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Kode9 talks DJ-Kicks, the state of bass music, and premieres an exclusive MP3

June 21, 2010 |  1:12 pm
Kode9_small The producers of the DJ-Kicks compilation had to know what to expect when they asked Kode9, the inscrutable impresario of London's Hyperdub imprint, to contribute a mix to the venerable 15-year series. That is to say, anything. Thus, the man born Steve Goodman dropped an hour-long mix that veers from U.K. funky to tar-pit grime, space-disco R&B to staccato garage, juke music, and even a little of the dubstep that his label became famous for in 2006, a period that feels almost antiquated in this rapid-fire Rapidshare era.

The name "post-dubstep" would be inaccurate to describe this fusion -- it's a by-product of the ingratiating chaos of a post-genre world. The scrambled but seamlessly mixed iPod of one of the world's most visionary musicians. The reasons for the mix and Hyperdub's success, are evident throughout -- a repudiation of rigidity. Unlike past movements that forsook evolution and settled into stasis, Goodman has consistently eschewed ideology or BPM constraints; his ideology is none at all -- merely a dedication to asphyxiating bass and hard-core beats.

In advance of the "DJ-Kicks" release Tuesday, Kode9 spoke with Pop & Hiss about everything from Burial to the state of bass music, to his love of local music. He also allowed Pop & Hiss to premiere the Martyn remix of his "You Don't Wash (Dub)," which is as filthy as it sounds.

The mix skews heavily toward British artists, but a track from Los Angeles' J*Davey stands out. What drew you to the track and the band's music?

I've been aware of their album 'The Beauty in Distortion' for a while and was a big fan of some of the tracks, and particularly her voice. But the track I used -- 'Mr. Mister' -- I noticed was a bit more uptempo, and the guitar kind of reminded me of the Terror Danjah track 'Stiff' that's is a few tracks afterward in the mix, so I just thought I'd throw it in and see what friction it generated.

With the DJ Kicks mix, was there any sort of consistent theme or thread that you wanted to hit home with, or was it merely a matter of making the best mix possible?

I don't know if it's the best mix possible, whatever that would be, anyway. It's just what was floating around in my head at the time. I see it more as a snapshot of a moment in my studio in February and an attempt to take a slice of some of the music I've been into over the last year.

Was it a challenge to avoid treading ground that had already been covered in the venerable series?

I don't think there was an issue there, as I don't think there has been a K7 mix that has covered the same ground. Ignorance is bliss, so I deliberately avoided immersing myself in the series until after I had finished the mix.

In your top 10 list of 2010, you listed Sa-Ra (and I believe Dam-Funk). You've released records from Flying Lotus and Samiyam and you've had the opportunity to play Los Angeles on several occasions. What are your thoughts on its current sonic climate and how would you say its bass music world differs from London's. Obviously, London and Los Angeles have dozens of different sounds -- I'm specifically referring to the variations on dubstep as done by labels like Hyperdub, Hotflush, Hemlock, and in Los Angeles at the Low End Theory.

I'm a big fan of Sa-Ra, Dam-Funk and obviously, my friends in the Brainfeeder crew. I think Sa-Ra, when they are in top gear, like on tracks like 'Dirty Beauty' from their recent album, are untouchable. I really love their production, and it's got a certain timeless quality to it. And [Flying Lotus'] 'Cosmogramma' is in a different dimension all together. But generally, I love the warped yet laid back-feel of the music I hear from L.A. that I like. It transports me out of the grimness of London's gray sky. It's a bit of cliche, but you can't underestimate the impact of climate on the different moods of sounds that come from different cities.

The word 'post-dubstep' has repeatedly been bandied about to describe the mutations of sound from the original template. Do you find this an accurate term -- if not, what would you prefer and where you do you think of the current climate of bass music? From my perspective, it seems that casual fans are being won daily with everything from Bonobo to Gaslamp Killer being inaccurately lumped under the 'dubstep' umbrella. Journalists rush to coin new silly terms daily from 'funky' to 'wonky' -- where do you see it all currently?

Post-dubstep is a non-term to me. It's not right or wrong, it just indicates that there is a bunch of producers just now who have been influenced by dubstep and have spiraled off in their own direction. It does irritate me that pretty much every form of instrumental electronic music gets sloppily labeled as dubstep these days. That's just lazy.

But I suppose I understand the confusion, because things are kind of messy. 'Funky,' as strange or silly as it may seem to an outsider, is a more concrete term for an actual U.K. house scene. It's a noun that people here understand as referring to something concrete, a scene and a style. 'Wonky,' on the other hand, is more of a media fabrication. I have faith that when the time is right, a word will come to me that accurately tags what I do. In the meantime, I'm Kode9 and run a label called Hyperdub that's loose enough to let me do what I do.

'Black Sun' augured a new direction for your sound. Since then, what sorts of sounds have you been drawn to -- is there another album on the horizon, and if so, what can people expect?

I'm working with an album with Spaceape that should be out later this year. When I work with him, we have a very particular vibe that is quite different from my DJ sets or tracks I've done on my own like 'Black Sun.' The album is pretty moody, sometimes a bit angrier that our first album, and generally I'd say it's more deranged and that reflects what the production process has been like. There is plenty of vocal dubstep on it, but maybe not as most people are used to it. When I'm making tracks on my own just now, it's more house influenced.

Obviously, the $100 million question regarding Hyperdub is Burial. I saw your set at the Brainfeeder sessions and was dumbfounded. Are those tracks going to be released anytime soon? Were they from the forthcoming album?

Glad you enjoyed it. They were all sketches and unfinished parts. There is no news of any release date for new material, though.

The year is half over. What tracks/albums have been the standout for you this year?

Flying Lotus' 'Cosmogramma' and Actress' 'Splazsh' are my favorites so far in terms of albums. Ikonika's 'Yoshimitsu' is one of my favorite tracks.

-- Jeff Weiss

Download: (Pop & Hiss premiere)

MP3: Kode9 -- "You Don't Wash (Martyn Remix)"