IG Culture has been so called since his mid-1980s schooldays when he first got involved with music, chatting on the microphone on his local West London reggae sound systems. But very quickly he evolved from these roots to become one of the UK’s most prolific and innovative musicians of the last three decades.
In his band Dodge City Productions, he was a highly gifted rapper – comfortably using his own London accent while other UK MCs were still struggling to escape American influences – but an even better producer. And when, despite dropping one classic album in 1993, DCP didn’t break through as they’d hoped, it was this production which he developed, taking his already finessed beat-making style to new levels of complexity and dancefloor impact.
In doing this he was instrumental in the birth of one of the UK’s least known but most important underground scenes: broken beat, or “bruk” as its aficionados began to call it. Along with artists like Seiji, Kaidi Tatham, Daz-I-Kue, Alex Phountzi, Cliff Scott, Mark Force, Matt Lord and Mikey Stirton, IG brought together all the dancefloor influences common to British underground sounds like jungle and UK garage, but added immense sophistication derived from jazz, soul and Afrobeat.
Since the late 90s, under his own name or with aliases like New Sector Movements and Likwid Continual Space Motion, IG has been endlessly productive on the underground: very much a connoisseur’s favourite, but frequently highly accessible. He is considered by those who know perhaps the UK’s greatest exponent of an Afrofuturist aesthetic in the tradition of mavericks like Sun Ra, Lee “Scratch” Perry, George Clinton and Juan Atkins.
He is always keen to pass the knowledge on, though, latterly working with young producers and musicians like Henry Wu aka Kamaal Williams from the new London jazz generation in his Selectors Assemble project. And most recently he has made one of the albums of the year with this summer’s Earthbound as LCSM. Blurring a full jazz band with extraordinary electronic manipulation and dub spaciousness, it’s a long, sprawling space voyage of a record, but never lets up on the pleasure principle even as it’s exploring far corners of the cosmos.
We spoke to IG at home in London to find out more about what drives his productivity and keeps him so inspired after all this time.
Your beginnings in music were on reggae sound systems, right? Was that your main musical interest as a kid?
Where I'm coming from was always from a Jamaican perspective. The sound systems played 95 pent reggae and five per cent American music, I was rooted in reggae which was what most Jamaicans were listening to – but I listened and felt everything else as well.
Does that include music from outside the sound system context?
Well, you switched the radio on and took everything in just like everyone else – radio was just something we had on all the time. Now when we discovered pirate radio, that was when it got interesting...
And how about the hip hop scene? What was exciting to you about that and where did Dodge City Productions fit into it?
Dodge City was never really part of a hip hop scene really, it was more heavily influenced by the illegal warehouse scene at the time, which was a mix up of styles. We also had a load of Acid Jazz friends so our thing was immediately categorized as “jazz rap”, even though the band had a lot of influences. The first record we sampled Neville Brothers, Lynn Collins, The 9th Creation and Michael Wycoff. But there was good British rap back then – at the time I felt bands like Caveman, Brothers Like Outlaw, Hardnoise, and MC.D.
Watch Dodge City Productions live in 1993:
Did you follow what others of your contemporaries – like 4Hero, Rebel MC and Shut Up & Dance – were doing when they took the soundystem and hip hop elements but went off into rave?
Yeah we knew it. Like I said before, I switched the radio on and got into everything like pretty much everyone else, Shut Up & Dance stuff was getting day time play on KISS FM [the former pirate station which was granted an unprecedented legal license in 1989 just as rave was hitting] Artists like Deman Rockers [one half of The Ragga Twins], Peter Bouncer and Nicolette from the Shut Up & Dance label were the kind of tunes you would hear daily. And actually, the first album I recorded was at Rebel MCs studio!
Who were your main connections in the Acid Jazz scene?
I went to school with Femi Fem of the Young Disciples, we rolled together in a crew at school – then later we had the same management who we also went to school with. So there was always a music link from we were kids.
And how about such a distinct sound and tight knit scene as broken beat emerge out of all this?
The bruk thing just started with a conversation! It wasn't even a scene in the early days, it was a couple of friends and acquaintances talking and vibing – I knew some other the players from years before, it was friends and family really. Then the group grew and kept growing... originally everyone knew everyone pretty much, we started a party because there was nowhere where you could hear the stuff we were doing, but I guess the right energies came together at the right time because it became a bit of a movement. Within a few years we had our music heroes coming to our Co-Op club night.
Watch a 2008 documentary on Broken Beat:
A lot of people wrote broken beat off after the mid-00s, but it's clear now that the waves it sent through music were important... how did you feel about it being treated as no longer relevant?
You will always have the naysayers. But Bruk is something truly great, so I don't think it can be counted out or written off. That's why it remains strong today. Obviously, in the fickle music industry, things go in and out of style, but with the advent of the internet, the people govern what is hot and what is not... These days you can be a one-man music wave on outlets like Bandcamp: release what you want when you want and leave with the bag... Bruk music is a mainstay, though – it’s a classic genre, and because it wasn’t mainstream, to a younger generation its new music anyway.
Are you cool with being considered an “elder statesman” by that new generation, then?
That's the idea: to inspire people whatever the age, we don't discriminate – bruk music is for all!
From Dodge City to now you’ve merged beats with live musicians, is there a trick to making that work? Even early on you managed to make programmed beats sound "live" with very limited technology...
I was just trying to do sequenced versions of the stuff I was listening to at the time: a lot of George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Stanley Clark, and Airto Moireira. In my mind, if you want to be an elite level producer or beatmaker, you got to live it.
How does this new album and the LCSM project fit into your development as an artist?
This album is literally me getting back up to speed as a producer. It was like starting again. I was thinking I want to do a record that was deep but for dancers – and I'm very happy with how it came out, but I'm looking forward to the next project.
How do you feel about the British scene at the moment? The new generation of jazz musicians are making their presence felt through the pop and hip hop worlds, do you think better and deeper fusions will continue?
There are some good artists doing the rounds, I hope to hear some legendary music come from this uk jazz wave. As for deeper fusions... well its the same rules as before, you are going to have to dig to find the good stuff. I will definitely do my bit finding and releasing great artists on my Co-Op Presents label!
Cover Image: LCSM by Alex Coley
Writer | Joe Muggs
Joe Muggs is a writer, DJ and curator of many years standing, covering both mainstream and underground. His book 'Bass, Mids, Tops', covering decades of UK bass music, is out now via Strange Attractor / MIT Press, and you can subscribe to his newsletter at tinyletter.com/joemuggs