Disc Breaks Interview – Karl Sav

Disc Breaks Interview – Karl Sav

This week we’re biggin’ up the Australian Breakbeat Massive with a guest mix from our own Karl Sav. Karl has been knocking about the scene for a while bringing us quality tracks and remixes in the deep techy vein, but then he disappeared on us… With an EP about to drop on Strontium and a single on Scarcity the big man is back and this guest mix showcases some of his quality new originals and remixes – expect big tings from the man in 2012!

Karl took quite a bit of time out to answer some questions about himself, his productions and where he’s been for the last little while…

Karl Sav

In 2009, Beatport listed Karl Sav as one of the names to watch in dance music. In 2010 a massive hard drive crash almost derailed his releases altogether. 12 months later, a campaign ensued to rescue the music of said hard drive and after successfully doing so Karl Sav is back!

One of Australia’s leading exports in the breakbeat world, Karl Sav has been djing and producing electronic music since the early “naughties”. His debut release on Erase Records out of Greece lead to signings with Unstable Label and Re:connect records in the UK and release on Australian label (and club night he was resident Dj at from 2006 to 2009) Destination Label.

Karl Sav has remixed some of the biggest names in dance music in Myagi, Calvertron, Signal Drivers, High Eight, WoNK, Mars, Mesmer as well as Australian bands “The Falls” and “Calerway” who featured his remix of “Imaginary Friend” on their debut album, Midnight Mercenaries. He has received airplay from some big names in Future Funk Squad, Hedflux, Dopamine and Elite Force as well as playing along side some of the front runners in the breakbeat scene over the years in Krafty Kuts, Skool of Thought, Breakfastaz, Chris Carter, Future Funk Squad, Kraymon, Friendly, Klaus Hill, Dj Mutiny, Dopamine , Baobinga, ID, Groove Diggerz, Jhz, Antiform, Mesmer, Hedflux, and Phil K.

With 20 years under his belt involved in music from bands to electronic, the short break from it all has not set him back with releases set for the end of 2011 and beyond. Big tings a gwan!



Why breaks and what got you into it?
Interesting question that, for ages I thought it was around 2001/2002 just before the so called “boom” of breaks. That’s when the catalyst for my passion for breaks kicked off though – around the time I was just getting into dance music. Having been into bands ever since I was a child and playing guitar/bass guitar in various different groups from acid jazz bands to heavy metal to playing a six string bass in a primus and chili peppers cover band in my late teens (I worked out how to play Tommy the Cat by ear at 15 years old) , it was strange that I finally got into dance music having bagged it out for so many years. A mate brought me along to a few gigs then finally brought me to Ambar in Perth which at the time was pretty much one of the breakbeat mechas around the world (every international that has played there around 2001-2006 will tell you just that) the rest as they say…..

My first exposure to “nu-skool breaks” as it was coined then was probably hearing Propellorheads “Take California” after a big night with some schools mates the year after we finished on new years eve 1998. At the time I had no idea what it was but I knew I loved it.

What are your musical influences and who is exciting you musically at the moment?
So many influences to list. The early years, General Midi, Future Funk Squad, Hyrbid, BT – such a huge list. Id say the prominent ones though are Hybrid. I have always loved their sound.

At the moment, Im really digging Wrexx’s stuff, he’s remixed one of my forthcoming singles coming on Scarcity called “How I Roll”. So glad this tune on his remix (as well as the Bubu Breaks remix) is finally seeing the light of day, we worked out it will be coming up on 4 years since I wrote that tune and its indicative of the stuff I am writing now days. Mesmer has always impressed me with what he does. He just keeps getting better and better. Beta has always floated my boat. Hedflux as well recently , especially after having played along side him over this year a couple of times, he plays out a lot of stuff that either hasn’t come out or won’t ever come out but its always massive. I was really impressed with Stylus Rex’s album “Amplify” when it came out – pretty much summed up the sound I am into at the moment with most of the tunes on there. This year though I think it’s the year of the Colombo. Not only did his album blow my socks off but his tune “Summit” (the original version) just encompasses everything that I love about music, its got depth, atmosphere, emotion and a driving beat and bassline. Its one of those tunes that is just timeless and I will never get bored of it. Outside of dance music I am listening to a lot of Kevin Bloody Wilson – hes providing me some great inspiration for some of my upcoming piss take videos with my good friend – Dj Pass tha Sugar.

How do you go about crafting a new tune or a remix?
A remix I will try and play around with the parts as much as possible to keep the feeling of the original whilst bringing my own flavour to it. An original I tend to get my Dictaphone out and just hum some basslines how I would want them to sound, then try to recreate that somehow in my DAW. Very rarely does it usually turn out how I intended though. There have been a few exceptions though, How I Roll on Scarcity records out soon pretty much wrote itself. I was chilling with Nikita (good friend and vocalist) and we usually pull the piss out of each other . We bounce ideas off each other and she kind of freestyles. I jammed the bassline with my sexy deep voice and she started singing along. I immediately quickly recreated it just with a simple Saw wave so I wouldn’t forget it, Nikita laid down the vocal verse on the spot. I worked on it for about a week just making it sound a bit more interesting. I came up with the chorus riff just to make it sound a bit more interesting and Nikita came over again and laid down a vocal chorus. Just stoked its finally being released – it will also stop me having to field emails/messages asking when its coming out!

What is your musical background?
I started playing guitar at 9 years old. Did the usual straight up chord playing and learning other peoples songs. Later on I got into more technical stuff like Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and Tommy Emmanuel. Used to do quite a bit of gigs at Cafes and stuff while I was at uni. Having not played at that level since 2003, I have pretty much forgotten all the songs I played which is a shame.

At school me and mate wrote a heap of piss take songs about other students and recorded them on a 4 track recorder – I got the shit beaten out of me a couple of times for it from some of the school bullies, but fuck it was funny – we were infamous for it and mostly got laughs out of it from everyone else. I also got suspended from school for writing a song about a teacher to one of the tunes of the Cantina Band in Return of the Jedi – you know the one when Luke is trying to get Han Solo back off Jabba The Hutt and he falls in the pit to fight the monster. We wrote some pretty offensive lines to it – the mistake we made was we gave it to a student a few years above us to mix it down in the music classrooms, and the music teacher heard it – we got in the deepest shit for it, my father was called in, and it was played by the school principal to him. Deep down I bet he thought it was the funniest shit he had heard, but he had to put his father hat on , and I got roasted for it.

What instruments do you play if any?
Guitar since I was 9. Bass guitar since I was 13 and a bit of drums too.

Do you write any other genres of music?
Yep – have a dubstep EP I wrote with a guy from New Zealand called Ap3x. I was writing house music under another name for a while but that got boring so I stopped and I am writing some piss take songs as well with my MC – Dj Pass Tha Sugar!

When you sit down to write a tune, do you know what it’ll sound like at the end, or do you just go with whatever comes out at the time?
80% of the time it sounds completely different at the end – with a few exceptions. WoNKs Nasty Dog remix was pretty accurate to how I wanted it to sound and The Falls remix wrote itself too – it only took 4 hours from start to finish!

Its amazing though how much stuff I have binned. I have a rule, I will start something, take a break from it for a day or two – if I still like it when I come back then I finish it. I have finished some pretty horrid tunes though which I thought were good at the time. Needless to say , not many , if any people have heard these particular tunes!

I will generally get the creative side of a tune done in one or two (sometimes very long) sittings – then take a break for a few days and do the mixdown as your ears can be pretty roasted after a long creative session.

What equipment do you use to produce and what is your favourite bit of studio kit?
I have used Ableton Live pretty much since the beginning (I was a Cubase user when I was doing my band stuff but I hate Cubase with a passion) . I have a Korg EMX-1 Electribe which I use for some of my bass sounds. Of course Massive gets a caining from me, as does Imposcar – lately I have been getting into Reaktor which has opened up a lot of creative flow for me.

What do you think of the current state of breaks worldwide and where do you see the future?
It’s a tough question that because the die hard fans love to say that its alive and well. It pains me to say it but it really isn’t in great health world wide “generally speaking” and this is just going by sales of breaks tunes compared to other genres. That said though there are pockets around the world that are still crazy for breaks. Spain is still obviously pumping but Eastern and Central Europe is definitely where it is at now. The gigs I have done there have had that old vibe from many years ago where people are there just for some dam good breakbeat and they go nuts to it. The promoters also seem to have their finger on the pulse when they actually book people who are at the forefront of the genre, and not a big name to pull punters through the door.

There is still a dedicated bunch of producers and djs that still push some great sounds, its just a shame that promoters aren’t willing to take more risks in booking some of the newer names or those that are pushing the breaks sound rather than the same old that claim that they still play breaks. Having promoted gigs in the past though, I understand that they have to look after their bottom line, so it’s a tough situation.

Dubstep seems to have invaded every orifice on the Earth as well and all the kids are into that. I must be getting old because there is some absolute god awful shit that is supposedly “totes aws” amongst the heads. I now get what my parents used to say about me blaring Master of Puppets as a youth at “11 not 10” .

You’ve been off the radar for a little while – how come?
Its been an interesting two years. It was a combination of a massive hard drive crash and a few of my releases that were scheduled not happening. As they say, when it rains it pours and I seemed to get shat on from a great height at the same time when it came to my music.

It was definitely a break I had to have though. Cliché but its true in every sense of the word. After moving from Perth to Brisbane, my studio pc was transported via some removalists. When I set my computer back up, the motherboard had died on it. Max from Loops of Fury who was still living here at the time installed a new mother board and all seemed ok. I finished my remix for Myagi – Thug on Pop n Lock which was my last official release (beginning of 2010) and began working on a remix of Mesmer’s Glareglaze. It was sounding so fucking good if I do say so myself and that’s when the problems started, I was an inch away from finishing it and the project wouldn’t load up after it crashed. After many attempts to rescue the project, and to no avail, I had to rewrite it from scratch . It sounded completely different to the first version I did but I was still happy with it. I took a test version to play on my UK and EU tour in 2010 and it went down well. Upon my return, I tried to finish it off with some minor tweaks and polishes so I could get it over to Scarcity Records for release but my hard drive had died!

I had backed up a few things so still had test versions of a lot of the new stuff I had written plus what I had in my CD wallet. But I lost a stack of other new tunes I had written in the crash. I was very disheartened with it and took the “forced break”. On my return from the UK/EU tour it dawned on me I really needed to do something about my health and general well being as it had been neglected particularly since I stopped playing competitive sport. I jumped on the scales and for the first time in my life I had hit 130kgs and it was the wake up call I needed. I got back into playing Rugby for the local club here and I got into Crossfit . Since getting back from Breakspoll in 2010 I have lost around 30kgs just from exercising every day (I get the utter shits if I have to miss a workout through no fault of my own so its really entrenched in my day to day life now) and eating clean, no processed foods, just real food. The golden rule I followed was to stick to the edges of the supermarket! Some of you on my facebook will see my daily “WOD” (Workout of the day) posted. I like to keep track of what I do and it also keeps me accountable to myself. Im still not where I want to be but I know I am on the right track. Its just a matter of being honest with yourself and actually wanting to do it, not talking about it. It’s actually very stimulating getting in the studio after a morning workout with the natural endorphins flowing.

12 months after the hard drive crash (it was actually two partitions on the drive) I had a mate who was good with data rescue and general IT stuff and he managed to rescue one of the partitions on the drive. So I got quite a few of the originals I had written, back. I had a few of the pre-masters on there so I was able to salvage the mixdown’s I had done on most of them but I had unfortunately lost the project files for them so no remixes could be done and it proved very hard shopping the tunes around to labels – the interest was there, only if remixes could be done! I was doing a gig in Melbourne recently and caught up with Youthful Implants and played him quite a few of the tunes that I had that were unsigned and we both agreed to put them out on Strontium Music!

I had no computer for around 12 months as I was putting all my savings for my wedding which was this year. It wasn’t until just before the wedding that I could afford a new computer. I went Mac this time around and haven’t turned back!

In what direction are you heading musically and what new releases have you got in store for us?
Musically I’m still doing the deeper style breaks with the odd exception here and there. Every now and then I will deliberately write a cheesy tune such as How I Roll but I try to stick to the “heads down” stuff. I have an EP called “Waterdog” out in December on Strontium Music (with a picture of my Dog Sandy on the cover – Sandy used to pop up quite a bit on my NSB Radio show) which features quite a few of the tracks that I wrote a couple of years ago before the crash. Ive been thrashing them in my sets over the last couple of years so some will sound familiar. I wrote a collab with Perth based producer Roxright which is featured on the EP. There is also a track on there called “Soundfeer” which is named after the festival in the Czech Republic of the same name. I basically started the tune on the plane on the way over and finished it the day of the festival at my host’s studio – I’m forever I debt to David Vavra! I started my set at Soundfeer with the tune and it was well received so I had to name it after it!

I also am very pleased to see my tune with Nikita – “How I Roll” – out this month on Scarcity Records. Many will know it was originally signed to Re:Connect records but many delays stopped its release (that were completely warranted) so it was an amicable decision between both myself and Re:connect to put it out on Scarcity Records – it would have seemed such a shame not to have put this out. Wrexx is on the remix for it as well as a stomping new remix from Spanish producer Bubu Breaks!

There is about to be some big changes in my life next year (for the good) which will allow me to write more music – but that won’t be common knowledge for a while yet 😛 .

What do you listen to that isn’t breaks?
Kevin Bloody Wilson – lots of ,its inspiring me for my music with Dj Pass tha Sugar. Ive been listening to a lot of 80’s music lately too which is scary, I never really liked much 80s music. I dunno, there is something about driving through the suburbs of northern Brisbane with the Beverly Hills Cop theme blaring…..

I also listen to a lot of podcasts and talk back, I also run my own podcast too with a mate in Canberra, I suppose this is my chance to plug it! The podcast is called “Double Plugger Podcast” hosted by Sav & Pmac. We talk about everything and everything. The first few episodes were heavily focused on the recent rugby world cup, but we do rant on about other stuff, especially now the rugby season is over. You can find it on itunes or at the following link: http://doubleplugger.podbean.com

What do you do when you’re not producing music?
I no longer play rugby, but this year I have been appointed assistant coach of our first grade side playing in the Brisbane Suburban Rugby First Division, so pre-season training is well and truly underway. As already mentioned I’ve been doing crossfit 6 days a week and record a weekly talkback podcast with a mate in Canberra. Ive also been doing a weekly radio show on local terrestrial radio on Saturday mornings. Its called the Saturday Sports Café and we basically talk about sport, sport and more sport for 3 hours on a Saturday morning.

Tell us something about yourself we wouldn’t know to ask….
I used to do voice overs for business’on hold audio programs, and I can still hear my voice when I ring some institutions around Australia. Id give you a demo but this is a written interview, not a verbal one :D.

Show: Disc Breaks with Llupa ft. Karl Sav
Date: Thursday, 15th December, 2011
Time: 0900 – 1100 UK (8-10pm here in Melbourne)

Listen: http://www.nsbradio.co.uk
Chat: http://www.nsbradio.co.uk/chat