Quadrant, Iris & Kid Hops: Stellar Dispatches
It’s like looking up at the night sky and partially seeing a faint cluster. Squint and more detail comes into view: first, a twin star system which happens to be named Quadrant & Iris. Then more data, more names: D-Struct. Hybris. And Kid Hops. All pulsing with energy.
Fittingly, the Seattle-based group has been recently shining bright with the emergence of ‘Convergence/Borealis‘ on Dispatch. Now, after a similar slingshot-type manoeuvre as the destructive blue planet in Melancholia… they’re coming back! I took the op and caught up With Quadrant, Iris and Kid Hops.
‘Graphene’ has recently appeared on our scanner from nowhere, it’s a genius track, part of the Transit 2 compilation. I love what sounds like compression on the percussion: a small masterclass on how something that’s not specifically an instrument can act as one.
Yeah! It was a lot of fun to make.
How did it evolve?
The first session was when Hybris came to Seattle to play a couple of shows. We all sat around and messed about on an E-Mu sampler for a few hours and got some great bass sounds. Then we came up with the break and a provisional bassline. Over the next couple of days it began to take shape, but when Hybris got back home, he took it from ‘pretty good’ to ‘holy f*cking shit’ in very short order. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: that guy is a f*cking wizard.
That guy is a f*cking wizard.
Also, agreed on the percussion, especially those rides. I’d love to know exactly how that was done, but I’m sure the formula is locked up in a vault somewhere beneath the streets of Prague.
So ‘Graphene’. That title. It could be a substance, it could be a person, it could be a planet. Are we meant to sort of ‘know it’ and not know it, what the title means?
Well, we arrived at that title a little late. Graphene is actually a relatively new nanomaterial: it’s a crystalline form of carbon, and (from online) “can be described as a one-atom thick layer of the layered mineral graphite.”
It’s super strong, and super light.
It’s a head-nodding beast. What keeps you in love with the music?
Just hearing good music inspires us to make good music. This is a great time for D&B, and we feel super lucky to be making music in a time where we can make the tracks we want to hear, and find outlets for the music so that other people can be exposed to it as well.
At the beginning I mentioned the use of compression, so what other studio knowledge can you impart… your sound is so expansive!
Well, when it comes to collaboration, we find that working quickly and getting ideas developed is super important, much more so than worrying about fine-tuning how things sound. At least early on. To this end it’s really helpful to collect samples and create sounds ahead of time, so when everyone is in the studio together you have plenty of raw materials to work with. It’s just such a VIBE KILLER when someone is at the computer EQing a snare for 20 minutes. If the snare really isn’t working after two minutes, just pick a different f*cking snare.
Sample collecting is a great topic in itself and I believe you have a secret weapon?
Kyle AKA Kid Hops (pic below)! He’s been a fixture in the music scene since before either of us knew what a turntable was. He has a radio show on KEXP and has been pushing D&B in Seattle since the mid ’90s. He’s also a living encyclopedia of musical knowledge which translates into a DEEP and rare sample library plus a wealth of inspiration from all different types of music.
And Quadrant & Iris? What’s the background there?
We’re both classically trained musicians, Quadrant on piano and Karen on violin.
At some point, each of us individually discovered D&B. We had a few false starts finding our own balance before finally hit on something that we were both into. That ended up becoming ‘Anthropocene’ and got picked up in short order by Goldie for Metalheadz.
The whole collaboration – what we do collectively – really ends up being more than the sum of its parts.
So to depart from D&B for a second but to retain the production aspect, what are some album recording sessions you would have loved to have been present at? Any genre!
Kid Hops: It would have been incredible to witness The Congos record their seminal 1977 album Heart of the Congos with Lee Perry on production duties at his Black Ark Studio in Kingston, Jamaica. 36 years later, there’s still nothing like that album’s mix of percussion, bass & harmony.
Quadrant: I would’ve loved to have been in the house when Ken Andrews and Failure were recording their album Fantastic Planet. Apparently they rented out Joan Jett’s house in LA over the course of 8 months and did the entire thing themselves, from songwriting, to tracking to mixing. The resulting record had a distinctive sound that I love, but that took me a while to come to terms with, since it sounded so different from everything that was coming out at the time.
Iris: Prodigy Fat of the Land. Not only was this an album that was key to setting me down the road to my love of electronic music, its also an album that still holds up quality wise today. Liam Howlett had access to a truly amazing and diverse sample library. He’s still an artist that I idolize today and it would have been amazing to sit with him and the rest of the group to follow their production process on these tunes.
After your recent activity, an album from YOU would be nice! What would it consist of?
They say all art is simply the sum of your influences, so we’d definitely have our work cut out for us. I suppose the challenge would involve both running the gamut of styles, while also attempting to bring it all under the same conceptual umbrella. It would definitely have to be programmed start to finish with tracks made specifically for the album project. People can smell a ‘tune compilation’-type album a mile away.
A longer form project would give us an opportunity to explore more experimental song structures and styles– obviously making music at a variety of tempos would be on the table as well. We’d love to get in some work with vocalists we admire both here and abroad, as well as bring in some other incredibly talented producers here in Seattle.
What about the visual element?
All of us are VERY particular about the visual presentation of our music. Quadrant has a background in graphic design, but for the most part, he knows better than to do the artwork himself. If we had our way, we’d get Mesck and Khoma to do a collaboration: they’ve both done art for Quadrant in the past and they’re far and away two of the most talented designers working today.
LASTLY what are some great D&B albums over time? That work as true albums? Musique Concrète, Solaris, Timeless, Gemini Principle… that type of thing? Nice simple one.
Oh man, we got together for awhile and discussed this at length. Our list just kept getting longer and longer. At first it may not seem like a massive list but on reflection, there have been a lot of absolutely stellar examples.
We ended up separating the list into ‘older’ and ‘newer’. Not very scientific, we know, but there are just so many to choose from. The older ones informed our tastes, as well as (we’re guessing) the sensibilities of a lot of our contemporaries in the scene. The newer ones are albums we’ve been loving lately that tend to both be cohesive as albums, and also push boundaries of what D&B can be as a genre.
Adam F Colours
Ed Rush & Optical Wormhole
Bad Company Inside the Machine
Jonny L Magnetic
Reprazent New Forms
Commix Call to Mind
Ill Logic & Raf Darkness at Noon
Jubei To Have & Have Not
DRS I Don’t Usually Like MCs But…
Alix Perez Chroma Chords
Calibre Even If
Marcus Intalex 21
Frederic Robinson Mixed Signals
We love this music!
(pics: Quadrant & Iris, plus Kid Hops)