Here it is a chat with Dutch breakcore musician Jason Kohnen, better known as Bong-Ra, whose original crossover of breakbeat, d’n’b, jungle, gabber, metal, jazz, reaggae and ragga made him one of the most hip producers ever since his debut release “New Millenium Dreadz” back in 1998 (which also happens to be the first Dutch full-length D’n’B album ever released). Now he comes back to the stage with a brand new release, “Monolith”, where he whisks together eggs of metal, dubstep, hip hop and drum’n’bass all while dealing with apocalyptic themes and much more. A concrete meeting point between mythological prediction about mankind’s end and actual obscure reality, whose main explanation seems to be the everlasting conflict between man’s primary instincts of violence, treachery, greed and megalomania on one side and the powerful gift of knowledge, abstract thinking and the perception of emotion on the other. Bong-Ra‘s “Monolith” comes out on PRSPST Recordings.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Jason. How are you?
Bong-Ra: I’m fine thanks! Hope you are well too.
Chain D.L.K.: I can’t complain, thanks. A lot of years passed since “New Millenium Dreadz”, the first full length D’n’B album from Nederlands… then the Dutch scene astonishingly evolved and it’s really rampaging with plenty of very interesting stuff… I have two questions. One serious and one more than serious. The first: what’s your perception of the Dutch scene’s evolution?
Bong-Ra: It’s OK I guess. I mean we can be really proud of someone like NOISIA representing Holland. They have really set international standards when it comes to songs and production. We have PRSPCT Recordings representing the global hardcore D’n’B scene at its fullest, then artists like Black Sun Empire, DJ Hidden, Eye-D, Limewax (Ukraine / Netherlands). We also have a real healthy Breakcore scene (FFF, Deformer, etc) and jungle (Junglefever, Bong Selecta, etc), so all in all not bad for a small country.
Chain D.L.K.: The second question: as I’m experiencing some problems with my dreads, before I fill some trichologist’s wallet or bank account, what’s your secret to keep them so bushy and healthy? Have you stolen some miraculous lotion from Aaron Funk’s case?
Bong-Ra: Just drink a lot of beer… it does wonders against bald spots!
Chain D.L.K.: The so-called breakcore scene has always focused on social and political matters, but mainstream always tries to depict it as stuff coming from and addressed to people with a passion for acids… what the fuck?
Bong-Ra: That’s typical human stereotyping, people prefer to make a quick judgement instead of digging into certain material. It’s the same everywhere I guess. I think a lot of people find it hard to understand that this style of music is very paradoxical, whereas it’s really serious but also ridiculous, a juxtaposition which is hard to comprehend for the ‘mainstream’.
Chain D.L.K.: A propos of meaningful music, let’s talk about your great new album “Monolith”… It deals with the end of civilization as well as a huge number of topical matters… ok, world is on fire and everyone thinks we’re living a turning point for mankind, but how do you imagine the future? Do you fear the forthcoming present or the future more?
Bong-Ra: I have changing thoughts on this. We return to this paradox again and again. On the one hand I am an absolute ‘utopian’ humanist when it comes to (moral) ethics. I try and guide myself with the least possible human vices, which is hard sometimes, but I try nonetheless. On the other hand I am a ‘dystopian’ Nihilist, basically I couldn’t care less if mankind is eradicated off the face of the earth and nature can find her balance again… I try not to focus on this too much, it can drive me crazy sometimes.
Chain D.L.K.: Don’t you think apocalyptic subjects are becoming a sort of cliché?
Bong-Ra: No, it depends on the individual who is using the subject. I think the Apocalypse remains an intriguing subject. We all have some sadistic urge to get annihilated in a massive apocalypse or zombie attack or rapture. I haven’t pinpointed the reason of this sadistic human trait yet. But it’s fascinating nonetheless.
Chain D.L.K.: Why have you decided to split this album in two parts, Alpha and Omega? Should we consider the Alpha-half as a sort of preface and the Omega-half as its logical consequence?
Bong-Ra: I did this for two reasons. Firstly to split the style of the album, 4 tracks with Sole on vocals being more hip hop orientated and the second more ‘dancefloor’ orientated tracks. And secondly because Alpha/Omega is the beginning and the end which refers to the Apocalypse, the before and the aftermath.
Chain D.L.K.: What about the collaboration with Sole? What was your reaction after reading his lyrics?
Bong-Ra: His lyrics are great. They totally reflect my concept, and he is a fucking poet. It also made the album much more mature in sound. He absolutely killed it on these tracks!
Chain D.L.K.: “Dawn Of The Megalomaniacs”: what a visionary title! Well, are they the real leaders of the zombie hordes who are fatally infesting our beautiful planet? How can we recognize them? Do they wear some big corporation’s branded suite, very expensive designer suit or cotton merchandise with the imprint of some metal band?
Bong-Ra: They are right in front of us. It’s a system / machine in which we are stuck, and which needs a proper cleansing. It’s hard to work towards a change because the system is corrupt and rusted in its foundations. This is a minimal way for me to express my unhappiness towards this system I am a part of.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you met a Mayan recently? Is he/she gaining good money with this tale of the end of the world? Any rumour about forthcoming sexy calendars for 2013???
Bong-Ra: The only Mayan I know works at the local Mexican restaurant! I don’t believe in the Apocalyptic story behind the Mayan calendar. It’s great fantasy and it’s good for imagination. It’s just a cyclical event passing into a new era, solar or stellar. But even today human fear still holds on to simple superstition.
Chain D.L.K.: Any anticipation on a possible tour before the end of this world?
Bong-Ra: My whole life is a non stop tour!
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the strangest compliment you received or the strangest thing someone said after casually meeting them before or after a set?
Bong-Ra: Well, I actually prefer when people are critical about my sets, so that I have some grounds to really discuss my music with them. It’s always good to discuss issues where you can agree to differ on taste or styles. Yeah, I like a good solid discussion.
Chain D.L.K.: You were lucky enough to meet John Peel, who particularly appreciated your stuff… do you remember your very first words?
Bong-Ra: ……… (I was speechless!!)
Chain D.L.K.: If the darkness creeping upon us is (fed by mass corruption, unemployment, injustice, totalitarianism and anything that could even vaguely be caused by or be the effect of a crisis) is the monolith, where’s the switch?
Bong-Ra: Education and tolerance and the diminishment of the power of religion. That would be a good start.
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