A standout mix from a standout DJ.
We sometimes like to imagine a world where DJs like Jon Kraus are massive international headliners. Picture a vast dance floor at peak time being gradually built to a frenzy—the rhythms and moods are constantly shifting, the music starts slow and weird and ends up... well, who knows where. Of course, a DJ as idiosyncratic as Kraus is unlikely to be flying in private jets any time soon. But among the dance floors and communities that embrace the unexpected, he deserves to be described as one of the finest DJs out there. You'll see what we mean on his RA podcast, a mix that represents Kraus's apparent mission to move people with non-standard track selections. In isolation, you'd struggle to imagine how some of this music would work on a dance floor. But, as always with great DJs, context is key.
Kraus's reputation stems from his standing in the Manchester scene, where he's been honing his style for the best part of 20 years. He was a resident and cofounder at the long-running Eyes Down party, and worked at Fat City Records for a decade. If you've come across Kraus in recent years, you'll probably associate his name with the party Hoya:Hoya, where he's been a resident, and The Soup Kitchen, where he's played regularly. There's also his show, Peking Spring, on NTS in Manchester, a showcase for the deepest reaches of his tastes. Outside his hometown, you'll have also seen his name billed on some of the best lineups around the UK and further afield. His set at this year's Dekmantel Festival with Joy Orbison was one of the weekend's highlights, and it seems as though word of his skills is gradually spreading beyond the UK.
What have you been up to recently?
I've had some really fun gigs lately but I think the highlights of the summer were Dekmantel and Selectors. Both sets and the Boiler Room there were loads of fun. I've also just finished the artwork for a release I've been co-curating, which is due out late October but that's under wraps for now.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded on 1210s, a CDJ, Pioneer DJM-900 and an Alpha Recording System Isolator at my place. The electrics at the flat were done by complete cowboys and I get power surges through my audio gear that sound like someone getting tasered when the neighbours do the hoovering or use appliances, so I've developed a very patient approach to the home recording process!
Could you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
Yeah, it's a simple idea: I play the tunes I love and try to create something that's about how the mood develops regardless of BPM or genre. Playing music in that way felt like more of an unusual thing when I started DJing, but these days I think people check so much music that (even without trying), their tastes and knowledge are broader so you can get away with some right weirdo shit and no one bats an eyelid. That's certainly not the case everywhere, but if you get a good crowd these days they are super clued-up and it feels easier to express yourself—that's one of the things I love about playing on NTS, too.
Sometimes, if I revisit mixes a while later, they feel like snapshots of a certain period of time, and that will definitely be the case here as there are a few on the mix I've been hammering this summer. There's also a track from a friend of mine who died a few months back, which will always remind me of this period.
You seem fond of back-to-back sets, and, for example, played two at this year's Dekmantel festival. What's the appeal?
It's a social thing I guess, plus it throws up some good surprises. You've really got to trust the other person's taste though. Luckily, I've never got myself into a dodgy one because I'm notoriously bad at hiding it if I'm not feeling something.
Outside of club music, what are you listening to at the moment?
There are a couple of records by XVARR coming sometime soon which are sounding amazing, loads of Gnod too, plus here's some from the recent piles that have been accumulating near the deck in my front room: The Necks' Aether, Harold Budd's The Pavilion Of Dreams, Lori Vambe's Drumland Dreamland, Faruq Z. Bey With Northwoods Improvisers' Infa'a, SPK's Zamia Lehmanni, Jah Shaka's Far-I Ship Dub, Caroline K's Now Wait For Last Year, Dinosaur Jr.'s You're Living All Over Me, Spell's Seasons In The Sun. Having said that, I played a track off the Shaka at Phonox last week and regularly play bits from the Caroline K and Necks in clubs, too! I guess a lot of the stuff I play on my radio show is probably what you'd consider more home listening than club tackle.
What are you up to next?
Funnily enough, in the next couple of months a load more b2b sets! One in Hackney with a guy who's well worth checking called Bitzer Maloney, an all-night session in Manchester with Tom Boogizm (who people DEFINITELY need to check), another with Joy O in Glasgow, and after a two-hour b2b with Elena Colombi at a recent NTS party in Manchester we decided a round two was in order, so we're planning a five-hour one TBA. I'll be doing a few sets on my own, too.