Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rack'em goes deep

Red Rack'em is no stranger to these pages, his steady output of tasty original beats has made him an artist and dj to keep an eye on, and with two great new releases out, I thought it best to have a word. Before we get there I wanted to mention that this last weekend saw the arrival of his latest ep 'All I Ever Wanted' for Untracked, in stores. I got a sneak preview of the e.p. a little while back and instantly wen't all gooey over 'In Love Again', an uncomplicated, superbly deep, Detroit Beatdown beauty which features on the record. Well, in fact, the whole ep is superb, but 'In Love Again' is especially nice because it's like hearing a classic Detroit track for the first time; it is both instantly familiar and entirely new, a sort of nostalgic de ja vu... or something along those lines. As a result of that first listen, I engaged Danny Rack'em in an email conversation about his music, and what he's got coming up..

What's the big attraction to the Detroit Beatdown sound ?

Well my teen years were dominated by having my mind blown with quality hip hop, getting stoned and playing in bands and beatdown seems to be the type of music which fully wraps up the hazy vibe of those halcyon days in one package. I loved the early Mo Wax stuff and things which are now defined as 'trip hop'. Blacka'nized were making instrumental hip hop in Edinburgh which would be beatdown if you stuck a 4/4 kick underneath it.  I loved jazzy hip hop and used to spend hours listening to tapes which I sometimes had to get my mum to buy as Our Price in Dundee enforced the parental advisory stickers on hip hop albums in 1990. Stuff like Showbiz and AGs first album, the first Brand Nubian album, Black Moon.. anything that had dusty jazzy undertones sounded great to my ears and helped me drift far away from the Scottish fishing village I grew up in. Hearing those abstract and deep records when I was young made a big impression on me.

I love the cerebral sound of Detroit influenced stuff.  I want to feel like it's 4am and I have closed my eyes on the dancefloor and got lost in the music. I like the fact that you can write some lo fi drums and then plonk a load of samples over it and really create a rough atmosphere. You don't need to be the worlds best engineer. You don't need to conform to standard house arrangements. You can create a kind of audio montage. It defo lends itself to sampling in a more abstract fashion. Which is why to me it's the hip hop of house.

So how do you go about creating the cuts? Do u have samples in mind before you start? Do you have to get yourself into a head space?

well I tend to just switch the tempo to 100bpm or there abouts to start. Write some drums and then start putting samples on top and see what works. I think choosing the right source material is obviously important but I never have the samples decided before I start making tracks. It's always random. So my tracks are all improvised really. I like to think of it as a test of my skills to have to come up with something good every time. And I hardly ever go back to anything unless it's got a real chance of being released or if a label shows interest. So if I don't do a lot of work on that first sitting or have a really simple solid strong idea then the track will probably never get completed. I love the buzz of creation and hate the boredom of completing tracks so my hard drive is full of half tracks which I make more as an exercise in relaxation after a long day of stressing about not completing enough music!

But in terms of feeling and headspace  - I think beatdown style house is very cinematic. It's about creating an atmosphere and I like to use live recordings which are illegally recorded by tapers in the crowd rather than from the mixing desk at gigs. So I am sampling something raw that wasn't meant to be recorded rather than a polished studio sound. I find that sampling a live recording has far more ambience and when you loop it up you get all the yelps and whoops of the crowd. You get great natural reverb on the music too. I would love to talk about the origins of the samples for tracks like You Can't Pray For Your Soul and Crowd Scene. But it's probably better not to discuss these things in writing eh.

How much of your life is taken up with making music? Do you have specific times or condition requirements?

Well I would like to think that my whole life is geared towards making music. But in reality I probably only spend about 25 hours a week working on tracks. I gave up teaching in Sep 2009 to focus fully on producing music. It wasn't an easy decision to make. But when I look back, trying to mix monday morning teaching with weekend gigs and parties was never much fun. So I have more time now. But I don't know if it's more time to make music. Unfortunately it's not just about sitting down and making tracks these days. I do a lot more DJing away now which I love but it often involves being away for the whole weekend which can be pretty time consuming. I also seem to spend far too much time on the internet these days answering emails  - I have 3 email acounts, myspace, facebook, soundcloud plus I have to update my website whenever anything happens. Then there's the facebook group. Plus the radio show/podcast which takes ages to put together as I get really carried away with the post production. I have to check all those avenues of communication to download all the tracks before I can do the show. Then I have to sift through loads of rubbish tracks to find the good ones. Then market the radio show. Then do the radio show. Then post production. Then upload the podcast. Then market the podcast. I often wonder if I should just forget about everything else and just focus on doing good music but alas in this day and age simply making good music is not enough to get you beyond a few underground people nodding their heads.

What should we be looking out for, in terms of further releases & what are some of your long term plans music wise?

Well 2010 looks like another busy year which is nice. My second release on Untracked is out at the end of Jan and it's a 3 tracker of beatdown house which I think is pretty energetic considering all the tracks are about 100 bpm. The main track is called 'All I Ever Wanted' but there's been a great response to the B1 track which is called 'In Love Again'. Then in the middle of Feb, the 'Night Shift' EP will be out on Detroit house label Undertones. That's more of a straight up house affair but it also has 'Overtime' on it which is arguably my first ever techno track that's been released. I guess it's a bit of a significant moment to get something released on a US label as well as I have always been inspired by American music. Then in April, I will be the first release on a new label called ///Shift and the tracks on that are 'Underground' which is my idea of a peaktime slightly banging house/techno track with 'Exhalt' on the flip which is more of a spacey number. Then after that will be an EP out on Home Taping in April/May which is an interesting mix of one peak time slamming house tune and one more thoughtful contemplative number. Should be a decent remix on that from someone special too.

In terms of long term plans I am starting my own label 'Bergerac' this year which will be focusing on more peak time stuff. Well my idea of peak time anyway. The first release will be 'How I Program' which I would say is techno more than house. That should be out in late April I hope. I am trying to make more big room stuff these days as I want to keep pushing myself as an artist and try some new things. I plan to have a good mix of styles on each record with a big tune on the A side and a couple of more abstract numbers on the flip. I also hope to deliver the Hot Coins and Marlinspike albums this year too.  I have been working with vocalists on the my deep techno/2 step project Marlinspike, with great results. The Hot Coins album has 22 tracks in the pot for it which means the final 12 or so tracks should be really strong. There's post punk, dark wave, electro funk, cosmic and disco stuff on there so it's a real mixed bag.

I really don't have any more long term plans beyond finishing everything listed above really. I am sure things will keep moving as long as I keep completing stuff. I just want to keep working on music and keep progressing as an artist. That's it really.

So folks, check the store's (or start here on Danny's Souncloud page), I highly recommend that you check out Red's Untracked EP and keep 'em peeled for more upcoming goodies....

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