Red Bull Studio has been bringing us that awesome sound as part of our #FutureMusic series in partnership with British Council Connect ZA and sShadoworkSs. We wanted to know more about what goes into making a hell of a banger sound system so sat down with Red Bull Studios‘ Richard Rumney to get the low down. Photography by Khotso Tsaagane.
OK so what goes into making a sound system?
A very technical and specific understanding of sound and electronics plus a history of building sound systems professionally. Sound system experts are often the kind of guys who took apart their hi-fi and built their own basic system out of the parts when they were in their teens. Aside from the technical knowledge, you also need to have an incredibly inquisitive mind, a need to understand how things work and a desire to make them better. Oh and obviously you need to love music and have a very good idea of how music should sound when played out of a sound system.
What sets Red Bull Sound System apart from other sound systems?
It’s an incredible high-quality sound system, inspired by and built in spec to Funktion-One (one of the best systems in the world) which sets it apart from most sound systems in that it sounds amazing! It’s also a mobile sound system meaning that it can be set up at any party around the country. This combined with Red Bull’s extensive work at some of the best events in South Africa means that it has traveled all around the country and provided sound for such unique events as Bridges For Music in Langa and on the LedHeadz Bus at Afrika Burn. Very few systems have travelled to such a variety of different places and parties I reckon.
How did this idea come about and where would you like to take it?
It was born out of the Red Bull Music Academy world tour in 2011. The first stop of the tour was Cape Town which involved a project called Maximum Signal Control. We enlisted a crew of local artists alongside sound system specialist, Clint and Christiaan from S&B, and we built the sound system in the Assembly in Cape Town over the course of a week and at the end of the week threw a mini three-day festival focused on showcasing the system and featuring the likes of the UK’s Dillinja and Lemon D (who built the infamous Valve Sound System), Sian of Octopus recordings from Barcelona and a huge roster of local big-name acts such as Haezer, Niskerone and Sibot. Ultimately we’re just happy to have our own sound system and would like it to travel as far and wide as possible.
What kind of advice would you give to young people who would like to produce and make sound systems?
They need to be incredibly inquisitive about how electronics and sound work and should be resourceful enough to build their own systems out of the most basic materials. A quick Google search “build your own sound system” brings up a wealth of online material that could be used as a basis to experiment. Also they should be in love with the sound of music and understand the intricacies of how any piece music can sound that much better when played through a better system. Anyone interested in sound systems should be constantly listening to how different systems perform, from the thumping, distorted sound on a minibus taxi to the high-end professional sound of their favorite club to the thin sound on a pair of cheap laptop speakers.
And which place or places would you like to see the sound systems that you have produced be used to perform at or in? During its short life the Red Bull Sound System has pretty much played at every event that I personally love (Earthdance, CTEMF, Brickfields, Afrika Burn) but it would be great if it can be used in more places previously undiscovered by South African party goers. As an example it was recently used in a venue that is normally used as a boxing gym (The Industry in Harrington Street, Cape Town) for the Leggo Bass parties and that was amazing to see. I also loved how it sounded at Guga S’thebe in Langa and the energy there was incredible so it would be great to see it used at more outdoor township bashes and block parties.
What’s the biggest challenge you have experienced so far?
The biggest setback when we set up the Red Bull Sound System was potentially not building it in time for our three-day party! We literally were working on the system right up till people started to fill into the Assembly on the first night and we had to check and tune the system while the party was going. it was crazy.
What’s the best advice that you have ever been given about music or sound?
I think the best advice I’ve ever been given about throwing events is never ever skimp on the sound system. It doesn’t matter if you have the best venue, the best décor, the best lighting and the best visuals, none of that matters if the sound system doesn’t deliver a clean, loud, and solid sound that best represents the style and genre of music. Always make sure that your sound and line-up of artists is 100% perfect and your party will be solid (provided people show up, but that’s another story).