Truth: Michael Red is an important fixture in the West Coast electronic scene. The Vancouver artist/DJ/promoter/curator has his hand in many pies. He’s a founding member of Vancouver’s hugely influential Lighta! collective and a curator for that city’s envelope pushing New Forms Festival. As souns he crafts deep ambient scapes of original music & he tours the planet supporting Tagaq. His live/DJ sets under his own name are expansive treks through post-everything dance music, with a penchant for sub-spatial heft… annnnd oh yeah, he runs Low Indigo, a semi-regular night dedicated to exploring the fringes of dancefloor activity. BUSY GUY. MRed can be a tough one to pin down, so when we received his gargantuan recap, it brought a smile to our face. It’s great to have someone open up about their year in depth with such honesty & genuine optimism about art, culture & humanity in general.
His recap came prefaced with “yeah, i wrote an essay. please excuse any grammar and spelling stuff. i care less about that stuff and more about if people receive my meaning..” So dig in.
Michael Red: 2011. 2011. 2011.
i’m not going to try and “sum up” 2011 cuz there would be inevitably be a pile of important things i would miss. instead i’ll just follow my stream of thought and try to cover the most ground, all based on my own experiences. i think i’ll divide things loosely into my personal musical journey, the local scene, the global scene, and then maybe some “life” stuff from the crazy amount of lessons i learned this year. i hope it all translates.
looking back at the year, i have a lot to be thankful for. in march, i had a blast touring with TANYA TAGAQ and JESSE ZUBOT down in australia and new zealand, then czech republic and poland. playing WOMAD festival (both in AUS and NZ) and getting hang out with tonnes of interesting and amazing artists like WILDBIRDS AND PEACEDRUMS, DON LETTS, FAT FREDDY’S DROP and coming painfully close to dubbing out HORACE ANDY and his band live (if it weren’t for a scheduling conflict). one of countless highlights down there was actually making friends and sharing special moments with dudes from HANGGAI (mongolia) and RANGO (egypt/sudan), despite not speaking the same language. all i know is that i WILL be back in new zealand again. i set up a beacon there.
back in vancouver, another highlight earlier in the year was the FULL LIGHTA! CREW show at the old W2 STORYEUM. i forget exactly where my head was at that time, but i know that party restored a lot of my faith in the local scene/community and good music in general. it felt like an actual house party and everyone was having a blast.
over in montreal, MUTEK was a massive highlight. i had never actual been to the festival before, but i’ve respected it for years and definitely had awareness of the quality standards it set. and man, it totally lived up to my massive expectations in every way. i saw some inspiring performances, MURCOF with ANTI VJ being a favourite, and had so much fun with the massive west coast crew we were rolling with out there. it was an absolute pleasure to play my music live with zero compromise, and know that the crowd fully got it. admittedly, i was pretty damn proud of our whole team the night we all played – BABE RAINBOW, MONOLITHIUM, DAEGA, CALAMALKA, MAX ULIS. EVERYONE was at the top of their game and smashed it.
it was also a great summer the BC festival season too. expectations were running unfathomably high for BASS COAST FESTIVAL and it ALL came true. talk about a dream world of an overload of good music and vibes and idealic super hilarious fun times. so much love for basscoast. i had a great time at SHAMBHALA too (shouts to the pub night crew and beer faeries!). as always – it was all about the beach stage there, night and day. it’s safe to say LIGHTA! rep’d it hard at both festivals. i was definitely feeling appreciation for where we’re all at as a team now. sadly i couldn’t make it out to DIVERSITY but i heard it was magic.
i’m still getting love from a lot of folks about this recording, and i just gotta say – it has just as much to do with ALL the people that were there that morning as it does the music i played. i just was translating the collective warmth of all who were there and managed to get in on tape.
another summer highlight, where the vibes were particularly potent, was when i played THURSDAY TING the night before heading off to shambhala. that night was ALL about going hard on the dancefloor. it was the perfect temperature and something just in the air. ..it was that night actually that totally guided me to play a dancehall focused set at shambhala. i dunno, i definitely can get carried away with my excitement over JA music sometimes.. well, often actually.
and while on the topic of TING – i couldn’t give enough love to TANK GIRL for going 4 years strong with that night – i vital part of a lot of people’s community. it’s more than the music, and she knows that. BIG UP!
another major 2011 highlight was the ADDISON GROOVE and SILKIE show at the new W2 in august. was happy to put that one down as a LOW INDIGO event. i usually steer away from promoting shows in the summer, but intuition lead me there, and it all worked out beautiful. it felt like those magical DUBFORMS vibes, and i know that others felt the same, where people just get lost in the experience and time dissolves and everything becomes fluid. needless to say, all the artists smashed it and the resonance lasted something like a week.
carrying on into september, it was a benchmark year for NEW FORMS FESTIVAL. it felt like the festival had matured somehow this year and gelled in a way it hadn’t before. a lot of great names and performances that i felt deserved the festival’s “new forms” title. i’m also a personal fan of the new WALDORF and what that venue’s got going on these days. i’m proud to be a part of the NFF team that’s formed now, and i’m already excited for next year.
(i called it a mixtape cuz it felt that way to me, switching moods and genre hoping, demonstrating the genuine diversity of the line-up.)
playing THEORY @ HUSH (victoria) for the lovely APRIL M and a great tight-knit victoria community was great times. and also rolling up to the SLOCAN VALLEY and playing for the equally lovely KORINA OPHELIA was one of the funnest roadtrips and all around experiences i’ve had ever (big up all the crew involved there. you know who you are).
and i just want to say a MASSIVE HEARTFELT THANKS to all the people that took the time to thank me for what i do and have done over the past years. over the course of this past half year especially. a lot of those words, from people i do and don’t know, had brought me up when i’ve been down and made me feel validated when i’ve been doubtful. my year could have turned out a lot different without it, and it only makes me want to give back more. so thank you. ..bless.. ..even the non-verbal smiles and people on the dancefloor and heads who come out and play the background (that was me for many years) – i’m doing this for all of YOU.
so yes, onwards to the local scene in 2011..
SEEKERSINTERNATIONAL put out a super solid release named ‘the call from below’. i have a really nice memory of walking around downtown and it was the perfect soundtrack to have on repeat. elements of pole and other stuff on the ~scape label. some kinda of unique dub stylings i don’t think i’ve heard anywhere else. sideways nods to soundsystem culture and the subtlest of hip hop references. tasteful use of space and restraint. just all around beautiful and delicate music to nod your head hard to, if that makes any sense. (guys absolutely smashed a low indigo show in the early part of the year too)
MONOLITHIUM. geez. talk about coming out of no where and grabbing a throne i didn’t even know existed. aside from digging the music, especially the live show (vancouver debut in february), i just gotta admire the method and dedication to the overall branding and presence. well done.
speaking of thrones, CALAMALKA has his own going too. feelings are felt, especially when it’s a live set.
VINCENT PARKER had a few key tracks this year which totally touched me. the HEART TROMPET remix of BRASSTRANAUT – straight into my soul and out the other end. again and again. and CYRILIAN – geez. tune! vancouver represent.
TAAL MALA of course is always up to something and churning out the goodness, but in particular his dub called OUTPUT YOUR INSIDES (which i might be the only other one who presently has a copy of, heheheheh) is so so serious. it’s on a sort or addison groove thing, but also a has a rnb switch-up and something that is distinctly “taal mala”. apparently he’s got lots more of that same flavour in the works and i simply can’t wait. bug him to finish more of those tunes (he loves being bugged).
BABE RAINBOW killing it and helping put vancouver on the map and it’s so great cuz it’s such different super-current music with soul. there’s something about it that i feel is actually “vancouver” (what ever the frack that is), and when you think about the process of vancouver developing it’s own musical identity – it’s super exciting.
SELF EVIDENT has more than a few times blown me away and had me fully lost in the moment, hearing certain dubs for the first time on a big system – big large YES.
i would have never expected it, but GISTO’s reggae album JUST THE BEGINNING is very impressive and just quality reggae music. i listened to that album on repeat many many a time this year. it’s kinda weird how good it is somehow (like, do i really want to listen to album again? yup). he and i actually got to collabing on a track too, called MOONLIGHT SUMMER, and it was one of smoothest funnest collabs i’ve ever done, plus it always gets a great reaction on the dancefloor. definitely hope to collab with that man again.
and the man PETER HAGGE. my new favourite VJ in vancouver. i just can’t say enough good things. look out for his name on event details. environment is so important and he does it right. spectral simplicity. no fashion. all art.
i also just have to give a quick nod to AALO GUHA for his ‘purple and grey’ release. i realize it didn’t happen in 2011, but in 2011 is when i discovered it and i think had it on repeat for an entire afternoon. it’s achingly underground stuff (good luck finding it online) that more people really need to hear. guy is too humble. i guess you might classify the album as a cross between post rock and chilled out instrumental hip hop (?). i dunno. it’s just good.
saving what might be the best for last.. EVY JANE. evy jane. evy jane. i dunno what to say. i saw her perform for the first time earlier this year, up in slocan valley actually, and it was special. she was singing and playing the organ with tastefully glitched out and side-chainy beats that were just right amount of heavy. beautiful voice, inspired melodies, effortlessly future, actual music. she’s got one tune on soundcloud – check that ish out. and next time she’s playing – check that ish out. i know a few folks have remixed that one soundcloud tune. i managed to get my hands on a different tune and finished up a remix for it (ready to get out there when the time is right). i don’t know what else she’s got in the works, but i seriously can’t wait.
kay, so, moving out of the local scene and into the global..
here’s a short list of some of tunes that touched my core this past year, like feel-in-every-part-of-my-body food-for-life type stuff:
richelle ‘i think’ (original mix)
jamie xx ‘beat for’
zomby ‘a devil lay here’
machinedrum ‘she died there’ (and pretty much the entire ‘rooms’ album)
sbtrkt ‘hold on’
sbtrkt ‘trails of the past’
jason burns ‘back 2 you’ (a sorta personal anthem of the summer)
kuedo ‘flight path’ (and pretty much the entire ‘servent’ album)
teebs ‘while you dooooo’ (and everything else he does)
little dragon ‘when i go out’
college ‘a real hero’ (i might not be saying that if it weren’t for the ‘drive’ movie tho)
and on the modern rnb tip..
the weeknd (70% of it all, over and over again for ever)
drake (more like 50% of it all, over and over again for ever)
the dream (an impressive 80-ish % of anything that guy has done in the past several years) i finally embraced/understood that artist with his terius nash free release this year (get that!).
dancehall riddims of 2011 that i liked the most, off the top of my head: captain, silent river, numbers, santiago, island vibes, costra nostra
shew. shew. shew.
kay. i also wanted touch on some “life” stuff too, cuz this was big year of learning for me. so much learning. so much learning. about myself as a human. about myself as an artist. and about the nature of earthly waking life and beyond.
i made the decision to relocate to the sunshine coast for 5 months, subletting a converted trailer until the spring. it was definitely a leap of faith and, viewing it logically, it actually didn’t make a lot of sense on several levels. but life is not all logic. it was surrendering to my intuition which tipped the scales in favour of going coastal, and as always (always always) my intuition was correct.
i’m big on personal experiences over, say, information i might get from the internet or mainstream media. personal experience trumps all. and hearing about personal experiences from trusted friends (or strangers) is how i prefer to get my info. the reason why i say that is because i can tell you from countless personal experiences – follow your gut. follow your instinct. follow your intuition. it won’t let you down. even it totally defies earthly logic – DO IT. even if it seems super risky – it’s actually more of a risk to NOT follow your instinct and be guided by the truth that lives inside all of us.
one personal intention of mine in the past few months and ongoing is to connect with more people and friends in a meaningful way, without keeping an eye on the clock (being fully present in the moment), and just to enjoy my friends and friends-to-be. i can easily get caught up in feeling like i’m too busy and that i can’t even spare a minute to say hello to folks i like and actually want to get to know. that, coupled with the fact that i also naturally have a tendency to hermit and isolate myself can lead to a really unhealthly state of mind. so yeah, in essence, i’m trying to have more chilled out coffees and drinks and chats with folks and it’s turning out awesome. it’s vital. i’m really embracing (and, in a way, re-learning) the importance and fun of collabing with others, through art and conversation and experience. more more more.
i’ve been writing (words) a lot more too this year too. it’s work, but good work and well worth it. writing this here recap, as a matter of fact, is just as much for my own personal process as it is to share with others. this year i rediscovered the value of writing out personal thoughts and ideas, cuz i can actually figure out things that i otherwise couldn’t if the thoughts just stayed in my head. i’ve written countless emails to people and not sent them (i’ve just written and saved them as word documents not ever connected to the internet), cuz it’s really helped me process my thoughts and feelings. looking back at some of those writings, weeks or months later, gives me such clarity about what actually matters and what doesn’t, and can also be serious ego check about how reactionary or reality-blind i can be sometimes.
it’s DMC, from RUN-DMC, talking in an unfiltered heartfelt way about his experience being close to suicide and some unlikely music “saving” him. it’s a really powerful recording and i like it for a lot of reasons. it’s a great example of the more honest and direct-from-the-heart way of communicating we all need to be doing more with each other, that i actually feel is essential to our survival (certainly to our collective happiness at least). i love the fact that he is sharing something completely intimate, in a very public way, without a shade of embarrassment. i actually feel like that kind of very public heart sharing, without ego, is a form of activism. it’s activism because it directly combats ideas of deception, dishonesty, and being closed to oneself and others – which the mainstream-media/corporations/etc fights so hard to instill in people. sharing like that is something i look up to and aspire to do more myself. i’m also big on anti-fashion and anti-cool and that fact that he’s chatting about a sarah mclachlan is great, considering he’s from RUN-DMC (heheh). but the initial thing that got me with this recording was when DMC talks about how money and fame don’t mean sh*t – you can feel that he 100% believes (knows) it. and that’s another real forward movement that is key to our survival (evolution) - cuz money and material items, physical and non-physical (fame/vanity), won’t mean a thing when this whole global change thing really starts to kick in. the sooner we start re-learning and re-embracing such things – the easier our transition will be, and better chance of our individual survival. yip.
a lot of those ideas wrap into the reason why i always set-up a mic for myself whenever i perform now (a new development for me in 2011). so i can just tell the truth in my own way (sometimes thru vocal nonsense), and try to be a sideways advocate for realness. it’s because i’m not anywhere close to being a “real mc” that i naturally have less fronts and “safe zone’s” to go to, so my hope is that translates and models people taking positive risks, being less afraid to get silly and stupid – cuz laad knows i get silly and stupid on the mic. and yeah, trying to make people laugh and smile a little, cuz the world needs way more of that too.
there’s a whole bunch else new about my livePA set-up, DJ approach, artistic approach, and stuff with the LOW INDIGO concept that i’d be excited to share, but maybe i’ll just save that for another time, cuz i think i’ve blabbed enough for now. zazzle!
so.. big up yourselves. all the strength and power and love to those that need it most. *the first two fingers from each hand pointed to the sky*
til next or return..