Download Kode9 and the Spaceape’s unreleased “Time Patrol Dub Feat. Cha Cha” here, and stream it below:
Kode9, otherwise known as Steve Goodman, is sitting wedged between a small table and the lobby wall of one of the only hotels in Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s notorious hipster area. A photographer has arrived to do a quick shoot in his hotel room, which seems to make Goodman uneasy, as the producer/DJ/record label head/academic has always been reluctant to show his face in pictures. The photographer had already come prepared to compromise and explains to Goodman that he’d like to capture him in silhouette. Goodman, in turn, is laying down the rules. “But it’s not going to be just my silhouette,” he says with resolute firmness. “I’m going to be wearing glasses and a hat.”
“I just don’t like pictures really,” Goodman explains in his thoughtful Scottish accent once the photographer had left. He leans forward on the table with his arms crossed. “I don’t have a huge, ideological position on that, except that you know, I don’t like music to be rammed down my throat.” His stance is similar to many in the originally faceless U.K. dubstep community, custodians of the sound that has simmered to the surface of urban London over the past 10 years or so. For a while (and to a certain extent even now), the fairly insular scene consisted of bedroom producers who shied away from promoting their swampy, low frequency-focused music through other means than just the music itself.
In spite of the introverted efforts of its makers (most of who originally balked at the common vehicles of press pics and interviews and relied upon more grassroots forms of promotion), dubstep has continued to grow. The genre has spawned numerous styles of bass-heavy music—one unfortunate strain being the American backwards cap offshoot of brostep—but its purest development is due in part to the strong voices with strong visions within the scene. As a DJ for over 20 years and a constant cultivator of music innovation through his support and signing of artists to his Hyperdub label, including Ikonika, Darkstar and King Midas Sound, Goodman is one of the genre’s most forward-thinking personalities. His philosophy is simple—to help promote and release music that interests him—and has resulted in Hyperdub’s reputation as an internationally forward-focused label with Mercury Prize-nominee Burial on its roster.
From label head to theorist (he is a member of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit collective a.k.a. CCRU) and producer, Goodman has simultaneously slid into related roles over the course of his career. He draws on his academic background as a lecturer at the University Of East London and author of Sonic Warfare, published in 2009 by MIT Press, to go further than most music creators with carefully constructed music theories. While Goodman is a producer, who—as many artists commonly say—doesn’t know why he makes the music that he does, he draws on an overlap in the worlds of the practical and theoretical to add another level of understanding to his music. He’s mindful though of keeping creation and theory separate. “I don’t go into making music with an academic concept and try to illustrate it,” Goodman says. “Not much that I’ve written about is so relevant to the music I make.”
As with the other facets of his music involvement, Goodman employs a happily upside-down methodology to his role as a producer. He creates his sounds—most commonly preoccupied with bass and more precisely, the warmer textures of sub-bass—and then develops a narrative to string them together. This technique demonstrated on Goodman’s latest album, Black Sun. The darkly lit LP is his second full-length collaboration with U.K. vocal artist the Spaceape that explores a genre that both describe as “bass fiction.” The two recorded the 12-track LP over a number of years with additional input from Shanghai-based singer Cha Cha and Flying Lotus on the track “Kryon,” almost blindly laying down the sounds came out to decipher them afterward by way of an open-ended story.
Kode9 and The Spaceape – Love Is The Drug by The Windish Agency
“The album takes place after an unclassified, radioactive event, which has fucked up the atmosphere,” Goodman begins. “It’s kind of triggered these bodily mutations in people. Some people are reacting really defensively to these mutations—they’re what we call the Other Men (one of Black Sun’s tracks)—and they seek solace in monotheistic religion. Then there’s these other people who think, ‘We’re not gonna try to escape the situation, we’re gonna live in it, but we’re gonna take this synthetic substance called the Cure, which allows people to exist in this toxic environment.’ What we say at the end of the story is that while everyone else is trying to escape, these certain people stay to bathe under the black sun.”
As Black Sun unfolded, recurring themes arose in the Spaceape’s lyrics. Bodily health, mutations and foreign objects invading the body began to surface as common threads. “He doesn’t know why he was doing that,” Goodman says. “He’s been doing that for quite a few years.” Eerily enough, the Spaceape almost prophesied his own fate, as he became unwell some time later. “That’s a memory of the future; an idea from the first album that actually came true in a sense. It was kind of unsettling. A bit,” Goodman pauses, “scary.”
The pulsating darkness of Goodman’s production colors the album with a curdled glow more vivid than 2006’s Memories From The Future. The Spaceape’s emotionless Jamaican patois relays the voice of different characters with a sense of sternness and casual urgency, transmitting fragments of a loose narrative through music that Goodman likens to “a soundtrack to a film that hasn’t been made.”
Black Sun blurs the outline between Goodman and the Spaceape’s bass fiction and reality, morphing one into the other. It wasn’t their intent. “We like to disconnect from what we make,” he says, “as opposed to revealing something personal.” These thoughtfully reserved sentiments echo those of Goodman’s approach to the music industry. “I’m just an agent or a puppet of this entity,” Goodman says, “so I only have partial knowledge of what it wants. I’m under instruction, and actually, as fictional as that is, it actually seems a very accurate and concrete way of how these things work.”