Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Zero Gravity monthly residents Krafty Kuts and A.Skillz on coconuts and fresh mixes

DJ duo Krafty Kuts and A Skillz talk us through their monthly Dubai residency at Zero Gravity.
Krafty Kuts, left, and A.Skillz. Courtesy Zero Gravity
Krafty Kuts, left, and A.Skillz. Courtesy Zero Gravity

The first thing I notice about Krafty Kuts – he is hungry. When we sit down for lunch, he gets through a tuna carpaccio and chicken quesadilla (with salad switched for fries) with what my mum would call a “healthy appetite”, and still has space for a decadent dessert.

The second thing to note – he can talk. For more than two hours he chats in a charmingly haphazard stream, friendly and unguarded, gamely mixing up names and dates.

When he finds himself in such a conversational cul-de-sac, A.Skillz steps in. In fairness, his eating abilities are also beyond dispute (spicy meatballs to start, followed by grilled salmon, with lemon butter sauce and a side of broccoli, but no dessert). And his conversation is equally warm and open, just slightly more self-aware. He affords his long-term collaborator the respect of an elder, musically and literally, which he is: Krafty, real name Martin Reeves, has more than a decade on Skillz, also known as Adam Mills.

We’re dining at Zero Gravity to discuss the pair’s continuing residency at the venue, a monthly happening that sees the double act serve up a delightfully scattershot mix of breakbeat, hip-hop, house, reggae, rock and most genres in between.

The deal-sealer seems to be the fresh coconut juice the place serves, a whole shell with a straw stuffed down the middle. I lose count after they order a third round.

“I could drink five of these quite easily, they’re the only reason I come here,” says Krafty, without a hint of irony.

“I could smash these all day,” seconds Skillz. “For me this is like a dream, my favourite drink of all time, and this place has the ultimate way to enjoy a coconut.”

It might sound like a cheap plug for their employers, but their flinch-free earnestness suggests otherwise. In fact, a love of food and drink is clearly a common bond.

From here the conversation quickly turns to riders – the complimentary backstage goodies a venue is contractually obliged to provide.

“We have got the least exciting rider in the world, it used to have all sorts on it,” says Krafty mischievously. “Now, I’ve got this down to a fine art,” boasts Skillz. “I have coconut water and two bananas. Now, those two bananas are the most vital thing. When you get to the end of a gig, no matter where you are in the world, you’re going to be hungry. And something is going to happen where you end up eating really bad food. Those two bananas prevent you from making that mistake in life.”

Krafty agrees. “I’ve noticed if you put loads of snacks on your rider, you just end up like some chubby DJ.”

Instantly disarming, they make a jovial odd couple. The shared years are clear, having broken out together with 2003’s joint LP Tricka Technology.

“Krafty was running his record store in Brighton,” says Skillz, recalling their first meeting.

“And Adam just walks in,” says Krafty, finishing his pal’s sentence. “We knew of each other, lived near each other in ­Chichester and had a similar background.”

Soon they’re off and running, recounting tales of posing naked under New York’s Brooklyn Bridge (a cover shoot for Mixmag), and working with Dr Luke – the super-producer behind hits for Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, will.i.am, et al – after he arrived at their label’s Camden base and said he was a fan.

It all sounds like a fairy-tale musical romance. So I ask how they wind each other up.

“I’m pretty good with my timekeeping,” says Krafty, like he means something entirely different. “Now I’m better – I used to have a lot of late nights on the road and Adam would be waiting for me at 10am, and I’d show up 11am or noon.”

It’s around now that our meal is suddenly interrupted by a passing friend, on holiday with his wife and child, by chance dining at the next table. It turns out to be Darren Emerton – formerly one-third of the seminal British dance group Underworld, responsible for the UK No 2 smash Born Slippy, which featured on the soundtrack of the film ­Trainspotting.

Overhearing the three gossip about mutual friends offers concrete evidence that DJs are actually normal people, after all.

Eventually I get the pair talking about the residency. While they started out together, in the 12 years since Tricka Technology they’ve built separate careers, and now rarely tour as a duo. For both to make a monthly calendar commitment to Dubai, at the same time, is a big deal.

The fact it’s on a Thursday helps – they both leave immediately after the gig, flying in opposite directions to make Friday-night engagements, Krafty in Seattle, and Skillz in the United Kingdom.

“We don’t take it for granted because it’s a residency,” says Krafty. “The whole plane journey here Adam had his laptop open. From the moment we took off to the moment we landed – apart from a few moments of me snoring – we’re working on new ­material.”

Skillz estimates half of the tunes they will play that evening haven’t appeared in previous Dubai sets.

“If you play somewhere different for six months, you can just churn it out and do the same thing every night,” says Skillz. “This gig forces us to get in the studio, knock up some ideas, dig for some new tracks, come up with fresh mixes – we’re arming ourselves with so much new ­music every month.”

It’s midafternoon by the time I leave this most decidedly odd couple. They’re off to catch some winter sun – and already planning dinner. They’re contemplating sushi, keeping it light before the gig. I guess there’s always those bananas for afters.

Krafty Kuts and A.Skillz’s monthly residency at Zero Gravity, SkyDive Dubai, continues on Thursday, March 19, and on April 30 and May 28. Free for ladies before midnight and men before 10pm, Dh100 after

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: March 18, 2015 04:00 AM

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