MxCx Interview#13 "DEFORMER(Mike Redman)"
** This interview was recorded on March 20, 2016 **
DEFORMER / Mike Redman
Mike Redman is a musician, record producer, film maker, label owner and multidisciplinary artist from the Netherlands. Redman started his career in his teens and has been active for about twenty years.
Redman started out as a solo MC and founder of the rap group Redrum Squad. He owns the record label Redrum Recordz and creates music for different musical genres including hardcore, rap, hip-hop, metal, drum and bass, breakcore, jungle. Redman is also a member of the groups Deformer and Wormskull. He has toured internationally with these acts and collaborated with renowned several other international artists and producers. Deformer has released a record with American rap group Public Enemy.
Redman combines his work in the music business with making films, music videos and soundtracks. His documentary Anagram was screened at international film festivals and received critical acclaim. Redman has also done notable work in the field of special make-up effects for film and television and he has exhibited as an artist.
Where are you come from?
I’m from Rotterdam city, The Netherlands
Since when are you interested in music? What is the first record you bought?
I remember my first three records. The first two were given to me. ‘Hey You!’ from the Rock Steady Crew and ‘Pass the dutchie’ from Musical Youth. The first record that I bought as a kid was the first Iron Maiden album. Since then on I’ve listened to many different music genres and started collecting records as well.
When did you start your musical activity? Since when would you call what you were doing as ‘music activity’? Would you say you started your career as MC?
Well, I’ve started a s a metal drummer and I was also making ‘pause-tapes’ in that same period. Sometimes combining the two. Heavily inspired by Public Enemy and Slayer. So I actually started ‘producing’ first and later came dj’ing and rapping.
I heard that you also work as make-up artist. What was the opportunity to start as a make-up artist? I heard that you worked on a music video of DJ Paul Elstak as a make-up artist. How did this come about? Is there anything you learned from this project? Is there anything in common in working as musician and make-up artist?
I was very interested in Horror films and especially the special make-up effects. This was in the ’80’s. You could find me at the video store every weekend. I produced two short horror films in the early nineties to practice making special make-up effects. Because I was young at that time it got a lot of attention in the media. You know, ‘the teen who makes horror films’. Paul Elstak got a hold of it and asked me to direct his video ‘Don’t leave me alone’ in 1995. Which became a huge hit over here. Later I started working for a studio and worked for many films like for example ‘Who am I’ with Jackie Chan. Later I started focusing on music more and sometimes combined my Special effects background during the Deformer shows.
You created the Hip Hop group "Redrum Squad" in the late 90`s. How did this start? How did all the members get to know each other? How was the Hip Hop scene of in Netherlands in those days?
Yes, during the mid nineties I started organizing Hip Hop parties in rotterdam which became nationally famous. The Hip Hop scene was exploding for a second time and Rotterdam was always pretty known for it’s hardcore approach. Most of the people that attended these ‘Redrum’ parties where artists themselves. So eventually it just clicked with a couple of guys and we decided to work together under the name Redrum Squad. Redrum Squad became a very big crew, but the core artists when it came to the music were: Eni-Less, P-Mode, Unorthadox, Th’ Acquisition, Mack and myself. We’ve released only a few records, we did a whole album back in the days but remains one of few finished projects that never saw the light of day.
When did the Hip Hop scene in Netherlands begin? Which city is the most important city for the Hip Hop scene in Netherlands? Is there anything characteristic in Dutch Hip Hop compared to American or European Hip Hop? Who is the Dutch Hip Hop artist whom you are most interested in?
The Netherlands jumped on the bandwagon early as 1979 when it was popularized by Rappers Delight. In Amsterdam they started breakdancing and Rotterdam followed up. When people started rapping over here it was all in English. Everyone wanted to sound as American as possible. This stayed that way for many years. Now everyone raps in Dutch.
Some Dutch rappers are very popular, but only in The Netherlands. My interest for rappers mostly lies with the heroes that I grew up listening to. Most of them are from the States..
When did you start your main project , "Deformer"?
I started making tracks in 1992 as FXecute. This lasted till 1994/95 when I decided to change the name into Deformer. ‘FXecutioners’ returned as a title for a track and a Deformer album later on.
Deformer`s tracks contain musical parts and have high production values, even though the style is mainly freaky style, mixed with Breakcore and Jungle. How do you approach music production?
We are amazed by your skill in making the sample`s potential appeal even more attractive. Could you tell me about the composing process and the tools (such as software, console, speaker etc) which you are using by production?
Well, thank you. I was always interested in different music genres, so to me it felt only natural to make music outside the box. I have to say that it took some time for people to get into it, but I never jumped on hypes and always stuck to the sound that I liked. My biggest influence was Jungle, but I guess I started making stuff that was already Breakcore and Crossbreed before the terms even existed.
I produce in Cubase, mix in Logic. I still work the old fashioned way. I use external samplers and fx pedals, but key was probably that I’ve recorded my own drums and later chopped them up to create a more unique sound rather than sampling all the famous breaks that everybody was using. I started doing that again when these breaks were out of fashion.
How did you happen to meet "Bong-Ra" with whom you have made projects together for a long time? You have made a unit such as "VOODOOM" and "Wormskull. Are you two on the same wavelength?
We knew each others records first before we personally met. I guess we were the two freaky guys in the Jungle/Drum ‘n Bass scene back then really putting darkness and madness in the tracks. Bong-Ra approached me after hearing the ‘Slasher‘ record that I did and asked me if I was interested in a collaboration. That became ‘Can u dig it‘ on his now famous album. After this we’ve done many shows together, but it took many years to actually produce stuff together. Wormskull was one of them and now VOODOOM. When we’re producing, we just bang out all the tracks because having a similar background means that we don’t have to explain anything to each other and that makes it a lot of fun.
When did the project of "VOODOOM" start? What is the meaning of "Dark Ritualistic Breakbeat Jungle"? Please tell me about "Scapu Lox". What kind of thing was he doing?
We started working on VOODOOM in 2014, but looking back we were separately already on to this style. 14 years back I made a track called ‘Ori Ede’ with Scapu Lox on vocals and Bong-Ra’s remix of that track made it a club hit. I knew Scapu Lox from the Redrum parties back in the days and I knew that he could add something to my formula. You see, everybody was using Jamaican vocal samples and I wanted to try something new. Scapu Lox is from Suriname, where also part of my roots are, and I wanted to make tracks using ‘Sranan Tongo’ (the language that they speak in Suriname) in tracks instead of Jamaican toasting.
Your music has many different kinds of styles such as breakcore, Hip Hop, Meta,l and you have approached music from different kind of music projects. What is your common concept through all of these different projects?
As long as it fits my taste, anything goes..
The Netherlands is known as the place of origin of Hardcore Techno(Gabba) and still has a hard dance music scene and styles such as Crossbreed. Tens of thousands of people visit the hardcore festivals and hardcore dance music is still common. Why do you think hard dance music keeps being made in Netherlands and gets accepted by the people there? It may just be shortsighted thinking but do you think it has also something to do with the legalization of hemp?
Haha. XTC maybe, but all I can say is that I love a decent dose of Hardcore and I’ve never used any drugs in my life. People find it hard to believe sometimes when they hear my tracks, but it’s true. It took many years for Hardcore to become this popular, but The Netherlands has a serious Rave culture. And even though it weekly attracts thousands of people, you still don’t hear it on television or radio.. Strange right?
A strong influence from horror movies can be found in your music. What about horror film attracts you? Any favorite film or director?
I love the classics of course, but I’m especially interested in the obscure cult films. All from an artistic point of view. Also, I like to dig deep to get certain samples. I have thousands of videos and many favorite directors.. Most of them are pretty unknown. Sometimes the best samples come from the most terrible films, so if somebody recognizes a sample in my music, I know that this person had to sit through a very boring film haha.
Some people can receive aggressive or negative images from your hard and dark music, and extreme artwork (example, Ori Ede, Meatcleaver EP). Do you think your music and the art work contain those violent and negative elements? Or it is just because you consider functionality on the dance floor regarding your music and prefer design and concept regarding the art work?
I like to throw over certain conventional ideas and maybe shock a little, but it’s never intended to be negative. Ori Ede was a political statement, but mostly I think the music and imagery are so over the top that they become funny. At least I hope they are. I have no aggression in me when it comes to my personality, maybe thats because I can ventilate it through my music. I hope that people can use my music to do the same on the dance floor and get rid of eventual negativity through dancing or screaming at shows.
Is there any message you would like to express through your music? What have you learnt from making music and playing this to an audience?
The message I hope to get across is that there are no rules in producing music and to have fun making it. And have fun with all that you do. Don’t get used to your life or way of living, but keep seeing it as the most special thing ever and make the most out of it.. together.
What kind of impression did you get from "DOROHEDORO"? Do you have any character or story which impressed you a lot after reading this comic?
What concept or image does the VOODOOM track offered by you for this comic have?
I’ve always been a Manga fan, so making a track for Dorohedoro was fantastic. I love the comic and I guess I’m hooked now. The comic is very inspiring and so it wasn’t hard to come up with a concept for the track. We called it ‘Blaka Smoko’ which means black smoke in Sranan Tongo. This is what the magicians use to put a spell on the people in the
hole and transform them. In this case Scapu Lox is one of the magicians using his Blaka Smoko...
Please tell us the release schedule for the future. Comments to your fans in Japan?
I’m working on several projects at the same time. A new ‘The Travel’ album, new Deformer stuff and hopefully a VOODOOM re-issue on Murder Channel :-) Last half year was packed with international shows and I hope to meet more people during future shows soon. To the fans in Japan? Well, it was a great honor to perform in Japan last year. It was so amazing that I would love to come back and stay for a while longer. Everyone partied hard, Japan has many great artists and it was fantastic to have had a taste of the country and culture. Japan is very inspiring and I hope to make some more noise for you anytime soon! Arigatou gozaimasu...