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Sometimes it feels as if the rest of the world is still playing catch-up to 'Severant', Kuedo's debut album. Released at the tail end of 2011, 'Severant' saw Kuedo – the chosen alias of Jamie Teasdale, former member of seminal dubstep duo Vex'd alongside Roly Porter – utilising rhythm patterns inspired by ultra-modern electronic styles like juke, footwork, and trap rap (long before the "real trap shit" explosion) as jet fuel for his futurist soundscapes and synth experiments. 'Severant' was bold, boundary-pushing, and unique, yet listening to it was as easy and as satisfying as hearing a really good pop record.
We've been dying to hear new material from him since, and recently there have been signs of activity suggesting that a follow-up is on the way: first, he released a new track, Mtzpn, on Hyperdub's 'Hyperdub 10.1' compilation, and on Friday (June 20th) he'll be playing our Camden Crawl party alongside Laurel Halo, SOPHIE, Visionist, Larry Gus, and Fis. We caught up with him over email to find out what he's been doing since the release of 'Severant', what he's been taking inspiration from, and what sort of stuff he'll be playing.
Hello, Kuedo! What's the weather like?
Kuedo: "It’s a mild early June night. The sun was out today, without imposing itself unnecessarily. Agreeable."
We're looking forward to having you play at the Camden Crawl. What sort of stuff have you been itching to play in the clubs recently?
Kuedo: "Footwork, grime, jungle, and rap are my favorite club musics. I haven’t caught that 4/4 techno zombie apocalypse bug yet. I like DJ sets to have sharp turns, stops and right angles, disruptions, some controlled mess. Drum patterns that speak sentences, rather than pound the same syllable all night. I like sets where you’re not secure in the knowledge of what's coming next or even if you’re going to like it, only that there’ll be a convincing purpose behind its being played.
"Perfectly honed straight up functional dance DJ are great to party to, but personally I feel kinda robbed if I go see an artist-producer play a DJ set, just to find them attempting to manage the situation in as functional, linear a way as possible. And while the disco DJ lineage seems to have totally usurped Europe recently, my expectations of DJing were formed from the dub soundsystem lineage… from jungle, dub, and hip hop DJs, where you dont play in seamless, straight, linear lines."
Besides your track Mtzpn on the Hyperdub comp, we haven't heard much from you in a while. Have you locked yourself away working on new music, or have you spent the past three years lounging on a beach, cocktail in hand?
Kuedo: "I've written several hundreds of tracks, most of which I archived or deleted in January 2014. That was just over two years since that album came out in late 2011. In 2012, I wasn’t able to work on much music except album touring, due to outside factors. Parenting doesn’t speed anything up.
"But 2013 was so much wheel-spinning; I produced volumes, but the first half of what I wrote… it was decent, but too complacent to expectations. The latter half was undeveloped experiments in wildly divergent directions. I finished an album before Christmas, and shelved it. So, yeah, I’m missing an album in the 'cycle' or whatever, it caused a humiliating gap to open up behind me. I started over immediately, projects were signed, and believe it or not I’m actually rushing to meet a deadline for this year's release schedule – I only have a few weeks to deliver the finals.
"But I have more clarity than ever about the work. That itself is exhilarating. I generally avoid interviews until I have a new release to talk about, so the front end stays quiet while all this frantic work takes place. It’s a weird disconnect."
"2013 was so much wheel-spinning; I produced volumes, but the first half of what I wrote… it was decent, but too complacent to expectations. The latter half was undeveloped experiments in wildly divergent directions. I finished an album before Christmas, and shelved it." – Kuedo
I'm sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that 'Severant' is one of my favourite albums of the past few years. When you look back on it now, is there anything in particular you feel you didn't quite achieve with it, or that you'd want to change?
Kuedo: "Thats good to hear. It could’ve been better in dozens of ways – most of all, I simply wish I’d written more demo sketches in that vein to chose from. There’s a few tracks I would happily scratch off, and re-attempt. I like that it's under-produced, but there are some clunky arrangement moments, even for the psuedo-rap, post-rave format.
"Mostly, though, the romantic sci-fi decoration was taken over-literally, which was the fault of my own compliancy in presenting it as nothing more. If it had lyrics, they would’ve been cryptic, I suppose, but ultimately domestic. It's an utterly domestic record to me. And more critical of escapism, rather than a literal exit door into it. I do wish I’d written and developed more in that style while it was newly alive. Other records did, eventually. "
What sort of things have you been taking inspiration from in the music you've been making recently?
Kuedo: "Recently, monitoring – as in, surveillance, hidden or overt. That idea keeps coming back as I’m writing this particular project. So does the idea of peculiar spaces, and indeterminacy in general; uncertainty. Shadow forms. Several distinct themes are always vying for attention to take shape – I think most artists know what that's like. And I can only focus on them one-by-one, working on them concurrently just makes a horrible counter-productive mess. All of the themes have a defined name and folder where they can grow."
I always imagine your music as something very visual, even just in your track titles. What sort of images have you been unable to get out of your head recently?
Kuedo: "The way I currently work, I collect imagery and video links around different project as I work on them. Through repeated viewings, they become burned in, like optical after-images. I'm just as, often more, in awe of visual and film artists than musicians, enough to wonder if maybe I'm awkwardly forcing something into the wrong medium. I’ve been chasing a sense of uncanny presence in a few tracks recently, in trying to get a compass point grip on that I’ve been recalling in particular Goya’s flying witch painting, and a certain aerial photo of a pilotless drone plane. I definitely use this stuff as a crutch, images all over the walls and monitors of my workspace."
"I’ve been chasing a sense of uncanny presence in a few tracks recently…" – Kuedo
What was the last thing you heard that really blew you away?
Kuedo: "Roxy Music's 'Avalon' in its entirety, yesterday. I only had the lead cut on my hard drive, I didn’t know the rest except childhood memory. I think it’s one of the most beautifully produced records I’ve ever heard, it slices you gently open. Swans’ 'Soundtracks for the Blind' about nine months ago. A podcast by Lars TCF a few weeks ago."
Lastly, what on earth does "Mtzpn" actually mean?
Kuedo: "IDK, there’s not much to be said for oversharing, or being overly instructional about meaning, is there? It's kind of a disservice to the listener, whose supposed to co-author the experience, really. I think everyone appreciates artists putting their guts into their work just to give it a pulse, but overall I’d rather their guts be politely sewed up inside it. Like, if they could depersonalise it once its written, then they’re allowing it to be someone else’s experience too."
Kuedo plays the Dummy stage at the Jazz Café, London as part of The Camden Crawl this Friday (June 20th) alongside Visionist, Laurel Halo, SOPHIE, Larry Gus, Fis, and Puzzle (buy tickets).