If 2017 has all been getting a bit much for you so far, then we strongly recommend indulging in the downtempo delights of Dutch artist Kratos Himself. The chiming keys and powder-soft production on his new album Stay True brings to mind the likes of Bonobo, Shigeto and Teebs, with a deft touch and meditative manner that is all, well, Kratos Himself.
We got in touch to find out more…
MusicMap: Tell us about your artist name…
Kratos Himself: My full name is Jethro Kratos Maria Hopmans, so the Kratos is already there which made choosing an artist name easy. I added ‘Himself’ to make it a little more personal, and so that it’s easier to find me on Google.
People often ask if the name is taken from God of War – it’s always very satisfying to show them my ID and show that it’s my actual middle name.
What sort of music were you exposed to when you were growing up?
My dad used to listen to classics like King Crimson and Jethro Tull (that’s what my parents named me after). I was also always surrounded by African and shamanic when I was a kid, which was an inspiration for my older album A Town Called Imaginarium, and still occasionally shines through on my new music.
When did you start making your own music and what was it like?
I played some percussion as a kid but it really started when I had this old mp3 player that could also record audio. I would record my teachers in high school and cut the recordings up making them say nasty stuff over downloaded beats. After that I started to make my own music using samples – at first just hip-hop loops but in time, as I slowly figured out composition, I tried to build and make my creations more and more interesting.
What equipment do you use now?
I have a nice tube mic, a basket full of random objects to make homemade sounds, a cheap Yamaha keyboard with midi combined with a Novation launch control and some synths. I also have some critter and guitar stuff and a German synth that tries to emulate the Minimoog (which comes in handy often). My latest gadget I’ve been toying with is a Wem Copicat tape delay – I’ve been running lots of sounds through that.
Where would be the perfect place to listen to your music?
Well, my songs are inspired by being outside, being in nature, taking walks with my dog or cruising on my skateboard. So I guess meditative states.
What fuels your creativity?
Restriction and necessity. The fact that I don’t really master anything, I’m not a good singer, I understand but can’t play instruments very well, etc. Inability forces me to be creative and have fun.
What do you think the future of music is going to be like?
Music will keep evolving and people will always find new sounds. I also think the way music will be released will be different – labels will continue to innovate and explore interactive formats.
Does your local area influence the music you make?
I moved into a new place a few months ago and it hasn’t fuelled creativity for some reason. Before, I lived around nature which really influenced the Loon Garden record.
Who’s your biggest local musical influence, past and/or present?
To be honest I’m a bit disconnected from the local music scene apart from my friends who make music as well, such as Deon Custom and Echosonic. I think they influence me and push me in a way for sure. For example, Echosonic has whole different approach to making music compared to mine, watching them is a learning experience every time.
What are the top things you’d suggest visitors to the Netherlands should go and see/do?
Visit other cities than Amsterdam, Utrecht or Rotterdam, they have a great music scene. There’s a lot more than Amsterdam. The small towns in the north and east. Places that are less touristy will give you a clearer picture of the Netherlands. I also like to visit places above Zwolle, close to Germany.
I’m just going to gently put two names here.
Dead: Gill Scott-Heron – I really love his voice and he’s been so important for music.
Alive: Slug of Atmosphere – I’ve always wanted to work with him and I appreciate the honesty in his music.
Was it difficult incorporating your own voice for the first time on Stay True, or did it come naturally? What’s the next development you foresee in your music?
This wasn’t the first time I used my own voice in my music – you can hear me sing/sort of moan on ‘Forget Me Not’ from the Dandelion Seeds record. But it is the first time I’m actually singing, with words and all.
Sometimes it sounds great – other times it’s awful and it truly depends on the music if I can sing. But in the studio I can record stuff over and over until it sounds nice. I’ve been using my voice more often in some forthcoming music and have been working to incorporate a friend of mine who plays guitar.
What are the best music venues and record shops in your city?
Haha, uhm… There is no record shop in my city that I know of and most of the venues are boring. I’d like to give you a decent answer as much as you’d like to get one from me, but this is it.
What’s your favourite album of all time?
That’s hard to say. Some of the albums that truly surprised me and never get old are records like Rustie’s Glass Swords and Amon Tobin’s Foley Room.
What’s your favourite track of the past six months?
‘Shine Again’ feat. Adam Scheflan by Kutiman.
Stay True by Kratos Himself is out now on Youngbloods. Pick it up via Bandcamp.