Red Bull Music Academy: The Bristol Chapter
27.02.2010 / Bristol
The Bristol Chapter is already part of Red Bull Music Academy history - for the last weekend in February the Metropolis hosted the regional stop of the academy.
Saturday afternoon music enthusiasts got the chance to attend lectures, workshops and talks at the Metropolis. James Bass visited Red Bull Music Academy in Bristol for one day as our Red Bull Reporter and experienced the special atmosphere of the event.
Red Bull Music Academy hits Bristol
It’s 7:00pm and I am sat in the top tier of the auditorium at Red Bull’s Music Academy in Bristol, next to an enthused Laurie Davidson-better known as Dubstep aficionado Appleblim-and we are talking music, or rather, I am being taught about music.
“There is a world of inspiration out there, a world of music that needs to be explored” he says, his voice battling with the screeches of moving tables and chairs as the day’s workshops come to a close, “The beauty of events like today’s music academy is that you can interact with people who are getting into music that might be, in some cases, slightly further down their career path. Being able to pass on knowledge gained over the years is what today is about. This is school, but the lectures are interesting.”
Stepping into the academy earlier that afternoon-based at Metropolis on Bristol’s Cheltenham Road, in the fashionably Bohemian district of Stokes Croft-I had already begun to realise what Laurie would later tell me in the interview. Fliers were being given out with the day’s curriculum; a dose of Jazz and Soul followed by Dubstep and House, and on stage in front of a bay of spectators-most of whom were slowly sinking into cushions straight out of the BFG’s living room-the first of the day’s tutorials had begun.
Pee-Wee-Ellis, the legendary 68-year old saxophonist, famed for his involvement with James Brown and Van Morrison, and former resident of the musical melting pot of New York City (now living in Frome, Somerset), was taking on the subject of music history. Sitting on the leather sofa in front of the vibrant Red Bull logo emblazoned on the back wall of the club, he spoke, in his gravelly, baritone voice, that must have charmed many-a-lady in its time, “You know man, it’s a real evolution this music business, one thing just leads to another” he says with a smile, “Even modern music today still has its roots in stuff I was involved in, it’s a beautiful business”. Give him a whisky tumbler and a back street Harlem jazz bar, and Pee Wee would be in his element. A cool cat in a modern era.
After an insight into the ways of one of soul and jazz’s finest, it was time for a local girl described as “a mix of Etta James and Aretha Franklin” to take to the stage. Musical Biology was her topic, her being Yolanda Quartey of southern soul specialists Phantom Limb, giving us the lowdown of the muscles that need training for the best sounding pipes. “I lost my voice for 18 months” she says begrudgingly, not keen to reminisce on that period of her life “I went to a voice coach and now I sing far better than before. You have to train your neck and shoulder muscles to attain the best performance from your vocal cords”. Fielding questions from the audience, Yolanda spoke with passion and experience on everything, from advising a young guy how to develop his vocal range to the best ways on singing for modern music such as dubstep.
The Bug aka Kevin Martin, continued the high standards of the day with a unique interview on his new project King Midas Sound, providing the Musical Philosophy. A real one-off musician, Kevin’s knowledge amazed even the likes of Appleblim with his purist take on the art form, “90% of music is rubbish, it’s the 10% that people should really be looking for” he states, convinced of his own doctrine. His cynicism of the modern music industry and its “pop” charts was refreshing to hear and was seconded by the majority of the crowd. Honesty is one thing the RBMA audience appreciates, the deafening applause at the end were proof of that.
Dubcasm, fronted by dreadlocked lyricist Brother Culture, followed on from the Bug, fusing vinyl chopping technology provided by Dubstudio with the jungle vibes of their outfit. Getting the crowd involved was all part of the performance, “Are you having a good time people of Bristol” rapped Brother with his thick-set Jamaican drawl, “I wanna see you move, make a move to the groove of the Brother with the mic who is about to set loose”. Whilst this was happening, Dubstudio recorded and cut the music straight onto vinyl, the Music Technology part of the day’s curriculum was done.
If anyone had been thinking about setting up a home-grown private dance label, the next lecture proved invaluable. Dixon-head honcho of German house label Innervisions, responsible for musical wonders Henrik Schwarz and Stefan Goldman-covered the ins and outs of running a small label. With his trademark jet-black hair and thick-german accent, he offered some sound financial planning for anyone thinking of embarking on a self-funded musical project, “You have to be willing to cut out the middle man when delivering your music” he explained, “The number costs involved, from A + R to promotions really make it hard to turn a profit, so just cut out the middle man and sell from your website, that’s what I did”. Having delivered the Musical Finance lecture for the day, Dixon then went onto explain how people’s preconceptions of artists, due to online sets and recorded material, prevents the listener from enjoying an original “live” experience, “People should judge you on the night, not by your previous sets” he says “Every night is different, every set is different, make up your mind on the night”.
The musical altruism I experienced throughout the day was something I have come to expect from the RBMA, it’s pretty much a prerequisite for the event. It’s not often that so many different genres and generations can be crossed under one roof, from Soul icon Pee Wee Ellis to Techno-head Dixon- it was any music-head’s dream band. Appleblim did sum it up well, it was like school, although you never want this one to end.