I recently spoke with guitarist and vocalist Richard Todd of Beijing-based RandomK(e) about their coming gigs and blowing our minds some weekend. I mean, it’s not just the music, man. It’s the whole vibe behind it. The band started as a collective six years ago and, in hearing Todd talk about it, I felt transported back further, to a time when the word ‘collective’ resonated with sexual & musical intergalactic collaboration. You might have a similar experience when you listen to the free form soundscapes of RandomK(e), sprinkled with lyrics, subtle undertones and unexpected twists.
Todd, 46, has a whiskey-torn voice and mischievous eyes. He talks quickly and passionately, making references to bands and figures across genres and decades, but always arriving back at now. He and the other members RandomK(e)—bassist Adam Pillsbury, double bassist/electronics Jackson Garland and drummer Jon Campbell—are long time residents of Beijing and have long been on the music scene there, developing their unique sound underground. If it has to do with good music in Beijing, you can bet that RandomK(e) is somehow a part of it.
“We share,” Todd says. “We’re trying to reach out, trying to share that region just beyond what you’d normally expect.”
The RandomK(e) sound has been described in numerous and far out ways, but I’ll give my take: they sound like Tortoise on a mellow acid trip, though they’re not always mellow and not always on acid. So it is hard to pin them down.
“The idea that there is only one way to do things turns me off. You can’t exclude anything. You take what works and you make it work. If you end up with a pop song or if you end with a drone for a minute, whatever works.”
“I like the word organic. It’s very much the way we write our songs. “
The all-embracing openness of RandomK(e), with its humble roots in collective jam sessions, adds to the awesomeness of this band. The band is a connector, linking genres and concepts in an intricate web of wavelengths. They take what Todd calls a “post-modern approach” to music. I take him to mean that they don’t play by anyone’s rules except their own.
As I speak to Todd, I make notes on the references and deference that he gives to a host of influences and idols ranging from The Sex Pistols to Elvis Costello. It’s obvious that to him music is more than just a hobby.
“Where ever we go, I think that we’ll make music,” Todd says. “We like what we do and we like what other people do.”
RandomK(e) released their first album “Waiting” on Tag Team Records in 2009 and Todd admits that they have a new album—potentially a double—in the works, although it seems that it might not be in the studio until early fall.
“The first album was made because we wanted to make a time capsule of what we had done over those first years together,” Todd tells me. “We were just recording a time capsule of sorts and Tag Team wanted to release it.”
“Now, we’ve been recording in rehearsal sessions and we’re in talks with Tag Team about the next album. What form it will take, when it will come out. We have enough material for a double album. Loads of material. Mainly, we want to do it right. The new album is different in about every dimension from our first. More thematic, more conceptual, more about groove atmosphere, narrative atmosphere. And,” Todd smiles. “Much longer songs.”
As a special treat for Layabozi RandomK(e) shared with us two exclusive unreleased-until-now songs for your delight.
The first one, “Mellow”, as Jon Campbell explained, was recorded with nice equipment in a not-so-nice practice studio by Martin Rawlins.
[gplayer href=”http://www.layabozi.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Mellow-Sky-Sessions.mp3″ ] RandomK(e) “Mellow” [/gplayer]
About the second one ” XII”, Campbell said, “It belongs to Scunthorpe, a collection of random bits and bobs of recordings that we are slowly giving the world glimpses of, digitally speaking. If that makes any sense.”
[gplayer href=”http://www.layabozi.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/12-XII.mp3″ ] RandomK(e) “XII” [/gplayer]