“You go to movies to be involved in the picture,” the director says, “to get a sense of ‘I want to lose myself in that screen for a few hours’ and in a sense, know what it’s like to be human in a way.”
Turns out Thompson has been studying the greats during his long break from music — everyone from Christopher Nolan to
Alejandro Jodorowsky. All in the hopes of becoming a better storyteller. The Bristol native and enduring DnB icon (Reprazent, Full Cycle) has also spent years sharpening his life skills, a personal breakthrough he passes on through the creative minds consultancy Disruptive Patterns.
“I feel like I’m in my Renaissance period now,” he explains during a 90-minute Zoom call. “I’m really excited about creating interesting content that people can consume — [content] that’s meaningful.”
To put everything in perspective on the eve of a new EP (TEOE Remixes #1, featuring Batu, Four Tet, and Thompson’s new label boss Damian Lazarus), we asked Thompson about everything from his long overdue hiatus to why we shouldn’t give up hope on humanity just yet….
Did you have the title of this record in mind before the pandemic, or did it come together later — when our ‘new reality’ set in?
I finished the album about a year-and-a-half ago, so the album title was there from about two-and-a-half years ago. The way I work, I write all the titles down first.
All the song titles?
Yeah. I mean, the album came later, but it was on different pieces of paper. So ‘the edge’ was on something; ‘everything’ was on something else. If you see my studio, it’s like a big wall of images and information. I just go in, and it’s a meditation, really.
A mood board kind of vibe, then?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I live and meditate in the space, and then add or take away, and it just informs what’s going on. Plus, you’ve got your track titles; as soon as you finish a song, you look on the board and you’re like, ‘Does that song sound like A, B, or C? Or maybe it’s a D?’
Okay, well, none of of the above? Let’s keep going, and as you go along, new names come up, but I kind of knew what I was writing about — the idea that it was gonna be about this sort of change that people aren’t prepared for, and how that change is sort of throughout reality — in the universe, in the planet, in man, and in the environment. It’s the same sort of structural setup. That was very much on my mind: to talk about that, to really figure out a way that I could explain that story quite succinctly.
So the whole idea was to not really make records, but try and create an experience for people to be drawn into and viscerally have that sort of wake up call — that jolt and experience, where the arrangements don’t feel like they’re friendly.
“I’m just showing you the
introduction to the movie”
It almost feels deliberate — the way the record starts with such a heavy break right away. It’s jarring; it wakes you up immediately.
So I studied psychology and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), and in it, there’s a subject called break state. Pattern interrupts are like when I say, ‘Andrew, what did you have for breakfast?’
I had oatmeal today.
Was it nice?
It was alright; it was oatmeal!
Cool. And what did you have for yesterday’s breakfast?
Man, I don’t even remember. And that’s the problem right there….
Right. And so basically what I’ve just done…. I’ve just kind of cut a section into the conversation. I’ve made you stop thinking about what we’re talking about and start thinking about something else. It’s almost like refreshing your palate.
And it lures people into this false sense of security, like, ‘Oh, it’s another jungle tune with breakbeats.’ But it’s not; I’m just showing you the introduction to the movie.
Everyone’s seen the car chase; everyone’s seen the plane crash; everyone’s seen the theft scene, but no one could be prepared for, you know, the telephone box…. When Trinity [from The Matrix] disappeared down the line. No one could know that.
You didn’t know that the opening scene in Inception was really a dream. You weren’t prepared. And so it’s like I’m showing you the ordinary world, and then I’m quickly pulling the rug from under your feet. Right? So we’re just using the cinema’s tricks to do that.
I find it interesting that you didn’t even start with full phrases or sentences on your board; it was literally just one word here, one word there. What were a few that were there on day one?
“Hegel” was definitely there. “Constructive Ambiguity” was definitely there. And “Keter the Heavenly” was definitely there.
Can you tell me a little bit about each of them?
So Hegel was a philosopher from two or three hundred years ago. His whole idea was the way you construct conversations; basically you control the conversation…. I think he understood how to use language in such a way that people took his ideas, and then were able to control a narrative based on his logic.
And so basically, how it’s being played out today, in this environment, is problem-reaction-solution. So the state, whoever it is, creates a problem. Let’s use terrorism as an example. ‘Public, what should we do? Here are the options.’
They tell you that you are the one choosing the options, but they’re only giving you two options: war or even more war, war or sanctions. And then they make out like people are choosing the solution, when really, they knew exactly what they were going to do from the outset, because the agenda is already set.
So with Hegel, I’m just trying to point out that this is the reality that we now live in — that it’s media-driven, and it’s story-driven. And it’s very choreographed, very well-manipulated, to the point where it’s seamless and nobody can see where one lie ends, and the other one begins.
The point of The Edge of Everything is not that we are on the edge, or brink, of collapse. The Edge of Everything gives this whole idea that everything will…. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 50. And when I grew up, summers were ridiculously hot, right? On the news, [it was like] ‘heat waves are taking over the planet Earth and we’re doomed!’ Then it went quiet. And in another six months. ‘Miners strike; we’re doomed!’ Then it went quiet, and then ‘Argentina [invades the] Falklands; we’re doomed! [It’s] World War III!’
So there were these peaks and troughs, but there were massive gaps between them, so you could have enjoyed life between these tragedies — these catastrophic events — and had time to breathe.
Fast forward to the internet age…. It’s quickly disappeared; they figured out how to continuously keep us in a state of fear. And so that’s where we are at The Edge of Everything; it’s like this continual perpetual state of fear, where there are no breaks, where there is no coming up for air. There’s nowhere to escape if you’re under the device.
And so that became a really interesting way to digest information, knowledge, and media, but also to have a look on the other side of where people are not looking, and where we can get relief, through certain types of technology. You know, the way that AI is supposed to liberate us, or people now can start their own businesses and use technology to liberate themselves. We have more information than we ever have. We’ve got technology in our pocket that’s more powerful than when we sent man to the moon.
“This is the standard
operating procedure for war”
So there’s all these opportunities, but we still haven’t figured out how to maximize it and release human potential…. Why do we have poverty when one guy owns more than everybody in the planet? It’s ridiculous, you know? But we have this technology in our pockets, and we still haven’t realized how to liberate our own selves of it.
And so, in the edge of everything — in this experience where we are right now, where we’re in this pandemic, we’re giving up our sovereignty again. We’ve lost our understanding that we don’t work for governments; governments work for us. And we’re asking them to solve the problem again, detaching ourselves from the reality that we are in charge. We’re in this sleep mode now…. When they invoke executive orders, that’s when we should be more vigilant.
You’re right; there’s all this potential for progress through technology. But many of us are stuck in a cycle of doom scrolling every day, rather than finding a creative outlet and using it to center ourselves. A lot of people feel like they can’t escape. They can’t go to a show; they can’t go to a movie. So they have no way of forgetting about the never-ending news cycle….
Well, that’s quite strategic. If you understand the rules of engagement, this is the standard operating procedure for war — what we’re going through right now. Study the CIA documents; look at a paper called Silent Weapons For a Quiet War. This is it. Right?
The first wave of discombobulating your opponent is by taking out their basic amenities — their necessities, their pleasures…. You take out all the things that they normally rely on as support and security. You take all that away from them, and then they’re vulnerable.
We’re vulnerable anyway — when we’ve got all our luxuries, when we’ve got all our things. Listen, if they really want to fuck us up, they could just turn off Netflix [laughs].
It’d be mass riots! The two things that are saving us right now is Netflix and delivery. Without that, you would see real chaos on the streets. That’s how basic we are.
Well, I think it’s just shown how fragile we are.
What’s the solution then?
The solution is everyone knows what to do, but nobody actually wants to do it…. We are living in this weird world where we actually believe that these people who are in power have got our best interests at heart. Let’s just drill down into a couple of logical fallacies, right? The word ‘government’ means to control people’s minds. We vote for that [laughs], so what do you expect is gonna happen?
The reason why we haven’t done what we know we should do is because no one actually wants to do the job of running a government. Like who wants to do that? Where is the opposition to this? Where is the leaders in this group? And how come we need a leader? We just go from one leader to another. Doesn’t matter what government’s in; we all know they’re all the same. They’re controlled by the same hidden hand. It doesn’t matter if you go left, right, blue, red…. It’s been the same thing rolled out for the last 20 years. Nothing has actually changed for the common man, right?
“Power creates more power”
We know that; every person instinctively knows it, but nobody wants to do anything about it. Because to do that, you’re going to upset the fundamental order of society and structure. And that is going to be uncomfortable for everybody…. But that’s the only solution.
We can’t keep voting in another party. It’s like you’re driving down the road, and someone says ‘just change the driver.’ It’s still the same vehicle!
So you feel like one of the real problems in the UK and here is the two party system?
No, the problem is people still believe we need to be governed.
So you feel like we could govern ourselves if we have the right leaders?
No, you don’t need to be led anymore. Why do we need to be led? That’s assuming that the people in power are more capable of running your life than you are. That’s the assumption. It’s like, ‘Really?’ There is no politician since the inception of politics that didn’t fill their bank account first. Show me a politician that isn’t filling their pockets first?
Well, we have the extreme version of that in our country right now, obviously.
Of course, but I’m talking about globally. This goes back to Rome. This could go back to Egypt. The purpose of a hierarchical system is to have a hierarchical system. And if you have a hierarchical system, you have an ideology that’s based on higher and lower. That’s the system that the people at the bottom will never like, and the people at the top will do anything to keep power. That’s the system we have. It hasn’t changed since Rome.
I’m curious about your perspective on class divisions in the UK. Here in the States, the idea of a middle class has definitely started to disappear….
You’re spot on, but you need to think a little bit bigger. It’s not just America; it’s the West. The Western dream is finished, you know? We’re seeing the collapse of the empire that was the West. And if you look back through history long enough, you’ll see the same pattern; you’ll see the fall of Egypt, Persia, Rome…. They’re all the same…. Greece — they all go in the same way.
Power creates more power. The elite want to keep it. They ran out of countries to invade, so they can’t do the arms and the banking thing. So now they’ve created pandemics. And once they’re finished with the pandemics, they’ll roll out the aliens. Do you know what I mean? it’s like they gotta spend money on weapons to defend somebody. That’s their biggest money earner.
This pandemic and 9/11 are the first times we’ve seen in human history where they could control global events in one go. On the same day, we all experienced the same thing. That’s never been done in human history. You had the first World War; that was in Europe. The second World War, that was in the Pacific, but it wasn’t global then. The Iraq war, that wasn’t global.
The Twin Towers was a televised exercise that all humans across the world emotionally had a visceral experience of. Everybody watched that at the same time. No matter where you are in the world, that was being shown live. And then the proceedings after that was shown live — shooting bombs down on Iraq. When have you ever seen that before in your life? You know, they showed it in 3D and in night vision. It was ridiculous. We had war 24 hours a day; you could just watch it.
So what’s that doing to the human condition? It’s desensitizing us for now. Most people don’t actually understand what was going on back then in Iraq. They were desensitizing us so that when it happened in your own streets….
Look at what they would do over in those countries. Look at the uniforms they wear. Look at the tactics they were doing to control these people. That was a test for what’s going on now. Look at your streets; look at our streets. It’s the same thing. They wearing the same uniforms. They’re all blacked out with military gear. They’re not police. These are military uniforms they’re wearing.
This whole thing is very much like a theater right now that’s being played out. And you speak to someone who understands history, and you can actually start logging it and looking back at all these incidences, they also see how this is the same thing.
All the parallels?
Yes, the same thing. And then you look at the way that they’re trying to do this global reset with the finances. It’s the same thing with the depressions. Depressions are organized because the fiat system doesn’t work. So the people who control the money supply, they control the economic system that only benefits the small elite. They have to have this boom-and-bust cycle so they can keep controlling it.
It’s like a culling cycle, right? Think about how nature works. Nature has certain predators in the environment to keep the balance going. You can’t have indefinite rises. That’s not how nature reacts. You get to a certain level [and] you have an earthquake, storm, or hurricane; that’s how reality works.
“It’s not my job to
tell anybody anything”
They’re trying to emulate this situation, because otherwise people will be like, ‘Well, this is amazing. The economy is just going up and up and up and up.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, no, that’s not real. That’s not how it works.’ You know?
So we have all these things closely resembling some kind of reality. But at the same time, it’s distracting us from what’s really going on. And that’s the clever trick.
All these factors play into art. That’s why I’m trying to paint my picture. I’m trying to make my movie of what I see reality is.
Have you ever thought about running for office? Or does it feel like that’s simply not your role in the world — that you’d rather do a record to express these ideas abstractly?
Well, yeah, but politicians don’t have that much power. I read it somewhere — somebody said how limited politicians are….. Influencers have got more power. They just do. I can use the backdrop of music to say what I want. I can make movies, I can make documentaries, I can write books, and I can add my point of view.
I think my role is to kind of be a spiritual leader in the sense that I’m going to speak my truth. I’m going to put those points of view into the music, but I’m going to do it in a creative, artistic way so that it’s not just me on the pulpit saying, ‘Yes, no, you do this….’
No; it’s more like ‘here’s an experience’, right? Here’s some music. Get into the music and see what arises out of you. Because it’s not my job to tell anybody anything. It’s my job to be the best version of me — to live by my own set of rules, and to express myself. That’s why the album sounds like it does: because this is probably the most freest album that I’ve made to date. You know, I actually did everything I want to do; there’s absolutely no compromise to the dancefloor, to reviews, to radio, to TV. It was a complete ‘this is art’ [move]. That was my statement: This is absolutely 100-percent undiluted art from Krust.
When did you feel like you were ready for a full-on return? I mean, it’s been a few years now since you put out some other tracks, but when did you feel ready to do something this ambitious?
Well it’s been building up. I sat down and started tinkering. I was pushing buttons. And, you know, one thing led to another; I just felt more confident again. I’d learned loads of new things. The technology had changed. I was slowly figuring out how to create my original sound again with the new toys.
And so it just got to a point where it became obvious that I could do it because before I was like, ‘I don’t know know if I can.’ Because I didn’t like the way soft synths and the computer were sounding…. It was just horrible for a long time. And then finally, everything started to get better; 64k came out, and that kind of changed the game. And a lot more plugins and things came out that was sounding not digital; it was sounding quite transparent. That was a big sort of wow.
Then I completely refitted the studio based on the ’70s. I looked for equipment, microphones, plugins, emulators, synthesizers, speakers, and then really tried to get into the spirit of the ’70s and channel people like Miles and The Doors. And you know, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd and some prog-rock artists and a lot of hip-hop guys.
The idea was to totally disassociate from jungle — where I’d come from, where it was at right now… really trying to absorb the spirit and the zeitgeist of now and then think about ‘what would I have done if I carried on making music from “Soul In Motion”? What would it sound like if I carried on making music from “True Stories”?
That was the jump-off point. I listened to those tracks for a little while — “True Stories”, “Future Unknown”, “Brief Encounters”, “Last Day”… those sort of widescreen projects. I just sort of meditated and thought, ‘What’s the next stage from this? Where do we go from this?’
That was really the exploration of me trying to sift around and dig into that experience — to try and figure out what would that sound like? What would that look like? Who’s the story about? What story am I telling? And it really just grew out of that….
It sounds like you weren’t really listening to that much electronic music….
Has it been that way ever since you kind of stepped away from the scene back in 2008? Or have you mostly tried to stay on top of what’s going on?
No. I’ve never listened to contemporary music when I make music. Like with my first album, I was listening to Wu-Tang.
Right — you sampled Wu-Tang.
Yeah. So Coded Language is like my version of what Wu-Tang were doing with a hip-hop album.
Hidden Knowledge is really kind of my spiritual album. I was listening to a lot of Wayne Dyer — people like that. That was the nexus between the the old world and the new world. So there was a lot of crossover in that. I was using a lot of outboard and analog stuff, but experimenting with the digital stuff.
But this album is just a film, really. It’s my film.
You know, I’ve watched lots of movies; I studied what Christopher Nolan, [Stanley] Kubrick, or Spike Lee would do. And I really tried to channel that spirit of what a film would do and how a film would move. It’s like, I know the sound I’m trying to get into my mind out into the world from my mind. I sit there and I’ll meditate for an hour, two hours.
And you know, I can hear it; it comes up and then when I’m in the studio, I have a ritual where I just sit there for 10, 20, 30 minutes. I’ll maybe sage the room, and then I have a process where I just totally disattach. I really just try and stop thinking, you know? Stop thinking about where I’ve come from, [and] what’s gonna make people happy…. ‘Am I still good enough to do it?’
I just let all of that stuff come up until I get to that space of nothing — nowhere, no time, the unknown…. That process takes between three and six weeks — maybe two months sometimes.
But you eventually get in that mindset.
Yeah, just to keep chipping away, stop thinking, and allow the creativity [in]. Then all of a sudden, it just goes really, really quiet. And then I can hear it. It’s like a beautiful view. You know, I’m on the mountaintop. And when I’m there, I know exactly what to do. There’s no hesitation. There’s no second thoughts. There’s no guessing.
It’s just like I can see it: ‘Press that button, use that sampler, use that keyboard. Remember that sound over there? Use that. Remember those beats over there? Go find those beats again. Oh, remember that record? Oh, what’s that record called? Oh, yeah, that’s the one — sample it.’
Just like bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. It just comes out, like a wave.
So you’ve figured out how to tap into that flow state that creative people struggle with sometimes?
Yeah, I know how to turn it on when I need to now. That’s the ritual. The meditation is the work; the ritual is to switch off the brain.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to just do it, and not even judge it. So I’d have a session where I would just write for three days. And I wouldn’t even care what it sounds like. And I won’t go back to it for maybe like a week, and then I’ll come back and edit it all with a fresh mind. Instead of being critical as I’m doing it, just leave it and then when I come back to it, then I start chopping it all up and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s nuts. Whoa, that’s crazy.’
And that’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for this shocking stuff — this stuff that’s like, ‘Really? Oh, wow, you didn’t just do that?’ If I don’t hear that in myself, if I don’t just stop and think, ‘fucking hell, what is that?’, then I know I haven’t gone in deep enough. I haven’t pushed myself far enough.
Has this always been the way you approached writing music, or did you more get into this process after you took a bit of a break and figured out what works for you?
It became more of a system afterwards, but I’ve always worked like that to some degree. There’s always been this sort of pushing yourself over the edge, and switching off the conscious brain. That’s always been there.
I did it quite intuitively before — mostly because of weed and other substances — but then I stopped. I stopped smoking 20 years ago, so I needed to figure out how to still do that. And that took a while. So I learned meditation, visualization, breathing techniques, running, stretching, all these exercises, you know? And then CBD oil is a big one that’s helped. You know, micro dosing and things like tht have helped as well.
“All of a sudden,
the chatter just goes,
and you’re liberated.”
It’s really just that whole thing: learning to meditate, but it’s a ritual now. And in my break, I started a company called Disruptive Patterns, which is a lifestyle consultancy. That really teaches people the process. What I go through with people is a real deep dive around the psychology of performance and dealing with the doubt and negative self talk and the programming and then get into intuition.
So the process is thorough; you just need to do something repetitively until the mind switches off. And you can do that a couple of ways. You could do that with sleep deprivation. After a day and a half of not sleeping properly, the mind just says fuck it and it just stops. All of a sudden, the chatter just goes and you’re liberated. You’ve got about six hours of pure, unadulterated creativity.
You just have to know that’s why you did it — to have these six hours of chaos. Because it is quite chaotic, right? But stuff just flies out. You just let it come out. Don’t judge it; just write, write, write, write until you fall asleep. And then you come back to that, you’ll notice that it’s just crazy. But the thing that most people do is they have these epiphanies — these mad moments — and then they try and organize it to fit in with what’s going on. That’s the trap.
What you’re supposed to do is just allow the madness to be mad because there’s a fine line between that and what people call genius. Or that sort of creative, next level spark…. Nobody knows what that is. I never knew this album was going to turn out the way it did. I put my heart and soul into it. I dug deep; I went further than I ever had before, and I am totally blown away by the response. That’s not my intention, but I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s what you get when you when you forget about everything.’
It’s good timing for it, too, because there isn’t all that baggage and chatter around what jungle is supposed to sound like anymore. Especially with a younger audience; they’re growing up with Spotify and being able to listen to anything they want at any time. I feel like they they have very little concept of what genres are now. If you’re growing up with streaming from a young age, everything isn’t segmented the way it was when we went to record stores. Especially with electronic music — how there used to be separate sections for house, techno, and jungle. I think a lot of that’s fallen by the wayside. How many kids do you have?
I have a few kids — three.
So they’re growing up with a lot of this stuff.
My oldest daughter, she’s in her 30s now, and she kind of grew up while I was having some success. I used to take her to all the festivals. And she’s quite open-minded musically and stuff. She loves electronica, loves classical, loves all kinds of music.
My other daughter, she’s very much a teenager of now — always on the phone… loves the whole TikTok lifestyle, and YouTube before that. It’s a good exercise to be around her, and listen to that, and see her reactions.
But my youngest son, he’s 4 now. And he’s just discovering the frequency of that high energy — high energy jungle or high energy hip-hop. Like he loves Snoop Dogg; when Snoop comes on TV, he’s like, ‘Snoop Dogg!’
It’s really interesting watching him when I’m playing music. Like the other day, there was absolutely no movement from him. And then I played this hip-hop tune, and he just jumped up, and he just started doing this sort of jungle dance to this hip-hop. He’s getting really low. And I was like, ‘Wow, I guess you like this?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ And it was just because it was at a certain energy and frequency. It wasn’t jungle, either; it was this hip-hop tune.
I’m tuned into that frequency of energy as well, and how he’s going to experience it. So I got him in the studio, on my pads and the bass lines. I’m just seeing how he’s reacting to it — what sounds he wants to make and what keyboard noises he wants to press and stuff.
That must be a cool thing about being a father — that your kids have no filter. It’s like the purest form of feedback in a lot of ways.
It’s definitely interesting watching them, but the flip side of it is that there is so much choice out there, they’re not veering too far through other genres, specifically. For instance, when I grew up, I listened to Motown; I listened to ska; I listeneed to electronica. Pop music was fucking good when I grew up, you know what I mean? It was amazing, right?
It was the parties in Bristol too, right? DJs would mix all kinds of genres really well….
Yeah. That was what I was exposed to. But also, the music that the majority of people was exposed to was quite eclectic across the board. The stuff the kids listen to now is almost eclectic, but it sounds the same in the way that it’s produced and performed. Lots of music now is quite electronically produced, whereas before, it was 50/50, I would say, or maybe like, live was 70 and electronic was 30. Now I think it’s like 70-percent electronic and 30-percent live, you know? So that’s interesting.
It’s almost like you enjoyed having more limitations back in the day, and what that sounded like.
The digital thing kind of distracted everybody. It was the new kid on the playground; it looks shiny and glittery. Everyone was like, ‘Oh, my god, we got to go digital.’ And it had its advantages, but nothing was broken. All the original stuff was still there. And it was still sounding great. It still sounded bigger, fatter, warmer.
I think one of the things that everybody liked about the digital thing was the instant recall. Because up until then, it was quite stressful to have to finish a tune. You had deadlines, and you had to clean the desktop….
Studio time was also more expensive.
Yeah. So in a sense, it liberated and brought a democratization to the world of music. For better or for worse, it just opened the door to everybody to experience what a few people could do, then all of a sudden, it was everywhere. It was the best kept secret, and now it was like in everyone’s Christmas hamper.
Right. Your record is about a character who reaches a real fork in the road. When did you hit that point on a creative and personal level yourself?
I’ve been involved in music since I was 14 in one way or another. By the time I was 16, we were doing our own warehouse parties. At 19, we got signed to a major deal. At 26, we started Full Cycle. At 30-something, we won the Mercury Music Prize. And then we toured, relentlessly, for like maybe three, four years. We were touring for about five years, on and off, for Full Cycle. Then we did all these tours for Reprazent. My album, we did all these tours. Kamanchi, we did all these tours…..
Jungle was brand new, so we were the ambassadors, you know? All of us — Goldie. Grooverider — were going around the world, playing and introducing people to this music. And it was fun, but for me, it was like, I’d grown up as this character: Krust. That’s who I grew up as, from 14. You know, we made up the name in school, and then by the time I got to 36, 37, it was like I completely believed that this Krust guy was real.
Because you’d been that guy for more than half of your life.
Right. So there’s this mask that’s firmly planted there. I realized I was hiding. I used Krust as a way to cope with my own inadequacies of life — my own experience of life where I thought I wasn’t good enough. I thought I wasn’t lovable. I thought that I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t, you know, fill-in-the-blanks enough.
When you grow up in a white council estate, you experience racism on a day-to-day basis. And that impacts your experience of who you think you can become. You go and try and be a part of society, [and] they reject you. That’s impacting on what you can actually do for a living, right?
Then you try and create significance for yourself, but you can’t. You can’t even contribute. And so all these factors impact your life, and then you don’t have any identity because there’s nobody in the environment that looks like me, who can school me on what it is to be a man, let alone a black man.
So it’s just this lack, lack, lack, lack and then, ‘Oh, there’s this thing called music. [And] I’m actually quite good at it.’ You know what I’m saying? It’s like all of a sudden, you actually think you can create your own life through [music]. It was so new and vibrant.
I remembering watching this film Wild Style, and that gave me the code, the blueprint. This was the Bible, the manual, of how you create culture. I saw that and I just rode it out. I rode it out for all it was worth and then, come 37, what most people say is a breakdown is an actual breakthrough because what breaks down is the mask. The mask hasn’t got any more integrity. The constitution of the mask has been worn out; it cannot produce any more sustenance. The energy of it is gone completely.
So the body says, ‘Well, what are we gonna do?’ And this is where most people spend the rest of their lives — in that state. I was very fortunate that I had an out-of-body experience by 19. I remember floating above my house; I remember floating up above the earth. And I remember just being in space, looking at everything and thinking, ‘Oh my god, this is so beautiful.’ And then I woke up.
This was before Full Cycle took off. And now looking back, it was like a precursor to say, ‘Look, don’t forget who you are, man.’ And I quickly did — I forgot. That’s the story, right? You forget who you are, so you have to go and find yourself again.
It took me 15 years to figure out who that guy was. That’s what I did: I took the mask off.
And my story didn’t end there. My story was like, ‘K. Thompson? Who is Kirk Thompson? What does he believe in?’ And so that was the journey — standing in the corner of some club night and having that realization like, ‘This can’t be it. This isn’t all what I’m supposed to do with my life.’
Did you have one day where everything really clicked then?
No, it was a period of time. And I pushed it down. I knew I wasn’t happy. I knew things weren’t right. And one day the decision was made, like, ‘Yeah, you need to go. You have to make the decision or the decision will be made for you.’ So I made the decision. I left.
Did you take it easy for that first year or so? Or did you go right into founding Disruptive Patterns and doing other stuff?
No, I was proobably quite a mess for about two years. I was coming off of touring, wasn’t making music, wasn’t enjoying life, couldn’t hold a relationship, was still in party mode. I was kind of still in destruction. And so that needed to just be cleaned up.
Well, you had this life with all of these highs, and then you suddenly put the brakes on. That’s gotta be a little terrifying in a lot of ways.
Well yeah, because there’s there’s no support system. You don’t believe that you can actually do it without any of those things that you normally use as a crutch. Because that’s what they are. They’re the coping mechanisms because you don’t think that you can live life as you really are.
You’re totally not listening to intuition. You don’t trust yourself. Your imagination is dried up. And you’re just in survival mode; you’re just trying to get through the day.
And that was alright because I just started to slow down. I found a book that was about the power of the mind. I just sat down and read it…. I’d never read a book like that before. I just sat there and in two days, I had read the book, and I was like, ‘Fucking hell, is this real? This is how it really works?’
And I could just see my own life — how I’ve been acting and reacting and not taking responsibility and blaming….. Then I thought, ‘Fuck it, let me read another book,’ and I read another book. And another book. And then before long, I was just devouring these books and doing what they said to do.
That was my answer in my head, but I quickly learned it’s not as simple as that, because I’d been in around those people in this environment from such a young age. I’d meet those kind of DJs and producers from 15, you know? Going to these parties and seeing these DJs when it was new; when it was the thing.
“It was like DJing
without the decks”
Little by little, bits of my attitude changed. I wasn’t so reactionary; I wasn’t so blame-y; I wasn’t so fearful. And I started to notice my language and my patterns.
Then I moved to London and revisited a question that I’d heard along the way. The question was, ‘Krust, how did you become a DJ? How did you start making music?’ I sat down and started to meditate on that question. First of all, I was like, ‘Well, everyone knows how to do that, don’t they?’ It seemed obvious since I’d been doing it for so long. ‘How come you don’t know how to do it?’
For me, it was natural. I was in that environment. So that became the thing: ‘How do you do that?’ How do you create success? How do you become a DJ? So that became my thing; I started to study successful patterns. I started to really look at creators — how did they do it? How does Steve Jobs think the way does? How does Damien Hirst do what he does? How did Picasso and Warhol do it?
That really became like this whole study of psychology, patterns, and language. I studied enough, and then I started talking to people, and I could see that what I was saying was having an effect on them.
Eventually, a friend of mine said, ‘You’ve been talking about this stuff for a minute now; do you want to share some of your ideas with kids I do youth work with?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’ So did a workshop with these 10-year-old kids, and it was amazing. I fell in love with it. For me, it was like DJing without the decks. And it was great. I loved it. And it just took off from from there. I started doing colleges, schools, universities, private mentorship clubs….
A lot of presentations and workshops, or more of a mix?
A mix of one-on-ones, presentations, workshops… and then I got to a point where I could I could articulate how we created success in Full Cycle — how I was doing what I was doing. I was really able to break it down.
And then I started NLP — neuro-linguistic programming. That really helps me unpack behavior, how people think, what they do, body language, tonality, language structures. And then I started studying business, psychology, and marketing…. They sound like disparate disciplines that have nothing to do with consciousness or spirituality, but they’re about systems. I started to understand systems; I started to understand how you think in sequential order. I started to see how if you could be good at one thing, how you could be good at another. It started to open up my mind and change my beliefs about what what I could attempt, and what I could actually do.
Before I knew it, Disruptive Patterns was a thing. I never started it to be a thing, just like when we started Fresh 4. Four kids in a garden, we started that, and the next thing I know, we’ve been signed because my brother produced a Top 10 hit. No one designed it; it just happened.
The same thing with Full Cycle. All of a sudden, we’re standing on a stage with Jools Holland giving us the Mercury Music Prize. No one designed that; it just happened.
And the same thing with Disruptive Patterns and the CBD oil company with my partner [Sophia], Amma Life. And then the same thing with this album.
So I kind of know this pattern now of how to do it. It becomes these steps, and they’re all the same; you just change the content, right? Because contextually, they’re the same. It’s about doing this, thinking like this, staying in it long enough. There’s about 10 to 15 stages. And once you understand it, you can see them coming. You can start preparing yourself for it.
So once I figured that out, and I started to talk to people, I did that for seven years. And then it was like my love affair of music had come back. Because what I realized is that I didn’t ever not love music; I just didn’t like the business around it, and some of the experiences I was having, I didn’t enjoy. So once I dived back into music, it was like, ‘Ah, this is great. I really love this. I remember this. And this feels fantastic.’
Do you think your life would have been different if you had discovered this mindset earlier — back when you were younger?
Yeah, for sure.
How so? It sounds like everything was happening so fast, you couldn’t process any of it.
Yeah, I mean, I’m kind of in that whirlwind again. The last sort of month, just putting out the record and all the stuff just reminds me of that experience.
This time, I can meditate, you know? I meditate every day. I go for my morning walks. I drop my son off at school, and I go straight to these big open fields. And I just walk and I’ll meditate and I’ll take notes in a journal. So it’s really calm now. Even though it’s lots of chaos, I’m really calm, I’m not reactionary to it. I’m noticing stuff that’s going on. I’ve got experience about the things that I need to know, how I need to react and talk.
I’m not sure how beneficial that would have been back then. I think that I was supposed to learn what I was supposed to learn. Maybe I would have made different choices based on being calm, but that might not have been what I needed to learn I needed to learn, right?
Unfortunately, my son is like me. He will have to learn the hard way [laughs].
You can tell that already — that he’s just like you?
Yeah, he’s stubborn. And I need to learn very viscerally. You can tell me stuff. And I can read it in books. But I learn really well by being in the environment with the people. I learn by osmosis. You know, I love being in spaces where people are doing the stuff, talking about the stuff…. I pick it up on another level. I listen to what they’re saying, and I watch what they’re doing. And then for me, there is something that happens in between all of that, where it’s like, I can just sense like, ‘Why aren’t you doing that? Let’s try this.’
That’s kind of how my mind works. I don’t get that just from books or conversations; I have to kind of get into the middle of it and start pulling things apart — pushing buttons and saying, ‘What happens if we do this? What happens if I do that?’ I’m just throwing all these ideas around really, really quickly. And I love to brainstorm and map things out and have sessions in a studio where I’m just making loads of loud sounds or noises because I’m just trying to see what the limits are of this thing. And then hopefully, something’s gonna come out of it and I can start working from that perspective.
“I don’t want stability”
Did you have any mentors along the way, or any breakthrough experiences?
I did loads of Ayahuasca but that wasn’t specifically for the album. I did that maybe five years before I started to make the album. But that was very informative. I watched loads of documentaries. After I built my studio, for about six months, I was just consumed.
Actually, before that, when I was living in London, I did a project with two friends of mine called The Rules. It was a punk rock band. We spent like, maybe two, three years working on it. Unfortunately, it didn’t come out, but in that process, I learned so much stuff about music by working with these other guys who were not from the jungle background. One of them was like a reggae rocker. And everyone was like a sort of folky-punky vocalist. We all brought different flavors to it. We’d have these sessions where we’d all sit down and just talk about stuff — talk about music, watch documentaries together, and really bond together as this group until we were this thing.
This time around, it was just me in this room. I would just watch those documentaries about music, about business, about leaders, about history…. I would just sit there and watch them and get all these, ‘Fuck, I didn’t know that happened. Wow, that’s interesting.’
And so those became my mentors and my teachers. And books as well; I read a lot of books about stories like John Truby’s Anatomy of a Story. And there’s another book — something called Out of the Woods. And then there’s The Hero’s Journey.
I was gonna ask you about that….
I studied Joseph Campbell and the monomyth as well. I saw all his documentaries on the monomyth, and [read] his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. And then I watched a lot of Jodorowsky’s films — The Holy Mountain, El Topo, and his documentary on Dune.
Watching stuff like that, every two or three nights, will just kind of tip you over and keep you in that twilight space, you know? Where you just gotta keep questioning ‘what’s gonna happen if I do this? What’s over that threshold? And fuck, why did he do that? And what will happen if I did something similar?’
It sounds weird, but I want to be in an unstable environment when I’m making music. I don’t want stability; I want instability, I want insecurity, I want to be on the brink of disaster, on the edge of chaos, and on the seat of the horizon as well. When I’m in that space, after four or five days in the studio, I’m hard to reach because I’m not here. It’ll take me two days.
I’ll have these cycles as well, when I would work in the studio, do this 10-day ridiculous sort of cycle… the old-fashioned Egyptian week, a 10-day cycle where you just go in and totally rip your shit apart, then have, like, four days off, and then do that again. That was really beneficial — to live in that zone, live in that state and just try to be nowhere.
Do you feel like it’d be hard for you to do a group project now since you have such a solitary way of working?
I don’t know. It’s very modular; it can adapt to any situation. I have been doing cross collaborations through all of this. I still do what I do; I just send people files, I get them back, and we just do what we’re doing. So it doesn’t restrict me; it just gives you more opportunity.
Did your track with Om Unit feel like a bit of a breakthrough since it was pretty cinematic sounding and one of the first things you did after your hiatus?
Yeah, that was a good experience. Jim’s a great guy to work with and be around. What I love when when I’m working with people is…. So Die is one of my main collaborators. I’ll do lots of work with him. Working with him is fun; we just spend 10 hours chatting [laughs].
You guys still do a lot of stuff that none of us are ever going to hear then?
Oh for sure. We’ll spend a good six, seven hours, just chatting and exploring stuff that makes us excited. And then we’ll just have an explosive four or five hours of just like head down and work. That’s invigorating. It’s almost like I’m drawn to people from a slightly different background for myself. We’re just consuming each other’s cultures. We’re trying to figure out what pieces of the painting each person is doing.
And we’re going to try and switch roles in there as well — not do what we normally do. That’s what I find interesting. When I do collaborate with people, I don’t want someone to just be one-dimensional and come with it the same way I will come with it. I need you to be you, you know? That’s where the best sort of stuff’s gonna come out.
Do you have a lot that you’ve finished then — other collaborations with people?
Yeah, there’s loads of stuff coming. We’ve also got films that we’re doing, we’ve got [a] documentary, we’ve got books, we’ve got clothes….
And that’s all related to Disruptive Patterns?
Tell me a little bit about that.
Rebel Instinct is my brand that I do entertainment stuff with. So the book will come out through there, and there’s some new music, but it’s more of an entertainment company than a record company. I just want to have an outlet to create stuff with — that I can just put on as as though ‘that’s Rebel’, you know? And it helps me understand and separate what I’m doing and the the hats that I’m wearing in the studio.
You know, Krust has a very particular sound. So that as a brand just sits there nicely now; I know exactly what I’m doing when I’m going to do that. The other projects that I do, they’re very distinct in their own way. And they will come out through rebel because they’ve got that sound and that texture. And so you know, I’m just trying to figure out how to place my next projects and what I’m doing.
I’m exploring some tech stuff as well, and some ideas around apps and software —figuring out how to do that. And of course, we’ve got Disruptive Patterns; Adapt the Canvas as well. Adapt the Canvas is my Tuesday sessions — my podcast….
My thing right now is, ‘What’s meaningful? What am I going to do with my time that’s going to be fun and enjoyable, and impactful, and at least try and educate people in some way, shape, or form, even if it’s just how to shake your legs again.
Is the book something that you wrote, taking a lot of the concepts you’ve learned over the years? Or is it somebody else’s completely?
There’s a couple of books in the pipeline. That’s definitely an option I’ve been playing and toying with. But the first book, there’s going to be a photo journal, with stories in it. Basically, I took all the photos from the beginning of Full Cycle, so I’ve got a ridiculous amount of images. We kind of sketched out the book already.
So that’s one idea. And then we’ve got video I took as well. So we’ve got over like a 100 tapes — a ridiculous amount of content.
Did you have a couple consistent photographers and videographers throughout the Full Cycle years?
People came and went. I took all the pictures.
Oh, you did?
Yeah. I took all the pictures and all the videos. I was experimenting…. The videos and the photos were just like me in the studio. Wherever we went I would buy cameras, like my favorite camera was the Canon with the panoramic and the portrait [settings]. I used to love that and 35mm film. I took that everywhere. I probably still got a drawer full of film I haven’t even developed from that, to be honest. I found some the other day.
So we’ve got all of those and then there’s early video cameras as well, like a little Sony. I would film on that one, as well on tape. I went to my brother’s the other day and just sat down and looked through all the stuff we’ve got. I’m like, okay, we’re going to start putting some stuff out quite soon.
So the whole process really was do the album first and then start this next wave of creativity. We have all this stuff, and so the education part this time is really, really important because it’s about… for me, I wouldn’t be here without Smith & Mighty. You know, the Bristol producers; they were the guys that kind of gave me my start. Those were the guys that showed me the studio — allowed me and Die to hang out in the back of their studio.
I think that is really, really important. Because you learn the lineage, right? Right from the the archetypes, right? And so for me, I’m doing all this coaching and mentoring. I have something called Wednesday’s Workout, which is a private member’s group, which I do every Wednesday. And that is this sort of building quite quickly as well.
That’s with younger musicians?
It’s a cross section of creators. So photographers, musicians, singer/songwriters, coders… A lot of that’s come from people who’ve seen my Adapt the Canvas on Tuesdays. So Tuesday afternoons, I’ll go on Facebook Live on Krust and I’ll do an hour of sort of creative thinking and tell some stories about how I’ve done stuff. And I’ll explain some concepts.
And so people who who know me as DJ Krust have been tuning in, but they’ve been like, ‘Oh, wow, you’re talking about this stuff.’ The fans are across the board; people are tuning in because right now we’re in probably one of the most interesting times in human history. But we don’t know how to navigate it. We don’t know how to use this opportunity as a springboard to take ourselves to that next level.
So I’m just trying to offer some insights; I’m trying to help people see the opportunity in there, help them think differently. And then, this is the gateway; if you like this stuff here, come onto the course. Come and join us every week, when we go a lot deeper….
Is that like the class you’re teaching this week?
Friday’s a master class.
Okay, so that’s like something you could do in one shot to absorb a lot of this stuff.
Yeah, that one’s a two-hour session. And that really is just a one-time offer. Come in; it’s 30-something quid, be in this master class, bring whatever is holding you back, you’re going to leave with two or three tools, so that you can start getting through your next 90 days.
And you lead these sessions, right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Has that been one of the most rewarding things you’re involved with lately?
Oh, for sure. It’s great, just working with people, meeting new people, hearing what they’re up to, hearing what the potential is, how far they can go. And helping them change their beliefs, helping them tap into what they’re really capable of, and really trying to coach them, mentor them, work alongside them, and keep nudging them to just do more and to be more.
We’ve got some great success stories from people that came in and really had this sort of negative self-belief. And then, four months later, they’re completely changed. And they feel confident; they feel energized; they feel motivated. And then they got a ritual. They got a practice, and you know, they’ve just been able to power through and keep building and building.
What I’m giving people is tools that we’re going to be using for the rest of our lives. This isn’t like, ‘Oh, just come in and do a couple of weeks.’ No, if you do this properly, this is going to change your life. That’s what I’ve seen over the last couple of months.
It’s not like you’re like, ‘Here’s a self-help thing where you spend two hours with me and everything’s suddenly fixed.’ Because nothing’s that easy. Change is something you have to work at.
Exactly. So one of the conversations I have with people who join the Wednesday Workout is, ‘Listen, you need to understand this is a lifestyle change. This isn’t a quick fix.’ And so when people really get that, then they can commit to the work because it is work. I give people homework; I give people challenges; the two hours we spend on the phone is deep, you know? I’m really going in. I’m your accountability coach, you know? People come with their challenges, and we have set language…. People monitor their language, they understand you shouldn’t be using certain phrases, certain ways of talking, because you’re describing you in that. And so once they get that — what’s going on around them, the distractions, the way that the universe is set up for their success — it changes. Because up until then, everything’s a problem.
I like that this interview is ending on a positive note, because we started off in a space where I don’t know…. It’s easy to think there’s nothing we can do to fix things, you know — like when we were talking about politics earlier and things like that….
That’s by design, right?
Yeah. That’s one of the last things I wanted to ask you: What gives you hope, moving forward, especially now that you have a younger son? What gives you hope for his generation?
Well, I’ll answer that in two ways. There’s the spiritual answer, and there’s the physical, human answer. The spiritual answer is, it’s not your job to try and fix anything. Nothing’s broken; everything is perfect the way it is. Everything is designed to do what it’s supposed to do, right? The bad guys are supposed to be bad, because the good guys need to be woken up. Right? The universe is one, right? It wants to experience itself. And it knows that it needs to create the illusion of an opposition so that it can experience the opposite of itself. Because if it’s one, how can it be two, right?
So it needs to trick itself to believe that there is something other than itself. And so the trick of us from a spiritual perspective is to understand first of all, there’s nothing wrong with us. There’s nothing broken. The system how it is because the system is how it is. Anybody could change the system. But that’s about choice. And the reason why most people don’t like choice is because choice is closely linked to responsibility. And if you get something wrong in our society, that’s probably the one of the worst types of ostracization that you can have, because it means you’re outside of the pack. And if you’re outside of the pack, that means you can’t survive. If you can’t survive, that means you can’t eat, and if you can’t eat, you die.
So nobody wants to make those mistakes. But the reality of it is the only way you can learn is to make mistakes. And so look where we are; we’re in this sort of stagnant, safe [mindset], trying not to make a mistake, while people who understand these high level concepts are marching ahead. We’re playing reaction; they’re playing creation. So we need to shift into creation.
I’m not even hopeful; I’m optimistic. And the reason why I’m optimistic is because I know this isn’t the end game. This physical thing isn’t the end game; we’re passing through, and it’s not my job to convince anybody else of this either. It’s not my job to make you happy. It’s not my job to tell you anything. Those are just things that I’m enjoying doing because I can do it. I enjoy talking; I enjoy spreading this knowledge.
But everybody’s got a choice to make….. I’m very well aware that the future I’m going to create will be based on the choices that I make. So chaos can reign — that’s chaos’ job — but to change that, it has to come from each and every one of us. Gandhi said it the best: Be the change you want to see in the world. So if you want to have a better reality, then you got to change it first.
“We have to stop
this is the end”
That shifts the whole game because now you’re like… well, it’s madness. So trying to wait for the world to change before you do is like, is like drinking poison, hoping the other person is going to die. Right? That’s where we are.
To me, The Edge of Everything is an optimistic record. It is a record of ‘this is what you can do, when you are deep into the creative process.’ [You can] create this level of art.
That’s what the Renaissance period was about. After the Dark Ages, we had the Renaissance — one of the highest periods of art and entertainment. After the last Depression, we had the biggest firms. And after the last .com bubble burst, we had Internet 2.0, the biggest release of wealth we’ve seen in human history. So we have to stop thinking that this is the end, and start looking at this as the beginning.
That’s how I try and look at it. I mean, I have my days like everybody else, but you’re right — you kind of have to look forward because there’s something better on the other end of all the bullshit that’s going on right now. And it probably will lead to a lot of great art. I mean, people are just gonna be psyched to experience things that they took for granted before….
Yeah, I mean, that’s the universe. We have to stop thinking in terms of good and bad, We have to understand this is just life; this is experience. And the other thing is that human beings basically look for peak experiences to remind them of existence. And that’s really dangerous. Because what we miss is granular experience — the actual real stuff that life is made of in between the peak experiences.
We’re just waiting for this high — ‘oh, I can’t wait to go on holiday’ — but no, today, right now, in this moment, the feeling that you’re feeling, that’s fucking what it’s about. Tune into that and start understanding that is what you were calling life. You’re missing it by waiting for something.
Right; instead of obsessing over the things we literally can’t do today….
Yeah. Enjoy the experience, because that’s what you can control. And so boom, bring it back to the human level…. It’s like, you can’t control shit. You can’t worry about the future because it’s not here. You can’t change the past because it’s happened. So all you can do is notice your reaction in the present.
So then you have two choices; are you going to be the person that says ‘what happened?’, or are you going to be the person that says ‘I create shit’? Those are your only choices.