Photos courtesy of Daniel.J. Ashes
Straight outta Utrecht, crazy motherfuckers named… C-Mon and Kypski!
The Dutch foursome have been tearing the rule book up with their own brand of hip hop for years now and recently got down to have a chat with Abjekt having just released their third album, ‘Where The Wild Things Are’.
So what’s it like to take a van into the Sahara and record an album? What are the benefits of having your front teeth knocked out? And just what would Borat think of Kypski and C-Mon having a quick blaze with Sadat X? Well read below and find out…
You and Kypski met very young right? Skating in the local neighbourhood yeah?
C-Mon: Yeah, well actually we met in gradeschool, at the age of 5. At the age of 10 I switched schools, and then I met Kyp again on the corner in my hood with a skateboard. I was interested in skating too, so that’s when we hooked up.
What drew you to sampling/scratching of hip hop? Was there a particular era, band or record that made you think “wow, that’s what I have to do?”
C-Mon: When I came around Kip’s house I discovered he was messing around with tapedecks and pausebuttons; recording stuff from the radio and repeating it. That’s what I did too. So we joined forces and set up all the gear we had together. A Walkman, a tapedeck and an old turntable from my Dad. We came across Public Enemy and De La Soul (1989), that’s when we knew which kind of music we wanted to make. It was the sampling and layering of sounds that intrigued us.
Kypski: Yeah PE was a real eye opener. We didn’t have to understand what Chuck D was saying (we were far too young to understand the words), the aggressive beats and scratches were out of this world, and said the same thing Chuck was saying. Gotta a give props to the Bomb Squad for this.
Does being such old and close friends help the song writing process?
C-Mon: Well yeah, we’ve been doing that for over 15 years now. We don’t have to say much to understand what the other likes or dislikes.
Kypski: It helps in being very productive – sometimes when there’s a lot of projects (remixes etc) at the same time there’s no time to discuss every single little musical decision, so you can rely on the other person’s expertise and get a lot of work done.
How do you share duties when you’re writing a song, do you lay the structure down and Kypski work on a melody or vice versa?
Kypski: C-mon & Kypski is four people!
C-Mon: C-Mon & Kypski is a 4 piece band for 4 years now. Also in the writing process. Most of the time Kip or myself comes up with an idea. It can be a drumbeat with a loop, or just a cool sample, a scratch or a melody. Then everybody listens to it, and together we try to figure out what direction it should go. Should it stay mellow? Should it freak out? When heads are in the same direction, everybody does what he does best. Dan’s figuring out cool basslines and guitarparts, Jori freaks on his synths and Kyp’s looking for the right additions in terms of samples and scratches. I kinda manage that. I listen to what they come up with, and make the puzzle fit. Also I record everything, and make sure it sounds like I feel it should sound.
How did Jori and Daniel fit into things with regards to writing material? Did touring with them so much help you all to understand each other musically?
C-Mon: J&D come from a different background. They had always listened to rock and pop music. So when we first started playing together there was some kind of ‘cultural gap’. We played Tribe Called Quest and The Roots for them, and they got into it. They were really open minded. I think it was an adventure for them to play with us, because they knew so little about ‘funky’ music. On the other hand, J&D got us into pop and rock music, like The Beatles, Rufus Wainwright, The Je Ne Sais Quoi (do you know these guys? they rock!) or Talking Heads for instance. Hanging out a lot caused the crossbreed!
Vinyl Voodoo was more sample based and Static Traveller had more self-recorded instrumentation in it, does that progression continue on the new album?
C-Mon: Yeah mos def. VV was a compilation of what Kip and I had made since we started making instrumental music (before that we made beats for local MC’s for a couple of years). By the time VV came out we started playing live with Jori & Dan. That’s when the whole band sound started growing. On Static Traveller I had no clue what to do with real instruments; I just plugged the guitar right into the mixingboard. Now we are much more aware of how to make the sound we have in mind. We can create a vibe, which back then we only could achieve by using samples.
Does having mainly instrumental tracks on your records allow you to come out of a more rigid verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure and allow you to experiment and take your music different places?
C-Mon: Yes. That’s why we decided to stop making beats for MC’s back in the day. We wanted to tell stories musically. Endtroducing by DJ Shadow played a role in that. I still don’t listen to lyrics so much when I listen to music. If the music’s not dope, forget it.
That said, on the new album, Where The Wild Things Are, you have more guests on than usual, was there a reason for that?
C-Mon: Well, it can add a face to music. A voice is also a unique instrument, so why not use it? We made our statement on VV and ST, now we felt the time was right to invite some people over.
You’ve got an American, Sadat X, who is a big name in hip hop, how did that collaboration come about?
C-Mon: I knew a Dutch hiphop promoter called Roger Brouwn, and I asked him who was coming to Holland. We had this really angry beat, so we needed a heavyweight MC. He named a few, and I immediately pointed my arrows for Sadat. He’s always been a favourite, with such a unique voice and delivery. Roger hooked me up, me and Kip went to his hotel in Deventer where he did the only show in Holland, and recorded the verse in his room. After we smoked a couple of “branches” of course.
Kypski: Borat would be very EXCITE if he was in our shoes then!
And you’ve got Dutch artists on there too, like Pete Philly, Voicst, Benjamin Herman and The Amsterdam Klezmer Band – Did you specifically want to work with mainly Dutch artists?
C-Mon: No not really. But we like to work with people we know. They’re all really talented friends wich we share a love for music with. Making music should be fun, making the tracks with these guys was like hangin out in the park.
How close is the music scene in Holland?
C-Mon: It’s small, so it’s kinda close. When you play the festivals, after a year or two you’ve met almost every band at least once. Because we don’t really fit one genre, we play all different kinds of gigs. Jazz festivals, HipHop events, Dance party’s, Ethnical shit, you name it. That’s a lot of fun.
On Cereal, you did beats for Dutch artists, such as Senna, U-Gene and Raymzter – is it important for you to work closely with the Dutch scene so that you can get them known outside of Holland?
C-Mon: I’ve never looked at it that way. I was still trying to prove myself as a producer, focussing on Holland. I still work with Senna. I’m trying to get her album done.
Do you have any more plans like this for the future, maybe with artists from around Europe and even the UK?
C-Mon: Recently more and more people start asking me that. If y’all push me a little harder, i will! If i’d do it again, i’d like to do it with international artists. But for now I’m too busy with C&K, so no plans yet.
‘Where The Wild Things Are’ was recorded in Morocco right? After you’d all spent some time travelling around the country. Did this influence the way you made the record and the styles you used? I noticed that in your latest live show [shown on fabchannel.com] you seem to have funky shirts on – are they north African?!
C-Mon: Haha, yeah we bought ’em in Morocco. The big idea was to get out of the studio, into Where The Wild Things Are, and make the blueprint for the album. And that’s exactly what we did. We wanted to experience the adventure that lies in the music we make… For Static Traveller it was all imaginative (hence the word ‘static’), and for this album we wanted the songs to have more depth. So there we were, in a camper stuffed with recording equipment, in the middle of the Sahara… We never wanted the record to sound Moroccan, we wanted to expand our own ideas and creativity. Also, when your at home in the studio there’s always somebody to walk in or whatever. We were focussed.
Your live shows seem very energetic, with Kypski on the drums as well as the turntables, and with Daniel and Jori on stage with you – with these additions to the traditional two man group, are you able to improvise more? Or do you want to keep it to a specific structure live?
C-Mon: Well, that’s why we hooked up with J&D in the first place. We felt we could not bring the music we made in the studio to the stage by just some scratching and DJ-ing. Now, we play the tracks in a specific structure, because we want to. There’s still a lot of improvising in the tracks, but the global structure is set. There were times we improvised whole sets, starting from scratch. That’s fun to do, but sometimes it’s just not so rockin’. Now we know we can make people go crazy if we go to a certain part. And that’s even more fun.
What impresses me most about your music is that, though you have a lot of scratching in your songs, you never take away from the overall feel of the song – you don’t get SO into scratching on the record that the melody is lost amongst it all – Are you conscious of that? Or do you think it balances itself out naturally?
C-Mon: Uhm, it’s a natural balance I think. Music making is not about showing your technical skills. It’s not a circus (although it is sometimes haha!) So we always try to make a nice song, whatever instrument is needed.
Kypski: When i listen to other turntablists making music i often am surprised at how much they scratch. And at the same time they say: the turntable is an instrument as any other instrument! See? I think if you really believe that, you should start out by quitting all that cutting and scratching, if you catch my drift.
The C-Mon & Kypski videos are always a lot of fun – Shitty Bum with the guy being chased by graf, the Superhero in Evil Needle, the party in the boombox for What’s Happening and the police chase on the Bumpy Road video – do you bring these ideas yourself or do you work with particular artists and directors?
C-Mon: Yes, they’ve all been done by Emiel Steenhuizen and Rogier v/d Zwaag. They’re friends from Utrecht, and they made the first one (Shitty Bum) as a school project. We stuck with ’em ever since. We let them bring the ideas because we think it will make the best videos. Their sense of humour fits our way of music making. The videos add a healthy dose of humour to the music; we’re not trying to be too serious about how people should enjoy our music.
Kypski has won loads of battle titles, is he still interested in that side of things, or has he taken a step back from it to allow everyone else a chance?
C-Mon: Well, on one hand, he was done battling in Holland because he had won every type of battle at least twice. On the other hand, he wanted to use the turntable as an instrument. In battles you’re some kind of circus act. So he wanted to take the turntable to a next level and so he started making scratch records (Mazturbation Tool 2004 / Clocktaves 2005).
Kypski: World Battle Domination has never been a goal for me. I did try once, I did attempt to enter the world DMC finals in New York – didn’t make it through the eliminations. I started out battling for fun, to learn, and because I knew there was a lot of media exposure involved if you won, and the prizes of course (a new SL 1200, a new mixer). Composing, producing and releasing great music projects has always been the main goal though.
In 2005, you both played at SXSW in the USA, how was the reaction to you there? It’s such a big festival for people to play now that it must have been quite a rush to be invited to perform there.
C-Mon: Yep. We had great fun; Americans are crazy. Everythings exaggerated, so were the reactions to our music. Also if your from “Amsterdam” (Holland), you’re extra cool. Then again, you’re just another band trying to make it in the US of A. Jeggshemesj.
Also in 2005, I read you won a Devil Award? Can you explain what that is, and how did it feel to win that?
C-Mon: It’s an award chosen by Dutch fellow musicians. They picked me to be the best DJ/Producer of 2005. It’s not a real big deal, but it’s nice. Year before me DJ Tiesto was chosen; compared to him I am a nobody. Well, I mean in terms of fame, haha.
And most recently, I read you won the Red Bull Soundclash against BEEF… was that a straight live battle or how did it go down?
C-Mon: Yeah that was some dope shit. They had 2 stages with their own PA facing each other, with the audience in between them. We had to battle them live, so for instance, they played a track of their own which we had to take over and finish. I secretly sampled them on the spot: we remixed them live!!
Kypski: Yeah that was one of the dopest jams/battles ever. The audience was like ‘What the Fuck!! Great to battle in this way, with two bands. I’d made classic battle disses ridiculing their style – they didn’t know how to react!
And you’re both skaters? Are you still interested in the Dutch skate scene?
C-Mon: Yes, but we both don’t skate so much anymore. I have the feeling there are a lot of kids I don’t know about, ripping it up.
Kypski: Skating, oh yes I haven’t done that for ages. Its also raining here every day, not much chance to.
Who are the Dutch riders killing it at the moment? I’m told that Louisa Menke is doing the business over in Holland.
C-Mon: Louisa is one of the best (or the best?) female riders here. The Dutch star is Wieger van Wageningen from Eindhoven. Kaspar van Lierop is one of my best buddies, he was tech-king before he broke his ankle. He’s now doing Nike SB for Europe.
Zac from Crossfire recently went over to Holland to cover the Globe Bowlbash in Eindhoven at the brand new Area 51 park- Have you ever been there?
C-Mon: Yeah, it’s pretty cool, I’ve always been a street skater.
What is the best place to skate in Utrecht?
C-Mon: It’s called The Yard, and it’s already famous all over the world!! It’s an old trainyard close to central station, with gaps, curbs, and even an indoor park run by squatters. Here’s my buddy Kaspar, old pic on The Yard [see pic]
Have you ever had any bad skate injuries in the past? So bad that you’ve been unable to scratch or perform live?
C-Mon: I broke two front teeth, but I wasn’t performing then… The cool thing was, when I reversed my new fake tooth, the inside was gold! So I walked around like Lil Jon for a couple of days.
Thanks for taking the time out to answer the questions – Do you have any last words for the Crossfire readers?
C-Mon: Keep ripping it up! There’s a lot of creativity in skateboarding, I couldn’t have done it without it!! And oh yeah, stay real!
And last but not least – how do you say “Caught in the Crossfire” in Dutch?
C-Mon: Uuuuhm, something like: “gevangen in een vuurgevecht”!
C-Mon & Kypski’s new album Where The Wild Things Are is out now on Penoze Records. You can find out more from their website at www.c-monandkypski.nl