The Intergalactic Republic of Kongo are a London-based afro-punk experiment meshing haywire electronic sounds driven by Africa '70-influenced percussion, a Sex Pistols aesthetic and found-footage video/commentary on modern society. We chatted with Moroccan band leader Mike Title to delve into the, self-described, "violent psychotropic" work of I.R.O.K.
I.R.O.K sounds part-electronic experiment, part-British punk with about a million other themes in there. How would you describe the music? What are some of I.R.O.K's influences?
Prince made my face sting from hot tears when I saw him play for the first time last summer. It was like being in the presence of God. And Seun Kuti playing with his father's band at another festival made the place go wild but also connect. Everyone was smiling; It was a joy. I was lucky enough to speak with George Clinton recently and his take on simply 'existing,' let alone making music, blew my mind. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Crass. I have spent many lost nights raving in clubs, warehouses and fields to DJ's playing songs I will never know the names of. I could keep going on but you get the picture. It's about creating energy.
The found-footage visuals in your music videos are pretty striking. Do you see them as a direct furthering of I.R.O.K's sounds? The videos, like the music, feel like a global collage — visiting everything from boxing fights, English supermakets, to images of the Arab spring.
Yes, well as you can see we prophesised the Arab Spring, The English Summer of riots, the Wall Street Bumps and Google invading China with a terrifying battalion of modified attack-baboons. Oh no, that is yet to pass. Beware of false prophets.
What's the idea/theme behind the track and clip to "All My Children" (above)?
The idea that runs through 'All my Children' is that this is where the apocalyptic meets the mundane. How we can all of us be at once great but totally meaningless. There are threats and warnings that the oceans will be covered with water; that the discontent and murmurings from those cuddled for comfort in tunnels can manifest. That the security of our every day lives is an illusion. That there is real pain in being stuck in a supermarket queue or standing at a bar drinking your life down the drain. Imagine your superhuman power was that you could call upon every moth around you to attack your enemies. They would smother every pore of their skin. Block out their eyes, their nose and go down your throat.
Can you expand on the name The Intergalactic Republic of Kongo?
Imagine the future where the Space Race is being won by Africa. The Democratic Republic of Kongo has now become Intergalactic. Colonies on lunar landscapes, sex with aliens. Now stop imagining that and realise that other dimensions exist only millimeters from your subjective world. That shit you see from the corner of your eye is your potential. It your dreams. Its lucid, it's real ... you can make anything you want happen. Not just good stuff.
You're originally from Morocco, do you feel a North African identity plays part in I.R.O.K.'s work?
My mother was born in Casablanca, her family are Berber, Sephardim from the South. To be part of any ancient culture is a blessing, a source of comfort. To appreciate or be subsumed within anyone's culture is the same but to be part of it is magical right? Morocco is so magical because it's so paganistic. You get to live in the moment but in another time. Islam and Judaism have come about only a few hundred and a few thousand years ago. The Sun, the moon, the ocean. Thats what i'm talking about. The breeze caressing you just right. You can go deep to traditions and cultures that go back to the dawn of our consciousness. There is nothing like it. It's a purity that Modern corporations that sell us computers and stuff are dying to extinguish from our minds.
How does it feel playing an I.R.O.K. show in Morocco?
Well I dreamt up I.R.O.K. in Morocco so to go back and play there feels great. It's life affirming. From an idea that gives you goosebumps to something thats real and screaming at you. The kids went nuts last January man and that's why we are going back. We are only doing P.A's right now rather than a full band experience but, even so, it feels like tuning into something bigger than you. It's like receiving power from a mystical source. Playing shows by the ocean hearing your music bounce off the hills where your blood is from. What you think?
Anything else you'd like to add?
Well we will be coming to America in October so if you hear what i'm saying you should come lose your shit with us. It will be an adventure for the whole band, a real trip, so let's hang out and party but 'til then let's all have a fucking awesome summer.
All videos and .gifs from I.R.O.K.'s tumblr.