Interview by Shannon Lawlor
Jude Leigh-Kaufman aka Kareful is an electronic producer and DJ currently based in London. An essential to the underground wave scene and club culture, Kareful has victoriously sculpted a unique and enchanting sound of his own, blending elements of ambient electronica or trap together with the cinematic atmospheres that surround similar genres such as instrumental hip-hop or post-rock. Pulsing basslines, ethereal melodies, triplet-tinged percussion and iced-over production techniques are the markings of these wave-induced dreams.
Acting as one half of London’s very own wave-based collective and imprint Liquid Ritual, Kareful released his debut LP titled Deluge in 2016, met with an overwhelmingly positive response. He has worked with a number of notorious labels such as Trapdoor Records on which he released his latest EP titled Alchemy in 2017. Among dazzling production and impressive DJ sets, Kareful has also collaborated with some notable and like minded artists such as Pholo, Skit, Deadcrow, Glacci, LTHL, Spoze and MYSTXRIVL, to name a few.
We caught up with Kareful on production perils and scene progression:
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
I’ve always been fascinated in music, and more recently I’ve been interested in the idea of ‘movements’. New ideas that capture the minds of many spreading across from city to city. I’ve watched a lot of old documentaries on previous movements to research how to create your own. The excitement of watching what was simply just an idea, manifested into the real word. Captivating the lives of many keeps me going nowadays.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
I think my better music was created when I wasn’t thinking about it too much, and just letting the track unfold by itself. I’d say the sound initially sparks a track for me, but the ideas comes later on how to expand this mere sound.
Your debut LP Deluge was released in 2016 – could you give us some detail on the recording process and how it may have differed to past sessions?
My life was in a real hole when I was writing ‘Deluge’; I was broke, unhealthy and pretty depressed at the time. My studio was set up in my dining room, and I rarely left the house. I suffer from insomnia and it was in full swing at this point in time. I have particularly strong memories of writing the most successful single ‘Backwards’. It was about 2 AM when I started it. Since it was so late I had my speakers on very quiet, but I smashed through the production regardless, barely able to hear what I was writing. Somehow I picked up a nice flow, and by about 9 AM the next morning it was finished! I usually write music super loud, so maybe this forced change in production style, adding in some new elements to the track that I’ve been unable to recreate since. It’s quite strange looking back, I don’t think anyone thought ‘Deluge’ would have done as well as it did. Including me, haha.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Yes of course, I personally prefer collaborating as I get to appreciate the track more. I don’t think many producers like their own music – I too am guilty of this. So, collaborating is always more enjoyable personally. I especially like working with smaller artists and showcasing new talent.
What’s on your current playlist?
Right now I’m listening to Bladee, Suzanne Vega & the Terminator Theme a lot. LOL I listen to very strange music, I always have.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I’m lucky to have a loyal fan base – people always get a lot out of my live shows. At Liquid Ritual’s Christmas Party, we had everyone on stage during my set! A highlight of that mix was dropping Dj Sammy’s ‘Heaven’ randomly into the mix. People went nuts, this was followed by Spoze x Kareful ‘DaybyDay’ (which has become somewhat of an anthem now).
Kareful is deeply immersed in the underground wave scene, how would you describe London’s wave scene, and how would you improve it?
I’ve been heavily involved with bringing wave music into London’s club culture. In the beginning, like lot of these movements in their early stages, it was just our mates really, but now it’s all strangers and new faces coming to our events. It’s quite surreal really. I spend quite a lot of time in isolation so you easily forget that all these ‘plays’ and ‘likes’ actually represent real people. I’ve been all round the world through wave now, and it never stops surprising me. As things stand right now, most of the promoters behind wave events are also the people producing it, there hasn’t been that much help outside of our circle up until recently but things seem to be changing as the movement is growing. We’ve been working with Vice for our Liquid Ritual shows for example, and will be doing a lot more events with them this year. In terms of improving the scene, it’s hard to say, I guess there could always be more club nights, I think promoters are ignorant to us but we’re always safe people to book, especially if you’re looking for a good support act. Wave is cool because you can play at any time during the night, the tempos and vibe differ so much, I can really play any time slot. I actually recently performed in front of over 5,000 people at the Hammersmith Apollo supporting Orbital for example.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I always knew this is what I’d do. I had no other options – and failure wasn’t an option. It just took time to realize it was actually possible. I’m really grateful that people like my music, honestly.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
All the Liquid Ritual family – Enjoii, Dyzphoria, Pholo, Deadcrow, Kavern, Angelboy, Skeler, Tyler. The list is endless haha
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Just an idea – give me a fraction of a good idea and i’m off! I’ll just take it to new heights, though i’ve always been more of an ideas man than a practical person, to be honest. I really had to force myself to learn music production. It didn’t come naturally to me at all.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Well, Kareful is almost two entities now; There’s Kareful the Wave Producer / DJ, and Kareful the beat-maker. I also work with recording artists, rappers or singers etc. Right now I’ve found some success in working with my friend, and now massive artist Bexey, I’m his DJ, and one of his producers. He’s come so far, I’m very proud to still be working with him. We recently sold out his first headline show in under 24 hours.
Tell us about Liquid Ritual – how did it all begin? Any future plans?
Originally, Liquid Ritual was a Radar Radio show hosted by LTHL and myself. It became pretty popular in a short space of time and we were being sent so much new music it naturally formed into a label with the big addition of my friend Stohou. Originally it was just supposed to be a small side project to help lesser-known artists with no social media presence or fanbase. But after leaving my old group Wavemob, I wanted Liquid Ritual to be a lot bigger than originally intended, and after a lot of work we’re nipping at the heels of the big boys.
It’s more than a label really, we do it all, I’d say it’s evolved into more of a brand now. The team has heavily expanded since the early stages, and we’re about to launch our collective.
I think one major part of Liquid Ritual is the focus on the IRL over the URL, we’re much more about events and touring etc, pushing this sound into the real world. This has been our main USP I think, and being located in London hasn’t hurt us, progress-wise, either. Building something in London, which has been at the epicentre of so many musical movements, has really bolstered our growth. We’re building a core team of producers at the moment, and our focus is to integrate these artists into the real world too. We have some great talent already and I’m pretty hyped to introduce the world to the Liquid Ritual Family soon. Other than that, we’re all just focused on touring as much as possible. In fact, we’ve just been to Poland this weekend to perform two shows in Warsaw and Bialystok! It was very exciting as I’m used to touring alone most of the time.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
It’s a lot cleaner now, and I find the tracks have more of a purpose. For example, I’ll think, “Ok, let me mix this to bang in a club” or, “Ok, let’s mix this a bit warmer, because it’s sounding more like something that people might listen to at home on Spotify”.
Kareful’s three favourite releases of 2017?
Mystxrivl x Sokos – Pixel
Deadcrow – Yawn
Sorsari – Know Your Worth
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
A lot from our label Liquid Ritual, many international tours and interesting shows in London too. Just levelling up everything in general. We are working with a lot more prestigious brands and companies now to help push things to a larger scale. It’s exciting!
For more information follow Kareful below:
(Image credit: Soner Dogan)