For this interview we talked to Reda Haze, a first year Creative Music Technology student from Italy.
Matt – So shall we start at the very beginning? What instruments do you play?
Reda – This is a quite tricky question.
Matt – A laptop counts as an instrument.
Reda – I don’t play an instrument because I’m mainly a DJ. But I’m not only DJ-ing by mixing music, I also scratch using turntables. So I consider turntables an instrument.
Matt/Lewis – It is!
Reda – I also play drum machines, I sample, I play a lot of piano but I never learnt to read music notation. I don’t know music theory, I just play by ear.
Matt – A lot of people don’t know how to.
Lewis – I don’t.
Reda – In Hip Hop music it is quite common.
Matt – Well I don’t think it should be a thing you need to learn. If it’s useful then that’s brilliant but I think you don’t have to learn it to make music.
Lewis – Especially with Hip Hop, sampling and DJ-ing, it’s all about hearing, using your ears.
Reda – But music notation helps you to play correctly.
Reda – My family would rather I was a technician or an electrician. So I started to be a technician but by myself I started going to my friends’ houses and DJ-ing, they were older than me and I was spending the whole afternoon playing and little by little I learned from them. I started earning a little money and saving money and because I was an electrician I was buying broken stuff like broken turntables, mixers and fixing them up myself because I had the skills. My first equipment was broken stuff, from there I started getting interested in Hip Hop music, I don’t know why but it somehow attracted me.
Matt – It spoke to you.
Reda – Because it comes from poor people and I feel like them and I see myself in them. I’m not talking about gangs or guns or drugs or bad people.
Matt – No but you can relate.
Reda – Not really the music we hear on the radio but music with messages inside. I mostly listen to the underground, I haven’t started with American Hip Hop because that was something that came to me later. I started by listening to Italian underground Hip Hop, mostly made by immigrant people in Italy, because I was myself an immigrant from a Moroccan Family to Italy. I like it a lot because the lyrics were saying things like “don’t do drugs”, “don’t steal or do bad things” “think about yourself, you can get the same opportunities as the Italian people”. They were more positive messages, that was why I started to listen and follow Hip Hop music.
Lewis – So when did you first discover music as something you could do? Did you grow up with it when you were young, or was it not really in the family? How did you discover it?
Reda – When I was young I was playing with my other young Italian friends, about 13 or 14 years old in a small city, just like writing on the walls. The council saw young kids causing trouble and got people to create creative opportunities for them. Like sports, and I met these people and they asked us “who wants to learn to play music?”. I didn’t have anything to do and went to this little course for djs and musicians, someone learned how to play a bass, someone a guitar, someone drums, and at the end of it we made a small gig in our town. They taught me how to play, how to use a mixer and they had a small turntable and taught me how to make loops with vinyl on it using masking tape. They put in a little piece of masking tape and the needle started skipping on the same two seconds because each time the needle touches the piece tape it jumps back and I said oh my God, that’s amazing! And from there I loved turntables. There is a charity shop next to me at home and they have real cheap turntables and vinyls there so I’d mix vinyls, real random music and just experiment by myself. From there i saved money and bought a proper turntable for scratching. The first time I heard the scratching it was for this one song, I can’t remember the title but it was the first time I had heard scratching (Boomfunk Mc’s – Freestyler). I started hearing this song everyday like 20 times every day.
Lewis – Then did you teach yourself?
Reda – Yes, I completely learned by myself, then I started meeting people older than me in Bologna town because I was living in a small town which was closer to the bigger town of Bologna. Bologna in Italy is the capital of underground Hip Hop. At the time I met people doing music and they introduced me to people who had been DJ-ing for 20 or 30 years and I started learning from them.
Lewis – So did you start getting involved in the Underground as well?
Reda – Yes, when I was 16 years old, I was just like hanging around in Bologna Town and I was mostly going there because I wanted to meet people making the underground music. I firstly recognised them from music because friends of mine had started listening to underground music from Bologna and most of these people were immigrants. Like me from Morocco and I wanted to discover where they were hanging around, I started not going to the school anymore. I haven’t finished college, I was just everyday going to Bologna, sleeping there, I slept in the station at Bologna because the last bus was like 7pm to go back home. I would be hanging around in Bologna until one day I met them (the underground musicians) and I told them I want to be like you, to do music like you, you are very inspirational to me and they saw me, a young kid loving the music and they told me we will take you with us and we will teach you how to do music because we see in you people from a poor family and this represents you. So from this point I became part of the underground music in Bologna and the first thing they made me do was a video clip (Mic Meskin – Parlo di Vita), this was recorded in 2005/06 and this story is about being a kid in the city without opportunities, Bologna City. The lyrics talk about people, about how they have no choice, they have to sell drugs or steal because there are no jobs. Politicians are eating everything and not giving opportunities to us.
Basically it is about me going out from home working in the city. Having friends who are drug dealers. I gave them respect but I am not doing drugs, I am not selling drugs. I am growing up in a multi-ethnic part of the city – (shows in the video clip) see like this is a Muslim woman and people dealing, selling drugs. Like I know them, I know they are good people but also not good people but they know me and I give them respect but I am not doing what they are. I say ‘Hi’ to them but then go away.
Matt – What is the power of the music, is the underground movement very much involved in politics? Do you think it is being used as a force for good to change?
Reda – Yes, I think that the underground hip hop in Italy is from the left side of politics so it is closer to communism instead of fascism because Italy is quite fascist. The only part where underground hip hop is performed in Italy is the occupied facilities by communists. The politician Mafia tries to build a place but the Police come and take them to jail, so the place remains un-used. Some people come and occupy that part and they build opportunities for people. They build Italian schools for foreign people. They build a place for people to play music, for rappers and underground musician.
Reda – I think underground hip hop is close to the good part of politics. It is against all the people that steal money and tries to give a message about sharing, about love, about being all together. Not to discriminate against black people, not to discriminate against people who are Muslim, not discriminate against people’s sex, not discriminate against gender, no discrimination – like people working together, that is the message.
Matt – What impact is that having do you think?
Reda – It is quite hard but is growing – little by little it is growing. Not as much as people want but it is growing.
Lewis – Is the underground hip hop scene still going strong in Bologna now? Are you still in touch with it?
Reda – Bologna no, it’s not the capital of Hip Hop anymore. The hip hop in Italy is sick, it’s in a really bad way now. It’s becoming more commercial, all the kids are wearing gold and have gold teeth and talking about materialism only.
Lewis – Like they do in America?
Reda – Yes. There is no message any more. It’s about the sound and appearance, like what you wear. But there is always the underground trying to give the message but it does not have the visibility the more commercial type, although they do try to go on TV .
I’ve been DJ-ing after I’d been a part of that. There is a big group in Bologna called the PMC. It is one of the biggest groups in Bologna and under the group there is Mic Meskin. That’s the group I have been part of and the leader of the group PMC is called Inoki. He is an artist – the only one in Bologna that has been under contract with a major label. He was under Atlantic and when he released the album, the message was too strong because he was against politicians. One of the main songs he made had the title ‘My country does not give a ****’. It talks about Politicians leaving people dying and leaving people to deal or steal. After that his contract was not renewed any more.
I learned a lot of things from him because he took me and I became his DJ for a couple of years. I played all over Italy. I learned a lot from him. I have been a hater of commercial music for a long time, for at least 4 years, I have been a hater. I can’t even listen to commercial music, everything for me was ****, for me it was just underground music (that was worth listening to) but that is not a good message.
Matt/Lewis – No because there is a merit in everything.
Reda – It is not a good message because it is not real, there is some really good commercial music.
Lewis – Do you know what he is doing now?
Reda He now lives in Spain and is releasing his music on the underground on his own label, Rap Pirata. Pirate because they stole his own music, so he called it Pirate, like something away from reality. He’s cool – he is considered one of the best rappers in Italy.
Lewis – Is this DJ-ing with vinyls?
Reda – When I started, I started with vinyls. Then there was a revolution in DJ-ing, you can use a laptop to control MP3’s throught vinyls – you don’t have to grab like 60 vinyls with you but just have a laptop and 2 vinyls.
Lewis – Do you prefer any of them?
Reda – Of course I prefer vinyls because there is no latency when you are scratching and the sound is much better. The sound wave is complete with a warm sound and better quality.
Lewis – It is so much more entertaining to watch isn’t it?
Reda – Yeah, but I really appreciate the laptop because it gives me the same touch as playing with vinyls but with the simplicity of digital. I can see the soundwave on the computer, I can see the BPM without spending time on trying to find the BPM. I do not sync the music – I am in sync with myself. When you hear me playing, you hear my mistakes even though I have been DJ-ing for about 11 years. It is normal to make these mistakes.
Lewis – So (when you perform) does it feel like a performance to you or is it just you doing something you enjoy? Do you get nervous before you go on to DJ?
Reda – Yes I still get nervous, it’s normal for me. But I was warming up people for like 20 minutes, putting out some selected tracks of underground music with a message. Then I was building some intros with logic and they say “Reda tonight we are going to play these tracks”, then the other tracks we didn’t play I used as intros. I scratched them to get people to make some noise. Then he comes on the stage, I start and stop the instrumentals when he wants people to create some noise for him. They do the rapping and I’d do the scratching and when that’s finished I would do a bit of selecting again, that was my routine. So when I was playing in Italy I wasn’t a producer but mainly a live DJ and supporting the artists. In the meanwhile I was trying to learn music myself. The producers, people who studied music and people who know music notation they were sampling, playing live instruments and I saw people who were like working in the studio, engineers. So I’ve seen everything by myself, I spent time in the studio and I loved everything but I didn’t have the opportunity to study music so I found myself now at 27 years old and still trying to do what I was doing when I was 16 years old so I thought maybe it was the right time to study music.
Matt – I’m a mature student as well – do you feel that it was better for you to come now because you have had experience and you can now go on to another stage in life?
Reda – Yes, sometimes I see people younger than me who are very good musically and I feel like maybe it’s too late for me. I feel like maybe I have to do something else with my life, but I keep thinking like I’ve spent more than 10 years learning, doing DJ-ing and I didn’t have the opportunities in my life to do what I wanted when I was younger and I feel like life gave this chance to me and I want to see if I can do it. But sometimes I see young people and they are good at music and I see myself and think it is not for me anymore.
Matt – But the beauty of music is that you can do it at any age and if it is something you enjoy doing and you can make a living out of it as well then that’s sort of like the ideal, isn’t it?
Reda – Yeah, but when I moved to the UK there was something that I’d never seen in Italy, there are colleges for music, you go to the college and you learn how to use the software, you learn how to express yourself, to pick out the ideas from your mind and put it on the laptop and put it through the speakers. When I was young I was dreaming about this and when people come out from the colleges they are really good at music and it feels like I am running with just one leg, it is really hard for me. I don’t know, maybe at the end of these 3 years I will be how I want to be in my mind but at the moment it is really hard because there is so much to do and I never thought in my life that music could be so hard, Like I know it’s hard but not that much. It’s like 3 months and I’ve learnt so many things.
Matt – Does it make you excited with music?
Reda – Yes but brings on a lot of anxiety too, it’s not easy. Sometimes I finish lectures and there have been so many things I have learnt so I need to read them again over the next couple of days and spread it through the three days. This is because every time I get out of a seminar or from the studio, I just want to grab my laptop and delete everything and start again from scratch. Sometimes I feel like some mistakes are good for the music and some mistakes are not good.
Matt – Yes I think sometimes imperfection can be a really powerful tool in music. There is quite a big movement with glitch music isn’t there.
Reda – Yes, there is an artist I love so much, he died a few years ago but his name was J Dilla and he was one of the biggest producers in Hip Hop. He liked music like with compression and in a way that no one uses, he invented like pumping styles on the beat and he gives his latency like it’s an error but actually it is not. He gives a groove to the music. Sometimes it is good to know how things should be done but it is also good to have mistakes and to do something new. Like with scratching that started as a mistake, a record player who then transformed it into an instrument. It’s amazing and crazy at the same time.
Matt – A whole genre of music has grown up just from that really.
Reda – Yeah, Hip hop culture from just turntables.
Matt – Yeah exactly, Hip Hop wouldn’t have been like it is at all, it may not have even been around if there hadn’t have been those “mistakes”.
Reda – And because of those techniques, they invented the 1210 desk so now we have highly professional record players for DJ’s just because of Hip Hop music. It’s amazing, the evolution behind it. I feel like we have been now so evolved that it is hard to think about new things because most things have already been invented now.
Lewis – So what do you think is next for Hip Hop? Because obviously you said the underground scene in Bologna was no more really. Are you looking for the next one now, are you wanting to get back into that?
Reda – I hope that in my Country the commercial Hip Hop that’s just about wearing clothes, appearance, gold and whether you have got money, starts to go down and gives space to ones about messages. I hope from there many underground artists give something new to Hip Hop.
Lewis – Especially with what is happening now politically? Because that might cause another rise in underground Hip Hop.
Reda – Yes, I’m not happy about my country to be honest, I don’t like how politics is now, I’m getting more used to it every day like politicians getting arrested, you hear it every day and for us it is normal but it is not normal.
Lewis – Does that come through in your music then, do you try to get all this meaning in your music as well? Do you think about that when you are producing or DJ-ing?
Reda – I’m not rapping so I’m just producing instrumentals. Most of my music is sad, so it doesn’t sound uplifting because I don’t know how to make uplifting music – ever since I have been young. This song I made yesterday for example (Music plays).
Matt – It is interesting that because you don’t use a lot of combined notes, like chords but like mixing chords. Lots of mixing of notes in there. It is really interesting.
Reda – I like playing with 8 bit sounds a lot, like coming from video games. I don’t sample any more, I used to sample a lot but in Uni it is not allowed so it helps me bring out the real artist in me. I mean it is being an artist if you sample though.
Matt – Yes without another instrument.
Reda – But it is kind of like stealing so I like using a lot of pads, chords, playing a bit of 8 bit notes, using compression like J Dilla because I love J Dilla. I like to include it in my music to show him my respect. His music is with me even if I have never seen him in my life. I feel it inside of me because I have been listening to his music and it goes to my brain and my mind and gives me emotions.
Lewis – It is keeping his techniques going as well.
Reda – Yes, I try to do it for that reason in a way.
Lewis – So when producing a track like this, how does it work, where does it start? Do you lay down a start by putting down some pad sounds or something or do you have an idea and then do it? Or do you just see what happens?
Reda – I turn on my laptop and usually start with the pads and trying to find the chord, trying to understand the BPM of the music and when I find the BPM then play a chord like changing 2 or 3 times some of the notes. This part takes me a lot longer because I don’t know musical notation so I am just experimenting until I find the chords that sound good. Repeat it and put it in a loop, I try to use VST that gives analogue colour. Then I start to use the same notes as the chords but using some synths. But not at the same time, trying to be slightly off key. When I hear this it transports me and just makes me feel something. I try to do the kicks and bells and when the track is complete I try to put some scratches on there as well. One day when I’ve got more money I would like to start buying some equipment but for the moment I do everything on the laptop.
Lewis – Does it happen like that every time or does the process change each time?
Reda – Mostly it happens the same way. If I am not using pads, then I will use samples but my working part is quite similar. I have released just one video clip in my life as a friend of mine who works for Universal as video clip producer in Italy and one day I released this track on SoundCloud. He liked my music. He is just one of my few friends who like my music and one day he told me “Reda send me the track and I will do the video clip for you”. He did this video for me. I use it as a sample on the track, (Reda Haze – Who I Am) you can hear the 8 bit sound. I think I will try to use it with all of my music. Sorry about the quality I did it before I came to Uni. I did this track when I moved here to the UK. It was a massive life stage. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know where to go. It was hard to find my pathway. I had a bit of depression when I moved from Italy to the UK. I had left behind all of my friends. I had stopped doing music and I had sold off all of my equipment. I literally stopped doing music for two years, the only thing I had was my laptop and my Maschine.
Matt – That was incredible. It was really amazing how you mix in the 8 bit with the pads as well – really gorgeous.
Reda – Cheers, thank you.
Lewis – I can hear the J Dilla influence there.
Reda – Hear the pumping of the beat?
Lewis – Do you like your music?
Reda – honestly no, not happy with it at all. I feel that there is something missing. I feel also like I don’t know how to mix music. And there is something wrong when I put the key code with the bass and it is going slightly off. I don’t know with the equalizer which frequency to remove to make it sound good. I always have the feeling that my music is not right.
Lewis – You need the professional training to get to that stage?
Reda – Yes. In my mind it sounds different but when I put it on the software it’s like completely different.
Matt – I sing as well and I really hate listening to my voice.
Reda – I really hate listening to my voice as well!
Matt – It is really difficult when you’re trying to record a song because you don’t know whether it does sound right or not because you are having to try to get past that in a way.
Reda – I think it is a good thing to not be happy about what you do. It helps you to improve. I don’t like it when people come and say “I have made a track, it’s dope”, I don’t like that kind of attitude. Some people are always thinking “I can improve myself, I can be better” because it’s the evolution, like of everything not just the music. I am always a bit afraid as to whether people like it or not. I never released an album, even though I like to produce music. It is now like I am here and I am 27 and I am good at scratching but when I have finished the mix if there is a little problem with it I am like no, I will put it in the bin. I don’t care, I do not want to put it on line, I’m like this, it is a big problem for me. I’m trying to improve, to be more self-confident but it is not easy.
Lewis – Do you think you will get that through studying music at Uni, getting professional music training?
Reda – Yes I hope that by the third year when I am leaving here, to try and increase my self-confidence because it is really hard for me. Even like I started the course late because I had a problem with the Camborne College, so I didn’t have the opportunity to know my course mates so that was another difficulty for me in not being able to be friends with the others.
Lewis – Do you want to work with more people to do more collaborations?
Reda – Collaborations aren’t easy for me, I don’t know why. It is probably from my past experience with some of the people I met in Bologna, I didn’t have a good experience with them. I am still in contact with them and they are asking me do you want to do some scratching on the album or participate on the album. I am not enthusiastic any more about doing collaborations.
Matt – Maybe you have done that now and maybe you are looking for something new? Do you think it is that?
Reda – I think that I hadn’t expected so much collaboration from university. I had expected it would be going to lectures, sitting, studying a lot, going to the studio and studying a lot, going home and studying a lot, doing exams etc . But here there is a lot of collaboration. Because I am a shy person it is not easy for me to express myself, because of my English, because of my past, so I find it difficult to do that.
Lewis – Do you think the more you do it the better you will get at it?
Rada – Yes, I think that I am better since the first month that I started, they’re helping a lot. A good thing about Falmouth University is that people work together and it helps you gain self-confidence when they give tasks and they put the pressure on you.
Lewis – Yes, I really hated that but as they did more of it you just get better at it.
Reda – Yes, and also they preparing us to go into the industry to work.
Lewis – So you are mainly into underground Hip Hop but are there any other genres that you like to listen to or influence you?
Reda – Lots, at this moment in my life I enjoy everything, for example I like the last Dua Lipa track, I listen through my monitors and think the production is amazing. I like a lot of Jazz music, a lot of soul, a lot of funk music doing my DJ sets. I am playing in Mono now. I play nights in Mono, I played there last Friday.
Lewis/Matt – When are you next there?
Reda – Next gig is 25th of this month (November 2017). I play a lot of funk music and disco music, I feel like people like this sort of music. But I mix everything, I also use pop music. I also play at the Open Days in Amata cafe. I am going to play this Saturday for the Open Day again, from 10 till 3pm. People come in with parents who want to come to the University. I play something that’s a bit softer like Jazz piano. I love all kinds of music and get inspiration from all kinds of music. Ten years ago it was never expected of me because I grew up with the underground mentality, like with a wrong mentality of superiority where you think your genre is better than the other genres. When I was a kid it was like everyone was saying this music is the best, the rest is just ****.
Lewis – Do you believe that?
Reda – I didn’t believe that, I think that the best music is the music that makes you feel emotions.
Matt – That was the thing I wanted to ask you. You mentioned about emotions. Do you feel that quite strongly when you make music, do you try to mix in those emotions within your music?
Reda – Yes I try to transmit something, I do not know what. If I knew what, it would be amazing but when I feel something from it I say to myself this song is quite good, keep the project. Sometimes I open the laptop and I do something and I play that set and I’m not sure about it and delete it immediately. For me emotions are everything and it’s been like that for ages, whatever the music is. Even for folk music I feel emotion.
Matt – What are you hoping to gain from studying?
Reda – Better sound quality first of all, learn how sound works, how reverb works and how compression works. How to remaster. Then I want to re-gain my culture, because since I was a kid I’ve been studying Hip Hop music. Trying to remember names of underground artists. I want to be more open minded about music. The music theory lectures are really helping me a lot. I really enjoy music theory. The lectures and seminars are really amazing. They also cover a lot of the things I like as well, like last week we had a lecture about DJ-ing and this week we are going to do a lecture about sampling.
Lewis – We had those last year as well.
Matt – Yes.
Reda – It helps me to learn new things as well because I knew about these things but not like they teach it at University.
You can learn more about Reda and hear some of his music by clicking on the links below: