A Day in the Life of Red Bull Music Academy
12.02.2010 / Red Bull Music Academy, London
Music journalism student Elliot Muharrem came to the Academy and watched 2 lectures, met the Daily Note team and had a tour of the Academy.
Red Bull Music Academy - Behind the scenes
A short walk from London Bridge rail station takes you to Red Bull headquarters; now temporarily half-transformed into an academy for enthused artists from all over the world to amplify their know-how in the world of music. The Red Bull Music Academy welcomes vocalists, DJs, MCs, musicians, studio engineers, or producers, of any genre, to engage themselves for a fortnight-long term in a unique prospective experience. I visited the RBMA for one day to investigate what the daily going-ons entail.
A day at the academy commences with a whole host of activity surrounding breakfast time. There is a lot of chit-chat about the previous night’s events, web exploration is possible by use of the many computers, and of course, liquid refreshments are obtained for the hours ahead of them. The intimate, but laid back setting of the dining areas produces a great chance for participants to interact; whether it be discussing collaborations, the lecture ahead of them, or talking about the one thing they all have in common, a love for music. I ate with 3 of them, and quickly learned the true internationality behind the RBMA concept, “I’m from Mexico”, student Teresa Suarez (Teri Gender Bender) proclaimed, “she’s from Peru, and he’s from Romania”. I felt rather plain and uninteresting when sharing that my home city was in fact where we were sitting at present.
Lectures usually start at around midday, everyone piles in, with many’s first port of call at the fridge for another energy drink to perk them up for the onslaught of valuable music-related information coming their way. The term ‘lecture’ should be used lightly though, as it’s more like sitting down in your friend’s living room, listening to some of the most interesting figures in music tell stories about their culture and roots, discussing performance techniques, explaining equipment, and telling you anything else they feel relevant! The seating is ever so comfy too. Much toe-tapping, head-nodding, and claps of appreciation ensues. The participants here seem to hang on every word of the lecturer, some times with their mouths wide open in awe, and regardless of their musical background and have a great deal of respect for them.
Today’s lecturers are Matmos, an experimental electronic music duo from Baltimore, USA, and A Guy Called Gerald, one of the forefathers of the Manchester acid house scene. These guys know their stuff, they’ve been around the world, and have their stories too. Matmos tell us how a small shipping of records, with a bit of luck, can lead to big opportunities, “We made a couple of thousand copies of our album. Nothing sold, but we sent 10 copies to the Rough Trade shop in London. They sold a few, including one to Björk. She loved it, called us”. As the lecture progresses, they dive into debates about the authenticity of conceptual music, a challenging look in to at what point music becomes an art form. This is a fundamental idea behind their music, as their latest album ‘Supreme Balloon’ continues to challenge the boundaries, created entirely by using synthesizers; old school analogue system style, with patch-bays, ancient oscillators, and blipping oscilloscopes. Towards the end of the lecture, the participants are given the opportunity to ask questions, and many of them do, with great interest in the topics at hand.
The second and final 2 hour-ish lecture of the day welcomes A Guy Called Gerald to the living room-like lecture space. After a well-received and lively background history story, we once again witness a true musical mastermind divulging some of their opinions on the musical world. Dance music has always pushed itself in to new areas, and in the 80s, this guy was doing the shoving. 22 years on, and even outdating some of the participants, a great sense of recognition for his work is acknowledged by all sitting in front of him. The acid-house hero also shows us some sleek moves on the synthesizer, to much applause from the audience. No doubt this demonstration will inspire in the studio later in the day.
Post-lecture time is the when the participants really get to make the most of their stay here. The academy has set up a recording studio, a radio station, and a whole variety of rehearsal rooms, each with their own theme. This is any music producer’s dream-like Utopia. Red Bull also provide in-house studio technicians, ready again to share their vast knowledge with the participants. These sessions of jamming and recording can go on ‘til the early hours, and do so frequently. I wander around the basement level of the building to discover participants chilling out on the sofas, talking music, and sharing jokes. There’s a real sense of community and family-like feel here, almost as if all the great musicians in the world had secret love children and these were brought together to take over the music world. And they could do so too. The level of talent here is immense, every single one of the participants wants to be here, they want to learn, they want to engage themselves, and they also really want to be the next big thing pumping out of your speakers!
As I leave, I gaze around the room to try and take memory snapshots of the participants, I know i’ll be seeing some of them in the future making waves around the music world. The Red Bull Music Academy will certainly be something they credit to their success in the future, wherever their musical brilliance will take them.