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Interview: Kode9

interview_kode9

Courtesy of  Art of Beatz Radio: A rare interview with Dub technician / Hyperdub boss / Ccru konspirator Kode 9. Big shout to Kuma for this one. Kode 9 discusses his forthcoming book, sonic materialism and sound philosphy, the Hyperdub virus, cats and forthcoming releases.  Also, a big thank you to the Hyperdub Kru for their welcome note on the day of our launch, and for sending along Kode 9’s recent Babel Mix. If you haven’t heard it, it’s a monster. Get it now in the Mixes section.

AOB: Name, rank, serial number and brief history of Kode 9 for those on this side of the pond who may not be familiar.

kode9: I’ve been djing for about 15 years, set up the hyperdub.com website in 2001, and about a year ago set up the Hyperdub label. I used to help run dubplate.net when it started back in 2001. In 2004 we released two 10″s ‘sign of the dub’/’stalker’ and ‘spit’ on Hyperdub. In 2004, I also released 4 tracks on Rephlex’s Grime 2 compilation. I’ve also released on the label Tempa. I’m one of the residents at grime/dubstep night Forward>> in London, and host a weekly show (Thursday 7-9pm) on one of the city’s longest running pirate radio stations, Rinse FM.

AOB: You’ve a book in the works, do tell?

kode9: Yeah, I’m writing a book about the philosophy of sound which deals with loads of things from audio viruses to sonic weaponry to rhythmic futurism and so on.

AOB: When do you expect the book to be finished? Is there a specific angle to the philospiphy of the sound behind the book?

kode9: When will it be finished? Don’t know but it certainly wouldnt come out for a couple of years I think. I’m in the middle of it right now. . .i hope i get out alive. Yeah, there are a few concepts that are fundamental to what I’m doing: the main one is ‘turbulence’ from the physics of fluids and metereology, i.e. how do vortexes emerge and what is their rhythmic consistency. Philosophically, I’m interested in what we call bass materialism, but thats a long story. . .

AOB: Where do ideas on sonic warfare come into today’s music scene and especially into the grime sceen today? Are the pirate stations a weapon in todays sonic war?

kode9: There are several legacies in understanding sound as a weapon within music culture: one of them goes back to industrial music in the 1980s and experiments with infrasound at gigs. Another strand which interests me more is the array of practices which surround Jamaican sound system culture: bass clashing, vocal clashing etc. etc. Transplanted to London, and the major transmission channels are pirate radio, and the clashing extends to inter-radio rivalry and vocal clashing (merking) is amplified and intensified. Its interesting to look at the relations of force, the war games being played out constantly between pirate and mainstream media in London; so BBC 1extra is part of a strategy towards pirate media – simultaneously an acknowledgement that most of the exciting new music comes out of the pirate networks first, but also some of that energy being appropriated. These are two models of media transmission which are always to some extent in conflict due to their organisational structures, financial (or lack of) backing and ability to mutate quickly.

AOB: What’s a bigger force then? 1Xtra (the mainstream response) or the pirates?

kode9: Don’t get me wrong. . I think 1extra is generally quite a positive thing in relation to spreading uk urban music overseas, as a trasmission vector. However you do have to see it in context. Its a fuckin digital channel here. . .you can get it through your Tv if you have cable but you need a digital receiver to get it properly in the UK on a radio (apart from online) In the context of the bullshit pumped out through BBC radio 1 (the national pop radio network here), it just makes me angry. 1extra should be a national analog channel and not limited. But if you want to know about the future, its all about the pirates.

AOB: Sound as a weapon. More of a passive concept these days in the electronic music scene(i.e, my dubplate can slay all you) or more of an active idea than ever?

kode9: Yeah, I agree. . .but I think things are changing with the general beligerent mood of the early 21st century. I’m interested in the full spectrum of sonic warfare, which connects one mc insulting another mc’s family, to dubplate or soundsystem wars, via industrial’s obsessions with infrasound, all the way through to the use of sonic weaponry by the US Army such as high frequency acoustic lasers in Iraq.

AOB: For you, where did the roots of the hyperdub virus first come together?

kode9: For me, the term hyperdub is just another way of describing a certain mutation of music which runs through jungle, drum’n’bass, 2step, dubstep and grime – its dub methodology on overdrive. . .

AOB: You’ve got mixes in an assortment of genres on Hyperdub.com but you’re known mainly for your involvment in the grime/2-step/dubstep axis. What is it about the music that drew you in?

kode9: Yeah. . .those mixes will probably get vaporized by me soon in the new diet version of the hyperdub website. About 10 years ago I was a jungle addict. I loved the way you could expect to hear literally any kind of music or sound appear at any time on top off fucked up asymmetric beats. So partly I’m getting a deja vu thing now with the whole grime/dubstep axis, because really that transects a pretty huge range of sonic texture, voices, spaces, rhythms and so on. Its like a music that (potentially) synthesizes every music that you ever loved. Of course it could just get in a rut. . .but for me as long as the instrumental side of the music stays in touch with the vocal side then things should stay lively. Thats important, because for example, as a drum programmer, you learn alot rhythmically from listening to mcs flow. . .

AOB: Is the grime/dubstep split something akin to the mutations that jungle went through in the mid 90’s?

kode9: Maybe. . .I was thinking that 5 years ago in relation to tension between vocal uk garage and darker/mcs driven strains. But maybe that description is more appropriate now, with grime being mc driven (like jungle was more ragga driven) and dubstep more instrumental, bleaker. . .but like with jungle/drum’n’bass, i think what is exciting is what will emerge out of the interzone between them. . .

AOB: Is Grime really as to the UK as Hip-hop is to the U.S?

kode9: It is for as long as it stays distinct, in other words, until the aspiration to break America by doing rips of hip hop speed beats takes it over. Its a fine line.

AOB: Dub methodolgy stands at an alltime high in its usage in urban culture. Theorise then..where does it go next if it’s in overdrive now?

kode9: Hyperdrive, of course.

AOB: What intrigues you these days?

kode9: How different drugs affect your perception of gravity. Like weed can make your body feel 10 times heavier than it actually is, and ecstasy makes it much lighter. There is some nervous system rewiring going on here, and i’m intrigued how sound modulates some of these bodily potentials.

AOB: What happens when grime stops being a london ting?

kode9: its already not just a london ting. the core of grime involves mcs, and there is already releases with non-london mcs. . .virus syndicate from manchester for example are hot, and dont dilute the sound at all, but add something fresh and unique to it. there is a few overseas producers making tunes which are not really getting released yet with a grimey sound. .i like to think that spreading doesn’t have to mean dilution, but only time will tell. . .

AOB: What should we expect with the album you’re working on with Daddi Gee?

kode9: Tracks without beats, tracks with beats, swearing, politeness, dodgy cover versions and tracks to make you cry with joy and sadness.

AOB: Due date for the album? Future plans for the label and your music in general?

kode9: Before the end of 2005 is all I can say right now, but the fog should clear in the next few months. I’m releasing 4 tracks by a new producer from South London called Burial on Hyperdub in April. He’s got an amazingly deep sound and some very funny production techniques. I’m sitting on all my beats until the fog clears around the album. I think me and Daddi Gee will be doing some wierd ‘unlive’ performances. We are still working out the details, but they will involve video projection, Daddi Gee on the mic doing his unique thing, lots of bass, maybe a bit of melodica. I’m not really into the idea of doing a live thing with just a laptop, so I’m trying to work out a way to do something interesting in real time, but not to be forced to sit a look at a screen. It could grow into something quite funny, I think, but we’re not sure what yet. Apart from this, I’ll be spreadin it about like usual.

AOB: Thoughts on the IDM/dubstep crossover (Rephlex putting out the Grime comps, Planet-Mu signing Vex’d and Mark One).

kode9: I hate the term and the associations of IDM. I don’t mind categorizing music, but doing it in terms of intelligence and stupidity doesnt work for me. The term ‘Intelligent drum’n’bass’ made me feel sick. Generally I think Rephlex did the Grime comps quite well. We had a bit of a niggle about them being called Grime, which at least for the second comp we didnt necessarily agree with. But I really appreciate the support for the music from a label like Rephlex. Grime and dubstep are relatively small scenes so any support from labels with a bit of intergrity is welcome. I think there is more interesting things going on sonically in grime and dubstep than in most things you would call IDM now. I loved the Mark One album on Mu and can’t wait for the Virus Syndicate one as well. I find it interesting that at the MC side of the scene generally there is potentially more of an affinity with the major labels, following a US urban model more, whereas at the dubbier end, its the independent labels that came out of techno that seem more interested. The US model is dangerous, but an MC led scene tends to want stardom and cashola more than a dj/producer led scene, so I suppose that explains part of it.

AOB: Is Sound the biggest, mind altering drug of all?

kode9: Yes. Nothing messes with your brain more than the sound of someone talking rubbish.

AOB: What dont we know about K9 that perhaps we should?

kode9: I like cats.

AOB: Do you like cake?

kode9: There is a cake in this country called Battenburg. I dont know if you have it where you are. But its like a long yellow cuboid. The yellow is a layer of marzipan. Inside are these yellow and pink sponge squares. I like that. I used to just peel off the marzipan, eat that, and throw out the sponge.’

Interview by Kuma/Art of Beatz

Category: Interviews

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Riddim.ca was founded by DJ/writer paul autonomic (aka Mr. Bump) in February 2005 as a hub for North America's nascent grime and dubstep scenes. Since then we've helped promote events across the continent and made friends around the world. Mostly dormant now, we're host to one of the web's largest collections of writing on the late-Garage dis/continuum as well as a growing collection of rare audio and scans (coming eventually).