DJ Vadim with Kela, Mr. Thing and Demolition Man at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), tonight (Thursday, September 13). $15 advance. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
Judging from the title of his most recent album, USSR: Life From The Other Side, you'd think DJ Vadim's primary concern would be making some noise in the former Soviet Republic. You'd be wrong. The Russian expat and experimental hiphop jock is more of a revolutionary on this side of the pond.
Though the record dropped in 1999, it's come to the attention of the U.S. government only recently, primarily due to the track Your Revolution, a collaboration with New York-based feminist spoken word artist Sarah Jones. This past June, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hit KBOO, a non-commercial stateside radio station, with a $7,000 fine for broadcasting Your Revolution, claiming the song contains "unmistakable, patently offensive sexual references."
The track in question is a brilliant hiphop manifesto in which Jones delivers a cool-as-ice dis to some of the more misogynistic brothas who seem to have confused empowerment and autonomy with the objectification of women and playa posturing.
"In the U.S. they have all of these laws to ensure freedom of speech," says Vadim on the phone from his home base in the UK. "And then so much music, like Marilyn Manson, with a negative, crap message gets out there, while Sarah's track, which has such a positive message, gets banned for being too explicit or offensive."
The upside of the controversy, he's quick to add, is that more people are picking up the record.
Since the disc's release, the Ninja Tune artist has been keeping busy -- touring, producing, working on an upcoming album (the first single, Till Sun's In Your Eyes, drops in November) and hosting an eight-part documentary series for BBC Radio. The series, titled Around The World In Eight Relays, takes Vadim on a journey to eight different countries, from Burkina Faso to the United States, where he collects sound samples to create a final "international" composition. In each location he interviews a musician skilled in an instrument indigenous to his or her homeland and records another layer for the finished piece.
The experience has had a lasting effect on his own musical process.
"I've been working more with live musicians, with people I met during the documentary and their friends from all over the world drummers from Africa, guitarists from Brazil, people who play flutes -- what are they called again? I always want to say 'florists,'" he laughs.
His gig at Lee's tonight combines Vadim's keyboard and sampladelic talents with the four-turntable skills of former World DMC champion Mr. Thing, beatboxer Killer Kela and Demolition Man, who adds some reggae to the mix. Variety is key to this DJ, who claims mad scratching skills will only get you so far.
"I hate it when you see the turntablist scratching and then you go away and get a drink and come back, like, 15 minutes later, and he's still doing exactly the same thing. I don't just want to make music for DJ wannabe boys in baseball caps and windbreakers."