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NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Interview: Red Rack'em

9 February 10 interview: Beane
photos: Debbie Davies

"I wasn't cut out for the corporate life and got the sack after a month. Years of unemployment, dance music and low-quality housing ensued."

Danny Berman - aka Red Rack’em - is a busy man these days. After a summer of festival appearances and putting out production on a plethora of underground labels, he can count Gilles Peterson and Rob Da Bank among his fans. He also has his club-rocking, genre-busting international DJ sets and a huge fortnightly podcast to take care of. And this coming year is set to be even busier, starting with a free entry set in Trinity Square for the 'Lion this Saturday...

What brought you to Notts?
I was a non-linear TV editor in the late 90s, having the time of my life in Liverpool working for the dodgy cable channel L!VE TV. I’ve actually been News Bunny, but that's a different story. I got a job editing corporate films for Boots and Experian so I moved here in 1999, but I wasn't really cut out for the corporate life and got the sack after a month. Years of unemployment, dance music and low-quality housing ensued.

Why are you called Red Rack’em?
I was inspired by artists like Yam Who, Red Astaire and Blackbeard so I put out a lot of unofficial hip-hop remixes from 2004-2006 and that style was dubbed ‘pirate soul’ by the press. Bootlegs were called ‘booties’ in the shops. Booty = pirate treasure. I loved Tintin books as a child. I can’t say any more than that about it as this is a family magazine.

You've played in nearly every venue in town. What do you make of the Nottingham scene?
In the early noughties, I used to go out all the time to nights like Detonate, DiY, Pure Filth and in more recent years I went to a lot of the early dubstep parties like Heavyweight Rocksteady plus disco/house night Basement Boogaloo and the early Futureproof parties. But I don't really go out much in Nottingham anymore as I am away playing gigs most weekends and I really feel my age when I go out these days. My take on Notts right now is that it's probably just as exciting for people under twenty as it was for me when I was going out all the time in 1999-2004. But it does seem like there's a lot less variety on offer these days in terms of venues and musical styles. I think the types of music being offered to young people in the whole of the UK these days are increasingly commercial and everything seems really dumbed down. I found it inspiring when I played the last set at this years Big Chill at the radio station as a lot of the massive crowd were under twenty and they were all going mad to vintage house from Chez Damier and ten year-old garage from Zed Bias. My set got recorded and hosted on the Big Chill website so it’s great to have a permanent record of that night. You can check out that set on the Big Chill website.

Red Rack'em's Smugglers Inn Podcast - Give it a listen
What do you think was the turning point for you in busting out of Notts?
I’ve released a wide variety of music in the last few years on many different labels that all have their own promotional reach, which has brought me to the attention of a much wider audience. It's been a bit of a snowball effect. I played at Snowbombing, Glastonbury, Bestival and Big Chill, which means my music is being promoted to hundreds of thousands of people. My remixes of The Revenge, Tricky and the Joubert Singers have been really popular - Greg Wilson, one of the biggest names on the disco/edit scene, has played my remix of the Joubert's gospel disco classic Stand On The Word in nearly every one of his DJ sets in 2009.

That remix got you a lot of airplay on Radio 1…
I have had a lot of support for my Red Rack'em, Hot Coins and Marlinspike projects on Radio 1 from Gilles Peterson, Rob Da Bank, Mary Anne Hobbes and even Zane Lowe. Gilles invited me to play at the Worldwide Awards in January and I went on straight after Jazzanova to a full house at Cargo in London, which was an amazing experience and my set was broadcast on Radio 1 the following week.

Your Smugglers Inn podcasts go out fortnightly on Notts-based internet radio station myhouse-yourhouse. How important has that been for getting your name out?
It’s been going for a couple of years, and gets over 700 downloads a fortnight, which has helped me build an international audience. Sourcing two hours of brand new quality music and guest mixes every fortnight isn't easy, but I‘ve been lucky enough to build up a really strong network of labels and producers contributing tracks and also listeners who want to hear new music. The most satisfying thing for me has been the community side of things - artists are remixing each other after hearing each others’ tracks on the show, and certain labels are using it as an A&R hub to find new tracks to sign. I also really enjoy promoting other DJs on the show with the guest mixes, which brings a fresh new twist to the show as well.

Is any new material set to drop in 2010? Will we be blessed with a debut album?
Well, I’ve got loads more singles on the way and a couple of albums on the go. I have got another Red Rack'em EP on Untracked out in February which has been getting Radio 1 play from Gilles. Then have got EPs coming out on Detroit house label Undertones, Ctrl//Alt//Delete's new label Shift plus the hot new house label Home Taping. Album-wise, I’m working on the Marlinspike album right now which is a hybrid of 2-step garage and Detroit house/techno with vocals - I’m hoping to get that finished mid 2010. I have also just had the Hot Coins album (which is on the new wave, post-punk disco tip) signed to a very exciting new label, so I will be putting that together in the next few months as well. So that's next year taken care of…

Smugglers Inn is broadcast fortnightly, Wednesday nights 7-9pm at myhouse-yourhouse.net. The podcast is available from redrackem.com or search iTunes for 'Smugglers Inn'.

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