After four long years since his last full-length record, Baltimore’s Karizma dropped his newest album, Wall of Sound, last month on R2 Records, but it was only available via double LP and CD.

As of yesterday though, the online junkies amongst us have finally been rewarded not only with the long-awaited digital distribution, but with a gift of six extra tracks for our patience.

Although Karizma is known primarily for his house productions, Wall of Sound lives up to its name with a whopping 37 diverse tracks (the hard copies only had 31), ranging from house to broken beat to hip-hop to dub and beyond. In an effort to not waste anybody’s precious time, Karizma took a self-proclaimed ADD approach to the record, intentionally keeping some of the songs down to only a minute or two. So there’s a little of everything here.

Karizma put together a quick preview mix of some of the tracks from the record. You can give it a listen here, or cop Wall of Sound on Traxsource, Beatport or iTunes.

Last week, I caught up with Karizma via Skype to discuss his new record and the creative struggles he faced trying to get back into the studio. We also talked about up and coming producers, old school technology, his creative approach to CDJing, and Baltimore. Lots of Baltimore — from his history with Bmore house legends the Basement Boys, his Bmore club roots and its expansion to Jersey, to a special thing called the Baltimore Bump.

You can read edited excerpts from the interview below. The full audio, which aired on Impulse Travels Radio this week, is available at the end of the post as well.

Lil Tiger: It’s been four years since we had a full-length album from you. Why did it take so long for something else to come out, and how did you approach this album?

Karizma: Well, basically, I started traveling heavy on the road. And when it comes to traveling, I really can’t make music on the road. I always like to come home and get the vibe, and get my soul, and rest a little bit and then get into it. At the same time, I was just listening to what was going on out there, and kinda noticing the revival that was happening music-wise with all the 90s stuff and 80s stuff coming back. So, I needed that time, and kinda towards the third year of me not doing anything really serious or doing a collection of music, I got depressed, because it was kinda like, I was trying to figure out if I was still [relevant]. I’m 43. Do I still want to be doing this? I got other options I could go with. Am I really making some type of a change? Do people really notice? You know, if I fall away, is there somebody to step up? These are things you think when you’re in this music thing and you start to get old. Because if you’re not [relevant], then there’s no need to do it anymore, I feel. I gotta do something else.

For three months, I didn’t do any music. I didn’t listen to any music. I kinda just chilled for a little bit and was a regular guy for three months. Then I decided, I came down to the studio and I wrote the first track that would be the start of Wall of Sound. And everyday, I just kept making more and more music.

So the answer to that question was with this album, “Yes, I do need to stay in it.” I can’t say anything if I’m standing on the side. The best way to say something is to be in it with everybody else. That’s what Wall of Sound was all about — my whole journey for another three months, making that music and it bringing me back to where I needed to be.

We all go through it. I talk to many of many of many of my friends in this business, and it’s nothing new. It’s just something either you come out of, or its something — we lose some sometimes. I’m in it to win it and I’m doing it to def, man. Because, like, I got something to say. So, that’s it. I gotta keep saying it until I can’t say it no more.

LT: Well it sounds like you got a lot to say. I think there’s like, what, 31 tracks on this album?

K: [laughing] Definitely, man.

LT: Talk about the different styles on this record and what you were playing with on this album.

K: I think I basically did my house thing, and then my little — I guess I call it broken beat thing. That’s just normal Karizma. So, I give you normal Karizma, and then, in addition to that, basically — what I could have done with this album is [have] all of the tracks named [with] the day that I did them, but I thought that was just too much. You’re hearing day-by-day three months of my work. Literally. That’s why I want people to listen to it. I want to get back to, okay, The Album. There are a lot of good albums out there, but we never get a chance to experience them because we go, “Ah yeah, well I like number 9.” And that’s that. It’ll take something like, we got it on iTunes and then the whole album plays, and then you’re like “Oh my goodness, how did I miss that?” It’s because you didn’t listen to the whole thing, dummy. You know? And you didn’t experience that man or that woman or that group because you was caught up on this one thing.

So, I hope that people listen to the whole thing and not just pick their favorite tracks. You know, pick your favorite, but I want you to listen to it from beginning to end and then back again, because that’s what it’s about to me. Even when I listen to it, it’s like, “Yeah, Kris, that is you.” People always want to know personal stuff about you. The best way to get to know most artists is to listen to their music. They’re saying everything they need to say in the music.

LT: One of the things that’s interesting about your album is that, yeah, it’s 31 tracks, but it’s not 31 eight-minute dance tracks. You’ve got some that are less than a minute or a couple of minutes here and there. You’ve said before that you take an intentionally ADD approach to this album. Talk about that a little bit.

K: Because we in this society are Fast and Now. All of the guys that are producing tracks now, I don’t care if it’s pop or the euro stuff that they’re doing, what they call EDM. They get to the point in three minutes, man. And then they on to the next one. We are kind of like that. We have moved to that. We don’t notice it yet. You know, me at 43, I notice how now I’m just short-tempered. Everything is short. Even my tracks now — I used to make 10-minute, 13-minute build tracks. And that was only because the machine I used to make my stuff on was the Ensoniq ASR-10. Literally, I did everything on that. The whole mix, like “Twyst This,” was mixed live. There is no multi-track to go back to. That was eight instruments, and then I had to record it, and that was the take. The filtering, everything, had to be done in that moment. For most of the first part of my career as Karizma, coming out of Basement Boys, everything that I did was on that. And to this day when I listen back to it, it’s like, dag, you did all that sickness with that one machine.

I think that’s part of this making music thing that kids gotta understand. If it don’t come from here, or if you don’t work that groove, or if you ain’t got a certain feeling in it, then no one will get it. Or, it’ll be hot for a minute, but that’s not what you want. You want something that could resonate with people forever and they can always go back to it. And that’s what I hope I make in everything that I put out. I always try to put some type of emotional content to it. You know, something attached to me. ‘Cause, I feel like I’m leaving a legacy behind, so if somebody should want to hear something, they’ll always know I did it coming from my heart and with good intentions and that I wanted you to feel a certain way when I made this track. And I hope that’s what people get out of everything I do.

LT: Can you talk a little bit about the Baltimore music scene and what it’s like coming out of that and how that’s influenced you today?

K: Well, the thing about me, and I think all of the Baltimore DJs — Spen, DJ Oji, DJ Pope, Neal Conway, Teddy Douglass — anybody that you could pick, we got this Baltimore Bump thing. And what it is, it’s gotta have some bottom and it’s gotta have some type of groove to it. Like, that’s kind of the thing for Baltimore — whether it’s Baltimore club, that thing is all about bass, and then James Brown and “Think.” That was the basis for all Baltimore club. But, it was the way that we put our kicks on. Whatever we did, the kick pattern or cadence had to be on some ill, soulful, make you want to move it type thing. All that resonates in Baltimore, and definitely with me, because anything that I make gotta make you move, man. It’s just a Baltimore thing. I can’t really explain it.

It’s not a regular type groove. Like most people, when I go out and do parties some time, you know you gotta warm up the floor, and then you get two dances or whatever. In Baltimore, if you playing and they come in and you ain’t rockin’ from that point on, then they leaving. There’s no standing around. Ain’t nobody socializing. Erebody comin’ to get it. That’s what it is. So you play like that. All energy. Even if it’s something really downtempo, or whatever, it’s gotta have some type of energy. And bottom to it. Because we just love our bass, man.

It’s gotta be bumpin’ and it’s gotta have some bass.

LT: Since you did a lot of early Baltimore club productions, I was wondering if you have any opinions on Jersey club?

K: I mean, it’s just an expansion of Baltimore club. It’s good. There should be other branches of it. That’s how a thing spreads. You can’t keep it to yourself and that’s that. That’s the end of the story. It’s gotta spread. So there’s Baltimore club, then there’s Philly club, Jersey — so whoever got their hands in, that’s better. All the better. It’s just, take it to another level. That’s the only thing I ask of it, and I think these guys are [doing that], ’cause I hear some amazing stuff. Stuff I’m like, you know what, you can’t even hate on it because it’s just so clever. So I’m proud of these guys. I’m not doing it no more, so somebody else had to carry that thing on. So if these Jersey, Philly guys, whoever else, Virginia — wherever they at — if you catch onto it and you like it and you wanna do your variation, that’s what it’s for. Because, at the end of the day, we know where it came from and we know its origins. So I’m good with it, man.

LT: How did you progress from Baltimore club into house and do you feel like that space has given you more of a canvas to create what you want to create?

K: Oh yeah, definitely. The Baltimore stuff was just my cutting teeth. I always wanted to make house and hip-hop. And that was perfect, because it’s the mish-mash between the two. So, I figured if I could get good at that, then I could get good at making house. That was just it. I like Kenny Dope, and I like his beats, but how do I make it me? That was the hardest thing I think of all when I was going to Basement Boys because I felt like, I never wanted to be the guy that joined and didn’t have anything to offer. I wanted to come with something on my plate to say, “Alright, this is what I can do.”

Doing the Baltimore club stuff built my chops up to have enough confidence to go to Basement Boys. And then once I got on with Spen, that was just next level, because he handled everything musically, and then he just let me go nuts on the beats. Deepah Dubs was just basically me fooling around and Spen letting me have a go. Like sometimes, he would just look at me like, “I don’t know, Kris.” And then we were doing things and he’d be like, “Okay.”

So that was our thing and I just loved working with him because that helped up my game in knowing what songwriting was, and then working with artists, and how far you can push, and how far you can create, and then learning about the business. So it was just the perfect place for me to be. And I’m glad I was there because I learned a lot from those guys. … At the end of it I just feel blessed. Because then I was able to do Karizma on my own. If not for that situation, that would still probably be a hard climb for me. Especially right now because there’s a lot of artists out there.

LT: Talk about your approach to DJing and your relationship to the CDJ, because you seem to have a very special relationship with the CDJ.

K: I think, honestly, I’ve always been fascinated with the CDJ since the 600 because we used to use that in the Basement Boys studio. And when I found out things like the whole master pitch, and that you could keep something at the same pitch, but pitch it up faster and stuff like that, I was like, “Well, how come we never used that? Surely somebody’s thought of this.” So, once I got a pair of CDJs home, I just started thinking, alright, we know we can play one-to-one, and you can beat match and all these things. That’s easy. So, what else can I make this thing do? Shucks, I paid this amount of money for it, I need for it to do something.

I’m not going to look at this as just a CD player. It is an instrument. Okay, let’s nail looping. That’s gonna be the first thing. I’m going to loop on time. I’ve seen people loop, and it’s always off. No, learn how to do it on time. So once I mastered that, I was like, okay, what else can I do. Alright, now that you can loop on time, why don’t you just make sure that when you loop, you’re telling stories with the loops, but you’re also making sure that the two records talk to each other. Or, if that’s not happening, then make a remix on the fly. That’s what you do. Make something happen that people don’t normally see done with CDJs, ’cause that’s what they for. Showing something different. That just spawned something else.

And I just constantly always practice, and even now I just try to find new things that this thing can do and just translate it my way. Because, the CDJ, the turntables, the tape deck, the reel-to-reel, all these were musical instruments as well. We had the reel-to-reel doing something that it normally doesn’t do, which is to make a reverb. That wasn’t on purpose. That was a mistake, and it turned into something. And now we have tape echoes and these types of things. So, that’s my crazy thought process into how I got into playing real crazy on the CDJs.

And also, I wanted to tell stories. I’ve seen other DJs do it, all the older DJs do it. This is the way I tell a story. My way should be different than everybody else’s. That was all in the concept of me DJing.

And another thing, it’s all organic to me. I never know what I’m gonna play when I step up. I might have like five or six things I’m definitely going to play. But it’s never like, I’m gonna start with this. No, it’s kinda like, I get up there, I look at the crowd, see what’s going on, and then I listen to what the previous DJ is playing, ’cause I always like to get there to hear them, so I know what kind of vibe is going on. And I just think it’s bad DJ etiquette to get there when you about to play, so I just like doing that. So when listening to this other DJ play, it’s like, during a party there should be a nice little scene and waves and ups and downs, but always consistent. So there should not be a jump from when Karizma comes on to this. It should be smooth.

Rich Medina said to me, DJ sets should be like basketball games. We just passing to each other, and shoot the layup, and back to this one. We a team. That’s the way I look at my DJ sets. I try to merge with whatever DJ just came on last. I don’t just break into Karizma. I ease you into it.

LT: Who are some artists out now that are inspiring for you?

K: I like Sean McCabe of course. He took it and ran with it, and I just think he’s gonna be The Guy. He’s already that now. People kinda say he’s up and coming. Naw, Jack, he is up. He’s there, man. I’m just looking forward to seeing where he takes it. That’s gonna be a beautiful thing.

Working with Osun[lade] is just always wonderful, because he is definitely somebody that I look up to. It was just a pleasure to work with him, because, you know, usually you get friends, and you don’t wanna ask ’em anything because you know that they’re busy, just as busy as you are, so you just don’t wanna ask. I finally got the nerve to ask him, “Can … can you do this track for me?” He was like, “Man, send that thing over!” And that was that. That happened the way it was supposed to happen.

As far as the younger guys that I’m liking, I’m liking AphroDisiax from out of London. They’re dope. Sy Sez. He’s turning into another guy that I’m keeping my eye on. Funny enough, I like the Disclosure guys because, you know, they are doing underground and it’s hot. And it’s kinda that thing of what I miss about what pop could be. Pop, when I played it, you could play most pop records in a DJ set and you would be okay. You can’t play that stuff now. So to be able to play something that the kids know, it’s alright for me to play because the beats are there, it’s clever, and it’s not so commercial that I can’t play this. This is actually alright. So I can’t even hate on it.

There’s guys like that I look at, the Flying Lotuses, and then we have also guys — Alexander Nut, who runs Eglo — I’m looking at what he does. Also, peep into what people in Chicago are doing with the whole juke stuff, ’cause that’s interesting. So, I always got my eyes and ears on a little bit of everything, because I think you should know what’s going on out there to figure out where you fit in all this. You know, you may be able to catch a sound or two and be like, “Yeah, that will work in a Karizma mix somehow.” It makes you still relative-ish. You don’t have to go that whole route, but you can take a sound or two.

You can listen to the full interview below on Impulse Travels Radio to hear Karizma’s thoughts on busy listeners and their short attention spans, the restrictions and freedoms of music production technology, and his upcoming projects, including a new EP this Fall called The Compliments to be released on Atjazz‘s label.


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