"This might be way, way out of reach for the average PC Music observer," says Gus Lobban, PC Music's prodigy producer known as Kane West, "but I'm fascinated by people like Larry Levan, Ron Hardy, and all the Chicago DJs. These were the best parties of all time. We've all been to good parties, but I think we've started losing focus on the greater good—the greater good is the greater party."
Lobban got his start with the J-Pop trio, Kero Kero Bonito (KKB). Together with his school friend Jamie Bulled, the two threw an assortment of international pop music into a plastic container, closed the lid, shook it around a bit, and presented the world with a shiny pop music salad. Between the J-Pop, African Funk, dance hall (apparently, Lobban's dad has "South London's biggest collection of Jamaican-style music"), and vocalist Sarah Midori Perry's English and Japanese lyrics, KKB is a Slip 'n' Slide ride on a bilingual sugar rush.
Kane West, on the other hand, is more likely to round out your late night illusions in an afterhours bathroom mirror. "Kane is for the club," he says. "While KKB is everywhere." Last year, Lobban entered a remix competition organized by Montreal producer Tiga and won. "I did it in about twenty minutes. I'm still laughing that it won," says the Londoner. Tiga, claiming that Lobban's "shit was too mental to ignore," enlisted him for an EP on Turbo Recordings, long before his PC Music work picked up. The EP, titled Expenses Paid, is out on Turbo on August 14. You can listen to the title track above.
PC Music's deep interest in the 22-year-old is a no brainer. The post-modern, pseudo-art school that is PC Music is coming to a boil in today's pop culture landscape. The UK label has many addicted to its zany and somewhat satirical output, and others downright confused. "You have to remember that we're like, weird Brit nerds," says Lobban. "So our idea of fun might be pretty distorted in general. But that's exactly… it."
From internet beginnings to a full SXSW showcase and a fake reality TV network, PC Music, run by A.G. Cook, is churning out what could very well be the future of pop music. Amid a roster that includes GFOTY and Hannah Diamond, Lobban produces obscure yet jaunty house music with twisted video game samples.
"I want to be the biggest DJ ever. Straight up," he says. "I want to be the PC Music factory and David Guetta rolled into one." It seems like Kane West's goal is to be the world's top most DJ who also throws the best parties. "Yeah. Exactly. Why would you want to be anyone else?"
THUMP: How did KKB come about?
Kane West: Jamie and I are interested in similar things, particularly music from all over the world. We weren't trying to make money off it or anything, I mean, we took it seriously, but we were still in school. Then it became this tangible, real thing. Playing our stuff out became a reality.
Why did you decide to make KKB bilingual?
In KKB, we were using different aspects of international pop music, stuff from all over the world. We love modern Korean pop but we also really wanted to work on things like African Funk music. Jamie, he's a real expert on that kind of music actually and none of it is in English. We wanted to get away from the clichés of the English language that exists in pop music. We found Sarah on a bulletin board for Japanese expats. She said she was up for it, did an audition, and we gelled straight away.
Where on earth did you first listen to something like African Funk music?
It's a lot simpler than you might think. I mean, obviously the Internet is big, but even things like video games are an easy gateway to Japanese music. The dance hall, Jamaican stuff you hear is from my dad, massively. Jamie's first exposure to African Funk was by a random CD he picked up at Tesco. We got used to picking up whatever weird stuff we could find. I remember getting this cover CD at a Mexican cultural thing; it had this amazing Mexican pop on it.
So, not on the internet?
The internet is helpful, for sure. But the problem with the internet is that it's really hard to crossover. You only tune into what you know. You have to go looking for it on the internet. Actually, nowadays you're potentially less likely to stumble across an African Funk CD in a Tesco because Tesco doesn't stock it anymore probably because of the internet.
What do you think KKB and Kane West offers that others don't?
It's so brave and full of life. A lot of people seem to miss that. I think people are always trying to second-guess art students. People see a lot of irony and a lot of intellect in this stuff, but to be honest, I think we're all just really bored with the monotone, basic music. KKB and obviously PC Music want to do something that's fun because we weren't having a lot of fun when we went out to certain nightclubs.
Why did you start Kane West, then?
Rave music has been where I've pulled a lot of my previous music from. The experimentation with KKB for example happened first, but I've always been doing dance music. Kane West just kind of happened.
Unlike some of your fellow PC Music labelmates, Kane West seems to be one of the most clubby things to come out of the label.
With PC Music, people often see it as this label that's directly opposed to basic club culture… that it's reverberating commercial club music in a new way. But the problem with club culture is much larger than that; it's not groovy or fun to dance to anymore. I feel like it's pretty low on ideas. Kane West is something that really shakes up the PC Music world and all the people that listen to PC. It challenges them to think that this isn't just the new-pop-done-better you've been hearing from PC. It's a whole universe.
Do you think the "weirdness" often tied with PC Music will enter mainstream cultural consciousness completely? "Lemonade" by SOPHIE was in a McDonald's commercial, for example. Do you think maybe it already has?
You know what, if you say something enough times it becomes true. That's what PC Music is all about. When the new Kane West stuff comes out, things will come to a point where people can only shout that it's "left-field" for so long while they're dancing to it in the clubs or watching it on Vevo.
I think the weirdness people get from it isn't musical weirdness it's presentational weirdness. Kane West is this old-school sounding house artist with a weird name, who's associated with this art school—that throws off people. But at its core, it's basically just old school house music. If a track like "Power of Social Media" came out on Phantasy Sound, no one would be nearly as confused. But you know what, that's what pop music is all about anyway.
Expenses Paid is out soon. What should we know about the new EP?
The tracks from all over. They tracks are all from all different aspects of Kane. In "Expenses Paid" I think Kane West is desperately, desperately trying to restrain himself from playing a ridiculous Midi flute solo in the middle section. "Don't Stop" is a tribute to Michael Jackson, the greatest pop star of all time. "Recycle Bin" is totally for the club, its 100 percent clubland. And "Mexicans"… well, what can I say about Mexicans? [laughs] Mexicans is my favourite song to play.
_"Expenses Paid" is out on Turbo Recordings on August 14. More information here. Listen to the premiere of the title track above._