Kode9 will play two sets at tonight’s Hidden Depths of Hyperdub event, and the first will be, in the label’s words, “a bit of Burial”.
It’s not the first time the Hyperdub boss has played a set entirely dedicated to his label’s most successful artist, and those who saw Kode9’s Burial set in Italy’s Club to Club Festival two years ago will vouch for what a perfect opener to a night it can be. Like that performance in Turin, Kode9 will be on first at Hidden Depths, taking to the stage at 7.30pm before playing again at 11.15. Elsewhere on the night, music from Actress, DVA, Cooly G, Laurel Halo and Chicago’s Spinn & Rashad.
FACT spoke briefly to Kode9 over email this week to talk meat puppets, narrow-minded crowds and an increasingly bipolar record label. Hidden Depths of Hyperdub – a collaboration between Black Atlantic, Tiger Beer, FACT and, naturally, Hyperdub – takes place at North London venue Koko tonight, with more information available here. We’ll be streaming DVA’s live set on FACT from 10.30.
Plenty of dialogue about Hyperdub over the years – from both commentators and artists on the label – has revolved around how it’s a home for outsiders, individual musicians who might not fit in elsewhere. Seven years on from the label’s formation, can it still feel like herding cats?
“Just dealing with myself these days is like herding cats sometimes. The more artists there are on the label, this gets multiplied. Yet, somehow, sometimes things just click into place.”
You’re operating at a much larger scale than you were this time five years or so ago, and I imagine after [Burial]’s Untrue it was a particularly rapid period of growth. Was it a difficult time, adjusting to the label growing so quickly, both in terms of managing it, and the added publicity it gave you?
“It would have been impossible to cope with that on my own without the help of our label manager Marcus [Scott].”
It seems that since the label has started releasing albums more regularly – and, generally, whether it’s North or Black Sun or Quarantine or whatever, they’ve been, for want of a better word, quite cerebral – the singles have become more physical than ever before – I’m thinking Walton, Funkystepz, D.O.K. Is there a deliberate attempt to find a balance between these, and do you view it as two separate sides to the label’s output?
“Hyperdub is quite bipolar at the moment. The label operates along at least two levels, but probably more. But several of the artists, like Cooly G, can occupy both both poles, abstract songs, and dance music, come down and come up music. We’ve just finished a tour of Japan with label showcases in Tokyo and Osaka that featured Scratcha DVA, Hype Williams and King Midas Sound and myself on the same line up, and it worked amazingly having that spectrum of contrast to build the night. Sometimes its important to jolt people out of their expectations, because often their expectations in both the live music worlds, and club worlds are pretty narrow.”
On a personal level, do you think your primary occupation changing from academia to DJing has shaped the type of singles that the label puts out?
“I’ve been DJing for around 20 years. The only thing that has changed really is that I now have more dancefloors with people on them, and this has changed the way I play, and some of the music released on the label.”
You’ve obviously talked quite a lot about the label as a virus in the past, making the decisions for you rather than vice versa. Is this still as much the case as it was in the label’s early days, and if so, do you envision a point in the future where you try to regain control of the process?
“Kode9 is merely a meat puppet of the Hyperdub virus. If he tried to gain control of the process, his presence would be terminated immediately.”
Will Hyperdub start and finish with Kode9? i.e. if you get older and lose interest or retire from music, would you retire the label too? Or do you think you’d keep it operational but pass over the creative control?
“Its impossible to say whether the Hyperdub virus will seek to dispose of Kode9 at some point in the future. All meat puppets become redundant or need an upgrade at some point.”