Bido Lito! Feature
WRITTEN BY JOSH RAY – JULY 2014
The classic tale of redemption is as old as man, but sometimes there’s a particular story that stands out from the rest. Bubbling away below the radar, Paul ‘Kermit’ Leveridge’s triumphant return from the brink is as inspiring as they come, and thanks to SUPER WEIRD SUBSTANCE, the brand new multimedia label of DJ Greg Wilson, this is a story that is far from reaching its denouement. Having worked with Kermit since the embryonic stages of Manchester’s hedonistic boom – putting the b-boy electro of Broken Glass down on record in 1984, and producing two critically-acclaimed albums with the idiosyncratic, socially-informed Ruthless Rap Assassins in the early nineties – Wilson was always going to be involved in the contagious character’s return.
Eager to find out more about the journey at the heart of Super Weird Substance’s creation, I sought out Greg Wilson in the sleepy surroundings of his hometown in New Brighton, and found a man who was eager to pick up the threads of this remarkable story. With the restrained confidence of a man on the verge of seeing through some unfinished business, Wilson recalls a conversation he had with Paul in one of the Rap Assassins’ last recording sessions. “It was a bleak time; Manchester was no longer Madchester it was Gunchester. [Kermit] was also sinking into a heroin addiction. I knew that but he wasn’t admitting it. So it was a bit of an unreal situation, but in this moment there was a real clarity and we were talking about the future and we were talking about this comic book album.”
Perhaps predictably, the album never came into fruition and Kermit formed Black Grape with Shaun Ryder instead. “It was basically two junkies sat on a couch writing eyeball to eyeball but they managed to come out with this magic,” explains Wilson. “It was during [this time] that he poisoned his blood system injecting with a dirty needle and contracted septicaemia and was basically at death’s door for a period.”
After some major surgery as a result of the infection, Kermit needed time to regroup but took inspiration from the introspective period. “He’s like a man possessed in terms of his writing,” asserts Wilson. “This is somebody who’s understood from his own dark moments that this is it, this is his chance now. If this goes, it’s gone.”
When Kermit brought his Blind Arcade project to Wilson about twelve months ago, it soon became clear that he had unknowingly adopted the comic book idea they once spoke of. Blind Arcade Meets Super Weird Substance In The Morphogenetic Field – a mixtape of demos blended together by Wilson, who has also peppered in a few edits, samples and effects – is the result of that. “In some tracks he can sound like this wise old soul who’s seen it all, and in another he’s like this love-struck little teenager,” Wilson notes. “All these little characters – some of them just a word here and there – it’s like this cast of characters.”
However, to get to that stage Kermit needed a cathartic release from his darker days. Launching his newly-founded Super Weird Substance label at a sixties-inspired “happening” at Manchester’s Dry Bar on Record Store Day, Wilson facilitated this catharsis through the release of Kermit’s poem Lies & Other Fools. “The idea of doing a poem as a 7” single was stupid really, it was like commercial suicide but we didn’t do it for that reason,” explains Wilson. “It was a symbolic thing to draw a line behind the past. The poem is about his heroin addiction, and is read by Howard Marks who’s a friend of Kermit’s, and with that deep Welsh voice [he] gives it gravitas.”
Adopting a psychedelic aesthetic and Balearic sound, the flagship mixtape harks back to past summers of love, and the fact that the second summer of love happened in Kermit’s hometown isn’t lost on Wilson. “These connections and synchronicities have been there throughout this project, we’re very aware of the symbolism of what we’re trying to do.” Given the fact that the graphic novel Watchmen made a huge impact on Kermit during his Rap Assassins days, the Super Weird Substance name – derived from a quantum physics theory championed by Alan Moore, which argues that “information is a super weird substance [that] underlies everything in the universe” – furthers these synchronicities.
Though it’s clear to see that Blind Arcade have one foot in the past, they most certainly aren’t rooted there. With the dextrous robo funk bassmaker Luke ‘Evermean’ EVM128 working alongside Kermit on production, Blind Arcade have their sights firmly set on the future, moving from warped versions of retrospective sounds to edgy electronica, animated by the incredible vocal work of BB James and telepathic Merseyside twins Katherine and Carmel Reynolds.
Although they move through a mind-boggling amount of musical territory over the mixtape there’s never any pretence in Blind Arcade’s work; what they’re making is above all else pop music – perhaps even a new wave of pop music. “What they’ve got on the surface is really accessible, fun, vibey, uplifting music,” explains Wilson. “But repeated plays will unveil layers of depth to it and you realise then that there’s a lot of life been lived in this. It’s a life thing, it’s about the world we live in now, it’s reflective of where we are.”
Wilson is pensive in his stewardship of Super Weird Substance’s flagship project, allowing the mixtape to pick up momentum naturally. “That organic thing of spreading around the summer is really important,” he explains, “because those people that it connects with will hopefully be firm supporters of what you’re doing for a few years down the line because they feel that affinity [with it] and they become almost evangelical, spreading the word on your behalf.”
Aside from a couple of festival appearances, Blind Arcade will stay quiet for most of the summer, letting the mixtape seep into the public consciousness gradually, paving the way for a tour in autumn. Super Weird Substance will also for the most part remain quiet. With a possible EP release for Kermit’s deeper, dubbier project with Ollie Miles (The Footprint), and maybe something with the Reynolds sisters, the label won’t be looking to add to the roster just yet. “It’s kind of set up in a friends and family type way at the minute. We’re not looking to go find anyone at this second,” Wilson adds.
This slow but steady approach will almost certainly pay dividends as the movement really picks up steam, so get on board with Blind Arcade and Super Weird Substance now otherwise you’ll kick yourselves when they take off.
ARTWORK BY MOOK LOXLEY