To say that pinning down either Deviation host and BBC Radio 1 presenter Benji B or Hyperdub label boss and internationally renowned producer Kode9 is an easy job, is quite the understatement.
Benji B has built a career over the past ten years through sheer dedication to the cause, whether it be his former slot on 1Xtra, which he hosted from the stations inception, his successful Deviation club night (a regular London fixture and the sharpest mid-week club night in the capital), his keen ear for the deeper end of the dancefloor spectrum across a flurry of genres or his relatively recent promotion to take the reigns from Mary Anne Hobbs and shape her BBC Radio 1 Experimental/Breezeblock show into one of the go-to places to hear groundbreaking music from across a plethora of scenes.
In the meantime, Kode9 has spent the past decade forming a continually shifting take on the UK underground. From his formative bleached 2-step ruffage with ‘dark garage’ pioneers like Benny Ill (‘Fat Larry’s Skank’ / ‘Sub Kontinent’) to the founding of his Hyperdub blog-come-label, which has seen a remarkable transition in his productions from the beat-less experimentalism of ‘Sine Of The Dub’, heavyweight dread dubstep and two artist albums with Spaceape – not to mention it’s place spring board for artists like Ikonika, Scratcha DVA, Ill Blu, Cooly G, Hype Williams and of course, Burial – to say that the electronic music scene would be a poorer place without Dr. Steve Goodman would be missing the point.
In the impossibly fast-moving world of modern dance music, what both these figures continue to do is not only reflect the fragmented whole of the UK’s vibrant underground scene – each acting as barometers for the stylistic twists and turns developments throws up – but strive for stable ground amongst the fast-paced hype and seemingly volatile environment that the the current climate offers.
After months of delayed email responses, clashing tour schedules and missed opportunities at various clubs and events, Hyponik managed to get the two UK stars to agree to an group interview (of sorts). With the forthcoming Deviation X Hyperdub show taking place in London on April 27, getting the two in the same room for a serious chat proved virtually impossible, so we settled on one interviewing the other via email, with a choice of questions on any topic they pleased. From science fiction, the BBC and cats, to soundtrack work, poor soundsystems and neon colours, below you’ll find Benji B and Kode9’s full responses…
Kode9 interviewing Benji B:
You recently did one of your shows totally dedicated to science fiction / soundtrack(y) stuff? What was the motivation behind that.
It was visual motivation as well as sonic. Films like Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner, George Lucas’ THX 1138, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and so on have all been the inspiration. Those directors (as well as others) and their choice of sound and music as well as their vision. And their timing and use of silence too. The most striking sound in 2001 is the silence. The soundtrack in the opening of Bladerunner makes it ten times as epic. After watching Bladerunner again – the remastered one – I played some Vangelis on the show, and the producers at Radio 1 said to me – “you should do a whole show of this stuff”. I thought why not? So we loosely themed it sci-fi and then I started digging.
Synth music, space music, that texture of sound thats not easy to describe. I have a always been a huge fan of musicians like Vangelis, actually come to think of it there is no one else like Vangelis. But I have a huge section of my record collection that is all soundtrack and synth music, and I dug deep into that, playing film soundtrack music as well as reflecting space themed dancefloor tunes too, like model 500’s ‘No UFOs’ , Actress’ ‘Hubble’ Or Mr Fingers’ ‘Distant Planet’. The most fun was layering the entire HAL 9000 death sequence over your tune ‘Kryon’ and playing it on national radio, so thanks.
Deviation Promo video – February 2011
Have you seen Flying Lotus’ laser eyes in Thundercat’s video for ‘Walkin’? If you had lazer eyes, who or what would you blow up?
All sound limiters / crap compressors in every club around the world. As well as all of the crap ‘speakers on a stick’ soundsystems too.
Do you remember the first record you played at the first Deviation night?
No I don’t to be honest with you – but as I usually play very chill at the beginning of the night to warm up the room when its empty it was probably Alice Coltrane or something like that.
Why exactly is South London better than other parts of London?
We both know that this is not true, and leading questions are not allowed in this interview. Also, you are from Glasgow, so claiming South London is admirable but forbidden.
Tell me what you like most about the BBC?
Having the opportunity and blank canvas to play the music I love and the freedom to represent the artists I believe in, on the biggest national broadcasting platform, without any commercial influence, playlisting, advertising, or bias, is a privilege that most DJs and broadcasters around the world could only dream of – and one that I am extremely fortunate to have.
Kode9 – ‘You Don’t Wash’
Benji B interviewing Kode9:
I hear you have a love of cats, do they feature on your records?
I have two sisters. Sometimes my head gets a bit crazy and thing[s] flash too fast, and they calm me down. I position them in stereo, one each on my studio monitors and channel their thoughts. They make the music really, I’m just their human puppet.
What does the number 9 signify in your name?
It’s the apex between all the other numbers (1+8, 2+7, 3+6, 4+5)
Who is your favourite soundtrack, and what is your favourite example of their work?
I’ve got loads of favourites, but probably the most unique and ahead of its time was the soundtrack to Slava Tsukerman’s 1983 post-punk sci-fi oddity, ‘Liquid Sky’. The film’s synthesiser score was composed by Tsukerman and Clive Smith and Brenda Hutchinson using the Fairlight sampler/synth. At moments, it sounds a bit like Wiley’s oddest ice rink instruments from 10 years ago, for example this.
Do you view your music in a certain colour? If so what is the association and why?
Well, in the traditional sense of downcast, most of what I release on the label, even the dancefloor stuff is a bit blue, or ultraviolet. But really I’m a huge fan of neon orange, or any neon really, and fluorescent colours, and the way they tickle your retina. Why? Well that’s what I see when I close my eyes.
‘Roots of Kode9’ session – mixed by BenjysBar
You recently created an alternative soundtrack to…
Chris Marker’s ‘La Jetee’ sci-fi film from 1962 that was the inspiration for ’12 Monkeys’ and many recent time travel type films. Berlin based video artists MFO remixed the visuals, Ms. Haptic (who sang on our first album) remixed the script with us, and narrates the film live, and I remixed the soundtrack. Its a performance project so you can only see it live. We first did it at Unsound Festival in Poland last October, and we’ve got a performance at Hau2 in Berlin in early May and at Mutek Festival in Montreal in early June. [More details on that here].
One of our favourite sessions at Deviation was when you played – but you are often to be seen down at the club on nights off – what has been a favourite Deviation session / set / memory?
I definitely enjoyed seeing 2 thirds of Sa-Ra crooning on the dancefloor at Deviation. That was hilarious.
What are the three most important things to you when it comes to setting up warehouse parties / club environments?
3) Doing the party as close to where I live as possible because I’m lazy.
Catch both Benji B and Kode9 playing alongside Omar S, Martyn, Morgan Zarate, Dego and more on Friday April 27, as part of the Deviation X Hyperdub warehouse party.