There are many kinds of music out there—rock, hip-hop, electronic, classical, jazz, blues, country—and I have been lucky enough to have been exposed to all these different kinds of music.
The one genre that has eluded me (ask my friends) is electronica. I am still learning the subtle differences between house music and progressive house, what dubstep is, and how is it that I like drum and bass (the hard-pumping kind), but I also love this loungey sound that is also called drum and bass.
In my continuing education in this movement, I had the enormous pleasure of touring with Red-I back in 2009 for a Vietnamese festival in Hanoi. We started talking over the dinner they had arranged for us, and I was surprised to find out that he was Pinoy. I initially thought that he was actually Vietnamese.
Red-I was with his lovely girlfriend, Astrid—they were the quiet pair on the side sporting a head full of hair and arms full of gear. I realized that this was because his gear was actually vinyl. Since that meeting, I’ve seen him sporadically throughout the scene, and he can now mostly be found at Irie Sundays, the gathering on Sunday nights at B-side, at the Collective at Malugay Street in Makati.
Since this lovely man sends me new music nearly daily, I decided to write about him. The proximity was there already, and so I decided to grab the chance and ask him a few questions. He didn’t just answer them—he also sent me another new track.
How did you start in music?
Music has been in my life since the beginning; my family is full of musicians. I used to be in bands during the late ’90s and early 2000. The first one was a hardcore rap-metal group in 1997 called 22 Caliber, followed by an organic jazzy, dub, reggae, hip-hop collective named Pure Natural in early 2000. Lastly, there was Down Boy Down, an electronic downtempo trio in 2002.
Color and excitement
What inspires you?
The vibes and energy you get from music. It’s inspiring when you hear music that hits you. There’s something in the frequency that makes you move and makes you feel alive and appreciate the color and excitement of life. I want to share that frequency to the people.
How did you come up with your name?
My real name is Red. It just naturally became Red-I.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I’d probably be a slave, working like an average person, or a farmer working in a plantation.
Do you do anything apart from this?
I am part owner of B-side, a bar in Makati that revolutionized the music scene in Manila. I used to DJ around Manila and deal with promoters and bar owners who would tell me what to play. Sometimes I would not enjoy playing anymore. I always had a dream to have our own place to play and promote what we like.
What are your dream collaborations? Local? International?
Bob Marley and Francis M. would be my dream collaborations.
How do you want to progress in your art?
It would be dope to hear a live band or orchestra play my original productions. Also, press more of my work on vinyl and release it worldwide.
What do you think the future holds for you?
I definitely want to travel around the globe and perform and play more of my original music to open-minded people. And record more artists.
What other music genres do you think you can be a part of?
Reggae is a big part of my influence. It’s spiritual music that guides my path, so definitely reggae; it’s my guidance and protection.
What do you think of the notion that has been going around that OPM is dead?
It’s obviously not, there are so many artists here. Singing and dancing are embedded in the culture. Even in a small island in the provinces you can find brilliant artists. Also in the city, the music scene is growing. I think people should start paying attention to what we have here and support the underground local scene.
OPM is sometimes stereotyped as being commercialized, and some people would probably not consider my music OPM. We need to widen that and change the system. It’s just a matter of supporting the right artists and pushing OPM to the fullest.
Describe the music you make now.
The heartbeat of my music is the drums, and the bass is the veins that pump the blood, and the melodies are the visions from my eyes which give life and story to my music. Does that make sense? Hehehe.
What genre of music would you like to hear more of?
I would like to hear more local producers with original style. Also I would like to hear some more ethnic and traditional music.
Who in the local scene should we listen to? International?
Caliph 8, Goodleaf, Flowtek, Radio Active Sago Project, Pasta Groove, Pinoy Stories, Miscellaneous, SinosiKat, NothingElse, Cosmic Love. The list goes on. There are a lot of wicked local acts. It’s just a matter of releasing and playing the music worldwide so people can hear it and let them know OPM is not just what they think. It’s actually sad because Filipinos are known to be in cover bands worldwide, they are talented but they have no choice. That’s what pays the bills.
But I believe if the game was to be a great original artist, they would come out on top. Like D-Styles and Q-bert, who revolutionized turntablism worldwide. When you talk about scratching anywhere in the world, people know Q-bert and D-Styles are number one.
Who are the upcoming acts and artists we should look out for both in the local and international scene?
Watch out for Pasta Groove’s new album, which is going to drop soon. He’s been recording traditional and nontraditional musicians around Southeast Asia. Also Bent Lynchpin’s first album is coming out soon, which is a psych-rock dusty beats-head nodding collaboration created by Caliph 8, Malek, Mark Zero and Fred. And check out this cat called Similar Objects, who’s been dropping a lot of music lately.
What would be the five tips you would give a kid trying to start out in music?
1. Know what kind of music you want to create.
2. Learn how to use the program/equipment that you want to use. Doesn’t matter what you have. Find a way you’re comfortable with. In my experience, I did a lot of trial and error and learned a lot from it.
3. It’s important to learn how to sequence in making music.
4. Do a lot of research and practice. Be creative and have fun with it. Trust your instinct.
5. Try to be original.