people at the raves these days are around 25, so when Zeitgeist came out, they were only 15. Releasing the remix album is a chance for some people to hear Zeitgeist for the first time. We picked new, fresh and exciting talent for the remixes – we had more approaches too, but some didn’t make the cut. We’re super happy with what we got in the end. 

Some of the tracks you brought out last year, such as “Nebula” and “It’s Over” had a cinematic style, epic feel to them, a real journey. Is this something in your mind now, to create a journey with your music?  

Krooked – With “Nebula” it was a bit of a different approach because we wanted the tune to work in the context of the Let It Roll Festival and the opening ceremony there. It needed to have its climax points, it needed to have points where you bring down the energy and bring it in again.

In the studio now, we do what we feel like. It’s a playground with our limits and we are taking ourselves out of our comfort zone with writing new stuff, because we want to try out new things. However, we still aim to be as close as possible to what we are known for sonically. 

That whole orchestral, big cinematic style got incorporated into our sound while we make music these days, due to the whole Red Bull Symphonic project. We learned a lot of things and techniques – how to arrange and write orchestral music and so on. It adds a completely different colour pallet to an electronic song that, a lot of time, is missing for us in electronic music.

Can we expect any more collaboration projects like the Red Bull Symphonic? 

Camo – We are working on something for 2025, but it’s not to be revealed yet or actually even 100% yet, but there is something in the works for the future. 

The Zeitgeist Remixes was one project this year, but the shoe was on the other foot too in 2023, with you two and Martin Mefjus remixing “Breathe” by The Prodigy. What was it like putting that together?

Camo – It started off as a bootleg that we played for fun at the raves, but it had super good reactions. We sent it to Jim from Ram Records who is at PMG, as is Prodigy, then their producer Liam came back to us saying it was great. We got the original vocals, which took them a long time, because they couldn’t find them. They eventually found them and it was a huge honour for us to get an official release with them. 

Krooked – The funny thing was, by the time they had sent us a lot of the material, we had already ripped everything out the original track and we remade some other elements from scratch for our sets. But the vocals were really tricky and hard to isolate using AI. When they sent the vocal files they came in loads of tiny bits, phrase by phrase, one file at a time. Back all those years ago when it was originally released it was recorded on tape, on a sampler, with a tiny internal memory – so you couldn’t record like you do these days. That’s how the files arrived, word by word.

Shout out to Martin Mefjus because the whole idea started with him and us brainstorming – we wanted to remix an OG electronica tune, which we could turn into a D&B banger. There was also Faithless – “Insomnia”, which we put together at the same time, but unfortunately that’s never going to be released. We already reached out to Faithless and they said “naaa sorry”. But dubplates are cool too, we use “Insomnia” in the sets and it’s cool that people can only hear it live. 

Talking of touring, you did a big stint in the US and Canada in 2023 – it seems like the scene is really beginning to flourish there? What was it like for you guys? 

Camo – We hadn’t been there since before COVID and it was really good this time around. We didn’t know what to expect, we thought there could be a few bummer gigs, but actually, it turned out really well. I think the scene really seems to be picking up over there. Before COVID it could be hit or miss, but this time all of the gigs were really delivering. Promoters were happy, crowds were happy – something is definitely happening over there, which is really great to see. Plus, it was just great to spend a month there and learn more about the country, get to know all the nice people and their D&B culture. 

Where do you think the next growth area could be? You were in South Africa last year and an increasing number of D&B events are taking place there at the moment. Where else could take off do you think?

Krooked – You have a good point there on South Africa because it’s always had a bit of a D&B scene, especially Johannesburg and Cape Town. That’s because there have been local promoters pushing the sound and never giving up, that’s what makes a scene sustainable over a long time. I could definitely see South Africa blossoming – our gig there was great last year.

I could see D&B picking up in Asia and South America too. It’s always been there in the background, but there are now new big electronica festivals happening there. At a lot of EDM festivals these days they tend to book some D&B headliners, which exposes lots of people to D&B on a bigger scale, rather than just inside smaller clubs. So, we think that will open a lot of people’s eyes to D&B in those regions.

Do you have plans to head out to either of those regions this year? 

Camo – I don’t think so at this stage, but you never know. New Zealand and Australia are on the table, we also have interest from the US. We sometimes think twice before the longer distance events, particularly if it’s a festival in the middle of nowhere, in the countryside. They can be really hard to get to and it can be a 20-hour journey there and back. Nothing really exotic has come in just yet, but I’m sure it will pick up over time in those sorts of destinations and we are seeing more events happening in the likes of Asia. 

Plus, there are Brits all around the world, so there will be demand for the raves. You go to a gig in Bali and half of them are Brits. 

Now let’s talk about this year – you have released a new tune called “Falling” for our 15th birthday celebrations. What did you aim to go for with this one? 

Krooked – We think it’s a perfect middle ground between the old Camo & Krooked and the new C&K. We aimed to make something that fits 15 years of UKF and incorporate some of what we were known for 15 years ago and what we known for these days. It’s something we started last year and we’ve worked throughout the year on it – really happy to finally release it.

There has been a lot of change to your sound throughout those fifteen years – how did you go about bringing that together into one tune?

Camo – It’s a good picture of our overall sound of C&K and it gets released exactly five years after our 10 year release for UKF – “Atlas”. That was the kind of hook for us – it’s a return to that kind of sound. It already works really well on the dance-floors, it has energy and emotion and that’s what we’re always after.  

Krooked – There is also a little jungle influence in there, a Bicep feel to it, a Fred Again feel to it – just stuff we like to listen to in our spare time.

You’ve touched upon it there, but where do you take your influences from when putting together music?

Krooked – We listen to a lot of Motown, soul and funk kind of stuff. We also listen to a lot of Afro House, Bicep, Fred Again etc, stuff you can listen to outside of the club. We always try to bring in sounds that we listen to outside the club spectrum and put it into the club spectrum, to see how we can make it work. It’s a hard middle ground to hit, but it’s doable. 

You have been with the UKF journey for a long time. What are your first memories of UKF?

Krooked – When Luke started out the channel, we became friends shortly after. I think our first upload was “Tonight” in around 2010, from our first album, 14 years ago. We got to know Luke well, he was driving us around back then in a tiny Fiat. In fact, he took us to Glastonbury one time, he was our driver and we got stuck in the mud – we had to get pulled out by other people. We have a lot of good memories over all the years, with the whole UKF gang. It’s so good to see us both grow, not just professionally, but personally in life. 

Camo – One key memory was 2011, when UKF absolutely blew up with both UKF Drum and Bass and Dubstep, with some of the tunes getting 100,000 views overnight and loads of comments. It was a big rush when one of your tunes got uploaded and there was so much feedback coming in, which hadn’t happened on this scale before. It was very emotional to see our song on UKF and show so such a big audience our music, where people were responding to it and commenting. It was really emotional putting out new music and new sounds, we would be refreshing and refreshing over and over to see people’s opinions. It’s still really important to us, but we’re thicker-skinned now.

Krooked – I remember in 2011 we uploaded “All Fall Down (Clubmix)” on UKF Dubstep & “Breezeblock” on UKF Drum and Bass on the same day. Obviously, when you work hard on a tune it’s an emotional moment to release it and we decided to release two at once. We thought, “Oh God, I hope this works”, but the reaction was great and it was a huge relief. 

Another moment I remember was the upload of “Ember” on to UKF Drum and Bass. We were on such a long hiatus before, to work on the Mosaic album and it was a completely new sound, so when people loved it, it was such a good feeling and huge rush of emotion. 

What do you think UKF has meant to artists over the years?

Camo – For a long time it has been the definition of drum and bass. Obviously as the scene has grown, others have come into the market, but UKF still remains the definition of drum & bass for me. I feel like UKF isn’t jumping on every bandwagon or trend, UKF keeps the quality, keeps it diverse and doesn’t just jump onto whatever is hot right now. 

Krooked – As an artist it doesn’t matter where you are in the musical “food chain” (which I hope doesn’t exisit), you still have an equal opportunity to be seen through the UKF uploads. If you had a UKF upload, you had made it in the drum & bass scene, people were talking about you. It was one of the first great channels with big exposure – it didn’t matter if you were a legend like High Contrast or a total newcomer, if it was uploaded on UKF, bookings came in. It was a launch pad for so many artists and still is today. It helped bring the community together, who then grew together. 

The relationship between UKF and C&K has blossomed, and has grown further with the UKF On Air sets in mad locations – from hot air balloons and trains, to glaciers and boats. What has the process been like putting those together?

Krooked – First of all, they have been really fun to do and a lot of work goes into these projects. Sometimes the UKF On Air uploads felt even more rewarding than releasing a tune because there is so much more content for people, because it’s not just for the ears, it’s visual too. It was a new experience for us, with the first one in the Alps in 2019 and after that, there was such a good response.

After that first one, and during COVID, we were contacted by loads of random people who were like “We have a really cool venue, you guys should play there”. So then we sat down with them, did location scouting and you think “This might work”. Everything worked out really well. The balloon one was the most interesting one for us because no one had ever done it before. We didn’t know if the CDJs would sit on the balloon’s basket ok, they were mounted on pretty sketchy and the whole balloon fell down on landing. We had to hold tight to the equipment as we fell on landing. 

We’re definitely going to do more in the future.

Are you regularly scouting around for locations now and being tapped up to play in unique spots still?

Camo – We do it on the side, but we don’t want to overdo it. If there is a really special location and it is cool, we realise it might be a one-off chance where few people will ever get the opportunity to play again, so, of course, we’ll play in those sorts of places. 

Krooked – What’s interesting in those sets is that we always premiere new tracks in them. When we look at the Alps one it was the first time we ever played “Loa” and “Kallisto”. On the train one it was the first time we played our next release with Martin Mejfus in March. There is always one key track – on the Boat Party it was the first time we played “No Way Out” – it’s always interesting to place future new releases in there and gauge the reaction.

When is the next one happening?

Camo – For UKF there is something planned, but we don’t know exactly when. However, we definitely have ideas. 

Krooked – We’ve been approached by someone in Vienna about a really cool location, which will be a one-off experience, but yeah, nothing confirmed release date-wise yet.

Camo – It always takes time to prepare a new set too, so we don’t want to overdo it. 

What else can we expect new release wise in 2024 from C&K?

Krooked – Actually quite a bit. We’ve just sat down with Martin Mefjus and our label manager at MODUS, to schedule the releases for the label. We have filled the schedule with the releases now.

We’ve obviously got “Falling” with UKF now, and a P Money & Whiney Remix of “No Tomorrow”, then a collaboration with the Caracal Project for his EP, which is coming out on UKF really soon.

Camo – We also have our new single with Mefjus in March, which will make it 4 tunes in 2 months. We need to get some nice photos so we have social media content to go with the singles, don’t we Markus? 

Krooked – That means we actually have to leave the studio, oh God! After those tracks we’ve mentioned we’ve already scheduled some more of our own releases, there is going to be some solo bits, lots more collabs with Mefjus, which we’ve been sitting on for a while. We’re ready to let them go into the wild. 

We will also be continuing to write new music and we are writing new music right now – a collab with Black Sun Empire, which is actually why we were late for the interview today. That sounds great already. Plus, loads of other stuff, it’s definitely packed this year.

Your relationship with Martin (Mefjus) has been blossoming for some time now, you seem to really work well together and you can feel each of your influences on tracks distinctly…

Krooked – Martin has been a good friend of ours for around 14 years now and back at the start we had very different ideas of music, but both admired each other. For us, it was hard to imagine the middle ground between us. However, when we released Mosaic Martin was in a different musical mindset too. That’s when things became really interesting and we thought this could be a really cool playground for us to collaborate and do things that might be out of each other’s comfort zones. 

After one type of tune is done, we then decide to work on a completely different-sounding song the next time, that’s what keeps bringing us back together. And the sound of some of the music we’re working on together now, is completely different from what we’ve released before together. We’re also great friends, we go skating together, drink beers together, have fun. Of course, we now run a label together too.

What do you have in store for the MODUS label in 2024? Are you enjoying the project?

Camo – It’s going really great. We’ve already released the Circumference EP, and a Secula EP. In March we will be releasing a Xenoz EP. Then we do our own single with Mefjus on MODUS, one for Misanthrop, then we’ll try and keep it open. 

We have a various artists EP called Modules, which we’re going to release – a various artists EP with tracks from Rueben & Javeon, Akov, Dossa and Locuzzed. There is also a guy from Slovakia called Away, who has been blowing away with his music and we played a lot of his music in our last UKF On Air train set. So we’re super excited about what’s to come and maybe we’ll bring some more artists to the table. We’re talking to lot of different artists, established artists as well, who have shown interest in releasing with us, which would be really cool.

Krooked – The plan is also to do MODUS label nights throughout the whole world, curated lineups, with a visual guy with us, so it all fits. 

Camo – We are doing a MODUS stage at Hospitality On The Beach, we will also be doing a MODUS stage in Bristol.

Krooked – We are constantly talking about touring with MODUS in New Zealand and Australia, which will hopefully happen at some point. There is going to be a night in Austria, possibly two by the end of the year—probably one in Budapest too. We’re always talking to promoters about doing label nights, it’s super exciting right now.

And what do you have in store show wise in 2024 for Camo & Krooked, away from the label events?

Camo – We’re going to play at the Tomorrowland stage, put on by Rampage x UKF, Let It Roll of course, Let It Roll London, DnB Allstars in both London & Portugal, Frequency Festival in Austria on the mainstage, which is the first time. 

Krooked – Both Rampage and Rampage Open Air, which we’re really excited about, so many more festivals and club shows. We’ll be doing a Let It Roll club night in Estonia soon, with a great lineup. 

Camo – It’s shaping up really nicely.

Is there anywhere you haven’t played yet, which you would love to tick off, either a venue, country or region? 

Krooked – For me, I would like to play in Brazil at some point. It looks great, but we’ve never been. We know there is a great scene, with obviously Marky, Alibi, Bungle there is definitely a lively scene down there. Every time we see videos it looks so good. I think South America & Central America is one of the most interesting places right now. But also, there are so many places in Asia we would like to play in, in China or somewhere like that. Or India, we know there is a good scene there now. 

We’ll see where the future takes us. If you just look at the techno artists’ schedules, they are playing all over the place. D&B on the other hand has always traditionally been the same 15 places, but we think potentially it will start expanding.

Who should we be keeping an eye on this year? Who are you really excited about listening to?

Camo – I think one of the most talented artists in the scene over the past few years is the Caracal Project, he’s always thinking out of the box, setting new trends and really creative – he is my pick. From the MODUS realm, it’s Ragemode – an Austrian producer who does a lot of ghost-producing for other artists in the EDM realm too. He has a lot of good tunes on the side, ready to be released. 

Krooked – There are a lot of good artists around. From MODUS, Secula, another Austrian guy, who has 30 tunes, which are all crazy, the production is insane, the ideas are insane. There is a girl called MIYAMORO, she is releasing on and off on different labels, she is one of my artists to watch for 2024. So many kids are doing some very cool and interesting jump up, they sprout like mushrooms on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep a track of them. 

Thank you guys, long live the relationship between UKF and Camo & Krooked, we hope it continues.

Krooked – Hopefully on to another 15 years and more.

Camo – Yes absolutely, of course, maybe UKF On The Moon next. Thank you. 

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