Drum & bass has a lot to thank Newcastle Upon Tyne for. Over the years we’ve been consistently treated to game-changing northern mavericks from Hidden Agenda to Original Sin and Sub Zero’s Generation Dub collective and their close compadre Taxman. There’s been Craggz & Parallel Forces, Tyrone and longstanding regular events renowned and respected across the UK like Turbulence and, more recently, Motion Sickness.
Then came the wealth of artists who emerged in the late 2010s. With all of them sharing roots in the jump-up / roller axis, the likes of Skantia, Nectax, Hexa, Stompz, Scudd, Rantik, KY and Kre all broke through around the same time in a lesser spotted localised, regional movement that characterised jungle drum & bass for many years in the 90s, but has become far less common in the modern internet era.
A refreshing moment in D&B history, all the acts hitting hard with an infectious energy and a sense that something different was happening up north. And another very vocal figure in that mix – making a lot of noise on labels such as Ram, Onyx, Overview, Serial Killaz, Audio Addict and Skankandbass – was Kastro, or Chris Kastro as he is now officially tagged.
Now five years deep into his craft, like many of his Toonside peers, Chris Kastro has gradually refined his vision and sound. Following the unstoppable likes of Skantia and Nectax – two artists who’ve really settled into their grooves and created powerful, prominent signatures in totally individual ways – he’s eased off his release rate to fine tune an already strong sense of quality control and focus on what the Chris Kastro sound is, and what it can be.
As well a series of free downloads and many collabs which will see the light of day later this year, a big motivational part of this new mindset and self-development process was the launch of his Patreon account and the development of a producer community surrounding it. With promises to fulfil to his supporters, including one-to-one tuition, it’s given him a working practice that is about to pay off with his new slew of releases.
In fact it’s already started: As of last Friday, February 24, he dropped his first releases as Chris Kastro. Sledgehammer (with KY) and Shake both landed on Trex’s Trust Audio. Now come Mercia and Eko Cut, two very special tracks that are exclusive to download for1 More Thing Patreon supporters.
Stream them below as we find out all about the evolution of Chris Kastro, how he arrived at such an inspired mindset, and what comes next…
I have! I’ve been doing it for a few months now and have a few different tiers. The basic tier is a straight up sample pack. Then the second tier is a tutorial and a track breakdown as well as the samples. Things get interesting with the third tier which is all the other stuff plus a live stream once a month where I play around with my hardware kit and make mental noises, chop them up and share that with those Patreon supporters. Then a fourth one is all of that plus one-to-one tuition.
How have you found it your Patreon experience? I find it too much to fulfil my promises with everything else I’ve do…
It’s a lot of work isn’t it? You’ve got to be so consistent and you need to be creating things you should be charging for, it is a real challenge! I enjoy it though, and it gives me two sample packs to work with at the very least.
Eventually the plan is to build up a community who are interested in hardware and that style of creative process. So we all jump on a stream and talk about very specific sounds and instruments and I’ll go in whatever direction people are feeling.
I love the community aspect of that. Are you on Discord? That seems to be the place to build up a community like that.
Not yet but I am in a couple of groups but it does seem like an amazing platform for that type of thing.
Definitely. I guess now is a really interesting time to set up a producer Patreon. After the massive exodus onto there during lockdown, things have resettled in the touring environment so it’s like a second wave where people know how to use it more.
Yeah a few people have done really well on there. Molecular is doing really well. Monty is, too. And I think a lot of it is down to building up a super tight community on Discord so the people who support you are pretty loyal and into what you’re doing.
Yeah! I do love that approach. Definitely a marathon and not a sprint. So tell us about the name change. Well, name remix, to Chris Kastro…
There’s a few reasons. The first one is that there are around 200 Kastros on Spotify. So I needed to have a name change eventually anyway. And also I haven’t actually released anything in over a year as I’ve been trying to build up my tunes and get my quality control as high as it can be. And in doing that I feel my personality is coming through the music more.
There’s a lot more soul in the tunes. It feels a lot more personal. So going as Chris Kastro made sense and gave it more of a personal touch. I didn’t want to lose Kastro entirely like, you know?
Totally! So this is the start of an exciting new chapter for you!
Yeah it really is and I think the Patreon comes hand in hand with that, too. Trying something new and sticking my feet in as deep as I can and seeing how far I can push it.
I’m all about that vibe! But for that to work you need to go maximum effort don’t you?
You really do!
So tell us about these tunes! Thank you so much for them!
I made them at the start of the turning point of me having change in mindset about my production and I was really happy with them and how much I’d progressed. I didn’t want to give them away for free so was keeping them for a special occasion and the right fit. To be real I couldn’t think of the right label for them really. Especially Eko Cut, I was going for that Dillinja type of vibe, like a real old school sound.
Yeah I love it!
I’m glad you like them because they came from a moment when it started to come together because I wasn’t giving so much of a fuck about what people thought about me or my sound. And as a result both of those tunes came from that headspace so they’re really important.
Ah man that’s even more of an honour to give them away on Patreon! You’re right; when you stop caring what people think then you can be a lot more free creatively.
Totally. I’ve always tried to be like that anyway but it is hard.
Oh for sure. And I imagine that was especially tricky when you came through with a big group of like minded artists from the same area at around the same time. How was that for you?
Yeah I think that did come with a few extra comparisons in that way but it’s so mad to see now how everyone has found their sound and taken things in their own direction. Just look at Skantia and Nectax and what they’re doing. They led the way with that.
Oh yeah man Hexa has got hardware galore. He’s got tunes that make me shudder!
You’ve got into hardware too…
Yeah I have. I haven’t bought anything recently but I do want to build my Eurorack up. There’s a few oscillators I want to buy and I really love using my Culture Vulture. I haven’t used that lately because I’ve been making a shit tonne of liquid.
Yeah man. Me and Tominthechamber have been on a real vibe lately on that front. We’ve been very productive.
Great to hear! You’ve just dropped something on Trust, right?
Yeah that was Shake and Sledgehammer, which I did with KY. They were really good fun. Then I’ve got a single on Precinct in April which I’m very excited about. Dogger has so supportive, I’m really proud to be working with him. And then me and Tom have developed a really good relationship and creative process.
We have since Stars Amongst the Shadows on Skankandbass a while back. We talk most days so getting on tunes together makes sense and we’ve now got three tunes in the works which are almost completed. They got a real summery vibe so it’ll be great to have them out too.
Go on this is wicked, the evolution of Chris Kastro is happening before our very eyes!
I’m excited for it I really am! I’ve also got another EP coming on Precinct later in the year. It’s quite a dark, twisted Metalheadzy vibe.
Yeah I’m just working with people who I really enjoy working with and take inspiration from. I think I’ll be working with Precinct and Trust for some time to come because both Dogger and Trex are really sound and inspiring to work with.
Yeah, two absolute and very certified gents. Huge respect for both. Plus these two tunes on 1 More Thing!