The inimitable Danny Berman, a.k.a Red Rack’em, will be one of the guests at CDR Berlin in early August. Danny moved to Berlin in 2011 and has stamped his personality on the club scene here. In March this year he released Wonky Bassline Disco Banger – this year’s indisputable crossover hit. Here we chat to Danny about his long history with CDR and much more.
CDR: You’ve been a regular contributor, supporter and friend of CDR for some time now – can you tell us about your involvement?
Tony can maybe clarify this better for me but I am pretty sure I started going to CDR East MIdlands sometime around 2006 or something like that when I lived in Nottingham. CDR was hosting events in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester and it was a great way to connect with people on a regional level. I met so many people through those events – some of whom I ended up working with. I collaborated with vocalist Candice Chevon on my Marlinspike garage project and I released music by Jimi Oh on my Smugglers Inn label. They are both from Leicester and I met them through the CDR events. Great evidence of how the concept works.
I was attracted to CDR because I was an up and coming producer struggling to get my music to a wider audience and I love the idea of creating a community and aiding cross pollination of different artists. I was also a huge Attica Blues fan when I started collecting records in 1994, so I was also interested to meet Tony as I had followed his music when I was a yout. I used to love taking my productions along and trying stuff out – hearing how bad my mixdowns were.
I moved to Berlin in 2011 and I already knew Dirk Rumpff who was organising the first CDR Berlin’s so it was a bit of a non brainer for me to start attending and contributing. One of my funniest moments at CDR Berlin was hearing Jacob Korn talk about his remix for my Hot Coins track ‘Geek Emotions’ and hearing how he felt about the wrong version ending on the record. He’s a nice chap so he was kind about it but it was pretty random/interesting to hear it from his side. We had never met before as well so he was yet another artist I connected with because of CDR. I have been to Dresden 3 times since then to work with Jacob but our first meeting was at CDR.
Another mad moment was when Tony invited me to play at Plastic People in London with Atjazz and Robert Owens and I wasn’t prepared for the pretty ghetto DJ booth at Plastics. It was pitch black in there so I couldn’t see a thing and matters weren’t helped by having Kay Sazuki, Simbad AND Atjazz all crowded in the booth to watch me play. Talk about pressure. I somehow got through it! I remember I tested out ‘Courting’ which ended up being on Bergerac 002 that night – just one of many records which first got heard at CDR.
CDR: When and where did you first hear about or attend CDR? What do you recall?
I have no idea. I guess someone told me about it happening in the East Midlands and that would be how my personal involvement started but before that I had heard about it from Brownswood which was a message board used by fans of Gilles Peterson. People like Floating Points, Mr Beatnick and Bergs used to post about the CDR events in London and I used to read about them and imagine what it was like. I guess this must have been around 2006 maybe? It’s mad when you look back at the genesis of CDR and Boiler Room – it was so low key and basically an early snapshot of some of today’s most hyped artists. No one had any idea that Aaron Jerome would end up being Subtrakt or that Sam FPS would end up being one of the biggest names in underground dance music. Quite inspiring I would say!
CDR: Aside from the releases, DJing, teaching and label stuff, you a champion of new music and unsigned artists via your Smugglers Inn radio show- can you tell us a little about the show and its history?
I have been doing the show for probably about 10 years now – so long that I can’t remember when I started it. It was a 2 hour fortnightly show for many years on myhouse-yourhouse.net and I knew so many producers due to my own music that from the start quite a large portion of the show was unreleased music. Obviously some of that came from labels and pr companies but I was also being sent a lot of stuff by unknown artists and from labels I had personal contact with. There seemed to be a kind of ‘heyday’ between maybe 2008 – 2011 where I was playing stuff by people like Floating Points, Bullion, The Revenge, Juju And Jordash, Eddie C, Chicago Damn, Mark E, Onra, Ajukaja and it was before they became more widely known. So I did a small bit in helping push those artists to a wider audience. I know a lot of labels used my show as an a+r hub so quite a lot of stuff got signed from being played on my show as well.
I remember sending Zane Lowe ‘Time For Us All To Love’ by Bullion and he played it on Radio 1 the same day. There was a point where it seemed like I was discovering a lot of great new artists. But as my own music career took off it became harder and harder to stay on top of the masses of digital promos I was being sent. I stopped the show altogether in 2014 as I couldn’t motivate myself to do it any more. I was burned out. I was having to spend a whole day listening to awful music just to find enough decent stuff for 2 hours. This is when you realise the role of a producer for the big name Radio DJs – I didn’t have anyone to help me in that role so it became a burden more than a joy. In 2015 some guys I know from Leeds started a new station called kmah-radio.com and they asked me to revive the Smugglers Inn show so I now do it monthly on roughly every second Thursday of the month from 7-9pm Berlin time.
There’s also a Smugglers Inn label which focusses on artists I feature heavily on the show there’s been 3 releases so far. More info here.
CDR: You’ll be ‘on the couch’ with Tony and Africaine 808 at the next CDR Berlin – but also sharing some new music later on. What can audiences expect?
I am looking forward to showing how simple my track ‘Wonky Bassline Disco Banger’ is when you get ‘under the hood’ of the Logic arrangement. Most of my favourite tracks are quite simple and effective ideas so I hope I can shatter some illusions about what you need to make a hit record. For my DJ set I will be playing stuff which I plan to release on my labels – Bergerac, Smugglers Inn and Nettles – will be a selection of stuff from some new, exciting artists. I will also be playing some tracks from my new album ‘Self Portrait’ which is out on Bergerac at the end of October. I have been working on it for 4 years so I am looking forward to hearing the mastered versions loud in a club. I might also try out some of the remixes I have been working on – I just remixed Ponty Mython for Dirt Crew and I am currently working on a remix of Amp Fiddlers cover of ‘1960 What’ by Gregory Porter which is on Amps new album ‘Motor City Booty’ which is out soon.
CDR: Is there a song that is shaping up as your track of 2016? Who/What has been on heavy rotation on your audio player of late?
The track I have heard the most is of course ‘Wonky Bassline Disco Banger’ because I have lived/slept/ate that track since this time last year. It’s been a massive game changer for me in a good way and although I have heard it a million times I am proud that I managed to make something which broke through and also pushed people’s expectations on a bit with the previously safe genre of disco-house. There’s always further to go in a genre – making something which ‘works’ is easy – I am much more interested in make something which ‘shouldn’t’ work somehow be accepted by the masses.
In terms of something else which I played a lot – Limo Welfare by Alex Kassian on Planet Sundae records has been a pretty reliable record for me. It’s not mindblowingly different or anything it just works really well. I know I am completely contradicting what I just said about Wonky Bassline but I don’t apply the same limits on other people’s music which I apply to my own!
CDR: Finally, have you any advice or words of warning for producers/musicians developing musical works in progress to play at CDR?
Just go with your heart. The pioneers should definitely influence you but only for quality level. They are all pioneers because they took the time to develop their own sound and had something genuinely unique to offer. We don’t need another Moodymann, Pepe Bradock or Koze as they already exist. What we need is YOU with your original ideas and different view of things. Don’t get caught up in trends – they change quickly and then you just look like an idiot for jumping style every 2 years. I would say listen to as much music which ISN’T like what you make as possible – you will get much more quality influence that way. All my favourite electronic producers are influenced by jazz, hip hop, soul, early 80s synth pop and stuff like that. Dig deep into our rich musical history. Don’t worry about current fashions and fads.
Don’t worry about technical stuff either – the musical content is WAY more important. Having a perfectly engineered boring track is pointless. It’s like with DJs – I would much rather hear someone who can’t mix play good records than a perfectly mixed set of dull, lifeless music. Musical content is everything – don’t worry about the engineering. Don’t get sidetracked from the creativity.
Look at how much retro dance music gets played today – you could make a track now which could be in vogue in 20 years time. So don’t worry about today’s fashions and expectations.
Good music is timeless.
Follow Danny on Facebook here.