Red Bull Music Academy @ Gorilla, Manchester, 28 Jan

T Williams, Artwork and Greg Wilson talk shop

Review by John Thorp | 03 Apr 2014

It might have been difficult to believe in the early 1990s that Red Bull would become such an enabler of clubbing, taking new waves of young electronic producers very seriously indeed. Originally marketed as an ecstasy alternative in the wake of mass press-paranoia, nowadays, many of the UK’s most in-depth and varied club events wouldn’t be possible without the drink and its pulse-pressing marketing gurus. Their yearly  Music Academy is the crown jewel in their rich programme of live broadcasts, interviews and workshops, and as the recruitment process began for an upcoming Tokyo jaunt, this night within the cavernous event space of Gorilla was designed to give a taste of the programme.

Clash Magazine’s Tom Frost, host for the evening, begins with a brief chat with T Williams, ostensibly on tour with Red Bull to talk up the overwhelmingly positive experiences during the most recent Academy in New York. While Williams has recently acted as tour DJ for Disclosure and hosted his own Radio 1 show, the following guest, Greg Wilson, juxtaposes him neatly and demonstrates RBMA’s willingness to dig into the past. Having made a huge impact as an outright pioneer in the 80s club scene in the Northwest, Wilson sought retirement at its peak, before returning around the turn of last decade to huge popularity with his skillful, learned pop edits. Wilson has keenly documented all of his career through his website, and proves similarly encyclopaedic here when discussing the renaissance of disco, not to mention a brief history of the clubs recently demolished less than a few hundred metres from Gorilla’s stage.

The production workshop with Artwork is less technically formal than anticipated, but twice as entertaining. One third of Magnetic Man, Artwork is one of the fathers of UK dubstep, nurturing the eponymous bass sound of Croydon’s King Bee Records, where he took Skream, Benga and, er, Daniel Bedingfield under his wing. Replying to, and occasionally amusingly rebutting questions from the audience with a decidedly non-corporate attitude, his interview proves to be the most passionate and memorable of the evening.

After everyone moves their chairs to the side of the room, school-disco style, the doors are thrown open for a free afterparty appropriately hosted by all those involved. Wilson warms up the arriving student masses, before T Williams provides an on-point set of UK house. Things get a little wilder by the time Hoya alumni and RBMA associates Illum Sphere and Krystal Klear hit the decks with a back to back, the latter’s new material going down a treat, while an excitable Artwork manages to get a room with a median age of 19 screaming for Ron Hardy’s Sensation.