IDM Instigator: Michael Red

Instigator, beat maker, and city sound scaper, Michael Red produces ambient glitch under the moniker Souns, and he is also one of Vancouver’s foremost dancehall and dnb djs. His ENVIRONMENTS Series has been foundational to the westcoast’s growing ambient scene, and this year Red expands his ambient dominion online with soundsimple.ca Dedicated to serving the forward-moving electronica scene, Red says of his current home Vancouver, "I like Vancouver, the only downside of what’s happening now with all these shows happening is keeping track of everyone and everything. There’s a lot of talent out there that i’d like to hear and check out and most likely have play at an event, but simply can’t keep up at the moment.

Tell us a bit about the ENVIRONMENTS Series you originated 2years ago in Vancouver.
ENVIRONMENTS’ series is an ongoing seasonal event happening in Vancouver that’s been happening since the start of 2003. The full title is ‘Transforming Audio/Visual environments’. transforming as in – a constantly shifting and transforming/transformative environment through music, projected video and slides, lighting (all natural candle light aside from visuals), incense, and a carefully cultivated warm and open vibe

The performers have largely been locals and fall under the category of what I call “ambient/etc”. ambient, experimental, soundscape, generally chill, some beats but keeping it nice and relaxed. The music is always live and original – from laptops to racks of gear. Some times a dj will open or close. The visuals have always been mixed live and mostly original as well.

The aim through these events and a lot of others I put on is to:
a) Put on events in the city that I’d like to attend myself, that there’s generally
been a lack of.
b) Create a positive, happy environment for people to relax and meet each other
and re-connect with old friends (I intentionally mix scenes and crowds with
diversifying the line-up).
c) Cultivate the ‘scene’ and showcase all the amazing talent that exists in
and around vancouver.
d) Heh heh, to promote myself as an artist too.

Generally the events have been very well received. I’ve received loads of positive feedback. Probably the most, and best, things I hear about are what a nice vibe and relaxed, open environment it’s been – pretty consistently ("really getting to know people; and having real conversations" are other common praises). Sometimes the attendance hasn’t been exactly what I’ve wished for, but on average, for the size of the scene, they have been well attended.

You do a similar event called "Firelight Lullabies" named for the cozy Gastown venue’s huge stone fireplace and the downtempo dj showcase?
A lot of what I’m talking about above applies to ‘FIRE LIGHT LULLABIES,’ a weekly Friday night I started at the beginning of January this year (2005), which ran for about four and a half months. The only difference really was that the genres stretched into downtempo, idm, and dub areas too (in addition to what I already said), and that some of the featured acts weren’t live all the time and weren’t local all the time either. This was a very successfull night – lots and lots of positive feedback. A lot of people were upset that I stopped doing it, but with anticipating the summer (a lot more events to compete with, and needing to free up time for me to play some festivals and out of town events), and because it was a pretty ‘wintery’ event that I wasn’t sure would still be successful in the summer. I’ve stopped it for now. I’ll most likely start it back up in September or October. Just to keep it special too, it needs a break.

How do you find Vancouver as a base for a dj and producer?
It can be a little cliquey, like all places will be, but I feel, relatively, it can be pretty open and friendly – especially in the live electronics idm, glitch, experimental, ambient, etc. community. A lot of people play shows and organize shows with different people. There’s no shortage of shows to go and see NOW, and lots of artists’s coming out of the woodwork. A lot of people are feeling and talking about how this kind of birth of a scene is happening. It’s exciting. BUT, like just two years ago there wasn’t much happening. with just one new venue opening – BLIM. Now you have a kind of over saturation of the scene temporarily, which will naturally happen – expanding and contracting as anything grows and evolves.

Who have been other influential people in Van city’s IDM scene.
Yuriko at BLIM www.blim.ca. She’s done a lot for the scene and she’s super cool – keeps things fair and extremely excessible for artist’s to put on there own shows. Also, Patrick, aka Soolah, at www.standardmethod.ca has done loads for the scene. He and Kali, aka Snailrider, put on VOID for a year run. (VOID was) a weekly that featured a lot of locals, idm, glitch, minimal techo, ambient, etc. Patrick also did ‘A/V LODGE’ for a good run at the Sugar Refinery before that. More recently he was involved with ‘transmit’. He’s a crazy, very giving dude that’s done a lot to bring artists together and help build the scene.

Do you notice a west coast sound or approach to music production or event throwing?
I could also speak on that for a while too. I’ve got other things to do today ya know {chuckling}. In terms of stuff that’s exclusive to the west coast – yeah, there’s definitely some stuff – check out www.tribalharmonix.org. Spend some time there, and you’ll discover this whole new age, conscience explorative scene that mixes dj culture with all sorts of new age, pagan, ritualistic, crazy, hippy type ish. It runs all up and down the coast; right down to San Fran, and I’m pretty sure is somewhat exclusive to it (the west coast I mean). Some people are into it, some people hate it (mostly cuz they have personal issues with "hippy" blah blah culture). Probably the best part of it is how inclusive it is. You have people from all sorts of backgrounds, from kids to adults in there 50’s and 60’s, all coming together and dancing and networking and putting on workshops for each other. As far as other scenes here – the more rave-y type stuff and international club scene stuff here is pretty similar to other scenes over North America and beyond. It’s kind of a global culture and attitude any way. The dnb and jungle scene is a little unique though. It’s very friendly and laid back, and a lot of folk here take pride in that. You have this super back-stabby and cliquey scene in T.O. {Toronto} for example, like parts in the U.K. and States, as I understand it. Then you have this nice little cozy dnb community that a lot of out town folks find they have to slow down to hear. and this kind of community minded movement {helps} to grow the scene and keep it alive. and yes, of course, you’ll have your egos like any spot too, but mostly no. Check out www.nwdnb.bc.ca

What are your current up and coming projects for 2005?
-just recently put together ‘coloured lights’ for www.kikapu.com, it’s a remix comp, featuring a lot of friends and myself, for an ambient album I did called ‘lights’ Also on kikapu from late last year.
-just finishing a loungey dancehall remix of a local band for my friend Lou @ Dreameyes Entertainment
– finishing up tracks for my inevitable first vinyl release for ‘Lighta!’ – some dancehall/ragga jungle business.
– putting together a dvd of live sets i’ve done over the years, with visuals I created myself for my performance at ‘signal and noise festival’ a couple monthsback.

by Romna Wendell -June 2005

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