Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds radio play and interviews

“I dub from inner to outer space. The sound I get out of Black Ark studio, I don’t really get it out of no other studio.
It was like a space craft. You could hear the space in the tracks.”

Lee Perry

Kevin Martin (The Bug, King Midas Sound) and Stuart Baker (Soul Jazz, 100% Dynamite, Sounds of the Universe) have compiled this ace double CD and quadruple vinyl set of electronic dancehall riddims. A bad-ass selection with some undoubted classics like Street Sweeper and Peanie Peanie alongside more outre examples of JA music at its eeriest. Also some more modern and UK produced fare like Kevin’s own Aktion Pak riddim.

I’ve had mixed feelings about the concept. On the one had I was championing the reggae/ragga afronaut connection a decade ago as part of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts and one of my first ever reggae DJ sets was at the Garage in Highbury during an AAA night as part of the 10 day Space 1999 festival. I even did an AAA presentation on dub as the basis for a new intergalactic architecture at a conference organised by Kodwo Eshun in Austria. More recently Wayne and Wax has produced an incredible critical survey of rasta imagery in science fiction in issue 4 of Woofah.

On the other hand, I’ve previously been forthright in my condemnation of people who only seem to like their dancehall with the sounds of black voices erased. I think, on reflection, this criticism is hugely unfair on the curators of the current comp (and indeed Basic Replay who I previously tore into) who have done more than most to promote reggae music in its ancient and modern forms over many many years. But I have always come across a few techno fans who seem to hate ragga vocals and that seems a bit… odd.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that a bass-driven sci-fi is a great alternate window to look at dancehall productions through, and this compilation seems like an excellent launchpad into that world, featuring a mad comic about aliens and bashment beats.

The comic was originally planned to be a radio play, but apparently time and budget didn’t allow this. But the street finds its uses for everything, as the old cyberpunk saying goes, so I was chuffed to hear that Dino Lalič and the Sensi Smile crew at Radio Student Ljubljana were going to remix the source material from the comp and its comic back into a radio play last weekend. I think they’ve done a terrific job – the accented narration adds to the spookiness and conjurs up cosmonauts of yesteryear to my ears. I love the blending of ragga with more Joe Meek-esque sixties futurism and dubwise material as well.

The Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds Radio Play was part of a whole evening’s entertainment on the station, which also included interviews with Stuart Baker, Paolo Parisi (the comic’s creator) and my good self. Mine was a live telephone interview, and listening to it again I am amused to find myself being an old fart talking about that yearning for the sonic future…

Much of the commentary is in Slovenian, so may not be decipherable to many of my readers, although the tunes are obviously universal – not to say outernational! Here are some time marks for you for the English language stuff:

1:23:00 Stuart Baker

1:51:30 Paolo Parisi

2:03:32 The Radio Play

3:08:22 John Eden

11 Comments

  1. JOHN says:

    Also I claimed in the interview that I edit Woofah, which isn’t strictly true. I edit bits of it, but Droid has been in charge since issue 4. Oops. I have written something like 15,000 words for issue 5 though :-)

  2. Who actually coined the word outernational? I know there was Lloyd Coxsone Outernational sounds late 70s/early 80s, but is there an earlier history to it? I remember when I first dabbled in the ultra-left (late 80s), Fabian used to not want to use the term internationalist in our publications, on the basis that it implied connections between fixed nation states, he always wanted to use the term outernational instead as it suggested escape from the nation state. Didn’t realize at the time that he was obviously taking this term from reggae, much as Paul Gilroy did.

  3. EKOLAD says:

    well as i’m sure you know john there’s plenty of techno fans who don’t like vocals full-stop, regardless of whether they’re ragga-based or not. regardless of how ‘pure’ people like their electronic music, i’d be wary of reading anything odd or sinister into it. its just a matter of personal taste, i reckon..

  4. JOHN says:

    Oops sorry, I’d forgotten I’d put comment moderation on, I will turn that back off.

    Outernational is another example of rastafarian’ critique of language I think, – i.e. understanding becomes overstanding, politics becomes politricks. So I would think it would be almost impossible to track down a definitive originator, but you could probably track back “Outernational” in lyrics etc. Fabian ahead of the curve (and willfully playful/frustrating) as usual!

    Ekolad – I’m not sure… I mean I agree that some techno people don’t like vocals and I guess that’s OK, but there doesn’t seem to be the same sort of objection to vocodered robot voices or orgasmic female voices. I’m sure I am making a mountain out of a molehill but I think just ascribing it to personal taste is a bit of a cop out. I’m sure it’s fine to say you don’t like the sounds of harpsichords, but it’s a bit different to say that you don’t like the sounds of black people’s voices… Again – nobody here or anyone involved with the compilations has actually said that, but I’ve had conversations with people who have. I don’t think they’re racist or anything but it’s something that makes me slightly wary.

    Obviously techno and bashment productions have “blackness” at their very core, so perhaps I’m simply overstating the importance of the human voice… :-)

  5. EKOLAD says:

    even so i think its too restricting to suggest that these people don’t like ‘black people’s voices’. i mean, someone could hate ragga-style vocals whilst loving Marvin Gaye or Chaka Kahn or whatever. Ragga vocals can be very much an acquired taste..some people maybe can’t understand the words…maybe some people find the words offensive – as you must be painfully aware john, some of the most offensive, bigoted lyrics ever committed to wax were by ragga vocalists.
    but maybe part of the answer lies in the quote from scratch that opens your post – some of us like to hear the ‘space in the tracks’ – and nothing quite devours space as thoroughly as the ragga mc in full flow ;-)

  6. ADMIN says:

    Yeah that’s interesting and I do take your point. I think what I’m essentially wary of is removing ragga music from its context, as I think that’s one of the most important things about it. But I can’t really say that and simultaneously argue for a science fiction approach to all this. Or maybe it’s ok to argue for ragga as a futuristic sci-fi music but to resist seeing it taken up as as part of the global sonic wallpaper of electronic dance music, I dunno.

    Like with your stuff – I think part of the reason I love your productions so much is that in my mind they are intertwined with your own musical history and my sonic map of Bristol, as well as the knowledge of your particular approach to things like the tools you use to make it. So it’s not just about the actual sounds coming out of the speakers.

    Either way it’s great to be able to have a reasonable discussion about it so thank you for that!

  7. MARTIN says:

    Oh, is that why comments mod was on? To roadblock Droid’s rage? Do you remember Kings X, btw? :)

    I don’t understand why people’d want vocal-less rhythms, to be honest. Actually, maybe I’m a heretic, but I’m sure all my ‘version’ sides are in mint condition, I find them a bit dull without the force of a personality or lyricist to play off – also why I’ll leave out entire tracks on one-rhythm albums if I don’t like the MC. To be brutally honest, who really needs another instrumental cut of ‘Sleng Teng’? If I’m not in the mood for it, I’ll put on some dub.

    I think Eko has a point – when Italo Disco became trendy a few years ago, so many of the reissue comps were instrumental cuts – seemed like the hip set wanted to take the DX-7 rhythms and airbrush out what they might have considered ‘naff’ vocals. A real pisser when you were buying a new comp on the strength of 2 tracks alone, expecting the vocals…there do seem to be a lot of electronics-only purists out there.

    Undoubtedly, some techno fans did hate ragga jungle (and garage/house) ‘cos they despised the vocals for not entirely music-related reasons, but I thought a lot of it was an attempt, on their part, to come across as overly serious, self-conciously filtering out stuff that could have impacted on how they perceived themselves (ie- I am a total electronics buff and I see the merits in the interplay of bass and auto filtered synth on that tune, but I don’t need somebody chatting about ‘counting the gun dem’ because I saw an article in the Independent taking the piss out of it and I might be perceived as an Alli G type, etc). Do you get me? Probably not, but I’ve just woken up…

    But then there’s also the fact that some serious roots heads in the ’90s despised ragga too…

  8. EKOLAD says:

    i can see the point about protecting ragga’s context as a vocal-led style, but the way i see, it was black jamaicans who gave us the the gift of dub and ‘space’ in the first place – it was they who first chose to erase the vocals themselves, and it was they who first offered the consumer a choice – listen to the vocals on the a-side, or the instrumental on the flip, whichever way your brain is wired. even if you prefer it without the vocals, your still listening on their terms. basically, i feel like i have tacit permission to listen without vocals if i so chose.

  9. JONR says:

    i’m not into vocal music as a rule – i just love instrumental electronic music and always have – but reggae is a different story and i generally don’t play the vocal-less sides of the handful of reggae records i own: they sound glaringly incomplete. i don’t think that’s the case on this compilation though, which i’m really enjoying, despite some bits sounding like Big Beat. the music is strong enough (and unique enough? i’m not in a position to answer that) to merit listening to on its own. plus, pretty much all music is improved when you add some sort of sci-fi ingredient, even after-the-fact.

  10. JSTEVEKANE says:

    I have often pondered on this subject perhaps it’s the punk attitude to alot of raga mc’s that people dislike , it’s so easy to hook up a mike and have a poor mc chat all over a djs set and ruin the music ( but everyone’s got to have space to learn their trade right?),the mcs have a wail of a time but ruin it for everyone else. recorded music by it’s nature tends to have high quality vocals ,punk vinyl and old rave live recordings being the obvious exceptions. Personally I love raga vocals I grew up in a very White culture in Bristol and when I was first “baptised by dub” in the jungle techno of a raga rave I found the raga influence very alien and exciting

  11. JOHN says:

    interesting stuff, everyone :-) I am now pondering whether the whole vocal-less music vs vocals thing is actually a rock vs pop issue – maybe rock/techno is more transcendental = drifting off, zoning out etc. Whereas pop is more about being forced into the now by hype and hooks = ragga jungle, as Martin has said.