This week a clutch of artists from a brace of countries received emails inviting them to the 2012 Red Bull Music Academy.
The Academy offers producers, DJs, and instrumentalists an opportunity to learn and collaborate in dedicated studios, under the tutelage of some of the world’s musical luminaries.
This year’s Academy will be held in New York, with Best Fit favourites Koreless and Rudi Zygadlo in attendance. At last month’s Sonar we caught up with some Red Bull alumni to find out what the experience meant to them.
“It was life-changing. The friends I made, I consider them family. And the crew, every time I see them out and about in different cities all over the world, it’s always a big reunion.
The experience itself changed the way I work pretty much immediately, changed my influences pretty much immediately. It really opened me up. It’s awesome to find something else to really enthuse about.
[Before the Academy] I was never one to collaborate at all, but I’ve probably done 15 collaborations this year. Everyone who comes through LA, I get in the lab. That’s the spirit of things in general lately. Everyone’s unified. Everyone’s either on Logic or Ableton. Ableton, especially, is really conducive to collaboration. Red Bull actually changed to Ableton after using for Logic after ten years. Technically that’s a huge thing. And being in the studio with Trevor Horn and all those guys – all the lecturers hung out and enjoyed it as much as we did. Spending time with those guys was life-changing.”
“You wake up around 10, eat, then you have a lecture in the morning. Another lecture in the afternoon, then there’s free time in the studio. And every night there’s a clubnight where one or two of the participants perform, so that’s two weeks of going out then waking up at 10. The tempo is very hard, but you learn a lot and you work very hard. There are about 12 studios and they’re all really well equipped. For me that was amazing. I don’t use hardware, but they had all the possible hardware that you could think of. You take it, play with it, collaborate with people. That’s really important. There aren’t enough studios, so you have to pair up and explore ideas. That was really important for me because I’d never collaborated before. I guess I had no confidence. But that all went away; everyone just blended in.”
“It’s an opportunity to collaborate with people you don’t really know, from all over the world, with different reference points. As a producer it’s usually just you and your computer, but by default you’re forced to collaborate because there are less studios than there are people. So there’s usually at least two, sometimes three or four people in each studio.
They try to mix it up. You’ve got house-heads, you’ve got hip-hop producers, vocalists, people in bands, people who play real instruments. It’s just a mix. Everyone’s excited to be there – they’re giving you all this free gear, this free studio time. Everyone’s enthusiastic about what they’re doing, and about their music. That’s the best part: everyone is there because they’ve earned being there. When you’re around other people in the same scenario, even if you don’t make the same music, you can still find some reference points. We’re all there, we’re all sharing the same experience. It’s like, “You make ragga, and you sing in a punk band, but you like dance music, and I’m down with trying something new.” You all share that same bond, even though musically you might be on a different level.
Most of the Americans that had been accepted, I knew already. It’s an opportunity to spend every day together for two weeks, just making music. I cemented relationships I already had, and then there were new ones that I made.
It’s really intense. Without giving too much away, you’ve got two lectures a day, studio time, and then a party almost every night. Madrid doesn’t close until 6 or 7 in the morning, and they bring in amazing guests. It’s like, “Yes, a free show with Erykah Badu, Jamie Woon, and Hudson Mohawke? I’m tired as shit, I’ve partied for eight days, but I’m going to the show.”
Frankie Knuckles lectured, and had a show that same night, but I was on a bender. You have to wake up at 10, but you don’t go to bed until 6 or 7. You’re cool the first couple of days, but by the fourth or fifth night you need some real sleep. I had to take the night off for Frankie Knuckles.”