Famed Austria-based energy drink company Red Bull may be best known for their involvement in alternative sports and prodigious adventure—from being a major sponsor in Travis Rice’s acclaimed snowboard film “The Art of Flight” to Felix Baumgartner’s BASE jump from space. But, aside from adrenaline-fueled pursuits, Red Bull has also been building a solid reputation in the global underground music scene—specifically in electronic, house and hip-hop circles—with the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA). For the past 15 years, RBMA has been connecting influential musicians—young and old, established and up-and-coming, the legendaries and the rookies—for everything from mentoring sessions, to lectures, to forums, to live radio broadcasts to full-on festivals. To commemorate this landmark anniversary, RBMA is releasing “For the Record” with Berlin-based publisher Gestalten, a hefty coffee table essential for music lovers featuring conversations between some of the most influential producers, musicians and DJs of the past few decades, including Lee “Scratch” Perry, Erykah Badu and Nile Rodgers as well as relative newcomers Mykki Blanco, Matias Aguayo and Ben UFO.
“With this book we aimed for showcasing connections between people that might not seem to have a connection at once, but then thanks to the meeting, present an idea through the conversation to the reader that they maybe didn’t know they were looking for,” says RBMA co-founder Many Ameri. “We didn’t set a strict topic or structure for the conversations, so the artists found their topics as they went.” Ameri and fellow RBMA co-founder Tosten Schmidt’s free-flow technique produces valuable results for both music-lovers and anyone interested in the creative process. “We wanted to break the recording process down and really, through narrowing the overall topic down, we actually got the chance to open up the conversation to a wider topic,” Schmidt explains. “We actually get to way deeper points than the usual interviews where you just tick off the boxes.”
“Some of the people we always wanted to have on the couch, but they might be the sort of characters who don’t want to talk in front of the audience,” says Schmidt. “Take Jaki Liebezeit, for example; he’s a drummer, he wants to drum not talk. But put him in a room with another drummer [Bernard Purdie] and a few drum kits; suddenly everything opens up.” The conversation between Liebezeit (a krautrock pioneer) and Purdie (a session legend who’s worked with James Brown, Ray Charles and Steely Dan) is one of the book’s prime examples of it being a service to not just music, but culture as a whole. Pairing this unlikely yet strikingly similar two people together for an unstructured conversation provides both an invaluable piece of history and a glimpse into the unifying humanity of creativity. “When I’m on, I’m on and everybody is with you. That’s why you see people dance. And for me, that’s what I need,” Purdie says in the conversation.
Throughout the book’s wealth of knowledge, each of the 15 conversations carries its own take-away message and feel. Book designer Chris Rehberger took great care to capture each atmosphere with the layout and typography of the conversation. “The layout and typography was really a result of reading and listening to the interviews. It’s subjective, I suppose, in the same way listening to music is a subjective experience,” says Rehberger. Various photographers captured the artists during their conversations in an intimate way, giving the reader a feeling of inclusion and adding to the depth of the conversation. If some of the names in the book don’t ring a bell at first glance, don’t fret—even some of the most dedicated music fans will see at least one unfamiliar name. An essay profiling each artist at the end of the book—some written by peers, others by journalists—add context to the conversations and enrich the book as a whole.
“For the Record” is available from Gestalten and Amazon for $40. Check out Red Bull Music Academy for lectures, conversations, exclusive DJ sets and unique music content.
Photos by Hans Aschim