Five Minutes at MUTEK with Kode9

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As always, this year's edition of MUTEK offered a potentially overwhelming number of shows, parties, workshops, panel discussions, and more. Amidst all the activity, XLR8R also wanted to take the time to sit down with a few of our favorite artists, both to get their impressions of the festival and to check in about what's happening with their music. UK veteran and Hyperdub founder Kode9 always has plenty to say, and here, he discusses his past and present with MUTEK, Hyperdub's recent output and ongoing stylistic evolution, and his current struggle with writer's block.

XLR8R: This is not the first time you've played at MUTEK.
Kode9: Third.

How is the MUTEK experience as compared to other festivals?
It's quite different. I do like Montreal, and it always feels like a techno and electronic festival, so I feel a little bit like I'm coming from a different angle. I enjoy it, especially if I feel I'm the only person doing UK stuff here. It's great. I just play everyone's stuff, and just batter people with it. It's nice to play loads of UK stuff at a festival where there's not much of it. It has a really strong impact. Everything was so minimal when I first came here, although I guess that's changed a bit.

You're doing two shows this year. What's the visual show that you're doing?
We've remixed a science-fiction film from the '60s called La Jetée, a French film by Chris Marker. We've rewritten the script from the woman's point of view. The woman is an important character in the film, but it was [originally] all from the male's point of view. So we've rewritten the script, and pretty much 99% of the sound is from the original. The music is classical music and we've cut that up and done stuff to it. Same with the visuals. It's a film made out of still images—photographs—apart from one second of movement. So, MFO have kind of animated the images to make it move. It's a 40-minute [performance].

Is this a one-off thing?
We started it because the Unsound Festival asked us [to do it] in Poland. Then we did it in Prague. We did it in Berlin. Now here. We're doing it in London at the end of the year. It's going quite organically. It's nice. I haven't finished a track in over a year. I've got a huge block just now, so it's nice to do a piece that's just performance. There's no finished copy of it. You either come see it, or you can't see it. So, it's great for me. It's helping me make music again.

Are you spending more time on Hyperdub then?
Everything is conspiring against me with music. I'm working on getting back into the studio. It's not so much the label. It's everything—teaching, the label, traveling.

The label has made some interesting releases this year—the Laurel Halo album just came out.
We're just softening people up for the Terror Danjah and LV albums. It's been a gradual start to the year, the DVA album, the Hype Williams album, the Laurel Halo album. Most of the stuff we're releasing is, like, songs. We're releasing a lot of songs. It wasn't intended, but we've become like an abstract pop label.

Are you happy with that development?
Yeah. Very. It's great to do the Laurel Halo album and then this Terror Danjah single. I don't know if you've seen the video with Riko, which is a real hit-you-over-the-head, cut-your-throat, shoot-you-in-the-face grime track. It's a full-on, proper grime banger. It's amazing to do Laurel Halo and do that, and then fill in all the bits in between. That's not really intended, but that's the way it's unfolding. I think it's nice.

Do you see the definition of what Hyperdub is as a fluid, changing thing?
Yes. [pauses , laughs] Retrospectively, looking at what we've done, it clearly is. There's a strand of stuff that we've released that's in the slipstream of Burial. It's comedown music, and it's music I listen to, it's music I A&R and make decisions about after having two hours of sleep and zombying around airports and being on a plane feeling suicidal. It's comedown music. So, we do comedown—we don't really do come up, but we do hit-you-in-the-face [music] and comedown. It's nice to deal with all your moods, service all your needs. That should be our slogan. [laughs]

Do you see Hyperdub continuing to put out a lot of albums?
This year, we had a plan to do six or seven or eight albums, which is so much more than we've done before. I don't know why we're doing that, because it's a lot of work, but we'll just see what happens. We've got the music, so we'll put it out. I think somehow they all feed off each other in some weird way. I think the DVA album makes sense with the Hype Williams and the Laurel Halo album. It makes some kind of sense in the context of the label putting out a lot more songs, although they're completely different types of songs.

For your own music, you said that you're not getting anywhere with it, but is it going in a more song-based direction as well?
No. I think it's mostly going to be solo stuff. That's what I'm planning on doing, a solo album. It might take a few years to get in my head right now. I'm starting loads of tracks, but it's chaotic just now. There are so many different styles of music that I DJ. They all have a similar vibe, but some of it is 160 bpm, some of it's 130, some of it's 145. A lot of the stuff I'm playing is not stuff I've ever made, so I'm regressing to being a teenager again, when I started making music, and I'm like, "I'll try this speed, I've never tried it before. That's good shit." Then I'll try something at another speed, keep trying, and hopefully something will come out of that that's not just a funky track or a grime or dubstep track, or a footwork track. That's what I'm playing around with and DJing, but I have no idea what I'm doing. [laughs]