LISTEN: KRYSTAL KLEAR'S LOVE LETTER TO DUBLIN

Inspired by Woody Allen's 'Manhattan', the producer and DJ's created an ode to Dublin.

Krystal Klear is a hopeless romantic. It’s not something he likes to admit – “It makes me feel like a sap!”, he tells us on the phone – but listening to his ‘Love Letter to Dublin’ it’s hard to miss. Although you might be used to the DJ and producer’s four-to-the-floor disco and boogie sets, not to mention the glistening singles and remixes he puts out on his label Cold Tonic, he's done something a bit more leftfield for us: a 50-minute homage to the sounds and memories of growing up in Dublin, the city he loves.

After spending two days traversing the city with a microphone to create a soundscape of urban life – caught conversation, passing traffic, an anecdote about someone getting handcuffed to a bar – he introduced the jazz, hip-hop instrumentals, Detroit house and disco he remembers listening to as a kid. (A kid who, as we discuss below, spent his waking hours in Dublin’s All City records learning how to DJ and use an MPC.) It’s less a standard mixtape, more a hypnotic hour of psychogeography. Enjoy.

Hi Krystal Klear. How did you go about making your Love Letter to Dublin?
I went into town with a microphone to get some field recordings. When I was making it the track-list was originally loads of dance music but I was like, “Hold on for a sec. If I was 16 again and I had my mini-disc player and I was walking around town, what would I have been listening to? What makes me think of Dublin?” It wouldn’t have been that much dance music so I took a lot out – it was tough to restrain myself.
 
"EACH SECTION OF THE MIXTAPE HAS ITS OWN PERSONAL STORY IN MY MIND."
 
What was your route around Dublin?
Me and Charlotte started in town on South William Street, which is an area with a lot of bars and stuff. It’s the equivalent of Kingsland Road [in East London] a quarter the size. It’s a nice street with loads of bars and clubs and eateries. We walked all the way through Temple Bar down by the record shop that I grew up in, then we crossed the Ha’penny Bridge, up Liffey Street and then down Henry Street.

It leads onto my favourite street in Dublin and there’s an area around there called Moore Street, which is originally where all the trades-people would sell fruit, veg, meat and housing goods in a market space. It was also the home for many treacherous trips as a 14 year-old to get hustled by the locals in an attempt to buy pellet guns or fireworks. Throughout the years with development and stuff it’s deteriorated but there are still like 60 to 70-year-old women selling fruit and they’re not moving for no one. We actually spoke to them and they were like,“They’re trying to kick us out to build apartments here but fuck that.” And I just love that. It’s the most definable asset of Irish people: they won’t take no shit!

"TURNS OUT TONY WAS THE GROUNDSKEEPER AT THE MATCHES I'D GO TO AS A KID. I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT!" 
 
The mixtape ends with a monologue from someone called Tony. How did that happen?
It was the most remarkable part of the day. Tony’s the guy who tells an anecdote about his friend who gets tied to a bar. He was speaking to us for about an hour. And by the end of it – he was covering his entire life story – he goes, “I recognise you.” And obviously my ego’s there going, “He couldn’t recognise me, I’m only a music producer but then maybe it’s not that far-fetched!” And I was like, “No I don’t think you recognise me” and he was like, “No I do! What school did you go to? What area are you from?” I told him and he goes, “I know you: you used to come to the matches on the weekend and cause a havoc in the stands. I was the groundskeeper.” I was like, “Fuck!” I couldn’t believe it. Only in Ireland!


KRYSTAL KLEAR IN DUBLIN. PHOTO: JOSHUA GORDON

Did you mainly choose the music based on your memories growing up?
All my records at the minute are in storage so I couldn’t rifle through my collection to familiarise myself with the stuff I was listening to, but memory obviously played a huge role. I went through a lot of hard-drives, which built the basis of the track-list.

Dublin, to me, always has a huge relation to jazz music. I’m by no means a jazz aficionado but I love it and listen to whenever I can. My heritage is a lot of boogie and disco and funk. What a lot of people don’t realise with great disco LPs and boogie 12”s is there are always these jazz chord-driven, melancholic, spirited funk numbers that aren’t about getting up and dancing and it’s that hybrid that reminds me of growing up – that’s why I chose that Con Funk Shun track. I basically just tried to find songs that, when I hear them, remind me of Ireland.
 
"DUBLIN, TO ME, HAS ALWAYS HAD A HUGE RELATIONSHIP WITH JAZZ."
 
Listening to the mix feels like watching Woody Allen’s Manhattan – it’s both intimate and a grand ode to the city.
You’ve fucking nailed it! Woody Allen is the most perfect example I can think of that everyone understands. His correlation between the music he liked and the city he loved was as much personal as it is understandable. So you might not like his musical taste on its own but when you see it in his movies you understand the whole message. That music to me is my love story with Dublin.

When I was growing up in Ireland listening to these records I was in this place in my life where I wasn’t really achieving what I wanted to. You know like when you’re young and you get your heart broken…You remember those moments to music. I’d hear a song and think, “Jesus I remember listening to this all the time when I was 16 and obsessed with this girl.” These moments might not seem significant but they really are.

It’s that thing of putting your headphones and pretending you’re in a film. Scoring a film that doesn’t exist.
(Laughs) I’ve done that so many times. Listening to music and hoping the other person I’m thinking about is looking at me while I listen to it. Sound-tracking my movements throughout the city. I live that still to this day man! When I made the sequence of the mixtape, every section has its own story in my mind – it sounds like a load of waffle but it genuinely did. I was thinking about anecdotes in my mind about when I was younger and how stuff affected me back then.

PHOTO: JOSHUA GORDON

You play a track by ‘Heralds of Change’ – I had no idea that Hudson Mohawke made hip-hop instrumentals.
When I was 17 or 18 I pretty much lived in this record store called All City. It was a graffiti store too and I used to be a writer so I’d hang out there every day and harangue the owner, Olan O’Brien, and eventually he took me under his wing. He taught me a lot about buying records, the ethics of DJ-ing and a lot about hip-hop, funk and soul.

He was starting a label at the time and he discovered Mike Slott who was working with Hudson Mohawke in Glasgow. Mike moved back to Ireland and, with Hudson Mohawke, created this project called Heralds of Change. Olan was the first guy to come together with them and release their stuff. To be honest, the Heralds of Change – people may or may not admit it – was the foundation that brought HudMo into the limelight; Olan broke his back making sure the right people heard it. So that record there is Mike Slott and Hudson Mohawke but it’s based on a sample – Mike’s dad was an Irish jazz musician and it’s from him. It’s a really beautiful record and it reminds me about learning to make beats because Mike was teaching me how to use an MPC around then in his gaff in Terenure.

So what have you got coming up for us?
I’ve got two records coming out over the summer – one on my own label Cold Tonic and then a re-issue remix package on SAM Records, which is one of the most significant disco labels of all time. I’m working on something between Dublin and New York at the moment but I don’t want to talk about it yet – it’s gonna change everything though and I'm so excited about it.

Listen to Simian Mobile Disco and xxxy’s Love Letter mixtapes. Photography by Joshua Gordon.