Vancouver has been on this bass shit for a minute now. Be it West Coast roots-aligned minds or all the weed, BC has been bass-aware longer than most scenes in North America. Along with Max Ulis, Taal Mala, Daega Sound, DJ Cure (and like a bunch of other cats), Michael Red is part of Vancouver’s Lighta! Sound Crew – they’re the dudes that were booking Kode9 before anyone even knew who Burial was & they are the driving force that keeps Vancouver’s bass music scene fresh & evolving.
Bass music enthusiasts are in the midst of a strange time; to some, “dubstep” (& what it “should” sound like) is calcifying in the minds of many new, often uneducated fans, leading to a homogenization & a watering down of the sound. In Vancouver, the event-based gathering Low Indigo stands to deflect the stagnation & keep things moving with a focused grasp on the new sonic permutations booming from the speakers. For now, the man at the helm of Low Indigo is Michael Red. M Red recently released a new mix entitled Filter Phase Delay – a meshing of many styles, the set incorporates well, everything… Breakage, FaltyDL, Daega Sound, Pangaea, DVA, Loops Haunt… yikes. Needless to say, a healthy serving of much of what is good.
We had a chat with Michael Red about Lighta! history, his name, the mix & dare we say, the future of bass music…?
Is Michael Red your real name?
Nope. Tis alias I use for certain stuff. It’s also camouflage; words are power. If someone was like, “Michael Red issss minnnnne!! brwah haw haw haw…” I would be less scared, you know? Back in the mid-90s, in Halifax, I purposely thought of an abritrary name, didn’t put much thought into it. I chose ‘red’ cuz it was the colour I least identified with at the time; my sideways reasoning was a sort of anti-DJ name, as opposed to a name that someone put a lot of thought into & had some sort of special meaning & was like “cool”. I didn’t put any thought into it, it had no meaning & it was like “whatever”. Although later on it actually started making a lot of sense and took on, like, triple meanings. One of my nicknames growing up was ‘Ed’, and when you say ‘Michael Red’ it can sound like “Mike or Ed”. It also partially spells out my full proper name (‘r’ is my middle initial & ‘ed’ starts my last name). And of course, I came around to REALLY identifying with the colour red and its power. A lot of primal root-chakra red light is used at Lighta! parties.
What’s your real name then?
Allllright. So talk a bit about Lighta! How’d that get started?
Music-wise, Lighta! started off with ragga-jungle & dancehall being a big focus. Then quickly into digital dancehall & bits of grime, hip hop & harder beats – stuff that was hybridizing those genres & focusing on what’s inbetween genres (is this jungle or is this dancehall?). The “dub” element was always there, but not necessarily named from the beginning. Then, of course, came dubstep, which really grabbed hold (yup!!) & now, the sound at its outer reaches extends as far as techno, can touch on breakcore, UKFunky & maybe even IDM (is that still uncool to say? Awesome!). Wonky & off-kilter hip hop instrumental music is in there too. Hyphy music has got to get a shout out too. And other stuff…
Ah, I’m all for being comfortable with the term “IDM” – we all know what means… anyway, what about the DJs & producers that make up Lighta!… how’s that all work?
Um, you know, I used to think the sequence of how people became a part of the crew mattered more, but now I’m thinking that it’s kind of a non-linear time thing. Lighta! always existed & always will. Whether people were or weren’t members of the crew on particular calander dates doesn’t matter so much, cuz they were always carrying the fire & always will, you know? Everyone in the crew shares a certain same quality in the flame we all carry.
That’s a very open perspective… you see things a little differently?
I identify strongly with being a Pisces & have a thing with cats and stuff…
Talk a little bit about Filter Phase Delay.
First off, it’s an Ableton Live DJ mix. What I did was select a bunch of tunes & figured out a good sequence for them. Then I recorded the mix live (just as I would if I were playing out somewhere) using filters, faders, EQ, various FX & some triggered one-off sounds. Then I went back & tidied up a few volume levels & other parameters, but tried not to disturb the “live recording” feeling too much. I’m hoping I can find the time to do a few more mixes the same way. The method worked well, was quick & fun. I almost never find the time to pre- select tracks before I play, I just improv the selections & order as I go. Honestly, I’m trying to change that & do a little pre-selecting so I can ensure I’m not totally all over the place… Sometimes I end up throwing down a pure stream of conscience DJ set & it tends to go aaaall over the place. Some people follow the path like a hawk, but other people get lost with the extreme mood changes & I’m not trying to isolate the audience.
Why the name Filter Phase Delay?
Cuz that’s sorta the theme of the mix. A lot of filtering, a lot of delay. And I was playing with some phaser parameters on the delay this time around, testing it out for my Ableton DJ template. I’ve actually since changed those phaser parameters in the template, toned it down a bit, so this mix is the most phasey I’ll ever get… heh, that’s funny to say. DJ-wise it may be true, but I can’t speak for life tho; I can get pretty phasey… pretty pretty phasey.
What’s the deal with Low Indigo?
Kind of the same way that Lighta! developed itself – discovering its identity along the way, an identity that always existed but it didn’t necessarily know itself from the start – that’s what I think is going on with Low Indigo. At the moment, I’m pretty much the sole steering of Low Indigo, but that may change & maybe even become nothing to do with me – who knows. Just like Lighta!, at the beginning it was “me”, but soon enough it became “us” &, like I was saying, it became apparent that it was always “us”, but it just took time for the physical roles to develop & take shape. And actually, personally, I feel that Lighta! extends beyond “the crew”; for me, it’s gotta include the family that always comes out to the shows, they know who they are.
Anyways, I’m getting carried away here… Low Indigo – yes. Yet to be defined & maybe never defined.
So the whole idea is to almost avoid definition…
I recorded a track with the rapper Sole years ago (which will never see the light of day) & one of his lines was “that which is perfect is finished“. I heavily identify with that concept. It’s kinda like… as soon as “dubstep” gets defined, it dies or changes or otherwise, it’s finished. Done. So you know, if Low Indigo ever became defined – it would die or change. That which is perfect is finished. Like “wonky” (or whatever you want to call it) is not yet defined. People are still searching to peg it down & and you can’t (kind of what true dubstep is). Therefore, it’s not finished, meaning it’s still fresh as ever!
So, I can’t really say what Low Indigo really is. It carries the energy of what wonky currently has, along with other genres yet to be defined or discovered. I have a feeling that downtempo or “trip hop” might find its way in there, in a retro sort of way. In its physical form, it’s a loose event series & NOT a blog. The blogspot only serves as an agreed upon location to post event details & other relevant info & also for keeping a loose record.
Energetically & conceptually, it’s combining the LOW with the INDIGO & trying to draw a better bridge or channel between the two. When I say LOW — the obvious bass reference is secondary — I’m talking about lower vibrations ie/ like when you get fucked up & act like an idiot, or slip up & make mistakes, fall off your path, etc. And when I say INDIGO, I’m talking about higher vibrations ie/ when you are acting your true self, when you’re on point, sharp, focused & more “pure”.
So a way to try to explain it is say you go out to an event and do some low vibrational shit (drink more beers then you probably should), but at the same time have an awareness of that high vibration (close your eyes & loose yourself in some intelligent next- level music, or have an uplifting or engaging conversation with somebody). By strengthening that awareness of the two simultaneosly, maybe we can better know how to access that higher vibration from a lower vibrational state, which I’d say is an important skill these days.
I really do feel there is a message in next-level “real” music. Left-field abstact intelligent music nutures left-field abstract intelligent thought (and vice versa). Of course, music-wise, Low Indigo is all about the fresher forms of music: post-dubstep, post-2step, new garage, wonky, skweee, synth-slop, etc. One rule of thumb for Low Indigo, which reflects the vibe; it is it HAS to be flexible & it HAS to be (somewhat) easy… “Oh, the weekly thing didn’t work? No problem“. In fact, that was almost expected, in shifting with an increasingly shifting world. Shift & adapt. Shift & adapt. Stay fresh. Disappear. Re-appear.
Awesome explanation. What’s in the works…?
Hmm. Hold tight for Calamalka’s Secret Life EP. He’s just killing it these days. Go to a show with Taal Mala’s soundsystem – serious business there. Self Evident took over what was the short-lived Low Indigo slot once-a-month at the Astoria, he’s doing great things there. I’ve had some really great times at those nights. Bass Coast Project coming up in July, bunch of the crew will be at that. I am so so looking forward to that weekend, I had the BEST Halloween ever at Bass Coast’s Wild Things party. Those girls do it right, I’m hyped for that! I’m gonna be getting some older DJ & livePA mixs out there online & making some permanent download links to them, for the folks. That’s been on the list for a while.
And, yeah, I gotta say, I’m kinda excited to see where the Vancouver bass-music scene is going to end up. I honestly cannot predict where it’ll be 6 months from now. A lot is changing, you know… the earth & we are all changing aren’t we? Yip yeow.
MUCH LOVE to all original fire crew out there. Keep it burning. You’re not alone.
Thanks, er, Peter.