02: KAOTIC CHEMISTRY
(MOVING SHADOW 12″, 1992)
FACT: When did you encounter hardcore and early jungle?
Drew Daniel: “I was into Public Enemy in high school and then Meat Beat Manifesto as a freshman in college and the heavily chopped breakbeat techno that eventually turned into jungle just seemed to make sense as the next evolutionary step. In college I did a junior year abroad at Oxford and went to Trade and and, later, harder parties like VFM, Technical Support and Dead by Dawn (an awesome squatter scene party).”
Did your interest in jungle persist throughout the 90s, as the sounds grew harder and techier?
DD: “I didn’t mind that drum and bass got harder and darker and more macho. And it didn’t bother me that it lost ‘funkiness’ but it suffered from a standard evolutionary narrative – overpopulation and extinction of some strains, mutation of others.
“Lately we’ve been having fun playing mutated versions of ‘This Is’, an old Matmos quasi-drum and bass tune from our first album (Matmos, 1997) – but at that late a date it was already a pretty tangential take on the genre. To me, playing a straight-up drum and bass track in 2010 is hilariously dated in a way that’s kind of refreshing. It’s a total slap in the face to trendiness.”
“I have sympathy for the dancefloor. I don’t have contempt for it, or presume that I’m here to educate people.”
Though so obviously a product of the early 90s, there’s a rawness, a primitiveness, to these tracks that makes them oddly timeless…
DD: “I get wistful about how labour-intensive it was to make a track like this – the ridiculously tricky vocal cut-ups required a lot of discipline and precision and tender loving care. In a sense the
streamlining of a package like Ableton has ‘de-skilled’ this approach and taken away its allure for younger producers and listeners, I’m guessing. The genetic recombination of the sampled phrase ‘Dance, you know the time, it’s time to get ill / get on the jam while the jam’s going uphill’ into all of those million scrambled re-shufflings is so intense the first time you hear it.”
You can hear this record’s influence on [Daniel's solo project] The Soft Pink Truth, right? How would you describe SPT’s “relationship” to dance music in general?
DD: Kaotic Chemistry is totally an influence on my approach in The Soft Pink Truth. SPT is me working out my issues about queerness in a – hopefully – funky way. As a former go-go dancer in gay bars, I have sympathy for the dancefloor. I don’t have contempt for it, or presume that I’m here to educate people. I do that when I’m being a professor [Daniel teaches English at Johns Hopkins university].
“It’s been awesome playing SPT shows in Baltimore [Matmos recently relocated there] because the kids go nuts and really want to dance and get sweaty and sloppy.”
Do you think breakbeats will ever again sound as vital and insurrectionary as they did back in ’91-’92?
“Never say never. I think the timing has to get looser and more oblique. Maybe what John Berndt is doing with ‘relabi’ music is the next step in funkiness.”