HOOPDOOP met up with UK-based afro-punk band I.R.O.K. They had a few things to say about musical expression, freedom, and today’s society… read on.


Tell us a bit about how I.R.O.K. came together.

I.R.O.K. hit me with the same feeling as coming up on drugs. It was at a time when I was escaping and I was totally free. I was being the most spontaneous I could be. One saturday afternoon, I was leaving a place in Southern Morocco and heading away somewhere quiet by the beach when I heard music and chanting and started following a crowd. I thought I was going to a festival or a wedding but I realized very quickly by the hands in pockets and intent that I was going to a football match. I could have been walking up Tottenham High street, there was no difference. I started talking to some boys and they ended up helping me get in to the stadium easily. They were part of the crew chanting on megaphones and leading the songs. There were drums everywhere. Smoke, explosions, singing, high pitched reed instruments and an expression of anti-authority I’ve never seen in Morocco anywhere on the street. I was in it all, going crazy, and then it hit me that I was going to go home and recreate this chaos in songs. The moment became bigger than me in an instant. It felt as if the moment chose me. It was not considered. It was something else. I felt a spirit…a calling.


You recently confessed you actually love a bit of Phil Collins.. ;)  Any other influences you’d like to mention?

I totally disagree with his political Conservatism but how can you not like Phil Collins as an artist? He drummed and sang in arguably the most incredible band to come out of the U.K, in Genesis, who never stopped evolving. He defined in many ways a whole era with his music in the 80s and inadevertantly helped define the production of hip hop music to this day. One great thing about him is he had the decency to fuck off when he realised it was all over for him. Maybe the best thing about Phil Collins though is that we live in such a time where everything is cynical and snipey and ironic and he was actually sincere but good. Most sincere stuff now is dogshit.


hoop doop IROK02Steve-Burke


I.R.O.K. is short for The Intergalactic Republic of Kongo. What is the association you’re hoping to create in people’s minds? Are you taking a stand or just going for the absurd?

Is everything not absurd? I can’t walk down the street to catch a tube train without thinking that everything is totally and utterly unreal. The fact that we go about distracting ourselves from the fact that absolutely nobody knows what we are doing here and what is going on. Science, religion, politics… it’s all absurd and proved to be bullshit time and time again, and we still cling on to it because everyone is scared. That’s normal but I’ve noticed that we are being clamped down on and encroached. We should be allowed to meet and dance and scream and shout and reach other states of consciousness whenever we want. I don’t want to go home at 2am. I don’t want security guards or security barriers. All these things will be burned. Humans need to let go. Acid House was the last time it happened. All the other revolutions in music have been false as it was an industry. Especially grunge which was just about selling records and not changing your clothes very often. Acid House changed the way that humans acted towards each other and was truly an alternative to proscribed ‘fun’. The Intergalactic Republic of Kongo puts on shows like no other band I have seen out there right now. Where if you join in with us you become part of something bigger. Where you can totally transcend in the moment. You have to take part in the ceremony to understand.


To quote, “I.R.O.K. is the state where we meet in sweat, blood and joy”. Can you open this up for us a little?

That’s what I’m talking about. Just Let Go. Cut loose, rid yourself of fear, express your demons, your joys, your love. Then rise above these feelings and become ‘The Moment’. You have to bear witness at a show. In fact you must do more than witness it. We are moving people already. They are already writing to me asking for our return to their cities. It’s different.


What are your future ambitions – where is I.R.O.K. headed?

I.R.O.K. has it’s own energy but who knows where anyone is headed and for how long. I live day by day. I don’t even know what I’m doing this evening. I’m looking forward to the 15th December when we are inviting people to join us in smoke and mirrors at Visions in London, and then we travel back to Morocco to get away from everything in January. To escape the cold and the depressed human condition. We will go back in time 1000 years but with keyboards and stuff and do some writing and smoke some hash and get free. Life is there to do as you wish and to be as absurd as you choose. It all starts to make more sense that way. You should smile at strangers more. It’s good for you.



Interview by: Anna Kelhu




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