Michael Red Interview by Rocco Tyndale. Photo by Syd Woodward. Music / Art / Interview

Michael Red

Subtempo Guest Mix 013


Michael Red is a Vancouver and Sunshine Coast based electronic music producer, performer and DJ. The founding member of the respected bass music collective Lighta! Sound, head of the Low Indigo leftfield music label, one half of the experimental dub duo Chambers, former curator for New Forms Festival for over ten years, Bass Coast Music Festival resident, Shambhala Music Festival performer over ten years, former long term collaborator with throat singer Tanya Tagaq, and ambient/experimental artist under the alias Souns. His music has been released on Isla, Modern Math, New Kanada, Mutek Recordings, South Fork Sound, King Deluxe, Debacle, Beacon Sound, Deep Sea Mining Syndicate, Subtempo and Babel. Michael's performed across Canada, Europe, Australia, NZ, Mexico, New York and has been written about in The Wire, XLR8R, Resident Advisor, and Vice's Thump. Ongoing influences include: dub music, all nature, outer space, the unseen world, transcendence and evolution.

Surrounding the release of this mix, we caught up with Michael Red, to talk about what's the latest in the Vancouver powerhouse. Read below for some of the latest in Red's impressive output.

Hi Michael, first of all, thank you for doing this mix for us. I’ve been a big fan of yours since I first heard some of your early mixes from 2005. It’s an honor to count with your contribution, both on this mix as well as with the Souns record you released with us a while back.

I wanted to start by asking you about the mix itself… Did you record it with any particular theme in mind? What inspired you to create it?

Yes, I’ve been wanted to do a mix like this for some time actually. For years, all my mixes have been from live DJ recordings, lightly edited after the fact, but I never found myself in a DJ environment when the particular flavour of this mix has been appropriate. I have fully intended to play out this sort of flavour before, with the resulting recording in mind for a mix, but always got steered elsewhere by the dancefloor. I can’t help but be guided by the crowd and what they want, so I guess the timing of the environment and my desires of the day hadn’t quite matched up yet to do this tone. So I went with a studio mix, just to make it happen. My first studio mix in ages actually. By subtracting the crowd or, more accurately, by imagining the right kind of crowd in my head - I was able to lay it all down.

As far as the flavour itself, I’m finding myself more and more drawn to the double-time 125-130 bpm range. i’m certainly not prone to steady kick drums, but I do really love the steady off-tick of a techno high hat and how that can hold place and create a framework for some really off-kilter rhythms elsewhere. I feel like that off-tick hi hat and tempo creates infinite worlds to explore, and I’ve been slowly catching the bug to go in with that. And that hi hat doesn’t even actually need to be heard - it just needs to be implied or easily imagined, to maintain that feeling. So with this mix - I keep that propulsion constant, staying inside the tunnel, without breaking things up into half-time grooves or lyrics driven tunes which a live west-coast bass-driven dancefloor might demand.

What tools did you use to create this mix?

I used ableton. It ended up teaching me a lot about what I want to do with DJing now, and how to technically achieve that. By a kind of reverse-engineering, I was able to take the EQ and filter moves and longer mixing styles I did in the mix and feed that back into my actions for when I’m DJing. I’ve actually tightened up my DJ skills a lot, over the years, by observing what I do to tidy up a mix after-the-fact. For example, it’s made me more confident in playing with the main volume of a track more dramatically, and taught me to reign in FX volumes that were perhaps too wild in the past.

There is a slight irony with this being a new ableton mix, as I’ve just switched to CDJ’s for most DJ’ing now, heh.

You play out a lot, and have been performing for many years. Is this the sort of sound you are bringing to clubs and festivals lately? Or does it vary from night to night?

I’ll certainly play other flavoured sets and keep exploring other sounds, I can’t help it, but this is one of the key frameworks I’m aiming at as an overall artist in 2019. And this would be the absolute peak of the spectrum by the way, as far as energy and intensity goes. I definitely intend to explore the deeper and more spacey and more delicate sides of this sound as well, and very much look forward to that. Probably a typical DJ set from me won’t go as hard as this one, with some softer and deeper moments blending in, but you never know what kind of night might happen sometimes!

Michael Red playing live at a recent Lighta! event in Vancouver. Michael Red playing live at a recent Lighta! event in Vancouver. Photo by Michael Benz.

I know last year you had a number of releases on reputable labels and seems like every release gets better and better. Have you added any new pieces of gear or what would you attribute the leaps forward to?

Thank you for the kind words. There hasn’t been much in the way of new physical gear, aside from more midi controllers and a volca sampler and a few other odds and ends. There’s for sure lots of new software. For the past two or three years I’ve put a lot of things aside to really learn and better understand my software and tools (a lot of focus on the basics actually, like EQ), and further craft my process and my mixing and overall output. That has been a primary focus. Less gigs, less travelling, and more studying and practicing and crafting. Lots of youtube long form interviews and theory and tutorials, to be honest. Lots of time dedicated to legit “play”, exploring and experimenting (very important). And lots and LOTS of deeper listening and studying of other peoples work, as well as my own. Through creating catalogs and demos for scoring opportunities and such - I’ve had a great excuse to revisit all my music production from over the years, which has helped reveal a better understanding of what it is I actually do and what the common threads are. And I’ve finally managed to develop a clear practice around time purely spent on contemplating and visioning, in silence, which I’ve found to be very rewarding and I feel makes the work more “pure” and direct. I’ve folded that element into several projects now, from start-to-finish, and it feels very good.

Right, and it must also be an accumulation of your experience over the years...

Always ALWAYS refining and throwing old ways out boldly, and jumping into the new things, and ever attempting to stay as open as possible.

You have so many projects, it’s hard to keep track. But if I’m not mistaken, you currently are working on your solo stuff as Michael Red, then Souns, which is your more ambient project, then there is Chambers, which is more your dub material. Anything I’m missing? Feel free to elaborate on any of these, as I may have oversimplified what each project is about.

Heh, you’re not the first person to comment on all the projects i work on. Yeah. there’s my solo work under my name that covers most of the beat-driven work, my solo ambient/soundscape project ‘Souns’ (pronounced like “sounds” without the ‘d’), and my partially-materialized solo project ’Searching’ (slow reveal with that one). There’s my collab with Gabriel Saloman as ‘Chambers’, which has fallen dormant for the time being, a newer collab with ISLA label’s NAP called ‘Le Fe’ (proper details on our spring 12 inch release soon), and a few other collab projects floating around that fall in and out of phase. ..I actually have done the fully secret release thing too, under unknown alias’s, on actual known labels with distro and that. heh.

What can people expect from you in 2019? Any releases that aren’t top secret that you can tell us about that we should keep our eyes open for?

Aside from what I’ve already mentioned, there’s a few cassette albums due out this year. One should be announced any day now. Some other vinyl which i can’t publicly say yet, but maybe I can say that folks that miss my dubwise beat-driven side should be made happy by that one. Some digital stuff too. Lots going on and being looked at. I know of at least one film credit confirmed this year so far, and am aiming to build more with that. ..In due time it’ll all get out there. Some labels move at a very, very slow pace, but that’s the reality and a certain karma I must accept as well, given how long it’s taken me in the past to deliver on projects that involve others... One thing i can say is I expect the pace to continue to accelerate, as it has this past year, with regards to public output. It remains a focus. Onwards and upwards.

Thank you for taking the time to contribute to the Subtempo Mix Series and doing this interview. Good luck with all your projects in 2019.

Thank you! You too.


  1. SHXCXCHCXSH - kxxkxxxkkxx [Semantica]
  2. Usd. - Uneasy Lies the Hand [Sacred Sound Club]
  3. PESSIMIST - Grit [Blackest Ever Black]
  4. Peverelist - Wireframes [Livity Sound]
  5. Kellen303 - WHB [Keysound]
  6. Pugilist - Roll Off [ZamZam Sounds]
  7. Akito - Fallout Factory [Sans Absence]
  8. Creta Kano - Skyway_Motel (Lurka_remix) [Happy Skull]
  9. Alex_Coulton - Gamma_Ray_Burst [Tempa]
  10. Caski - Structures [4 Seasons]
  11. O (Phase) - Fallen_Columns [Token]
  12. Yak - Zephyr (edit) [Le Chatroom]
  13. SMP - Unintentionally Hurting A Small Flying Creature [ISLA]
  14. Marco & Stenny - Imcon [ILIAN TAPE]
  15. Call Super - OK Werkmeister [Houndstooth]
  16. Forest Drive West - Vertigo [Livity Sound]
  17. Yak - Darunia [Version]
  18. AudioBoyz - The Legendary [Blank Mind]
  19. Pinch - No Justice [Tectonic]
  20. Mute (NL) - Mutated [Gradient Audio]
  21. Blursome - Dream [Hotflush]
  22. Kowton - Pea Soup [Livity Sound]
  23. Paleman - Yrs Ago [Swamp 81]
  24. Tdel - Orthogonal Perception [Silent Season]
  25. Batu - Murmur [Timedance]
  26. Deep'a & Biri - Avicenna (edit) [Black Crow]
  27. SYZ & LKY - Turbulence [Brotherhood Sound System]
  28. Moduleset - Point [Brightest Dark Place]
  29. Behzad & Amarou - SOS (Shame On Stalingrad) (edit) [XLR8R Free DL]
  30. Lloyd SB - Beat046 [Nervous Horizon]
  31. Agrippa - Ziplash [Brotherhood Sound System]
  32. Lurka - Heat Mover [Timedance]
  33. Henry Greenleaf - Tact [BODY MUSIC]
  34. Aluphobia - Akira (edit) [Babylon]
  35. Lamont - One Hour [Swamp 81]
  36. Cliques - Dotted [Tempa]

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