INTERVIEW RED RACK’EM
Beat à l’air: Hi man, how are you?
Red Rack’em: I am great thanks. I played this morning in Berlin at Griessmüehle with my friend Cromie from LA so I feel pretty dead but it’s just the start of the weekend so no chance to rest. Off to a friend’s secret birthday open air thing now in Treptow Park – looks pretty intimate – decks on the ground in a park. Then off to Berghain to see Kevin Reynolds tonight. Oh and Sprinkles is playing as well at Chalet. My old friend Rick Donohue is over to play in Berlin on Sunday with Daniel Wang and Iron Curtis so basically I am gonna be out all weekend. Again 😉
The video for my new single “I Got Something” (out this month on Telefonplan) is about to go online and features me running around Berlin after a massive weekend. If only people could see the behind the scenes footage from the shoot. Jogging until 9am at night on a Monday after playing/partying all weekend was not easy! I am really looking forward to returning to Paris so yeah – let’s do this!
B: For those who don’t know you, could you introduce yourself? For how long have you been playing music? Exclusively in the United Kingdom? Any collaboration you want to talk about?
R: My main artist name is Red Rack’em – I release house, techno, garage, bass music, hip hop and all sorts under that name on labels like Wolf Music, RAMP Recordings, N-Syde, Telefoplan, City Fly and I have remixed artists like Tricky, Jah Wobble, Jazzanova over the last few years. I also have a live disco/punk funk project which is called Hot Coins and I released an album under that name on Sonar Kollektiv last year called « The Damage Is Done ».
I have released 2 albums and about 20 singles under both those names since 2008 so it’s been pretty busy.
Check out the Hot Coins album launch documentary here
Also a behind the scenes look at when I curated my own BOILER ROOM here
I have been Djing for 20 years and I have been playing internationally since 2004 and I have been lucky enough to play in Australia, Japan, Russia and all over Europe pretty much non-stop for the last few years.
I moved to Berlin in 2011 so I’ve been playing here a lot as it’s one of the best places in the world to play and I feel there’s a great deal of freedom here – less pressure if you know the club and the crowd well. But I also love the freshness and challenge of going somewhere new and playing to people I have never met before.
I have done quite a few collobs but they never get released! Done stuff with Franklin De Costa, Iron Curtis, Matthew Burton, Juju and Jordash and many more but sadly it’s all half finished on the hard drive. The only thing which has come out so far is « Morning Light » which was my collaboration with Medlar – it was featured on Phonica 10 years album and I was really happy with it so thanks for reminding me I need to sort out all those other tracks.
B: It was the first time that Run With Us invited you, how did it go? Something to say about them? Did you know them before?
R: I have only really heard of the venue Batofar but I checked out the Run With Us Facebook page and it looks like they book really cool people and support underground talent so I am really happy to get to play for them. I often get booked by the same kind of people all over the world so even though we might not have met before – I am sure we have a lot of mutual friends and shared experiences. I don’t like to ‘checkup’ on people too much before I play. If someone has made the effort to book me, I am pretty sure they know what’s up!
B: Last year at the Dimension Festival, we got the chance to meet with Gilles Peterson, could you tell me about your relationship with him?
R: Tirk Records asked me to remix “Stand On The Word” by the Joubert Singers (Hot Coins) in 2008 and Gilles Peterson began hammering it on Radio 1 which looking back was a massive achievement for an unknown artist such as myself. It’s kind of like remixing The Beatles or something like that. Gilles then began supporting my other projects such as my Marlinspike remix of ‘Slow’ by Tricky (which sadly never saw the light of day on Domino – I don’t even have a mastered .wav of it) and he invited me to do a guest mix for his show and also appeared at the 2009 Worldwide Awards where I played alongside artists like Marlena Shaw, Jazzanova and some guy called Floating Points 😉
That was the beginning of a long and exciting journey in my music and Gilles has always been in the background – even though he doesn’t play my tracks as much as he used to on the radio – he’s always super friendly when I meet him and he totally remembers me. I missed my flight back from Tokyo in 2010 when I was launching my early years album over there and I met him at the airport and he indirectly managed to save my ass because his friend Toshio Matsura knew someone high up at Virgin Airline. The booker for the gig kept mentioning ‘Richard’ on the phone and it took me a few days to realize he had meant Richard Branson. It was definitely the right number to call as I got my booking changed to the next day and they charged the booker an admin fee of £70 instead of the usual £800…
So once again THANK YOU GILLES! You can read the full story of the Joubert Singers remix here – http://www.electronicbeats.net/en/features/my-music-moment-red-rackem/
B: How do you see the making of a Dj set? Is it something you prepare or does it look more like a complete improvised session? Or does it depend on the party, your own goals?
R: I always improvise. It completely depends on the crowd and my mood but also on my confidence in the crowd. If they love what you do and go with it then it’s a joyful experience. If they stand their looking accusingly at you and expect you to hype them on the breakdowns by raising your hands in the air I generally die inside and don’t look up much for the rest of my set.
I have to be the most interested person in the place to play to my full potential so I find improvising is the thing that makes it most exciting. But I am not some format Nazi – I play vinyl, CDs and USB so that’s why I prefer long sets because after an hour of playing brand new shit off the USB, I often remember the bag of records I dragged on the plane with me and then go off on a tangent with them. I like to play all the styles of music I like in the same set but if you’re playing for 2 hours and it’s peak time and you’re expected to smash it out, then I don’t try to be too ‘clever’ these days. I enjoy playing harder music these days. I played underground, deep music for years and I still love it but on a big system I think it’s nice to play a more techno style sometimes.
B: How did music happen for you? A particular experience, an encounter?
R: I have always enjoyed music since before I was born. I used to kick in my mother’s belly to certain records. I grew up with my fathers’ record collection so the Talking Heads, The Beatles, Big Youth, Television, Miles Davis and King Crimson were completely normal for me as a child. I discovered Hip Hop when I was 12 and the rest is history. Music is something I just knew how to do from being born. It was already inside me. I didn’t have to learn how to do it in some way. I just had to do it.
B: Do you have some facts to share about your vision/conception of music? Clubbing? Non-including studio production and Djing, do you have any musical training?
R: If you want to know my personal manifesto – please listen to my records, DJ mixes and radio show. I am saying plenty with that music. I talk all the time about music and I have some strong opinions but that’s not very helpful in today’s scene as it tends to be a lot of people agreeing with each other and helping their friends out regardless of the musical content. So I prefer to just talk with my music.
B: Your personal connection between production and Djing? A complementarity, a personal link?
R: Hmmm – I love Djing more than making music. I find the immediate feedback of live Djing to be the most exciting feeling in my life, when it’s working right. Making tracks feels like hard work for me these days. Not the writing but finishing them off, getting them to their full potential, dealing with labels, dealing with the disappointment of my often too high expectations for the releases. I think in the end you should just make music for music’s sake but when it’s your job it sometimes gets a bit twisted.
I feel that today’s scene makes artists judge their own work on its popularity, sales and the subsequent DJ bookings so the respect for the music seems to be lost. In the end the people that are driving the profile of artists and judging theirs and other people’s music are often not so creatively qualified to make that judgment and to have that power. Their agenda is usually financial rather than creative so it does lead to conflicts as it’s often completely different principles battling it out. Labels want to sell records. Agents want their artist booked. Promoters don’t want to lose money. The press is often more worried about the preexisting interest in what they are covering rather than the actual artist validity or quality of acts.
The bottom line is the dollar sign so I often question my reasons for making music today. In the end if there’s no recognition for artists for their creativity and merit of their music beyond how much press you get and how much money you make for someone higher up the food chain (which obviously helps create press as it’s all about having influence) then I think it’s not really good for music. If I wanted to be involved in politics I would have been a politician.
B: Have you noticed the growing enthusiasm on the Parisian scene these days? Especially with Underground music?
R: Yes. I played at Mona with Nick V at Le Java in 2010 and the scene seemed much smaller then. I remember all the people that came to see me play: Jef K, Jeremy Underground Paris and Brawther all came and supported me and it was lovely. I know there must have been plenty of other stuff going on but that was my only experience to that point. I know Mona is still going from strength to strength and I just recently started learning house dancing so it’s been really cool to look at the photos of all the cool dancing going on in the Paris scene. I would love to go to a Waak Party sometime and see some proper dancers!
Obviously I know more people from Paris now but watching my peers like DJ Spider and Amir Alexander get booked at Concrete and seeing Jeremy (My Love Is Underground) and Brawther rise to international stardom has impressed me. Since I moved to Berlin, I got the chance to meet more people from Paris. The Sous La Jupe crew reached out to me when they arrived here and I was impressed by their enthusiasm and positivity. The same with The Bass Cadet guys – they have their own shop in Neukolln and I love going there because there’s always loads of cool French people sitting outside smoking and being ‘French’. They really stand out in Berlin and in a good way. More French people here please!
S3A is someone who’s been sending me music for ages – he sent me his new single last week – thank you Max!
Although he now lives in Derby, the former Mon Matre king of underground swing Leandre is someone who’s always felt quintessentially Parisian to me – he’s been sending me private press stuff for years – he recently bought new monitors and he’s been sending me new mixes of his olds tracks every day for the last week – so expect to hear some of them at Batofar.
I really don’t know much about Paris so all I can do is list the people who have always made the effort with me and say thanks. Brawther, Rachel Khoo. Brian from Vibes and Pepper. Nick V. Adam Green. Jacques from La Source. I am playing an in-store DJ set there on 19/07/14 from 4pm so I hope I am not too hung over from Batofar…
B: Any projects you would like to share? Future collaborations? Releases to come? Artists to keep an eye on?
R: My new single “I Got Something” just came out on Telefonplan – a shadowy techno label who just revealed they are actually run by Local Talk. It’s a raw techno banger and the other tracks on it are pretty wild too.
I have another Red Rack’em single coming out in September on Wolf Music, it’s called “Do Or Die” and is a total peaktime disco house banger. The other tracks are a bit more wonky – really excited about that as it’s a melodic funky record.
I have a single coming out on N-Syde in October and it’s very deep and soulful – the main track is called “Alone At Night” and features the amazing Charli James on vocals. I tried to write a track with Inkswel in Melbourne in 2012 but he was too tired so I did the beat on my own and then Charli (Inkswel’s super talented vocalist wife) wrote and sang the lyrics while I was out at the pub with some old friends of mine the Jenson Twins. I am really excited about “Alone At Night” as the lyrics are inspired by wanting to be with someone but it not being possible and it was great to hear Charli take that idea and sing it from her perspective. The other side is called « Love Beat » and is some proper cut up hip hop jazzy house and is soulful as well. Funny to be releasing one of my most soulful releases on a label which has put out a lot of techno but Richard Zepezauer knows no musical boundaries and his label reflects that.
I am working on a 3 part beat-tape album thing called “Tales From The Hard Drive” which will be tracks from between 2002-2006 which I found on my old hard drive. Mainly hip hop and beats style stuff. I am collaborating with Tobias from Local Talk on that – it will be a new label – hoping to have the first one out by the end of the year.
I am also working on a lot of other singles but I haven’t decided who to put them out with yet.
I am currently remixing “Lay-Far” with Yannah on vocals for his forthcoming remix album. I’m also writing the next Hot Coins album so I need to start recording that soon.
Basically I have so much stuff going on that I can’t actually work out what to work on. But there’s loads of new stuff so expect to hear more from me very soon…
I need to do a proper Red Rack’em album – I am constantly writing music so I could just pick 10 tracks and run with that. Maybe I should stay in a bit more…
B : Do you have any memories in this milieu you would like to share with us ?
R: I just want to say thanks to all the people who booked me and believed in my music and Djing. I am really grateful for the opportunity to travel and play to nice people. That is all.
B : Future gigs ?
R: You can check out my diary here