Kwes is an artist I’ve been keeping tabs on for quite a while primarily because he’s developed a really unique sound and he seems to have the knack of associating himself with similarly adventurous and individual fellow travelers (especially the mighty Micachu!). This interview was conducted for the DRC Music compilation which found him joining Damian Albarn, Actress, TEED and several others for a whirlwind visit to Kinshasa – unfortunately there were some recording issues and I don’t have the full transcript but since the interview never appeared here is what I do have and for once it’s a reasonable length!
How did you go about recruiting the musicians /divvying it up??
“To be honest we didn’t go with any big plan in mind it was pretty much a case of letting it happen and going with it. For the main part we recorded stuff and then went off and sampled it and chopped it up or whatever and then sometimes we’d get the musicians or vocalists back to do more stuff later on. But really there was no set way of working and I helped out with one of Richard Russell’s tunes, Actress and me worked together.”
No real egos
“Not at all.”
Which tracks were you involved with?
“Departure, Three Piece Sweet, Customs.”
How was local response?
“It was pretty amazing really, when people heard what we were doing they sort of flocked to us.”
Did you know much about Congolese music prior to this project?
“You know I knew very little, apart from Konono who you mentioned, and Staff Benda Bilili I really didn’t know much and I’m not sure I do now really but I was completely blown away by what I heard over there.”
Looking at the date this is from around February of 2011, though I suspect it may be quite a bit earlier, the interview was conducted for Real Groove. Wicked long and involved answers on this one, I’d previously done an email interview with Mala before his first visit but his personality and passion didn’t really come across as strong over the ether. Having DJ’d with him a couple of times and been fortunate enough to sit down and have a good old reason with the man, I maintain that he is one of the most important producers and DJ’s to emerge from the UK in the last decade. If there’s any doubt about that the Mala In Cuba album should clear that up and firmly establish him at the top of the crop.. Mediate on the bass weight and maximum respect to a true original!
How are you feeling about the current state of dubstep? It seems to be heading down a bit of a rabbit hole?
“(laughs) Yeah, everyone just did the obvious.”
Do you find that disappointing?
“Not really. I never saw myself as dubstep, I never saw myself as any creator of dubstep, never saw DMZ or Deep Medi as dubstep I just saw it as soundsystem music, I just saw it as a continuation of what people were doing in the jungles days, it was that spirit, it was that continuation of spirit and attitude, more than a name or a particular tempo, even though we were all working around the same tempo. To me it was obvious that this was going to happen, I think about a lot of things that have happened and fair play to ‘em. A lot of people want to badmouth someone like Rusko but fair play, if thats what his ting is, thats his ting. You know what I mean, he hasn’t taken anything away from me. Sometimes I don’t know why people take things so personally cos its not like, I don’t know man, people say a lot of thing, people say a lot of things about Magnetic Man but I know where all of them man come from, I know how hard they’ve been working since day one. Benga and Skream were banging out tunes when they were 13 years old, their tunes were getting played in clubs when they were 15 and they were playing in clubs when they were 18, so of course they’re going to end up selling a million records and getting something in the charts because its their blood you know, its not like they’ve necessarily switched up their vibe or changed as people or anything like that.
Got to love those artists who worm their way into your affections over a number of years and albums, it might not be the instant sugar rush but those doors that are harder to unlock often lead to more rewarding places. Catching Kurt Vile, just woken from a doze in a tour van was a right treat, proper gent and a smart feller too. Catching his show at the Kings Arms was good too – though I reckon, for one reason and another, it wasn’t quite the classic show he’s capable of and it could have been. Still way better than most, and that extra outstanding performance may juts have to be next time.
Where are you at feller?
“On our way to North Folk Virginia, we have a day off, we’re opening a few shows for the Flaming Lips.”
You’ve been double dipping on the tour roundabout of late…
“Yeah we did a lot but we’re over the major hump.”
With Adam (Granduciel) also having the excellent War On Drugs on the go and other band commitments is it hard to co-ordinate?
“Thats only Adam, I have all original members except for Adam and my buddy Rob (Laakso) who has also been playing with me for a while. It’s Mike (Zanghi) on drums, Jessie (Trbovich) on guitar and saxophone and Rob on gat.”
It’s been interesting watching your ascent from quite an underground aficionado type interest to some serious hype and the hecklers in the digital peanut gallery that go with it. The ‘overnight sensation’ tag has come up a few times of late, it always makes me think of the line from ‘Overnite Religion’* on ‘Childish Prodigy’
“That’s funny because when I wrote than song ‘Overnite Religion’ I used that line because i was feeling really inspired by songwriting, I felt like I’d reached a new place and that was in like 2005. It’s been a long night…(laughs)!!”