Whilst it might be nestled in the mouth of the river Avon, set amongst scenic views that rival any in the world, Bristol is a vibrant and dense a place. Just last week the population rebelled against police treatment of squatters and big chain supermarkets wading in to the city’s cultural quarter, Stokes Croft. As a port town Bristol was built on slavery, and as a result it’s always been something of a cultural mish mash stoked by many races and walks of life, a fact that has always been evident in music that has stemmed from the city – a lot of which has been documented on these pages in the past.
Peverelist’s Punch Drunk label is as good a tide mark as any when it comes to Bristolian music, the imprint is dedicated to bringing fresh music made by people with a BS postcode, so when it uncovered a 12” from a hitherto unknown producer, Kahn, last month a lot of expectant eyes were cast in his direction. ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Like We Used To’ displayed a degree of measure fusing heavy, penetrative bass with a rolling 3rd beat of the bar snare and the kind of careering top end synthesizers that Shortstuff and Hyetal harnessed on their collaborative Punch Drunk 12”.
As a member of the Sure Skank collective, alongside players like Gemmy, Superisk and newcomer Vessel, Kahn’s roots go a little deeper in to the history of Bristol club nights. With an upcoming date at fabric under the guise of the Pinch curated ‘Bristol All Stars’ on the 6th May and a slew of new productions we asked him to contribute the 80th mix in our ongoing series so we could get a better grasp on his background and on his dancefloor outlook.
SR: Can you give those who may not know you a bit of background info, who are you, what do you do?
Kahn: My name is Joseph McGann and I’m from Bristol. Music has been my life force since I was a child and I’ve been lucky enough to have a diverse musical upbringing. Most of my time is spent making music and performing. I chose the name Kahn because I like the word.
I’m always interested into how people got into the types of music they make. How did you get into dubstep/garage/whatever-the-fuck-this-is-house?
I write lots of different types of music, though the production side of things has taken over a lot more in the past couple of years. When I was growing up I played in bands and have always drawn a lot of influence from more traditional music.
I came into contact with sound-systems and dance music from a young age as my family were involved with festivals and also just from the music culture in Bristol. We’d always have my parent’s record collection on in the house and their passion for music exposed me to sounds from all over the world. Some of the biggest influences for me from that time are Jamaican music (particularly the heavier, more spiritual styles) and traditional Middle Eastern music.
As a teenager I was out in Bristol all the time, be it at gigs or club nights. Around that time dubstep was still relatively underground in Bristol. I have a clear memory of being out one night and hearing Pinch’s remix of Atki 2’s ‘Guilty Pleasures’ and something just switched on in my head. I began exploring that music and haven’t really looked back since.
You seem to straddle the divide between garage and dubstep and in a way the mix solidifies that. Where would you say your music sits?
Again, I write a lot of different music so I don’t know if my collective output really sits in any one particular genre. People seem to love throwing genre names at artists and their styles from the start, I try to keep people guessing a bit.
The tracks I’ve included in this particular mix are examples of some of my more ‘club orientated’ material that draws heavy influence from grime and Bristol bass music.
What’s your production set up like?
My set up is fairly basic, mostly software based and very portable.
Kahn – Like We Used To [Punch Drunk]
You’re part of the Sureskank collective too… Can you give us some background info on what it is? What you do etc?
Sureskank is a crew of producers, graphic artists and DJs from Bristol and was one of the earliest dubstep club nights in the city, having started nearly 5 years ago. Our residents include myself, Gemmy, Superisk, El Kid, Neek, Sparkerboi, Beavis and Tokin Man Dem. We’ve had many Bristol debuts from artists over the years and the ethos of the night has always been to promote Bristol music as well as up and coming artists.
At our events you can expect to hear roots reggae and bashment alongside grime and garage. Chris ‘Colouryum’ is one of the founding members and runs the website and all the design work for the crew and his work is well worth checking out. You can visit our website for more information: www.sureskank.com
You’ve released a 12” on Punch Drunk. How did you hook up with the Pev…?
I think the first time I met Tom was back in the day when I was still at school and would go record shopping at Rooted Records, which has now sadly closed down. I’ve followed Punch Drunk since those days and it was a personal honour to be invited to do a release on the label. Tom has always been a great supporter of Bristol artists and I have a deep respect for what he does.
Bristol’s cited consistently as a hotbed for bass music, and with Punch Drunk at the forefront it feels like there’s fresh blood coming through with releases from you and Andy Mac etc. What’s it like down there at the moment? Does it feel as fruitful?
Well, we just had a riot down here the other day! Bristol is a very exciting place at the moment, needless to say the music scene here has been internationally renowned for some time but there’s a particular amount of energy here at the moment I’ve found.
I’ve actually been living and working in South London since last year, though I’m moving back to Bristol in summer, and I’m constantly back and forth between cities. I think because of the size of the city and its sense of community, it’s a very fertile environment for artists of all types to work in.
Have you got any recommendations of producers to look out for that you’d care to share?
Artists from Bristol that I work with that some people may not know about but should check out include El Kid, Vessel, Zhou, J a b u, OH91… there’s loads. There’s a new generation of producers coming through at the moment who aren’t really pinning themselves down to any one particular genre but draw influence from many places and I think that’s exciting. Other than that, there’s my other projects Gorgon Sound (Steppas and dub reggae project alongside Neek) and Baba Yaga (alongside Vessel).
OH91 – Untitled (Kahn remix)
What other releases have you got coming up? I can see a bunch of remixes in the mix tracklist…
There’s a few things in the pipe line, though I’m keeping things on the down low for the time being until it’s all confirmed. I’m very much into dubplate culture and a lot of my material probably won’t see a release to be honest. You’ll just have to come and see me play out!
Tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve put together for us…
This is a short mix of some of the more dance-floor material I’m playing out at the moment, and I’ve tried to include some bits and pieces that people have not heard online yet. I’ve got another mix coming out on Electronic Explorations very soon which is very different to this one, so I’d like to think of them as examples of the contrasting styles I’m working in.
Finally, any words of wisdom?
Buy vinyl and bun fire ‘pon Rupert Murdoch…
DOWNLOAD: Kahn – Sonic Router Mix #80
1. Kahn – Azalea
2. Kahn feat. Naomi Jeremy – Close
3. Kahn – Polar
4. Peverelist – Bluez
5. Zhou – I Remain
6. Kahn – Tehran Uprising
7. Superisk – Find Your Way (Kahn Remix)
8. Kahn – Fierce
9. Kahn – Rorschach Riddim
10. M.I.K – Do It (Kahn Remix)
11. Maddslinky feat. Tawiah – Further Away (Kahn Remix)
12. Sorrow – Escapades of Kami and Dyna