Photo: Press (Andrew Red Hand)
The Romanian city of Iași and Detroit are around 8.000 kilometres apart, but Andrew Red Hand will let you travel from one to the other within a few cozy minutes. Ever since his debut EP Iași to Detroit came out on Twilight 76, in 2009, the producer and DJ has made a name for himself with a sharp sound that takes its cues from Detroit electro and techno while breathing new life into old formulas. Having been inactive as a producer, he has big plans for 2023, including a new EP for Chiwax. His mix for our Groove podcast does not hold back: you’re in for a rough two-hour ride.
You’ve started out as a DJ in the late 1990s. How did you initially get into electronic music and what led to you DJing? The local scene must have been quite small at that time.
In the communist time, before 1989, it was hard to get anything other than Romanian music as there was a censorship committee that believed that all foreign music was dangerous to the communist order. We were listening to music on a Majak 203, a Russian reel-to-reel player and my father recorded some tapes from a friend who had access to some international music. Later on, after we bought a Unitra turntable, I went to his place and I was looking at the vinyl collection and the one that was most interesting to me was Kraftwerk’s Computer World, mainly due to the artwork on which was a computer, quite similar to the one we were using as kids to play games. I was blown away by that LP! “It’s More Fun To Compute” was my favourite track, with its electro beat and mesmerising, out-of-this-world sounds that I later found again in the music of Detroit. After communism, in the early 1990s, we had all sorts of pirated cassettes, mainly with commercial music, but also some electronic music ones like Techno Trax. Once we had access to cable TV, I saw [German private broadcaster] VIVA’s shows Berlin House, Housefrau, or MCM’s Techno, which aired a lot of electronic music styles and various DJs from all over the world. That expanded my horizon. In 1997, the VIP Club opened in my city. It was one of the very few, I think three, clubs in the country where one could also hear some electronic music and where those who were interested in it were gathering. I slowly started to learn the art of DJing there and, after it closed, DJed in other clubs like the amazing Club 39 until I started my own techno nights.
The tracks you put out during the MySpace era caught the attention of international DJs such as Claude Young or Dave Clarke. How was your music received in Romania, at that time seemingly completely dominated by the local take on minimal techno?
MySpace was an excellent way of connecting with people and I had the chance of getting to know a lot of my favourite artists as well as some Detroit legends. The kind feedback I got from the likes of Claude Young, Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakri, the late Aaron Carl or Dave Clarke—who kept playing the tracks in his White Noise Radio—gave me courage to send my music to Detroit’s DJ Godfather and, to my amazement, he wanted to release them on his legendary electro label Twilight 76. They were basically the first tracks I had produced, using a ultra slow 450 Mhz computer. It was a dream come true to release my first EP Iași To Detroit in the techno capitol. At that time, in the 2000s, I don’t know how many in Romania knew what electro was about and I’m not sure how many do today. (laughs) It may be confused with electro-house here, most likely. Romania was and is still too deeply buried in trends, especially in boring minimal techno or tech house … But I never thought about making music in order to fit in with the Romanian scene as I won’t adjust to anyone’s preferences anyway. I just do what I love, my way, and try to connect to those who understand my music worldwide if it is not possible at home. I think it’s a love-hate relationship—I love my country but not its club scene. (laughs)
Already four years ago, in an interview with the Romanian Electronic Beats magazine, you were critical of the status quo in the Romanian club scene as well as the lack thereof in your home town of Iași. How do you view it nowadays?
The situation is the same and still everybody in Romania wants to be a Villalobos clone. (laughs) Our country does not have a solid club culture as it has not experienced the most refined forms of electronic music as other countries did. Romanians were most acquainted with progressive house in the 2000s and then came minimal whose success is based on its banality. Therefore, when you don’t have enough knowledge and don’t know what quality entails, everything impresses you, because you have no quality filters to judge what you hear. Some kind of antivirus for mediocrity would be needed here. It’s all about keeping up with trends, combined with people’s reluctance to immerse themselves in other, more advanced music than what they already know as well as promoters’ or club owners’ lack of interest for diversity and their greed. And the DJs are too much like entertainers who follow trends blindly and don’t want to challenge their audience, so they contribute to this stagnation. And here we are in 2023: Romania doesn’t have a proper techno club that like Tresor is focused only on harder techno, Detroit, electro, industrial, acid, EBM … Every now and then there are some interesting events at some clubs like Control in Bucharest or Krănuț or there are a few promoters who do some events in unconventional spaces in other cities like the Pressure Nights in Cluj. There might be something special in Cluj, maybe because they are close to Hungary’s border, I don’t know, but people there really know how to party! In my lovely city Iași there’s been no electronic music club for years, only ridiculous EDM and commercial clubs. There are some folks who do events sometimes, but they too focus on minimal, etc.
You have a new EP coming out on Chiwax in April this year, your first on the label since 2018. What can you tell us about the music on it?
I am delighted to be back on Chiwax in April, after I released the first one, Spiritual Capital, in 2018 through them. The Nostalgia EP includes 4 tracks: “In The Cemetery (Part II)”, a spooky electro track, a new version of part one that was released on my Lobster Theremin EP, and three moody house/techno/acid tracks that kind of remind of the mood of my M>O>S EP: “Summer Nostalgia,” “Autumn Nostalgia,” and “Sorrowful Joy.”
This will generally be your first full release with original material in five years. What role did making music play in your life in those years?
Now, as things have gone back to normal after the pandemic, it’s time to get back on the dancefloor, so I am back with more EPs this year—hopefully four of them. Usually the music reflects how I am feeling or what’s going on in my life. I have dedicated my life to music so far and I may say, without exaggerating, that making music really saved my life, especially after my beloved mother died in 2014. I sank into a near deadly depression for almost five years and making music was a way to ease my pain. I couldn’t make electro as I did before because I felt that I needed something to chill me a bit, so I focused on 4/4 beats. During that time I made a lot of music, including my two M>O>S EPs, the Lobster Theremin EP, the first Chiwax EP and even some of the new upcoming one, which, by coincidence or not, will be out on my mom’s birthday, 10 April.
In the meanwhile, you have released a slew of remixes, including electro takes on all-time classics like “Blue Monday” and “Never Let Me Down Again” or tracks by DJ Stingray, Dave Clarke and most recently UHF. Why did you focus more on that—and how would you characterise your approach to remixing in general?
Sometimes I like to make some remixes to challenge myself creatively. Actually the DJ Stingray remix—of “Image Search”—was made in 2011 for a DJ Mag competition, kindly appreciated by the legend himself as ”very professional and high tech!” The Dave Clarke remix—of “Wisdom To The Wise”—was made in 2011 as well, as an electronic way of thanking him for the continuous support of my music. The ”Never Let Me Down Again” remix I did for fun in 2020 as I love a lot of Depeche Mode classics. I was really astonished to see how many people liked it! The UHF remix is part of his electro EP on Gladio Operations and the “Blue Monday” one is the newest one. My approach on remixing is quite experimental. Sometimes I use very few parts of the original track. I know what genre it will be and then I let myself go. The most important thing is to know when to stop!
Your spiritual home may be Detroit, your favourite club however is located on the other side of the famed Detroit-Berlin Axis: Tresor. What is it about this club in particular that you find so exciting both as a visitor as well as a DJ who has played there a few times?
There is a track called “Nothing’s Like Detroit” [by Detroit in Effect] and I would also say that nothing’s like Tresor! Beside the amazing history of it, the club itself is a work of art. The first time I played internationally I played straight at Tresor. At that time I didn’t even have the courage to dream that I would ever play music there. It was a total shock for me! The Treatment label kindly contacted me and told me that they want to book me and I thought it was a joke. (laughs) I was thinking that I am too small to play at the mighty Tresor all of a sudden. So I directed them to my booking agent and we did it! I’ll never forget when they introduced me to the club and opened the door of the Globus room. I said to myself: “How the heck am I gonna play music in this heaven?” Fortunately, Cuba Libre helped me to deal with my emotions—I was really shaking. (laughs) It was the best night ever, I truly can’t describe the joy and the extreme honour I felt! Everything was perfect, from the shocking Void sound system which totally blew me away, to the very professional crew and the lovely people who danced with us! I loved it so much that after playing on Friday, I came back the next day and danced until morning again. I may say that every time I played at Tresor, whether it was Friday, Saturday or even Monday, in the Globus room or down in the lovely basement behind bars, it was amazing! I love the club and it really inspires me each time.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
The idea was to do a sort of journey through some interesting raw and punky electro and others related that I usually play.
Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
Music-wise, it’s gonna be a pretty busy year. Planned so far are the Nostalgia EP on Chiwax, an EP on Diffuse Reality with more bonus tracks on the digital version, an electro EP on Rotterdam Electronix featuring the track “Out Of Control” included in my Groove mix), and an EP on Hoodoo Techno. Also a track of mine will be part of an electro compilation EP on Shipwrec and another one on a compilation EP on Hoodoo Techno. I’m in the mood for some rough electro now, so there may be more releases this year. Also I’m looking forward to playing music around this beautiful world and to meeting lovely people! And in the meantime, I am searching for a new booking agency.
Stream: Andrew Red Hand – Groove Podcast 369
01. Costa – Dissociative
02. Init – Nrgy
03. Lectro Cod_e – Cod_e Violation
04. Umwelt – Tricky Traxx
05. SVZZ – Noizeeee
06. Locked Club – Devchonka
07. Club Cab – Lick it
08. Ytp – Eliminate
09. Dagga x Manao – Nova Geracao
10. Phobi9 feat Promise – Okay
11. Riot Code – Drive Tribe
12. RLGN – I’ll Break Your Fucking Face
13. Locked Club – Electro Hund
14. Bloody Mary – They Come For Us At Night
15. Krampf – Lsd Xtc (DJ Gigola and Kev Koko Paranoia Mix)
16. 5zyl and Shit Control – Krug (False Persona Remix)
17. E91 Trashykid – Club Operator
18. False Persona – Unknown Variable
19. Hyde – Dominator
20. Locked Club – Kulikitaka
21. Umwelt – Creature Obscure
22. Sinitsin – Across the Desert Sands (Umwelt Remix)
23. Traffik – Here Once Again
24. Squaric – For Varden Pikre (Martyn Hare Remix)
25. Dagga x Manao – Back Into
26. Dj Sacred – 1312 (Re-Drum Remix)
27. Distorsion UA – Mask Off
28. NIIIE – Be Concentrate
29. Schranzformator – No Good (Bootleg)
30. Kørper – Bad Company
31. Riot Code – Creeper
32. Andrew Red Hand – Out Of Control
33. Future Sound Of London – Everyone In This World Is Doing Something Without Me