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Get to know God Colony, the UK techno-inspired duo working with rappers

The Liverpudlian duo's debut mixtape 'Cult' is one of 2020's most unique records

  • Words: Sam Davies | Photo: Sarah Thorniley-Walker
  • 9 April 2020

Some time in the mid-2000s, a teenage James Rand wandered into a squat rave at The Kif in Liverpool, looking for somewhere he and his friends could smoke weed. Just down the road was Parr Street Studios, a legendary recording space used by Coldplay and The Smiths. “I had a really heavy night with some really weird people,” he remembers. “After listening to bands for years – guitar, bass and drums – I loved how I just couldn’t tell what it was I was hearing.” The next morning at a rehearsal session with his “really atrocious” band, he glanced around, thinking, “none of you guys are gonna get this.”

James soon ditched the guitars and started DJing, earning a residency at a local club. Through playing around Liverpool he met Thomas Gorton, a keyboard player and singer from a “slightly better band” that was getting a few gigs. Tom recalls falling asleep in the car as his dad played Joy Division and New Order records. By now he was also into Dr Dre, Aphex Twin, and – “embarrassingly” – psy-trance raves.

Read this next: The best Aphex Twin DJ mixes

“We loved going out, we loved the dark and loud,” says James. “But the afters was where we’d sit and play each other music. We’d listen to the ‘Immer’ mixes by Michael Mayer, which was a huge influence on us early on.” Inspired, they began making tunes in James’s kitchen. Around 2015, having moved to London, they went to a Perc Trax night at Corsica Studios. “I remember how scary it was, how much more broken and fucked up,” says James. “We went from wanting to make melodic, European-tinged things to being like ‘no, actually, UK techno is it.’”

Tom was writing for a style mag which had recently published a piece on emerging Massachusetts MC Stash Marina. She became God Colony’s first collab. “I got really into making beats and me and Stash going back and forth on email talking about what the lyrics could be,” says Tom. “It’s weird having this creative relationship with somebody on the other side of the world who I’ve never met.”

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Having taught himself to play on a piano he inherited from his great-grandma aged 14, Tom often writes the chords in God Colony tracks. “We both write melodies and beats,” says James, whose day job is mixing for other artists – including the new Beatrice Dillon and Sega Bodega albums. “I can be a bit ‘microscope’ in my approach, whereas Tom’s new ideas have lots of great anarchy.”

In the last three years they’ve worked with Kojey Radical, Gaika, Bbymutha and Jelani Blackman. Debut mixtape ‘Cult’ is next: more relative unknowns feature (alongside Mykki Blanco), including Ib Kamara, a former gospel singer whose vocal was recorded as a voice note, and AZADI.mp3, who raps about club creeps and sticky Rizlas. Catchy, disorienting and claustrophobic, it’s unlike anything else you’ll hear this year.

Cult’ by God Colony is out this Spring

Sam Davies is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter

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