Published Feb 20, 2010To anyone who has listened to the work of Canadian producer Deadbeat (aka Kitchener, ON native Scott Monteith) over the past decade, it will come as no surprise that Brooklyn label the Agriculture has called on him to assemble a survey of dub techno's finest. And the timing couldn't be better. A new generation of producers has kick-started a resurgence of interest in the roots of dub techno, as Berlin's mid- to late '90s output has been picked up as inspiration for recent dub-step offshoots like Appleblim, Peverelist, 2562 and others. On this 19-track mix, Deadbeat shines a light on both the genre's past and its present. The focus of the selections is pointedly narrow, and instead of delivering an attempt at an all-encompassing overview, which would have been impossible over one disc, Deadbeat chooses to tell the story of one strand. Basic Channel's influence presides over the past, with acts like Rhythm & Sound, Maurizio and Substance & Vainqueur, as well as various artists, repping the early years. Mixed seamlessly into the past are tracks from non-Teutonic figures like Deepchord, Pendle Coven, 2562 and Deadbeat himself, showcasing the geographic range of just how far dub techno has managed to spread from its Berlin roots. Taken together, one wonders why this kind of overview hasn't been attempted before.
What guided your selections from what must have been a rather large pool of music?
With no boasting intended, I think that I have collected pretty much everything worth listening to in this realm of things, and it became immediately obvious that a 74-minute CD was never going to provide a truly coherent overview of everything that's been done. Removing myself from that impulse to create some kind of historical document was very freeing and meant I could just look at things from the perspective of what sounded good together, mix-wise, and create something that would hopefully be as satisfying to listen to for other people as it was for me to make.
Did anything get left off that you would have liked to include?
Of course! Blue Train should be in there somewhere, Porter Ricks, Pole, the early Svek dubs; I could go on for days. All the more reason to do a follow-up though, I'd say.
What does that title refer to?
Kodwo Eshun compared the work of Basic Channel to Rothko paintings some years ago in an article for The Wire and it always seemed like an incredibly deft comparison to me.
Why is now the right time for a survey of dub techno?
There was a serious resurgence in interest again over the last two years or so but frankly, that had very little to do with this project coming together. James from the Agriculture approached me about doing a mix quite a while ago and this kind of mix has been in my mind for many years.
This set mixes the beginnings (Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, Burial Dub) and the ends (Modern Love, Echospace, Echocord) of the genre. Any distinctions/differences between the styles of each of these eras that you noted while putting this together?
I think this draws a very interesting question regarding the perceived importance of public/press recognition. Someone like Rod Modell, who is behind the Echocord label, is by no means a producer from the "end" of the dub techno epoch, in my mind. He has been investigating this sound for years with very little surface level change. The fact that there has been so much new material the last [few] years in this realm of things just made it all the more difficult to figure out what to include. With a genre that has such rigid parameters it's quite an ambiguous and personal process of distinguishing between material that is simply towing the line and rehashing the same crap, and those precious few that are really trying to take things in a different direction. I don't have any problems with someone wearing their influences on their sleeve, I think I am as guilty of this as anyone, but it's important that there be some personal vision within that framework. As an example, there tends to be a lot of surface noise in all of this stuff, but even looking at the real pioneers, the noise that Porter Ricks used in comparison to what Basic Channel used is instantly distinguishable, in my mind.
Dub techno has had a huge influence over the Deadbeat sound, as witnessed by the inclusion of four of your tracks. When did you first come across the genre?
Some time in the early noughties at parties in Toronto, pretty much as it was happening, really. I clearly remember buying my first Basic Channel record, Radiance. It really changed everything for me, not just about what I wanted to DJ but how I listened to music generally. I guess you could say it was my first encounter with noise as a creative element as worthy as even the best melodies when deployed with the kind of skill Mark and Moritz used. The subtlety of it makes most of the industrial stuff that came before look utterly barbaric, in my mind.
After years on ~scape, you made your last album with Wagon Repair and now this mix is on the Agriculture. Why the recent switches? In search of a good fit or are you happy to move around at this point?
As I mentioned above, this mix was a special project we'd been talking about for a while. The move to Wagon Repair was more like deciding to play at your brother's wedding; it was a no-brainer. We're great friends and it's fantastic to work with your friends and feel like you're building something together without thinking about things too much. I fully intend to continue working with ~scape as well. In the end, I guess I feel really thankful to have so many great people to work with.
What's coming up for you on the horizon? Any new albums or singles in the works?
New singles for Echocord and Wagon Repair, a few remixes, a tune on the new Jahcoozi album, and all faring well, an album by year's end. I have a feeling 2010 is going to be a very productive year. (The Agriculture)