Since first emerging in 2004 as one half of dubstep pioneers Vex’d, Jamie Teasdale has taken an artistic trajectory which has fascinated me just as much as it’s confused others.
I remember firstmeeting him in 2006 and being genuinely surprised by how humble and different he was from the music he then made as Vex’d. While Vex’d beats were abrasive and in your face, heavier than slabs of concrete, Jamie was soft spoken and a fan of genres and ideas that I’d never have suspected.
In the late 2000s, when it became clear that Vex’d would never fulfill the promise of afollow up LP to their classic Degenerate – though 2010’s Cloud Seed retrospective made for a good substitute – Jamie started on a new path. First under the name Jamie Vex’d, carrying with it the last vestiges of the project in his own way, and then as Kuedo, transforming his artistic persona across several EP releases and now his first solo album Severant, released on Planet Mu this October and the starkest departure yet from his previous sonic aesthetic.
Severant is surprising, beautiful and mesmerising, an album that will jolt old fans while recruiting plenty of new ones. It’s a bold move artistically speaking, one that explores concepts dear to Jamie and fuses them with musical inspirations both modern and old – notably trap rap, ’80s synthesizer sounds and juke – into a whole that’s surprisingly approachable. Curious to understand what had led to such a radical change, I spent two hours on the phone with the now Berlin-based Jamie, discussing futurism, alien drum patterns, the emotional juxtapositions of trap music and finally being free of musical scenes.
Who is Jamie Vexd/Kuedo? Are they the same person?
“Yes they are. They’re both me, Jamie Teasdale, writing music of a certain sentiment”.
How did you get started with music?
“As a child it was in and around my life. I was making it and playing it on instruments and I also made music on an Amiga when I was a teenager. I didn’t take it as a serious endeavor until I was about 22 though”.
Was there something in particular that made you want to take it seriously?
“I didn’t see any other kind of life. I also worked as a studio engineer, which is separate to the creative endeavour for me anyways”.
Which came first, the technical or the creative side?
“I think I found my creative confidence later in life. I went for the technical side as more gainful employment and later realised I might be able to do more creatively. I realised I might be able to actually offer something that way. I always had that ambition but felt morecompelled to act on it later in life. Even when I started making and releasing music with Roly as Vex’d, I took care of the engineering and mixing side of things. My role you could say was more of a managing approach to all sides of the project whereas Roly did a greater amount of the creative drive for it. So for the last few years I’ve been putting all this other stuff, especially the technical, audio stuff, out of the picture and focusing on the creative to have a genuine artful creation. That’s been by far and away the most challenging, rewarding part of making music, the artistry of it. In all my different relationships with sound – I’ve done sound design, music for adverts, etc. – the role of an artist is the most powerful and challenging to me. It’s something that I’ve been trying to make my main relationship with creating sound”.
What was, or is challenging about it?
“I think it’s challenging for anyone, though one of the things that was challenging for me is that there’s a lot of ways you can signify emotion and feeling and give the impression of it without it maybe really being there. One of the things that’s challenging is when you get down to the intentions of what you’re trying to do, to make sure that it comes from a genuine place, that it sounds authentic to you. That side of it is challenging. And you get better at it the more you practice it, the more you challenge yourself with it. There are many levels… there’s a never ending aspect of being better at it. It should always be a challenge. Just capturing something, chasing something and the things you try to capture…”
They change once you capture them?
“Yeah. You then try to catch something more slippery if you will”.
“It should always be a challenge. Just capturing something, chasing something and the things you try to capture…”
So why the long wait for the album?
“Well Vex’d, as a project, took a lot of time to come to an end and then there was a lot of personal stuff which obstructed music work. It was difficult to find the time and headspace, and once it all passed over I set about making this album”.
Was there a part of capturing what had happened to you in the new album, translating those emotions?
“Yes. There was a lot more to draw upon as a result, internally. There’s a reflection on before, during and after those events”.
From Vex’d to Jamie Vex’d to Kuedo and now the Severant album, there seems to be a distinct artistic evolution there, and with the album a distinct departure from earlier “sounds” or sonic aesthetics. Would you say there is a link between all these steps, or are they just a natural result of your evolution as an artist?
“I think the early Jamie Vex’d records could have been Kuedo records because they come from the same intentional place in a way. Maybe it’s okay that they’re not though, as they do feel a bit like a stepping stone. They sound transitional in a way. It’s just not something that I worry about. I think with this album I just really don’t want to resolve that narrative to Vex’d. It feels so distant now to me, it’s a non-fact to my thinking about music in general now. During that time, making music as Vex’d, there was a working process of making music that I think bled onto the next records – the Jamie Vex’d records – and some amount of aesthetic as well. I think a lot of the defining character of Vex’d, in terms of its energy, its spirit was to do with Roly and in the Jamie Vex’d records you can maybe hear a bit more of the parts I contributed to that project. I think Roly will always sound like Vex’d and continue to. For me it’s going to be harder and harder and less meaningful to try and resolve it. It’s just becoming less and less relevant, where to me it feels… It doesn’t feel connected, it’snot being myself. People change, almost regardless of intentions. The people involved have changed and I am so different now with the way I relate to music compared to how I was back then”.
You make art as a reflection of who you are at a certain point in time. I see it a lot where people, fans especially, will like an artist and their sound but then when that artist and their sound evolves people seem to be less able, or inclined, to follow that evolution. That’s happened a lot I think with people like you and others who came up at the same time in the pre-dubstep wars days and who ended up affiliated with this certain London sound, willingly or not – Kode 9 is another example. People change and there seems to bea disconnect if you will for many fans.
“I think that can also happen to artists in an inverse way. You can get stuck in your own creations a bit, in your own storylines, though inevitably everyone changes. Because you might have released some records under a certain character at a certain point in time you might feel the need to stick to that one form even ten years down the line, even though you’re no longer the same person. I think some people do that. I can only really talk from my own perspective and feeling on it but to me it feels quite liberating and I think you get better musical returns if you just embrace the change, rather than trying to stick with an older creation out of allegiance to it. Everything that we listen to, everything we interact with, we have a set of expectations built around it. And so what happens when an artist creates something different is that the expectation apparatus from the old thing gets placed onto the next one, even if it’s a completely inappropriate set of expectations. And that’s actually quite obstructive. I think it’s one of the difficult things, for me, in looking at this new work through Vex’d. And actually the people who didn’t like Vex’d would get the new album much quicker I think”.