The Bristol-born, Sweden-based DJ, producer, and multi-talent Crackazat has put together a scintillatingly soulful and jazz enriched masterpiece, spanning twelve high grade cuts. Real name Ben Jacobs is a well-accomplished musician whose effervescent productions hit that sweet spot between elemental dancefloor fire and cerebral musicality, via a mesh of styles that span jazz, house, garage, hip hop, Latin and funk. Not only is this album completely produced by the artist alone, but he’s also made an impressive vocal debut across the tracks. The album feels ‘live’ throughout, with the soul-heavy vocals acting as the anchor of this collection.
This joyous chronicle is winning from the moment it begins to the moment it ends with its proudly positive aesthetic that at times presents itself as if Stevie Wonder wrapped his arms around MAW! To whet your whistle, we premiere ‘I’m Easy’, where deep disco vibes watch blissful chords glide over the loaded bass while the vocal powers across the panorama, the track bursts with Quincy Jones-inspired horns that soar above delicate keys and raw house drums.
Crackazat’s ‘Evergreen’ drops on 13th May on Freerange Records. You can now listen to the full premiere of ‘I’m Easy’ exclusively on When We Dip. Enjoy!
WWD: Thanks for talking to us at When We Dip. Where are you today and how are you spending the time?
Thank you! I am at home today rehearsing for a live show.
WWD: Where are you in Sweden exactly? When did you relocate? What took you there?
I live in Uppsala which is a university town about 40mins from Stockholm by train. I first came here in 2009 as an exchange student. I met my wife and moved here permanently in 2011.
WWD: What do you love about where you live these days?
Everything! Not too small, not too big. Access to nature. Cozy cafes and a small city center. My most recent discovery is the skate park 5 mins from me:)
WWD: You’re originally from the UK. Bristol is a very cool city full of life, color, and creativity. Do you miss anything about the city? Do you ever get back to visit?
I love Bristol. We usually try to travel there once a year. Bristol defined me as an artist, and I have many close friends and mentors who are still based there today. Bristol has an extremely creative and diverse energy. I miss the people, food, but most of all the music!
WWD: Sounds like you had creative family upbringing. Were you encouraged you to be creatively free as a child?.
Absolutely. My mother is a tap dancer with an incredible sense of swing and rhythm. Growing up dancing with her was a necessity. Apart from that, I would say that both me and my brother shared a creative interest in music, music tech and art.
WWD: Do you remember the first time you performed as a kid?
Ooh not the first time but I would not be surprised if it was a 4-year-old me jumping up and down in ballet shoes!
WWD: Your sound today is deeply rooted in the jazz. Who were your early jazz loves? Who were the icons that lit that flame?
As I mentioned before I grew up tap dancing so my earliest jazz love was not icon related but rather an affinity to the swing and feeling of jazz. However, as a teen I re-discovered jazz as a modern art. The usual suspects: Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Horace Silver. The list goes on…
WWD: You are unbelievably comfortable on the keys. I guess you’ve had many years of practice. What was first keyboard? Were you classically trained?
Thank you. I am not classically trained and would classify myself as composer jazz pianist. That means that my emphasis is on creative idea realisation rather than technique and manipulation. My first keyboard was probably a 2000’s Casio. Yes I have had years of practice but always with a close connection to jazz theory. I did not start practising piano intensely until my 20’s.
WWD: Did you go on to study music formally and to what degree?
Yes. I studied Jazz performance and theory at Middlesex University, London.
WWD: Did you play in bands while you were studying?
We spent lots of time playing in small jazz ensembles. I also played in a samba band and spent some time playing with funk and soul outfits. A lot of my band experience is also connected to my earlier years in Bristol.
WWD: When was the crossover point into production?
Day 1! I strongly remember getting my first guitar and a copy of Cubasis in 2001.
WWD: Was your first release in 2012 on the brilliant Bristol imprint Futureboogie? What was the release?
The Tunnel EP. Futureboogie got in touch after hearing my broken/nu jazz remix of JSBL’s Parental Square ’79.
WWD: Dave Harvey is a local Bristol lad. Did you know him from the scene in the city? How did you hook up?
I hooked up with Steve Nicholls who was at the time managing Future boogie’s booking agency and label with Dave Harvey.
WWD: There is so much great music coming out of Bristol. Why do you think that is? What’s in the water?
Many things! Its demographic, diversity, and cultural heritage. I found this on Wikipedia as it sums it up really well.
“The Bristol underground scene was a cultural movement in Bristol beginning in the early 1980s. The scene was born out of a lack of mainstream clubs catering for the emergence of hip hop music, with street and underground parties a mainstay. Crews formed playing hip hop in disused venues with sound systems borrowed from the reggae scene: City Rockers, 2 Bad, 2 Tuff, KC Rock, UD4, FBI, Fresh 4, and The Wild Bunch were among them. These names were the precursors to the more well-known names that came from this scene. It is characterized by musicians and graffiti artists. The scene was influenced by the city’s multiculturalism, political activism, and the arts movements of punk, reggae, hip hop, hippies and new age”.
WWD: When you relocated to Sweden you linked with Tooli and Mats at Local Talk. How did this relationship begin?
Future Boogie were kind enough to put me in touch with Mats when I moved to Sweden. I ended up emailing his old email address. Luck had it he checked it 6 months later and the rest is history thank goodness.
WWD: What was the first record you put out on Local Talk?
Tony Blitz – Vodka and Valium (Crackazat Remix) 2013.
WWD: This was the beginning of run of releases with LT. Such a great label. Why do you think they have been so solid?
An almost religious dedication to soulful and musical origins of house music.
WWD: Have you always produced under the Crackazat moniker? What’s is the origin of the name?
There’s a brand of Crackers in the UK called Jacobs Crackers. My last name is Jacobs and my school teacher use to call me Crackers. Shortly after I came up with the name Crackazat for my music. It’s been with me since 2006.
WWD: You are a jazz musician, a live performer, and house producer. Are you a DJ too? Which role are you most comfortable in?
Yes I DJ as well. I am most comfortable as a producer as it is what I do the most.
WWD: What do you love the most about performing live?
I get a massive adrenaline rush of endorphins and sometimes a near-spiritual experience, both of which I get to share with the audience. With that comes a heap of nerves and performance anxiety.
WWD: Have you ever had a bad experience while performing live?
Nothing so bad I can recall. I think every live electronic performer shares a common burden that is getting your rig and electronics to work. Happy rig, Happy gig!
WWD: What was your best experience of a live performance?
There are so many! I’d like to recall a recent performance at Norway at a house dance festival. I think at one point in the show
there was a total of 3 dance circles on the floor. It was a marvel and I ended up feeling like the audience myself.
WWD: Have you collaborated with anyone on a live? Is this something you have thought about?
I absolutely 100% want to bring musicians and orchestras back to dance music. That is my dream.
WWD: You are prolific with your jams brightening the days of a substantial audience that you have built up. Did you start doing these in lockdown? What is it you love about these weekly jams and how do you keep them fresh?
I started them before lockdown but solidified and turned them into full tracks during the pandemic.
As for keeping it fresh, it’s supply and demand! I think once you create a rhythm and expectation with your audience, creating content becomes a necessity. I hear a lot of content creators saying the same thing. Pick an upload day or schedule and stick to it etc.
WWD: We’d love to know, is there an artist that you think is doing something great at the moment and why?
Jacob Collier because he is as kind and loving as he is talented. And that’s a lot.
WWD: What do you think is one of the greatest records ever made?
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
WWD: Jamiroquai is an artist with bags of swagger and powerful presence on stage. It’s ‘Cosmic Girl’ for us, but you loved ‘Virtual Insanity’. What’s the story on the Acapella you worked on with the Vocado? It’s pretty amazing btw..
Thank you. My wife and I are friends with the tenor in the group. After I moved to Sweden we started talking about a possible arrangement. They knew my background was in jazz and I suggested Virtual Insanity. It is a very harmonic and piano driven song and many of the parts transcribed very well to the acappella format.
WWD: You’ve been putting out releases and remixes on well-respected labels like Heist, Razor-N-Tape, Z Records, Local Talk, and Freerange. Your current project on Freerange Records is the highly anticipated ‘Evergreen’. The album feels like a very personal collection, crafted, and curated with love and care. Is this a new evolution in you and in your sound in a way?
It is definitely an evolution. Perhaps even my full evolution. It encompasses everything I like about music. Songwriting, Jazz musicianship, and club dancing. Both the art and presentation are also of my own design as well. I have massively enjoyed the creative freedom I had for Evergreen.
WWD: Your vocal performance is outstanding. Is this your singing debut?
Yes it is my full vocal debut! However, there is a very long line of breadcrumbs leading up to this moment. You are welcome to listen to the following:
Crackazat – Boom – Beat tape (2007)
Crackazat – Person – Crescendo (2015)
Crackazat – Called my Name – Rainbow Fantasia (2017)
So, after listening to the above songs I have come to the conclusion that I have always been a writer and singer and Evergreen is the moment I have been working towards all this time.
WWD: ‘Thank You’ feels very Stevie Wonder in its arrangement. Talk us through this track a little..
Thank you. The rhythm track is very influenced by Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give it up and the chords are a very standard soul progression. This track was one of the last songs I wrote for the album.
About three-quarters of the way into writing Evergreen I observed that the melancholic and reflective first half was quite overpowering. No doubt influenced by the pandemic and world affairs. At the tipping point of sadness, I decided to look beyond the pandemic and in defiance force a smile. So, I wrote and recorded ‘Thank you’. A song dedicated to my deepest joy and gratitude. I now feel like the album has a balance of both elements.
WWD: Feels like Crackazat is about to ascend to new heights with this stunning album. Do you feel like this could be your best work yet?
Yes, it is my best work yet. I just hope it works best too!
WWD: What are your next ambitions as an artist?
To bring live music back to the dance floor.
WWD: What else have you got in the pipeline?
A series of remixes, a follow-up EP to a 2021 release, Some new label collaborations, Monday jams, DJ gigs and much more.
WWD: Outside of music, what is your passion?
Parenting and children, Skateboarding, Veganism, Gaming, and gardening.
WWD: What keeps you grounded?
All the above.
WWD: You have spent so much of your life devoted to your art. If you hadn’t worked in music, what other path do you think you might have taken?
The art of working with children, young people, and teaching.
WWD: We wish you all the best with this exceptional piece of work.
Release Date: May 13th, 2022. Buy Here