REDANKA: DECKS, DRUMS & ROCK N ROLL

By: Matt Black

Redanka’s client list reads like a who’s who of the music industry; with names like U2 Fatboy Slim, Faithless, Happy Mondays, INXS, Snow Patrol… we get the history behind his music. 

Press photo of underground artists Redanka

Hi Andy, first of all you debut single Scent of love was signed to Whoop records which was one of the biggest underground labels at the time, how did that come about

Hiya Matt!  My word ‘Scent Of Love‘….I’d almost forgotten about that one – or tried to! Gotta start somewhere I suppose!

I’d been a drummer in a few bands throughout the mid-to-late 80’s so I didn’t really start listening to a lot of dance music until the early 90’s, although I had been into electro circa 1982 and almost started a DJ career back then as my sister’s boyfriend was the resident at a local club and he used to let me mess about on the decks. It didn’t happen at that time but it must have sowed a seed somewhere I think!

It was Mark Mortimer, one of my old band’s bass players, who really triggered my interest by sending me the first Renaissance compilation in ’94. He’d landed a job as press officer for Network Records in Birmingham, so he mailed me a package containing a few slabs of vinyl and a double cassette of the classic Sasha & Digweed mix just so I could see what he was up to and what the label was about. I never realised what an impact that mix would have on me – and still does to this day! Network was owned and run by a guy named Neil Rushton who also used to manage our band, The Dream Factory, until it’s demise in 1988. After we parted ways Neil then famously went on to bring techno to the masses over here with the now legendary Bellville Three of Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May and Juan Atkins, so there’s some good pedigree there connections wise!

Mark had introduced me to a friend of his – John ‘Quivver’ Graham no less – who gave me some addresses of labels to send my first demo to. ‘Fantasy’ was my first solo effort – around 95/96 I think – and, although it didn’t get signed (unsurprisingly), I received a lot of constructive feedback from Joel & Andy at Whoop!

My next attempt was ‘Scent Of Love’ which fared a little better. I had interest from a few labels – Skinny Malinki being one that I can remember – but it was the Whoop! boys that I opted to go with as they’d been so helpful and positive the first time around. The mix didn’t sound the best as I was still finding my feet a bit when it came to mixing so they sent me up to Stoke to Midi Rooms Studios to get it done properly by the genius that is Mr Nic Britton! I learnt so much in that session with Nic – basic things like keeping your arrangement tidy, parts properly named, velocities for the kick at 127, having all of your timing dependent instruments such as drums etc at the top of the arrangement (because Cubase midi patterns were read from the top first) etc etc. Really useful tips and tricks.

So when it was complete the Whoop! boys put it out, and it’s fair to say I was totally shocked at the reactions that came back – in a good way! You have to remember I was a drummer – so I don’t really regard myself as a ‘proper’ musician! – and to be brutally honest I only started to make club music to prove to myself that I COULD do it! I’m probably one in a long line of drummers that felt that way. Must be because we’re always the butt of the band jokes…….

Anyway, further shocks came when West 2, a subsidiary of Edel Records, licensed it from Joel and Andy and proceeded to get mixes done by Nick Muir and Forth. They even pressed up some red vinyl! That was it – I’d arrived!

I should just mention while we’re at it that although ‘Scent Of Love’ was my first bona-fide Redanka single it wasn’t the first thing I’d had released under my name. The ‘Fantasy’ demo got me a remix on Cie Hamilton’s ‘On Fire’ on M & G Records. It was promoed and didn’t do anything but I did get paid £2000! I blew the money on a Nord Lead rack so it was worth the effort at least. Happy days!

You also went on to release several other singles on the label, did you have a good relationship with the Whoop boys?

I think we had a fantastic relationship – maybe they’d beg to differ! I couldn’t have wished for two nicer blokes to have been involved with to be honest. They were always so supportive and allowed me to do what I wanted to – for better or worse. I’d get invited to the club nights, Whoop! It Up, which they ran on Fridays in Covent Garden, taken to Midem, hooked up with important people in the industry and generally just invited to hang out really. They really made me feel like I was a part of the family which I thought was really cool of them. I knew then I’d made the right choice because of the people they were – irrespective of what happened with the music – and that was what was most important to me at the time. Still is really.

I spoke to Andy just recently funnily enough for the first time in years, and Joel I still speak to and see every now and then although not as much as I’d like. He’s a busy boy these days though. Top geezers both of em!

You also did quite a few productions with Chris Bourne Aka Tarrentella, how was he to work with and did you know him beforehand?

Ahhh Bourney… I could go on at length! I’ll start of by saying this – he’s the brother I never had and we shared some incredible moments together that I think I can safely say we’ll never forget. I first met him at a Whoop! night as he was also signed to the label as Tarrentella, which at that time was him and the immensely talented Scott Latham. Scott was actually the reason that Rip Records and our studio, The Cable Chamber, began. He was tragically killed in a car accident in the late 90’s and his father Graham decided to start a label and a studio in his memory. Chris was looking for an engineer to work there so I was interviewed by Chris and ex-Baseroom engineer Mike Bell (Graham Park, Laurent Garnier, CJ Bolland) for the position. It was the weirdest interview I’ve ever had – but also the best! We got pissed and talked about Bjork for half an hour. The next day I got the call and I was in!

Tarrantella and Redanka

I had worked with Chris prior to that on a Tarrentella remix of ‘Bizarre Inc’s ‘Playing With Knives‘ at a studio in Devon. He’d been struggling to find someone to work with on that and a few other things so I helped out and the rest is history as they say!

I love working with him because we always have a laugh and take the piss. 99% of the time the atmosphere – especially at Rip – was amazing. The other 1% was us arguing the toss over a crash or something ridiculous, but if you listen to most of our music you’ll find the crashes are still in…..:-p

We’re both very passionate people I think – and we can be quite fiery – so we would have some heated discussion at times but it was always healthy, and we respected each other massively, so we’d always have a kiss and a cuddle at the end of it. Not really. He’d just make me a cup of tea.

Those days though, it has to be said, have been the highlight of my musical life thus far. We had a real crew up there in Stoke with Danny Spencer and Kelvin Andrews, Mick Park, Andy Moor. Nic and Lee from Midi Rooms were just round the corner. Just great, great days.

This is Plank 15 (the Rip Crew) - Mark Ralph, Kelvin Andrews, Andy 'Redanka' Holt, Chris 'Tarrentella' Bourne and Danny Spencer.

In the early 2000’s you were involved in a group called Datar which featured none other than Danny Tenaglia, what was it like working with him?

Chris and I had long been a fan of Danny Tenaglia’s music and we wanted to remake his classic cut ‘Bottom Heavy‘ – or at the very least remix it. We were aware that he’d been playing some of our early mixes so we took the plunge and contacted him via email. We were shocked to get a reply really but when we did we were buzzin’! He told us that he didn’t own the track any more and to get the parts would be a logistical nightmare, so then he suggested we get together and make a brand new record! We couldn’t contain ourselves to be honest – excited is an understatement. There was a big buzz on Danny at the time so we put the feelers out to try to find a label that would finance the project. Jerry from Hooj came up trumps and off we went to New York to start work on the as yet untitled ‘B’. We had a few false starts at the beginning because we arrived in NY just before WMC in Miami so Danny was super busy preparing for that. This led to us going home before we’d even set foot in the studio and so we we’re both pretty deflated after that first trip as you can imagine.

Danny apologised for the mess and promised we’d get together later in the year, which we did, so he was true to his word. This told us a lot about the man. People can be flakey and full of shit in this industry but he came through for us.

So we went out there to MAW studio in Manhattan in June I think and just had the best time working with him. He was funny, had no airs or graces at all and was just a pleasure to be around. He made us feel really welcome and put us at ease in the studio. Chris was delighted to find out that Danny was all about sampling as well – as oppose to my thoughts on the creative process where I would always want to create from scratch! So it was a convergence of creative styles too and it worked out really well.

Tarrentella and Redanka with Danny Tenaglia

I’m sure I speak for Chris and myself when I say he was a delight to work with.

You remixed arguably one of the biggest bands on the planet in U2, how did that come about?

I’d been a massive fan of U2’s early albums – October, War, Unforgettable Fire – as a kid and sonically they’d always informed what I was trying to do with my own sound in a way, so after Rip finished in 2005 I took all my studio gear back home and set up in the living room with an idea that I wanted to incorporate more ‘bandy’ elements into what I was doing.

Someone – could have been Mick Park – sent me a link to an mp3 of an as yet unreleased U2 song called ‘Vertigo’ so I thought I’d try and make it into a club-playable track using just the stereo file. Just for me to play out really. I did a bit of phase reversing and EQing on certain parts to leave some space for my beats etc and came up with something that was playable. I sent a copy to Pete Tong not really expecting much to be honest, but that night he played it on the Essential Selection – much to my surprise!

The next day I had a call from a guy named Dylan White who was responsible for taking the bands version to radio. He wanted to know how I’d got the parts and made the mix so I explained it was just the stereo file I’d used. He then told me the band had heard it and loved it and would I be interested in tidying it up with the original parts so they could release it. You can imagine my reaction as a fan so I tidied it up and they released it as the B Side to ‘Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own‘ which got to number 1 in the UK charts! That’ll do!

After that I was in a position to angle myself some other mixes from them so I had a go at ‘All Because Of You’ and ‘Miracle Drug’. I think personally the latter is one of the best mixes I’ve ever done but neither of them saw the light of day unfortunately. It’s a real shame because I know that Bono thought the ‘Miracle Drug’ mix was amazing, but they’re a democracy and so he must have been out-voted on that one…..

In 2008 I tried the same tactics with ‘Magnificent’ after someone contacted me on MySpace (remember that?) and suggested I had a go at it. So I took the stereo file again, did a quick 3 minute idea and got it to the band via Dylan. They loved it so asked me to do it with the parts which I did. To be honest that song never really lent itself to being remixed in the way that ‘Vertigo’ did. Not only that but clubland’s sound had changed and the feedback I got from it wasn’t overwhelming so the end result was quite a forgettable version if I’m honest.

However it did put me in the driving seat when the label were asked to get quick mixes done on an album track called ‘I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight’.

I got a call from a girl named Natalie at the label who was desperate to get a mix done, and the reason she asked me was because she thought the band seemed to like what I’d done for them. It turned out ‘Magnificent’ wasn’t the waste of time that I’d thought it was!

So I started on the ‘Crazy’ remix without treating it as a club mix per se. I just wanted to do what I wanted with it without thinking whether or not this DJ or that DJ was gonna play it or even if it was club friendly.

I sent a version over to them and got some great feedback from the band but also a request to do this with it and that with it. When I’d finally finished they loved it and asked me to send the parts to the mix across to them, something that I’d never been asked to do before.

It turned out they wanted to perform my version of the song live on the upcoming world tour so I was ecstatic as you could imagine a U2 fan would be! The next couple of years after that I was doing other versions of other tracks for them to try to work into the live show but nothing came to fruition unfortunately. I did however have the best time following the tour across the world during that time and hearing Bono shout my name out from the stage on a few occasions! It was quite a trip really, and a long, long way from sending out that ‘Fantasy’ demo all those years earlier.

And I have to say they were the best people I’ve ever worked for. Gentlemen to a man, ridiculously generous and so, so professional. I was welcomed into their inner circle, met their families, went to after parties and all that stuff and made to feel like I’d made a valid contribution to the success of that tour. Kind of made me think that if the biggest band in the world can be the nicest guys with the best organisation why do artists of lesser stature go around thinking they’re God’s gift to music? And some DJs are the worst! There are some serious arrogant arseholes out there.

redanka with u2

I always felt your sound had a real warmth to it, what kind of gear do you have in your studio?

Nothing special to be honest. At the moment I work in the box with Logic – sometimes use a bit of Ableton. My plug ins are much the same as everyone else’s I’d imagine. I’ve got a Mackie Onyx 1640 desk that I put things through. Synth-wise I’ve got a Moog Voyager and an Access Virus Snow. There’s a few guitars and a bass lying around that I can’t play very well but I can get a noise out of. So not too much really. Funny you say that because I’m always thinking how warm everybody else’s music sounds compared to mine!

You were recently involved in a collaboration with some of the biggest names in the industry for The Underground Allstars. How did that happen? Surely you weren’t all together in the studio at once?!

Mick Park is an old mate from back in the day so when he asked me if I’d like to get involved with Underground Allstars project I didn’t hesitate to say yes. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of and there’s some amazing talent working on it all the time so it was an honour to be asked to collaborate. I’ve only worked on the first track so far – ‘She Rises In The East‘ – but I’d love to do something else in the future if Mick wants me to. It’s all about timing really. If I’m available I’m in.

The way it worked was a bit like those drawings you did as kids – someone drew the head and folded the paper down, the next person drew the body, someone else the legs and finally the feet etc. I think Mick got some sounds together then Luke Brancaccio added something else and Kenny Shifter and myself finished it off here at my place and that was that. It was an interesting way to work and the track came out really well so I was chuffed to be a part of it. But more importantly it raised a bit of money for the cause which made it all worthwhile. I must say a massive thanks to Brent Lawson from Pro B-Tech Records for signing it and really kick-starting not just that track but the project as a whole. He’s thrown a lot at it and he deserves massive respect for that. He’s a top fella and I think him and Mick are doing great things at the moment. The great thing about Mick is he gets shit done – he’s not one for procrastination – so they’re a marriage made in heaven really.

It seems like ages since the last Redanka Ep, have you been cooking up some new productions in your studio?

Yeah it has been a while eh? Hahahaha! I know my output hasn’t been what it should be in the last couple of years but to be brutally honest with you I’m just trying to find my sound again. After the U2 years passed I kinda looked up to see where things were at and all I heard was all that ‘EDM’ stuff or ‘deep house’ as they’re calling it these days – and none of it was very inspiring to me. I like big sounding records and I like to make big sounding records but I can’t do the EDM thing OR the deep house thing I’m sorry! I’m probably looking/listening in the wrong places but a lot of DJs that I hear seem to play one generic sounding track after another. I’ll listen to mixes on Soundcloud and if I skip from the beginning to middle to end its almost the same track all the way through! There doesn’t seem to be too much middle ground these days. You’re either in one camp or the other.

I’ve never been a purist which is probably why I never got into the early house records (although I love them now 25 years after the event!). To me the interesting things happen when fusions take place. That’s why I love Underworld, Fluke, Leftfield and The Chemical Brothers. There are so many influences buried in their music but combined it makes them all sound individual. That’s why their tunes still stand up now. It’s timeless because it contains so much of other times if you see what I mean. So I’m looking to the kids to put away those Massive and Sylenth presets and come up with a new big room sound that has it’s own individual identity……. then I can jump on the bandwagon!;-p

So yeah I suppose the reason I’m taking so long to get my shit together is because I don’t wanna sound like anyone else, although it’s a tough ask to be ‘original’ these days because so much has already been done. I’d love to make a record that has the same impact on people as Slacker’s ‘Scared’ had on me. There really was nothing like it in the shops at that time – and that’s what keeps me interested I suppose. It’ll come I’m sure. In the meantime I’m just knocking out a few things that I’ve done that hark back to what inspired me in the first place – that Renaissance compilation. Looking back to go forwards and all that. I’ve got loads of stuff on my computer in various stages of completion. The one that IS finished, ‘Heaven Will Be’, will be out as soon as I’ve had a mix back from a certain someone – no names mentioned.

But I’m still not sure what to do with it yet – or any future music for that matter. I don’t know if I should put it out myself or let someone else do it because to be honest I’m not very good at running a label and doing the whole promotion/social media thing. It’s such a fucking chore! So if there’s anyone out there that wants to strike up a working relationship and get involved in a bit of artist development – I’m all ears!

Your remix of Go that deep is probably one of my favourite remixes of all time, which of your remixes would you say is your personal favourite?

Wow Matt that’s quite a statement from someone with as much musical knowledge as yourself – and an honour! It was hard to go wrong with a Shara Nelson vocal though…..

I would probably say U2 ‘Miracle Drug’, although there are others that I still really like such as Suicide Sports Club’s ‘Last Ghost In Town‘. I just love Luke’s vocal and the lyric. Brilliant! Yeah there’s a few – but they’re balanced with some fuckin’ proper turkeys as well! Yin and yang an all that.

Which producers/ artists would you say have had the biggest influence on you over the years?

So many. Eno and Lanois, Flood and Alan Moulder, Youth, Trevor Horn, Dave Bascombe, Andrew Weatherall……loads really.

Of the modern day dance producers the one guy that’s inspiring me at the moment is Alex Metric. Like I was saying about moving the big room sound on, he for me is the one that’s doing it. He’s making big sounding tunes but they still contain loads of influences from rock to disco to techno to house to electro. It’s all in there! And sonically they sound amazing! You never hear him using the same old cheesy chord progressions and sounds as everyone else and that makes him unique and stands him out from the crowd. I’m so happy that he’s having big success and I hope it continues for him for a long, long time.

And finally, is there anything else you have coming up from Mr Redanka that we should know about?

Might ‘B’………………

Cheers again for the questions Matt! Been a pleasure!

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