When two well-established producers get in the studio together, the results are always gonna be interesting… fascinating, even
Collaborations are ten-a-penny in dance music, to the extent that "collab bro?" has become a cliché. But there are still occasions when a collaboration is genuinely intriguing. When a pair of artists with a long history of producing great music decide to get together, there is always the hope that the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts, and that some kind of musical magic will occur.
So it was with much anticipation that we checked out the new Red Baron project from Red Rack’em and Ron Basejam, a pair of UK producers with some serious musical heritage and highly rated back catalogues between them. And their new two-track Fascinate EP doesn’t disappoint, either, serving up a pair of deliciously dancefloor-ready jams containing oodles of funk.
We chatted with one half of the pair, Mr Red Rack’em AKA Danny Berman – he's the one on the right in the main picture – about how it all came together…
First of all, for readers who might not know, please tell us who you are, what you do and who/what Red Baron is?
“I am Danny Berman, AKA Red Rack’em, AKA Hot Coins. I was a music producer and DJ before the pandemic but since June 2020, I have also been working hard as a mentor and creator for an online music producer community I created called How I Program, which mainly runs on the membership platform Patreon. I'm also offering one-to-one support to several people I am mentoring in a background management and A&R role. Red Baron is the new project from Jim Baron from Crazy P, AKA Ron Basejam and myself. Red Rack’em + James Baron = Red Baron.”
What was the story behind this collaboration?
“Jim and I have a long history together from the Nottingham music scene and beyond. He was someone I, as a younger producer, always looked up to – Crazy P have been active since the mid-90s. I only started releasing regularly in 2004, so I always looked at Crazy P, Bent, Charles Webster, Schmoov etc as like my musical big brothers in Nottingham.
“Jim and I have spent a lot of time together over the years: playing on the same line-ups, supporting each other's music, being at festivals together and we were part of the same extended friends group which had a whale of a time in Nottingham in the mid to late 2000s. So with our shared music tastes, and over 50 years of music experience between us, it just seemed like a no-brainer to go into the studio together.”
What’s the creative process when working on Red Baron material?
“It’s been pretty sample-based so far, but we always play lots of new parts in with synths. So I think it’s a combination of obscure sampling, Jim's great keyboard playing and my more leftfield attempts. I tend to operate in a more stylistic role: I often play stuff in which is a bit more ‘wrong’ as I'm not a classically trained musician, so sometimes Jim will ask me to play stuff in as it takes the track in a different direction. We both just use our ears and minds to decide what goes in, so we often just audition samples over the top of our tracks and then something just pops out.
“We're both totally comfortable with just improvising and trying things, so there have been many ‘happy accidents’ – we trust our tastes and I think our five decades of collective DJing has definitely trained our ears. We just have these moments where the magic happens, and I’m not ashamed to say there’s the occasional high five or fistbump as we both get really excited by the music. That’s the thing, right? If we’re both feeling pumped when we’re making it and it’s giving us ‘that’ vibe, then we’re on the right track.”
What’s Jim like to work with?
“Jim is incredibly hard-working and definitely takes the reins in the sessions – he’s a tornado of activity and seems to me to have a hell of a lot of creative stamina. He can play many instruments, sing and he’s an amazing producer and mix engineer. Basically the complete package!”
And what do you think he would say working with you is like?
“I think Jim enjoys the stuff I bring to the table. He’s always been very vocal in his love of my sample editing and intense level of detail, which probably verges on the spectrum but it does get results. I bring the ‘wonky’, for want of a better word.”
Fascinate sounds like it might owe a debt to a certain 70s funk band – tell us a bit about how you made it…
“We never discuss our sources, but yes, there might have been some sampling involved. I am pretty sure we started off with the main sample in the track and then just built a loop around it. Then it goes off-piste again and again because we played bits in which took the track in different directions. We just kept making cool new bits and could make them work with using arrangement tricks like silences and reversed drum loops etc.
“If you listen to Fascinate closely it’s like a DJ playing in a club. If you think how a good DJ works a club – do that on your track and you’ve nailed it. I love the middle eight on the tune, which Jim played loads of cool synths on – it’s like a totally different track, and then the outro is some dark Italo ravey vibes. It’s basically a large collection of different ideas being made to work with good arrangement.”
The EP's other track, She Makes It Work, is bit deeper, a more dub-disco affair perhaps. Again, tell us a bit about how you made it?
“I would say She Makes It Work is some twisted acid casualty hippy stoner crop circle cult business. It’s definitely got an unsettled feel to the early part of the track.
“We started with the tabla stuff with some weirdo beatnik twisted poetry over it, and just started chucking samples in over the top. Jim played in the wonky bassline and I did the uplifting mangled chords thing with the main sample. If you listen to the tracks closely you can definitely hear both of us in there.
“I think She Makes It Work is the perfect foil for the more floor-filling A-side. Very happy with the vibe on it. This is where me and Jim shine, I think, as we’re able to explore a mood together like on this track, which takes the listener deep into our world. It’s very enjoyable in an artistic sense.”
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
“I wanted to mention, to all dance music producers looking for a music-focused community, please check out my Patreon as there’s some really exciting stuff happening. Every month there’s a guest masterclass from a great producer – so far we’ve had people like Cinthie, Atjazz, Rick Wade, Jazzanova, Crazy P, Adam Pits and Titonton Duvante. It’s been really exciting to get an insight into how they work. I'm also teaching music production, giving music business advice and creating fun projects like group record labels and remix competitions.
“And beyond that, me and Jim just want to say thanks to everyone for the support over the years for our music. It’s really appreciated.”
Words: Harold Heath Pics: Fabula Images
Red Baron's Fascinate EP is out now on vinyl – buy it here. Digital release coming soon…
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