Miss Red is an outsider, an iconoclast, a deeply individual soul finding her way in the world. An Israeli dancehall artist, her vastly inventive, ground-breaking approach has forged outernational links, from a long-standing creative partnership with The Bug to singles on her own Red label and Sound Of The Universe’s vital in-house imprint.
2015’s mixtape ‘Murder’ was typically uncompromising, with production from The Bug joined by work from fellow producers Mark Pritchard, Mumdance, and Andy Stott. An emphatic presence on the rig, Miss Red is a patient interviewee, but each answer crackles and bubbles with electricity, sentences being crunched down, sampled and placed through an echo chamber as she moves from broken Hebrew to broken English, the fragments turned into a mosaic of language.
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New album ‘K.O.’ is out now, an astonishing feat that matches The Bug’s system ruminations to her emphatic, defiant lyricism. The two go back a long way, but their initial meeting happened entirely by chance. “Basically, he came to Israel for a gig, and he just stayed for a few more days to chill out,” she recalls. “The promoters were hassling him to come to this tiny gig they had. They were like, let’s go, it’s a cool soundsystem!”
“I was living in the area, close to the club, and then some guy invited me down. We all just took our bags and went off there, and I was completely blown away – I grabbed a mic and I was just freaking the fuck out because it was just so, so groovy and cool.”
Leaping onstage, the pair found they almost immediately understood one another. “The link with us was really, really quick – he wheel’d me three times, he was completely into it. We wanted to go into the studio the next day.”
“It came as a total shock, that somebody like that would be into my talent as an MC. If somebody would approach me in the past it was about singing, making soul music, but this guy was digging me out for my chatting. I thought, yeah, it’s happening. It was a dream come true. A dream I hadn’t dreamt yet, y’know? Something I couldn’t even imagine could happen.”
Moving to Berlin, Miss Red established herself as a powerful, singular talent. Yet the connection to The Bug remained, like planets orbiting the same sun, bound by deep-rooted gravitational forces. “Probably we are both just aliens a bit,” she says. “I get influenced by all kinds of music – mainly dancehall and rub-a-dub and all sorts of Jamaican music. But I have all sorts of other stuff that is influencing me.”
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“My tool is my vocal, so I get all of that mixed into something that is actually me. In some ways it’s hard for a lot of people to even think about. They’re like: why are you singing this in this language and not Hebrew? My voice is my tool and this is my way to compress it all into something that is actually me. And I can’t really ignore that.”
“When I heard his music I was like, OK, this is dancehall. But this is not fucking dancehall! This is something coming from all kinds of places, and it creates other spaces inside my mind that even dancehall wouldn’t make. But again it had a different attitude and it was all positive.”
2015 mixtape ‘Murder’ allowed Miss Red to condense and collate her thoughts, forging clarity from a universe of influences. “After that I realised that my subjects and crafts as a lyricist got better. I think in lyrics I was always a little bit deaf because my mother language is not English or patois. Or even Hebrew – my Hebrew is all over the place.”
“It’s a bit of a mash up of references, so to get myself clear to people also took me time. So I got suddenly a subject. Suddenly I had my emotions, my subject, and I could talk about them more clearly. It’s all like bringing out the coming of my craft as a vocalist and a lyricist. I thought, OK I need to make an album of this shit.”
‘K.O.’ is a straight down the line collaboration with The Bug, with Kevin Martin’s sparse, eerie, intensely futuristic take on spartan dancehall sounds matched to Miss Red’s freewheeling lyrics. Exploring identity, the patriarchy, the manner in which hyper-capitalism hauls down femininity, she remains the focal point, the electrifying centre of the record.
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Recorded over a number of sessions, ‘K.O.’ is marked by that sense of frank conversation between two astonishing artists. “I think it’s just a back and forth of everything,” she says. “I would meet him and I would say: yo, man, listen to this! And I would chat him something I had thought about. And he’d say: yeah I like that, or no, let’s work on another thing.”
“It was all very raw, and very rough. After we would meet one time in the studio and get it together, so we would hear what we were saying and start talking about it again, soundwise. So he would have some kind of rhythm and then you would have some attitude in it. Then we would analyse it differently, do some work, and then mix it. It’s all like this together working on it step by step, tune by tune.”
‘K.O’ is driving Miss Red into the future, but it’s also intimately linked to her past. She remains that club kid from Israel, someone whose soul became intertwined with system culture a long time ago.
“I remember even growing up having this issue that I couldn’t get relaxed in my mind,” she tells Clash. “People would try to talk to me but my head would be dancing over planets and places and associations and I couldn’t get myself focussed until I was singing. When I began singing I finally found myself again.”
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“I am coming from places that are just a bit different,” she continues. “I couldn’t act like something, because I wasn’t acting – I was me. I’m not only dancehall or rub-a-dub I’m coming from fucking Israel, so I have a lot of other shit that I would like to show you through my music world... so you could say it’s a complex thing.”
“This is the truth about me being me,” she says. “It’s more about showing this one thing, this built in thing – it’s not a cultural thing, it’s a complex of sounds and minds and love and faces. This is why it sounds like this. This is what attracted me and Kevin in the first place – he said he wanted to work with this kind of vibe, and I was like, I need this! Working without signs, flying from place to place, because this is what’s going on inside me as well. I guess that’s why it sounds like that.”
Out now, the record is set to be followed by two launch parties, one in London and one in Berlin. It’s an opportunity to catch an unforgettable performer, a seismic, tectonic present. “Onstage, the amount of adrenalin that runs in my body… I could never explain this to you unless you love extremes. Anybody who loves extremes would know exactly what I’m talking about. When you’re onstage it’s the same thing.”
“You’re getting… I’m turning on! That’s why I’m Miss Red – I get turned on by everything around so I’m also turning on and I’m getting higher with myself and higher with the energy. Everything is bumping. And with Kevin’s music it’s like war! It’s war inside, it’s war outside, you are getting your hardest emotions out there. In the studio it’s like a practical thing coming together, and onstage I allow myself to completely lose it, and get out these emotions. In therapy you should let go of something that you’re feeling.”
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'K.O.' is out now. Catch Miss Red at London's Corsica Studios tonight (July 19th).
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