He kicked off the year with a Dispatch EP. He’s ending it with a Critical EP. In between there’s been appearances on Blackout and Titan. It’s safe to say that 2017 has been a bit of a banger for young Sheffield-based producer Cruk.
Quite right, too: splashing his 170 canvas with colours from a distinctively spacious and trippy palette, his sharp sense of disarming darkness is designed in such a way he’s just as happy to lash down a purring roller and he is a halftime hurter… And we’re just as happy to kick off to them in the dance. His Critical Binary EP is perhaps his broadest collection to date in this sense as it ranges from the savage shakes of Cold Top to the furious sludge of Lit and covers many things in between.
Dig a little deeper into Cruk’s background and also you’ll find a whole other side to his sonic skills and musical mindset; he’s spent a lot of time in indie bands and has a top secret day job writing music. With a discography that actually goes back to the early 2010s, we felt it was time to find exactly who the hell is and what the hell we can expect in the future…
You’ve been on this for a good few years now…
Yeah my first was six years ago on Ammunition.
Ah, the same label Joe Ford and Emperor cut their teeth on.
Yeah maybe Billain too. A proper launchpad label which is cool.
This year has been the one though; Dispatch, Blackout, Titan then Critical to round the year up!
Yeah I’ve been really happy with how things have gone this year. Each release has been a real ambition and moment and there’s been more coming out than I’ve had in previous years. I think I spend too much time making stuff and not enough time releasing it. For me, four releases is a lot. But you see guys like Break peppering the scene with so much good stuff and that’s great. That’s how prolific I’d love to be.
Break is in the league of his own, though. In reality, most people should probably release less…
Yeah I never put anything out unless I’m 100 percent happy with it in within my skills and knowledge at that time. There’s been no regrettable releases in that sense and actually both the Critical and Dispatch EPs releases have been really special because they’ve had such a strong influence on me. Dispatch was significant because they’re Leeds-based and local to me. That sound has been really important for me.
Yeah I can hear old Octane & DLR influences in your sound…
Yeah Octane & DLR were definitely a big influence. The same for early Chase & Status, Noisia, old Teebee stuff, Subtitles stuff. But then I was only a listener; the whole move into production came a bit later. I’d been playing in bands, guitar and a little bit of piano but I found a lot of the guys weren’t quite as into it as I was or just not as committed so I thought there’s got to be way I can make this myself. My uncle gave a copy of cakewalk sonar works, really old rubbish software and I started trying to copy tunes I loved. I remember trying to copy Noisia’s remix of Fade To Grey. It was absolutely shit! But that’s how I started.
What type of bands were you in? Did you have any significant gigs?
No nothing serious. We won a battle of the bands contest in school but that was about it. We thought we were significant for a bit but we were 18 and from Sheffield and wanted to be the Arctic Monkeys. Nothing happened with that but since moving back Sheffield I’ve started a new band for the last few years.
So there’s clearly a whole other musical side to you when you unplug from the drum & bass matrix?
Yeah totally. I’d say it’s an exact 50/50 split.
Where do you think we can hear the band influences the most in your productions?
It’s always been the blues I hear in anything that’s struck me. I love Stevie Ray Vaughan and I’ve always felt parallels between the way he plays and drum & bass, because it’s quite aggressive and very fast paced. Probably a bit of a strange comparison but that’s sense of aggressive, energy and soul.
What’s your lead instrument – piano or guitar?
Guitar. I’ve been playing that since I was 7. That’s the instrument I started on and always come back to. I’ve tried to teach myself the piano but I’ll never be as good on that as I will the guitar.
All theory helps in production though, right?
Yeah and just a general interest in sound. Getting interested in music and how sound works and how you can make it, where you can take it. That’s always been there.
There’s a lot of really trippy WTF elements in your music. You got any weird processes or techniques you can share?
With every tune it’s a different thing. If I start a tune, the good ones will always have one thing I’ve not done in any other tune. It’s a weird process I’ve found through trial and error usually using a sample in a strange way or a tool or piece of software.
What are your perfect writing conditions?
It varies. You end up wanting to write a tune in some weird circumstances and have to wait until you’ve got home. I write music for my day job as well so I never really stop. People are always asking about beating writers block on forums and finding ways past that. If you don’t feel like writing music then you shouldn’t force it. It’s a creative process. On days like that I just sit down and make drums or samples or whatever until I’m inspired again.
When you’re writing in your day job do you ever write something so good you keep it for percy?
Yeah I’ve had to a few times, other times I’ve just had swallow it and let it inspire a different idea when I’m writing Cruk material.
Speaking of which. Lit is a banger. I think it’s your first halftime tune… Those chords that come in half way are deadly.
Thanks. It is my first halftime one yeah. I’ve wanted to have a stab at one for a while. I made the bass sound and it felt like a halftime thing. I found one of those weird new things I seem to find on every tune – triggering a sample with a gate sidechain from another channel which gave it that staggered sound. It kinda came from there out of the blue.
Every track has its own character but it’s clear you love a roller
Oh yeah I do man. My favourite.
Who makes the best rollers of all time in your opinion?
These days I’d probably say Alix Perez but the rollers I used to like the most were a lot heavier, like Block Control. I’ve tried to make a tune like that for so many years I gave up. I’m a huge fan of Alix and Skeptical. Imperial was a gamechanger
Shame about the people who copied that style though…
I’ve actually heard myself copying it and stopped myself! You hear a tune as good as that it’s hard not to reflect those inspirations.
There’s inspiration and there’s copying.
Yeah totally, it’s the biggest worry a lot of producers have I reckon. Especially when you’re using reference tracks. I always either beat myself up over quality or originality.
All creative jobs do this. So what comes up next?
I’m not sure! Working with Critical is a dream come true, they’re a label I’ve been inspired by for a long time. So I’ve been focusing on this EP for them, making sure it’s as good as it can be and not looking beyond it. Who knows what comes next? I’ve got a lot of other things I’m working on – a lot of different sounds and ideas – let’s see what happens.
Let’s conclude this conversation with a random fact about your past…
Oh man. I can’t think of anything! Erm… I won most handsome boy in the year when I was 18. Does that count? I even got a certificate to prove it.