Interview: Commodo

Bearded’s resident Low End Lowlife Matt Bayfield took to the streets of Sean Bean’s beloved steel city to chat with Deep Medi signing Commodo in far too posh of a drinking establishment about whatever the hell popped up

Posted on Oct 3rd, 2012 in Features and Interviews / By Matthew Bayfield
Interview: Commodo Bearded: Do you primarily DJ up here (Sheffield) then?

Commodo: I try and avoid it if I’m honest mate… Are we recording? You might have to, before you type it or whatever give it a little edit. I’ve got a big mouth.

B: With DJ’ing do you tend to pick a specific vibe, or is it just more what the feel of the room is?

C: To be honest a lot of people… It pisses me off, you know when people are always saying bollocks about “ohhh take the crowd on a journey” and this and that, it’s like “yeah shut up man you’ve probably played the same set the last three nights”... That’s more or less what I do, I’ll have about thirty or forty tunes or whatever and I’ll just grab out of that. I’m never like “this crowd seems like they're a bit more this genre or that” you know it’s not like that. I think people are just talking shit. Obviously there’s some people, do you know Oneman? Who really do it properly, but most of them? Nah.

B: Yeah I saw him down at Croydub recently actually.

C: Oh yeah? I’ve never been to one of them, it’s just in a pub isn’t it?

B: More or less, it’s just a bar on Croydon high street with a small dance floor at one end.

C: I’ve never even been down man.

B: Oh it’s great. Do you buy vinyl at all? There’s an awesome record shop down there.

C: No I don’t really buy vinyl anymore, it's a funny one, I’ll go into that later, but I just buy the odd bit for sampling really. But I mean not really records to play.

B: How long have you actually been DJ’ing for? I mean, the first time I heard you was when ‘Surveillance’ was featured on Distance’s Dubstep Allstars album and then the 12” for Untitled! (Querky / The Rec Room 12")

C: Oh yeah

B: Not quite sure how I got the name wrong on the last EP when I did the write up by the way (The EP was called the Commodo EP, but it got written up as the Northern Soul EP) I think that was just what it had it been sent out as in the press pack.

C: You know that track, 'Northern Soul', I didn't want to put that on there, that was Mala's (Deep Medi label owner) choice.

B: Really? I think that's an awesome track.

C: See I'm a bit funny like that, I don't really like it man.

B: A lot of that clanking industrial style of sample you've got on there really reminded me of Cabaret Voltaire, the seventies experimental group from round here.

C: Oh right. You know what it might be? There's a sample in there, don't know what it's from originally but I got it from a Mobb Deep track, I'm pretty sure it's something from a New York train. Comes in on maybe the first snare, just like a stabbing train noise. Wish I'd have found that myself.

B: When you're producing do you... I mean just to clarify, musically I'm retarded. I had a brief go on Fruity Loops and Ableton.

C: I'm still on Fruity Loops yeah.

B: Yeah I didn't have a fucking clue what I was doing, I play a bit of banjo.

C: ... That is genuine retard yeah (laughs) It's just whatever works for you really. I mean I've been on FL since I first started about five, six years ago. I bought a Mac to get Logic and I couldn't even do it. I ended up sticking Windows on the Mac so I could get Fruity Loops. I'm just too comfortable with it.

B: Deep Medi, kind of like Chestplate, for me is one of those labels where even if I haven't heard something that's coming out on it I'll be comfortable just to buy it on sight. Do you ever get told when you send stuff "that's not Deep Medi enough"?

C: Yeah it's a brand almost. But not at all, never get told anything like that. When myself and Mala started talking the plan was to put an EP out, but we ended up doing a single first and he said just said 'look, this is a platform for you to develop and just do your thing'. With the Commodo EP I'd just say I want to do these tracks and Mala might say 'switch this one out for this' or whatever, but it's never a hard-line stance.

B: Do you ever set out with a specific idea in mind or is it more just playing about until something clicks?

C: You mean do I have a brief? Sometimes I do, sometimes not. On the times when I have set out to make something contrived or of a purpose they tend not to work so well. For me the ones that always stick are when it's about four in the morning, I've been trying to finish something all night and I'm exhausted and then something just clicks and I'm like 'oh wait, hang about' and then I'm up until about seven just bashing ideas out. When you don't really give a shit that's when you seem to be most honest.

B: Who did the artwork for the last EP?

C: That was a local guy, he's moved to London now, called Tom J Newell. Really into his stuff.

B: Yeah it's a quality style. Obviously it's pretentious as hell and I disappeared somewhere up my own arse years ago but once a month I go out and buy a record based purely on the artwork.

C: Oh right yeah, what was the last one you bought? I'm interviewing you now.

B: Erm... Ah christ you've put me on the spot and I've more or less shit myself. I can't think of the name now. Something like Space Cadets... The cover was like a bunch of space hippies done in felt tip. It turned out to be some strange fidgety minimal drum & bass type thing. (The record it actually turns out was a 12" by a Russian producer called Oak on the label Space Cadets... I was fairly pissed by this point in our conversation. You can have a look at the cover here though)

C: Oh nice. Sounds like something Boomkat might sell.

B: I picked it up in a record shop in Norwich. I'm not a big fan of the internet, you can't browse anything properly, you just end up going for the same genres. Did you start in dubstep production?

C: Grime. In and around 2006 maybe? I doubt anyone else would have known about it but there was a really healthy scene up here then. But it was a proper scene, really insular. At that time no one wanted to know what was going on outside of London really. There were only maybe a couple of emcees from anywhere up here that had any real clout.

B: The only people I can think of from that time are Virus Syndicate.

C: Devilman. That was about it really. So, grime, but I tried all kinds of little bits, this was all while I was learning man. It all sounds shit, the execution is really poor you know but when I listen back I sometimes think 'fuck, how did I think that up?' you know?

B: Yeah, sort of like, from where you are now you can't place yourself in your head then?

C: Yeah, it's probably stupid but it's good. So I made grime for a bit, few hip-hop bits. Some really bad drum and bass.

B: Right time for another one of those stock questions. Where do you stand on the whole Skrillex, mid-range blah blah blah?

C: (Laughs) I don't know man I'm probably not as riled up about all that stuff as you might think. The main reason it doesn't really bother me is I see it as a separate entity. It's just pop music. Electronic pop music. Sort of like a cross-strain really. What does piss me off maybe is it shares the same name as dubstep, although to be honest I try not to label myself as dubstep. I'd be lying to myself really but there's a lot of negative connotations attached to the name these days. I think I probably used to care a bit more about it, when it was a bit closer to home. Like when it was people who very much part of the 'dubstep scene' who were doing noisy music that people stuck in 2006 didn't approve of.

B: Yeah see I'm not huge on it but some of it is really good fun, particularly when I'm out and about running or whatever I'll put a bit of Funtcase on and have a laugh

C: Yeah. I can't take 5 hours of it though.

B: No I don't sit at home drawing with my headphones on thinking 'oh well this is just lovely'

C: (Laughs)

B: In that respect I think the 12" is the perfect format for me.

C: For listening to music?

B: The tear out style dubstep yeah. I'll put on two tracks and that's about it, then put on an actual album I can sit and listen to all the way through.

C: Is that what you do then listen to vinyl?

B: Yeah as I said before I've disappeared up my own arsehole.

C: Nah I do like it, it's a nice format. When it's fucking there and it's sitting on a platter you're committed. You actually sit and listen to it. Not like you're flicking through iTunes, start a track, get about 30 seconds in, you have a little skim through then you're on to something else.

B: The two side thing works nicely when I'm drawing too, because you have your 6 tracks, you get up to flip the record, come back to sit down and look at your work you've been staring at for hours and suddenly think 'Jesus that is absolute shit' does it work the same when you're making a track?

C: Oh absolutely yes. Like I was saying before when you're just on one and it's daft o'clock in the morning just bashing it out, then you go to sleep and come back to it the next day and think 'oh my god what was I thinking?!' When you get too absorbed or too involved you lose sight of what you were aiming for.

B: Yeah, exactly. I don't think the tear-out style lends itself too well to full length albums.

C: No, and there's a lot of albums of it out there, and I'm not saying anyone in particular, but a lot of them weren't ready to do a full album. They didn't really go about it in what I feel is the right way. It's just a selection of beats. If you are going to do an album, make it an album... Give it a theme or something. Not necessarily a story but personally I like the idea of concept and a concept album.

B: Yeah see that's why I thought the last Kode 9 & Spaceape album (Black Sun) worked so well.

C: Yeah see that was a whole package of an album.

B: Exactly, the artwork fits with the music and so on.

C: Yeah that artwork was banging.

B: A lot of the stuff I'm hearing at the moment isn't an album. It's just 12 tracks strung in a row. To me that isn't an album.

C: Exactly. Have you heard the Author album? They worked so hard on that and it feels complete as a package, it's coherent. There's a lot of people you find at the minute where it's like a bunch of beats and then to "show their diversity" or whatever there'll be a track with a different tempo. It's just obvious.

B: I came into it all from the other side of things really. All I listened to when I was younger was funk and hip-hop really... And folk. Actually I first heard dubstep through a Kode9 remix of a folk track, by a guy called James Yorkston.

C: Oh yeah I think I know it actually.

B: I heard that and then bought 'Memories Of The Future' by Kode9 & Spaceape out of curiosity. So I got into dubstep without actually knowing what the hell it was. I barely used the internet then either, so I didn't have a clue. I had 'Beg To Differ' by Plastician as well, but I didn't really know.

C: Yeah you wouldn't. You probably just assumed that was grime? Which I guess it is.

B: Yeah completely clueless. I've got the first Skull Disco 12", which I think has become quite valuable, but when I copied it to my computer I think I tagged it as 'tribal hip-hop' hahaha. I don't get why people are so bent on genre and pretending to have listened to it "before it was big".

C: Yeah it's real elitist. I don't know, people just get really precious about it. It takes some restraint sometimes, but you can't be pissed off with someone for not knowing something. Just because you've had the fortune to have been told about it or stumbled across it. It's not like you invented it or something.

B: Most of what I listen to is from the 70's, like funk and disco, and Tom Waits, whatever. Just because I missed it at the time doesn't mean I'm any less of a fan.

C: For sure. I end up listening to a lot of that stuff when I'm digging for samples. Just bits of obscure jazz-funk & prog. You know?

B: Yeah stuff like Yes! I used to listen to tons of that as a kid. I bought those just because I liked the Roger Dean covers.

C: Yeah, see they're concept albums.

B: I think social media has spoilt it all a bit in that regard. Now it seems everyone has to belong to a little tribe.

C: It's a shame as well, because now that's all part of it. You've got to be on board with all that or you get left behind. I don't use Twitter... Probably should.

B: Are you on there? ... Probably should have researched this sort of shit before I tipped up.

C: I'm on there, but I've never used it. I made one about six months ago but I haven't touched it.

B: Do labels ever tell you you have to tweet about releases or anything like that?

C: Nah not at all, but it's not commercial music. With major labels it would be different. It doesn't really work like mainstream music where a label own all your content within an agreed time or whatever. Stuff just gets chucked out as a single, or an album and that's it. You find it in punk a lot too.

B: To me that seems a much more ideal way to work.

C: It is man, I mean, there's pros and cons to it.

B: I assume financially it's not as secure as getting signed for six albums with Ministry or whatever?

C: Exactly, you don't get a big fuckoff advance to go buy an M3 or whatever. You're more in control though… how you conduct yourself and go about your business; what you want to do in terms of gigs or publishing, it's completely yours to handle. Whereas say you've got a major behind you, they might say "right we're gonna hook you up with this and that" but then at the same time you will most probably lose some creative control and some geezer is going to be sitting in on your sessions now, and later he's going to rearrange half your fucking songs.

B: Is it just a case for you of you make what you feel then?

C: I'm not really too sure man. I make what I want. I'm not saying I want to move into any area in particular. What would be amazing for me is if I can get to the position where I can make what I want to make and people know about it. Not even like it, just so people can hear it and if they do like it then they have had that opportunity to decide. I know Deep Medi are regarded as kind of classicist dubstep but they are well up for putting out some more diverse stuff, especially more recently.

B: Yeah like that last Mensah 12" (The Gambia / Trailing Moons Of Saturn)

C: Yeah for sure. Old Apparatus, their stuff too.

B: Yeah again that's just a big, massive... something.

C: Nice crusty noise. That's the main thing for me, it's not that I hate melody or anything, but when the textures or grooves are right that stuff doesn't have to matter. Like Coki's stuff, you know? It's not very musical. Sometimes it is, sometimes it's melodic like 'Burnin', in that everything is in the right key, there are nice licks and melodies all over the shop and it's all nice. Half the time for me though, just an atonal groove is fine.

B: It's funny because Coki... Again, technically I don't know anything about it, I'm just speaking purely from the point of a listener with no intrinsic understanding of the process...

C: That's cool though because that's probably the most honest place to come from.

B: ... His (Coki's) stuff fascinates me because if you heard it, it sounds like it could have been made by an amateur, he uses really cheap sounding stuff.

C: That's what I was gonna say earlier, I didn't know if it was a bit too backhanded, but when I was talking about the stuff I made early on, same as stuff anyone made really early on, it sounds like a fucking lunatic has made it! Someone who has just doesn't care what they're doing, that's almost what I hear when I hear Coki's stuff. Not in a bad way either.

B: I had a breeze through all the presets on a sound package, no idea what it was called, and there's always bits you've heard in people's tracks.

C: It's great because it doesn't matter though if you can use them properly. Like Wiley, a ton of Wiley's beats were Fruity Loops presets, and he sculpted a completely original sound out of that. Just because they are presets doesn't mean you can't be original with it. Coki is on a whole different level though. You know when people talk about all this crap being "crazy" or "filthy" or whatever, Coki to me... There's this one tune called, erm, 'Marduk', I don't know if you heard it?

B: Yeah that was with 'Enter Dimensions' on the last DMZ plate wasn't it?

C: Yeah that's the one, that to me... It's not like a contrived "crazy", someone consciously trying to make a nutty tune, it's actually just like someone has genuinely lost their shit.

B: Yeah I love how absolutely ridiculous it is. Like a deranged child or something. It's possibly a bit arrogant but that's why I started writing about bass and that. I got fed up with reading things being described as "mental" or "sick" or whatever. There's far better terminology for it than that.

C: Even on the other end of the spectrum with words like "deep". What the fuck is that? Such a lazy description of a sound.

B: Exactly, there's much better ways to describes the atmospherics of a track than just keep rinsing out "deep". So much of it is so cinematic too.

C: I don't know if you heard it, that last.. I don't even know how you pronounce it, but it's Jamie from Vex'd...

B: Oh, Severant by Kuedo?

C: Yep, that's the one. That's cinematic for you.

B: I'm still spinning that now. That's like the sort of thing Vangelis would put out.

C: Isn't it?

B: That almost is a Vangelis record, just with 808's and ticking hi-hats. In the best possible way.

C: Yeah it's got like, juke influence, and these dense snare rushes in there.

B: That's really the only thing that made it contemporary really. Not in a bad way, none of the drum programming feels tacked on. Same with er... King Britt. He did that one for Hyperdub under the name Fhloston Paradigm with all analogue synths. It's like a seventies record or a Carpenter soundtrack.

C: I could see the 80's sci-fi vibe making a comeback a mile off. Almost wish I had done something with it... kinda lame way to think about it though.

B: Do you try and avoid trends then?

C: I'll do it if I want to, but I'm not doing it just because it might be popular. But I wouldn't not do for that same reason.

B: Jungle, that's another one that seems to be coming back. But it's all a bit foreign to me. Anything at about 170 plus I don't really understand... Unless I'm running about in my pants on drugs maybe it's all a bit much for me. But when the drums are syncopated that much I find I can't really get a vibe off it... It doesn't really help that the first jungle record I ever heard was that abysmal David Bowie record. Bad start.

C: Jesus yeah. With drums like that you can't really get into a groove. Some stuff is great though. Some of Cluekid's stuff, you can really hear the influence of it in his stuff and that works. More recently DJ Madd has done a couple bits. His last album, there's a couple 140 jungle type bits on there. I can see that coming back as well.

B: Zomby re-released 'Where Were You In 92?' as well this year.

C: There you go.

B: Yeah I really like Zomby but I thought that was a pile of shit. Like I said I don't really get it too much. Uncle Dugs on Rinse has brought me round to it a fair bit lately though. But I still prefer Zomby's other stuff, like I thought Dedication was beautiful.

C: Definitely. I've not heard his more recent ones.

B: Yeah he did that one that was just blank white sleeves.

C: That's the one, I haven't heard that. Dedication though, I was really into that. Just these one and a half minute sort of sketches really. There was that track 'Basquiat' that was like, just a fucking dirge, I like that tune.

B: Again that's an album that is coherent all the way through. Slugabed's new album, I think that has a really distinct style, different sounds throughout the LP, but they all sound like him.

C: I've heard of him, not heard the record though. It's kind of like electro meets hip-hop isn't it? Or am I way out with that?

B: Yeah it's got all that sound, it's on Ninjatune. It's got a lot of the wonky feel too, or whatever you want to call it... A bit like Rustie, that sort of bracket.

C: Best description I heard of Rustie's record was "it's like someone pelting Skittles at you". It's just so full on and colourful.

B: The new Hudson Mohawke stuff too. That's the sort of thing I really click with. I know I can't make it, and I have no idea how it's done, but I can hear all the pieces and how they all fit together with that stuff, it makes sense to me.

C: That's probably better though in my opinion, not making music. You get really jaded when you're making it you know? You're listening to it purely for what it is when you don't make music. But it depends how into it you are really. Sometimes I'll be listening to something, especially when it's more on a dubstep tip, and I'll be hearing it thinking "that's this, that's how he's done that" and it can sort of ruin it for you I guess. A lot of the time that stuff, technique and production style, can get in the way or influence how much I like something..

B: It's like when people get mad saying "oh you can't remix Burial, you can't remix DMZ!!!" but really if it's a good track it's a good track. It shouldn't matter where it started or where it went.

C: Exactly. I mean, in this case with those examples all the remixes are shit.

B: Yeah they are a pile of shit. That was a terrible comparison. I do wonder what makes some of these Youtube people think they can do better a lot of the time.

C: I don't know what they're thinking half the time. Some of them I think it is just a genuine enthusiasm for the original song.

B: Yeah it's certainly more admirable and genuine than all these pop tracks that have a wobbly bass line crowbarred into them. All these rappers hopping onboard too with a shit verse about how many watches they own.

C: I think that pisses me off more, all these rappers jumping onboard.

B: Yeah that last Sway track, with Flux Pavillion, 'Level Up' I thought that was fucking woeful. Sway is one of the UK's best emcees in my opinion but that was just a bit phoned in if you ask me.

C: Half the time as well I don't like rappers rapping on 140, it always sounds really stunted. It's more about the flow than the actual lyrics for me. That's why I rate DOOM so much. His delivery and flow is awesome to me. It's the delivery that sells it. A$AP Rocky is testament to that…

B: Wiz Khalifa too...

C: Yeah, I actually listen to them both quite a lot.. Clams Casino I think is absolutely amazing, that's why I like listening to Rocky.

B: Yeah that stuff is what sells it completely. The Weeknd actually is someone I'm surprised how much I rate.

C: I did not see him blowing up at all man. Not at all.

B: See his stuff has some strange dubstep feel to it. It's all very airy & spacious beats, a lot of atmosphere. I'm actually a little suspect about just how polished all his free mixtapes were. I wonder if that was all a bit pre-constructed. That had to have some money behind it.

C: Yeah that's what kind of confuses me man, all that crowd, like Drake and the Cash Money people, you hear beats on the records they're doing now and there's people like Jamie XX, and there was a Nicki Minaj bit, it was terrible, what was it? 'Stupid Hoe'? Had that dope Hype Williams beat, there's just a massive UK influence to it all. Even The Weeknd stuff, it sounded pretty UK to me. I can't believe that's popular music these days. It was Lurka that introduced me to his stuff. Then I heard he was working with Drake and I was just like "what the fuck?!". I think Drake's a blessing compared to some of the stuff that was floating around in the early 2000's, some criminally bad rap and R'n'B from that era. There's a lot of shit rappers about now, but they've all got such good producers.

B: Yeah Rick Ross is a bag of wank, but Lex Luger makes some absurdly ostentatious beats.

C: Rick Ross is a plonker man, but you can't fuck with Luger's beats. That's where the money is at, working with shit rappers!

Commodo's new collaboration with Lurka, 'Capisce? / Glue Sniff Riddim' is out now on Black Box. You can bag that HERE... It doesn't have a shit rapper on it.