ARMC’s 10 Questions with Re.Decay
The Berlin production duo Re.Decay is a creative force to be reckoned with. As individuals, Owen Ross and Emanuel Bender have established themselves through musical and creative endeavors. Owen Ross has shared stages with the likes of Big Boi and The Roots. Emanuel Bender has been credited with producing Alle Farben, Dillistone, and others. With all their experience, not only as creatives but as business owners, they have a well of knowledge to share. The ARMC team have teamed up with them for their next project; a 7-day international songwriting camp, which will take place in Johannesburg at Jazzworx studios in November. The finalists have been announced and we cannot wait to hear what they will create, but first to get to know what the duo stand for and value in these 10 questions.
1. What inspired you to create a songwriting bootcamp?
Writing/production camps hold a special place in our hearts. We actually met at a writing camp, a particularly fun one in fact. It’s such a special and rare opportunity to remove the distractions of day to day life and focus all one’s energy on making music, and doing so with a dynamic group of fellow creatives takes it to a whole new level. At their best, these sorts of camps are inspiring, inclusive, fulfilling, and yield great music. Our goal is to all the things we love about writing camps and remove the aspects we find less desirable. And being able to build international relationships and collaborations around it makes it all the more exciting for us.
2. What stood out most about the finalists of this program?
While everyone we selected has an inspiring story, the thing that separated each of them from the pack was their music. We were fortunate to receive a huge number of applicants for the camp, all of whom brought something special to the table, but the people we selected all blew us away. Each of them is not only well versed in their craft but has their own unique musical language and identity, which is paramount for us.
3. What elements of creativity do you feel are the most undervalued and why?
This ties in nicely with the last question. There are so many amazing intersections between the internet/social media age and creativity. It’s so cool that any artist can have a platform and anyone can discover them and it’s great that there is so much information out there that can help artists get better at their crafts — from youtube/tiktok tutorials, to podcasts… it feels limitless. One pitfall we see in this level of access, however, is that it’s easy to end up being great at mimicking other people without ever properly nurturing one’s own voice. Having constant and immediate feedback, without proper perspective and time for self reflection, can make it easy to skip the part of an artist’s journey where they dive deep into their own consciousness, decides what purpose they want their art to serve (aside from leading to wealth/fame), and synthesize all their influences into their own unique sound. If an artist doesn’t skip this step, however, it will enrich their whole life and potentially the lives of others around them as well.
4. How does building bridges across Europe and Africa benefit both continents?
Some of our favorite art has been created by cross cultural influence and collaboration. When an artist is firmly rooted in a tradition of their own and eager to learn about the art of other cultures, they are in a prime position to make something unique and with universal appeal. In terms of art, business, and overall values, we are all stronger when we learn from each other. We have been fortunate to collaborate with many African artists in the past few years and being able to blend all of our musical cultures and influences has been deeply rewarding. When done right, we all can get better at the things that other cultures excel at while sharing the things that our own culture does well. It’s of the utmost importance that these collaborations are done in a fair and equitable manner so that all parties benefit, when this is the case all artists and their respective homelands can benefit from each other and we strengthen the ties of creatives around the world.
5. What opportunities did you have coming up in the music industry that shifted your perspective?
My perspective shifted when I was signed to a publisher and management team a couple of years back. I came into the music industry as a little blue-eyed kid thinking everyone knows exactly what they are doing. I found pretty much the opposite to be the case on every level that I could see, at least to the dexterity that I expected. And to take it a step further, how could anyone predict or manufacture success in a medium that is so fluid? The right connections have to be made at the right time and a strong foundation has to be present.
What I‘ve learned is to build my own set of techniques and knowledge base while listening, learning and sharing with others. This shared outlook has led to part of the foundation of our label RDK records, where we put our collective experience together to build a system, and family, founded on fairness and collaboration.
Owen: One standout for me was the opportunity to be a guitarist in predominantly Black Baptist and Methodist churches from 2009-2011. I was fresh out of music school and thought that I was a pretty badass guitar player, but playing in church was like going right back to school. I learned so much in those years, and not only on the technical side. Instead of just learning how to play things I was learning why I should or shouldn’t play things. All of those lessons have been applicable in everything else I’ve done in music, production, writing, performing, you name it. I’m incredibly fortunate to have been welcomed into those spaces at that time.
6. If there is one thing that you would like the finalists of the bootcamp to take away from the experience what would that be?
The most important thing for us is that everyone comes away feeling empowered both creatively and business-wise. We hope that the camp will be creatively invigorating but that the participants will also learn some valuable information about the structure and function music industry that will benefit them for the rest of their careers.
7. The toughest lesson you had to learn as creatives and business owners?
The importance of consistency — full stop. When you are out here doing all of this yourself you have to perform all the tasks that larger companies perform and you have to perform those tasks to a level so high that you stand out from the crowd of millions of others doing the same thing. It’s not enough to release one great track, they all have to be great. They may not all blow up immediately but they are the groundwork for your future in music. And it’s not only music, it’s all the logistics of releasing and promoting music. This is a lesson we are relearning with every new venture, it’s joy in repetition.
8. What do you think the South African music industry lacks when it comes to nurturing young talent?
We don’t have an intimate enough knowledge of the South African music industry to speak on that just yet… but as far as the music industry here in Europe, we often find ourselves wishing that larger labels and publishers would take more chances on talented young artists that don’t completely fit the mold of what is hot at any given minute. It’s a business and everyone has to be smart with their money, but a few more risks here and there would be nice to see.
9. Why does representation matter?
Representation in our camp and in general is of critical importance now more than ever. With everyone watching what’s happening on social media, we want them to be empowered by seeing people like them taking big steps in exciting places. We want to impart a feeling to the youth of all cultures and orientations that anything is possible with hard work and creativity.
10. What is your vision for the future of music in Africa and Europe?
Our vision for the future of music in Africa and Europe is a connected one. We’d like nothing more than to see and participate in a musical landscape where African artists and European artists collaborate, learn, grow, and prosper together. The seeds have been planted, now it’s our job to nurture the baby plants and help them grow into sturdy trees.