Three years ago, around the time of their second album The Black Sun, I was lucky enough to get Hyperdub boss Kode9 and his longtime MC collaborator Spaceape in a room and play them a bunch of tracks that resonated with their work together. They'd made a record of such dense, intense emotion—by turn deeply unsettling and soothingly hopeful—that it was fun to be able to unpick it a little with them. While The Black Sun was presented as a "sonic fiction," it tapped into global unrest about the state of the planet, as well hinting at a deeply personal battle with cancer that Spaceape's Stephen Gordon would go on to explore in depth on his stark but spiritually fortifying voodoo-inspired 2012 solo EP Xorcism. "On the day I released the EP, the very second I pressed send, a taxi was waiting to take me to hospital for more treatment," said Gordon in an interview with Italian site EuroNomade last year. "But during my 15 minute journey, I felt lighter, relieved to have let go of so much weight which in turn may give me a better chance at healing."
Now Kode9 and the Spaceape are reuniting for a new EP titled Killing Season, out October 27th on Hyperdub, on which Gordon is not so much concerned not with healing but with humanity, countering religious symbolism with a staunchly secular viewpoint that suggests a greater freedom, and responsibility, lies within. To mark the occasion of the video premiere of thrillingly gritty EP track "The Devil Is a Liar" above, Gordon talks movingly on faith, visual inspiration, and working with Kode9.
"The Devil Is a Liar" is a powerful musical statement. What drove its creation? A text message! I received a text message from a family member who on finding out that I had relapsed again said, 'What can I say? The devil is a liar!' At the time, and for a number of days after, I really couldn't understand what she meant. I was both perplexed and pissed off because I didn't understand the point that was being made—whether it was to help me or to help themselves. However, irrespective of what they meant I started to think about what it meant to me, for me.
There ain't no demon or a savior, you say on the track. Is that something you've always felt? Up until the age of ten my parents used to take me to church. It was just like going to school on Sunday, in fact it was called Sunday School. It was fairly inoffensive but extremely boring. I didn't have any clear thoughts either way about my beliefs then and I didn't fear god, or become god-fearing. Instead of fueling me with the fear of God it just made me ambivalent really. But as I've gotten older, it has become increasingly clearer to me that the only demon and the only savior lives in the human heart. Suffice to say, I can understand how the idea of a god or some kind of a saintly figure or, on the other hand, of a devilish trickster figure, may give people a level of comfort or solace in some way; that fairness or 'good' will be rewarded, and that evil or 'badness' will be punished/admonished. But through my eyes I can only see that the most amazing things and the most heinous things come through us. And I believe we all possess the same capacity to take a life as much as to save one, and we demonstrate this every single day.
Could you talk me through "The Devil Is a Liar" video—what were your visual references for it? I had three main references: one was to relate back to the previous video I made in 2012 for the single "On the Run" [below] which channeled the healing aesthetic of voodoo in its visual language. Here again, I wanted to keep things fairly stripped down with me as the focal point. Second, was the recent Guinness advertising campaign which featured these beautifully attired Congolese gentlemen called "Sapeurs." I remember seeing the advertisement and being taken by the colors and the vibrancy. With the content of the track being quite dark, I wanted to infuse the video with a similar vibrancy. And thirdly, the character Baron Samedi in the Bond film Live and Let Die. The video was initially about things not being what they seem or appear to be. The idea was for a character, a conjuror of multiple tricks and illusions, who fools us into believing his way of thinking, or dupes us into believing in something that doesn't actually exist. So in this sense, the aim of the video was to engage with a series of dualities that are incorporated within the same body or that co-exist within the same body: essentially one is a saint and a sinner, a demon and a savior, that lives and dies by its own actions or inaction.
You've been collaborating with Kode9 for over a decade now. What is he like to work with? Slow!
The Killing Season EP closes with your words: I must learn to dance with life again while autumn is still here. To my ears, it sounds like you're dancing harder than ever. Are you happy with the EP? On this EP we worked in a different way than we have done so on earlier projects. Whereas previously Steve might bring a beat to me or I might have some lyrics that fit a track, this time all of the lyrics came first and I pretty much knew in my head what I wanted the track to sound like. I tapped out the tempo on the desk and Steve translated this to begin building the track from there. This is why three of the tracks are fairly stripped down and sparse. We wanted to give room, create space for the vocals and this was also because we wanted to finish the project quite quickly! So for these reasons, I am happy with the EP as it signifies a progression in our working relationship and the sound, but also, on some levels, a return to the ideas and power of our earlier work such as "Sine of the Dub" [below], "Ghostown," "Stalker" and "Correction."
Hyperdub will release Kode9 and the Spaceape's new EP, Killing Season, on October 27th.