By Jeremy Hallock
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By Observer Staff
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Equally irreverent are Kid 606's song titles. "Chart Topping Radio Hit," the opening track of Down With the Scene, is an eight-second assault of amplified soda-can fizz, while "Luke Vibert Can Kiss My Indie-Punk Whiteboy Ass" takes a shot at the pretentious sophistication of Wagon Christ. Depedro even manages to invoke Public Enemy and Michael Jackson simultaneously, with the glitchy, funky cut "It'll Take Millions in Plastic Surgery to Make Me Black." And his new single, "The Illness," features an "extended dance mix" that is, of course, half as long as the original and utterly undanceable.
"I can dance to very few things," Depedro admits of his own skills on the floor. "I'll dance to dance-hall and booty bass. But it's really weird; I don't dance to techno, but I'll dance to really good, crazy, hard house kind of stuff. I also absolutely could not dance to Depeche Mode. Ever. I just couldn't bring myself to physically do it."
Depedro's reluctance to shake his rump to "Just Can't Get Enough" is funny, because he himself has done a full-on, legit remix of Depeche Mode; in 2001 he was asked to reshuffle "Dream On," a cut from the group's then-current album Exciter. "I was talking to Mute [Depeche Mode's label] about doing some stuff. I met their head guy, Daniel Miller, and he was really awesome," Depedro remembers. "They were like, 'We want you to do some remixes,' and I was like, "Yeah, sure, whatever.' And then they said, 'Well, the new Depeche Mode record's coming out.' I was just totally floored. I love Depeche Mode so much--they fucking kick ass."
It's this tension between highbrow calculation and pop-culture scavenging that is the true defining force of Kid 606's music. One of his recent albums, 2000's PS I Love You, was less cartoony and more ethereal than his previous work, but even it seemed locked in stasis between organic hooks and bit-mapped rhythm. Released on the eminent German electronic label Mille Plateaux, PS I Love You was as icy and numbing as a chloroform Slurpee. Still, if "The Illness" is any indication, Depedro's upcoming new album--slated for release on his primary label, Ipecac, the eclectic imprint run by Mike Patton of Fantômas--promises to pick up where Down With the Scene left off.
Amid all his label hopping, Depedro also heads his own modest yet prolific record company, Tigerbeat 6. "I used to think so much about where I fit in and where my friends who make music fit in," he says. "That's why I started a record label, to kind of give it all a home and wrap it up in something."
When not recording, touring or living the high life of an industry mogul, Depedro occasionally steps up to the decks at various Bay-area venues: "We have a club out here called Tribal that's really awesome," he says. "Sometimes I DJ with a laptop, but most of the time, I just grab a bunch of records and fuck shit up. I'll play anything from gabber to hip-hop to pop. It's something that I just do for fun; it doesn't mean anything. I don't want to be a career DJ. I have no interest in DJing just for the sake of it."
Indeed, the inner sleeve of Down With the Scene is scrawled with yet another appropriated motto, this time a variation on the Who: "I hope you die before you become a DJ."
"I just feel like electronic music has gone way too far up its own ass," Depedro explains. "It doesn't have enough of a pop aspect to it. And since I'm not a pop musician, per se, I have to beg, borrow and steal. I mean, I love experimental music, but sometimes you just want to make stuff that people like. Look at the '80s synth-pop stuff; it was so experimental, definitely more experimental than all the by-numbers indie rock that's coming out today. Pop could be absolute, freaky, weird noise if enough people liked it. Pop is just popularity--the more people like it, the more pop it is."
When it comes to cross-pollinating pop with experimental music, no band jumps to mind quicker than Radiohead. Despite his iconoclasm, isn't Depedro at least a little bit flattered that the members of one of the biggest, most respected bands in the world comb obscure record stores across the United States looking for Kid 606 discs?
"Flattered? No, not at all," Depedro says, almost with a note of disdain. Ironically, he's already done a Radiohead remix of sorts; the track "This Is Not My Statement" off of The Action Packed Mentalist is an a cappella piss-take of "Creep," riddled with static and digital flatulence. "I mean, I don't think that stuff matters. People like the guys in Radiohead have no jobs other than being musicians, so they can just buy a hundred records at a time and scan through them all day. And it's all just musical taste; I'm sure they listen to tons of shit music, too. I'd be more impressed to know that some weird kid who listens to Slipknot is into my music than freakin' Thom Yorke."