Shipping to
United States
Words by Mr Dan Cairns. Photography by Mr Boo George
Styling by Mr Dan May

Audibly fizzing and crackling with ideas, Mr Kabaka flits from one idea to the next with the rapidity and impatience of a bird alighting on a field, pecking at one piece of ground before trying another, tastier patch. He has a lot of things - at least three music projects, plus the small matter of a new Soho gallery to open - on the go. Not surprisingly, his demeanour (wired) and wardrobe (multi-genre and seemingly flung together) - reflect this. The percussionist, DJ and gallery manager, who voices the character of Russel Hobbs, animated drummer in his friend Mr Damon Albarn's rolling Gorillaz circus, talks at scattergun speed and with the manic energy of an E-numbered child. Nineteen to the dozen he may be, but Mr Kabaka is an infectious evangelist. You cannot help but be swept up by his fervour.

"You shouldn't ever have a situation where a DJ looks like he's sending an email," he says. "Or where the projections are on a pre-record, so it wouldn't matter if the band were there or not." He's talking about Blakkspring, a new audiovisual club concept recently described as, "a crazy collision of music, light and projection...the drummer plays the images and his shadow modulates the projection. Avatars sing the songs. Keyboards make music from videos". Mr Kabaka set up Blakkspring with Mr Roland Hamilton, who


Shop the look

Mr Kabaka helped to set up the Gorillaz Sound System offshoot. He is scathing about the static, stand-still-and-watch experience offered by standard live gigs and club nights.

"I mean, I love Daft Punk, but it could be any two blokes with crash helmets on, miming to their own set. And if you want me to watch someone playing a guitar, just film it and send it to me in an email. It's mad that there still seems to be this mystical, God-like reverence for normal musical activity. We're too easily pleased and too quick to accept - we seem to have regressed, to a world where it's okay for Cheryl Cole to castigate someone for terrible singing, and then mime on the same programme."

As the above suggests, Mr Kabaka isn't one to hold back. Spend just five minutes on the receiving end of one of his verbal outpours and you can tell why Mr Albarn, pop's most restless and inquisitive polymath/auteur, would recognise in Mr Kabaka a kindred spirit. One open-ended answer finds him referencing Mr David Byrne, Prince, the choreographer Mr Merce Cunningham, the avant-garde composer Mr John Cage, The Simpsons, Kraftwerk, Banksy, Sir Paul McCartney, eurythmy, synaesthesia and, yep, even Mr Charlie Sheen. Phew, you want to say: slow down. But he can't. And that, of course, is why he gets things done.

In the immediate future, diary highlights include working with Mr Albarn and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea on a new album, and a trip to Africa for a further chapter in the story of the Mr Albarn-backed Africa Express. This latter project has especial resonance for Mr Kabaka, whose natural father is the famed Nigerian drummer of the same name. Mr Kabaka senior has played


Shop the look

over the years with the likes of Sir McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Mr Paul Simon. His son, who was brought up in a foster family in Somerset, says it's taken him until only recently to start making any sense of his heritage.

"I guess the Seventies were a weird time, and I wouldn't wish that sort of musician-parenting on any child. But when you're old enough to forgive people and deal with it, it can be very rewarding and enriching: there are some incredible people out there - the ones that survived." His father left Nigeria for Britain, and they lost contact for a lengthy period. "Arriving in a foreign country with just a drum and a dream is pretty cool. It meant I didn't have a close relationship with him, but it is what it is."

The other big task awaiting Mr Kabaka is the opening of his new London gallery. "I think we'll be in Soho. It's such an illuminating place: the idea of having a late-night gallery is great; you have a bit of supper, go and see a film, and then drop into a gallery. Paintings don't need a rest, they can be looked at any time. Let's keep the doors open."

He's been in and around the gallery scene for a while now, helping set up Mr Steve Lazarides' first, eponymous gallery (now renamed 'The Outsiders') on Soho's Greek Street in 2006. "Everything was going online at the time," he chuckles, "and sex shops in Soho were suddenly closing. So the digital porn revolution sort of gifted us our lease. For the first year or so, people would turn up looking for a bit of filth, get really embarrassed and walk out with some street art."

Ask Mr Kabaka if he has anything approaching an overall concept for Blakkspring, the new gallery, his music and visuals in general, and the switch is flicked again. "What I'm trying to do is create one giant painting," he says, pell-mell, "albeit using different dimensions. You should be able to walk into someone's brain, have a good look around, sit down for a bit." And those are just the first two sentences. It will require a certain degree of stamina, but keeping up with Mr Remi Kabaka sounds like it's going to be a whole lot of fun. You'll probably hear him before you see him. The fizzing and the crackling should give you a clue.


The four members of Gorillaz were born in 1998: (from left to right) 2D the lead vocalist, Noodle on guitar, Murdoc the bassist, and drummer Russel Hobbs, who Mr Kabaka voices
Gorillaz's live performances are as famous for their heart-racing spectacles as they are their on-stage collaborations - Mr Lou Reed, Mr Mick Jones of the Clash and De La Soul have all made cameo appearances
watch this sound
A clip from Mr Kabaka and Mr Roland Hamilton's Blakkspring show, played at the Spirit of Burgas Festival in Bulgaria last summer. It's an exciting new collision of music and visuals, where the animation is triggered by the instruments