There are some bands you listen to and you think, “Well, it’s just more of the same, isn’t it?” The Intergalactic Republic of Kongo (I.R.O.K.) are emphatically not that kind of band. Here to make your mind melt and to make you “lose your shit”, they’re a nosebleed-inducing sonic dervish of Afro-punk-meets-Beastie-Boys electronica. We talk to frontman Mike Title ahead of this Saturday’s Halloween gig.
You used to be in Dead Kids – what made you want to start a new band?
The bands that mean something to me didn’t hang about.They made their impact, they served a purpose. Honesty has its own momentum. The kind of bands I love are gangs, they are volatile. You can’t go run shit like it’s a business.
In an ideal world, how would people react at an I.R.O.K’s gig?
In an ideal world people would atomically disperse and no longer exist in material form. They would become One energy vibrating as light. I will settle for you totally losing your shit.
How do the African influences come to play in your music?
Well I was in Africa when it struck me to make chaotic music based on the energy I was channeling out there. It’s not Vampire Weekend. It’s not plinky plonk guitars. It’s visceral, rhythmic and panicky. I.R.O.K. has expanded since then. We have travelled out there as a band to play and record and it feeds itself into the music. Like when you get that infinite feedback from a camera filming into a monitor.
Clash described your live gigs as “lairy as fuck”. Accurate description?
Well that was a gig where we had a running fight with the bouncers whowere trying to over control the crowd. We dont look for trouble but when we are playing, it’s our time. I have one of their leather gloves as a trophy. It’s all love though. I’m pretty certain we kissed and made up.
You’re originally from Morocco and you toured there recently. Does being North African influence your music at all?
I’m only half Moroccan by origin but it has always played a significant part in my life. Anyone making music will feed their
lives, breathe their lives into their music. I’ve always been around music and I’ve always been welcomed and made to feel part of a tribe. It all comes naturally.
What was the first record you bought as a kid, and how do you feel about it now?
Thriller by Michael Jackson. It was a bootleg with a photocopied inlay sleeve. He looked yellowy green. I’m a Prince fan though. Have to say that.
Was there a single record or single that made you want to be in a band?
I’m not sure but I remember when I was 9 or 10 and I saw an old black and white performance of The Doors late night on TV. It was live at the Roundhouse in Camden and Jim Morrison was electric, he was terrifying and out of control and it changed the energy in the room. It was urgent and I was transfixed many years after this event as if it was live, as if I was there. I was hooked.
Your found footage videos are incredible – who puts them together and how do they play into the I.R.O.K identity?
I put in lots of time making them with whoever can help me at the time. Til now there has been much found footage as that is the budget I am limited to. It’s not just found footage though. We’ve travelled to North Africa and got to shoot a load of favela dancers who were over for the Olympics recently for the new Earthy Girls videos
What would a country called the Intergalactic Republic of Kongo look like, anyway?
It already exists, but It’s less of a country and more a state of mind.
Words: Zing Tsjeng