Samuel Gordon, possibly contemplating his own life, on one of his most recent (and sadly, last) brilliant lyrical flows…
In a rare (and therefore highly recommended) interview with Motoko Kusanagi, the vocalist and poet explained his reserved, responsible nature – one matched by a overtly expressive artistic character:
“I chose a pseudonym under which I could write, record and perform because I would feel very uncomfortable using my real name. But I’ve also thought about my upbringing and the expectations and pressures placed upon me as a young black male growing up in London during the 1980s. I always wanted an outlet for my creativity, knowing that I would always forge my own opportunities and eventually find one that I may earn a living from. In hindsight, it’s this way of thinking, a virtual separation between ‘responsibility’ and one’s ability to express themselves, that my traditional West Indian upbringing instilled in me: preparing me for the harsh realities of a “tough life ahead”. I was taught by my parents to be proud but modest, because they had to be. Get a good education, (albeit from a comprehensive school system where expectations were moderate at best), a steady job, a roof over your head and “don’t get into trouble with the police”.
“This, in many ways, is understandable from the perspective of migrant parents. For them, opportunities for their children were plenty in comparison to where they came from and we were expected to take advantage of them. Although in reality, the cards for me, like many other young black males, were very much stacked against us from the start. Growing up, I felt the pressure to strike this balance between what I understood as being “responsible”, (moderate expression, money coming in, stability) to support my creative work (full expression, no money coming in, instability). This balancing act definitely created a split, an actual split in my identity that has persisted throughout my adult life.”
Samuel Gordon’s philosophies, upbringing and worldly personal perceptions created the colourful, inspiring and culturally relevant character we all know and love – The Spaceape. His words, together with the meditational dub-infused shower of melodic sub bass from iconic musicians like Burial and Kode9, have moved, inspired and mesmerised people since the early dawn of the dubstep sound.
London’s (via Glasgow) Kode9 – Steve Goodman – is one of the few tastemakers in dubstep deserving of the often popular ‘legend’ title. The producer, DJ and label manager, when looking back to the early years of the genre, can be heralded as one who played a substantial role in the evolution of the sound.
In an interview with Radio 17 in 2009, the producer explained he started DJing in the 90s, playing hip-hop, house and reggae while drawing influence from the likes of jungle and UK garage…
“The style of UK Garage I was playing from 1999 onwards was essentially the roots of dubstep, so I just carried on doing that really. In my sets I play a lot of dubstep of my label Hyperdub. Hyperdub started in 2001 as a web magazine. And round about 2004 it became hard to maintain the magazine, so I just decided to start a label, predominantly to release my own stuff but I had early music from Burial, and that was what made me start releasing other people’s music. It’s kind of grown since then.”
The first Hyperdub release was a cover of Prince’s Sign of the Times. Collaboratively, Kode9 and The Spaceape managed to create space and depth in the track, an achievement we’d say is indicative of ‘good’ dubstep music. But the duo were not bound to the genre – if anything, their wish was avoid labelling their music. This is also reflected in the broad range of underground music that’s found its way onto the Hyperdub imprint. “Ignoring genre, just trying to release music that I love” as Kode9 puts it.
As a solo performer, Kode9 made an early appearance on Tempa’s 2002 release Fat Larry’s Skank. It was a a collaborative effort between the Glaswegian, Benny Ill and The Culprit. The release’s flip was a collaboration between Kode9 & Benny Ill called Tales from the Bass Side. Kode9’s remix of Fat Larry’s Skank appeared on Tempa in 2006 – one of the clearest (and best) examples of the development of dubstep. In four short years, the sound had evolved from a deeper garage alternative to a more melodically driven dub-infused rhythm…
Hyperdub, in its label guise, will always be intertwined with dubstep – in its history, at the current point in time and also in the future. It’s a label that’s documented one man’s musical taste – but also the growth and evolution of a genre (you could argue more than one) and its artists. Thanks to Kode9’s dedication and work with the imprint, we’ve been graced by music from culturally important producers like Burial, Ikonika, DJ Rashad, LV and King Midas Sound. At its simplest, Hyperdub is the embodiment of the unlimited creativity found in underground music.
Together, Kode9 & The Spaceape produced and released a huge number of singles and EPs and two Hyperdub albums.
2006’s Memories of the Future is, in The Spaceape’s words, a reflection of reality.
“I’ve read reviews of the album and most talk of the lyrics as being dystopian, dark, but the truth is my ideas were in the real. I was writing about my real experiences, things I’d read, seen, heard, things that ultimately interpreted in my own way. The dystopia was not an imagining. I felt like I was living in this constant grey, full of half-truths and distorted memories. What you are hearing on the album is exactly that. There are no answers to the questions on the album as I too was searching for them.”
The music on the album sets a stage for its powerful lyrics, and underlines their message with the presence of warm sub-bass, reverberating rides and grim, dubby rhythms.
2011’s Black Sun set an even more cinematic scene, matching the turmoil The Spaceape was facing in his life.
“At the time there were a lot of changes happening in my life. I’d been diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and have been living with it ever since. I was in the middle of various invasive treatments, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and God knows what else. I felt compelled to write about my situation but I didn’t want to make it personal. I wanted to say something about my experience but also I wanted to distance myself, as it was very painful.
“I started to think about radiation as a fate we may all suffer at some point. I felt extremely isolated as know one can really understand what you’re going through. I wanted to transplant myself into another time, where others were suffering like me. I started writing this story about Earth being abandoned after some unexplained apocalyptic event, leaving the atmosphere almost unbearable due to high levels of radiation. Our only options; either take The Cure, an artificial treatment which enabled those who took it to tolerate Earth’s rising toxicity. Or, escape to a new age Babylon called Kryon, a place that offered a new belief system and possible salvation. These ideas were essentially an analogy for what was happening in my life.”
In its sound design, Black Sun matches its vocal material with a musical landscape of breathtaking proportions. It’s a cancerous, post-apocalyptic world and its antithetical, heavenly Kryon, with the listener able to immerse themselves in both. With each listen, you’re able to discover new experiences and intricacies to the material – a characteristic found in almost all of these two musician’s back catalogues.
Together, Kode9 and The Spaceape partnered to create vocal electronic music at its finest. It was a relationship that blossomed as a young genre found its feet, a partnership documented across a number of releases on one of the genre’s most important and influential record labels. While The Spaceape is sadly no longer with us, we are fortunate enough to be able to champion his memory, character and personality with the vast body of work he created, both with and without Kode9, during his life.
Click to DOWNLOAD (76MB)
- Kode9 &The Spaceape – Sign Of The Dub [Hyperdub, 2004]
- Kode9 – Babylon (Dub Mix) [Tempa, 2004]
- Kode9 – Magnetic City [Souljazz, 2007]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – Kingstown [Hyperdub, 2005]
- Massive Music – Find My Way (Kode9 remix) [Hyperdub, 2007]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – Spit [Hyperdub, 2004]
- Kode9 – Stung [Souljazz, 2007]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – 9 Samurai [Hyperdub, 2006]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – Addiction [Hyperdub, 2006]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – Victims [Hyperdub, 2006]
- Kode9, Benny Ill & The Culprit – Fat Larry’s Skank (Kode9 remix) [Tempa, 2006]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – Curious [Hyperdub, 2006]
- The Bug, Killa P & Flowdan – Skeng (Kode9 remix) [Hyperdub, 2006]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – Konfusion [Hyperdub, 2008]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – Glass [Hyperdub, 2006]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – Ghost Town [Hyperdub, 2009]
- Kode9 & The Spaceape – Nine [Hyperdub, 2006]