Redlight Talks Formula for Success, Upcoming Album Plans & His Lobster Boy Label.
I specifically remember first hearing a Redlight tune, I don’t recall the name but my friend Jay was playing it in a club and I remember that it sounded nothing like the fidget house stuff I was into at the time. I was hooked. I remember there being some speculation to who Redlight was, at that time he was anonymous, although we’d later find out that Redlight was in deed Hugh Pescod, a Bristolian DJ & Producer who many knew as infamous Drum & Bass producer Clipz.
It wasn’t long until he was releasing tunes with female vocalists like Ms Dynamite, before eventually breaking into the charts with pop-dance crossover ‘Get Out My Head’, firmly placing him as a fixture of summer festival main stages and a darling of the Annie Mac crowd – along with Duke Dumont and Route 94. But the real twist with Hugh is that he doesn’t just seem to favour the chart successes, rather appearing to posses a ‘one for them, one for me’ attitude, and since his chart success as released a slew of tunes under various alias on his Lobster Boy label that appeal to even the most chin-stroking of hardcore club music fans. Clubbers may recognise his RnB bootlegs as ‘Animal Youth’ and searing club ragers ‘Mosquito’ and ‘Planet X’ under the Lobster Boy alias.
This Summer is no different, he’s already put out a tune with Wu Tang legend Raekwon on his ’36’ EP and is currently simultaneously dominating both the radio (With single ‘Cure me’) and the clubs (soon to be released summer anthem ‘9TS’). It’s the latter in particular that displays his dexterity in pleasing both camps, I doubt anyone has gone to a festival this summer and not heard it dropped.
We caught up with Hugh in Notting Hill one sunny Friday afternoon to talk about all of the above, his upbringing sneaking into Jungle raves and how he’s nailed the process of creating hype around records.
Can you give an introduction to who you are, where you are originally from and how you became Redlight?
I grew up in a village 7miles out of Bristol, I spent my youth there going to raves in Bristol, free warehouse parties and illegal raves, which was a big part of growing up in that part of the world in the 90’s. I cut my teeth doing that and used to DJ at some of the warehouse parties and various parties round the West Country, Bristol and North Somerset. I first DJed in the Thekla, a club in Bristol when I was very young and got the DJ bug from there.
You see those bait DJ bios, ‘So and so was sneaking out of his bedroom to go to raves…’ you always think its this ridiculous lie, but actually its totally true in your case it seems?
I was a tall teenager, I was probably the same size I am now at 13, so I got away with it and my parents didn’t know what was going on back then. It was a different era wasn’t it? If you’re going out all night to listen to music, whats wrong with that? you’re not going out and causing trouble, you’re going out and listening to music and thats what we all wanted to do, just go to Jungle raves and party.
So how do you go from there to being Clipz?
Well that was the start of Clipz really, I used to play in clubs in Bristol like the Power House and Club Loco (which have all closed down now), I was a resident at different parties. That was when I was still young and then when I got to 18, I got offered work at a small label in London, so I moved down there and lived in a flat with someone else. One person was in the living room on the sofa, I was in the bedroom.
I was working at this guys label to pay rent as an engineer and producing, I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t have a clue. I stayed down there for a year, but didn’t have enough money to be in London. I’m originally from London so growing up in the west country I always wanted to go back there, but I came back to Bristol after a year, because at that time I realised Bristol truly was the place for me. It was a lot easier to live there, I had grown up there, there was no hype in Bristol in the 90’s you just got on with music. Watching Massive Attack come up, watching Roni Size & Represent and Portishead come up from playing small stages to then going on to go everywhere around the world was really inspiring.
To me being a kid and watching this, I wanted a piece of that. It was in reach, all you had to do was be original, do something different and Bristol was the place to be original at that time. London was harder to be original, you had to fight for everything. well that what it felt like to me an there was a lot of hype.. I was young, I wanted to be free. I’m a hippy and smoked weed all day [laughs]. I’m from the West country, I grew up jumping the fence and going to Glastonbury, and breaking into warehouses and going to raves so I needed to get back to that!
Do you miss it?
There’s elements of Bristol and that time I miss now I live back in London, but life moves on, and I’m very happy where I’m at now musically and my life.
Its different down there now, back then it was fucking crazy. It was so inspirational and thats why I talk about it now in interviews, I never used to because it was the norm for me, but now I think about it, it wasn’t that normal, it was an amazing place, I was very lucky to be able to live there and live in that area and soak it all up. It was there for everyone to soak up and there were so many inspirational people working there and having a good time. It was a melting pot of cultures and different music.
So what was your turning point that turned you to Redlight then?
I felt I wasn’t pushing myself enough with the music. And wanted to try new things,I felt like I was making the same music over and over again.
The first breakout tune for Redlight was ‘What you talking about?’ or was ‘Stupid’ before that?
We did an EP. The first thing we did was a track I did called ‘Feel so Good’ and that was a Lobster Boy label release because nobody would put the music out. Nobody really knew what the music was then. I actually remember that cover it had the actual lobster logo on the front. it was white, with a pink lobster on the front.
Did Lee [Designer and DJ, Smutlee] do that?
No someone else did. I didn’t know Lee then . You know the lobster on Spongebob Square Pants? The muscle guy. We ripped him off, a massive muscle lobster. but talking of Smutlee he does all the lobster boy artwork now, and is a huge talent
How did you think of lobster boy?
It was meant to be called sushi boy and then…
You don’t like sushi?
There was a night with a similar name and one time I was on the beach in Miami and I was really drunk. I got really sunburnt. Somebody was like you should call your label Lobster Boy [laughs] and it stuck.
So when you first started releasing tunes as Redlight was there a level of anonymity? I remember a friend of mine had these tunes from you and they were obviously on some promo thing and we were asking about them. He was like “oh I don’t really know who it is, the guy’s a bit secretive, but it’s just wicked stuff”.
We don’t do promos with Lobster Boy, it’s always been promo-less.
No it wasn’t Lobster Boy it was definitely a Redlight tune. Whether he got it as a promo or whether he got it from a blog, I have no idea. He had it and he was playing in the club and at the time, the first time I heard it was in the club.
You know what, I will always say, it’s easy to create hype in England. There’s a formula to it. I can’t give you it but…
There is a formula though. It’s easy right, you just need a new name and you need to do something different. Let’s do something that doesn’t sound like anything else and let’s get 10 tracks together and let’s make a new name and especially now, you just put it up on a blog.
Yeah well look at who’s done that now, Route 94, you, Breach, Paul Woolford….
Yeah but he’s done it under Special Request.
The further you get down your career, you get a name for doing one style more than other’s, you start making money from it, the label your on starts making money . And its easy to go with just that one direction, but you gotta remember to keep doing different things and keep it fresh,
Cause People just love new. They love new trainers, they love new ‘garms, they love the freshest music that they haven’t heard before. People want to be first In the UK. As long you’re in it for the right reasons, making fresh shit, cause you wanna hear fresh shit. It can go all the way, you gotta keep taking risks with music. So you know, Redlight, this may be the last interview.
So this seems like a really good opportunity to talk about lobster boy. The main thing I noticed that you were saying earlier about making money from stuff and obviously its no secret that you’ve made more of a push into the charts and some of the tunes have been chart hits and arguably specifically engineered to be that. When you release one of those tunes it’s like one for them, one for me. Then you do something with Animal Youth or Lobster Boy. You’re constantly trying to balance it and sit on both sides of the camp and go do you know what, I can do both of these fucking things.
Yeah well I can and the thing is like, one of them makes you a bit of money as well and gets you further up the bill and gets you to play good festivals that you wouldn’t play and the other is a small mainly limited vinyl run label, but we have started doing some tracks as downloads lately.
You can’t make money out of vinyl, you’re lucky to break-even but it’s a vibe. I go record shopping a lot and when I go into a record shop and ask what’ve you got that’s vinyl only, 9 times out of 10 they say nothing but then 1 time they’ll say “oh we’ve got this”, and it may be a Swamp track or it may be something from Berlin or Holland or maybe somewhere else and you’re like, well, there’s probably only 400 pressed up, its sick, they’re all gonna sell out. I’m gonna grab this and I know not many other peeps will have it either, result!
I like creating something for people that are actually going to go search it out, something that is palatable and is like a picture or a canvas, a work of art. Sounds a bit romantic but its true. You want people to say yeah, I’m glad I spent £9 on that. That’s something that is tangible. Anyone can go buy a download for 79p and then never play it again. I buy albums all the time and I never even play them because they get lost in my iTunes. I can’t work my iTunes properly because they update it every fucking week and before you know it it’s lost [laughs] and my phone’s just full of pictures and it’s run out of fucking memory so how am I even gonna put the new tunes on there. But a piece of vinyl? Lovely. It’s a different thing isn’t it.
You were saying before about Animal Youth and being vinyl only, trying to find it and stuff. You wouldn’t believe the trouble you’ve caused me and my brother. So two years ago at Hideout, Skream opened his set with ‘Keep Up’ and we fucking lost our shit, we were like “what the fuck is this? We need to find this.” It took us months to find it before you actually released it and what we happened to be listening to in that time was like YouTube rips of your Rinse show and stuff.
Yeah vinyl takes so long, you’ve got to master it onto lacquer, then you’ve got to go and get your test pressings. So that’ll take two months, then they’ve got to send back that test press to you. could take a while, you’ve got to listen to it all the way through, and make sure there’s no crackles in it or jumps. If that’s fine then they’ll go and press it. That’ll take another 2 weeks before they do that. That’ll take another month because they’re all in Germany, the pressing factories now. You can’t press in the UK anymore, it’s too expensive. That’s like 4 or 5 months and then it trickles through the shops.
So did you give WAVs to like, certain DJ’s for that tune?
Yeah I do that with all my music, give them to select DJ’s, that builds the hype. You know everyone needs those in certain scenes. You know there’s people you’ll go and see and they play a few commercial tunes, they may play some tunes you know, then they may play a whole heap of music you’ve never heard before in your life.
Does Skream sit in that bracket then?
He’s definitely one of them, Skream is an inspirational character and the thing with Skream is, he loves music. I don’t know many people who really loves music as much as him and all types too. He has a genuine love for it. He’s a good gauge.
He’s a good person to send your music to because he’ll come back with an honest opinion and that’s all an artist wants, is an honest opinion. “It’s crap”, thank you! Thank you for saying it’s shit because I know I’ve got to make it better now. I’m not like “oh it’s alright you know” when you don’t like it. You just want honesty, honesty helps you make a better beats. You need taste makers and DJ’s who will take risks by playing new music that people don’t already know to move music forward.
You know the Cassie free download, isn’t that beat really similar to keep up?
Yeah it’s from the same page, I only made it to play out.
It’s like a DJ tool isn’t it?
Yeah that’s all it is and I saw on Soundcloud someone going “oh I’m not having this”. I was like, you fucking moron, it’s a free download, you’re not paying for it. It’s like people have got so used to having shit for free. That’s the problem now, it’s a cultural thing. People used to have to search out that culture. They still should, you shouldn’t be given things straight in your lap, you won’t appreciate them. [Laughs]
I love that label, the new Mak & Pasteman is amazing.
It’s a really good track. I love the digital only Mak & Pasteman track we did, ‘No Giving’, that’s a smasher. They didn’t even want to release that tune, they were like, it’s got a organ in it and I was like “who gives a fuck it’s sick”.
The other amazing release on that label, my personal favourite after ‘Keep Up’, is ‘Swarm’. What a tune that is. It just builds. When you play it in a club and the kick just comes in…
You know New York Transit Authority [Who made ‘Swarm’] is going places. He’s got his sound now. He’s just finished another EP for Lobster Boy and we’re going to do a video for one of them. Basically, I’m going to step Lobster Boy up now because there’s so many talented people like New York Transit Authority, like Mak & Pasteman. I’m doing a Last Japan 12″ as well. which is gonna be proper different for him.
To get a release on Lobster Boy you got to work with me to get it right because if you’re selling vinyl, it’s a specific market and people who want to go and buy vinyl they know what they want. You can’t sell them shit because they’re spending a tenner on it. It’s actually got to be a decent cut, 180 gram vinyl and the tune’s got to be sick so that people will want to take it home with them. So it takes a minute to get those tracks right. You have to work with the artist to get them correct and also Lobster Boy has a certain sound, you have to help artists get that too sometimes, so all the releases make sense.
Will that still be vinyl only then when you do the video?
No, we are starting to move to digital to, so everyone can have a piece of the music if they want, but we will be hold tracks back from every release which will be just vinyl.
You know with the major label I’m on, what that allows me to do now is give me a bit of money to work with artists I couldn’t have worked with. I couldn’t have worked with Raekwon on Lobster Boy. He wouldn’t have even looked at me. You’ve got have a card for each. I want the tools, I want all the tools so I can create what I want to create and I’m proud of being on Universal. The new album, I’ve kind of brought it back because I kind of understand now that music’s moving so fast, like fucking fried food. It’s like McDonalds, but that’s the internet culture though isn’t it.
Yeah, people eat it quick and then they want more.
I wanna do the same but with my album the only ‘housey’ track on there is ‘9TS’, then the rest is pretty experimental.
The album’s made. I’ve got 10 tracks, going to whack it out in beginning of next year. 9TS seems to be blowing up at the minute, it’s about how everyone’s obsessed with looking back to the 90s and that era. People who were born in the 90s who can’t really remember it are now on the internet looking back like “yeah Moschino jeans bitch”.. so that’s why I made it. Everyone’s about that life, everyone loves a bit of that.
But I suppose as a producer you’ve got to be aware of trends?
Definitely, I want people to listen to my music. I grew up listening and watching Krust, going back to my mentors, he started to make music like no one had ever heard it before. That was his thing. I want to make this sound like you’ve never heard it before and half the time he’ll get it bang on and the other half of the time it would sound so different you didn’t want to listen to it. Not yet anyway, that’s the thing about him is it’s a work of art and that’s why I loved him so much because he just took that channel all the time and that’s art. Music sometimes is not like that. There’s a lot of people making music out there but not a lot of proper artists making music. Sometimes I fall into that category and make music but don’t really go for it, but with my album I’ve bled for this bitch, and am proud of the results.
But then it comes back to you saying they’ve become tools.
That’s it, not everyday of my life do I want to go in the studio and make something so original that no one’s ever heard of it before?
You still have that bug though surely?
Yeah I do and I still use it but I don’t want to do that all the time. I like making tunes that can be played on the radio too. That’s a good vibe too, it’s like preparing a dinner isn’t it? What do you want eat tonight? Do you wanna eat some mad fucking dish you’ve never had before from South East Asia or do you wanna have Fish and Chips. You know what I mean? It’s like do you want to watch a movie you’ve seen before or some French film about two lesbians breaking up? It’s like that when you go in the studio. I just wanna make something – like ‘Cure Me’, I just wanna make something for the boat party.
Do you listen to a lot of other peoples music and then go oh I wanna make something inspired by that?
100%, that’s why I left drum and bass because I’d listen to whatever else was happening and be like “I want a piece of this”, “I wanna enjoy this”, making music. I want a bit of that but I’ll never go out and say “oh I want to rip someone off” that not really the one, but sometimes you don’t have to go out there like David Bowie. [Laughs]
What’s the process of being a DJ and then going live?
The reason I went live was because i’ve always wanted to do it. It’s part of the reason I signed to a major to get the money to be able to do a live setup and play my own music. When we actually went live, it was all my own music and what I actually realised was what I love about DJing is the speed you can move from different paces and keep people involved. With live you can’t move that fast because I haven’t made enough tunes yet. I put them all in, we were doing like 22 tunes in 45 minutes and it still wasn’t right for me.
Do you not like it then?
I started to really enjoy it but you don’t make cash for a minute cause the spends so big. When I have my album ready I really want to go out and do it again. It was learning to ride a bike the first time, now when I go out I wanna do some bunny hops and a couple of wheelies. [Laughs]
What’s your rig like? Do you have lots of outboards?
No I didn’t because like I say, I’m a music producer, I’m not a fucking keys player or a drummer so the way I approached it is I’ll go on stage, I’ll have my Ableton running, iIll have it all cut into parts and I’ll just fuck it up live and bring sounds in on top and to be honest I don’t like listening to live electronic music if its sloppy. I like listening to tight electronic music.
We made these jackets that nobody had ever seen before with all these LED strips in and then they’re wired up to these two dancers and me on the desk and we worked out that in certain tunes all the lights would go off and then they’ll start working when the girls danced, it looked great when it worked, but to get to that point was a fucking headache. Some muppet tried to rip me off and just made me stop wanting to do it for a bit as it just distracted me to much from the music.
Ripped you off for equipment ?
Yeah for equipment. I’m not going to mention any names but I met some proper tools who I never want to meet again. It was just a massive learning curve and next year I’ll do it better. Then I had an incredible tour manager by the end of it, Tommy, who fucking saved my bacon and sorted all out. He’s a fucking G and by the time we got to that point it was great and we were really enjoying it. We were loving it but unfortunately then the summer ended and I looked at the bank balance and thought “yeah let’s go again but let’s go again after the album’s ready”. So now I’ve got another 15 tunes.
So this summer it’s you and MC Dread?
Me, Dread and I’ll probably take a couple of singers with me, potentially. I’m mixing the album now. So the album’s going to be ready in probably a month and a half. The pre-order’s going to be up as soon as I finish mixing it and then we’re drop it in the beginning of next year
So with singers, is it Lottie and people like that, people you’ve had on EP’s and stuff in the past?
Maybe Lottie. I’ve just done two tracks with… Have you heard of a woman called Andrea Martin?
Yes she was on the Switch tune ‘I still love you’ right?
Thats the one, I’ve got two tunes with her. Basically, my album’s crazy, I’ve got a tune with her a tune with her and a guy called Andrew Ashong. I love creating songs, not just underground stuff. I love songs, I love lyrics. I love creating lyrics and working with singers.
A chorus and a bridge…
Yeah I love that shit but to me I approach it like a movie. A certain song’s got to be like a certain film. I haven’t adopted making Disney type songs yet, but maybe I will. More like ‘To Live and Die in LA’. Have you ever seen that film?
No I haven’t actually.
You need to watch that.
I’ll add it to my list.
Thunder is like that. ‘To Live and Die in LA’ is what I was thinking about when I wrote Thunder. And then I just did another R&B tune that was inspired by a Hockney picture. You know the The Splash? I just made a whole tune about what I saw from that picture. I’ve got some sick tunes.
No for me, I mean tunes that I like. You go into a Hockney exhibition or Matisse Cut-Outs. Have you been to Cut-Outs?
Yeah at the Tate
Yeah, Tate Modern. That to me. I almost cried when I went in there. Seriously man it moved me. For me it’s like that. You walk into one room at the exhibition, that was done in the 40’s and 50’s and that guy was 50 years ahead. It’s fucking moving. So you going into one room there and it’s got all the blues on one side and then reds over here and the greens and yellows. It’s all about colour and how he picks his colour and that’s how I want my album. I want ‘9TS’ over here, nice summer chilled out vibe, I want ‘Thunder’ over there, you’re in the streets, x-rated sex scene and then fucking having a car crash and shooting someone. Then you’ve got ‘Cold World’ with Andrea Martin over here, like New York streets. Then you’ve got like a garage tune over here, which is a bit more Animal Youth, with steel drums on and carnival vibes. So you’ve got all these different colours and contexts and films and scenes in a movie. That’s what I want my album to be so it’s all scenes that make up a film.
I’m excited to hear this.
That’s what I want but you know it’s on iTunes and someone’ll just take track 4 and they’ll lose that flow, but that’s how I want it. That’s I like making all different types of films. And that’s why, going back to what I said earlier, I make so many different types of music because it creates a whole picture, a whole image. It’s like that’s me this year. Put it to one side, that was then and I want to keep that in a little book over there and then put it on the wall. Move on and do it again.
Have you got a name for it yet?
Yeah, Animal Youth, but I may change it because the thing is it’s like all about bridging that world now so ‘Lost In Your Love’ isn’t on it, ‘Get Out My Head’ isn’t on it. Those were the tunes, they were a tool to me like you go and work for two years doing scaffolding or whatever to create something. Those were the tools for me to get through the door. They got me to, “oh yeah make a hit”, like ok give me some money, now I’m going to make something. They got me through the door, nothing else could have got me through the door at that point. Now music’s moved on, everybody’s getting hits, doing like a bit deeper tunes now. Cool, I don’t know if I’ve got a hit on my album anymore but I tell you what, I’ve got an album that I’m proud of.
UPDATE: You can stream Redlight’s new album, ‘X Colour’, on Apple Music