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Hyperdub:10 at Berghain

This year’s 10th anniversary of Hyperdub serves not only as a cause for deserved celebration, but also as an appropriate moment to take stock. Steve ‘Kode 9‘ Goodman and Marcus Scott’s label has arrived at the milestone of a decade in existence still with ideas to burn in the wake of a back catalogue which has grown in zeitgeist defining significance with every passing year. From the icy inflections of Goodman’s inaugural effort with Spaceape, ‘Sine of the Dub’, to the analog assisted RnB of last year’s superb debut LP from Jessy Lanza via the crossover success of Burial, there has been no obvious common thread other than a commitment to releasing music that exists outside the norm yet can still find a home in the club.  Goodman and Scott for their part would never pat themselves on the back for their run of trend setting excellence – although thankfully this year’s trio of compilations and a series of parties around the world has provided plenty of others the opportunity to do just that.

One such party took place last Friday 13th June at Berghain – the Berlin club which has earned mythical status thanks to its peerless programming and its infamously stringent door policy. Announced earlier in the year, the date looked to be the crowning jewel in an exciting European tour for the label – although this was soured hugely by label signee and Footwork legend DJ Rashad’s untimely and tragic death towards the end of April. His legacy was to be represented on the night by best friend and long time collaborator DJ Spinn and Teklife affiliate Taso. They were set to be joined by Kode 9, label members Cooly G and Laurel Halo, and Planet Mu’s Kuedo. Upstairs in Panorama Bar there was an evening of British centric left-field House and Techno that could all be seen to take cues from Hyperdub with Ben UFO and Floating Points amongst the highlights.

Looking for a bit of insight about what the anniversary means to the label, I Skyped Leon Smart, better known as Scratcha DVA from Berlin on a Thursday evening. As we spoke we both agreed what was most exciting about the party the following night was the variety of styles on offer across both rooms of Europe’s finest dancing spot….

scratcha hyperdub

The party takes place in Berlin tomorrow but one of the first releases on the label was Burial’s “South London Boroughs” – how much do you think coming from London has influenced you and the rest of the Hyperdub family over the last 10 years?

It’s hard to say, man. Especially while I’ve been doing my current project in Peckham, I’ve been asked how has South London influenced me, but really I have no idea.

So you’re just making what you feel like at the time rather than anything else?

That’s it, totally. An area inspires me most when I’ve just moved there, or if I’m just working in the studio there. For example, when I did my album and it was in Brick Lane, the Brick Lane vibe inspired me for that short second. There’s something about being in a certain space that can help to create something differently, but I’ve always kind of been in London so it’s hard to know the influence it’s had.

London has obviously been an important part of your career with Rinse FM and nights like FWD>> at Plastic People, but the label is home to artists from as far as New Zealand and Canada and the music has reached a wide audience across the world. Is there any particular reason for this?

I think generally it’s just down to Kode9, I feel that his musical taste is incredibly varied. If you don’t have a good varied taste, you end up sticking to one sound from one area. Techno – Berlin. Hip Hop – New York. Whatever. With 9, I feel that there’s no discrimination. Just show someone a bit of good music, it doesn’t matter where it’s from does it?

Yeah. For me there’s no specific Hyperdub sound. Like if you compare the latest Kyle Hall record to something by yourself or Ikonika for instance, it’s very broad.

Yeah, it’s definitely really broad and really it could be seen as scary sometimes. Sometimes when I get the chance to check out some other labels’ parties, some of their DJs are really kind of together, almost playing similar sets. They’ve each got the same crowds and the same followers, which works for them, but what’s nice about Hyperdub is that we all have different branches on a tree, but people come to look at the whole tree.

Do you know what I mean? It’s quite interesting. I went to a night where I didn’t play, but there was Fhloston Paradigm, Kyle Hall, Kode9, and Ikonika. That’s like, 4 completely different styles but the night was sick. When I go out, I don’t really want to hear the same thing all night. And Hyperdub kind of gives that in the rave.

Sure. I mean, it’s a full family affair downstairs tomorrow but there are some incredible acts playing in P-Bar as well – would you associate each of these closely with Hyperdub too? You’ve worked with Floating Points before, right?

Yeah, we tried to do something and share some stuff, but it didn’t get finished in the end. But yeah man, I love the Eglo family, I try and go to their shows as much as possible. Of course I love Fatima, I’ve worked with her before, so yeah, I was really happy to find that they’re going to be upstairs. Ben has been supporting me personally for years as well. When I was making grime, he was buying my records. So these people I really rate. I mean Ben and I are on the same station – Hyperdub are on Rinse, Ben UFO and Hessle are on Rinse, so it will be nice to see them there.

Is there anyone else you would’ve liked to play?

Well everyone wants to see Burial play, but whether that’s going to happen, I don’t know. And it would’ve been lovely to have had Rashad there, obviously. To have had Rashad in Berghain would’ve been absolutely amazing.

The 10 year tour has already had some huge nights across Europe, how do you plan playing a night like fabric differently to in the world’s most important Techno club? It has this mystique that everyone loves to talk about, is that going to affect the set you play?

I’m playing a little bit later this time, so I might tailor it more towards the early morning crew. But last time when I played Berghain, I just did my thing. I don’t see the point in going there and playing extra techno and 4/4 just because I’m in Berghain. They get that all the time. The whole point of having people like us in there is to show a difference in sound.

It’s something that a Berlin crowd doesn’t necessarily get every week.

Last time at Hyperdub there it was packed out. We had Kode9, Spaceape live, Darkstar, Hype Williams, Cooly G, Ikonika, Terror Danjah and myself. They were loving it. I do remember this one guy though, he came up at the end and was like “Where was the fucking Techno man?”. It’s like, why are you asking us? That was then, and it seems like everybody’s like that now. The wave has to go, and you have to remember that there are other styles of music. My set is going to be my set, and I’m not thinking about whether I’m in Berlin or not.

I saw that last time you played “Warhead”  by DJ Krust actually.

Yeah, I played Warhead at 130 BPM. I have no problem with that at all. I really enjoyed my set, and it was really cool.

As far as the latest compilation goes, I remember buying “5 years of Hyperdub” which was quite dubstep-focussed with notable tracks like “9 Samurai”, although 10.1 is a little more dancefloor. Do you think there’s been a conscious move in this direction in recent years?

I can’t speak for Kode9 and Marcus who are signing all the tunes, but from my angle, I just think to myself; imagine Hyperdub as a label put out “Hyperdub 10” in the exact same style as the 5 year compilation. And in between those 5 years, they released the same style of music. How would you feel about Hyperdub today?

Well…

So you see what I mean? Things have to progress. Hyperdub has progressed far. It can still go back to Dubstep if it wants to, and it can still go “Yo, Flying Lotus, you got anything? Scratcha, Terror, what you got?”. Again, imagine the branches on the tree, and that’s what keeps stuff interesting. That’s progression, and it probably was a conscious decision to move into more interesting things.

So you used to make Funky and Grime, but you’ve definitely moved into other sounds more recently. Do you feel less restricted now?

Totally. Have you heard the new thing I’m doing with Addison Groove? I’m just not afraid to do something else and I don’t care what the tempo is, I’m just trying to make new music. Otherwise things can get pretty boring.

Is that a personal thing or something that’s reflective of the whole scene?

It starts off personally, and then it reflects on the whole scene. It’s not scene hopping, because sometimes I make tracks and nobody even knows what scene it’s supposed to be in. I’m just making music. I’m not going to think “Gosh, the Techno wave is so strong, why don’t I make Techno?”. It could be easy to do, I could make an alias and become this new thing, but fuck that. I just want to move forward, and I think this thing I did with Addison Groove, and what I did with ‘Mad Hatter’ is definitely a step in a direction which has not been done before. I know exactly what I want to do, and it’s not an orthodox thing, but I don’t care. How about that?

How important do you think Kode9 and Marcus have been in evolving the label’s outlook in recent years?

Well they’ve managed to keep all credibility. A lot of labels decide to do other things, and it doesn’t always work. But it still looks totally Hyperdub to me. He looks like a DJ who just wants to support what he likes when he plays. What Hyperdub have done with Footwork as well, I feel they’ve really put a lot of time into it. And I think it’s paying off.

Yeah. I mean as we mentioned with Rashad, I think we’ll definitely see his legacy continue to grow. The final track on 10.1, “Let It Go”, is fucking huge, and I don’t doubt that he’ll be remembered as a pioneer.

Most definitely. The relationship between Hyperdub and Teklife works really well, it’s totally natural. That’s what I like about Hyperdub. Whatever genre or sound it decides to release, it seems totally natural.

What can we expect from the next 3 compilations and the future of the label?

10.2 is showing the vocal side of Hyperdub, and that’s perfect timing with summer. How many other labels can put out a compilation of dancefloor bangers, then turn to the vocal side, then turn to the weird beatless side, then turn to the Housey/Techno side?

All in the space of 12 months.

Exactly. And that’s the beauty of it, at the end of the day.

hyperdub flyer

I arrived shortly after 1am to find Laurel Halo weirding out the downstairs floor with a live set; revellers in Teklife t-shirts smoked cigarettes and nodded heads as she moved through a range of different sounds. The clarity in the overwhelming Funktion-One stacks accentuated her intro of sparse beats nicely – the perfect kind of mindfuckery to start the night. She soon picked it up, though, and the final 20 minutes veered towards the kind of Techno the club is so used to every other weekend.

DJ Sotofett was heading on a Jungle tip in the vein of his latest Wania release upstairs, which would’ve been great had he only got to grips with the soundsystem. Panorama Bar may well be the best club in the world, but the truth is, without a DJ who can master the levels properly (unfortunately they are few and far between), it’s no different to any other bar. Conversations were audible even at the front of the dancefloor, so it made for a good time to grab a White Russian (these alone are worth a trip to the club) at the back of the room instead.

I descended into the cavernous Berghain space once again at 3:30 where Kode9 got the party started with relentless bangers like ‘RIP Groove’. In other words, absolutely tear-out raving stuff – completely refreshing to hear during a peak-time Berghain session.

Floating Points felt a little more disjointed in Panorama Bar, tracks like Delroy Edwards’ ‘Feelings’ on L.I.E.S proved he has a nice collection, but it just lacked the continuity needed to keep spirits high into the early hours. That said, it was a nice surprise to hear Steve Reich (‘Electronic Counterpoint III (Fast)’) played in a club nonetheless.

Back downstairs, Scratcha DVA was moving Berghain into darker and slower territories as promised; The Bug’s ‘Skeng’ sounded pretty huge, if a little unexpected, on the crisp soundsystem.

As it turns out though, the highlight of the night came from outside of the Hyperdub family. Apart from the impeccable mixing, what makes Ben UFO so exciting to watch is the stark range of styles in his collection, which somehow always follow a natural progression when he plays out. Starting at 8am, the Hessle Audio visionary moved from classic Minimal House (‘Butt Head’ – Herbert), to Techno (‘Booster’ – Planetary Assault Systems), to contemporary Electronica (‘Lion’ – Four Tet) for the next 5 hours in one of the most flawless and coherent closing sets I’ve seen in the club.

ben ufo

 Some of Panorama Bar’s best residents (the likes of Nick Höppner, Tama Sumo and Zip) have been playing there regularly since it opened in 2005 – 2 years before Hessle Audio had even put out a release. For what it’s worth, Ben UFO matched these DJs in his own right during his first closing set in the club – he’s also played back-to-back with 2 of them elsewhere in the past. To have achieved this at such a young age is a remarkable accolade, and it also gives some perspective of the level he could reach in 10 years’ time.’

As I left the club in the early afternoon, I thought back to Scratcha DVA’s tree comparison. To have seen such an eclectic and successful showcase in a club as revered as Berghain, as well as a masterclass from one of the most talented DJs around today, not only speaks volumes for Hyperdub’s widespread influence and appeal, it also shows how strong the UK’s scene is in 2014. Here’s to the next 10 years.

The first of Hyperdub’s 10th anniversary compilations, ‘10.1’, is out now. Buy it here

Chris Williams