Smoking and Sipping

Montreal Beatmaker Tommy Kruise Playing M for Montreal Festival

Beatmaker Tommy Kruise has been on the rise in the Montreal hip-hop scene with his trapstep mixtapes and unconventional style. Photos Richmond Lam

A skateboarder with long headbanging hair who has an affinity for heavy metal music, it’s hard to compare hip-hop producer Tommy Kruise to anyone else in the music industry.

But maybe it’s his unconventional style that’s helped boost the DJ’s rise in the Montreal hip-hop scene over the past year.

With an off-the-wall fashion sense and a goofy attitude to match, Kruise rapidly found his way into the iPods of chopped and screwed fans with his 2012 EP release, Memphis Confidential Vol. I.

Crossing between the two very different musical and cultural styles of hip-hop and metal, Kruise said he occasionally receives a sideways glance from people in each scene.

“It’s kind of funny sometimes because people will look at my attire and be like, ‘Yo, what the fuck are you doing here?’ or some shit,” he said.

But Kruise has always been interested in both genres, citing Dr. Dre, Three 6 Mafia and J Dilla as influences growing up.

“I’ve been listening to music all my life on some religious shit, music has always been a super big part of my life,” Kruise said.

It’s now got him days away from playing M for Montreal—quite the achievement for a 24-year-old out of rural Quebec who relocated to Montreal four years ago with no intention of becoming a beatmaker.

“I was never serious about making music, I was more serious about living the life and skating and getting to know my city,” Kruise said.

After moving to Montreal, he decided to try his hand at beat-making with audio production software FL Studio, and uploaded his first beats online during what he referred to as “the Myspace days.”

“A friend said, ‘Yo, you gotta release your beats, you gotta put them out there. Why do you just play them when we get high and sit around and talk? You should put them to download or some shit,’” Kruise recalled.

Wielding War Hammers

Kruise released a number of mixtapes throughout 2012 such as Porn for the Blind and Cold City. The style is raw, dark and sometimes ethereal trapstep—slow-motion beats wrap around looped soundbites and phrases, and other hip-hop tracks are remixed and spliced-in throughout.

Memphis Confidential Vol. I was released Oct. 26 of last year and was inspired by Kruise’s passion for remixing and slowing down songs off albums from Southern rap groups based out of Memphis, Tennessee.

Kruise said he’s had a love of Memphis records since he was 16, and making them his own for the EP was like “personal candy” to him.

“I would slow every song [on a Memphis record] by 20 or 25 per cent, and do compilations of all slowed-down versions of this music,” he said.

“Nobody understood when they would hop in the car with me. They’d be like, ‘Yo, why is this album so slow?’ I’m just like, ‘Yo, that’s how I like listening to it.’”

When discussing the EP today, Kruise said he still loves Memphis records, but has since moved on to new styles and endeavours.

“I want to grow as an artist, and I don’t wanna do the same stuff twice. Memphis Confidential Vol. II would come out in like, seven years,” he said.

Since dropping his EP last year, Kruise has collaborated with fellow Montreal native producer High Klassified, and has been building up his fan base and connections with shows in Canada and the U.S., most notably New York City.

When asked about future collaborations, Kruise said he’s wary about teaming up with just anyone—or at all.

“I love it when it’s a natural thing,” he said. “I don’t like the aspect of collaborating online with people, it’s just not my thing.

“The game has not been created around people shaking hands and doing things together all the time. The game has been growing from people dissing people,” he continued.

“I would slow every song [on a Memphis record] by 20 or 25 per cent […]. Nobody understood when they would hop in the car with me. They’d be like, ‘Yo, why is this album so slow?’ I’m just like, ‘Yo, that’s how I like listening to it.’” —Tommy Kruise

Throw Your Phone in the Ocean

For Kruise, live shows are meant for one thing above all else: dancing.

“I love dance music, house music, techno music, so when it comes down to a party, I’ll be going out of my way […] to make people dance, and make myself dance,” he said. “I really like dancing, people are lacking this very nice thing called dancing, lately.”

And at said parties Kruise, who doesn’t own a phone, has a bone to pick with people whose eyeballs are constantly glued to the glow of their smartphone screen.

“Lately I’ve been seeing people fuckin’ ADD over their phones. People with their phones suck,” Kruise said. “You have nothing to do, you don’t even have a business or whatever, you’re just trying to fuck. It’ll happen naturally, you’ll end up fucking, don’t worry.”

Kruise will be playing at the M for Montreal festival this week at the SAT with First Nations “powwowstep” group A Tribe Called Red. After having played a show together at South by Southwest festival in Austin this year, Kruise says he’s hyped to share the stage with them once again.

“They’re the homies, I’m more than happy to play with them,” he said. “They’re bringing different vibes to something that’s big right now, and that’s a vibe that nobody could appropriate for themselves, cause it’s very real that they do that—they stick to their roots, and I fuck with that.”

Kruise will soon be embarking on a tour of the U.S. and Canada in January with a not-yet-announced headlining act, and hopes to attract new listeners and fans with every show.

“I really want to build a fan base of people who are really true to how I feel and how I want to express myself,” he said.

Tommy Kruise + A Tribe Called Red [18+] // Nov. 21 // La Societé des Arts Technologiques (1201 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 10 p.m. // $20 advance