We go around but one time on this globe, and Jason Kriveloff, alias JKriv, appears to be one of those carpe diem types. As the bassist for Tortured Soul, JKriv brought dance music into venues where it typically had no audience, in addition to writing some of the best House Music of the previous decade. He’s now the “main” bass player for Escort – a sprawling band which has managed to break out of the dance music niche and cross over to a broader audience, marked by a rather substantial headline in the New York Times hailing their role in New York’s new (and sometimes nu) disco scene.
It’s a scene which he knows well, and as evidence I present the Razor-N-Tape edit label, the flood of free edits which he releases to seed the scene and the deep and, well, disco-y sound of his label Deep&Disco. New York and Brooklyn’s disco scene was something we talked about in this, our first interview with JKriv since his departure from Tortured Soul…
I get the impression that there’s this new disco scene centered in New York, specifically in Brooklyn. Is that accurate or is it an outsider’s perspective?
In some ways it is accurate. There’s actually more of a scene for the stuff I’m doing now than there is for “classic House” in New York, though of course there are still pockets of it. New York is a little strange as I guess you know, but there are a lot of younger guys in the scene who love House and come from House but have thrown off some of the limiting factors, like tempo, and just said, Whatever, we can incorporate elements of the ’80s pop that we liked. We can incorporate even Rock elements – you want to throw a guitar solo in there? Go ahead and do it.
To say that there’s a scene, though – I always sort of imagine some kind of intelligentsia getting together and plotting. It’s not like that, obviously. But there are a lot of people who are doing cool stuff. Like the Mr. Saturday Night parties are very cool, the Discovery parties are very cool, and there are a lot of people like the Let’s Play House guys. It’s interesting because it does seem to draw a very different crowd than the Deep House things that I was involved in for a long time. But these are just people that at their core really love music.
For fans of your Tortured Soul stuff, which was more on the soulful side, what you’re doing now seems like a whole different genre. How did you wind up here and how do you explain the sound of your new projects them?
It’s interesting because while Tortured Soul is known as a Deep House entity, a lot of Tortured Soul’s influences came more directly from Disco than House. By nature of the fact that we wanted to translate that music into a more modern context, we ended up in the Deep House scene. Which isn’t to say that it was a mistake or that we didn’t love a lot of music in that scene – we do – and Tortured Soul still operates in that scene.
For me personally, my influences are from the ’70s and ’80s Disco and Soul. I’ve always sort of been a little all over the place in terms of my interests. I like the freedom to not be locked into a certain genre. And what I gravitate toward is this sort of Nu Disco approach where I can replicate and build upon music that I like.
As for how I ended up here: out of all of the Tortured Soul guys, I was always a little bit more open to poppier sort of stuff and more into current electronic music. I don’t mean that as any kind of a judgment against them. It was always a bit more “my thing” than it was theirs.
So is Tortured Soul finished?
No not at all. They have a new bass player touring with them.
Oh so you’ve left. I didn’t notice.
You know what I mean! Since you’d always had individual remix projects and other things going on, I didn’t draw the conclusion that you’d left the band.
[laughs] Yeah, I’ve left, more or less. I don’t think that’s a secret anymore.
One of those projects are all of those Disco edits, a lot of which you release for free on SoundCloud. These are insanely popular, if having so many comments on the stream that it makes it difficult to embed them is any guide. How does that work for you in terms of promoting yourself and when you put out an actual for-pay track?
Coming from the point of view of an artist and a musician first and foremost, I feel like I owe a debt. I appreciate that it’s helping people draw to what I’m doing, so as a thank you to them and a thank you to the people who made the music, I don’t want to charge for that most of the time. Some of the stuff we do put out – I have a label, Razor-N-Tape, which is strictly for edits, Disco edits and re-workings of older songs. It’s not like we’re making any money on that – we put it out on vinyl, you know, “for the love, man..” I like to give a lot of stuff away because it’s fun to share that music with people anyway. And it’s not mine so I’d feel wrong charging for it anyway.
Well, you’re a professional musician. Does that inform your perspective on that?
Yeah, it does. As a matter of fact it’s funny because it’s just so rampant now. Different digital download sites have different policies on how they deal with music that contains unlicensed material. Some don’t seem to have any policy at all. You go to JunoDownload or some other sites and the top 50 tracks are all just edits. Most of the people, especially the younger kids, they have no frame of reference for this. “Yeah, music’s free. Everything’s free!” Well, if somebody had to stop and make it, that time doesn’t come for free, but that’s my “old guy” stance on it. I walk the fence on that. Sometimes you feel like the battle’s been fought and lost so if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. But on the other hand, I still do hold on to some of that integrity that I feel as someone that has spent time in a practice room for hours on end, playing an instrument.
Let’s talk about releasing music for a moment. You have a label called Deep & Disco. You’re up to three releases now?
There’s been four. The first was “Another Night” with Adeline Michele from Escort singing on it, plus remixes. The second was a track called “Elisco” which I did with Lou Teti who’s an old friend of mine. The third was a release that I put out from a Lithuanian artist called Monsoon Season called “Green and Blue” and it features a vocalist named Miss Bee. And the fourth one is called “Call Girl” and it features a band from Chicago called The Right Now. They’re a live band that I knew from back when I was playing with Tortured Soul and we played some shows together.
The next release on Razor-N-Tape is also from a Chicago act, Only Children, right?
Yeah, that’s out now. Only Children, I think is a duo but they divide up the tasks of production and DJing and stuff like that. I’m trying to think of how I met them. I’ve worked with Kid Color – I played his party at SmartBar that they used to do. Moon Boots who is from Chicago also did a remix on the Monsoon Season “Green & Blue” Deep & Disco release and all of these folks are kind of all connected in the scene with Only Children too. I think I heard of them originally when they sent me a blind promo from last year and I listened to it and thought these guys were solid producers. We liked their edit of that classic Surface track “Falling in Love”. It’s a really neat take on it. That track has been edited a bunch but their’s spins it a little different.
Aaron Dae works on these labels with with you, right?
Yeah, Aaron and I have known each other for awhile but when he moved back to New York I think two or three years ago, we kind of connected and did a little party together for a minute in the city. He and I do Razor-N-Tape together and he helps me with Deep&Disco too. He does a lot of work for both of the labels. He’s kind of the main A&R guy for Razor-N-Tape and Deep&Disco.
He’s a great behind-the-scenes guy – you don’t really notice all that he does and he just makes everything work.
He’s really good with people and connecting the dots. We have similar sensibilities and stuff when it comes to music. Which is interesting because we come from really different places originally.
Talk to me a minute about the medium that you’re using. You’re releasing all this stuff on vinyl, and I’ve been talking to so many people who are so very excited that vinyl really looks like it’ll stick around as a viable means of distribution for this music.
I can’t make any predictions about what’s going to happen to it – the market is so fickle. But I think it makes your music appear a little more special. It’s become so easy for people to “do” music. With the DIY aspect of running a label or putting out music, the tools are available to anyone and anyone can get their tracks out there on digital sites, especially digital dance sites. Tons of music is coming out every day, and in the meantime, people’s musical memories are just getting shorter and shorter. Music is so consumable that people don’t remember what they heard a week or two ago. I’m guilty of it too. I get eight zillion promos and I try to listen to them all and sometimes you just can’t keep track of the music, it’s coming at you so fast.
One thing that vinyl does is it does make a release a little more unique. And it costs money to produce. One of the old lessons we learned in Tortured Soul is if somebody wants to put your music out or book you for a show – the more money that they have to invest to make that happen, the more likely they are to work hard to make their money back and make it worthwhile. I’m obviously not talking about the artistic side of it. I think vinyl looks great, I think it sounds great, but then again sometimes you get to a club and the needles sound like crap and there’s feedback and you can’t play vinyl. It’s great in an ideal world. But I think there’s an aspect that makes something a little more special and distinguishes it in this world of insane volumes of new music.
You mentioned Escort a minute ago. Are you their full time bassist?
Yeah I’m kind of the “main” bass player, the “first call” guy. I also do DJ gigs with Escort. Escort is basically a production team of two guys, Dan & Eugene. It started as a studio project but they put the group together to be a live touring act. Sometimes it’s as large as 17 people, sometimes it gets scaled down to five people and sometimes it’s just a DJ set – usually not, but sometimes they do DJ sets as Escort and sometimes I DJ with them as Escort. So I’m the main bass player but sometimes they’ll do a line-up that doesn’t incorporate a bass player. Adeline, the main vocalist, is super-talented and she plays bass as well. She’s putting me out of a job…
With Escort and with this music in general, you see a lot of people at the gigs that you’ve never seen before. And in terms of the press, a lot of it comes from people who are more into indie rock – sort of the Pitchfork crowd.
That’s been one of my goals, really. I love dance music and I’ve always gravitated toward dance music, but… I just like songs, you know? As dance music producers, sometimes you feel a little pigeon-holed in that world. I like to work on stuff that has a wider reach. Escort certainly does. Escort’s been doing great and our publicist is just kicking ass. I see great things for that group. And some of the stuff I’m doing on my own – I really see it as being more universal than dance music.
All respect to you, because when I first heard about Tortured Soul, I had to stop and take in the big picture that these guys weren’t just playing at dance clubs, but live music clubs that weren’t DJ-centric. I said, “This is the future here. Live bands playing House Music.” Obviously I was really wrong about that…
Yeah, because live music has had such a big resurgence, or maybe by virtue of the fact that it’s really hard to sell music, people have been focusing on live music. It’s one place musicians can still make money. You see a lot of things billed as “live” these days, though. My barometer of “live” is this: if there isn’t a drummer, it’s not “live”. “Live” means there’s a drummer. If the backing track is running off of Abelton or off a CD or whatever, that’s not really “live”. The thing is that people get excited by any live element at a show, even a DJ who has a percussionist or a saxophone player. It’s an extra element of excitement. But all the same, people are a little disappointed when they’re expecting something live and they get a DJ and maybe he’s messing around with Abelton. From an audience perspective, you just have no idea what the hell he’s doing.
What other releases are we waiting on from you? Or are most of them coming from your own labels?
No I have a few things out there. I have a release out on Disco Deviance. They’re one of the bigger edit labels in the UK, and these are a couple of edits I’ve done. The label run by a fellow named “Dicky Trisco” and he has another label called File Under Disco. It’s for new Disco artists he’s cultivating, and one of those is me. And I’m working on an EP for that right now. That’s some really crazy throwback classic Disco sounding stuff but they’re all original songs that I’m writing.
For Deep&Disco, The Right Now’s “Call Girl” release is coming soon – I’m trying to get it out by the end of the year but I think my record pressing plant was under water a couple of weeks ago.
Oh gosh, out of sight, out of mind. How did you fare through Hurricane Sandy? Is everything all right?
My apartment is fine, never lost any power or anything. My studio is in Red Hook, though and I just got power and heat on yesterday. So needless to say I haven’t been making a lot of music this month but that’s okay, there’s a lot of business crap to deal with.
My main plan for 2013 is really to keep ramping things up with Deep&Disco. I have a few artist releases slated and I’m looking to continue working to bring it out of a strictly dance music realm and getting it the most exposure possible.