THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Best Concert Album or Project • Best New Artist of the Year • Best Mixtape Release • Best Hip Hop Video • Best Promoter • Best Hip Hop Songwriter • Best Hip Hop Performer • Rap Hip Hop Artist of the Year
30th April, 2015 0
Commitment, sacrifice, and persistence are qualities that Chris Redburn is intimately familiar with, especially when it comes to pursuing his musical vision. Redburn dominated a majority of the Hip-Hop categories at this year’s 29th Annual Review Music Awards, securing seven awards along with a major win in the Miscellaneous Category for Best Concert Album or Project – largely defined by his hot new musical fusion of Hip Hop and Rock styles that can be heard on his latest CD debut RockHop, which to date has sold 4500 copies since its release less than one year ago.
Fresh off the road from performing 17 shows in 25 days, I sat down with Chris (or ‘Red’ as he is often referred) to discuss his recent wins at the RMA, the current success that his musical projects are enjoying, and also to discuss the current climate throughout the region for contemporary music, filtered through his carefully honed eyes as a promoter. Much like his music, the ensuing discussion was candid, unabashed, and incisively honest.
While he is definitely breaking fresh musical ground with his band Redburn, in actuality Chris laid serious groundwork for his current success largely through his 16-years of experience as a Hip Hop DJ and Promoter – a hat that he wears with equal distinction to that which he proudly displays with his musical talents.
“As a promoter I started booking Hip Hop shows back in 1999, so it’s been about 15 years now that I’ve been doing it,” he explains. “I started off in Saginaw booking shows at Shooters and RJ’s, but all of them had issues at some point, which increased resistance from venues. The only shows I’m aware of now are at White’s Bar and in my opinion it only works there because it’s more respected for the music featured on its stage, as opposed to theme parties.”
“Once I weighed it out I ended up moving my business to Flint for 10 years and slowly moved into more mainstream events and theme parties – you know, Budweiser presents Coyote Ugly – and that type of thing as a promoter. Unfortunately, Saginaw is one of the few cities where a bridge once separated race and it didn’t help that the city made a few Top 10 lists that cast it in a negative light, so that’s when I moved into the whole Girls Gone Wild type of theme party approach in terms of my promoting.”
Redburn says that his rebirth and re-emergence came from flying like a Phoenix out of the ashes & ruins of the Rap scene when he decided to shape his musical future by merging Hip Hop and Rock. “What gave me the idea was when I came out as a solo artist. I knew that I wanted to be different and when Girls Gone Wild purchased my music and released it, money started coming in because I was getting publishing royalties, so I decided to tour with them as an artist.”
“I didn’t want to be a typical white rapper, so brought in a drummer – Stevie Lee – who’s now a singer in the band. It was different and people dug it,” he continues. “When I felt that instrument coming into play I wanted more, but it was hard to put together a band because I’ve always been a one man train. But then a promoter called from Traverse City and said, ‘Why not bring your band up?’ I thought about it and had three rehearsals and at each one another band member would show up. Before I knew it, I had a full band, so went up to TC and did that show. The band is the same now as it was back then, only back then we had a Steve Nyquist on drums; but it was all cool, because he’s a different style of musician.”
In addition to Red & Stevie Lee, current band mates consist of Todd Vasey on drums, Dion Mason on keys, and guitarist Will Hysted.
“I’ve always wanted a band, but apart from that initial show, there wasn’t enough demand for it,” continues Red. “But again Girls Gone Wild put my name up there and when we went on tour with Rehab was when the band was introduced and started to break big. They needed product for the road, so I compiled all my music and realized the key to it was that the musical form was all rock based instrumental songs.”
“A lot of the songs I brought into this band are songs I wasn’t doing in nightclubs, because that style was more ‘clubbier’; but these songs are ore personal,” states Red. “The personal music is what’s touching people – the subject and the sound. Anytime you put a piano or a guitar into a song it brings out emotion – you can color it more. Now I’m hooked. I would never go back to the old ways. Each member of the band is a great musician and do what they know how to do.”
Although he may have started as a DJ, Red says he doesn’t do that much anymore. Now his life is focused upon the twin hats of promoting coupled with his work with the band. But without doubt, his reputation as a promoter has helped immensely building up a broad connection of networks for showcasing live shows.
“I’ve always done well and anytime I did DJ at a venue I would find the owner or manager and let them know the services that I provide – graphics, video, promotion – so as I grew as an artist and the band grew, those connections also grew, especially with the booking agency. I’ve worn so many hats that everybody I work with has faith in what I do. Because I’ve promoted for 16 years I can honestly promote anything,” I can go into a lawn care business and promote them because what Lawn Care business puts out 10,000 flyers in 3 counties? They usually don’t.”
With the advent and explosion of digital technology over the past decade, does Red feel younger audiences are gravitating more towards digitized computer generated Techno sounds, or is there still a viable future for live music performed by musicians using actual instruments?
“Well, everybody in this area is on a budget and I think one thing technology has done is brought the value of entertainment down. Why go see Saving Abel when you go on youtube and see every concert they’ve done in the last five years? If you can get it for free why buy it?”
“As a promoter, the key is not so much presenting a Saving Abel concert but what else is it going to be? What else will it offer to attract a crowd? Are you going to feature the Jager Girls as well? Are you going to feature other bands? Every market is different and you have to study the market: what employers are there, what do they do, what sells and what doesn’t? What don’t they have that you might be able to offer and monopolize upon? It’s a numbers game.”
“These are the questions that need to be asked and you have to layer in as many levels to the marketing as possible. Nowadays all the bigger shows are corporate style events. You can’t approach it as just a concert but its got to be a party – you’ve got to make it look bigger than it really is; and it’s really a psychological game.”
“I’ve been blessed with the ability to go into a promotion and analyze the demographic. Who’s going to the show? Is it going to be bikers? What is the demographic you want to hit? Just like the radio stations will break it down to an 18-35 white demographic, or target a specific demographic, the key is to break it right down and leave no detail untouched.”
“Just hitting a radio station isn’t good enough today,” continues Red. “College kids only get into current music. They’re into rock but it’s more like when is Maroon 5 gonna come? They want the newest band and don’t care what the ticket costs, plus they’re big critics. And in terms of nightclubs, the nightclub is dead. It’s only the bars that are working and basically the idea is to pack 150 people in there and make it look like an illusion – as a bar owner in this area, it’s all about the ability to create an illusion – from the glasses you pour a shot into up to packing people in.”
“But think about it, you have 12,000 kids on the college campuses and a place that holds maybe 300 people tops and you can’t fill it? Go figure. I honestly think that people are too in tune with their cell phones nowadays and its such an unpredictable market because of that – it’s definitely hit and miss.”
The new CD Rock Hop has been out a year and Red says it’s selling incredible well. “We don’t do much with downloads and mainly promote the CDs from show-to-show. We want people to see the band live because listening to a CD and going to our live show is like oil and water.”
The group is currently working on a follow-up project now recording everything live. “I get the main framework from a producer and if we don’t like the drums we take that out and record them live,” relates Red regarding the way his creative process works.
“I get the Hip-Hop beat and remix it to where we feel our sound is. I have people all over the country supply my beats, which goes back to when I was a DJ and hooked up with lots of producers. I work with Astray and some local producers, but not too much. I shop for what I want. Plus I find that a producer will tend to lead you to a musical direction; and with me it’s what I’m looking for in terms of sound. They’re aren’t a lot of producers around here like that.”
Was Red surprised when he heard his name announced so many times on Awards night and found himself climbing to the stage to accept so many accolades from fans? “I didn’t know what to expect,” he confesses, “because I’d never been to the Review Awards before and never paid attention to all the genres of music in the area. I’ve always focused on Hip Hop or Rock, so seeing all the talent I hadn’t been exposed to was cool.”
“I was shocked at winning so many honors, because I know a lot of musicians have been at this a long time and you have the biggest names in the area doing this year after year; but really, there isn’t a Hip Hop scene in this area anymore. As we discussed earlier, people don’t want to be at those events because of possible violence. I don’t think these shows necessarily are violent, but that’s the perception.”
“People who live in the outskirts of Saginaw County see this area as a War Zone; and the media doesn’t help. I got to a point where I didn’t feel I was getting respected anymore in this area because the scene literally fell apart to the point where I was the pioneer left, so had to start going all over the state.”
“As a businessman I know the band is doing well because of our merchandise sales,” he relates. “That tells me we’re in tune. We sell anywhere from $200 to $800 in merchandise per show, but the first year there was no supply and demand for us, so we had to work whatever angles we could to make enough money to get by.”
“That first year was Hell on Wheels and it doesn’t get any worse than what we went through as a whole, but we got through it and definitely earned our keep. Now I think the music is where it needs to be and the goal is up to our business game, because it’s the little things that take you to the next level.”
“I’m not doing anything different than when I did was doing Hip Hop, except that I have a band behind me now and we’re considered a Rock outfit, so it opens more doors. As soon as they hear the word ‘Rock-Hop’ they know it’s a rock show. If they hear Hip Hop they aren’t interested, so I’m geared towards playing to the market that’s selling.”
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)