I.R.O.K are an interesting group of musicians who are deeply engrained in heavy African rhythms, with a punk energy, rooted in inducing a state of euphoria within a trance. Taking in nomadic tours around Morocco across the mountain ranges and into the Sahara then back again to London.
The guys have a penchant for doing things in their own imaginable way. They have recently shared the stage with champions of rave The Prodigy and released a new album ‘The Intergalactic Republic Of Kongo’ Mike tells us about their Acid House smiley faces and “playing a bit of keyboards for a Babylonian princess in a previous life…”
You guys have a very interesting background tell us more about it?
Right now my background is Acid House smiley faces. We find that backgrounds are not so important to us. I ask you, is it important to have a back story? My parentage is North African and Eastern Europe, Wayne's is Jamaican, Kawson is born in Gambia, Jan born in Germany, Guy born in Yorkshire and Harry is an English man.
From where do you draw your influences?
Influences are immediate. They are also so deep rooted, they filter down from previous lives. In a previous life I played a bit of keyboards for a Babylonian princess. I am influenced as much by the things that I have listened to all my life like Prince, to the sound of sub-bass that whoomps by out of a passing car. Inspiration is very delicate and should not be over analysed.
There seems to be an unruly/raw energy to your performances (Not being rude in any sense)
Unruly or raw are not insults to me. They are my demeanour. Really that is how we are.
You’ve taken a different route than the usual touring bands there is almost a nomadic ethos to your touring, how has this worked for you?
Right now, I'm not sure new bands tour as much as they once did as promoters are struggling. Less people are going to gigs. I've been much more interested in encouraging us to go play in Morocco, far away places anyway rather than in small back water towns or wherever.
What does your live set up consist of?
Jan plays samples on a keyboard, an Evolution 49keys masterkeyboard with Logic Mainstage V2.2 on Mac and a Korg X5 Synthesizer where he uses a small 3 channel mixing desk with a Korg Kaoss pad. Harry plays a stripped down acoustic drum kit that he beefs up with D drum triggers, which is controlled by a brain in a box. Guy is on percussion he plays the conga, snare, wood blocks, cow bell and electronic triggers. He uses the Roland SPD-S Sample pad as well. Wayne plays bass on a Virus Synth and Kawson plays traditional Gambian percussion. As you see from what I described from our live set up we embrace the old and the new.
How did you go about recording the new album?
We recorded some of it in Guy's studio in East London. Some in Morocco we set up in a big house by the sea. I found a place with two large lounges. They were very ornate and being Moroccan lounges they were very comfortable.
We had a basic set up. Two Mac's some cables a couple of average microphones, Shure SM57 and SM58. We bought a load of wide buckets that were used for washing clothes that we used to drum on. We sampled that up and used the drum programs in Logic. We bought a shitty keyboard from the market and had a Midi keyboard with us that we used to play whatever we wanted from the banks of sounds that we created sampling whatever we heard out there. Pitched-down motorbikes, crowds cheering... anything! We did all of this between bouts of drinking dark gloopy tea and wandering around in the past.
You recently opened for The Prodigy what does this mean for you, especially considering that The Prodigy were part of the wave of acts that came from the Acid Parties/Rave days when the dance scene was no where near as corporate as it is now when it was more of a movement?
Nostalgia is cheap, especially when it is driven by fashionistas and stylists. Acid House and the rave scene was a golden time and that is not rose tinted. Authority was questioned and challenged. The Government was genuinely freaked out. The idea that people come together and 'Love' each other makes the authorities extremely violent. The Prodigy have maintained a lot of integrity no matter how massive they have got. They have never performed on a TV show for example.
What’s next for I.R.O.K.?
The album came out on Acid Bath Records in January. We’ve been promoting that and have just started writing new material. We’ve booked a couple shows in France and we are finalising plans to tour in Texas and Japan.
Any tips for future up and coming acts?
Be fucking awesome and for the sakes of people with ears and eyes, be original.