Romania’s finest Detroit-repping firebug Andrew Red Hand steps up in our mix series with a laser-guided suite of propulsive uptempo hybrids and high-octane, 303-laden bracers; raising his glass to UR and cronies with one hand as he drops the hammer with the other.
His name could well be one of a superhero, stretching his fiery red arm out of some Stan Lee’s Marvel comics cover as he saves the world from herds of brain-damaged Tomorrowland rooters and deep V-neck-clad Ibizean tech-house dunces. His superpower? Infrared vision, top-of-the-range selection and perfect pitch for all sonic objects sporting the Motor City’s gothic D symbol on their numberplate. His weakness? Ro-minimal, EDM and soulless promoters are his kryptonite.
Yeah you heard it, Romania’s finest Detroit-repping firebug Andrew Red Hand steps up in our mix series with a laser-guided suite of propulsive uptempo hybrids and high-octane, 303-laden bracers; raising his glass to UR and cronies with one hand as he drops the hammer with the other.
A staple of Aroy Dee’s ever trustworthy M>O>S imprint, guilty of some infamies on US labels Twilight 76, Matrix and Detroit Underground, plus another slice of acid-churning experiments on Lobster Theremin’s offshoot 1Ø PILLS MATE, the guy undeniably knows his way around. It’s with the greatest pleasure that we hand Andrew the reins for about a hour and a half of his hi-NRG, steamrolling electro-tech blends, rough breaks and glow-in-the-dark, radioactive 4/4 rhythms.
Interview by Baptiste Girou
"A DJ should be an artist, not a human jukebox"
First things first, thanks for the dope mix, proper massive trip into the Detroit electro-tech continuum! Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
Hi, thank you very much for the kind words and thank you for the opportunity! A ”Detroit electro-tech continuum” containing only one track from Detroit actually… (laughs). It spans electro to acid, through industrial, EBM-friendly techno and some other great music.
It took a while to do it, as I try to record the mixes at home in a more ”artistic” way than when playing in clubs, where things may happen too fast. The most ”stressing” part was finding new music to play, as I am too picky and a too-hard-to-please mofo… (laughs). I checked which one could fit in my story and then I started the trip from 127 bpm, slowly getting up to 136 till the last seconds for a wild ending.
Do you have new releases lined up this year?
I have a new house EP, ‘Spiritual Capital‘, due out shortly on Chiwax. Then in the summer I have another one planned for Lobster Theremin. This will be a little special as it’s made of 4 tracks of a different kind, basically showing diverse facets of my persona: one being haunting electro, another EBM acid, a dreamy house cut and an acid techno tune. I am also working on the third EP for my beloved M>O>S Recordings. I just finished a sweet track and Aroy Dee fell in love with it.
I also made an electro remix for Hardfloor’s ‘The Business Of Basslines‘ track, which will come out in a few months on their eponymous label. An electro-funk remix for Detroit’s Niko Marks is planned later this year as well. Recently I had an electro remix made for Detroit legend Sean Deason’s ‘The Shit‘, out on his Morpheus imprint – a sublabel of Matrix Records. And I’m working on some other projects too.
You’re operating out of Romania, which has provided the club scene with a healthy number of talents all around but rarely on the electro side of things. How did you first get into this kind of sound?
As everyone can see, Romania has mostly provided ”a healthy number of talents” to an unhealthy scene that is this so called minimal, tech-house, whatever trendy rubbish. For our country, who did not get through the high-end forms of electronic music, this EDMinimal clowning is a pure cancer, eating it alive!
Most of the club owners and promoters do everything for cash and have no interest in providing diversity in sound so they rotate these kinds of DJs to the people who have quite limited knowledge of high-quality music and a relatively low interest in other more advanced sounds. It’s a deejay’s duty to open people’s minds and bring new advanced music, but most of them are copying these Ro-minimal false prophets of sound, so there’s no chance for an evolution!
I’ve been around since this clubbing thing started here in 1997 and we were one of the first cities to promote electronic music in the country. I’ve seen better days, nowadays it’s dead… there’s simply no high-quality music clubs anymore.
It was extremely hard to get good music after 1989, most of it was commercial so I think the first time I heard electro was in the early 90’s when, due to the computer-friendly artwork, I picked Kraftwerk’s ‘Computerwelt‘ from my friend’s dad vinyl collection and I never returned it back… (laughs). The whole album is dope but the sounds of ‘It’s More Fun To Compute‘ really blew me away.
"Romania has mostly provided 'a healthy number of talents' to an unhealthy scene that is this so called minimal, tech-house, whatever trendy rubbish."
What was it like to produce this kind of sound back in 2009? Were people receptive or did it take some time to get accustomed to it?
Electro was unknown in Romania as are aliens. Most people still get it mixed up with EDM electro-house, and I’m afraid I may be the only guy here who produces and plays electro, and some other ”harder” genres.
Very few were receptive then, except for some of my friends… (laughs). But I never had in my mind to be a Romanian people’s kind of DJ anyway, I can’t limit myself to theirs or anyone’s preferences and compromising is out of the question. A DJ should be an artist, not a human jukebox, so I had to find some other places to do things my way if I couldn’t do it at home. Thank Lord I found a lot of like-minded individuals in other countries!
What’s your home city of Iasi like? When searching on Google images, the first thing that pops up is the cities Palace of Culture. Quite different from Detroit’s post-industrial wastelands and sleepy factories to say the least…
It’s a lovely city! More than 600 year-old, built on seven hills; a former capital, home to the oldest University in the country. Iasi is actually Romania’s second-largest city. It’s called the “spiritual capital of Romania“, so there are lots of warm, friendly and peaceful people round here.
And yes, the Palace of Culture is our most emblematic building. It is the first thing I look at when I open the window… a never-ending inspiration! We also have some post-industrial wastelands and sleepy factories nowadays, as the corrupted politicians closed them after the ’89 Revolution and today they’re abandoned. I remember going as a child to our biggest industrial one, C.U.G, as my father used to work there. I enjoyed listening to the sounds made by the lathes and the engines.
Your first big step must have been signing to Detroit’s Twilight 76 Records and then to Matrix imprint, which has sheltered the likes of Convextion, Freq, Kenny Larkin and label honcho Sean Deason. How did you come into contact?
Around 2005 I made some electro-techno and bass tracks, and posted three of them onto my MySpace page. As I am never satisfied with my music, I was quite astonished to see how many big names from Detroit and the world appreciated them, kindly commenting on them.
Then I saw Dave Clarke had started his White Noise electronic music show, so I sent him the tracks and although I was skeptical that he wouldn’t listen to them, he played them many times on his show! Then I thought to myself that they must be good, so I mailed them through to Electrobounce to DJ Godfather. He got back saying “let’s release them on my label Twilight 76“. I was thrilled!
So my first EP, ‘Iasi To Detroit‘, came out in 2009 on a Detroit-based imprint. I’m so greatly honoured to have recorded on such a historic label, and to have made the Romanian Iasi-Detroit connection happen.
With Sean Deason I think we have know each other since MySpace. I sent him some electro tracks and he liked them, so the ‘Life-Changing Experiences‘ EP came out on his iconic label, Matrix Records. It’s inspiring to work with such legends, it pushes me into surpassing myself.
"I can assure you that working on these two EPs for M>O>S really saved my life and I am very, very thankful!"
Another big move has been to join the ever dependable M>O>S stable. How did that happen?
Some years ago I made some acid house stuff, motivated by my chats with acid pioneer Adonis, then I sent them to M>O>S and – to my surprise – Aroy Dee liked the style and asked me to send more.
Then in 2014, my dearly missed Mother died and, in order to fight my near-death depression, I kept working on music. I sent the tracks made during that time to M>O>S and so was born my first EP for them, ‘For My Mother‘, released in 2015, followed by ‘Dear Goddess‘, which came out in 2017.
It may sound weird, but I can assure you that working on these two EPs for M>O>S really saved my life and I am very, very thankful! I don’t even know how I did some of the tracks, they just got out of me – keeping me in a creative mode, so I would not lose my mind. Much love and respect to M>O>S! Watch out for the third EP!
Why do you keep your face hidden? Is it a nod to UR, a way to let the music be the only focus or just a way to stay anonymous? All of these?
Yes, I stick to not putting my face before the music. Nowadays there are too many good photos and too much bad music. Part of the idea was inspired by Underground Resistance’s fascinating live performance as ISF here in 2008. After I finally met with them and my all-time favourite, the legend Mad Mike Banks, Cornelius told me: ”I need you to lead me to the stage as if I’m an interstellar fugitive and you caught me…”. So he gave me one of their UR scarf (the one you can see in my photos) and they put theirs, and I lead him, blindfolded, to the stage, with my legs shaking quite a bit… (laughs) So I thought, ‘yes, that’s it’.
What’s your studio setup like? Mainly hardware, a mix of everything, or more of the flexible software suite?
I am not allowed to talk about it, but all I can say is that it’s sort of an unseen, unheard-of setup that only I and Jeff Mills have access to, thanks to NASA’s alien technology (laughs).
Joking aside, I try to do music with what I can grab. Trying to do ”big” things with the little that I have would sum it up best. Lots of people who heard my music said it sounds analogue even when it wasn’t so, therefore I think in the end it’s a question of how you polish it. If you insist enough, you can make some real diamonds. I am still polishing!
"It's a deejay's duty to open people's minds and bring new advanced music, but most of them are copying these Ro-minimal false prophets of sound, so there's no chance for an evolution!"
Is there one piece of gear that sums up your sound?
None! I am not keen to do only one type of sound or genre. I did electro, techno bass, techno, acid, house and other weird music. Playing with the same sounds for the sake of having a specific sound, over and over again, at a certain time it will surely end up being boring.
I know some say that limiting yourself can force you to be creative but un-limiting yourself I think is much more creative. The only thing is to know where to stop, and that can be learned with time.
I do music in an experimental way. I mean, when I start I only know what style it will be, then I try to find something that fits my mood or something interesting enough, or weird, or whatever. It’s like an unplanned trip into the unknown. Happy accidents are sometimes part of the equation too – they make me realise that, sometimes, good things fall from nowhere.
What is the last record store you visited and what did you bag there?
Bandcamp and Soundcloud were the last record stores. Oh wait, are they? haha. Nowadays I am searching for some records of mine to bag, some didn’t even send me any…
What’s your schedule looking in the next couple weeks/months?
I am looking forward to getting back to my favourite club, the legendary Tresor in Berlin, on 26th May. I’ll play at a local festival, Hangariada, on the 28th, and then at Garboskarnevalen in Stockholm, prior to their National Day, on 5th June. Thanks much for the invitation, Inverted Audio, it was a pleasure! And… beware of the Red Hand!
Discover more about Andrew Red Hand on Inverted Audio.