TEXT & INTERVIEW Nicolò Michielin
One night, I was having dinner with some people in a Greek restaurant, drinking ouzo and white wine, and the girl sitting next to me asked me what I did for a living.

For my part, I tried to vaguely explain what the research project I was working on was about, and I told her that I had spent that afternoon reading a few pages of Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno.


“You have to read Mark Fisher,” she exclaimed.


“Who the hell is Mark Fisher?” I replied. Apparently everyone at the table knew this author, a philosopher whose death by suicide had given him the halo of sainthood and the lineage of generational legend, yet I had honestly never heard of him. All I could think of was another Fisher, Nick, a debt-ridden deadbeat who had been murdered in a deserted bus station and whose identity Slevin Kelevra had stolen in order to stage his own Kansas City Shuffle. The whole thing took on an almost mystical tone when, exactly one minute later, I received a message from my PhD advisor, a philosopher himself, which read verbatim: “Anyway, I think you should read Mark Fisher.” It was a chain of events worthy of Paul McGuigan’s movie, and one that led me to go to Laguna B’s early the next morning to borrow the Italian edition of Capitalist Realism, published by Nero Edizioni, because Francesco, a guy who was always present at dinner the night before and who worked there, had told me it was one of the titles in their library. When I got home, I immediately began to read it eagerly, and it was after a few lines of the preface that I learned of the existence of this Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, the CCRU, an entity whose intersection of academia and the underground completely fascinated me. Among the members of this group of PhD students and researchers from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Warwick was Kode9, born Steve Goodman, the link, the symbol of the marriage between rave culture and the philosophical sciences, a status that made him a poetic figure in my eyes.


It was the end of October when I was talking to a rather strange art history student, who looked like something out of a Vladimir Nabokov novel because of how young and beauti- ful she was, when she mentioned that Kode9 would be playing at a Biennale event in Venice the next day, so I resolved to try to talk to him. Our interview took place in a ramshackle bar near the Arsenale around four o’clock in the afternoon on a windy, sunny day, after Goodman’s sound check. I had prepared the questions during a ride on the vaporetto that would drop me off at San Zaccaria, a smelly, overcrowded boat where half a dozen stragglers sipped smiling cans of German beer and where I felt comfortable making a phone call.


I returned to the Biennale that evening to hear Kode9 play, but was thrown out just before his set began, so I went to drink in a hotel, from which I was also thrown out, complete with a call to the police. In short, not exactly what I would call my night, but certainly one less night to experience and one more to remember.

What is the origin and meaning of the name Kode9?

Well, nine is a very, very, very significant number. Nine is the mother of all numbers. It contains all the other numbers. 1+8, 2+7, 3+6, 4+5. So I have a thing about the number nine. I also have a thing about the letter K.

K for Ketamine?

No, no ketamine involved here. It’s many things, but one of them was from the writer Franz Kafka: In his novel The Trial, there is a character called Josef K. Also the idea of Kondratiev waves in history was an influence – they are also known as K-waves and are these rhythmic cycles in history.

You have a PhD in philosophy. What was your doctoral thesis about?

It was about information warfare, cyberwar. It was about violence in the postmodern age. So crime, terrorism, punishment and war, and the relationship between violence at the micro scale to violence on the global scale. And how computer technology is being used to simulate turbulence, to simulate catastrophe, outbreaks of violence, outbreaks of war, war gaming, prison riots, crime simulation and stuff like that.

You were part of the CCRU (Cybernetic Culture Research Unit), an underground re- search group started at the University of Warwick. Can you tell us something about that? What is your definition of it?

There’s a lot of mythology surrounding the group. Well, it was a bunch of researchers from quite different backgrounds working on their PhDs in philosophy. We were coming from all different kinds of disciplinary backgrounds, and we kind of converged on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari. We were interested in cyber-punk, cyber-feminism, Afro-futurism, Sino-futurism and electronic music, particularly jungle. In other words, perspectives that challenged the dominant models of Western thought. We were interested in technological tendencies and how they were forcing a transition of these models, and the alternative futures they made possible.

What’s the craziest thing that happened during those years? Or the thing that you think is most emblematic?

The CCRU was part of the philosophy department at Warwick University, but at a certain point, they got so pissed off with us that they told us we didn’t actually exist, even after we were operating for a couple of years. So, that turned out to be one of the best things that happened.

What themes were you dealing with?

One thing that we were interested in relation to cybernetics was feedback processes, specifically positive feedback processes. A thermostat is a good example of a negative feedback process, where the feedback produces a negative effect and controls the temperature in your room. A positive feedback process is where the feedback causes an acceleration in the process, an intensification where the process runs away with itself. We were interested in these kind of processes in different fields, e.g. music and art.

What’s the Numogram?

The Numogram is like an occult numerological system which is a mutation of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

If the CCRU existed today, what issues do you think it would address?

We were already dealing with AI in the nineties, so I think somehow we would be tangled up in these discussions. Apart from the late Mark Fisher, everyone who was in the CCRU is still active one way or another. For example, Maya B. Kronic runs Urbanomic. I run Hyperdub. Anna Greenspan teaches at NYU in Shanghai, Luciana Parisi is a professor at Duke University, Suzanne Livingstone recently curated an exhibition on AI at the Barbican in London. So we still exist today, but not as a collective in the same way as in the 90s. I think you can get some kind of sense of what we would be doing today by looking at what we are doing.

Do you think AI in the future could replace even the work of the designer? Would you find it a natural step in the evolutionary process or a process that should be stopped to preserve an anthropocentric status quo?

The anthropocentric status quo is disintegrating. I think the most interesting work will arise from some kind of collaboration between mutated humans and AI. Obviously, a lot of jobs will be replaced in the same way that robots replace humans in car factories. There is a lot of white collar work that humans do, which machines could probably do much better anyway. Whether humans do something more worthwhile with their time is another question and there is obviously a lot of anxiety and friction generated by these processes.

In your opinion, is there such a thing as unnatural? If you consider humans as part of nature, is everything that emanates from them to be considered natural? If not, why do you not consider man as part of nature?

Well, it depends if you’re a Spinozan. Because if you’re a Spinozan, everything is nature, so, for example, the artificial is nature, and so on. But the inverse also applies. If you understand essences to be always in some sense synthetic, then what does natural actually mean? So it depends if you are a Spinozan or not.

Can you give me an example of not being a Spinozan?

Think about the debates around gender. I would argue against gender being tied to the ‘natural.’ Behind the idea of non-binary gender is the sense that there is no natural essential gender to start from. So that’s one example of the denaturalizing processes which the CCRU was interested in. You can find also many examples in music. We were obviously very big supporters of synthetic music, in other words, not unnecessarily defensive about what technology is doing in music. The replacement of human labor in some fields is inevitable with the current mode of capitalist technological development. But the outcomes are also complicated and unpredictable.

Do you think it would be correct to create a place where we could live in the state of nature, free from a system of social belonging?

To be honest, I think that’s a male fantasy. In the history of philosophy, it seems like some kind of projection, of being free from interconnection and interdependence. I think this is a typically male idea of freedom, of liberation from any responsibility.

Your definition of love?

I think if I have to personify love or to embody love, it would just be a cat.

Would you define raves as an erotic collective experience?

Partially. But I don’t think the rave is just a surrogate for erotic experience. It’s an intense collective experience. And it can be an essential experience. But I’m not sure it has to be erotic. Maybe there are other ways of having a collective sensual experience that have nothing to do with sex at all, and maybe the idea of sex being the only model of a collective sensual experience isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s too Freudian. I think it’s partially erotic, but you can’t reduce it to being a surrogate for sexual experience, unless you want to broaden that out to sex with machines, of being fucked by machine music.

Which is the role of drugs in relation to this kind of experience?

An intensification of sensations, making sound tactile, making social connections, accelerating thought, overcoming embarrassment. It depends on the drug.

Are you in favor of the liberalization of soft drugs?


What are soft drugs for you?

Weed, ecstasy, acid, mushrooms. I don’t really care about ketamine, but probably ketamine as well. I honestly don’t care about cocaine.

In your opinion, is it right that states exist? Or would you prefer a world and humani- ty united under one “flag”?

I think nation states are a problem. But I’m not sure global unity is realistic or desirable.

A song that can’t be missed in your set?

It changes all time.

The craziest thing you’ve seen at one of your DJ sets?

I always answer this question talking about a beach festival in Pescara, where a dog shat on the empty dance floor – but you already know that. So, the second happened once I was playing a little Burial set in a club in New York, and there was a guy performing cunnilingus on his girlfriend on top of the subwoofer.

The strangest request they made of you at the console?

Play some dubstep.

What do you think about cloning? Would you get cloned if you had the chance?

Extending genetic replication could be the next step of female liberation from being tied to the reproductive function, and I think that’s a powerful idea. Obviously, it creates a lot of complications for the human race, but it’s part of nature.

What is the meaning of life for you as a human being?

Vaffanculo. [laughs]

Do you think Hegel was right to put music as art at a higher level, or do you think the figurative arts, especially at an emotional level, are on the same level?

I’m no fan of Hegel, but he’s probably right here.

What is the thing you love the most about Italy?

There are too many to list.