I hooked up with a good friend of Word Is Bond, Graf Cratedigger, for an extensive interview. Someone of a connoisseur of his own country, the Polish producer recently released his LP 12 Beats Sounds Vol 1.7 on 180g vinyl – I got a copy last week and the beats are fresh, the artwork is dope and the quality is heavy, so if you are interested in an European underground gem make sure you check it out. The dude has always hooked WIB up with the dopest of Polish hip-hop and jazz, and this interview was a very interesting insight into the man himself and the scene around him.
Firstly, let me congratulate you on the release, it’s really dope. Is this your favourite ‘Graf Cratedigger’ record?
Thanks. Yes, at this moment definitely the best. My next records will be released this year, so this is my best record but not for long. Kanał Zero (Chanel Zero) will be released in July.
What is it like to have a a release pressed up on vinyl? I imagine it must be pretty special, howcome you decided to do it a couple of years after release?
It’s dope! If You are record collector and a fan of music like me this is like a big dream come true. For me as an artist it is like another level, because not every producer in these times has has own music on wax. In 2011 Queen Size Records released 12 beats sound vol. 1.7 on numbered 100 cd’s. Three weeks later the cd’s were sold out. A year and half ago we started thinking about vinyl edition. At first we planned double vinyl with original and new material, which would include songs with English speaking rappers. Finally, because of a lot of delays, we decided to move this “new stuff” to separate release. So, we got 180 gram, coloured and numbered vinyl and I am very happy.
For those unfamiliar with you as a producer, describe your style.
Someone said about me “young dude with old soul” and he was right, because I don’t like “new music”, and to my ears the best time for rap music was the 90s. My best friend in my studio is a 12 bit sampler, legendary AKAI S 950. Every sample is recorded to this machine, and next recorded from it to computer or MPC. Sometimes I do the whole beat on MPC and sometimes I use MPC only as a controller. My fav. DAW is FL Studio. I like slowed and chopped vinyl samples, hard drums and some VSTI sounds, and all that things you can hear in my beats.
‘Graf Cratedigger’ is an unusual name, where does it come from?
“Graf” comes from some book. I just like that word. I name myself “Cratedigger”because it was too many Grafs and I needed to differentiate myself from the others. In Poland a lot of young producers are sampling mp3s and for me this way is wrong. So I want to put myself on the other side of barricade. For me a rap music producer or DJ should first of all be a crate digger. A man with vinyl and knowledge. I just want to show people what I represent, what is the philosophy of my own music.
Your production seems quite classic and dark to me; what influences and inspires your music?
My music is like having a walk at night, through the empty streets of a city full of lights. Not the center of the city, but a place where you live and sleep. I just love rap music from 90s and all jazz-soul-funk music which inspired other artists and which is inspiring me. My fav artists are Gill Scott-Heron, David Axelrod, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws… and many more. I wouldn’t like to name them all because I don’t want to deprive other listeners from the whole fun related with sourcing samples. Of course I know that cratediggers will recognize a lot of them very fast. My fav rap producers are: Nick Wiz, Fat Jon, Buckwild and whole D.I.T.C, Madlib (from Lootpack times) and of course Pete Rock and Preemo.
How did you get in to Hip Hop production?
One of my homies was beatmaking ten years ago on Fruity Loops, and I got it from him. Serious beatmaking for me started in 2009 when I was a rapper and I needed beats for my EP.
What can you tell us about your hometown and the Hip Hop scene there?
My hometown’s population is about 37 000 people so we don’t have big hiphop scene, but we have rappers, beatmakers, graffiti writers and bboys. As far as the music is concerned, only my crew (Elabs Crew) and a few other groups are quite active nowadays, but the others are young and need a lot of practice and knowledge.
What is the Polish Hip Hop scene like more generally? Is there anything that you think makes it different from the rest?
Rap music in Poland is very popular nowadays, but 90% of rap listeners in Poland listen only to Polish rap, so they don’t have knowledge about the history and culture of hiphop. I think that except of samples from Polish music and Polish language our scene is similar to other scenes of European countries.
People may not realise but Avens and Kondor, who get severely bumped on Word Is Bond, are Polish. Any Polish MCs/Producers we should check out?
We definitely got more good producers than MCss. People whom you should check are Noon, White House Records, O.S.T.R., Roux Spana, Night Marks Trio, Galus, Mżawski, Stona, Święty and many more… The most popular Polish rappers are: O.S.T.R., Peja (Slums Attack), Eldo, Sokół (WWO). My fav Polish rappers are: Jimson, Jobiks, Łona… I don’t remember more.
I want to ask you about someone that everyone who likes Hip Hop, Funk Soul and Jazz should admire: Druh Slawek. Can you tell me about him, what you think of him and what impact he has had on Poland and yourself?
Druh Sławek for real hiphop heads is legendary. He started doing his own radio show in 1995. His famous and legendary radio show was called RAP TIME. A lot of rappers and producers started their careers from visiting his show with demo tapes. Grammatik and others… they all started there. Another important thing about Druh Sławek is that in his show he played a lot of undeground rap music from the US and other countries. Check his playlists here: http://druhslawek.com. And hes mixes here http://druhslawek.com/ucho.html. Actually, he got radio show in Radio Ram from Wroclaw (Lower Silesia – my region), www.radioram.pl, where every Sunday, from 9 pm Polish time, he is playing a lot of good real rap and songs which are sampled in this rap songs. He is some kind of a black music historian. Fake rap fans in Poland don’t know anything about him. In the days of tapes and vhs’s when listening to a few radio rap shows was an obligation, his show was the most important, because he was playing a lot of music never released in Poland and not available in Polish music stores. The Internet hasn’t been that popular yet. So getting to these releases was very difficult, very expensive or completely unavailable. Today I have got some of those records in my collection.
It is quite interesting examining the history of what some would regard ‘black’ music in Poland. What are your experiences of Funk, Soul and Jazz in Poland?
We had and I think that we still have got it, (but I’m not an expert) great Polish jazz scene. Names like Novi Singers, Stańko, Ubraniak, Kurylewicz, Trzaskowski, Komeda and Jerzy Milian should be known to a lot of cratediggers from all over the world. Definitely Polish jazz (and the whole black music) from the 60s, 70s and 80s was dope and is a great library for every producer. Some waxes of Polish jazz series are very expensive and hard to find.
Polish new jazz group Skalpel (they released for Ninja Tune a few records) used a lot of Polish jazz samples in their music, and this sound makes them famous. I need to recommended free download mix / compilation of old Polish music and dialogues from movies and radio show – Fonoteka. After every compilation release there is organized an open contest for remix / song based on samples of these tracks. I’ve put my 6 tracks on two parts of this remix compilation and I am very happy about it. http://www.77cuts.com Another good compilation released in the last few years is the “Polish funk” series. This is a great starting point for people interested in digging in Polish music.
This is a strictly instrumental release. Have you done many releases with MCs? If so who?
I started from mcing, but finally I found myself in music as a producer. I am working with a lot mc’s from Poland and all over the world. You can check out the effects on my next three releases this year.
Do you prefer making instrumental releases or lyrics with vox?
Most of Polish mc’s are very lazy. In the middle of work you want to kill them all ;) hehe Mc’s from other countries are usually working faster. But I like both of it – working with mc’s and working without them. I want to do an instrumental project in the future. It will be something more than just beats.
What have you got next in line?
In July Queen Size Records will release the cd of Kanał Zero (Chanel Zero) – this is a group consisting of me and my hommie Wyraz (“Word” in polish). The cd’s title is “Niepodległość Trójkątów” ( the independence of triangles). Of course this project is a Polish project but try to check it at www.kanalzero.pl. In September – 2 waxes, one with Polish mc’s and the second with English speaking rappers. I have got 4 tracks with mc’s and 3 instrumentals for this English project ready. You can there among the others – Venomous Ultraemcee and Nocturnal (he worked with PMD) from New Jersey, Cor Stidak from Newark and Audaseey from Mass Influence / SoundSci. I don’t want to tell too much about guests because some of them will be a big surprise for Polish listeners. My hommie Slime (Dj) put a lot of scratches on this release. At last we finished mixing and mastering of Kanał Zero so, I am going back to work on that English-speaking project right now…
Many thanks to Graf Cratedigger for the interview and the great answers. Purchase 12 Beats Sounds Vol 1.7 here.