The Many Faces Of Hyperdub Boss Kode9
4 February 2015
We’re not quite sure how he does it.
The man otherwise known as Kode9 juggles being a producer, DJ, record label owner and a full blown academic at the same time. He’s an enormously intelligent man (almost distractingly so) and while we’re entirely aware of how often the word gets unthinkingly thrown about – Kode9 is among the handful of true pioneers in the vast world of electronic music.
You may have heard about this already, but after performances from Hudson Mohawke, Modeselektor and Benjamin Damage in the last couple of years, Red Bull Music Academy is bringing the icon to Delhi and Mumbai this February and we just had to get in touch...
Now, where to start? Writing about Kode9 is a formidable task. The Glasgow born artist, now lives in the thriving musical metropolis of London and has forever been a pervasive influence in electronic music. Yet it was his first encounter with jungle, "the most important musical event of my life", as he put it, that saw his foray into the world of D&B, 2-step and dubstep.
His frequent collaborations with late poet and MC, The Spaceape, saw sounds that helped pave the route that electronic music would take in the coming years. His album ‘Memories Of The Future’ was a massive authority in the early days of dubstep, with few exploring the dark, experimental sub bass frequencies the way he was. Talking about some of the personal milestones in his career, Goodman tells us, “Technically, moving from vinyl, to CDJs, to digital DJs has accelerated my DJ style over the years. Also, I’ve been shaped by the different scenes I’ve participated in as a DJ, whether it be jungle and garage in the 90s, or dubstep, grime, UK funky and footwork in the last 15 years. Touring extensively in Asia in the last few years has definitely impacted on my music as well.”
By the time he started collaborating with The Spaceape, Goodman was already running his (now renowned) record label Hyperdub, previously a simple webzine. “It started in 2000 to cover the influence of Jamaican electronic music on dance music culture in London, and it featured lots of in depth interviews with UK garage, dubstep and grime DJs, producers and MCs. In 2002 I went to interview the artist known as the Bug, and passed him a CD - he suggested I should set up a label to release these tracks and he linked me with a distributor. So in 2004 I set up the label to release my own music, and then it just spread out from there.” The Bug has of course been a staple figure at Hyperdub since then, releasing a number of records through the label.
Hyperdub is also home to many more artists of lofty standards including Ikonika, Jessy Lanza and most prolifically – Burial. It’s extraordinary to see how many genres Goodman has been involved in over the last few years, not just as Kode9 but also in the way Hyperdub has repertoire that has expanded and in many ways, become increasingly diverse. The label is only moving forward and expects a number of releases in 2015 including a collaboration between DJ Spinn and Jessy Lanza which Goodman “can’t wait to unleash on the world.”
Kode9 is also, as we mentioned before, a serious academic. He’s got a PhD in philosophy and has even written a book titled 'Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear' - “In the early 1990s, I attended Notting Hill Carnival for the first time. I remember being in a flat overlooking a packed street raving to a jungle sound system. I remember the DJ dropping one tune, and half the street descended into a riot. That image, that flip between dancing and violence stuck in my head, and the book grew out of that, to look more generally at the uses and abuses of sound systems, by the military, police, advertising agencies, musicians and artists.”
When it comes to the art of DJing and creating club atmospheres, not many match up to Goodman’s wizardry in the field. We asked him about his views on the increasing obsession with tempo based sets that a lot of DJs are fixed on these days – “I think there have always been DJs who weren’t interested in beat matching or playing the same style and tempo all night. But staying focused on a particular sound is generally how scenes are born, so if the world was just full of eclectic DJs, it would be really unhealthy I think. I try and combine both – creating an illusion that I’m playing the same style, even though the tempos are all over the place. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Kode9’s sessions in India will be mediated by Nick Dwyer, who has been associated with RBMA for years and had recently released his hugely acclaimed documentary series on the history of video game music in Japan called ‘Diggin’ In The Carts’, in which Goodman was also featured.
On his trip to India, Kode9 tells us simply that he’s looking forward to having “no expectations and being surprised”. The opportunity to gain insight (if only briefly) into the mind of a real visionary in the electronic music industry is rare, and one that no fan of contemporary sound should want to miss out on. The parties that follow, needless to say, are going to be proper riots too and we're looking forward to seeing you all there.
Words: Diya Gupta