For our next Asia In Focus feature we’ve invited one of the Philippine’s most respected beat-makers and music connoisseurs. As the co-founder of B-Side and Black Market, Red-i influenced the younger generation of beat makers in the Metro Area with his distinct sound, incorporating samples from old traditional Filipino records and blending it into his own beats, but also with his versatile DJ sets that could range from dub, reggae, bass music, garage, hip-hop, trip hop, world music, or rare Filipino disco and boogie. He has been collecting records for over a decade and has amassed an impressive collection of all sorts of music from all over the world.
We had a quick chat with Red-i about the music scene in Manila before and now, and he provided us with an hour-long vinyl mix, exclusively recorded for Pulse Radio.
Hi Red! Nice to have you here, what have you been up to lately?
I’m good, I’ve been chilling with my family and enjoying life to the fullness.
You have been part of Manila’s subcultural music scene for many years now. When did it all start? What were your inspirations and what made you become the music enthusiast you are today?
Growing up in the 90's I was surrounded by hip-hop, punk, hardcore and death metal bands in the local scene in Marikina. Skating and music was my life, I was first part of a rap / metal hardcore band back in ’96 called 22 Caliber, then a hip-hop / reggae band in the early 2000s called Pure Natural, and the last one was an electronic group in 2002 called Down Boy Down.
In-between the band era, my friends and I used to attend underground rave dance parties like Consortium & Kinky Spear. I remember the first time going to a rave party, hearing the difference between house and drum’n’bass–it blew my mind, we didn't even know what these genres were called. It felt like I went into a different dimension. That got me really interested in electronic music, and that’s when I started DJing in 2002.
Back then I played all kinds of music in my DJ sets–from reggae to funk, soul, hip-hop and some rare grooves. I always tried to blend them, dub it, and remix them live in my DJ sets; this was before the Serato era. I remember it was hard to get recent releases on vinyl, so we would just go dig records around Metro Manila. Anywhere from antique shops to thrift stores, Japanese surplus stores or even garage sales, just to find hidden gems. Back then, second hand records would cost only about 20-30 pesos, so if you spent 1000 pesos you would go home with 40 to 50 records.
From 2005 to 2008 I was into DJ battling. I joined DMC Philippines and other DJ competitions. I won the Pioneer Digital DJ Battle in 2006 and represented the Philippines in Malaysia. I also placed first runner up three times at the DMC Philippines, that’s where I started to get recognized and get more gigs. I spent so much time practicing those years; eventually I just wanted to focus more on my production.
Looking at the way you approach music - from crate digging, to DJing and producing. Is there a golden rule that you always keep in mind?
The golden rule is to practice hard, master your craft, and know the history and the roots of your music. Those things will guide you in the right direction…
Can you tell us more about some of your current and past events like Dubplate, Last Days or Irie Sunday? Are there special memories that stood out over the years?
We recently had reggae Pioneer Macka B at Irie Sunday, it was fiyah! One of the best shows at Irie Sunday / B-side! I remember listening to his music when I was in high school and I never thought I’d ever meet him personally. With most of the artists we hosted at Dubplate & Irie Sunday, artists like Ranking Joe, Daddy Freddy, The Bug, Kode 9, Pinch, RSD, The Gaslamp Killer, DJ Krush, Daedelus, Brother Culture or Tippa Irie–you get a surreal feeling when you meet them. Those are the special memories, meeting and just chilling with them is the best part.
Looking at the more DJ and electronic music-focused crowd in Southeast Asia, what are your thoughts on the evolving ‘scene’ in Manila?
The scene is very healthy nowadays. More venues are opening and a lot of teenagers are taking an interest to music. Everybody can easily DJ and make music now because of technology; not just in Manila, this is happening everywhere in the world. The problem is, most of the people now are taking the shortcuts without knowing the true foundation. Most of the kids nowadays will just jump on the current trends, I’ve seen this before, it will just come and go. Without solid roots and foundation, the plant will eventually die.
Can you recommend any up and coming artists that you stumbled upon, either in the local scene or online?
I’ve been digging Ishan Sound lately. A kid from Bristol who’s producing dub in a new school fashion. He incorporates elements of grime and techno to his dub creation. Check him out!
What is your tip for aspiring DJs and producers in the Philippines?
Just keep practicing, keep learning and keep that fire burning in your heart.
Finally, can you tell us something about the mix you did? Where was it recorded and what was the idea behind it?
I recorded this mix in my studio last week. There’s no idea behind it, it’s just a mix of electronic dub vinyl that I’ve been collecting over the past few years.