Red Rack’em thanks for taking the time to speak to us today.
Hello hello. You’re welcome.
For those who may be unfamiliar or need a little recap of your work can you give us a little background info about yourself? Where you hail from, a brief history of your music career and some of the projects you’ve been working on recently?
I’m originally from Fife, Scotland so I grew up in a Scottish fishing village with a population of less than 1000 people. There wasn’t a music culture, so we made our own. Between 1995-2011 I lived in Edinburgh, Bristol, Liverpool, and Nottingham. Then went to Berlin from 2011-2018 which was amazing. Been back in Bristol since 2018 - just in time for Brexit and the pandemic. I’ve been active in music since the early 90s as I played in drums and bass in lots of bands as a teenager. Was a huge hip hop head as a teen which led me to scratch DJing, so I bought a set of decks in 1994 with my student loan.
After a few sporadic attempts at club DJing which didn’t go so well (I was a bit of a party boy to say the least), I started DJing regularly around 2000 in Nottingham - mainly playing in trendy bars. I had to start making records regularly to get proper club gigs - that’s how it was back then. Started releasing records in 2004. Initially bootleg hip hop remixes and disco edits. 2008 was when I started releasing original music which I had made from scratch. I got asked to remix ‘Stand On The Word’ by The Joubert Singers in 2008 and it got hammered on BBC Radio 1 by Zane Lowe, Rob Da Bank and Gilles Peterson. Gilles booked me for the Worldwide Awards in 2009 (played straight after Jazzanovas first ever live set) and my DJ set was broadcast on Radio 1 - which was a pretty good start looking back! In 2010, I started my own label Bergerac with ‘How I Program’ and my ‘Early Years’ album which I launched at Dommune in Tokyo and then toured all over the world into 2011. I guess the biggest moment so far was producing and releasing ‘Wonky Bassline Disco Banger’ in 2016 which I think it’s fair to say was the biggest credible house record of that year. It’s still selling like hot cakes 5 years later. I don’t tend to make the same track twice so ‘In Love Again, ‘Kalimba’, ‘Chirpsin’ ‘Wonky Bassline Disco Banger’ and ‘Wonky Techno Banger’ all kind of mark different eras in my sound. I’ve made deep house, disco, techno, UK garagey stuff, UK funky-ish stuff, hip hop, ambient, breakbeat stuff, dnb - I love most types of electronic music as long as it has some soul.
It’s really hard to condense my career into a paragraph tbh. I’ve toured the world, made some well-loved records, done regular radio since the mid-2000s working with stations like myhouseyourhouse, Rinse FM, WWFM, NTS and currently the excellent SWU.FM in Bristol. I’ve released other artists I love on my labels Bergerac, Smugglers Inn and Nettles, erm that’s about it really.
Being a fan of the Tintin cartoon series I’ve always wondered if there was any correlation between Captain Haddock’s arch enemy (Red Rack’em) and your artist alias? Also, your label name Bergerac, was that inspired by the British Drama series?
Yes, I was a huge Tintin fan as a child but the main reason I am called Red Rack’em is because the hip hop bootleg thing which happened in the UK in the early 2000s was dubbed ‘Pirate Soul’ and I was inspired by Yam Who, Blackbeard and Red Astaire who all had slightly humorous nicknames. So, I chose Red Rack’em - the actual spelling in Tintin is Rackham so I will leave it your imagination as to why I changed the spelling. And yes, you’re on the money with the thought behind Bergerac. I wanted to choose a name which sounded a bit continental, was easy to say and already in people’s consciousness. People of a certain age anyway. I used to watch Bergerac in 80s so for me it’s a halcyon memory.
It looks like you’ve been very busy recently, with new releases coming out on your label and the Red Baron project that you’ve been working on with Ron Basejam. Is there a particular catalyst for this surge in new music? I’m going to assume Lockdown might have played a role.
Yes I’ve been really busy - I just released ‘Overthinking’ on Bergerac and it’s a record inspired by how much I can get lost in production. I can spend literally months tinkering on a track so it was quite cathartic to ‘fess up and say ‘yes I can completely lose it making tracks but look it’s finally finished’. Touring is fun and obviously it’s an enjoyable way to earn a crust, but it is also very time consuming. I don’t have a creativity problem, as I have hundreds of almost finished/finished tracks which will never see the light of day. If I could just sit and make music all day and someone else took care of it being released and marketed, then I would be able to put way more music out. This is something I really want to tackle as it’s a barrier for my creativity. The flip side is though, all the ‘business’ stuff has enabled to release music I am proud of without compromising artistically. If it was as simple as making good records and being a good DJ, then it would be a very different landscape today.
The huge amount of social media work when you’re touring and being a ‘personality’ is hugely creativity sapping so it was actually nice to get a chance to focus on the music during lockdown. It felt like the old days. But I absolutely 1000% miss DJing so I can’t wait to get back out there and play music which I live for through a large sound system.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Red Baron Project with Ron Basejam, how did the idea first come about? Can we expect to see many more releases under the Red Baron alias in the future?
Jim Baron and I are old friends from the Nottingham scene. We enjoyed some very hedonistic times together back in the day. Crazy P have always been very supportive of my music which has always given me a lot of solace as I respect them a lot. I’ve watched them achieve pretty much everything you could ever hope for in music. They’ve got such determination. Over the years our mutual appreciation and respect grew to the point where it just seemed natural to get into the studio together. I’ve got no idea when it was suggested but when I lived in Berlin, I did a session or 2 with Jim in the Crazy P studio and it went really well. It’s an interesting mix as Jim is a more polished musician and I bring a more psychedelic, edgy feel to the music.
Since I moved back to the UK in 2018, we’ve been able to put more time in and we released our first single ‘Fascinate/She Makes It Work’ in early July. It’s a really nice mix of both our styles of music and the response has been amazing - lots of our favourite DJs have been supporting it.
In terms of more Red Baron releases the answer is a resounding yes. We’ve got 6 more tracks in various stages of completion. We had a really good session in June so I think the tracks from that will form the basis of the next single. There’s a soulful broken beat type tune with us both singing on it, a completely bonkers live jam which sounds like Moire or Actress, a groovy electro funk number and finally our personal fave - an Ian Dury esque new wave ish tune with me doing yelping vocals from the perspective of an uncooperative mollycoddled husband who secretly likes it.
I would normally ask about some of the gigs and shows you’ve done recently but with the club situation as it has been here in the UK and most of the world, I’m going to assume gig work has been minimal, how else have you been keeping yourself busy over the past year and a half?
I was really lucky to have a packed 2019 with tours of India, East Asia (including South Korea and China) and USA/Canada so when all my touring ended in early 2020, I was kind of ok with it initially. The only slight hitch was that my main source of income and excitement had completely disappeared. I had no idea what the future held for me last year, so I decided to fall back on my experience as a teacher, video editor and radio presenter and I began privately mentoring other music producers and DJs with their work. I began by offering one to one zoom mentoring and this evolved into starting a community called How I Program which I have been running since last August through the membership website Patreon.
I’ve been helping producers and DJs with music production tuition, artist development and using the one to ones to give in depth feedback for people’s music and music industry advice. One of the most exciting thing for the community has been the guest masterclasses from artists such as Cinthie, Adam Pits, Rick Wade, Jazzanova, Zed Bias, Atjazz, Posthuman, Crazy P, Titonton and more. It’s a bit of a commitment from the artists to get involved so huge respect to everyone who’s helped my group understand more about music. Being able to discuss the fine details of production and music industry advice with such experienced artists is quite a unique situation.
The Masterclasses are all archived so it’s possible to watch previous classes if you missed them. September’s guest is German house legend Ian Pooley and in October we have Adam Pits returning for his second session. We also have a friendly and active discord with everyone sharing production advice and their demos as well as lots of real life laughs and chat. I share 2 brand new tracks every month which are only available within the group. Everyone is welcome, we have producers of all levels and also people who are just DJs, it’s as much a cultural thing as it is about tuition, so please check out the different tiers and get in touch on my socials if you want to get involved.
What can we expect to see coming out of Bergerac for the remainder of 2021 and beyond? I hear you have some more Red Rack’em (solo) releases on the way, will they be coming out on Bergerac?
The next release on Bergerac is by Watford based producer Tommy Rawson and it’s out digitally on August 20th. It’s called ‘Illusions’ and has been an integral part of my DJ sets for many years so I am really happy to finally see it come out. It’s been getting so much love from DJs like Harvey, Masalo, and Jimpster so I hope it will be played to some decent crowds over the summer. Later on this year will be the ‘Private Dick’ EP from Westcoast Goddess which is another killer release. You can expect some more releases from me, but I am having a hard time deciding what to release next. I’ve got too much choice. I think I will definitely be doing another Disco Banger release and definitely another Bergerac - the tracks are all pretty much done - I am just doing my usual overthinking thing and not deciding which one should come first. I’ve also done a couple of remixes I’m really excited about. One is of a complete Jazz Fusion legend and the other is a modern jazz band from Bristol who release on Worm Discs. I love remixing live musicians work as there’s always so much quality stuff to play with.
Any gigs or events lined up for the remainder of 2021? What's the best way to get in contact should someone want to book you?
I have some cool stuff coming up which is very exciting. Playing at the Highest Point Festival in Lancaster on Sep 3rd and then on the same evening I am playing in Sheffield at Bal Fashions. Thats going to be a hectic day no doubt. Then on Sep 4th I am playing at the closing party of the Crazy P residence at XOYO with Crazy P Soundsystem, Ray Mang, Bill Brewster, and DJ Paulette. Excited to be playing at XOYO again as it’s always good there. I am also playing the day party earlier on that day at Dalston Roof Garden. Sep 18th I am playing at the Crofters Rights in Bristol. Will be my first club gig in Bristol for nearly 2 years, so I am looking forward to that. I am also looking forward to playing some Red Baron DJ sets with Ron Basejam. And I would love to play some smaller UK venues because I really enjoy playing places that are a bit more off the beaten track. I am always happy to get out and play music for nice people so if anyone reading this is interested in booking me, please contact my agent Simon Morrell on this email. I am particularly keen to play some new places in the UK - like Bath, Newcastle, Plymouth, Bradford, Liverpool and even more off the beaten track. I would also love to start playing regularly in Berlin again as I really really really miss playing those 6am sets and Sunday afternoon day party vibes. You don’t know how good it is until it’s gone!
We asked you to complete a list of your top 10 influence tracks that had the biggest effect on you as an artist and influenced your musical style. Did you find it an easy task or was it difficult to whittle it down to just 10 tracks?
Yes, it was hard as I love too much music. There’s no Pepe Bradock, Theo, KDJ or Isolee in there for instance. But I didn’t just want to do a house chart. I could have put some more rock stuff in there too. I just tried to give the readers a snapshot of what’s made me inspired and excited over the years as a music head. For more influences from me I would suggest listening to my monthly radio show on swu.fm - it’s the second Wednesday each month from 5-7pm UK time. Just want to finally say huge thanks to everyone for continuing to support my music and mentoring work. It’s hugely appreciated. I am just getting started.
1. The Upsetters - Long Sentence (instrumental)
Really hard to underestimate the influence of Lee Perrys music on my sound and most of the people I look up to. It's just pure vibes from the get go. This collection is his best work in my opinion.
2. Material - Ciquiri
Material. What can I say. Baldelli was hammering 'Reduction' in the early 80s. One of my faves is 'Ciquiri' as it's the epitome of wonky punk funk. Put this on at the right time and watch people lose themselves. The bass on this is proper. Shouts to Bill Laswell.
3. Liaisons Dangereuses - Peut Etre... Pas
Anyone who knows me will know how important this track is to me. Absolutely killer stuff from the EBM goth electro scene. This mixes really well with 'The Club' by EL B btw.
4. Wooki - Scrappy
Huge Wookie fan right here and Scrappy just takes me back to Notting Hill back in the day. Play this anywhere and it will go off.
5. J Dilla - People
I remember where I was when I found out Dilla had passed. No words for how much his music touched my soul. 'People' sounds like he knew there wasn't long left. The heavy breathing on it is particularly poignant for me. He knew.
6. Arch Tight - Chase Scene With Zero
Huge Charles Noel fan here. This is unprecedented for me. I played this at 'Out To Lunch' Jazzdance session in Nottingham back in the day and the booth got rushed by the dancers wanting to know what it was. This is definitely jazz.
7. A Tribe Called Quest - Rhythm (Devoted To The Art Of Moving Butts)
Tribe Called Quest are so housey. This track to me is deep house with some great rapping on it. I was into hip hop WAY before I got into house but looking back now, I was into US hip hop which used the same sound palette as sample based deep house a decade later.
8. Moonstarr - Greed
This vibe. It's what I love. Moonstarr is one of my favourite producers ever. Buy everything he's made. You will learn a lot about music. I could have picked many tracks by him. This album is an absolute classic. You need it.
9. DJ Die - Reincarnations
Massive early Full Cycle fan here. I moved to Bristol from Edinburgh in 97 to be closer to 'the source'. So much to choose from but I picked this early Die tune as it has one of the best basslines ever. Goosebumps!
10. Motorbass - Ezio
Rest In Peace Philippe Zdar! The Motorbass album completely changed my life in 96. It affected me more than even Daft Punk because of the hip hop sampling aesthetic. It spoke to me. It still does. Watch the crowd get freaky when the first beat of the bar changes towards the end of 'Ezio'.