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Up and Coming: An interview with the creators of ‘RedEye’

By Mo Hafeez

RedEye

 

If you’ve heard anything about the nightlife in Durham, you’ll know that they lay on the cheesy pop quite heavily. You’ll walk past Klute on a night out, and 6 days out of 7 you’ll probably hear the same tunes blaring out – strange remixes of Adele, Taylor Swift, and the same three Kanye West songs are all staples of a Durham night out.

Sure, you learn to love it, but after a while you deserve a well-needed break – RedEye promises to bring that change in 2016, and I sat down with Chris Photi and Guilherme Hefler to have a chat about what the group plans on doing.

What is RedEye?

We literally have no idea. Really hard first question to answer. To be honest, it’s a new music night for students in the North East that focuses on 140bpm music: so grime, garage, dubstep, bassline…

Could you give a general outline of what RedEye events will bring to Durham’s nightlife?

It’s gonna give a more gritty element to the nightlife here. Imagine that feeling when you start playing bangers out of your Sony Ericsson at the back of the bus. Or being at a car park rave… except it’s not in a car park… it’s in a club.

What inspired you to create RedEye, and to put on the events?

We were really starting to get bored with what seemed like the same music every time we went out in Durham. Everyone would love the chance to put on a night with music that they love and I guess we just followed through. On top of that, the more people we spoke to, the more we realised that there was a market there for us.

Which artists are you working with for your first event on the 21st, and who would you like to work with in the future?

We’ve got the Six Sunsets boys coming down from Newcastle to drop a vinyl only set and we’re really excited for them to make their Durham debut. Expect naughty subs and anything bassy. We’ve also got Def Republic mixing as we’ve been really impressed by his frequent Signal sets, and he’ll have support from MC’s, Photes, and Sleepy coming up from Manchester for the night. He’s a massively versatile spitter – watch out for him in the next year or so. Finally we’ve got Valera opening with some garage – his sets always pop off and it’s a pleasure to have him for our launch night.

 

There’s a few we’ve got our eyes on for the future but we don’t wanna give too much away. We’re gonna focus on local artists for the time being and hopefully we can pull out some bigger bookings in the summer and beyond.

What’s been the biggest obstacle so far? How are you trying to get over it?

We’ve done some promotion and stuff, but we’ve never put a night on before. There are loads of little details that you wouldn’t normally consider which have popped up, and it’s been a bit of a learning curve for us trying to follow through with all our plans. But we’ve had a lot of support from friends and the guys at Loft/Studio in setting up and it’s shaping up to be a large one.

What other events are you involved with, with RedEye and beyond?

We’ve got some big plans for the coming months but we’re trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves. There’s the possibility of a joint event, or something like that, with another night in Durham (we don’t wanna say who just yet). We’ve also floated about the idea of starting up a sister-night which focuses on hip-hop, but at the moment we just want to get this first night under our belts and go from there.

What’s the best grime/garage/hip-hop gig you’ve been to?

Oooh this one’s tough. Seeing 50 Cent in London years ago still sticks out in my memory, but I’d have to say a Fabric night a couple of years ago. Things got a bit messy so I can’t remember everything exactly, but we thought we were going to see Elijah & Skilliam, Royal-T and Wiley. So many MC’s like Frisco popped up that night that weren’t on the lineup – we lost our nut!

Looking forward to any releases this year?

One can only hope that Skepta finally releases Konnichiwa but we’re not holding our breaths. The J Cole and Kendrick collaboration looks like it could be quite live as well.

Which artists do you have pegged for a breakout year in 2016?

Capo Lee’s someone we’ve been listening to recently and ‘Cake and Custard Flow’ is an absolute banger. Elf Kid as well is looking like he’s starting to make movements, which is sick because a lot of people thought that some of the Square members would fall off after Novelist left the group. Very gassed to see him at WHQ later this term.

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If you fancy catching the very first RedEye event in Durham, you can grab tickets here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/559199470910400/

You can also like RedEye’s Facebook page for upcoming events:

https://www.facebook.com/redeyenortheast/

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What we’re listening to (#17): ‘Veneer’ by José Gonzalez

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I’m a supporter of Swedish singer-songwriter José Gonzalez and his stripped down album Veneer, the only two personnel on the record being himself and Stefan Sporson (who appears on only one track, ‘Broken Arrows’).

Not only is Gonzalez a very talented guitarist, but he also has a knack for bringing somewhat-classically styled playing to a larger audience in the format of indie-folk tunes. In fact, he’s so talented that it kind of takes away from his lyrical prowess, which when you look at on paper, is nothing to go crazy over, with much repetition being used throughout – however, when you combine the two together, along with his low almost mumbling voice which are double tracked to great effect at various points on tracks, it creates a very ethereal atmosphere.

The only time he picks up the energy (only very slightly) is in ‘Hints’, centered around a fairly complex riff when combined with the fact he’s singing over it – his lyrics are more forcefully delivered, the guitar more tense, the only percussion present being Gonzalez’s fingers move up and down the fretboard, his use of non-standard tunings creating an interesting chordal basis for the track.

Other originals like ‘Crosses’ and ‘Remain’ continue to showcase talent, particularly his unique strumming and picking patterns,  but perhaps the repetitive lyrics might throw some listeners off. The latter’s riff stuck in my head long after my first listen, and the very well built up ending is another instance where Gonzalez goes a bit more upbeat, with Bonfa-esque jazz vibes.

The song that most people know from this album is ‘Heartbeats’, a cover of a song by the Swedish band the Knife – perhaps most remember the Sony Bravia television shot in San Francisco advert more. Even though it’s not his own song, he makes enough changes to it to keep it original, to keep you listening, and whilst he was that, he also crafted a melody that many aspiring guitarists took their time to learn (including myself). The lyrics, whilst not his, are poignant and are sung poignantly:

“And you, you knew the hands of the devil
And you, kept us awake with wolf teeth
Sharing different heartbeats
In one night”

This album has the power to put you asleep, and I mean this in a good way – Gonzalez’s voice has a certain quality that is difficult to place your finger on.

If you’re craving for something different, pick up this album.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

What we’re listening to (#16): ‘Sunny Side Up’ by Paolo Nutini

Paolo Nutini’s debut album These Streets honestly didn’t do much to set him apart from his peers – he hadn’t quite landed on a genre, and his lyrics were very casual at times, especially in ‘New Shoes’. He was a simple singer-songwriter who was acting older than he really was. Extremely tight production often took away from the gruffness in his voice that was starting to come through, but it meant that the record was relatively accessible. The album wasn’t a flop by any means, managing to sell a few million over time, but it wasn’t enough to save him from the James Blunt and James Morrison comparisons.

Sunny Side Up isn’t a regular sophomore album, it sounds like an album made by someone who’s been on the circuit for a while and knows his niche well.  His voice is the real kicker here, it progressed from barely post-teenager to fifty-something crooner in three years.

“10/10” opens up the album with reggae, and arguably it’s not the most exciting foray into the genre, but enjoyable nonetheless – the song perfectly introduces us to Paolo’s more growling-prevalent stylings. “Coming Up Easy”, welcoming listeners back to Nutini’s regular style, a great whirling organ-backed piece that breaks upbeat verses and choruses with a short sucker-punching bridge – he also does the same towards the end of the track, with a great crescendo over the words:

“It was in love I was created and in love is how I hope I die”

He does a similar thing at the end of “No Other Way”, albeit in a much more soulful manner – the brass creeps in, building towards the chorus of the Scottish-Italian singing about the ups and downs of relationships. A short offbeat reggae styled bridge breaks up the 2nd verse and the chorus, and after this extended chorus, Nutini lets it rip, all out screams of the words “oh baby” providing a fantastic goosebump-factor.

“Pencil Full of Lead” was one of the songs of the summer, receiving extended radio-play for a few months, and acts a fantastic pick-me-up along with “High Hopes” on an album which is otherwise quite sombre.

The album’s first single “Candy” is also worth a listen, and once again he employs a crescendo towards the end, which was often cut-off when played on radio – without it, it has to be said that it might just be a regular rock-soul ballad. It does showcase Nutini’s talent to write songs about relationships and what not without sounding to cliche or cutesy, and he does it very intimately on the track:

Nutini’s follow up to this album wasn’t too shabby either –

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

What we’re listening to (#15): ‘Chapter 10’ by Brock Berrigan

Brock Berrigan, hip-hop beat maker and and clear advocate of Budweiser beer, released an album of beats a couple of months back and, after recently discovering it, I haven’t stopped listening to it. Based in New York City, Berrigan labels himself as a ‘sample hunter’ on his various social media pages, and after a few listens to the album it’s quite clear that this label is most definitely true – you’ll find many an artist scratched and mixed and sampled all over the tracks, from the Derek Lawrence Statement (“I am the Preacher”) in “The Preacher” to a more familiar Greg Dykes and the Synanon Choir sample (“Arise, Shine”) in “Three AM”. The latter has been used by artists like J. Cole in “Rise and Shine”, but honestly Berrigan has done it better here, the chipmunked pitch change in J. Cole’s really takes away from the epicness that  comes from the sample track:

“Went to the top of the Empire State Building last week and got inspired to do something epic.”

I imagine if Berrigan was a slightly bigger name we’d be hearing mixtape upon mixtape of rappers hoping to make it using these tracks (he has worked with Jetpack Jones if you want to here Berrigan’s beats with some rap over the top). His production never gets boring; he’ll throw in Madlib-esque sound clips from films and television shows, and sometimes he’ll change the whole foundation of a song mid-track to keep it interesting – dark and mysterious vibes are strewn across the first section of “Valley of Fire”, the album’s closing track, high-attack snares and moody samples give a perfect album. Then later he’ll introduce a soul sample, the very smooth bassline and strings definitely helping change the mood to the major side of things.

Is there something you’re trying to “say” with your music?

“Just to enjoy yourself. Life is short and you could fucking die any second. I got a good sense of humor so I try to put that in there.” – Berrigan, via eyesandedge.com

What probably helps Berrigan be as skilled and polished as is he his is that plays many instruments himself – his first instrument wasn’t a sampler like many producers claim, he picked up guitar at a young age and as such you’ll hear a guitar refrain or two from him on some of his tracks, and his experience in percussion definitely helps drum-selection too. If you dig this album as much as me, support Brock Berrigan by picking it up here:

http://brockberrigan.bandcamp.com/

This article was written by Mo Hafeez.

What we’re listening to (#13): ‘Madvillainy’ by Madvillain

I guess you could view Madvillain as a ‘supergroup’ looking back – Madvillainy would provide Metal Face Doom (aka MF Doom) with his first commercially successful breakthrough, and would become another notch on the belt of the famed Madlib, one of the most prolific and praised producers in recent history, working with likes of J Dilla and Talib Kweli.

Madvillainy was there debut album, and remains their only album besides a complete remix of the same record released by Madlib in 2008 – the fact that this duo has been hailed one of the best in the 21st century tells you all you need to know about the potent nature of this album.

Madvillainy is known for bucking the trend of hip-hop albums of past and indeed present. The duo felt no need for catchy hooks and choruses, opting instead for short bursts of verse in an album that has 22 tracks. MF Doom’s lyrics are notorious for their simple flow and conscious change-ups which catch the listener off guard, and Madlib does not hesitate to employ various instruments and sources for his samples, from an accordion to old cartoon shows.

Instrumentals are littered throughout the album with no discernible pattern – the 52 second “Supervillain Theme” is strangely ominous and matches the title of the track, with eclectic breaks filled by just toms, bass drums and snares, isolated without the bass or eerie string like progression. The opening track is actually an instrumental (though, with many vocal samples), setting out the background for the comic-book inspired aliases of Daniel Dumile, the man behind the mask of MF Doom.

It feels as if Madlib and MF Doom shouldn’t work this well together, but the unorthodox loop based beats behind the husky and low-voiced lyrics, which are well thought out and intelligent at that, are melded to perfect, with tracks flowing into each other seamlessly, a signature of Madlib’s production. Unconventional is what this album is about, and it’s pulled off with style – two distinctive styles merging into one phenomenal listen.

“They pray four times a day, they pray five,
whose ways is strange when it’s time to survive”

A personal favourite is ‘Strange Ways’ – sampling Gentle Giant, the beat is simple and hits with power after a short string sample for an introduction. The short breakdowns in the middle of the two verses provided breathing room, and Doom really excels when the tempo is upped throughout the albums.

An obvious classic, a great listen.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

What we’re listening to (#12): ‘Donuts’ by J Dilla

J Dilla was an Detroit-based producer and rapper who rose to fame during the late 1990s, and is known for his work with many prominent artists such as De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, MF Doom, The Roots, and many others. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential artists in the genre.

Donuts was J Dilla’s ninth studio album, released in February 2006, only three days before he passed away from what was reported to be a cardiac arrest – he was allegedly also suffering from a rare blood-clotting disease, as well as lupus. Dilla recorded the majority of the tracks heard on Donuts whilst still in hospital.

Dilla was a prolific sampler, and had a sizable vinyl collection at a very young age – this can be heard on the album, where he samples a range artists, from big names like Frank Zappa to the more obscure like Joeski Love. All of it is done with supreme precision, manipulating the tracks to make them, at often times, the complete opposite of what they were before, whilst still making it sound like the samples were meant to be there. The drums are punctual, never lacking to provide a spine to a track, and yet the klaxon alarms throughout the album wrench you back to reality before you get too focused on them.

Throughout the album he explores plenty of sounds, there’s no one core theme that’s followed even though Dilla samples mostly from soul music, and so every track you listen to will have nuanced differences which you’ll pick up on, yet the tracks seem to flow together. There’s rarely a moment where the songs don’t flow into each other.

The track ‘Lightworks’ is a standout, an eerie adventure splashed with spacey sounds throughout, the klaxon alarms making an appearance, and J Dilla’s adlibbing providing an underground polish to it. The sample, although clearly from a late 50s/early 60s upbeat song, takes on a much more minor sense of it’s own as it travels from ear to ear. The slight pitch shifts in the main sample provide a sense of uncomfortableness during the track. MF Doom went on to use this beat on his album Born Like This.

My favourite track of the album is the penultimate ‘Last Donut of the Night’. The heart-wrenching sample of The Moments’ ‘To You With Love’ providing a sadness that most instrumentals cannot – that most if not all hip-hop instruments can definitely not.  

A seminal album, a must listen to.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

What we’re listening to (#11): “Here Are The Sonics” by The Sonics

The Sonics are an American garage rock band who were most active in the 1960s, but still tour today. Here Are The Sonics was their aggressive debut album and featured a various mix of their own hard-edged numbers as well as a few rock-infused covers of songs by Richard Berry, Chuck Berry, The Fabulous Wailers and others.

They’re seen as pioneers of the punk genre, and have influenced many an artist, including Nirvana, the White Stripes, and the Hives. Many people have argued that the Sonics were the first true punk band, and that they were more so than bands like the Kinks and the Stooges.

They recorded the album with a two-track recorder, using just one microphone to capture the percussion, but still managed to create a very full sound that’s full of grit and energy. The album is one of the crudest I’ve listened to in the genre, and, at the time, must have been shockingly explosive, with it’s talk of drug and substance abuse both inconspicuously (in ‘Psycho’) and more explicitly (in ‘Strychnine’) – of course, there’s plenty a song about love and women too, in songs like ‘Witch’.

“If you hear her knocking on your door
you’re better sneaking away” 

Really, it’s Gerry Roslie’s vocals that make this album what it is – the screaming and wailing throughout songs had never been heard before, and whilst some may argue he overdoes it on tracks like ‘The Night time is the Right Time’, that’s arguably what they’re going for; the shock factor, the goal to disorientate and surprise anyone who’s listening to them. The album is neatly summed up in their cover of the now-famous song ‘Have Love, Will Travel’ – book ended by Roslie’s shrieking and Rob Lind’s saxophone (which sounds like a slightly broken saxophone due to the terrible quality), it epitomises what the Sonics are all about.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez