Interview with KutMasta Kurt
[Conducted in June 2005]
He has done remixes for so many Grand Royal artists he should have been on the staff roll. He has worked with the best in hiphop but is not confined to one musical genre. He wears wrestling masks and fake beards. Let's have a chat to the one and only KutMasta Kurt...
You have done a variety of remixes for the old Grand Royal label (Beastie Boys, Luscious Jackson, Buffalo Daughter). Which was the first Grand Royal remix you did and how did you get involved?
I've done 5 remixes for Grand Royal. The First one was Comin' Off by Hurricane, actually me and Mike Nardone did that one together; "Great Five Lakes" by Buffalo Daughter was second; Thirdly I did The Beasties Remix, 4th Luscious Jackson and last but not least a remix for Scapegoat Wax's "Hello Allison".
I basically got involved with Grand Royal through Tick Salcido who was a young, eager up and coming radio promoter, but also was involved with A&R too. He called me one day to say hello and introduce himself shortly after he started working there and told me the Grand Royal Staff and "The Boys" were big fans of my work. It was awesome working with Tick back in those days, b/c he brought eclectic and interesting projects my way. He wasn't afraid to do things in an unconventional way, and I think that's what set GR apart from many. It's truly a shame that the label is gone now. I mean the exec's who ran it into the ground didn't really give a shit, cuz they were rich before they got there and are still rich, but for the guys who poured their blood and sweat into making the label what it was, well they got nuthing but a kick in the ass at the end of the day. Ultimately it's the Beastie Boy's Fans and Fans of Music In general who suffer from the loss of GR.
Initial copies of the English 12" for Body Movin' labelled track two as the "Eric Sermon Remix" when in actual fact this was your remix. Even press releases for the single stated that the single was to contain the Eric Sermon remix. Do you know anything about what happened there?
I have the UK 12" pressing and it clearly says KutMasta Kurt Remix. I think you may be confused with a different single or song.
Nah, we're talking about the same record, it's just that there were 2x pressings in Europe/England. The original version was incorrectly labelled, as well as the press releases, check these out. [images sent over to KMK - 1 & 2]
I stand corrected...how weird!
Japan was the only country to get your Body Movin' remix on a commercially available CD - everyone else got it on vinyl or on the US pressed CD Promo. Did that annoy you that the remix possibly didn't reach as many people as it possibly could have?
Of course it made me wonder why they didn't give it the shine it deserved. I've only heard great feedback on that remix, in fact 10 out of 10 people surveyed says it smokes the original version by a mile, but hey, now I got it on my album so things always work out in the end eh? oh yeah it's on the BBoy's DVD too.
Your remix and the instrumental version however, were included on the first "Blow Up Factor" release by the Beastie Boys above all of the other versions which was cool. What did you think about the Fatboy Slim mix and Mickey Finn version?
I'm not qualified to say what I think of their versions. However I do think before you comment you gotta know what you're talking about and most of the writers in music mags and online know very little about what the are writing on. I mostly blame that on Magazines etc for forcing good writers to keep away from them due to the way they have been mis-treated
What happened with the Olympic Committee and the original title of your new album "Redneck Olympics"?
They are haters! or as I now say dislikers! They're the only branch of the olympic committee in the world that has a special provision given to them by the government (US supreme court) so they have ultimate ownership of the word "olympics". It's neo fascism if you ask me. I blame it on the Patriot Act!
Is it true you have been planning the album for the past six years?
Yes, actually the fact they didn't release the Body Movin' remix properly gave me the idea. I said damn I need to get comp album licenses for all my remixes incase I get fronted on, I can guarantee it gets out to the fans somehow.
The new album has got a real international feel to it with different countries getting local content on the album. What was the reasoning behind this?
It's for the German and Italian versions, plus two bonus (english) cuts on the Korean version. They each asked for something different to make their version special and unique so that imported copies wouldn't hurt their regions sales. plus I think it's a great idea b/c working with rappers in other languages is the next big thing. Hip-Hop is global! They got guys in Afghanistan that will rap circles around 50 cent and then do a car bombing the next day...ok so still you think a drive by is hard core?!
For those who haven't seen it, can you explain what Mike D is doing on your new album and how that came about?
It's part of a piece that was originally filmed for Grand Royal.Com. I did a tutorial for the Akia MPC 2000 drum machine sampler. Well basically Mike D had called me a few times asking me questions about how to do certain things with it. And word got out I was also helping various producers such as Evidence learn the machine as well...So that's how the idea originated really. Tick and Mike were playing German Tourists in search of KutMasta Kurt the MPC Guru so they could lean how to use the machine. Then Blue Torch (RIP) a action sports show on Fox Sports network wanted to do a piece on me and asked to get that footage to include with the new stuff they shot with me on Venice Beach. It's funny cuz it still gets re-run from time to time and I get a call or email from an old friend sayin' hey Kurt I just saw you on tv!
Looking at who you have worked with in the past is a who's who of the hiphop scene, with Kool Keith, Dilated Peoples, Mos Def, Blackalicious, EPMD, ...the list goes on and on. Who have been some of your favorite people to work with?
I think working with Keith has been the ultimate experience (both ups and downs). I basically grew up listening to him, and being able to produce and work with him has been quite amazing. All the others have been great, but honestly after accomplishing something like that, it's only icing at this point. I think working with Linkin Park has been enlightening as well. Mainly b/c Mike Shinoda in particular is a cool person. When I say cool I mean down to earth, humble and basically everything most rappers aren't. I mean I know guys who've sold 2 or 3 hundred thousand albums and are 100 times more arrogant, while Linkin Park has sold 10's of Millions yet they know how to work with people properly.
Would you like to work with any other non-hiphop artists?
Yeah I'd like to work with more Rock and Alternative Groups for sure. I'm waiting for a call from the White Stripes, they need me to freak a remix for them! If anyone knows them make sure they get the word..thanks!
When remixing, do you work alone on the project or do you work with the original artist involved?
Mostly Alone. Well for the In The End Remix I took elements from their original song chopped them etc and then added Mike's original Vocals along with a new verse by Motion Man. After Mike heard Motion he decided to go do new Vocals on the track to enhance it. I mean we talked on the phone a few times about it so we worked together, just never really in person. I mean I'm sure he would have liked to record in my legendary bathroom (see hip-hop connection [a UK mag] for more details) but he's so busy I think it just worked better for him to do it on his own. I remember one interviewer asked me if the Beasties forced me to do Yoga with them in the studio. I told him well no I never really worked on the remix in person with them, but if they asked me to I would have, and with my beard on!
Do you see a difference in producing now compared to when you started?
Yeah of course, you have to progress, or at least advance in some form or another. I'm not scared to try new things, but I try to be sensible with the approach so I don't loose people in the process. I don't try to make weird beats just for the sake of being weird ya know. Some people like EL P or James Lavelle (no dis intended) do well with that approach but it's just not me.
You were hanging around New York in 86/87 around the time of Licensed To Ill. Do you remember the impact the album had at the time?
That album actually came out a little earlier then that, but yeah i'd say it impacted in a few ways. For instance every frat party then was listening to hip-hop or at least the BBoys, and it opened up a whole new audience to rap that was previously scared by it's ghetto elements. The BBoys were bringing it almost in a fun and comical way. I honestly thought they were a rap parody group the first few times I heard them. The "Oh Wa Ta Da Ky Am" call from "beastie groove" made me think that even back in '84.
What do you think of the mashup craze over the past few years? You've been doing that sort of thing for years now, before it even had a title.
Almost everything in american culture basically starts on the underground, then it eventually becomes pop culture until the next thing comes along, and the only people who continue to do it after it's popular demise are the one's who were doing it from the begining. Case in point Break Dancing and Guys Like Crazy Legs.
What's planned for your label Threshold Records this year?
Motion Man's sophomore solo album (it's really his third counting Masters Of Illusion). It's a nice progression for him and it features Gift Of Gab from Blackalicious, Kool Keith of Course and TOO SHORT! Also planned is The Substance Abuse album, they're from the Bay and have been putting it down for a while now. They Have Motion Man, MF Doom, Kool Keith and a few others featured on their album. They also bring a fresh approach both sonically and lyrically.
Finally, why the fake beards? and why the wrestling masks?
I used to have a real beard, but it got burned off in a accident. So it's really like a man who had his leg amputated wearing an artificial limb. And the mask well honestly I don't know anymore b/c I've long finished paying my debt to the Lucha Libre off (they helped finance my Masters Of Illsuion album).