Travelling through the universe of Afrikan Sciences… the musical magic of Eric Douglas Porter
One of the most expansive musical torch bearers of modern experimental Techno and Jazz, under his ‘Afrikan Sciences’ alias, multi-instrumentalist Eric Douglas Porter has carved out an unrivalled space for himself in the realms musical consciousness over the last 14+ years.
Thanks to a carefully tailored catalogue of releases courtesy of Aybee’s ‘Deepblak’ imprint alongside music on Pan and an album project for Firecracker, Porter’s penchant for the strange and outer-worldly brew of vibes has reached far and wide. His talent firmly lies in transcending the sensibilities of Hip Hop, Jazz, Electro and Funk into a heady sonic mesh that lays somewhere between the experimental shades of House, Techno and Bass.
Whilst some may say his music is a sound for the acquired taste, it is by no means exclusive. His live performances have continually resonated with audiences across the globe, leaving listeners enthralled, hypnotised and enriched as Porter triumphs over analogue machinery. Aptly titled the Rhythm Czar, he has steadily carved himself a well earned reputation.
Once described as the love child of Afrika Bambaataa and science-fiction writer Octavia Butler, the grand Sun of Ra: Porter likes to craft a marriage between various forms of music and sci-fi with an emphasis on freedom in tempos and meter. A self taught multi-instrumentalist, he likes to challenge the canon and the limitations of musical expression through complex yet mind opening rhythmical and sonic formations. There’s no denying that when you listen to Afrikan Sciences, you’re entering a universe in itself, full of intrigue and inspiration.
Following his impressive 2020 release “Have It Tall” on Love Finger’s ESP Institute, we felt it high time to connect and delve a little deeper into his world.
Tell us a bit about your background… what sort of things were you into as a kid?
“I was Born in Brooklyn in the 70s and was into all things music related, comic books and science fiction, so to shout some of my early heroes: I would mention Stevie Wonder, Spider Man, Mr Spock, Captain Kirk, The Beatles. At a young age I moved away from New York to the South, to a small town in Alabama. This would have an effect on my creativity in unexpected ways, as I would find ways to spend my time with not much to do.”
What was your first experience of music that really touched you?
“Listening to my father’s record collection, vibing off the artwork and music, case in point Sgt Peppers Lonely Heartclub Band: that was a real trip to me – the way the songs weaved together and the cover telling a story in itself.”
How did it inspire you?
“It solidified my interest in art making and storytelling through music, and taking bold steps in presenting something new.”
What was the first instrument you learned to play?
“Keys were the first thing I got my hands on, specifically the Casio SK1 sampler followed by a more substantial keyboard, which I got a few lessons on theory. But, I was still young and interested in dj’ing, mixing, cutting and scratching, which I went all in on at around the age of 11. The first instrument I wholeheartedly studied I would say is the bass.”
At what point did you get into electronic music and which artists caught your ears and imagination back then?
“I’d say a shift started happening in the mid 90s as I started to get bored with the direction hip hop was going in, my attention was being led towards the Jungle and Drum and Bass scene, downtempo acts such as Massive Attack, Bjork, Tricky, Portishead, NeoTropic and so on.”
You’ve had quite a longstanding connection with Aybee and his Deepblak imprint, where did your path cross with Armon?
“Our connection was established after I’d moved to California to set up on the West Coast. Like minds attract and I actually found this guy on the 4Hero message boards that was on a similar vibe, and located in the city in which I was a recent transplant.”
How did you get the nickname “Rhythm Czar”?
“Dealing with the drum talk, in the Deepblak camp each one of us specialized in a different aspect of the music, and tricky rhythms were my specialty.”
In terms of your research into the science of beat making: what’s been your biggest discovery ?
“All time is on time…”
What made you decide to move back to New York?
“After a decade in Oakland, it was time to get back to my roots. Well, by this point Aybee had relocated to Berlin and I began to travel more and more with extended periods in Europe. Being on the East Coast made more sense.”
Has it shaped your creative outlook since?
“Honestly it was more a change of scenery, I still pull from within when creating.”
When it comes to making music, you seem to favour writing albums over EPs: is this a conscious choice or more down to how you approach writing music?
“I think it more or less deals with approach and the sheer amount of songs in my arsenal and for the fact of wanting to always showcase a bit of variety in each release.”
Do you have a go to piece of equipment you like to bug out with?
Which of your projects are you the most proud of?
“All are special and hold a special place. Like my first full length on Deepblak, ‘Means and Ways’ and the follow up ‘Theta Wave Brain Sync’, the Pan release ‘Circuitous’ was probably the most well known out of the lot, and that was a beautiful presentation.”
All in all, how have you been coping with the Pandemic?
“Well the gigs have withered away but I’ve focused more than ever on improving my musicianship, playing bass and songwriting. It would be nice to travel and perform again though. I miss that.”
You recently released a 12″ for Lovefingers’ ESP Institute, how did you go about building the end into the beggining on both those songs?
“From beginning to end, end to the beginning, day to night, night to day and over and over…”
Tell us about your latest LP “Journey Into Mr Re” and what projects have you got lined up next?
“Journey into Mr Re is a recurring theme to those with Sun Ra’s folklore, the Journey part is a little nod to comic book fans of old, the old Journey into Mystery series. Even the colour scheme manifested itself by osmosis, alignment with the stars I guess. I’m currently campaigning to press this project up via Bandcamp, as the first of many out of my digital only catalogue.
Next up, is a follow up to the ESP Institute EP which should be coming any day now. Then further into the year, I’ve got something for ‘On The Corner’ planned as well as a new Les Graciés project on Tending The Void.”