This is an archived interview conducted by Meghan in 2009 for her previous site – Front & Center Rock.
Kraak & Smaak
30 March 2009
The Engine Room|Tallahassee, FL
SR: Well first off I need a crash course in pronouncing the band name, because probably like most Americans I’ve been pronouncing your name “Crack & Smack”
K&S: Yeah. Crack and Smack! Well actually it is Kraak & Smaak (just add your own Dutch accent and you should be fine) and that means ‘crunch and taste,’ crunchy tasty, something like that. It has nothing to do with what you think.
Okay, then please just go ahead and say your name and what you do.
I’m Oscar, I’m the producer together with Mark, and Mark’s not here, he’s DJing right now I think in Tampa and Miami. We’re with the full band here. We’re with Rose, maybe I can pass it through?
Oscar: Rose, no? Rose, say hello!
Rose: Hello Hello Hello!
Wim: Hello, I’m Wim I’m also one of the producers like Oscar already said. And I think that we have an MC…
Sebastian: I’m Sebastian and I provide the caffeine.
Okay back to you Oscar
Right now you have out your album Plastic People. Can you tell us a bit about the recording process of the album and give us some insight on its overall sound.
Yeah okay, well after the first album Boogie Angst we continued making 12′ just for the dance floor, for DJ’s only and we had some tracks on the shelves which needed some vocals. And then we just looked in our records on our shelves like ‘okay which kind of vocalists do we want to work with?’ apart from people from the band. So we did a song with Rose, we did a song with Ben Westbeech, who just released a record by that time, and some other people. We just tried to approach people which we like and some people react and some people don’t. Sometimes you do it through the internet and sometimes they come by the studio. We did one thing with an MC from the US which was kind of like a drug deal. It was like ‘give me the lyrics,’ ‘no give me the money first.’ So it’s sometimes like that and sometimes just work in the studio. Working in the studio is always better, it’s more fun and you’re actually making music instead of putting something on a track. It’s cool also but, ya know.
Wim: It’s more electronic than the first one.
Oscar: Yeah, it’s more electronic than the first one. It was more funky and live we tend to sound more funky as well, and more energetic because some of the songs are too atmospheric and to down tempo to play live, so we play just the more up tempo part of the album and off the first album, and those things together we combine and do it live. We also play remixes live, and we have singers, 90% is with vocalists, and that’s about it I think.
Kind of going with what you just started talking about there, you guys have been quoted as a “must see live band.” What do you think you do differently that has earned you this title?
Oscar: Well, we tear the roof off.
Wim: With energy!
Oscar: It’s a combination of the tracks together with the MC. It’s a combination of electronics, the house beats and the hip hop beats to start with and on top of that we play live, so there’s more dynamics to it than an average DJ. You can do more, and we played a lot of shows. A lot of shows. I think we are at 300 now and still counting. I guess that’s the main reason. We know how to make it crazy.
Earlier this year you guys won a European Border Breakers Award. Over here we probably don’t understand the significance of that award.
Yeah, we didn’t either! So we were like ‘oh the European Border awards?’ And sometimes you get a prize and you don’t know what it is and then afterwards you realize what it means because it comes back at you in interviews and in the press, so I guess it’s a big thing for Europe, more for Europe than for Holland I guess. And it’s one of the reasons that we get asked for a lot of festivals in Europe now, in Eastern Europe and ya know, so it did something, a lot I think.
So what does all of that mean to you guys as a band?
Well we try to see ourselves as an international name and not as a Dutch name so I think the more prizes like this you win, international prizes, the better. And there are a lot of prizes in Holland as well, and it’s cool, but European and international prizes, of course, I think it’s totally in line with what we try to achieve being an international name. And the sound is not a typical Dutch sound.
Wim: So because we played the Jimmy Kimmel Show last November, I think we were the first Dutch band to ever play there and the idea of being able to do an American television show also sort of makes you wonder or gives you the idea that you’re really an international act.
Oscar: And the sound, there is something like a thing called ‘The Dutch sound’ but its something else. Its more trance, ya know Armin Van Buren, Tiësto, and Ferry Corsten, and they are doing great but its not what we do so we cannot take advantage of that sound. It’s something completely different. Fedde Le Grand did make a remix of “Squeeze Me” last month so that’s maybe a big thing.
Wim: It’s gonna be released next week or something.
Oscar: Yeah it’s already played in Miami by the big DJ’s, so yeah.
Since you guys are both a live band and a DJ team, how would you say you work on each one. Do you put the same kind of creativity into both?
Yeah, I think so, the difference is that Wim and I are more into the band and Mark and delaSarge is the fourth, member of the DJ Team. We try to work on it separately, so they put all the efforts in the DJ set and we try to do everything for the live set. And there’s a little bit of competition going on between the two but that’s healthy ya know, that’s good. But I think you cannot compare one to the other because when we play for instance in a big House festival at 3am it didn’t work, people just wanna hear house music and a DJ. Whilst tonight, we were going to DJ at like 10 or 11 I don’t think it has the same impact as the live band has. So, it’s just two different things, it’s just a matter of timing. I think the people who listen to the CD they want to hear the band, they want to see a band and people who are more into clubbing…
Oscar: Yeah, remixes and 12′. They would prefer the DJ set I guess. So it’s really two different worlds. We are going to release an official DJ mix in like 6 months, so that’s other side of Kraak and Smaak.
So you mentioned you have some competition between the live band and DJ Team, do you have any fun stories about the battle over who can throw a better dance party?
Oscar: Ummm, yeah… (gets up and runs to the bathroom)
Rose: Oh, now all of a sudden he has to pee!
Wim: I don’t know, I guess there is a competition, but like Oscar already said, they are two different things and it’s difficult to compare them. Because we are in a position that we can do both and all three of us have enough ideas about live music and about DJing, we always have many discussions about what we should do or do not. And it goes for both so, it mingles a lot.
Rose: It helps each other eventually. Think of it as worlds colliding.
Wim: Yeah, I think there are not many acts around in the world that can produce and DJ and do live stuff. It can be difficult sometimes too.
Oscar: Sometimes it’s a little bit confusing for people, but ya know the more fame you get the more people read about you and know what you do, but sometimes it is confusing.
Wim: Tell the story!
Oscar: (Laughs)Yeah there’s a long rivalry and that’s good. For instance the SXSW Festival… NO… for instance there was a party at Perez Hilton’s in Miami, no, in Austin last week and I guess we wanted to play there as well but he picked the DJ set and there were some nice pictures on late night television in Holland, of Mark and Perez Hilton and Kanye West and we were like ‘aarrrgghhhhh’ and people were asking us ‘How was Perez Hilton’s? Well, I was not there. But luckily for us most times it’s the other way around. So heh heh, we’re doing better.
Ok well let’s talk about your remixes, I know a lot of big names have asked to work with you on remixes. What are some of your favorites?
Oscar: A Skillz! We play that live, he made a remix for us, not we for him. Our remix – Mark Rae is one of our favorites, Bitter:Sweet, one of our favorites, “Man of Constant Sorrow” which appeared on the album as well. Jamiroquai maybe. Some remixes I always skip. But I think Sam Sparrow! It’s a new one, it’s on The Remix Sessions where we did like five or six remixes for some people. Yeah we made a remix for Sam Sparrow and that’s one of my favorites.
Wim: And then the alternative remix for Junkie XL, that was nice.
Oscar: Not released, yeah, Junkie XL, Dutch guy as well, he’s amazing.
I know that Mark stated that your dream collaborator is Thom Yorke. If you guys had one day of recording with him, how would it go and what would the final product be like?
Well, we just mentioned his name once because we had to come up with a name (laughing). I think we’d have to do something strange with him, give him some LSD or something, try some really strange stuff. Because what we always try to do is something different than what you expect with because otherwise it’s just the same as always and I guess we would do something with him…
Wim: Maybe do a funk track with him.
Oscar: A funk track with Thom Yorke, yeah! A very happy track with Thom Yorke! Or maybe some Dutch Trance music, yeah. I don’t know, we would do something completely different then what he expected.
Okay, I only have one more question for you guys. What are you listening to now, whether it’s a favorite or an influence?
Wim: We were just discussing Boards of Canada, we’ve known them for a while but the guys in The Engine Room were playing an ambient mix tape and all this came along.
Oscar: Yeah, and the new Jazzanova. A lot of things we listen to, a lot of Dutch stuff, we buy a lot of stuff, you should ask Mark because he plays all the stuff when he DJs. And also we didn’t listen to any music for the last couple of weeks, nothing, nothing. That’s really stupid. But you play every night and it’s nice when you can enjoy some silence. But at home yeah, Booka Shade, we saw Booka Shade at the festival last week. I must say that on CD it’s a little bit better than live, but, do you know Booka Shade?
No, I don’t, I’ll have to check them out!
Oscar: Yeah! From Germany
Wim: Electronic stuff.
Oscar: Electronic stuff, yeah. The new Jazzanova album, that’s not electronic but, they did a song with Ben Westbeech by the way!
Well that’s all the questions I have for you, so thank you and if you want to let everyone know about any future plans or your album go ahead.
Oscar: Yeah go check out our album! Buy the album and we’ll be back at the end of the year I think. We’re coming back in May but it’s just the West Coast.
(Loud coffee grinder interrupts and everyone starts laughing.)
Oscar: This is Seb making some coffee. The Dutch and their coffee…