Label Focus: Hyperdub
London based label Hyperdub was founded in 2004 by Steve Goodman, a.k.a. DJ/producer Kode9.
Together with his close cohort, MC/poet Spaceape, Kode9 kicked it all off with a beatless dub version of Prince’s “Sign O’ the Times,” renamed “Sine of the Dub.”
Simply by slowing down the tempos of grime and U.K. garage, Hyperdub helped pave the way for the dubstep craze of the last decade. Ten years down the road, the label is ranked among the most important exponents of the U.K. underground dance scene.
Refusing to follow the easy route, Hyperdub has constantly evolved, freely morphing in numerous directions: from Burial’s haunted and melancholy mutation of 2-step, to Ikonika’s crying synths, to King Midas’ cinematic Lover’s Rock, to Terror Danjah’s Afro-botic Grime and Darkstar’s chilly opaque pop – all topped off by Kode9 and The Spaceape’s hermetic storytelling.
The last few years have seen the label expand beyond its core of U.K. artists, with lauded albums from Laurel Halo, King Britt and late Footwork Pioneer DJ Rashad from the U.S., Jessy Lanza from Canada, and Kuwait-based artist Fatima Al Qadiri.
In 2014 Hyperdub celebrated its first 10 years, while mourning the untimely loss of both Spaceape (cancer) and DJ Rashad (drug related). 2015 has been a year of mainly single releases, with the major exception of Kode9’s debut solo album Nothing, currently streaming exclusively in TIDAL. Satisfying the high hopes the proceeded it, Nothing sets the scene for a strong album year in 2016, and prosperous new decade for Hyperdub.
We caught up with Kode9 to talk about the history of an institutional label that functions as a hub for differing scenes and wandering artists.
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How did Hyperdub come to be?
I began DJ’ing in 1991, after an intense drug experience at a club in Edinburgh while listening to Herbie Hancocks Headhunters album. I started producing in 1995, initially because I was overwhelmed by jungle and drum’n'bass in the mid-’90s and wanted to learn how to make that stuff.
Then I started the Hyperdub web magazine to collect together my favorite writers and to do more in depth features and interviews than was possible in the print press. Finally, in 2004 I started the label to release my own music.
What labels were your role models when you started up?
I was a big fan of Metalheadz in the ’90s, but by the time it came to starting Hyperdub there was no label in particular that was a role model, so we’ve had to make it up as we go along.
What was your first signing? Why did you choose that artist then, and what do you feel about it now?
Apart from myself and Spaceape, who did the first couple of releases on the label, the first signing was Burial. He had been sending me music since 2002, and two years later I was still listening to it. He understood exactly the roots of the label coming out the shadows of U.K. garage, but had his own very distinctive take on this history.
Did you have an initial idea back then on what the label should be and how it would evolve over time?
No. It just started to release my own music.
What makes you decide to release an album or not?
I usually need to be able to listen to it at 7 a.m. in an airport after not sleeping the night before.
What, in your opinion, is the greatest achievement in the history of Hyperdub? What are you most proud of during your 10+ year existence?
Probably unleashing Burial on the world.
Where do you see Hyperdub another 10 years down the line?
If I could answer that, I’d probably stop the label tomorrow. I hope that the label will be somewhere that I can’t foresee.
The music industry goes through rapid changes these days, how have those challenges affected your work – and what is different running a label today compared to before you think?
It is important to be militant about your musical convictions to withstand the hype cycles of the music press, which seem forever to be decreasing in length. Releases now seem to function merely as adverts for artists performances. But it’s obviously easier now, due to the Internet, to get word out about releases than previously. Of course there are 10,000 other labels and artists all competing for the same attention.
Any regrets? Anything you would do differently if you had a second chance?
My only regret is not running a regular Hyperdub club night in London in our early years. In the last few years, Hyperdub events have been my favorite places to play and we have amazing yet often-overlooked resident DJs such as Ikonika and Scratcha DVA.
Can you pick three of your favorite Hypderdub releases?
Burial by Burial. First album on the label and from Burial that laid a foundation for much that followed while exposing the label to a wider audience. Also features one of my favorite tracks from the late vocalist Spaceape.
DJ Rashad’s Double Cup. Seminal album from the late, great producer, and footwork’s breakout record.
Hyperdub 10. A road map for the first 10 years of the label spread across four compilations covering four distinct strands of the label.
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