KRUST: Moving in cycles
Computer Music|March 2021
Along with Roni Size, Krust was at the forefront of jungle in the 90s, helping to launch the genre and one of its most legendary labels, Full Cycle Records. After taking a seven-year break from music production, he is back with The Edge Of Everything, his first album in 14 years, an extraordinary cinematic production that came together with the best of old and new technology…

Krust (aka Kirk Thompson) first tasted success in 1989 as part of Fresh 4 (along with Paul ‘Suv’ Southey, Krust’s brother Flynn and Judge), with the top 10 track Wishing On A Star. After immersing himself in his local Bristolian music scene – growing up with the likes of The Wild Bunch before they became Massive Attack – he became one of the city’s jungle pioneers, producing break-led, furious tempo tracks like Warhead, Music Box and Soul In Motion on labels including Moving Shadow, Talkin Loud, V Recordings and Full Cycle, which he set up with Roni Size in 1994. Krust was also in Size’s Reprazent, along with fellow Bristolians Die, Suv and MC Dynamite, who won the 1997 Mercury Music Prize for the album New Forms.

Krust’s solo albums include his critically-acclaimed debut Coded Language and 1999’s Hidden Knowledge and he has remixed everyone from Alex Reece to Moloko. In 2008 he took an extended sabbatical away from music production, setting up a successful life-coaching business, but in 2016 he returned to resurrect Full Cycle with Roni Size and embark on an album project, The Edge Of Everything, which has just been released. As he reveals here, the new album reflects his extraordinary journey, a cinematic project that has arguably been three decades in the making, updating the original jungle sound for the 21st century but throwing in three decades of huge experiences into the mix. For its recording, he spent a year collecting the sounds, the gear and the plugins and utilised a unique DAW-production process to put it all together.

Before we discuss his latest opus, though, we should really go back to the start of his musical journey…

CM: Great to meet you. Can you cast your mind back to Fresh 4 and how you got into music in the first place?

KT: “We started that when I was 14 years old. A friend of ours knew The Wild Bunch who are now Massive Attack, and we started going to all the house parties in Bristol; if they were playing we would go. There were lots of these and warehouse parties in the city in lots of empty buildings. You could put a sound system in and have a party and we’d go to them as these kids watching Miles [Milo Johnson, aka. DJ Milo] or Nellee [Hooper] cut up these two pieces of vinyl. We’d see Mushroom [Andrew Vowels] getting on it, Grant [Daddy G] was on the mic, and Tricky joined them. We eventually thought ‘we want to do that’ so we saved and got a turntable. We slowly got good at DJing and scratching and then found a squat in Bristol and had a 24-hour party hangout where we could play music any time. That’s how we got going and how we built up our name.”

CM: How did you then make the transition to music production?

KT: “When we got signed to the majors as the whole Fresh 4 thing, I walked into a recording studio – a proper, huge one with a big SSL desk, Tannoy speakers in the wall, everything – and I saw the light! I saw the speakers, the desk and it was just like ‘I’ve got to learn this’.”

CM: So how did you learn it from there?

KT: “My brother had a sampler – a Casio FZ-1 – and I bugged him until he taught me how to use it. He kept showing me and after about a year I got it and that was it. After we got signed to Virgin Records, my brother spent a year in the studio with [producers] Smith & Mighty making the tune Wishing On A Star and I was fascinated by the process. I knew it was something I could get into. We started off being B-Boys and scratch DJs and in order to progress in that world you had to have the edge, so learning to make your own records just seemed like the obvious thing to do.”

The start of jungle

CM: How did that then lead to those early jungle records?

KT: “After we got dropped by the record company, me and Suv were sharing a flat together. Smith & Mighty were living around the corner and they would go to these raves in the country every weekend with these massive sound systems in the middle of a field. Every so often we’d hear these tunes with a breakbeat that we knew – we were scratch DJs so we knew the breaks. So among the house and techno ‘boom-boom’ you’d get these breaks and we’d run to the decks to try and find out what this tune was and asking the DJ, ‘what’s going on, what do you call this?’. No-one had a name for it then, but eventually it had this name ‘jungle techno’ – a combination of techno but with breakbeats in it.”

“We started experimenting with breakbeats – just messing around trying to figure something out. We knew we loved hip-hop but didn’t want to make it as it was sounding American. We weren’t going to make techno or house as that wasn’t really who I was, so we were just experimenting with the breaks, but we were finding that we were speeding them up. Gradually it was like 130bpm, then 140, then 150. Then I remember we came back to the studio one afternoon and somehow one of the channels had been muted where the kick drum was, and when we played the track it played the beats and what we’d programmed but without the 4/4 and all of a sudden we were like ‘what the fuck is this?’ We all looked at each other, like ‘wow, that’s it’. And from then on we started to make tunes without that 4/4 beat in and that’s how jungle started for us.”

“When we got into music, we came from a jazz/DIY/punk attitude where anything goes. It wasn’t like ‘this is how you make this music’. It was more like ‘we’re just going to listen to all our favourite things from where we come from and we’re going to put it into this music’. Somebody else called it jungle, we didn’t call it jungle. We were just making this music; kids who didn’t have many options and we felt we weren’t being supported by society and found this thing we were really good at and we claimed it as ours.”

CM: Then you all started Full Cycle Records. What do you recall about those days?

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