A conversation with Kuedo
Jamie Teasdale aka Kuedo is a Berlin based producer and musician, label owner at Knives, affiliated to the respectable Planet Mu label.
Imagine the sci-fi soundtracks of the ‘80s: Vangelis’s Blade Runner, Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis and the atmospheric John Carpenter OST’s clashing with industrial hip-hop made by Public Enemy, Bill Laswell and Antipop Consortium. Having previously produced as part of the electronic of experimental dubstep duo Vex’d alongside Roly Porter, he has now reached his second LP and fifth release on Planet Mu.
Your music evolves so much with every track and melody that trying to put it in a genre is almost impossible. How would you introduce it to people who haven’t heard it yet?
I would do a very poor job. I lack the faculty of language for that task. I guess the themes on the surface are quite romantic and it’s got an obvious futuristic aesthetic to it. Beneath the surface the themes are slightly more tense, as I try and put tensions between different themes. For it to be attractive some ugliness around it, more like of a tussle between the two. It can sound quite escapist, but the basic themes are about life, just human issues, a mix of escapist fantasy and blunt realism. It sound is overtly synthetic, synth textures, synthetic drum textures, and there’s a pretty clear influence from hip-hop, rhythmically. There’s some melodic parts that are reminiscent of synth experimental music, but some pop elements as well.
My favourite tracks from Severant are Truth Flood and Flight Path - such strong up tempo synth, doubled with percussion elements, strong buildups and break downs, really heavy tunes. Looking back at your production which track(s) you find the most appealing?
I’m usually judging what are the ones that I’m the least embarrassed by. Negative sequence! I never listen to my music at all. But I have reviewed it recently to reconnect to where to story has been, like where it’s come to, where to take it with the next album. Tracks I like are probably “Ascension Phase”. I like the more delicate moments, and melodic ideas. Some sonic aspects are covered and I perceive them as left behind. I’m now into songs like “Visions Of Shared Tomorrows”, “Whisper Fate” because I know exactly what they’re about. They’re tied to life and family issues. I don’t know how much the meaning translates to other people, but I know what it is for me, and the tracks that have more real life put into the sense of them are my favourite. I think “Flight Path”, I’m glad you like it, it’s got it’s qualities, it’s more of an escapist track, but has no connections to a particular real life experience.
Not only Severant, but all your releases impress through their artworks also. It is nice to see artists that puts so much effort in finding a good balance between visual and sound.
It’s something I spend a lot of time with and get very involved in. The crew and myself, we’re choosing where it’s going to be. I think it’s really important with the art that I make, to expand beyond the music itself. The themes translate to other mediums, like visual art. It helps people find a way to approach the music, if you can get the visual suggestion right, then it assists people to process the music when they hear it. It’s the themes beneath the music that I’m really interested in. Obviously, as a musician, I’m interested in music for its own sake, but when I want to create something I want it to be fruitful to what I actually want to say. If you point that out, you reach other ways of expression. That’s one aspect of finishing the record that I really look forward to! How to find a visual language for it. I wish it was something that had more time, I have no visual art background, so I can’t do it myself. Then I might create a lot more. At this point, I find the people who can do it for me, but there’s always a ruff approximation of what I picture in my head. Sometimes I think the project has more potential in that realm than it’s being found as yet.
At the end of 2016 you have released a new album, Slow Knife. When I finished listening to it I understood the journey. It begins in a certain place and then it takes you for a long walk. I am very curious, how do you work at a new material?
I tend to work in phases. I have a writing stage and then the production phase. I’m always deliberately taking time not to repeat something I might have done. The themes are similar to my debut, the underline, but the expression is a progression, and not a departure. The themes continue: escapism, ideas of family and interpersonal connections, ideas of the city and virtual world. These themes will come to define Kuedo as a project. Other artists claim they do not think of the listener and they just write for themselves. I’m not sure that’s true, I think of music as a contribution practice, if you’re going to put something out, it should be worth people’s time. It’s not that you’re writing for other people to like your stuff. But make music with the regarding the notion that it’s worth time, and with good intentions. That’s what I aim for, make sure there’s some invention in my music. That always takes some time, running a bunch of experiments and some of them work, some don’t. Eventually you find out where you feel the fertile ground is! I like the prices of experimenting with stuff. A lot of it fails! It’s sounding great in my head and terrible in reality. I think it’s worth going through those failure to find out what’s good.
While listening to your album I wondered if you ever did scoring for a movie or a short film. Have you ever thought of this?
Yeah. Many times! And it’s something that I’ve decided to hold off on until I’ve released some more recorded album musical projects. A few more of those. After that it would be the right time to concentrate in that direction. Right now I’d rather explore the album format more. Work a story and a narrative within that medium before venturing furthering fields. It’s a definite ambition, I see myself doing that in ten years or so! Right now it would stop me from saying the things I could say now, within an album. This is what I’m motivated to do now. I like the touring cycle, the album and the tour. That rhythm, I’d like to keep doing that for a few more years before taking some time off into film. The intention of my last album and particularly the one I’m writing now it’s very much soundtrack inspired. The last album was like that, half inspired. It was meant to be presented as a soundtrack to an imaginary film and on the other hand, because I was listening to a lot of rap mixtapes, and I wanted to capture some element of that. Something quite raw, with minimalist production values. Where to a soundtrack you’d have a grandiose full hi-fi kind of studio sound and approach. A rap mixtape would be pretty much the opposite. Drum machines and simple synth loops. I wanted to try and hit both with the “Severant” LP. For me to eventually go on and start touring with an official score is a real challenge, something that I would eventually like to do.
I’ve reached your music because of my passion for futuristic soundscapes, such as what The Bug created with London Zoo. Somebody compared this record with your Severant LP. What do you think of Kevin Martin and his projects?
I wouldn’t say that we’re directly coming from the same space, but I can understand the comparison. Kevin Martin and I, we communicate a lot, he’s definitely like a peer to me. There’s a lot of shared interests and things that we want to do. Actually we used to share a studio space, at least opposite studios on the same complex. The doors to our studios were opposite. This is a long time ago, before Kuedo. This was in 2006. The Vex’d period. We’ve met and collaborated with Warrior Queen, she’s like his constant featured artist as The Bug. The Vex’d track “Take Time Out” was actually written for her. And it went on our second album. We pretty much keep in contact, and I think that from all his projects King Midas Sound is probably more similar to what I do. The tension between sentimentality and the bluntness opposing that. I actually remixed one of King Midas Sound’s songs “Goodbye Girl” from their first record “Waiting For You”. It’s kind of interesting that we started both of the projects around the same time, Kuedo and King Midas Sound. Perhaps in that sense, something similar was in the surrounding musical climate, for us to have somewhat comparable ideas in the same time. I think that we both just finished the pursuit, and we’re not directly fitted into one genre. I’ve always been disappointed that music I’ve been recently making started being seen as part of a genre. From the beginning it was meant not to be. He has a similar attitude, and a similar struggle with gentrification.
Speaking of Kevin, I can't miss the opportunity to ask you the same question. What made you leave London and move to Berlin? Is it really Berlin the new Mecca for electronic artists?
There’s a very pragmatic answer to that. It’s very cheap! I’m into Berlin because I can subsist on music. In London, life was twice as expensive and I was working a full time job as studio engineer. Moving to Berlin made it much easier, as it enabled me to make music pretty much full time. That’s my main motivation. Of course, there’s a lot o cheap places where you can move in Europe, but people choose Berlin because of the other reason: it affords a lot of creativity that other cities don’t offer. But its fundamentally fuelled by the challenges of surviving a night.
Yeah! The friends that I have, my social group of music friends are generally not techno people or into techno. There’s always an outside perspective that offers that view, given it’s musical history. I’ve only become interested in techno in the last year. And I lived there for six years now. And I’m more interested in Detroit techno, than any type of European techno. What I did get out of living in Germany is connecting with the other musical history of this countries cities: the genre later dubbed as krautrock, kosmisches musik. Around 2009-2010 I was listening heavily to it. I was then really invested in it, and Germany started making more sense. And now I can finally connect with Germany as an active musician. Until then I couldn’t relate myself to techno. I still find it dull to dance to it. My sense of music to dance to, came from the UK context of reggae, jungle and hip-hop. That was the kind of music that I would go to clubs to listen to. And as I said, I now feel more connected to what electronic music was in Germany before techno. The roots of my connection with Berlin are now more deeply because I have a child, my daughter, that was born there. I am now a german resident for the future and that’s where my family is.
Now that you are in Berlin and there is electronic music everywhere, do you still listen to hip hop?
I’m always listening to Clipse but more their classic stuff, Max B, Raekwon’s “Only Build 4 Cuban Linx”. But he still does good stuff. G-Unit. Yeah! They have a producer called Tony Yayo. He does amazing stuff. Some old Dipset as well. Many of the beats are the work of the production team called The Heatmakerz. They’re one of the first, outside of Atlanta, to do the really super-fast very grinded contused drum machine patterns, super-fast 808, high-hat rushes kind of sounds. Of course outside of the Lex Luger, Drumma Boy hip-hop production called trap. The idea of trap. The Heatmakers and AraabMuzik did as much as forming my ideas of rhythm, as much as the atlantic-ites. Back then, there was an expanded idea of trap music that included their work as well. In the mid 2000’s. It that five? Clipse, Max B, Raekwon, G-Unit and Dipset. Hip-hop is one of the only music’s that I believe in as a genre. It’s not my favorite music but I accept hip-hop as a genre form, more so than others I can think of. The lineage, the traditions and the canon that’s been build up. It would last for an indefinite amount of time. There’s the idea of rock, reggae and the idea of hip-hop. They’re not going to die any time soon.
I see you do listen to a lot of different music genres, but regarding electronic music, what contemporary artists are you into?
I actually listen to a lot of playlists. Wait a sec, I got them here on this table! The last Autechre album I’ve listened to a huge amount. I like people who I consider are peers or people who I feel directly related to, like Laurel Halo and D’Eon. Similar artists that are into kinda synthetic ideas and textures. And are fully invested in representing a something new.
Brian Eno, Klaus Schulze or Giorgio Moroder? With whom would you have a back to back set?
Haha! Giorgio would be the most fun wouldn’t it? Like a back to back dj set. Man, I don’t know what kind of dance floor stuff Klaus would draw for. Cause the dj set is kind of dancey right? I think that the only one who would have any dancing turned on would be Moroder. But I think Brian Eno wouldn’t be far either, because of his affiliation with Talking Heads. Some of Brian’s rhythmic work was like… sick, really tight! I’ve got this Anthology of his, and it’s got these rhythmic sketches, like some of the stuff he did with Talking Heads and David Byrne on “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts”. It was that time in the eighties when people were experimenting even with hip-hop. The idea of loops was beginning to appear.
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