When Miguel Depedro first began releasing material as Kid 606, reactions to his efforts were split into two camps. On one side were those who saw his music as impenetrable noise—he was just a punk kid who, with middle finger raised, was taking a jackhammer to the foundations of electronic music and laughing all the way. His defenders, however, enthusiastically embraced the newcomer’s mutated sound. Beneath the layers of noise, distortion and eight-bit grime, they said, were complex textures and sequences revealing one of the boldest new voices in the genre. The listener just had to be brave enough to dig.
With each subsequent release—including his latest, Resilience—Depedro’s music has continued to push the envelope both conceptually and sonically. The head-bludgeoning qualities of his earlier material have given way to more subtle compositions, and the musician so many had attempted to dismiss has slowly started to be taken seriously as an unpredictable and unconventional entry to the genre.
“It’s really fun to ask the question, ‘what started dance music?’” says Depedro in a recent phone interview. “Was it rock and roll? Was it disco? Or was it Kraftwerk? When you admit that it’s everything and mix it all in, you get more excitement and punkiness than you get pretension.”
With Resilience, which Depedro is currently promoting with his Paws Across America tour, including a stop in Missoula, that trademark mix is on full display. Breaking away from the sample-heavy, chopped-up style of his earlier releases, it’s a highly accessible, structured album flavored by analogue synthesizers and minimalist beats.
“I went crazy on synths in there,” Depedro admits, “and it’s funny how long I’ve been able to repress that in the shape of full-on sampled music, but I just love the things.”
In accord with this recent focus on analogue sounds, Depedro promises that his Missoula show will be a multi-instrument extravaganza.
“I have a 303 and a 606 (an old-school bassline generator and drum machine, respectively) and lots of effects, and I have some external instruments that I’m mixing in, so it’s like a cross between DJing and playing live, tweaking out old songs and new songs,” he says. “For me, it’s the funnest thing I’ve ever done live.”
Born in Venezuela, Depedro later moved to San Diego, Calif., where he began exploring the local music scene. Surrounded by punk bands and hardcore, he found his electronic and noise tastes far from the norm. After eventually networking with similar-minded artists and purchasing his own equipment, Depedro realized he had stumbled upon an easily distributable niche.
“I could record the music and get it ready for release while making it. It’s the quickest way to get it out there,” he says. “I wanted to make music that was really immediate and quick to get to the whole world instead of, you know, trying to be in a band, getting signed to a label, finding shows. Then I got a computer and it all came together.”
His first releases as Kid 606 were on a punk/noise label called Vinyl Communications. The arrangement worked well initially—“Back then it was a common sense thing to do,” he says. “I was so young at the time; I was, like, 18”—but ultimately Depedro wanted to start his own label. He created tigerbeat6 records in the late 1990s, and the label’s success followed Depedro’s by dismissing just about every convention in the genre.
Whereas most electronic music at the time was comprised of intellectual abstraction and postmodern posturing, tigerbeat6 provided a sweaty, fist-pumping alternative. Among the label’s unconventional attributes were a willingness to embrace the previously off-limit sounds of commercial pop and a pervasive sense of humor. Signature mainstream mashups and bootylicious basslines became a staple, and bands like Numbers and Stars as Eyes were provided a platform from which to seek a national audience. Ultimately, says Depedro, originality and uniqueness are the most important attributes when tigerbeat6 considers signing an act.
“The goal is to find stuff that most people don’t understand or wouldn’t get, but that I think has value that other people will see after it’s released,” he explains. “There’s so much music out there that until it’s out on a record label, people just won’t take seriously. That’s why it’s so important to give it that stamp of approval.”
Kid 606 plays the Elk’s Lodge Wednesday, Aug. 10, at 9 PM. Eats Tapes and Knife Hand Chop open. $7.