DJ mag has tipped it: "2008 will be the year King Roc claims his crown". His collaboration with Secretsundaze Giles Smith, Two Armadillos, has had huge success with tracks on Buzzin' Fly, Dessous, Four:Twenty, and King Roc's own label, Mutual Society, was described by IDJ as "the best thing he'd ever done". In just the first quarter of 2008 he toured China, Australia, Asia and Brazil, released two EPs that spanned techno to trip-hop, and started the preparation for a new live show for festivals, to be launched in 2009.
But to reach that point, he had to almost throw it all away.
It was a case of radical reinvention. In late 2006, King Roc - otherwise known as Martin Dawson - had had it with the music-writing process. Despite first starting in music as part of a three piece breakbeat / techno band (which also included now-huge UK DJs Tom Neville and Nick Sentience), he felt he was now trapped in a restrictive framework of 4/4 dance. He'd left the band to become a successful house producer - releasing on Simple, BuggedOut!, Love Minus Zero, Playtime, even oldschool German electroclash label Beautycase, and remixing classics like New Order and Future Sound of London. But it wasn't enough. He wanted to move outside the 4/4 framework, to be free to experiment with style, and to leave behind the restrictions of a dance DJ's career.
The first step was to look for new inspiration. Dawson had worked at Phonica, the "last London record store still standing" - the place launched the career of Get Physical's Heidi and Simple's Will Saul, and which had single-handedly over several years turned London onto minimal, deep techno and all the new European styles. And through Phonica, Dawson met a new collaborator, Giles Smith, to form one of his new projects, Two Armadillos. With Smith having co-promoted and been resident DJ of ubercool London party Secretsundaze, the two wanted to create something deeper, lighter, and housier than the electronica of the time. Their first EP, "Tunnel of Light", on Steve Bug's Dessous label lead to more collaborations to be released on Buzzin' Fly ("Nostalgia"), Four:Twenty ("Butterfly Bee"), and Secretsundaze Records ("Warriors"), and the first bookings for what will be a regular touring show in the last half of 2008.
But at the same time, Dawson was also looking for something bigger than music - hence his new Mutual Society project. A collaboration with Australian visual artist Seb Godfrey / Drunkpark, the goal of this project is to ultimately release King Roc's debut album in early 2009. But in the short-term, it's a platform for experimenting with the intersection of music and visuals - on a new mutualsocietymusic.com website to be launched late May 08, and across a set of five collectable Mutual Society vinyl EPs, the third of which is due out on the day of website launch.
Dawson describes Mutual Society as a throwback to "the hippy albums of the 70s" - a "cross between Pink Floyd and Twin Peaks" in the way it reinterprets the old-school concept album in a modern context. EP1, Lunaris, was about "chance, coincidence and randomness" - the staggering part that coincidence plays in the life of the average person. Ranging from the solo piano of "the beginning" to the pure techno of "lunar people", it drew raves from Laurent Garnier, Chloe, Lee Burridge and Will Saul. Second EP Communique, meanwhile, was about patterns, mathematics, and interconnectedness and ran from breakbeat to ambient - and it was described by IDJ as "King Roc's strongest release ever - full of emotive wonder that stops you dead in your tracks".
The third EP? Equilibrium is out end May and is about rejecting the distractions of modern life to be "in the moment". Inspired by the snowboarding landscape of Chamonix, France, it includes what amounts to a deep-house symphony, the 11-minute epic, Flow Parts 1&2 - echoing DJ mag's description of the Mutual Society EPs as "dreamy ... elegant ... gorgeous ... bittersweet ... melancholy". And it all leads up to the debut album, Chapters, and the festival shows for next year - a return to live bands, live instruments and real interaction with an audience for Dawson, and an opportunity to entirely re-think the EPs so far. For the album, each EP track will be radically rewritten - ambient will become techno, trip-hop will become chillout, with only the original melodies to remain.
Chapters, Dawson says, is about the process, not the goal. From live to electronic and back to live again, from groups to solo to new collaborations. Start, change, return, change - the journey always as important as the destination...