Some might view Hot Chip’s proclamation of liking Zapp not Zappa in 2012 as the beginning of ‘80s funk’s critical rehabilitation, but one London producer has been well ahead of the curve. Armed with a talkbox and a synthesizer, Tom Calvert, better known as Redinho, electrified the UK bass scene when he released Bare Blips in 2010. The EP mixed contemporary dubstep rhythms with a funk flourish, a combination that developed further with his infectious 2011 single Stay Together. While his fellow Numbers labelmates Sophie and Rustie are mining the maximalist pop sounds of the ‘90s to great effect, Redinho has spent the last three years working on a self-titled debut album that intricately weaves past and present influences. Featuring the vocal talents of rising singers Brendan O’Reilly and Vula, the album feels like a relic from a parallel universe where G-funk never died and dubstep stopped at Midnight Request Line. We chatted with Calvert about crafting his sound, Twitter collaborations, and producing for rappers.
What initially attracted you to funk as a genre?
It was just simply as a kid listening to Zapp and loving it. I’d never heard a vocal sound like that when I was a teenager. I was a musician then, I was playing in bands and electronic music wasn’t really something in my consciousness. I was blown away by that. I’ve always had some sort of ambition to make that so it was really just from a kind of teenage ambition.
How did that teenage ambition lead to getting signed to Numbers?
I started out playing the drums and playing in bands. My brothers are both musicians which is weird because my parents aren’t musical at all. There were other instruments in the house so I learned to play those to some sort of standard and I wrote a lot of songs. Then I went through different genres trying to understand them and that led me to hip-hop. I did a lot of DJing, turntablism, and that led me to electronic music. Fast forward over ten years and I’m there making electronic music. I sent a demo to Spencer, who’s one of the guys who runs Numbers. At the time he had a label called Wireblock, and Numbers didn’t exist at that point. I sent him what became Bare Blips and he liked it and he wanted to release it on a label he was creating called Numbers. During the time that took to be released he became aware of the stuff that I do, all the talkbox stuff I was playing around with, and that’s what really interested him and the other guys from Numbers and that’s when they signed me to an album deal.
After Bare Blips you released another EP and the single Stay Together, but that was over three years ago. Were you spending all that time perfecting the album?
Pretty much. I was trying to hone and distill what I was doing. I still don’t even know if I’ve done that and I think you can argue I haven’t in many ways. There was a lot of back and forth with going out and doing shows. That’s a big part of the process. I’m proud of Stay Together because I’ve managed to blend a lot of influences into that piece whereas on the album there’s a variety of styles and influences. Stay Together represents a good amalgamation of a lot of the things I’m into. In answer to your question, all that time was writing songs and going out on the road playing my ideas.
There’s definitely a divide on the album between more funk-influenced tracks and songs more situated in UK electronica.
Despite all the time that’s gone by since my first release and all the things we’ve discussed I’ve actually made a lot of music. I’m quite prolific so I’ve got a lot of material. It is quite hard to select things. Numbers helped me with that. I sent them a lot of my stuff and they said their opinions. When you’ve got a lot of stuff it’s quite hard to choose, so with that album I was trying to show the breadth of my influences.
I liked how as a producer you chose to put your vocals up front and didn’t rely on high profile guests for the album. How did you pick your guest vocalists?
Interestingly, I realised later that both of them are from America. Brendan’s from California and Vula I think is from Texas, although she grew up in Hackney and speaking to her you’d think she’s from London. They’re both based in London and I’ve seen them perform over the years. They’re in the same sort of circles of musicians and people I know so I’ve been aware of them for a while, and I love them. I’ve always thought they were amazing singers and there were certain tracks I thought I’d want to do with them. It’s really just about admiring people and liking what they do. That’s enough for me.
You also got a lot of love working with 100s earlier this year. How did Ten Freaky Hoes come into existence?
He hit me up on Twitter. That was a while ago. He’d somehow got a hold of Jacuzzi, which is on the album, and he liked that. His DJ would play that out live at his shows. We had a chat and it turned out he’s from Berkeley and I used to live there. Obviously there’s some musical connections there too with G-funk and everything. We had some things in common and he wanted me to do something on a track of his. He sent me it and I did my thing.
It sounds like such a natural collaboration. Do you think you’ll produce for more rappers in future?
I would really love that actually. I was massively into ‘90s hip-hop and I would love to work with some MCs, definitely.
You’ve performed a lot with other artists on Numbers. Is there a solo tour lined up to promote the album?
There is and I can’t wait for that. I love travelling and I love performing. I mainly do programming but a few of the vocal elements are done live and there are some synth toplines and things like that too. I’ve developed a little rig in Ableton Live and that kind of evolves gradually. I’d really like to get some sort of band together and get back to my roots though.