Full Crate shares his experience in South Africa and gives us a peek behind the music in this in-depth interview
When Full Crate was announced as one of the international headliners at this year’s edition of Rocking the Daisies, there was a buzz of excitement that I saw on my timeline that I didn’t really understand. After witnessing his set, I saw the light and it was brighter than a Cape Town summer. Full Crate (aka Narek Niko) is a Holland-based DJ and Producer who came onto the scene in 2004. If you visit his discography you’ll quickly notice that he doesn’t dwell on a specific genre; House, Dancehall, RnB, Hip Hop, Electronica and Soul are the blends you’d find.
What you’ll also find is a catalog filled with collaborations with incredible artists from all over including Saba, Luke Burr, and Gaidaa to name a few. There’s something about his energy that casts a spell over the audience, not just with live performances but the way he presents himself through his posts on social media too. We got to have a chat with him about relationships, music and his travels around South Africa.
MCBN: Your set at Rocking The Daisies was truly incredible! Love the way you gave yourself to the crowd and to the moment. How did you feel about performing in South Africa for the first time, and how was the energy from the crowd different to other places you’ve performed?
Performing in South Africa was a life changing experience for me. The energy of the crowd was truly amazing! You could really tell people appreciate music on a different level. I have been to a lot of places in my career so far and South Africa is definitely on top of my favorite places I have ever performed.
MCBN: You mentioned that you got your name from purposely overloading your crates with records when you were young. Why were you piling up your records in such a manner and at that age, who or what encouraged you and put you on to so much music?
I used to bring a lot of crates of vinyl to my shows because I just wanted to be prepared. I wanted to impress the older generation, the DJ’s, the producers and the artists. And I wanted to make sure that I never had to deal with a situation where I did not have a certain style or record that I couldn’t play because there are different DJ’s playing during the night. I was just very passionate about music so I did not really care about carrying all these records. I just wanted to impress.
MCBN: So you make a combination of Trap, Soul, Electronic and of course “Riddim”. What do you think distinguishes your sound from other producers? Do you feel that you have a “sonic tag” whereby listeners instantly recognise its Full Crate on the speakers?
It is really hard for me to say if I have ‘a sound’ or not. I have heard a lot of people mention that there is a ‘Full Crate’ sound. But I think overall I would say that I always lean back into the soulful R&B inspired feel into a song. I program my drums a certain way and I started playing bass in my own songs, it just has a type of swing to it and everything comes together. I think my sound is just the stuff I grew up with, any genre I used to listen to. I just kind of like to take a little bit of everything and put that in my sound. But overall the tag would be just good timeless music, that is what I am trying to create.
MCBN: In the past, you’ve collaborated with amazing acts such as Saba, Trinidad James and Luke Burr. How do your collaborations with artists usually occur? Are you hanging out before the collab happens or is a thing of being a fan of each other’s work and sending stems via email (or whichever medium you use)?
Yeah, I collaborated with a lot of people all over the world. It depends on each collaboration. Sometimes we have the luxury to actually go into a studio and sometimes we have to do it via e-mail. I prefer going to the studio with an artist, and if there is time to actually hang out prior to the session and connect on a personal level, so we can try and create better music. Also, I feel like you have to be a fan of each other, otherwise what is the point of working together? I am a fan of every person I have ever worked with and it is just amazing creating something together. Whether we are sending stems via e-mail or sitting down in a session. With some people, I spend weeks just hanging out getting to know each other better and then creating music. And with some people, I make a song five minutes into meeting each other.
MCBN: What do you and don’t you like about the Amsterdam music scene?
What I really like about the Amsterdam music scene is that there is a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds, creating some amazing music out here. There is a big electronic music scene here, and also a big scene of amazing musicians playing in bands and performing/touring. I think it is very inspiring for me to be around these people. Growing up with a lot of talented people around me. A lot of my friends who are in music are also very successful in what they do. So it is amazing to travel with them and call them my friends.
What I do not like about the Amsterdam music scene is. A thing that I see happening everywhere around the world. Which is that some people don’t want to support other people. I don’t think this necessarily is an Amsterdam music scene thing. I think this happens worldwide, there are always haters. But the thing that I do notice more over here than in other places, is that some people, so not everyone, so do not quote me on this. But some people tend to lower their ceilings. So they don’t have to work as hard, they lower their expectations. That is something that can get frustrating for people like me because the sky is the limit and I want to push the ceilings.
MCBN: Your latest release “A Storm On a Summers Day” contains elements of optimism and jubilation by virtue of its groovy drums and hopeful lyrism. This is also emphasized by the continuum of warm colors throughout the music video you directed. Although the emotions expressed by Gaia and yourself are somewhat sorrowful. Is there a reason for this kind of contradiction? And in which way does the video reflect the message behind the song?
I am curious to see why you thought that our emotions are sorrowful. In my opinion, it is a very positive and very love infused song. ‘A Storm On a Summers Day’ is one of the first records that I have written completely from the start. Gaidaa did an amazing job of translating my feelings. It is a true story about my experience in my relationship. It is a love anthem dedicated to everyone that either felt the love and felt the feeling that I am trying to put into the song. Or have not, in which I hope to inspire them that there is such a feeling out there. Because some people feel like they are hopeless and they won’t ever feel it. I have been in such a position at some point and now I do feel the love. So it is just a positive message of love, that is what the song is about. With the video, I had a lot of fun working with an incredible team of people that took my vision from the song and the script, and we put that into the whole video. I feel like the visuals really represent the song and what it stands for. And yes, there are some points in the song that might come off negative but I feel like every relationship and everything you go through in life, has good and also has bad. So you have to acknowledge and face your fears, love is the message!
MCBN: From following you on social media, your tour schedule looks quite hectic. You’re just always in different cities so often. So how do you maintain relationships with friends from home and maintain the spark between you and your partner?
Being a touring artist is not easy. Like you mentioned I am always on the road. At times it can be difficult because you can feel lonely. Sometimes even being at the airport or flying by yourself can be quite a challenge, mentally and physically. I have always had good people around me, and I have friends everywhere I go and if I don’t because it’s a new place, I tend to make friends really quickly and maintain those relationships. There are a few places around the world that I have been going to for years, and I cannot wait to return to, because I have such amazing friends there. As it comes to my partner, it is definitely a challenge but if you communicate properly and if you are there for each other nothing is impossible. I feel like me, and a lot of friends who are artists and are in relationships, travel allot. Just getting back to the hotel after a show and being able to call your significant other and talk to them about the party, the event or the festival and having their support on the road is very very important! I am fortunate to have that in my life.
MCBN: As I mentioned in the article, you seem like quite a positive dude. Your posts on social media are a great example of that. What kind of books do you read, and what are you reading now?
I try to be as positive as I can because this world is filled with a lot of negativity. I feel like any type of hope and positive thought out there can change the world. The type of books I am reading.. I actually have been slacking on books for a very long time and recently started to get back into reading. Currently, I am reading this book called Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It is a very interesting book about the history of humankind and why we are the way we are. Besides that I have a few other books that I want to read. I am also currently reading the first Harry Potter book because I read it as a kid and I really love that book. I started a few other books but Sapiens is the one I am currently reading.
MCBN: Besides performing here, you spent time in some of the places in the country such as Soweto and you even went hiking in Cape Town. What are some of the lessons you learned from the things you’ve done here and the people you’ve met?
Visiting South Africa was truly, truly amazing! it had such a huge impact on me on different layers. On one side it is the most amazing place I have ever been to in my life, from nature to the people, to experiences and the food. On the other side, it was also such a learning process, visiting certain places with a strong history and learning about them. Visiting the wildlife and understanding what the situation is with some animals. Visiting Soweto and going to the museums. I went to the Nelson Mandela museum and have also been to the Hector Peterson museum, learning about the rich culture. The good and the bad sides of history are very important to me. This first visit to South Africa definitely left an amazing mark on me. I feel very connected to the people and the energy there. The amount of amazing people I met who showed so much love and took me around is incredible. I have created a new family over there in both Cape Town and Johannesburg and I cannot wait to go back and connect to everyone there and build on those relationships.
MCBN: So… 1) An artist/band you’d love to have a D.M.C (Deep Meaningful Conversation) with. 2) An artist you would love to party with. 3) An artist you’d love to spend a week in the studio with.
1. The one artist I would love to have a deep meaningful conversation with would probably be Quincy Jones. Because he is a huge inspiration to me and has a great influence on me and my music. I just look up to the way he just went about his life and creating. Also, the struggles he had to go through are very inspiring. I look up to him.
2. An artist I would love to party with would be Drake. I think it would be fun to go party with him and see how he parties, you know?
3. An artist I would love to spend a week in the studio with would be Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole.