BENCH MEETS Tyson Kraft

Photography by Toff Tiozon
Styling by RJ Roque
Grooming by Jet Babas
Special thanks to Luis Dangilan and Jun Galvez
Clothes by Bench

For a man who knows the law pretty well, Tyson Kraft is quite the rule breaker. After graduating from law school and landing a private firm, it wasn’t long before the Fil-Australian called “objection” on legal practice and ditched it for music, his calling since he was a toddler banging on old Milo cans.

            Abandoning a proper career to craft ear candy quickly paid off, however. An original track he produced popped up on music authority EDM.com’s SoundCloud. And since arriving in his mom’s homeland early this year, the producer has hit the scene hard, DJing at Preview’s 20th Anniversary party and a string of BENCH Design Studio events.

            While he’s more than capable of getting a crowd to dance, Tyson puts up a good defense for more alternative grooves on his SoundCloud. Like his music, Tyson hangs loose with BENCH BLOG and talks Manila’s easy influence on his ears, the Aussie Christmas he’s looking forward to, and why traveling (and living) off the beaten path is the stuff of good beats.

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So law school was a bust?

I was a law student at 17. In Australia, it’s a little different—you can enter law after high school. There is a post-graduate component but it only takes 12 months and you can do it for less. So my entire duration of study was only four and a half years. I wanted to get it done as quickly as I possibly could. I worked for the crown solicitor’s office in their civil litigations sector. I was lucky enough after that to get a graduate attorney position at a private firm and worked there for 18 months.

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So I guess the obvious question is when did music becoming that pressing thing you needed to do?

Probably when I was three year’s old. I grew up just being immersed in music. My dad’s a very artistic person and has a fondness for music. I grew up listening to a lot of weird shit like Pink Floyd, David Bowie, New Order, Jeff Buckley, Nirvana. There was always music playing in the house. When I was three, I started banging on Milo cans. I guess my family picked up on it and they bought me this really dodgy drum set. Eventually, I think it was my 7th or 8th birthday, I came home and I had this amazing Pearl export drum kit in my bedroom. It’s still there now. Big, beautiful brass Zildjian cymbals and all. For the most part, I sort of taught myself to play.

Did you get to perform for school or anywhere?

I used to jam with my neighbor ‘cause he’s a guitarist. Where I grew up is in the country so we don’t really have neighbors within a close proximity. We could make a ton of noise.

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Okay, so why take law in the first place? Was it a fallback?

I think there was a need for me to do something that would make my family really proud. When you’re 16, you’re practically still a child. You have no idea what the hell you want to do with your life, man. I was looking through a list of things in a book, which were all the options you can study at university. In my head, I was deciding among three options: medicine, psychology, and law. I ruled out medicine since I don’t vibe with blood. Psychology, I really wanted to do it but the only reason was because I did it in my final year of school and my teacher was really good so I didn’t know if that was the right motivation. Maybe by the powers of deduction, I said I’d just take law. I wanted to study music but my family was like, “Forget about it. You’re not gonna go study music in university. There’s no path there.” Me being 16, I just blindly agreed and pursued that career.

            For the longest time, I thought the right thing to do was to pursue a structured path: go to college, work your ass off in school, get good grades, get a good job, mortgage a house, get a car, get a wife, have a family. But I guess it occurred to me only more recently in life that maybe I want to tread an alternative path. Maybe I want to build myself up to contribute in a more meaningful way to life. My best contribution to the world is expressing myself creatively—writing music, through beats, man.

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Why choose to do that in Manila?

I’ve always had this curiosity for the Philippines. My mom’s Filipino and I feel like I missed out about learning about the culture, that part of my identity. My mum emigrated to Australia when she was super young so she never got to teach me a lot about her country. I guess there was an opportunity to not only make a change in careers but a change in geography. 

And what was your parents’ reaction when you decided to move out here?

Oh, they were mortified, man. “What the hell are you doing? You’re throwing away such a good career, future.” It’s amazing how much they’ve changed since, when they’ve seen what I’ve done, what I’ve achieved since being here. I’m an only child and so a lot of the pressure’s on me to do something that will make mum and dad proud.

What are some highlights since you got here?

I’ve done a number of shows since coming here. Preview Magazine, their 20th anniversary party, was actually my first show in Manila. I did the Cosmo bash. I’ve done half a dozen shows for BENCH. A number of fashion shows including Manila Fashion Festival and the Philippine Fashion Ball.

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Preview being your first live set in Manila, what was that like?

My set was post-party. I had a booth in the center. That was a surreal night, man. All my friends were up on this elevated platform where I was playing. There was so much energy behind me, the crowd, as well. I played a lot of throwback mashups. I opened with a flip of 50 Cent’s “In the Club.” I played one of my good friends Chris Gavino, who produces under the name Manila Killah. Future bass, future house, future hip-hop and r&b type stuff. I’d love to play more downtempo electronica. Really mellow vibes like Ryan Hemsworth, Tenru, another really special producer named GXNXVS. These guys produce very chill, melancholic, hip-hoppy music. It just wouldn’t work in a club set. It doesn’t even fit the energy of the typical events that I play out. But that’s just music I get to appreciate at home with friends.

Is that the sort of stuff you create yourself?

I have some special stuff coming out soon from the studio. They really reflect the breadth of my experiences here in the Philippines and in my travels throughout Asia. I think there’s this vibe that permeates Southeast Asia. This real laidback chill that’s been a big influence. I guess when I produce, I’m fairly anally retentive. I can be a bit clinical, so it’s taught me to accept flaws on a track or the little indiscretions that I would usually erase or edit. It’s probably just the vibes, man. When your senses are exposed to new shit, there’s no other option but to expand the breadth of your mind.

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Do you write lyrics, as well?

That’s part of the process. At the moment, I’m really searching for vocalists. I’d love to vibe with a great vocalist, male or female. There is one person, she’s a close friend of mine, her name is Kara Chung and she’s a photographer, as well. I’d love to do something with her in the future.

It obviously helps to get your name out there but to do that, the modeling you do comes in handy. Is that a means to an end?

My only real objective here initially was to write music and get acquainted with my culture. There wasn’t really an agenda of wanting to become really well known. I think if that’s what I really wanted to do, I would have just moved to LA or New York. Especially coming back off of a legal career, this has been so welcoming.

Anything you’re looking forward to doing this Christmas?

I’ll be back in sunny Australia with my family. I’m gonna call my friend Jess and we’ll go for a dip in the ocean, either Coogee or Bondi. The second thing would be to go to Woolworths and buy a carton of two-liter fresh milk and just lap that up.

Any resolutions for the new year?

Having a consistent morning schedule. That probably sounds boring for a producer-slash-DJ (laughs).

Maybe the answer is a liter of fresh milk to get you to bed earlier.

If I could resolve to making a real dairy industry here in the Philippines, man, sign me up.

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