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In Writing

Hype Williams transcript

January 2011

Read the unedited transcript of Hype Williams's Invisible Jukebox, tested by Lisa Blanning.

Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott
“Supa Dupa Fly (The Rain)”

from Supa Dupa Fly (Elektra) 1997

IC: That was my jogging song for ages.

Maybe it's pretty obvious why we played this.

DB: It's the Hype Williams thing. Yeah, of course, I completely understand. There's certain things that can't be spoken about for loads of different reasons, but there's a lady called Denna that's involved and there's this whole thing about us looking after a project by her that was given to us, and the name Hype Williams doesn't really have anything to do with anything. The director himself, it's really funny because his popularity has risen over the past couple of years and he's kind of slipped into so many different kinds of things that it now seems linked, whereas at the time, when the name was chosen, from what I gather, it didn't mean anything. It was just this guy that used to make videos and yeah, you used to see it on MTV and, [unenthusiastically] "oh, cool", and watching MTV, "Oh yeah, Hype Williams, cool" and that was it. To be honest, I don't think I even like that many of his videos, at all. I don't really care for his work that much.

IC: I do think they are kind of very defining, though. It is very, very that time, when people sort of got loads of money all of the sudden.

DB: Well, hiphop got loads of money.

IC: Yeah, and it just exploded in the most obvious ways. ‘Okay guys, we've got loads of money, let's blow it all. Let's not leave anything behind.’ Visually, I think it is almost in the beginning of all this internet culture, this hyper-imagery, do you know what I mean? I think it's quite interesting. But it's not my taste.

DB: I think it's just growing up in Hackney, I was around this all the time. I saw this and this is part of the culture I had, visually, MTV, everything, how we dressed, it was all influenced by that bling culture, whatever it was called at the time. And that was it. I think it was just youth. Everything that I do is always informed by growing up in London and in a weird way, that's just part of it. Although, [maybe we] went a bit too far using his name, but I think it's all informed by just growing up here. That was what you saw on MTV.

It's pervasive, this sort of music. You read accounts of people's travels everywhere, be it Africa, Asia, what have you, and they'll still hear American hiphop.

DB: Yeah, exactly. It's everywhere. And i think as much as UK garage and all these things were involved, this is very very very big music when I was growing up. Like, huge here. We had this crew and we all tried to dress like DMX, we'd all have bald heads and just sideburns [laughs]. We looked retarded, but it was all down to MTV and Hype Williams. So that's my memory of it, really.

IC: Even in Estonia, the only prominent scene that anyone cared about for ages was hiphop. As much as it sounds ridiculous that someone would make hiphop there, but [they were] the biggest parties, and the best music that would come in was hiphop.
[page break]
The Residents
“Japanese Watercolor”

from Commercial Album (Ralph Records) 1980

DB: [laughs] I know it's Residents, I'm just not sure which song. [hums along]

It's "Japanese Watercolor" from Commercial Album.

DB: Yeah, that's a really good one.

The Residents, it seems like what they do might resonate, possibly even inform, what you guys do?

DB: In what way, the multi-media?

Not just that, but also the layer of mystery that surrounds the identities, and there's a real playfulness behind it.

DB: Yeah, the best art is funny. The best art has humour in it. You can't take yourself too seriously.

IC: They definitely have that.

DB: I don't know if they influence much, because I don't really pay that much attention. I'm a bit lazy to find out that much about an artist. I'll listen to loads of their stuff or watch loads of their stuff, but I wouldn't find out their whole thing. I only realised they had eyeballs or they covered themselves up quite recently. But yeah, I think they are amazing because I just pay attention to their art. I really don't care about anything else. And I think with that kind of stuff it takes a while for people to kind of get that because they're so obsessed with trying to find out about you and then after a while your art starts to shine through and I think that becomes the main focus because people realise they can't penetrate this forcefield that you have around you. And then that's all that exists. And I think Residents have done that very well. Because all I know about them is their work and I'm kind of very happy about that. Some of it I'm not crazy about, but a lot of it, especially Commercial Album is really good.

IC: Yeah, it's my favourite.

DB: Or maybe it's because the songs are so short and I've got a short attention span. So, I think it's a perfect amount of time for each track.

IC: For me the best artists – as you said for you the humour aspect is really important, and that's one thing. And another thing is that they're conveying an atmosphere, they're not really conveying a style of music first and foremost. And then whatever they do within it is whatever they do in that. When you get artists like that, you might like one song and not like the other song, but it's all part of the same whole, it is their art in the end, it's not just separate songs. And I think they do definitely have that. And in that way, I think that's what corresponds to our approach, more than anything else.
[page break]
“Sydänten Ahmija”

from Ulual YYY (Fonal) 2007

IC: [after listening for a while] I've got a feeling we've heard that recently, but I can't think of where.

Can you identify the language she's singing in?

IC: Sounds like Estonian or Finnish, but I'm not sure.

IC: Ah, I've heard of her, it was in Tallinn with [Dean] last time. Someone was mentioning something about it, but I'm not really familiar.

The reason I'm playing it for you, there's this whole scene of Finnish free-folk/freak-folk, what have you, and I thought that some of the ways that they make their music might be similar to some of the ways that you make your music. Although obviously they're being associated with a folk movement, which I don't think you guys really are. In terms of what it evokes, it's not super far away.

DB: I see what you mean, you mean in the freeness of it? Yeah, I get what you're saying, actually. I really like that everything kind of – it's obviously a composition, but it really is all over the place. I don't even know if things are in tune, or in key, although that doesn't really matter.

IC: It's very jazzy, this, isn't it? There's a lot of that sort of free Improv music thing going on.

DB: We used to do a lot of free folk stuff. Loads.

IC: It would have been a lot more similar to what we were doing a year and a half ago, maybe.

DB: When we played live a year and a half ago, we played with 12, 15 people and it was pretty free. There were electronics involved, but it was more free folk.

IC: With drums and percussion.

DC: Yeah, I'd say it was definitely close to this. But we got tired of that.
[page break]
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Grafitti
“Life In LA”

from Worn Copy (Paw Tracks) 2005

[intro, sound of wind]

DB: It's too early to guess [laughs]. I'm just making sure, I've heard this intro a few times. [guitar comes in] Michael Bolton [laughs], Michael Bolton! You know that tune he did, the demo tapes, the Bolton tapes. [both laugh].

DB & IC: Yeah.

And do you think you have an attraction to the sun-bleached sound of what they call Hypnagogic pop?

DB: Oh man, I hate it.

What do you hate? Do you hate the sun-bleached sound or do you hate the idea of Hypnagogic pop?

DB: I am really, really into sounds of the UK and I'm really into the darkness and the moodiness of it that no one else can do. It's in Jungle, it's in Hardcore, it's in so many different types of music. It's in music like Shadow Ring, it's in This Heat, it's a very, very specific sound and I don't find this sound appealing because it's not me. Just like I don't find American comedy funny. It's the same thing, it's a sentiment that doesn't really work for me. The Hypnagogic thing, firstly I haven't heard. Is Ariel considered Hynagogic pop as well?

I think he's early, this album comes from before that was a term, but all of the traits of Hypnagogic pop, he certainly has.

DB: I only really heard the thing quite recently and I haven't heard anyone, like I think I've heard one James Ferraro song. The rest hasn't quite occurred, I'm sure it's pretty similar, I don't know. I'm not attracted to that sound because it's not where I'm from, so I don't see why I would make it. I'm not from there, so it's not what I hear when I hear my stuff. When we make stuff we listen to it loads because it's almost like hearing something, like being entertained by a new song you've heard. And I don't hear that, I hear smoking weed and playing Playstation, and going to the Trocadero, you know. Walking around Tottenham, Broadwater Farm at night and that stuff. I don't hear 'beach' and 'LA' because I haven't been to LA.

IC: It would be, and it is, very hypocritical when people here try to make that kind of music and it hasn't worked.

DB: It makes no sense. I haven't heard anyone.

IC: I haven't heard anyone successfully convey that. It's the same way that I would be very surprised if someone in LA did Grime.

DB: American Grime is terrible.

IC: I think it's very funny, when you just said that Ariel is very Hypnagogic. I don't really follow who is and who isn't, but it kind of sounds like, because I never thought that he was or I never heard him being associated with it, because he was so early on. It sounds to me, though, a little bit dry to classify people like that, like a doctor having to give a diagnosis, ‘oh you've got symptoms of that and a little bit of that’ and it starts being like you're like a file in a library or a doctor's file. It's a bit too global to say that, I don't think you can put things under an umbrella like that, because what does it really give you?

But that argument would have to apply to any classification, not just Hypnagogic pop.

DB: Exactly.

IC: Yeah, that's true.

DB: But some people assume their roles a lot more than others. I think Ariel is, from my understanding, when I first heard it, I just think Ariel is pop and he's into classic rock and this is his interpretation of it. That's it. I'm making pop in my head, maybe it's not coming out very well, because I'm not very well equipped, or I'm not a musician in that sense, but that's what I'm making. Or I don't know what it is, but I'm making something. But I'm not experimental, I'm just making stuff with not very much knowledge of traditional ways of making music. And that's it. What someone else calls it is really not relevant in any way.

IC: Well, Ariel I can see that in the last album, which is pop song after pop song and to me, I think that he always wanted to make high-quality pop music, just didn't have the means, that's it. I don't think that he, especially when you see them live, they're like a proper rock band, you know what I mean? Very tight, everything is super hi-fi.

I actually don't know what it's like now, to be honest, but this is the era of what he does that I like the best. For him, and this song particularly, it's called "Life In LA", so it is meant to specifically evoke the California thing, but for you guys, I actually get that same sort of warmness, but I realise that your work is varies quite a lot, so I wouldn't say that it's across the board, but there's an element of that that seems to relate and I wondered if... I actually thought that it might be because you did come from countries that were not warm.

DB & IC: [both laugh]

DB: It's not like I'm trying to make anything dark, but I have a really romantic thing about the city and to me it's warm, but I think that's what I mean. It's a moody place. England kind of likes being moody. It's kind of like happy moodiness. It's dark and it's dark vibes and it's moody, but I'm quite romantic about that and I guess it comes out in a quite sentimental warm...

IC: Optimistic way.

DB: But it's not negative, it's completely positive, but it comes from not such an obvious sunshiney kind of way, if you know what I mean. I guess it's the fact that the weather's so shit and it's such a dreary place. I kind of express it in a quite negative way, but it's positive, it's just informed by not the same things, I guess.
[page break]
Peter Ivers & Laurel Near
“In Heaven”

from the soundtrack to Eraserhead (IRS) 1982

DB: [laughs softly] Christopher Cross, that's what it is. Swear I've got this one right.

IC: Your music knowledge has been a secret to me til this day [laughs].

DB: I didn't know I had it. [pauses] Yeah, Lynch, yeah [laughs].

Yeah, so this is David Lynch, obviously, the music in his work definitely plays a large role. I actually was going to play you something from Twin Peaks because some of the devices that you use – like the backwards talking – and I actually got a similar feel from the whole Angelo Badalamenti kind of, cinematic feel.

IC: That's really interesting, I think. Especially when we started off, I don't think we even used the same name for the band back then, but we still used speeches in stuff and we would invent imaginary Twin Peaks dialogues or monologues or whatever and use that. We don't really do that anymore, but it's funny that for some people it comes across as if it still stayed as a reference. That's not something that I personally directly think about when we make music now, at all. It's something that has been there in the past as some sort of vague reference point, but not so much anymore.

DB: I don't think I ever really found it a reference point. I just think David Lynch does things and doesn't explain it and that drives people crazy, but to me he is a very good artist in that sense. And maybe he is trying to provoke, I don't really know or care, but he makes work and does not explain it and that's about it. And he leaves it up to interpretation. My understanding of some of his films probably don't make any sense, but my understanding of him, it's like that complete freedom to watch something and take in and be given the privilege to completely make up what you want from it. And the artist is like, 'I'm not going to tell you what it's about'. I don't love everything he's ever made, but just that simple thing that he doesn't explain anything whatsoever, it's the best gift you can give to a viewer. Because they've given you something for you to use your own imagination, which is not used enough. People seem to want everything really spelled out for them.

IC: He's very respectful of the audience as well, because if you do that, you're assuming they're smart enough to figure it out. Whereas if someone really chews it and spits it out for you then they just think you're an idiot and you need that to be done. But again, to me, it's about an atmosphere in his films. He's amazing at conveying an atmosphere that is so thick with different signifiers. You do have an infinite amount of things you can take out of there without having to have a meaning.

DB: Because it's very sparse, he leaves things very sparse. He leaves a lot of room to just to think. And that's what I like, how sparse everything is.

IC: As well we were talking about just recently when you're doing something not to achieve a goal, like for the actual process of it that really appeals. It's just a means, it's not really the end of the thing. And his films are really that, because the whole process is so important. Whatever happens in the end, whatever ending he would choose, really wouldn't make that much of a difference. Like it doesn't really matter.

You know he's just released a single as well, he's made his own music.

DB: I heard about this. I don't know if I want to hear it.

IC: He made his paintings at one point, which I thought weren't that great, or like drawings or something. He had an exhibition. Don't know what the music is like.

DB: I don't know if I could listen to his stuff at all.
[page break]
The Caretaker
“Unmasking Alzheimer's”

from Persistant Repetition Of Phrases (Install) 2008

DB: [after a little while] I don't know what it is, but it's quite nice.

It's another Englishman that's moved to Berlin, to give you a hint.

DB: Englishman? Recently?

I'm not sure when he moved there, I'd say he's probably lived there for a couple of years at least.

DB: Okay, if this develops, I'll know who it is. [listens for a bit] The only Englishman I know that's moved to Berlin is Shackleton.

IC: That's what I was thinking, but it doesn't sound like it.

DB: I didn't think it was, it's a little too ambient for him.

DB: Oh really? Oh wow. I've heard the name. I think I've spoken to someone about him.

I think actually he's an artist that you might have something in common with in that he used to do this project called V/Vm and there was quite a lot of pranksterism in V/Vm. This is the music that he makes now under the name The Caretaker, which is a reference to the book and the film The Shining. A lot of it is like ballroom songs which are filtered through these layers and layers of memory. Memory is a very big theme for him, but it's a hypnagogia that reaches a lot farther back than the 80s. In terms of what he conveys emotionally, I thought there might actually be something that is similar, I think that there are pieces that you guys have made that aren't super dis-similar to this. What kind of emotions are you trying to convey with your music? Or do you think about that?

DB: No, not at all.

Do you think about it after you are listening back to it? Meaning you weren't trying to convey, but you are hearing something in it?

DB: If you don't feel anything from it, I'm not going to put it out in any way or I don't want to hear it again. But if I were being true at the time, then some emotion is going to be felt, unless I was dead at the time of making it, which couldn't happen. So, yeah, some emotion of some kind will be there, even if it's complete boredom or indifference, if it's a comedown, whatever it is getting conveyed. I don't think we ever think about it beforehand. There's no goal or intention, it's just to give the truth at the time. You can't really go wrong, whether it's 'good', it's not the point, it's the truth. You can't really disagree with it, it's the truth at the time.

IC: I find that's kind of a measure for whether a song is good or not, often. It's not like good, 'oh, this is an amazing musical composition' or something.

DB: Sometimes it is.

IC: [laughs ] Well, not for me, clearly! Most often the songs I personally find best are the ones that you paint an image in your head of some kind of situation or emotion where you're like, 'oh, yeah, this is this'. I can often visualise a song or a piece of music like something and then for me it's valid. It is what you were trying to do is completely irrelevant, but what it comes out as lives its own life. And it's doing something else.

DB: But it's very specific because it's very individual. We've got a record out in March and it evokes, it paints down to how it was recorded and when it was recorded, but it has a certain feel to it that is very specific to me and maybe someone else hears it and it doesn't mean that in any way whatsoever to them. But to me to it's a place and everything about it says something. But that is a very specific thing.
[page break]
DJ Screw & Big Moe
“City Of Syrup”

from As the World Turns Slow (Wreckless Entertainment) 2002

DB: [smiling] Some harmonica, damn. Some G-Funk harmonica.

It's probably more obvious once the vocals come in.

DB: It's a Pee-Wee Herman song [all laugh]. Pee-Wee on codeine.

It's less about the song and more about the production.

DB: Yeah, definitely. [laughs] It's so skippy. It's perky, perky G-Funk [laughs].

IC: I can see it as being like an instrumental jingle... [vocals come in]

DB: Yeah, it's definitely Screw. 'Course. Screw. Definitely, obviously.

It seems as though there was a really marked shift. I guess you guys probably have a lot of releases, some of which are self-released, but in terms of what's released by record labels, there's the Carnivals thing, a 7" or an EP on De Stijl and there's this new full-length and it seems likes there's a real marked shift between the EP and the new full-length. To my ears it sounds like the new full-length owes a bit to DJ Screw.

DB: I dunno, man. When you make something and you're a bit bored of listening to it 100 times after making it, you look at what you have. You don't really want to record anything more and the only thing that's on the tape 8 track is a pitch-shifter. You just mess around with it. It really is just like something, 'I'm used to this track, I can't be bothered to record anything more' and you just mess around with it. And 'oh, it sounds like a different song, it sounds better like this' or take the tape out and turn it round and it sounds better in reverse or something. It's just another tool. It's almost like another instrument, you know. So the DJ Screw thing, I find it's cool, but man it can be boring as hell, that music. It really can.

IC: I can't listen to a lot of it.

DB: I can't listen to that music, it really does kill me after a while. Just like I can't listen to Juke that much. It's just too extreme.

Because it's just one idea over and over again.

DB: Yeah, and again and again.

IC: I think it also takes a lot of soul out.

DB: It can put some in.

IC: It can put some in, but to me, a lot of that kind of music – especially a lot of music that has derived from that recently. I'm not really familiar with that particular scene, but the stuff that I've heard out because people seem to really like it – I find it extremely soulless and that is my issue with it. It might be good production or interesting things added, but it's so... like honestly, you know in some horror films where the devil drains soul out of people or something, that is what is for me.

DB: With Screw, you can hear that this guy is just wasted and really just fucking around. He's just messing around, not messing around, but this is what he does. This is him, done. He's made, I don't know how many tapes I've heard he's made, but he made a lot. That's just what he does. I mean, to make an entire genre off of that is pushing it.

IC: I also think that's the problem with current music that people kind of find a gimmick, whether it's slowing down songs or…

DB: They ride that horse all the way.

IC: Even sound, like, they'll find a specific sound on a synth that they might…

IC: Yeah, for example, and they base their whole production on one thing. The problem with that is the first album or whatever you do...

DB: They'll get paid real well when it starts.

IC: Yes, but when the second album, what are you going to do? Your whole being is based on this one note or this one trick. It's not conveying an – again, I'm coming back, for me it's all about the atmosphere. You're not doing anything. Because if you make music under an umbrella of an atmosphere, you can change the sound completely, or you can get rid of your gimmicks or whatever and do something else, still doing the same thing within your sort of intention. Whereas with the sound, if you're just basing it on a sound, you're going to have to either do it for the rest of your career and that's going to get boring, or you're going to just run into a brick wall. And that's going to be the end of that. And I'm just kind of thinking that's what's going to happen to a lot of people who do that in that way. It's fun, but it's not more than that.

DB: I mean, I haven't really heard anyone apart from one or two groups that do similar kinds of slow-ish stuff deriving from this, I don't really listen to that much new stuff, but from what I've heard his stuff is this guy messing around.

IC: But it's also him, you know. He's not lying to anyone.

DB: It's influenced by a lot. If ever we'd made stuff and gone in the direction of slower music, usually we were sipping syrup as well [laughs] and smoking a lot of weed, so that kind of happens. I see how he got to that. You really don't feel like hearing anything faster than that. Yeah, I dunno, he's alright, but I can't listen to too much of it at all.
[page break]
Toro Y Moi
"Human Nature"

from Various: Chum Onah: BxF Celebrates The Music Of Michael Jackson (ButterxFace DL) 2009

IC: Is it Games?

DB: I know where it's come from, yeah.

DB: He played a festival that we played at.

IC: He played it there, I remember it from there.

DB: That's all I know about him.

For yourselves, what comes first, the desire to do a cover or the inspiration of that particular song that makes you want to reinterpret it specifically?

DB: When I was a kid, I used to have this thing where I would have a dream and it'd be a girl from my school was in my dream and the next day I'd have to ask her out because of it. It was just this weird thing I had to do and I think I have the same thing with covers. It just pops into your head and you're just like, ‘I want to do that song’, and literally that happens and I get obsessed with having to do that song until we've done it. And that's it. It's really weird, I just wake up with this, you have this weird attraction to this track which you might not have even liked before.

IC: We never listened to it. I don't remember listening to Sade a lot.

DB: My mum played her a lot when I was a kid.

IC: Yeah, when I was a kid, my dad and mum... I remember that very well.

DB: I think I have a relation to it, I remember it a lot from when I was a kid. I really heard that shit a lot, her and Steely Dan, tons. Maybe I was like, missing my mum or something, I dunno. That's probably what it was. And it was like, I need to see Sade, because it was the dance in the video as well, I really liked her dancing. That was it, and it just comes from there. There's no real thought, as with most things. There's no prior thought about it, it's just like, 'we're going to do a cover of this track and it's somehow it's going to work, it's going to be alright' because it's our honest kind of interpretation of it at that time.

IC: It's the same like making any other music, you're filtering your own life. Like you said that guy was obsessed with memories, you're filtering your memories, your emotions and they become filtered through your creativity. They become music. It's like sleeping, you don't always know why you dream of this or that or why that comes into play, but it's like reiterating it's a practice. It's quite a selfish activity in a way, it's not directed at anyone in particular, or it's not drawing references for cultural purposes in terms of commenting or something. It's quite a self-obsessed project. You're just doing it, trying to make sense of your own collection of things in your head, I guess. Obviously, everyone's thoughts are informed somewhat by what's going on around them, so it's not completely detached, but that's not the purpose.

Is that the only cover you guys have done or are there more?

DB: That's the only cover we have done yet, that is until I have another dream. [both laugh]
[page break]
Augustus Pablo
“Vibrate On”

from Lee Scratch Perry & Friends The Black Ark Years (Trojan) 2010

DB: [listens for a bit] I don't know who this is. Like a lot of dub, you've heard it out, but I'm not a collector.

It's Augustus Pablo and it's a Lee Perry production. Pablo obviously is a big fan of the melodica. You guys use melodica as well. Is that from a dub thing or is it because that's just what was lying about? You don't really have those lying about, you sort of have to get one.

DB: You know what, it was actually lying about [laughs].

IC: [laughing] It was, that's exactly what it was.

DB: Everything's just a happy accident, it was lying around and it got used and now it gets used live. I really like it, but it was lying around and it was used when we were doing more free-folky stuff. And then it just kind of hung around and I just like using it now during sets, I think it's really good. We're playing with Lee Perry in Switzerland, we're supporting him. Apparently, he lives in the mountains there, so the promoters are just going to get him to come down and play.

IC: From the mountains [both laugh].

With your London heritage, dub must have been around all the time.

DB: Yeah, dub was standard, dub is a very big deal. It's really weird, because one of the biggest problems with this whole Hypnagogic thing is we get booked by people – when we do play – get booked to play shows with really bad sound systems. And we have a lot of low end and a lot of subs. Because they seem to assume, they read an article and assume you sound like so and so, so if so and so played there last week, I'm sure it's fine to have some shitty little bin that size. And then we come with a lot of low-end.

IC: It is literally like 50 to 60%.

DB: It's pointless playing a set and that's a problem. Because coming from that background and going to a lot of dub jams. In Hackney it was everywhere and south London even more.
Your ears, your idea of good sound, is not the same. Your idea of bass – when you say to someone, a promoter, "Is there bass?" and they're like, "yeah, there's bass." then it's, "No, is there BASS?" There's that bass, nothing beats that. There's something that's so English, it's so UK or especially London. Like bass, drums, together, just that combination of really, really low end is something that, for me, really kind of stands out. I don't know if we've ever tried to recreate dub, but that influence. I guess it's just another thing that's just a London thing.

IC: To me, it's definitely – I don't know, maybe I've just been in London for the past whatever four years – it has sort of rubbed off on me. But everywhere I go, I hear dub now. I don't know, it's sort of in my head subconsciously, although I never directly listen to a lot of it at the time, myself. But I do really associate it a lot with this place. But, as far as you're talking about the sound, I've talked to someone about that and it's really funny coming from London and there's a reason why in London they have a lot of producers and people who make music that way, because there's not really good venues for live bands. It's more like in America where everyone's got a garage and everyone's got a house party where you can play loud and everyone has a car so you can drive over there. It works. But here, you don't really have that, the houses are really close, you can't really have that kind of thing. But there's clubs with equipment that is perfect for that kind of music. When we were doing sort of more drummy stuff it never worked, we really had bad sound then. We were getting really bad sound in the UK. Probably we'd have had less problems abroad, but now it's the other way around.

DB: Well, this is what the problem is, because you get booked as a band, but you have elements of your sound that are very much to do with, I guess almost like DJ culture, and a lot of low end. So it's really in the middle and sometimes it works out well and sometimes it's really bad. I don't know, once again, it's all to do with the sounds of the city. Dub was just another thing that was there. And Jungle.
[page break]
Lil B
“My Window Sill”

from Rain In England (Weird Forest Records) 2010

DB: I heard this the other day. It's that Rain In England stuff. I was watching some videos of him getting knocked out the other day. It was really funny, he's such a strange dude.

IC: He is very strange. That album specifically is very strange.

I think part of the reason it's strange is because people see him as a hiphopper and a rapper and this is almost ambient.

DB: This is straight ambient album.

But with rapping. Very stream of consciousness rapping.

DB: Yeah, I didn't really like Lil B until I heard this. Then I was like, 'okay, cool', because once again it was artistic, it was the merit. It was the fact that he just made an ambient record. As far as judging it as an ambient record, maybe it's not the best I've ever heard... at all.

IC: I don't know, I can't see it in the rap.

DB: Well it's definitely not a rap thing. I just think it's an interesting move for someone to do that.
Part of the reason it's so interesting, part of the reason why I think this is so good, it's a juxtaposition of two things that you really don't think are meant to be together.

IC: Yeah, exactly.

And even though his rapping on this isn't normal rapping, it's still quite odd to pair the two together. I think that your music is a lot about juxtapositions as well, bringing in a lot of different things and putting them together. Is that something of concern for you?

DB: Once again, so is London. London is everything, you know. I have a few friends, all the friends that we have, there's no concept. You know I grew up and there was no concept of any difference. Everyone was just all from here. And I find anyone that I get any kind of ignorance from, not that they aren't from here, but I find most of the time they're not from here. I don't know, I just think it's London. It has got everything thrown together. And maybe it's just the time that we live in as well, I don't know, but I was exposed to a lot of things. I exposed myself to a lot of things. My family are Sun readers, working class, kind of ignorant in ways, but I, for whatever reason, was into so many different things from watching TV all day or whatever. It's not intentional. I mean, I'm surprised a lot more people don't just throw it together. Not consciously, just whatever. As I said before, people assume their roles so easily. They really do. They just accept this is what I am and sell themselves short. And even the concept of calling yourself is boxing yourself. People haven't quite realised that 'experimental' is now a sound. It's like 'experimental' doesn't mean anything. 'Experimental' is a genre as well. If someone said, "I'm going to an experimental show", I'd know what they're gonna hear. That shouldn't be the case at all.

IC: Well, maybe it should be because that's what it is.

DB: Well, I guess as time goes, genres develop.

IC: You can't really hold onto that. It's like holding on to an underground that doesn't exist. Just better accept that this is the way things are now and maybe it's for the best because you don't have to be a snob about things. You can just like whatever you like, you can like...

DB: Stuff, yeah.

IC: Yes, stuff is stuff. You take whatever you want and you don't have to feel like... I actually prefer it this way. It's all internet. For me, it's just strange when people, as you say, don't throw it together because it is all there. Everyone has access to everything, you don't have to just go to one thing because before you would. You'd either have access to jazz or you'd have access to this just because of the neighbourhood you live in or the people you know. Now you can do whatever you want.

DB: Now more than ever, this should happen more. But to me this is really normal, I don't find this interesting because of the juxtaposition of the two, that's not what's interesting to me. I just find it interesting because I like ambient stuff, it's just nice to hear ambient music from a maybe unexpected place that's in like the person who gave it to him, or whatever. But I don't the fact that's it's a rapper and this, to me it's not that crazy. But then when I think of it outside of my head, it is quite a big thing because it doesn't happen at all. But then, I think that Drake's album is pretty damn euphoric and ambient as well, in a different way, a bit more traditional.

IC: There's elements I can recognise from here that Drake would use. I could see him doing something like that. Even Kanye West, I really don't like that album at all, but he's already doing stuff that I've seen being done before in experimental music where he's got comedians just talking or he has either ambient or other kinds of music. It's all mix and match and it's not inherent to just one type of music. But to me, there's other things that are interesting about it, like the stuff he talks about, like his ode to women.

DB: I dunno, Lil B is just, he's not ever going to be rich, he's not going to be anything. I mean, I didn't know he was in this group The Pack, because they were...

DB: Yeah, they were. So, he's never going to be, but I really respect that because he's being true to himself. That's it. Not like in a cliche kind of hardcore way, but he's being true to himself and he's putting out whatever is in his head and that's it. And he's not really afraid, it's not whether it's good or bad, it's just coming out nonstop. He's not really fazed by anything. I respect that about him, definitely.
[page break]
Ruff Sqwad
“And Ting”

from Extra/And Ting 12” (Ruff Sqwad Recordings) 2005

[both smile]

IC: Speaking of Grime.

DB: God, wow. It's been a while since I heard this one. Yeah, This is Ruff Sqwad. “And Ting”! Yeah!

We’ve mentioned multiple times about growing up in London and the culture that's here and kind of this whole strain of music that only exists here. Or at least it's filtering out into the world.

DB: Yeah, it's filtering out and it's being filtered out, as well, while that happens. I used to DJ this with my friend. We used to scare the hell out of people.

IC: It's amazing, when you first played it to me, I was like, ‘Oh my god’.

DB: It's pretty vicious.

IC: I dunno, I've never found Grime vicious. Ever. When I first saw a Grime gig way after it's already been, you know, Tinchy was huge, Dizzee and stuff. You were saying that I was watching it with an open mouth. It's just the energy to me is extremely optimistic and extremely positive because it's an energy. I find there's this general apathy towards life in pop music and everywhere, it's just kind of like, 'ok, this is a nice song, these are some nice vocals, it's cool, it's playable, it's something that people can get used to listening to'. This is uncompromisable to me.

DB: It was kind of like violent.

IC: It's violent, but it's good.

DB: I used to go to eski dances and eski dances, sometimes they weren't the safest, do you know what I mean? I did like when things got a bit mixed, and you wouldn't get in trouble for stepping on someone's trainers or whatever and it was a little bit more mixed. There was a period, there was a really brief period before things got a bit silly where there was this mix, it was that whole kind of punks and rastas, for a moment, that happened, but it went after like a couple of months. It disappeared and it went somewhere else, but it was a really interesting time, because that was just a sniff of what it was like back then, when the two things completely came together. And then it went.

IC: I think it's also like a very raw energy that really doesn't exist anywhere else, for me. I was reading this book about French theory that talks about politics and it's saying that people assume that energy comes from people who think in some sort of left-wing way, but it really doesn't anymore. It only exists in kids, they're not affected yet by what the politics are, or because they haven't got really good education, they don't know how to understand politics, but they just know something is fucked up. They just go and they express that feeling in this way. It's uncompromised by being politically correct or trying to fit in to some kind of political group or social group. You just know that for whatever reason, your life sucks, or a lot of people's lives suck. For example, I'm just saying.

DB: Why it differs is because – I am less theoretical, because I come from that background – for me, I just like the swagger of it as well, because that is the attitude that I have. I'm maybe lucky to see it from both sides, but to be honest a lot of it is just swagger. It's just the mood of the city.

IC: But I don't mean it in a sort of negative way, like they feel sorry for themselves or something like that. I think it's great, you know?

DB: I think it's more physical than that.

IC: Exactly, I don't think they theorise about it a lot, or anything. But for me, it's an energy. Like, that matters. It's not even about them having anything to say, it's more instinctive than that, it's more visceral than that. And swagger comes into that.

DB: Well, swagger, it's just the mood. It's just being a young guy in London, bored and someone does this and you do something. It's just the whole concept of retribution, like. It's just part of London, for me.

IC: The way the city translates itself through people, that's what Grime is to me, because it's so honest. Obviously, even if you don't think about it in a political way, I think politics is embedded in this city, whether or not you're directly go and vote or not. It has an effect on you, whether you know it or not. It is like a direct translation of London to me. Grime was the last thing that happened that had that. Obviously, dub had that, maybe dubstep to an extent has that, as well. Maybe a bit less than Grime, for me, personally. But it is how everything that is happening in London just manifested itself in this. And the reason why it's so honest is because it wasn't affected at the time by an industry or it wasn't functioning inside of a musical industry, or a creative industry of any kind. The only thing it was linked to was the city. And that's what I mean by that.

It's true that they probably weren't thinking theoretically when they made the music, but it doesn't mean that we don't think theoretically about it when we listen to this music. I think you're right, it's instinctive in that when kids make this music, a lot of it is swagger, but that doesn't stop them from making some of the most innovative music out there, which is actually kind of amazing when you think about it. The goal is probably to make a really hot dance tune, but then for whatever reason, it morphs into something completely new and very exciting.

DB: Of course! I think for me, Ruff Sqwad, Wiley and this one guy Mondie was really good. Some of the production, I think Ruff Sqwad may be the best for me. They were ridiculous. I don't know what these guys were trying to do, it's just nuts. And they were the ultimate bedroom producers, they were just in there. It was insane, some of the stuff these guys were making. And with such limited resources. Wiley used Fruity Loops and used a lot of presets and Dizzee's got that “Street Fighter” song, which is the most blatant song, but it's done so well. It's just limited, what someone can do. We don't use computers to make music, we don't use anything apart from really limited stuff. Not on purpose, but because we don't just don't have... You can make enough, if you push your equipment, you can make anything with it. And I think Grime had that energy with it, it had that same energy. It was good.
[page break]
“In And Out Of You”

from You Axed For It" (Maximum Metal) 1997

[both laugh]

DB: [singing along] "smell it!" [laughs] Mentors.

DB: yeah. Apparently, El Duce killed Kurt Cobain, but I don't think he did.

IC: You would just want to picture that [laughs].

DB: He wasn't mentally equipped enough to do that kind of stuff.

But wasn't it actually that he was hired by Courtney Love to do it?

DB: Yeah, El Duce, that guy couldn't do anything. There's no way he did anything. There's just no way, just look at him.

Sort of odd that this pretty obscure and basically silly punk band from America made it into your consciousness.

DB: I used to really like Mentors. I used to really like the genre called Power Violence, which mainly had two bands called Crossed Out and Infest and their songs were under a minute long. The most ferocious, beyond hardcore, just really really fast. It's like that Napalm Death song that was only like a couple of seconds long. Like really fast songs.

Power Violence is a sub-genre of noise as well, so that's what you're referring to?

DB: Yeah, these two bands are ones that really stood out to me when I was younger. I guess they were attached to hardcore, because I heard of them from after Negative Approach and they were a step down in obscurity, just really really fast songs and quite aggressive. But yeah, Mentors, they're just really funny.

Is that what you liked about it? The humour?

DB: Nah, I liked the music as well, I think they were great. I used to really be into punk, really into hardcore, a lot. And then realised what a pile of shit it was. Yeah, I really hate hardcore kids, I hate them. But I loved, it was good for the time. and Mentors are just, I mean, they probably meant everything they were talking about. And I think it should be taken seriously, everything is so messed up and there's so many kind of versions, you've just got to take something at face value and laugh at it. I think they were hilarious. But I'm not misogynist, so maybe I can laugh at it. I can be like, maybe they're just being funny. Maybe they meant it.

For me, it's hard to take it seriously, I only view as that it is a joke.

DB: Yeah, they're taking the piss, completely taking the piss. I mean there are loads of stories about what they got up to backstage, but they're just a bunch of dudes with black KKK masks [laughs] singing really really obscene songs.

Right, they're being deliberately provocative.

DB: Yeah, that was it and that was funny. That's what I thought was quite funny about it. It's not what they're saying, it's kind of like why they're saying it. Trying to be provocative, I think that's what's funny, when someone tries to be provocative. That's when you've just got to laugh at it. And it's a little easier to kind of take.

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