Pop Montreal | Deep into the hip hop underground with BLUKE
BLUKE is a transatlantic underground hip hop super group featuring Luke Vibert and BluRum13. Together they create innovative music that defies easy categorization. In 2017 they released Smell The Urgency, following it up in 2019 with Sense The Urgency, For the uninitiated, let me introduce the creators :
Luke Vibert is a prolific music producer from Cornwall, UK. Since the late 1980s he has released hip hop, drum n bass, electro, techno and trip hop under his own name and under aliases such as Wagon Christ, Plug, Kerrier District and Amen Andrews. His music can be found on seminal labels like Ninja Tune, Warp Records, Mo’ Wax and Aphex Twin’s Rephlex Records.
Underground emcee BluRum13 hails from NYC and Baltimore and also lived in our fair city of Montreal. He has released four solo albums, performed over 1,000 shows, collaborated with Kid Koala, DJ Vadim, DJ Grandtheft, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Ken Boothe. He was a member of bands such as Bullfrog, One Self and True Ingredients. He has shared the stage with Maceo Parker, Herbie Hancock, Phish, KRS1, Public Enemy, De la Soul, Digable Planets, the Fugees, Prince Paul, Kool Herc, Jeru the Damaja, R.A. the Rugged Man & many more.
I sat down with them before their performance at Pop Montreal to chat about all things Bluke…
From what I understand you met at a concert at the CMJ FESTIVAL in NYC in the late 1990s? I was actually at that show with DJ Krush, Talvin Singh, Coldcut, Neotropic, etc… I remember at some point Blu Rum 13 suddenly appeared on stage rapping. I had primarily gone to CMJ to see Squarepusher but he didn’t show up to his gig the next night and I was devastated. So tell us a little about how met and how your collaboration came about?
I got on stage, Luke was to keep the music going in between acts and ran out of instrumentals and I jumped on to spice up the scene!
BLURUM you recorded vocals for seven BLUKE songs at my old studio in Montreal in the early 2000s. Why did it take 13 years to get the first album released?
I was recording the first BLUKE album and my first solo album on a label Vaguely Familiar with DJ VADIM and friends. But he chose to do Vaguely over the Bluke project. Ninja Tune liked some of the songs but didn’t pick up the project. So I went with what worked. Now almost 15 years later Smell the Urgency gets picked up by a small label called Bsides out of France and they did amazing job of releasing it on double vinyl with a 10 inch!
There are so many new music genres being created all the time. In the past few years, I have jumped full-on into Glitch Hop and Ghetto Funk and it’s blowing my mind. Reminds me of when drum n bass first hit, this new fresh sound that is so unique. What are some new musical trends in hip hop and electronic music that you guys are listening to these days? Can you propose some underground Artists and Labels the people should be made aware of?
To me, it was all hip hop. I like listening to obscure producers like Russ Liquid and Opiuo.
LUKE VIBERT :
On this current tour, I’ve been given two or three tapes. I haven’t had a cassette player in years. Sorry!
You both have so many collaborations under your belt with a diverse roster of badass artists. You have performed all over the planet. Can you share some anecdotes about what was your funniest disaster?
LUKE VIBERT :
I was actually there at Aphex Twin’s studio the day that bike courier turned up to collect the Lemonheads Remix. Aphex had no idea what project he was talking about and said “Oh yeah I’ll just go get it” and gave him a random unrelated track he was working on. Later the band asked him “We don’t hear our track, where is our track?” So he bullshitted them: “You hear that snare drum sound? Well, that’s your whole track in there all compressed!” and they were like “oh cool!!”. He would get away with murder and get paid thousands of pounds.
Luke with the explosion of technology and so many innovative tools for music producing and performing, can you tell the people what gear you like to use in the studio and for performing?
LUKE VIBERT :
I use the same laptop I use at home to make music. In the old days, I used to cut up my own samples with a full-on studio setup until I realized I could just use a MAC in 2001ish. I use Reason which I haven’t updated since 2007. Aphex Twin was so disappointed in me using Reason, he saw it as a kids’ toy and wanted me to use Pro Tools or Cubase but I prefer easy light programs.
These days I’ve been making a lot of jungle. I think it’s because I’ve been stressed and it’s a good release. I can’t do drum n bass though. I briefly tried in the late 90s to do some serious dance-y DnB type shit but something in me gets a bit spastic and I cut the beat up too much or do something stupid.
What do you think about digital production methods versus old school analogue?
It’s all about the compression. With digital everything is really crispy but it’s missing the real dirt. They can’t make that with plugins and algorithms.
Me, Aphex, Squarepusher and everyone we all started with analogue tape. But as we moved into digital something is missing. So we would record the drums digitally then transfer it back to tape to bring back that real sound, that dirt. Some of the stuff my kids listen to, man I can’t take it. The production and compression does my head in, especially in the high end.
How has the digital age and streaming affected your sales?
2004 with Kerrier District was the last project I did that sold a lot of physical copies. I fucking hate Spotify. I tell my kids all the time not to do Spotify. Half the time it’s the wrong mixes and versions. It’s all the same with digital shit, even the ones like Bleep, which is Warp’s digital store. The percentage you get it’s like “Really? Fuckin’ Hell!”. In the old days a decent record label would split it 50/50 after they recoup production costs.
Recording with BluRum13 I was amazed at how prepared you were for backing vocals. You had different characters and reactions mapped out. You are one of the most eloquent rappers in the game, You used to carry around a thesaurus with you everywhere you go. Do you ever have nightmares that one day you will run out of ten dollar words? What is your writing process or is it always evolving?
BLU RUM 13 :
hhahaha nightmares! I just write from two perspectives: to not repeat myself and to not copy anyone. So with that in mind you try new jargon sets, and delve into different imagery. To evolve and try to make my freestyle catch up to my writtens, and my writtens more tactful then my freestyle.
Bluke performs Wednesday, September 25th at the Pop Montreal Festival.
At La Vitrola, 4602 St.Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC
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