Taking over a building a few steps away from London’s Tower Bridge, with the ground floor converted from a 19th century pub, Red Bull Music Academy 2010 did more than just chase away the winter chill. From February 7 – March 12, the bustle of England’s capital was ramped up a notch, commencing with the arrival of 60 participants at the Academy’s urban festival-workshop. RBMA produced a free music newspaper, called the Daily Note, for the first time ever. The paper was given away at a selection of London Tube stops as well as being distributed at record stores and cultural centers each day.
The lecture couch buckled under a heavyweight selection of guests, including Mark Ronson, Moodymann and Steve Reich. Many of those same musical pioneers performed in our packed public program of concerts and club nights across London, and some lecturers also took time out to collaborate with our participants in the specially-built studios. UK hip-hop mover Roots Manuva commented on the Academy, “In the midst of hairier times in Brixton I wished for a situation like this!”
The Academy has left a lasting imprint on London. The state-of-the-art Red Bull Studio and live room continue to run full tilt today, providing the setting for a multitude of recording sessions (and broadcasts for Red Bull Radio), becoming ever more entrenched in the city’s mutant musical landscape.
A wide array of musical pioneers of past and present graced the lecture hall in London. One of the many highlights was a straight-talking lecture by house music icon Moodymann; participants were also lucky enough to get up close while Berlin’s techno behemoths Modeselektor jammed out a track. They heard Norwegian jazz mastermind Bugge Wesseltoft improvise with Henrik Schwarz; and listened to New Orleans-born MC and producer Jay Electronica speak about his intertwined philosophical and musical approaches.
Others who spoke about their musical trajectories included British-born hitmaker Mark Ronson, electronic music legend and performance artist Cosey Fanni Tutti, soundsystem and dub music don Aba Shanti-I, German proto-electronic duo Cluster, influential British producer and soundtrack composer Joe Boyd and Brainfeeder label head and RBMA alumnus Flying Lotus. Explore the full archive of London lectures here.
The action at RBMA was built to spill into London’s late-night streets, from the first ever edition of the Academy’s signature four-way soundsystem clash in Camden’s Roundhouse to a classic roller disco. This Academy edition also saw us partnering with a number of the city’s esteemed cultural institutions, including a night of improvised techno in the Royal Festival Hall, and a day of “tea, biscuits and studio revelations” at the ICA, which included lectures by David Rodigan and GoldieLocks, and performances by James Pants and Branko. We collaborated with Tony Nwachukwu’s CDR, a night and educational series that acts as a platform for emerging music makers, presenting a combined session at Shoreditch’s much-loved Plastic People. We also teamed up with our friends at FACT for a convivial evening at the Lock Tavern in Camden, featuring Joy Orbison and MJ Cole among others. Read on for yet more highlights from the 2010 events program.
Red Bull Music Academy & Resident Advisor at Royal Festival Hall
From techno’s heady space-age birth in the American Midwest to its countless modern-day incarnations, its appetite for progress is still insatiable. In association with Resident Advisor, the Red Bull Music Academy invited four collaborative acts at the forefront of neo-classical, laptop soul and techno to perform in an improvisatory showcase at the Royal Festival Hall, London’s leading classical music venue at Southbank Centre, on the banks of the river Thames.
Techno pioneers Carl Craig and Moritz von Oswald played with pianist, producer and composer Francesco Tristano. David Brutti, wielding a sizeable bass saxophone, joined them as a welcome surprise, fitting perfectly into the expert mix of swirling electronics offered up by Craig – manipulated throughout by the dapper von Oswald – and the piano accompaniment of Tristano.
Also performing to aplomb on the night were everyone’s favorite sample-hungry showmen Matmos, jazzman Bugge Wesseltoft, Innervisions’ Henrik Schwarz, Terre Thaemlitz as DJ Sprinkles and participant Andras Fox.
A Rollerskating Jam Named ‘Red Bull Music Academy’
Deep house renegade Moodymann is dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of black American (sub-)cultures, and has done more to keep the roller disco phenomenon alive than any other human being on the planet with his Detroit party Soul Skate. For this one-off session at South London’s Renaissance Rooms, he brought a box full of classic skating rink jams and invited along ten of the Motor City’s most notorious four-wheeled dancers between eight and 80 years of age. The Renaissance Rooms were packed full of eager skaters and disco headz for a night of balance, grace, windmills and dodging the rink instructors. Also on the bill: B.Bravo, Master MP6-60, Julian Gomes and the frontrunners of London’s current disco revival, the infamous Horse Meat Disco.
Red Bull Music Academy presents Brainfeeder London
What better way to kick off RBMA’s quarterly residency at iconic London club Fabric than a night with visionary LA label Brainfeeder? The label is home to a number of artists with ties to RBMA as either participants or lecturers – some at this very London edition. The Gaslamp Killer demonstrated his electric abilities behind the turntables, while Flying Lotus, Brainfeeder’s head honcho, brought his hyperkinetic live show to the stage, mixing beats, bleeps, burps and bumps into a bombardment of booty-rattling funk. Just as Flylo was once an Academy participant (Melbourne 2006), one of Brainfeeder’s artists, TOKiMONSTA, was a participant at the London edition. This night at Fabric saw her contributing her own brand of “astro-vandalism,” mind-bending Billboard rap bombardments and dreamy electronica. Other performers included Kode9, J.Rocc, Ango, Martyn, Dimlite, Daedelus, Dorian Concept and Nosaj Thing.
Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash
Culture Clash, a Red Bull signature event that has traveled the world, is more than just one of the fiercest musical battles around. It’s a celebration of soundsystem culture and its ongoing influence on hip-hop, dancehall and dance music. It’s a rare get-together of different genres and generations. And, with each crew bringing out exclusive dubs and surprise special guests, it’s probably the most entertainment you could cram into a four-hour show.
Hosted by Don Letts, this was the edition that started it all. At the Roundhouse, a historic concert venue and former engine shed in north London, the original Culture Clash saw Jazzie B’s Soul II Soul, the mighty Trojan Sound System, Goldie’s Metalheadz, and dubstep pioneers Digital Mystikz – also known as DMZ – fight for the crowd’s favor with big tunes from their respective scenes. The funki dreds of Soul II Soul were at the forefront of UK club soul in the late ’80s, scoring big both sides of the Atlantic via “Back To Life” and “Keep On Movin’.” With their iconic robo-skull logo, genre-defining 12" releases, and the legendary club night at Hoxton’s Blue Note Cafe, Goldie and his Metalheadz label played a pivotal role in propelling the junglist movement to unknown heights. Trojan Sound System have been selecting the most crucial roots’n’culture anthems for years. And Digital Mystikz AKA Mala and Coki are amongst those constantly pushing the vibrant dubstep and hardcore scene to new shores. With the help of a decibel meter, Don Letts named Goldie and his Metalheadz crew the champions.
Secretsundaze – Red Bull Music Academy Edition
Giles Smith and James Priestley have built a devoted fan base via a heady blend of house and techno at their much-loved mustachioed all-nighters. For this collaborative edition of Secretsundaze, participants from 2010’s Red Bull Music Academy joined the London DJ duo and Norwegian space disco mastermind Todd Terje at Paramount, up on the 32nd floor of the Brutalist landmark Centre Point on Tottenham Court Road.
Sin City - A Red Bull Music Academy Special
It was roadblock time in Brixton as Sin City hit SW9’s finest venue, Plan B, for a night of basswave pirates and low frequencies. Ms Dynamite headed a stellar lineup in Room One alongside dubstep upstarts Hatcha and N-Type, tech-flexers Appleblim and Ramadanman, plus Kenny Ken & MC Skibadee, David Rodigan, Flava D and the Soul Jazz Soundsystem. In room two, Oneman, Youngsta, Kromestar and MCs Crazy D, Viper and Toast set the controls to stun.
Deviation x Red Bull Music Academy
Influential BBC Radio 1 host and DJ Benji B has been dropping his monthly Deviation Sessions in selected venues in London since 2007, a true stronghold for everything from the newest mutations of beats and bass culture to classic blueprints of jazz and soul. Benji has also hosted many RBMA lectures over the years. So it was natural to team up during the Academy for an edition of Deviation at Shoreditch’s CAMP that featured bass music icon Skream playing an old school house and disco set, host MC Judah and Academy participants including Katy B.
We set up our 3D Soundclash in a loading bay at London’s Royal Albert Hall, the perfect industrial location to send sounds from Warp and Ninja Tune artists Mira Calix, Plaid DJs, The Bug, DJ Food, King Cannibal and Clark deep into outer space. The loading bay, which had not been used for a musical event before, was brought to life with the unique surround sound and audio imaging software developed by Martyn Ware of The Human League and Heaven 17. Sound-reactive visuals on five screens were provided by Field, a Dalston-based digital design collective.
Book Slam – Red Bull Music Academy Edition
London’s Book Slam, a night that showcases musical, literary and comedic leading lights, set up shop in Shoreditch Town Hall in partnership with Red Bull Music Academy. Artists including South East London’s Butterz artist P Money, Rinse and Charlie Dark led a grime scene investigation of London myths and mayhem, at an evening hosted by comedian Doc Brown, which also featured Australian participant Sui Zhen.
The 12" has been at the heart of British music culture for decades. As a benefit event for the War Child charity, at The Scala in King’s Cross, RBMA presented 12 seminal anthems, performed by the 12 heavyweight musicians who made them, for 12 minutes each. After a warm-up by RBMA participant B.Bravo, performers included electro pioneer Arthur Baker, New Order’s Peter Hook, Human League and Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware, A Guy Called Gerald, Shy FX, Roni Size & MC Skibadee, Shades of Rhythm, Robert Owens & X-Press 2, MJ Cole, Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B and Zinc & Dynamite MC.
In 2010, we invited 60 up-and-coming musicians, producers, vocalists and DJs as participants at the Academy in London. They heard lectures by musical greats, collaborated in the studios and performed at Academy club nights and concerts around the city. Hailing from 32 countries, they represented a varied range of skill sets, levels of experience and cultural backgrounds.
Homeless Inc / Cherry Chan / Jackmaster / Flava D / AD Bourke / Moisés Horta / Myele Manzanza/ Axel Boman / Juan Son / Jakob Schneidewind / Mujuice / Nando Pro / Lucrecia Dalt / TOKiMONSTA / Poirier / Sergej Fresh / Buggy Boy / Katy B / Bala / Tutu Sweeney / Thompson / Kool Clap / B.Bravo / Clinic / Mark Fader / Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes) / Lunice / Hiroaki OBA / Markur / Vlad Caia / Venice / Maldita Fan / Illum Sphere / Minus / Amenta / Jullian Gomes / Gabriel Nascimbeni / Sonaluna / Camo / Cohoba / 00Genesis / Daisuke Tanabe / Mai Nestor / Hasan Hujairi / kidkanevil / Swede:art / DJ Klem / Braiden / Sui Zhen / Ross McHenry / MNSL / Mau’lin / May Roosevelt / Ango / Deep Sixty / DZA / András (Wilson Tanner) / Space Dimension Controller / Infestus
Some of the tunes the London participants worked on in the Academy studios are compiled on the 2010 edition of our annual audio yearbook, Various Assets – Not For Sale. On the full compilation, you’ll hear tracks by artists including Flava D, Katy B, Lunice, Space Dimension Controller, Daisuke Tanabe, Kool Clap, Poirier, Andras Fox (András, Wilson Tanner, House of Dad), B.Bravo, Markur (Photonz, One Eyed Jacks), plus studio team members including Hudson Mohawke, Marco Passarani, Robin Hannibal (Rhye, Quadron), J-Wow AKA Branko and James Pants.
For the first time, we set about trying to keep track of proceedings with our Daily Note newspaper, and realised the hardest part was choosing what to leave out. Editor Robin Turner and art director Helen Niland marshaled a team of the capital’s finest writers and artists, creating 24 issues throughout the Academy. Alongside profiles of the Academy’s lecturers and students, genres like grime, dubstep and library music were pored over by experts in those fields. Richard Norris wrote about the psychedelic underground of ’60s London, and Trevor Jackson created kosmische cover art. In Robin Turner’s words, “Collected together, it was like a brilliant conversation in a pub between knowledgeable friends – chaotic, feverish, excitable, funny, random and informative. Each issue tells its own part of the story yet adds to a whole.”
In quantities of 80,000 per issue, the Daily Note was distributed as a free evening paper at 18 tube stations in London such as King’s Cross, Camden Town and Kensal Green, as well as at music venues and cafés throughout the city. A weekend edition (circulation: 100,000) was distributed nationwide in cities including Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
We featured a number of the articles created for the Daily Note online. Pop historian and broadcaster Jon Savage offered his guide to ’70s kraut-rock essentials and a formerly unpublished interview with Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk. On a related note, Richard King wrote about UK artists who explored the outer limits of synth music in the ’70s.
The Academy Space
Red Bull Music Academy invaded the regenerated heart of London to build a carnivalesque music space, where just a few steps took you from breakfast queue to high-end recording studio. London design crew My Beautiful City transformed the site of the former Antigallican Pub and surrounding building into an environment where dialogues of both the spoken and played kind would thrive. MBC’s Mehrnoosh Khadivi created splendid custom pieces, such as knotted cushions for the canteen, sourced antiques and curios from the city’s markets and designed tiled floors using royally hued British wool carpets. The four floors housed a lecture hall, radio studio, lounge area and eight bedroom studios overlooking the flow of red buses and black taxis on Tooley St – while the main recording studio (still in operation today as a Red Bull Studio) had windows at street level so that passersby could glimpse musical chemistry as it was put down to tape. The walls and free spaces featured an exhibition of local artists curated by Nick Hackworth, the former art critic and gallerist behind Bethnal Green’s Paradise Row, who now co-runs contemporary art platform Modern Forms.
The 2010 Academy was located a stone’s throw from iconic Tower Bridge, which was completed in 1894, in an area once known for tanneries, warehouses, jails and general disrepute. Not far from the strangely shaped, Norman Foster-designed City Hall, the Academy building appropriately sat at a midway point between old and new, in an area long-known for its multicultural community.
Red Bull Radio, at that time still known as RBMA Radio, broadcasted around the clock in London, offering recordings of many of the fine events in the RBMA program as well as exclusive interviews. From 10 PM – 12 midnight each weeknight during the Academy in London (and a special Saturday edition), we simulcasted a live RBMA show via partner station NME Radio, hosted by Academy couch champion and music journalist supremo Emma Warren.