We hit the road in the UK throughout March and April 2015, visiting Glasgow, Bristol, London and Manchester for a month-long programme featuring some of music’s most eminent emissaries.
Visiting a different locale each week, UK Tour 2015 saluted the homegrown talent that forms the bedrock of its rich musical communities. The programming drew on each city’s cultural heritage, and ranged from a roller skate jam with grime icons Boy Better Know to an installation of soundtracks by Numbers artists at Glasgow’s Art School; and a live RBMA Radio broadcast of London’s pirate radio legends atop the country’s tallest public artwork. Read on for a full round-up of the many events at each of the tour’s stops in 2015.
26 March - 29 March
26 March: Sui Generis
27 March: Loops with Numbers at Goma
27 March: Optimo Pequeno Espacio
27 March: From Disco to Disco w/ Dimitri from Paris, Prins Thomas
28 March: A Conversation with Danny Brown
28 March: Astral Black ft. Danny Brown, Mumdance
29 March: Subculture w/ Derrick May, Paranoid London (Live), Harri & Domenic
29 March: RBMA Radio Live at Sub Club
29 March: A Night with LuckyMe
We started things off in Scotland at one of Glasgow’s most iconic buildings, the Art School. The night – entitled Sui Generis: Artists On To Their Own – celebrated those artists brave enough to face the crowd alone with their idiosyncratic sounds. Academy alumnus Koreless, Hivern Discs man Pional, percussive alchemist Mo Kolours and juke house fusionist Romare soundtracked Room 1, while The Vic Bar was serviced by three acts signed to the Fine Grains label: Cain, label founder Uraki Riddim and OL.
Drawing on 12 years experience unifying music and digital art, the team behind Numbers and its sister company Studio Remote presented an immersive experience titled Loops in the Gallery of Modern Art’s stunning main space. The centrepiece of the installation was an epic sphere, suspended among the graceful neoclassical columns of the gallery’s atrium, depicting an upwards journey through ever-changing, elemental landscapes soundtracked by a series of loops provided by Numbers artists and some of their closest musical friends.
Soundtrack recordings were provided by Adesse Versions, Anthony Naples, Blawan, Bob Techno, Deadboy, Doc Daneeka, General Ludd, JD Twitch, Line Idle, Lory D, Luma, Kool Clap, Kowton, Midland, Mumdance, Peverelist, Redinho, Sparky, Tersh, Unspecified Enemies and more.
With a ruthless commitment to swerving the obvious and formulaic, sets from Twitch and Jonnie Wilkes can go from sleazy funk to post-punk, electro, techno and anything in between. Ordinarily at home bringing their anything-goes sets to the best clubs and festivals across the world, we asked them to play the smallest space they have for some time, and by small, we mean it. Just 30 or so lucky people got up close and personal with Optimo in a secret store room for this one-off.
Occupying the funkier end of the dance spectrum for the past decade, Dimitri from Paris has tested his mettle producing a raft of original work alongside commissions to curate soundtracks for the fashion elite, with the likes of Chanel, Gaultier and Lagerfeld all clamouring for his finesse. Norwegian space-disco luminary Prins Thomas joined him for this event at the pawnshop-fronted venue The Berkeley Suite, plus an under-the-radar special guest appearance by Optimo.
In an era of industry-obsessed MCs, interchangeable hashtag raps and “viral” everything, it has become increasingly difficult to find a true original in the rap game. Fortunately, at the start of the decade along came Danny Brown. In 2011 the Detroit MC teamed up with Fool’s Gold Records and released XXX, a tour-de-force concept record about hedonism, growing up and his hometown, which took listeners on a profane and psychedelic journey through his own uncensored id. After a year of universal critical acclaim, Danny divided his time between recording his debut full-length, Old, and appearing on tracks by the likes of A$AP Rocky, Ab-Soul, A-Trak and Purity Ring. Old challenged XXX’s achievements, and Brown’s paradigm-shredding path hasn’t hit a block since.
Detroit rapper Danny Brown and raucous event-cum-label Astral Black stormed SWG3 with a takeover. With a method of expression and music-making that leaves others’ in the dust, Brown built on the revelations of his lecture earlier in the day with a live performance that was as out of control as his barnet.
Support came courtesy of 2014 Red Bull Music Academy alumnus Mumdance who played a special set with grime vet Riko Dan handling MC duties. Astral Black head honcho Jon Phonics joined the melee with label mates DJ Milktray and Jaisu, showcasing the label’s reputation as a platform for cutting-edge talent in the burgeoning experimental hip-hop and new wave grime scenes.
A longstanding beacon of electronic excellence, Sub Club has been doing what they do best since April 1987. The epicentre of Glasgow’s vibrant scene for the best part of three decades, Red Bull Music Academy joined forces with its longstanding residency Subculture. Headlined by the revered colossus of Detroit techno, Derrick May, support came from Subculture mainstays Harri & Domenic, alongside a special live set from production junkies Paranoid London.
Glasgow’s envelope-pushing imprint LuckyMe hosted a night of unique talent and style. Set up as an outlet for the creative drives of designers and musicians alike, LuckyMe is a label with a strong, varied identity. Who better to represent them than Jacques Greene, NAKED, Éclair Fifi and special guest Mykki Blanco? The rapper-cum-performance artist of many guises has sifted through a mass of identities and iterations, and with a visceral, take-no-prisoners style, this was a gig defying the norm, hosted by a label operating well outside of it.
RBMA Radio popped up in the Sub Hub – Sub Club’s new venture in Glasgow city centre that was open throughout the month of April. Championing emerging acts making waves in the city right now alongside the veterans of the Glasgow scene, this was a live broadcast open house for those who like enjoying quality music and absorbing conversation over their tattie scones.
2 April - 6 April
2 April: A Conversation w/ Seth Troxler
2 April: All Night Long w/ Seth Troxler at The Love Inn
3 April: Lords of the Manor w/ Danny Brown, Mumdance, Novelist, The Square and more
4 April: RBMA Radio Live in Bristol at Idle Hands Records
4 April: Goat Sounds of Surrender
5 April: Altered States w/ Just Jack ft. DJ Koze, Italojohnson and more
6 April: Cosmic Expansions at the Planetarium w/ Lonnie Liston Smith, Gilles Peterson
Champion DJ/producer and global golden boy Seth Troxler combined his threefold passion for great food, stellar conversation and music for this kick-off to the Red Bull Music Academy’s tour stop in Bristol. Holding court at the Canteen, Seth sat down for a chat with Resident Advisor founder and long-time friend Nick Sabine for an Academy lecture session before dishing up a Smokey Tails menu next door at The Love Inn.
After talking shop and dishing up culinary treats from his own fair hands, Seth Troxler put his infamous selector skills to good use at The Love Inn. It was an intimate, all night long set for 150 lucky punters from a man known for repping a wide expanse of house and techno, with four labels to his name, providing the perfect digestif to the day’s previous events.
Better known as a prime tourist destination for city-trippers, for one night the 17th century manor house that sits at the centre of the Kings Weston Estate became the setting for the best house party you’ve (n)ever been to. Lords of the Manor featured a performance from rulebook-tearing Detroit rapper Danny Brown, supported by UK MC/producer duo Novelist and Mumdance, plus the former’s crew The Square.
The RBMA Radio studio popped up in the Idle Hands record store for as much vinyl-related chat as possible. Championing emerging acts alongside Bristol’s veterans, this was a live broadcast open house for record junkies.
Red Bull Music Academy invited the curious, the bold and the brave to explore the frontiers of music and identity for this sonic soiree with Swedish alt-folk innovators Goat. Famed for their immersive live extravaganzas and free-form approach to music-making, Goat’s focus for this very special night was on the full meaning of collective experience: ridding oneself of the ego. This meant ritually letting go of anything associated with social hierarchy and image. Phones, cameras, money: all were jettisoned before entering the dance. Then everyone masked and robed up, and shed their individual identities to become part of the whole. In this state, with Goat’s rhythmic, pulsating melodies filling the floor, everyone was free to lose their inhibitions and surrender to the music.
Just Jack and the prolific DJ Koze provided the arena for an exploration of the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for autonomic responses) and emotional language within hidden energy fields. The human emotional connection with music goes beyond the sparks and flutters of chemicals in the brain, and can reach us on a deeply spiritual level – just ask anyone who’s had an epiphany in the middle of a sweaty, dystopian techno rager. Royal Society Research Fellow Dr. David Glowacki and his team of experts in Danceroom Spectroscopy provided a large-scale, interactive experience, using 3D video technology alongside a custom-built supercomputer to interpret the emotional and spiritual energy fields hidden within the venue. The audience used their energy fields to steer a molecular physics simulation and generate visualisations and soundscapes in real-time.
Lonnie Liston Smith is a pioneering funkateer, known for his trademark Fender Rhodes keyboard sound and a lauded cosmic jazz discography. 2015 marked 40 years since the release of seminal dancefloor classic Expansions. Celebrating that anniversary with a one-off at a suitably cosmic venue, perennial tastemaker Gilles Peterson joined Smith for a conversation on the sofa before a special performance.
Bristol-based producer and serial collaborator Pinch invited ten music makers to join him for a real-time collaboration. Samples provided by each artist in advance were worked into a new track, using Pinch’s masterful techniques live in front of an audience in an intimate setting.
8 April - 12 April
8 April: A Conversation with A$AP Rocky
8 April: The Future Sounds of Hip Hop w/ Pusha T, Semtex and more
9 April: Tropical Roller Disco w/ JME, Skepta, Slimzee and more
9 April: Dark & Lovely Global Roots w/ Blackfoot Phoenix and more
10 April: Studio Science w/ Julio Bashmore
10 April: Rebel Sound: Three Generations of Soundboy
11 April: High Frequencies: RBMA Radio Live from ArcelorMittal Orbit
11 April: 0800 = R1NG 2 RAV3 w/ Shy FX, Thris Tian, Josey Rebelle and more
12 April: Brooklyn Love w/ Wolf + Lamb
12 April: T Dance w/ Joe Claussell, Zebra Katz and more
The future of hip-hop is in the good hands of A$AP Rocky, and it looks bright. The lyrically dexterous 26 year old was born to become an MC – not so farfetched a claim when you consider his parents named him Rakim after the seminal rapper. Since his smash debut LP Long.Live.A$AP he’s been biding his time with the follow-up, and the world waits with baited breath to see what form it’s going to take. In this Red Bull Music Academy couch session, Rocky lifted the curtain on his new album, discussing the long process behind it and even premiering one of the tracks.
One of the original creative forces behind Boiler Room, Thris Tian brought his Sunday night NTS radio show, Dark & Lovely Global Roots, to the live arena with South London’s Blackfoot Phoenix. Whether it’s jazz, soul, hip-hop, house, techno, or something that defies any naming attempts, Thris Tian keeps his finger on the pulse of what’s new and an open ear to the past. Joining him on this truly original night were LA sculptor of R&B dreamscapes Iman Omari, PAN-affiliated beat alchemist Afrikan Sciences and other hand-picked guests.
Adenuga brothers Jamie and Joseph AKA JME and Skepta are the driving force behind the most enduring grime supergroup. As part of Roll Deep’s Rinse FM sessions, they revitalised pirate radio, and in subsequent years, their albums both solo and as a crew have transformed grime into a global phenomenon. Their influence on the lexicon of grime is as singular as their mastery of DIY merch revenue streams, allowing them both commercial and critical success. Besides JME and Skepta, the BBK roster encompassed big shots such as Eskiboy Wiley, Frisco or the original Murkle Man Jammer. Boy Better Know’s seminal EPs Tropical 1 & 2 brought the hidden UKG roots of grime back into focus, at a time when grime and dubstep were dominating underground club culture. Those cult releases became the stepping off point for a 3D club experience. Injecting some bounce back into the genre’s clubland context, and refreshing the dancefloor with the best of old and new, this concept show saw grime and garage collide – on roller skates!
Over a pair of 12" releases on his own Broadwalk Records, Bristol-born producer Julio Bashmore rounded off 2014 in prolific style. 2015 followed suit, with the release of his debut album Knockin Boots, a loving tribute to the roots and trajectory of house music, featuring vocals by diverse artists ranging from South African rapper Okmalumkoolkat to London synth-funk producer and singer Bixby. Contributing to the RBMA Tour festivities, Julio visited Red Bull Studios London for a workshop and revealed the craft behind one of the UK’s most exciting talents.
When Rebel Sound walked away from a raucous Earls Court as champions of Red Bull Culture Clash in 2014, it was a triumph of their cross-genre, cross-generation riddims. For the Red Bull Music Academy UK Tour, Rebel Sound returned for their first show together since Culture Clash, headlining a party that doffed a cap to all the sounds that inspired their formation. A lineup of sound boys across the ages stepped up: Congo Natty featuring Congo Dubz, Jus Now (DJ set) featuring Serocee, and Earl Gateshead joined Rebel Sound’s Chase & Status + Rage, David Rodigan and Shy FX.
Red Bull Music Academy announced Wolf + Lamb’s arrival in town with a blowout on Friday night, with support from Academy alum and deep house maestro San Soda. Wolf + Lamb play passionate music that moves hearts as well as feet, and have been tailoring performances to their settings for almost a decade. This was another masterclass from a pair who don’t deal in anything but good times. After the Friday all-nighter at Dalston haunt The Nest, Wolf + Lamb popped down the road for round two of their London double-header, taking over The Old Queen’s Head in Islington with Academy alum Kool Clap.
High Frequencies was a live-streamed celebration of the legacy of UK pirate radio, with sets from the likes of Norman Jay & Gordon Mac, Terror Danjah, Ragga Twins, Fabio & Grooverider and many more. The London stop of the 2015 Red Bull Music Academy Tour saw RBMA Radio take over Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s ArcelorMittal Orbit for one day, broadcasting from Britain’s tallest sculpture and observation tower, (designed by Turner-Prize winning artist Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond of engineering Group Arup).
Déjà Vu FM – DJ Dlux + Spooky Bizzle
Flex FM - Deekline
Freek FM – Jazzy D & DJ Laren
Future FM – Terror Danjah
Kiss FM – Norman Jay MBE + Gordon Mac
Kool FM – Eastman, Brockie + MC Det
Passion FM - Jumping Jack Frost
Phase 1 – Fabio & Grooverider
Station FM - DJ Keithley + Mr Bantan
Hosted by Sam Supplier
Paying homage to the bygone era of illegal raves and keeping things on the hush hush, the 0800 = R1NG 2 RAV3 location and lineup was revealed in true old-school form on the day, featuring Thristian, Moxie, Josey Rebelle, Shy FX, Fabio & Grooverider and Special Request AKA Paul Woolford.
Chapter 10 is the cult gay dance party that has been rolling through London’s warehouses and basements with triumphant flare, regularly showcasing iconic and emerging talents from the worlds of disco, house and techno. This time around, Chapter 10 offered up their spin on a traditional tea dance from a Victorian ballroom, featuring live performances from Poisonous Relationship as well as avant-rap artiste and 2014 Academy alum Zebra Katz. Supreme selectors Prins Thomas, Honey Dijon, and Joe Claussell were joined by many more on a vinyl-only soundsystem to bring the sonic heritage of cities like Chicago, Berlin, London and NYC under one roof. T Dance celebrated why real vision comes from those in the margins, not the mainstream.
16 April - 19 April
16 April: Dr. Me’s Jacket Exhibition
16 April: In Conversation with Skepta
16 April: Tropical at the Ritz w/ JME, Skepta and guests
17 April: Industrial City Sounds w/ Derrick May, Surgeon and more
17 April: Deep South w/ Omar-S, Doc Daneeka
17 April: Simmering From Beneath w/ Mount Kimbie and more
18 April: RBMA Radio Live in Manchester at Soup Kitchen
18 April: Zed Bias & Friends
19 April: Studio Science w/ PRhyme (DJ Premier & Royce da 5'9")
19 April: Wax Works w/ Jazzy Jeff, PRhyme and more
DR.ME’s exhibition “Jacket” was an exploration into the record sleeve artwork created by DR.ME since the studio’s inception four years ago. They have created artwork for numerous musical acts including Evian Christ, Fis, Björk collaborator The Haxan Cloak, D/R/U/G/S and The Travelling Band.
From Meridian to Roll Deep to Boy Better Know, Joseph Junior Adenuga has been blazing a trail in the UK underground for over a decade, but Skepta’s name is hotter than ever. Having undeniably smashed his way to the surface now, there was plenty to discuss – grime’s resurgence, Red Bull Culture Clash and flying the flag with international collaborations. This conversation provided an insight into the mind of an artist whose career has had unparalleled momentum both inside and outside of his field.
Cult releases Tropical 1 and Tropical 2 came out in 2006 and 2011, respectively, on JME’s Boy Better Know label. At that time, as grime and dubstep dominated UK underground culture, UK garage was no longer represented in the clubs. In response, tracks from the likes of Todd Edwards, Wookie, Preditah and Royal T mixed UKG with grime production, serving as a nod to grime’s submerged roots, with Tropical capturing this sound.
Following the RBMA UK Tour’s BBK roller jam in London, we took their 3D club experience to Manchester to celebrate the legacy of, and the groundwork laid by, the genre’s seminal figures. And what would such a celebration have been without some other familiar faces?
What happens when an unstoppable lineup hits an immovable institution? Taking over Sankeys Manchester for the night, RBMA enlisted some of techno’s most influential figures in Detroit’s Derrick May and Birmingham’s Surgeon to soundtrack an event of epic proportions. More recent innovators Happa, Acre, Tin Man, and Dana Ruh made up a bill that spanned styles, generations and continents.
FXHE Records boss and all-around Detroit legend Omar-S was back in Manchester for the first time since 2012. Omar-S’s stellar reputation has been founded on over a decade of consistently flawless contributions to the Motor City’s musical canon. Considering the level of output, this makes him nothing short of iconic, and we’re proud to have brought him back to a city that appreciates genius when they hear it. Academy alum Doc Daneeka provided support, spinning some of his acclaimed releases alongside Meat Free DJs.
Known for multi-instrumental live performances, and disowning the (post)dubstep label, Mount Kimbie seamlessly blend indie, shoegaze, R&B and minimal techno as well as subtle dubstep patterns. The trailblazing London duo returned to Manchester to play an exclusive DJ set for only 200 people at the Soup Kitchen. Support came from the city’s own Synkro, Red Bull Music Academy alum Braiden and resident Dan Hampson.
RBMA Radio popped up in the cosy confines of the Soup Kitchen for the last live broadcast of the tour. Championing emerging acts making waves in the city right now like Academy grads Krystal Klear and Ruf Dug, alongside veterans of the Manchester music scene like Zed Bias in the live broadcast open house.
Manchester’s scene is as vital as it’s ever been, and one of its electronic godfathers showed to what extent. Zed Bias and a collection of local friends set up in the eccentric surrounds of Antwerp Mansion, with Bias played a live interpretation of his Boss LP on analogue synths, drum machines and Serato.
Royce Da 5'9" and DJ Premier joined forces last year to form PRhyme, in an attempt to challenge the way people consume music. The first full-length collaboration from this duo was celebrated for its true hip-hop makeup and its overall purpose during this Studio Science master class at Manchester’s 2022NQ. The session revealed more than just the physical manifestations of their approach to music.
The 2015 Red Bull Music Academy UK Tour climaxed at Manchester’s Beat Street warehouse in the company of a genre-spanning lineup including Royce Da 5'9" and DJ Premier as PRhyme, multi-talent house legend Todd Terry, and the iconic DJ Jazzy Jeff. Holding up the UK end were RBMA alumnus Krystal Klear and Rinse resident Josey Rebelle. In an ode to Record Store Day, artists on the bill were tasked with collecting the music they wanted to play on the night from the city’s world famous record stores, which resulted in some unique sets from a selection of the game’s finest.