By Jim Schutze
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Late last summer, a pale, willowy young man walked into the vinyl section of a Denver-area record store. He seemed nervous. His glossy black hair fell like ink across his eyes, and he glanced around the relatively empty shop as if someone were about to run up and hit him. And immediately, the few people there did take notice: A couple in the corner near the punk aisle pointed furtively at him and whispered; a kid in the techno section did a double take; an indie-rock dude next to the gumball machine tried to play it cool, but you could tell he was freaking. Drinking all this in, the man squared his shoulders and slowly approached the counter. Looking down from his almost aerial vantage point, Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead then cleared his throat and inquired in a polite British accent, "Excuse me, but do you have any Kid 606?"
"Yeah, Radiohead tried to get me to do some stuff for them," confesses Oakland's Miguel Depedro--otherwise known as Kid 606. "But I didn't really have an interest. I think they're great at what they do, but I don't really listen to them. The musicians I'd rather work with are all crazy, weird dance-hall people. Radiohead's music is, like, already done. They're one of those bands that doesn't need remixes; they pretty much remix themselves."
Saying Kid 606 "does remixes" is like saying James Joyce wrote coloring books. Depedro handles his sampler with all the finesse of a Kool-Aid-amped kindergartner jabbing away at a Game Boy, gleefully mangling bits of techno, pop, hip-hop, hardcore punk, indie rock and whatever else sticks to his fingers. But his aptitude for appropriation is wielded with drill-bit accuracy, and he takes his cut-and-paste nihilism to an almost conceptual extreme. Besides doing chromosome damage to the grrrl punk of Bikini Kill, Erase Errata and X-Ray Spex, Depedro has dismantled the futuro-pop of the Buggles (calling the result "MP3 Killed the CD Star") and torn up the streetwise sounds of Jay-Z and N.W.A. Screw deconstructionism: His work is straight-up destruction.
"The reason I never fit in with any one scene is that I kind of listen to everything," Depedro explains. "I was listening to Clikatat Ikatowi at the same time I was listening to Seefeel and Aphex Twin and lots of crazy rave stuff and gabber and noise. If you really want to be a part of a specific scene, you have to close off so much. You have to put blinders on. I was just never willing to do that."
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Depedro moved to San Diego as a schoolboy. He spent the mid-'90s breathing in the city's rich atmosphere of underground rock. "I love that music, but San Diego was the worst scene," he says. "I hate to admit it, but it was the most fucking exclusive kind of punk culture." At the time, San Diego was dominated by bleak, seizure-inducing post-hardcore bands like Heroin, Antioch Arrow and Clikatat, as well as bigger, more accessible acts like Rocket From the Crypt and Three Mile Pilot. "I mean, all the Locust guys were nice, but their fans were, for the most part, rich white kids acting cool and trying to look like strung-out junkies," he explains. "I listened to all the same stuff those kids did--Joy Division and the Velvet Underground and the Swans--but I wasn't trying to do the same thing over and over again for the hundredth time. I was surrounded by all these redundant rock bands.
"People always ask me, 'How did you get into making electronic growing up in San Diego?' I got into it becauseI grew up in fucking San Diego," Depedro continues. "It's a conservative city, and people try to break out of that by being conservatively rebellious. Basically, everyone just wanted to update the formula, which in and of itself became a cliché. I just didn't want to have anything to do with the formula."
Simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by the scene around him, Depedro--still in junior high--began tinkering with keyboards and sequencers. "I was 14. I'd never played an instrument before, at all. I just went straight into electronic geekness," he says, laughing. "I was basically in the studio for two years before I ever played a show. It was just me, staying up all night on freakin' painkillers, sitting in front of my sampler trying to make noise. I would do these noise drones for hours. Of course, it was just crude, stupid fucking stuff, but that's how much I felt empowered by it, how much I got off on the sounds. If you've ever lived in an apartment complex where there's some dude who pulls out his guitar and listens to himself play for, like, six hours straight, that was pretty much the level I was at."
Depedro finally began doing live solo shows--with dubious results. "God, I've played some horrible stuff," he admits. "I remember doing a show with just tape loops of babies screaming. Then I went to community college and took this electronic-music course and totally blew up their P.A." After his baptism in early projects like Spacewürm and Ariel, he settled on the Kid 606 tag, moved to Oakland and started pumping out records; he's birthed more than three dozen CDs, LPs, 12-inch singles, seven-inches, remixes and compilations to date. His first full-length, Don't Sweat the Technics, dices the jittery beats of Aphex Twin and Mouse on Mars with sharp shards of treble and lacerating sarcasm. On later releases like the anthemic Down With the Scene and The Action Packed Mentalist Brings You the Fucking Jams, Depedro grinds the punky abrasiveness of Atari Teenage Riot against distorted samples of Top 40 fodder like the Bangles and Mary J. Blige. What's left is a spastic, wise-ass pastiche of styles: the infectiousness of pop, the manic syncopation of jungle, the abstraction of IDM and the brute, robotic fury of gabber.
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