IN CONVERSATION: 

KRISTY HARPER 

We chat with the brilliant producer and DJ Kristy Harper about her career up until this point, before drawing focus to her excellent new single, 'The System is F*cked'. 

Its always a wonderful thing when continuity exists between DJ sets and productions, something which has become synonymous with Kristy Harper as both a DJ and a music maker. Harper has built up a reputation as a serious selector, with her sets displaying a tremendous spectrum of passions and genres which flux and change given the circumstances, from her soft and tender orientated radio sets through to her acid tinged club focused sessions, you truly do get the full range with Harper, who goes above and beyond to welcome you into a vast soundscape of never-ending bliss. There's some great mixes to digest via her website, with regular slots on the wonderful Netil Radio permeated by slots on Red Light and Operator that all go to show someone with a real sense of direction in relation to the music, with a great sense of focus on the flows between genres that is always pulled off brilliantly. With appearances at Magnetic Fields, Snowbombing, Houghton, Love International and Brilliant Corners to name but a few, Harper is becoming a go-to DJ when it comes to providing beautiful vibes that resonate with crowds, along with wrapping the audience in an audial narrative for them to all get lost deep within.

 

Her own productions feel very much as a reflect of her broad tastes, with a mixture of jazz leaning house alongside narrative driven Italo stompers giving over a feeling of mastery in regards to vision and tone, as she draws from her knowledge of genre to give over something very special indeed. Be sure to check out her debut EP, 'Exotic Shapes', which is truly excellent, alongside a contribution to the latest LPHWHTE release from this year, alongside her single 'Slut' from 2018. All three have a very distinct feel to them, with Harper looking to explore the depths of her vision with each piece of music, with the dots beginning to connect in what looks like an amazing foundation of influence and output to move forward from. In light of her newest single, 'The System Is F*cked', we sent Kristy some questions that cover her career to date, her productions and DJ approaches, and her new single and the themes that run through it.....

 

Hi Kristy! Hope you are doing well. I guess we will start off from the beginning of things - what sorts of things contributed to you becoming a DJ and producer? Did you have quite a musical upbringing?

Hey guys! I guess I did have quite a musical upbringing in the sense that my Dad was totally obsessed with music. He was a complete audiophile and owned a Hi-fi shop in the North of England. When I was 9 he gave me this amazing three tier hi-fi and a few tapes which I listened to over and over until they pretty much wore out. We used to lay on the floor listening to Dire Straits and the Beatles on his surround sound system. On the production side, that came so much later. It’s so strange as I have quite a lot of close family friends in the music industry but never saw any female producers so didn’t clock it was something I could totally do!

What kind of vibe to do you look to curate during your DJ sets? Your varying radio mixes online are all wonderfully diverse and sun soaked in goodness, whilst your club orientated sets lean a bit more towards house, acid and Italo. Where did the approach to these two settings come from?

For me, it’s all about groove! I just want everyone to be enjoying themselves as much as I am. I think a lot of the house tracks I play sample the records I listen to at home; old soul, disco and blues records for example. During my DJ sets, I feel like I want to take the crowd on a little journey. For me, that’s weaving through disco, soul, house and acid so the crowd don’t know what’s coming next. 

 

What would you say your favourite club, or indeed clubs, are to play in?

Ooh. I really love clubs in Amsterdam. I spend a lot of time over there! I played a really fun show at ADE at Noorderlicht on the river. I wasn’t expecting it to be so fab but the location was amazing and the crowd had so much energy. I felt like there wasn’t even space to reach my record bag as it was so packed. Also, Barbarellas discotheque in Tisno, Croatia. There’s something about that club; it’s so damn magical! I remember coming back from Love International for the first time and telling my boyfriend at the time how the disco ball was suspended from the sky. It actually took me another year to realise there was obviously a metal structure holding it up!

Given the diversity of your sets and musical interests, do you always approach sets with an emphasis on expanding your overall sound? Or is it simply a case of playing what you feel you want to play?

I actually just play whatever I’m in the mood to play! I find it hard to stick to a certain sound as I’m influenced by so many different genres, sounds and instruments. I don’t usually prep my sets, I take all my USBs and a whole heap of records and go with the energy of the crowd and room. I feed so much off the energy of the crowd. Sometimes when playing at a smaller venue you’re so close to people you are riding the wave with them. If they aren’t dancing for a moment it hits you, haha.

You have released some pretty outstanding tunes in the past years, all of which are pretty reflective of your broad tastes. Did you always dabble in production or has that interest developed through a passion for spinning excellent tunes? 

Aw, thank you! To be honest, I always had an interest but never really took it seriously until a few years ago. Music has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve been collecting records for years and spent most of my week at gigs. I also used to sing and play rhythm guitar in a couple of bands bands and made so many mixtapes for my friends back in the day. From my dads old record player to my Sony walkman, even a shit mini disc player (I think people only used them for about 3 months), I always had something playing! I think because I grew up with music all around me I then became so passionate about making it. Production came properly about 4/5 years ago. I was on stage DJing at House of Vans and I turned to my friend and said ‘I need to focus on making music’. I went back to college the week after and studied music production and sound design and became obsessed. The rest is history!

Your debut EP, ‘Exotic Shapes’, was a truly outstanding release, brimming with quality and feeling. It evokes that late 90s jazz house style completely! Tell us a little bit about the conception of that record, and whether you feel this kind of style is something you wish to pursue further, because the sound is so well executed and very infectious! 

It’s actually quite funny, the tracks on that EP are from so many different parts of my production journey! ‘Uncle Jungle’, which seems to be a lot of people’s favourite, I made really early on in my music making career. I thought it was pretty basic and not that great but Ben at Monologues picked it to go with some other jams I’d made more recently. They all fit together in an unexpected way! I definitely want to pursue the energetic house, resampled chords, chirpy leads and diva vocals a lot further…I feel like that’s kind of my jam now! That and gritty acid.

You contributed the track ’77’ to the LPHWHTE release from this year, which showcases another side to your sound in the form of an acid driven stomper. Do you feel your own music is a reflection of your diverse DJ sets and what you look to play out? Its always great when producers look to link their own work into what they mix at clubs. 

You know what, I think it might be! I find it quite hard to stay in a box because i’m inspired by so many types of music. I’ve always loved the 303. There’s something about it that just makes me melt. I always wanted to release a proper belter made for the dance floor and thought it would be the perfect time! I had an East Coast US and India tour organised and thought it would be great for a dirty club moment. I guess I always imagine where I’d be playing when I make a track. When making ’77’ I imagined myself so vividly on a festival field, hugging my mates as the beat filters away and the vocal opens out. Then dancing my tits off as everything drops again. Sadly, that hasn’t happened this year but fingers crossed for next year! 

On your latest single, ‘The System Is F*cked’, you present a beautifully constructed track whilst weaving in a powerful speech by Eric Latham at a Black Lives Matter protest. Was this track made in reaction to events currently happening around the world? 

It was! I wasn’t feeling hugely inspired to make music but hearing Eric speak inspired me so much. I’ve been hugely into Bitcoin for years now and believe it can help a lot of people, especially in the current climate. I follow some really inspiring people in the Bitcoin community who talk about how it can help Black communities escape the oppressive system. The marches and protests really opened up a lot of conversation around the subject. I think people are definitely more open to hearing about alternative systems/ways to hedge against inflation and protect the wealth they have.

Dance music often speaks to us without the use of vocals, but with your latest track the narrative comes across so powerfully via its integration with the music underneath. Do you think that it is important to weave these kinds of samples into dance tracks? Can you imagine yourself making further statements like this, which you also did with your 2018 single ‘Slut’? 

Totally! I have SO many samples and sound bites I want to make into tracks. It’s a way I can push messages I care deeply for or am passionate about. It’s the only way I know how, really! I definitely agree dance music speaks to people on so many levels without having to incorporate lyrics but there’s something about a powerful speech or vocal that really gets me.

The musical style of ‘The System is F*cked’ is yet another side to your sound, with its simmering broken beat structure, soft chordal tones and chirpy key lines. Are you always looking to diversify your style in regards to genre and overall tone? Always the sign of a great producer! 

Haha, I know, maybe I should chill out on the different musical styles and stick to one or two!? I think it comes from my old love of jungle and breakbeat back in the early 2000’s. I used to go to a lot of raves when I was 14/15 and feel like that’s seeping back into the music I make. I definitely think I’m diversifying my style subconsciously; it’s like, ‘oh, shit, that sounds good, I’m going to go with that’ without realising it’s quite different to the last track I made! Hopefully people still realise it’s me. I do love resampling chords and adding a little chirpy Jupiter lead so maybe they’ll be the common features that tie the tracks together for now!

Finally, do you have much lined up in the works in relation to new releases? What can we expect from Kristy Harper during the rest of 2020? 

After lockdown started easing up I found myself making SO much music! I’ve got a few bits in the pipeline for the end of the year. An EP on Curve Records (Joe from Kassian’s label), a remix I did for Andy Ash on Moment Cinetique and another remix for Bawrut on Ransom Note Records which i’m super excited about. On top of that, I have a ton of demos so I need to place them now I'm emerging out of creative solitude, haha. Let’s hope the end of 2020 and 2021 will be a lot more positive and fruitful than the beginning of the year :).

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And now, lets dip into the track itself, 'The System Is F*cked', which expands her musical universe just that little bit more. The track begins off with the kick hitting hard right through the middle, as the stab like fuzzy pads move and weave in the backdrop, providing the melodic drive that will underpin the track. The manner in which the kick and keys have been curated allows for other elements to fill the vacant spaces, which begin initially with the singular drum element before brilliantly descending into this rhythmically rich semi-breakbeat feel, with the hats combining so effectively with the additional kicks and toms. The density really moves the track forward, its subtle blends effortless in their delivery, and before long the chirpy key line begins to swirl and cascade throughout the track, its graceful floaty feel adding further melodic elements that immediately engage. The track then takes a breather to introduce a vocal sample that feature the voice of Eric Latham, who goes by the stage name The Character, with the recording being made at a Black Lives Matter event. The kicks and additional percussive features fall away for a second, and we are left with Latham's words and the key line, the two elements carrying each other with the melodic undertone adding such weight and definition to Latham's words. In the speech, Latham highlights how Bitcoin remains a digital construct that cannot be controlled by the Elite class, instead it exists within the unfathomable depths of the Internet, a finite resource that has led to multiple crypto currencies flourishing as people move away from money and into the realms of electronic money systems. Its quite a powerful message, and one that highlights how corporate greed and banking has led to a society that sees less and less of what it puts in, with regular people missing out on systems that should work in their favour, that should give to them all they contributed to society. Its a subject that remains near and dear to Harper's heart, with her belief in the values of freedom when money isn't govened by the powers that be, but instead it resides in people's hands, their abilities to spend and control their cash flow not subject to outside powers. The manner in which the song ebbs and flows does much to magnify his words, with the additions of cymbals and more classic breakbeat tones propel the track forward, providing a perfect bedrock of musical evolution that keeps the fires very much burning. The laid back chordal structure operates hand in hand with the chirpy key sequence, their contrast between full and free flowing a real delight, and overall the picture is painted clear, a narrative being spelt out that is rhythmically rich and very pleasurable to listen to. The words flow with such passion and meaning, something that Harper does very well to highlight throughout the song's structure, with our minds very much open to the idea of going away and learning a little bit more of what was said. Its another excellent addition to her discography, a track that not only utilises some new blends and styles into the mix, but does much to showcase how Harper looks to showcase imperative narratives and discourse within her art. Its a track that is further reflective of her talents and also of what she wants her music to say on both a personal and cultural level, and to do both in one single is a very accomplished thing indeed. 

A single that resonates with the times, and yet another statement of intent from Kristy and her already fantastic production career. Its wonderful to see a producer bring so much to the table in regards to musical stylings and mood, and this track continues to see Harper broadening her horizons with a new feel to proceedings, one that blends progressions and drumming sequences with the power of the voice. Its a remarkable track, one that will certainly connect with listeners on so many levels, and confirm Harper's position as a DJ and producer to really keep an eye on. From a fantastic DJing style through to a superb musical vision, there isn't much to dislike, and we cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

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We would like to thank Kristy for her answers to our questions. You can check out and purchase her latest single here: 

https://kristyharper.bandcamp.com/track/the-system-is-f-cked

Be sure to check out her other productions and mixes, which you can listen to on her website:

https://kristyharper.com/about/