Krystal Klear on His Unusual Obsession with '80s Boogie, and Finding Obscure Records in Ireland
It's hard to imagine a 22-year-old from Ireland being an expert on genres like New Jack Swing and boogie house, but expertise is exactly what Dec Lennon, aka Krystal Klear, conveys through his mixes and productions. While younger listeners may not be familiar with artists like Al B. Sure or Kenny Vaughn, Krystal Klear is making them relevant again through his latest set at L.A.'s Do Over or a funky remix of a Teedra Moses jam. He recently spoke with All Shook Down about his moniker, how he got into these genres, and what's happening with his much-anticipated upcoming EP. Krystal Klear plays this Friday at 103 Harriet with Javelin, Pictureplane, and Siriusmo.
First thing, how did you decide on a name like Krystal Klear?
I have no bullshit reason. There is no innuendo from that to the music. From my days of rock bands to doing graffiti, it's a tough task to create a moniker, and you're thinking about it for ages. You think for too long for too much, and then you have to settle on something you do like and you don't like. What happened was that I sat down when I was making music one day, and I was thinking of a name that emulates an '80s retro track, and Krystal Klear came to my head. There wasn't a doubt in my mind. I didn't want to go back to the drawing board when I had previously felt that way so many times. The music I make is quite bright and shiny, and it's not necessarily downbeat, and I think Krystal Klear is a name bright enough to vocalize that fact.
Being from Dublin, Ireland, how did you come across the genres you're been producing, like '80s boogie and New Jack Swing?
It was a natural progression in terms of finding tastes in music that I liked. My dad used to listen to a lot of '80s synth pop and '80s boogie like Luther Vandross. I already had a vague ear for it growing up, but as I got older I starting getting interested in hip-hop. And hip-hop is all about production and MCs. But from discovering how they were produced, I would discover different samples and it would turn out that I would prefer the original samples to the actual hip-hop tracks. I eventually started buying records to sample them to make hip-hop in my teens, and it became an ongoing joke amongst my friends and me. I would be buying records that in some circles were deemed not sampleable, like '80s pop and Millie Jackson records. When I finally ended up with a mountain of boogie and New Jack Swing records, I came into a realization [that] that's what I'm about and that's what I like hearing. I should be making that instead of something else.
It must have been difficult finding those records.
Right! It was difficult, but I was very lucky cause one of my closest friends runs All City Records. He is one of those guys that know everything to do with genres, and he would travel and bring his records back to Dublin. I got a good education from him and landed on my feet very early on. It opened my eyes for me to look for the good stuff, and whenever I was in a new country I would go and find records to update my collection.
When did you get into producing your sound and the songs you were truly interested in?
It was about three years ago. I was making music before that, though. I bought a synth at 15 and [an] MPC when I was 16, but I never used them to their full potential until I was 18. I was making a lot of hip-hop stuff, and eventually shifted into hip-hop beats that progressively sounded more '80s-esque. It was a natural progression. I remember it well. One day there was a track that started out as a hip-hop track that turned into a boogie track. I was really pleased with the quality, and my peers thought it was decent, and I realized it was time to move with this. I enjoyed making it more than anything else.
You're making music from the '80s to the early '90s, which some people find cheesy and outdated. Why do you think some people just grew out of those genres?
I'm don't know. I wasn't fortunate enough to grow up in the '80s to see firsthand what the environment was like responding to this music. A lot of stuff I was personally into was quite loud and brash without holding back. If you look at George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic's records, you can hear that those guys are just crazy. They are just doing what they want to do and not caring about anything else. Right now I don't think people are educated to that sound so much, because they haven't grown up with that sound and it's not relevant to them. I find it tough to respond to a question like that, but I can understand why people find it cheesy because the lyrics are love-oriented. I mean, it's not Bob Dylan writing these lyrics. But on the same token, I like that. I don't think it's anything it can be faulted with. I wouldn't want to change it.