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Cracking the Kode: Kode9 on the future of dubstep, Hyperdub, Flying Lotus and new Burial

April 9, 2009 | 11:23 am
Kode9  

Other than "legend," no label comes more limp than "visionary." But if Kode9 keeps it up, one day he'll be described with the same toothless terms prescribed to such dance-music deities as Aphex Twin and the Chemical Brothers. Maybe "maven" is a more appropriate appellation. The man born Steve Goodman spun off a label, Hyperdub, in 2004 from his music-criticism website -- a blog before the term readily existed.

Since then, Hyberdub has emerged as the biggest name in dubstep, releasing efforts from the Bug, Zomby, Joker and the Mercury Prize-nominated Burial. Under his Kode9 alias, Goodman has crafted a body of work rivaling that any of his peers: a woozy alchemy of jungle, garage, drum and bass, dub and hip-hop that reflects a singular style -- an aesthetic reflective of, but never beholden to, the dubstep he helped birth.

With a PhD in philosophy from the University of Warwick, Goodman also lectures on music culture in the media and cultural studies department at the University of East London. Pop and Hiss recently exchanged e-mails with him in advance of his show with Flying Lotus on Friday night at the Echoplex -- we tried not to feel stupid.


In an interview you once gave to the Wire, you described your first encounter with Jungle as the most important musical moment of your life. What was it about the music that you found so galvanizing?

The speed, the intensity, the bass, and any music you ever wanted to hear was woven into crazed hyper rhythms.

Originally, Hyperdub was a website dedicated to electronic music criticism. How did the shift come about to releasing your music? Also, do you think your Web roots helped hasten the label's ability to rapidly assert itself as one of the premier independent music labels?

I played "Sine of the Dub," the cover of Prince's "Sign of the Times," to the Bug in 2003, and he told me I should put it out. That's why the label started. The Web mag had a bit of a following before we started the label, so I'm sure that helped.

Flying Lotus has emerged as a sort of kindred spirit with the Hyperdub artists. Tempo aside, what is it about his music that you think has created these shared aesthetic ties?

He's got a bit of a cosmic vision with his music, I think, and I relate to that. I enjoy playing with him -- he mashes up such a wide range of styles, and because of this, it frees me up to play what the hell I want, which makes a change from playing on straight dubstep lineups. I also respect someone who can get a dance floor moving with actually quite mellow music.

How did you meet Burial and end up releasing his music?

He had been sending me CDs and letters to the Web mag since around 2001 -- he was into similar types of music. They just got better and in 2005 we decided to release some of the tracks.

Any new news about upcoming Burial projects.

There will be some EPs, remixes and possibly an album this year, possibly early next year. 

Is it frustrating to watch a subgenre you had a formative influence on mutate into a more mainstream incarnation that really only shares a similar tempo with its antecedents?

I'm happy it's becoming popular. What gets frustrating is, for example, the last time I played on the West Coast, I had a couple of e-mails from people after shows, complaining that I didn't play any dubstep. Basically, there are  lot of people who only want the most obvious, lowest common denominator stuff. That is irritating and does alienate me from the scene a bit, because it puts a pressure on you to play stuff you are not interested in, and I refuse to do that. So I prefer to play in a context where it is not just a dubstep audience.

You gave a very fascinating interview to Philip Sherburne recently, where you mentioned how the Internet overexposes music culture, in essence creating a feeding frenzy of journalists, bloggers and corporate brand managers desperate to be ahead of the curve. Do you foresee an attendant backlash to this trend?

I'm not sure yet. I do think you will see more and more interesting strategies of deliberately avoiding exposure, secrecy or cultural encryption.

Your concert schedule has you listed as playing Coachella, if so, will you be playing with the Bug?

No. I'm playing with Flying Lotus, the Bomb Squad, etc.

What releases are upcoming, schedule-wise, both personally and label-wise.

We have a fifth anniversary compilation album from the label, plus albums from Darkstar, Ikonika, King Midas Sound, Kode9 & Spaceape and Burial coming in the next year.

-- Jeff Weiss

Flying Lotus featuring Kode9 on Friday at the Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles,  9 p.m. $12. Buy tickets here. Photo courtesy Hyberdub.
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