Romania may be most readily associated with minimal techno, but not every Romanian producer wants to jump on that particular bandwagon
It would be fair to say that Andrew Red Hand is not your average Romanian techno producer. For the last decade, he's dedicated himself to producing music that joins the dots between Motor City techno, Drexciya-style electro, raging Chicago acid and industrial strength EBM. It's a style that has brought him close to Detroit's politically charged futurists - Underground Resistance, who he now counts as friends, in particular - but left him feeling isolated and alone in his home country.
"From my point of view, here is all dead," he writes ruefully from his home in the university city of Lasi, close to the border with Moldova. "It has nothing to do with Detroit or other more advanced electronic music. It's all built around trends, money and feeding people what they want. Very few here have the will to push things forward and try and bring some diversity into the scene."
The 38-year-old is particularly critical of what many see as Romanian dance music's strongest export, the tech-house-fired "ro.mnml" minimal techno sound. "In a country like Romania, where there's a major need of high-quality music and diversity, this so-called minimal is exactly what's not needed," he avers. "We must first let people hear the greatest forms of music, so they can protect against the lame ones and develop some sort of 'musical' antibodies to fight against infections like these trends."
To his credit, Andrew Red Hand has been doing just that, serving up inspired, musically complex dancefloor fare for such lauded labels as M>O>S Recordings, DJ Godfather's Twilight 76, Detroit Underground and, most recently, well-regarded London imprint Lobster Theremin. His music has the same "hard but smooth" feel as the best Motor City machine soul, with heaps of emotional resonance.
"Sometimes I end up reflecting my mood in the music and the listeners may feel me through the sound," he explains. "For example, I did the track Mourning My Mother in tears, trying to recreate the day I buried my beloved mother. It was like medicine. For two years I couldn't make any tracks that weren't sad or melancholic."
He's now swapped grief for anger. His brilliant new EP for Lobster Theremin, Revolution ‘89, was inspired by his memories - some of them horrific - of Romania's popular uprising of 1989, which brought down the curtain on communist rule. Or at least, that's how it has been portrayed in Western media - Andrew Red Hand isn't quite so sure that his country was really liberated.
"Romania is moving too slow into the right direction," he says, "due to some communist leftovers that basically stole the revolution and created a cancerous system that eats us alive. It's a democracy but run by the same type of people, their children and friends. It doesn't matter what political party is in power, they're all the same."
Like his heroes Underground Resistance, the Romanian producer is convinced that electronic music should be more politically charged. "I think music should wake up minds - we need more people like Mike Banks and Chuck D," he writes. "Music is an extremely powerful tool which can be used positively to stir some emotions towards reality, life, or even to how we ended up with all these stupid trends."
Words: Matt Anniss
Revolution '89 will be released by Lobster Theremin in November