Dreampop pioneers A.R. Kane are back with a vengeance with a string of UK and European gigs under their belt and the tantalising prospect of new music on the way.
In a funny, frank and ferocious interview, founder member Rudy Tambala tells Matt Catchpole about the band’s origins, fallout with M/A/R/R/S collaborators Colourbox and his contempt for ‘dumbassmutherfucka’ Brexiteers.
You have recorded under several different aliases since A.R. Kane went into hiatus, notably Sufi with your sister Maggie and as MusicOne – what made you decide to revive the A.R. Kane moniker this year?
I have had many requests to play as A.R.Kane – for people that never saw us the first time around, for people that were not yet born into this planet. I love the songs, love to play … and so, that’s what is happening – lotsa love.
Did you have any trouble re-creating that definitive A.R. Kane sound after all these years?
Yes, it was really hard last year. The thing is, we used to mostly improve when live, therefore each show was different, and depended on the line-up, which also varied often. Last year we attempted to recreate the recorded versions – we never did that before and were not sure it was the right idea, but it did reawaken the spirit of Kaneness. We had seven people in the band to make that sound – occasionally we got there, but after the last show, I thought – fuck this, this ain’t what its about, it’s about now, making music that sounds right now, right now, if you get me. We have some of the original sounds, but I think live we are a different entity. I prefer the new sound.
Are you excited about how you’ve been received for the shows you’ve played this year already in Manchester, Barcelona (Primavera Sound), Porto (NOS Primavera Sound) and Tallinn (Kumu OO Festival)?
Excited, no. Pleased, yes. Festivals are strange affairs – I love them, love the big crowds ’n’all, but they are mostly not our fans – more tourists. Manchester (at the Soup Kitchen in May) was more about us – a small crowd loving it, getting it.
You’re about to play the Half Die festival in Rome – how do you feel about the whole Brexit situation?
Brexit sucks in so many ways. I get it, get people’s frustrations, fears, anger, all that. But fuck, the rise of the xenophobes is just plain stupid… and stupid is dangerous. Being a Londoner, I have known racism my entire life – the English have a deep streak of island mentality – but the future, the youth…that’s where the hope lies. I consider myself Afropean, not English, British, black, brown or purple. if those dumbassmuthafuckas don’t want to mix with other races then let them fuck off. they are a desperately dying breed/in-breed.
The band’s co-founder Alex Ayuli has not so far been involved in the re-boot. Has he had anything to say about the reformation and does he have any plans to join you?
I asked him, he said no, gave no reasons.
Do you have any plans to release new A.R. Kane material?
No concrete plans. Not sure that I would record as A.R. Kane – maybe M.R.Kane. Yeah, and I am collaborating with (Canadian/Ukrainian duo) Ummagma – albeit slowleeee ‘cos I’m a bit rubbish. I had to break for live stuff, but will be back on it this summer.
Legend has it that A.R. Kane came into existence after you jokingly told someone at a party you and Alex were in a band that sounded ‘a bit Velvet Underground, a bit Cocteau Twins, a bit Miles Davis, a bit Joni Mitchell’ – despite your never having played together before. Any truth in that story?
It’s 90% true. Ray and Tan Shulman from the then new One Little Indian label – our producers/gurus they became, I spun them a yarn at a party. We had strummed a couple of broken acoustics together after seeing the Cocteau Twins on tv – they inspired us. Also, we had been close friends – Alex and I – since we were eight. We had grown with a shared passion for music, partying, sci-fi books, and the London and surrounding club scene. We were on the brink and knew – no felt – that we could do it…do something…with a little bullshitting.
One Little Indian – label boss Derek Burkett, formerly of Flux of Pink Indians, is quite a character – how did you get on with him and his roster of anarcho-punks?
We liked DB a lot. We were, I think, just as punk in attitude as they were. We just didn’t adopt the cloned mentality and bad dress sense of that creaass (CRASS) crowd. Also, they were on the hippy side of punk- we called ’em hippypunks at the time – dog on a rope, knit your own muesli, veggie burger brigade, and all that. We hated hippies. They liked us because we were aggressive, anarchic, disruptive, iconoclastic … pretty typical east Londoners really. I think they also, like a lot of punks, felt a kinship with the oppressed. And in England, black, working class – that was being pretty oppressed.
You then moved on to 4AD where, in collaboration with Colourbox, you recorded one of the best-selling indie records of all time in Pump Up The Volume, recording as M/A/R/R/S. Were you surprised it was such a big hit? What do you remember about the recording process?
I have a love hate relationship to PUTV – we were screwed over by Colourbox and their management. The only cool cat there was CJ (DJ CJ Mackintosh). 4AD tried to protect our interests, but it all went south damned quick and I told Ivo (4AD co-founder Ivo Watts-Russell) to fuck off and that was that. The recording process – Colourblox have repeatedly lied about this, and I no longer care – they were greedy and it killed them artistically. karma coma. I think they were already dried up. Originally we wanted to do a dance track with Adrian Sherwood and the Sugarhill Gang riddim section (Doug) Wimbish and (Keith) LeBlanc, but Ivo had other ideas – guess that was his talent – throwing people together and creating something new. M/A/R/R/S was 1,000 times more successful than all the This Mortal Coil albums put together. Too successful. Colorablot ceased to exist. As for us, it was the second time in the studio and we were just getting started. Fuck the lot of ’em for killing the golden goose. I love Anitina (the double A-side to PUTV). That’s the love part. Without Anitina, it’s just possible the indie-dance crossover would never have happened. PUTV was gonna happen sometime, somewhere anyway, it was a straight theft from black/gay American house/hiphop.
You use a lot of feedback to create the A.R. Kane sound – was that part of the plan from the beginning?
No. We were writing a new song called Lollita – I set my guitar up so all the top end was rolled off on one pickup, to give it a warm dark flavour, a texture, ambient like a warm breast, a wet pussy, a tongue .. I used heaps of echo to get the sound … as it came to the chorus, I accidentally hit the pickup switch and knocked it down to the treble pickup – the sound exploded with shrieking feedback – I looked at Alex, and he grinned from ear to ear – that was the first time. After that, we started looking at ways we could get that intensity, a different type of feedback, some dry and cold, others expansive, some wild, some controlled. It became an obsession. My ears were constantly ringing.
Having created the term Dreampop and been credited with pioneering the whole Shoegaze movement – are you proud to be credited as an influence on so many bands that followed afterwards?
No. We were among a group of pioneering spirits, not us alone. most dreampopgaze whatever bands have never heard of us. I don’t think we really fit in. Our sound was too diverse, to hard to follow for most. People like predictability. Think Brexit.
You’ve also released music for David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label – is he an artist you admire?
Yeah DB is a very cool cat. He makes a difference to this world, like Bowie and Miles, and Prince. Shit, they’re all dead – soz David, don’t mean to gloom you out. (Talking Heads‘) Remain in Light was mind-changing for me – the punkfunkwordplay made me think and dream. Never made me want to play tho’. Bands that made me want to be in a band – Cocteaus, Velvet Underground – that I could do – not being very technically gifted, but passionate and a trickster.
Technology has obviously moved on a lot since you first started making music. Is that a good or bad thing for creativity?
New tech, old tech – what difference does it make? A creative person will find a way to express themselves. Most people are concerned not with creativity but rather trappings of fame – money, sex, power. How can I use this plugin to get laid? New tech brings new possibilities – the 808 and vocoder were around for decades but when Kanye hooked them up, something special happened and hiphop changed forever. It ain’t really the tech – it’s the heart.
- A.R. Kane play The Good Ship in London on July 13 and the On Blackheath Festival on September 10, with Italian dates at The Siren Festival in Vasto on July 22 and the Half Die in Rome on July 24.