Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Pitchfork June: Kode9
My monthly Pitchfork column features - and it sounds crazy to say this nine (sic) years after we first met - my first proper Kode9 interview. If I'm honest it hardly scratches the surface, but there'll be another time no doubt.
Nicely chiming with my question about podcasts v CD mixes, to promote the studio mix Kode's done a jungle podcast for Fact. It's here.
Blackdown: Can you tell me a bit about how you went about putting the mix CD together, what you wanted to do with it, what connections and synergies you wanted to make?
Kode9: I was asked to do the mix towards the end of 2009 and finished it in February 2010. I just wanted to do a snapshot of some of my sets from the last year, and the range of music I've been playing. Once I'd put the tracklist together I realized it was a bit tense, so added the interlude in the middle for a bit of fresh air.
B: In the last 5 years, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the accessibility of online music and podcasts/MP3 recordings are now one of, if not the primary medium to carry new musical ideas. To me it seems to form a continuum where podcasts sit at one end, where their financial value has tended to zero, their audio quality is low, they ignore copyright and their accessibility is potentially unlimited. At the other end of that scale you have a physical mix CDs, which have a financial cost, are high audio quality, and can’t be easily distributed unless digitized. Given they respect copyright (and therefore incur all the financial barriers that creates) and given so many regular(non-producer) music fans are fairly oblivious to audio quality, what
makes you want to invest time and ideas a mix CD in 2010?
K9: I don't know about you but I'm drowning in podcasts and radio rips. Most of them are are great, but I do loose them on my computer, forget about them or move on quickly to the next one. I was happy to do a mix CD because I've only done one before and I enjoy having a physical object with packaging, artwork and so on. I also hope it increases the likliehood a little bit that it might get played outside the little, tinny world of laptop speakers and i-pod headphones.
B: I was interested in this recent quote from you: “There are so many mini micro sub-niche parts of what used to be dubstep or UK underground music, and it feels like everything is in transition. And to be honest, it feels like it's a holding pattern before something else comes.” This to me seemed to place more weight on the times where there was more definition and less number of disparate mutations, rather than the phase in the cycle we are currently in, where definition is low and the number of disparate mutations is high, ie that the “something else” was one, larger and well defined thing, rather than a long tail of ill definition and that “something else” somehow had more value. Is it impossible to be blown away by a “long tail” of collectively inspirational musical mutations or does that effect require coherence that comes from unity of purpose and relative sonic definition?
K9: Well I'm not blown away by much to be honest, although I crave that fix, and that's what drives me to discover music that I haven't heard before, new and old. Most people that make music or DJ have experienced at least one musical movement that embodied an energy that was singular and that inevitably things get measured against, even if you don't listen to that music anymore or make it. Until, that kind of singularity comes that reshapes everything, it all just seems like a fun, but an ultimately transitory mess to get lost in. The point is to create something fresh in the process of getting lost.
B: If you can equate the 2006 era dread/darkness in dubstep to a certain extent with urban decay, is there an equivalent for the seam of neon dayglow colour that has run through many of the last two years of releases on Hyperdub? If there is, what does that beam of light invoke for you?
K9: Well the world isn't less decayed or full or dread though, is it? But I think the music got just irradiated somehow and turned into a bad trip in the washing powder aisle of a supermarket.
B: What is the personal root for you of the urge to find, curate, make and release new music, over music that is familiar or easily accessible?
K9: Boredom with the status quo and frustration with the equation of 'popular' with crap music.
B: In light of this relentless urge to move forward, to play upfront all the time, how do you decide when occasionally to go back ie with the Maddslinky or Nubian Mindz track on the mix? What about production wise, why can’t older ideas be so easily revisited? “Black Sun” for example was a logical step if you saw the UK garage -> dark garage, therefore UK funky -> dark funky parallel, but you were shrewd not to use any 2step influences, instead drawing for UK funky influenced drums. So I guess I’m asking, when is it ever feasible to swim against the tide?
K9: The urge to move forward certainly doesn't just mean to play 'upfront', or unreleased music all the time at all; it also means to find an escape route out of the present. There is so much music in the world, that often finding an escape route out of now means joining the dots, recovering lost or alternate futures, or hot linking to something happening coincidently elsewhere in parallel. These days,
'new' is a marketing term as much as it signifies freshness or innovation. There is no necessary relation between something being 'new' and something being interesting.
B: Much of the music you’ve been most directly involved with over the last ten years – jungle, garage, grime, dubstep, uk funky - has been local. Can you tell me about your connection with the Brainfeeder camp, what they’re like and what you like about it, and what difference collaborating with an international collective makes versus a local one?
K9: I met Flying Lotus in Melbourne, Australia in 2006 I think, and we've just stayed in touch. He's got a musical vision which is rare and not just stuck in his own city. All the Brainfeeder crew are an amazingly talented bunch of freaks, and what is cool about the nights, whether the crowds like it all or not, is that, in quite a focused way, really anything goes.
B: You travel a lot to DJ, between the actual gigs, how do you find the places you visit? Do you meet people or is it a fairly solo experience, do you draw for the Rough Guides or just head to the next gig?
K9: I either wander about randomly or get shown places. I tend not to be in tourist mode because either I don't have enough time, or I'm not in the mood because of sleep deprivation.
B: In some of the interviews around the 5 CD, you seemed to suggest that Hyperdub could be made yet even better. I’m not asking about specifics, but in general what more would you want to do differently with Hyperdub, a label that already sets the bar for many labels?
K9: I don't know. I just have a feeling that everything can always be better. I'd like to split into 9 instead of 4 different people so i could get more stuff done better and still sleep.
B: Do you feel you take as many risks DJing now as you did when you played to the empty dancefloor and that big curtain, month in, month out in the FWD>> warm up slot?
K9: I play differently if there is not so many people on the dancefloor, or its not a dance context. But I like to think I've always got a few curveballs to clear the floor.
B: Being a label manager/A&R and being a producer often impact on each other, how’s it going production wise? Have you set aside any time to make beats or are you planning to?
K9: Slowly, very slowly. But I'm hoping to get some momentum up again in the next 25 years or so.
B: Wobble-brosteppers seem to delight in a contest of how to describe an ever-yet more nasty, noisy spazzout of a drop in even more inane ways. “this tune’s sicker than…” etc. What’s your favourite brostep “sicker than…” and why? [or, like racism and paedophilia, is there no funny side to brostep, fullstop?]
K9: I don't really look at dubstepforum anymore so I'm out of the loop
with the latest euphemisms.
B: Shame, you're missing out on some crackers ;) Finally, what things make you most happy?
K9: Sanguinella (Scicilian Blood orange juice)