While attending a portion of this year's Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid, it would have been easy to only pay attention to the bigger artists that proliferated the ranks of the Academy's parties, lectures, and even the participants. But only shining a light on the more well-known folks would be contrary to the spirit of the entire RBMA, which brings artists—many of them unknown—from all over the world for an exchange of ideas, cultures, and, of course, music. As such, we wanted wrap XLR8R's coverage of RBMA Madrid by getting to know a few of the participants whose names haven't regularly appeared on XLR8R—at least not yet. Although profiling all 60 participants, or even just those attending the second term when XLR8R was in attendance, would have been just about impossible, here are three very different artists that definitely caught our attention.
Artist Name: Andrea Balency (also pictured in the main image at top)
Real Name: Andrea Balency-Bearn
Currently Residing: Mexico City, Mexico
XLR8R: You're originally from France.
Yes. I was born in Paris, and I lived there for 14 years, and then destiny took me to Mexico. I've been there for almost eight years.
You also lived in Buenos Aires for awhile.
Yes, I lived in Buenos Aires for two years.
When did you start making music?
When I was five, I started playing the piano. I played classical music. When I went to Argentina, I started listening to popular music, and some electronic music. I really liked it, so I stopped playing classical music. Actually, I still play it sometimes, but now I'm more into popular music and electronic music.
You won some kind of big music award in Mexico.
Yeah, I did. It's like the Grammys, but for independent music. It's a big event in Mexico, and I won the prize for best new artist.
So are you, like, famous in Mexico?
No, not at all. It's starting, and some people do recognize me now on the street, but very rarely. It's nothing yet, and I hope I'm never really famous. I don't know if I would like that.
How did you first find out about Red Bull Music Academy?
A friend of mine, his name is Juan Manuel Torreblanca, he lives in Mexico and he was actually at the Red Bull Music Academy in Toronto. He always told me it was the best two weeks of his life, so I was curious about it. I applied, but I never thought I would be accepted, because I knew it was more about DJs and DJing, and I'm not a DJ. I like electronic music though. I love it, but I'm not a DJ. So I thought I would try and see if I would get in, and I made it.
How has your RBMA experience been?
Yesterday, I was writing an email to Juan, and I told him, "You were right. This has been the best week of my life." It's like a musician's dream.
Do you feel like you're still getting something valuable out of it, even though you don't make electronic music for a club setting?
Of course. I think I've maybe learned more than [the other participants], because of that. I'm really interested in every type of music. I've learned so much and I want to do so many new things. I want to be a DJ now! [laughs] I have friends here now who are going to teach me, so I can bring that to Mexico.
Once your Academy experience is over…
I'm going to cry. [laughs]
But what do you plan to do once it's over?
It's funny, because in January I'm going to New York to record a new album. It's perfect, because I have so many new ideas. I'm going to put all of that into the album, so it's going to be fresh. It's perfect. I made friends [with one of the participants] here, his name is Nick Hook. He's amazing. He DJs, but he also plays keyboards. We're doing some songs together in New York—he lives in New York—it's going to be amazing.
Artist Name: Cha Cha
Real Name: Xin Ge Ye Hai Ya Han
Currently Residing: Shanghai, China
XLR8R: How did you first hear about Red Bull Music Academy?
One of my very close friends from Hong Kong, DJ Siesta, went to Red Bull Music Academy in 2008. She came back and told me loads of stories about it. I thought, "Wow, that sounds like a dreamland. I have to go." Then I started to pay attention on the internet.
How long have you been making music?
I first started a rock band in 1998, when I was 15 years old. I've been singing over ten years, and doing different stuff with music for a long time. I enjoy singing more because I can work with different producers and try to discover new musical directions. Also, I'm an event promoter in Shanghai, so I put on different kinds of parties, exhibitions, workshops, and movies.
Before this, you did some vocals on Kode9's latest album. How did that come about?
My husband, Gaz Williams, he's from Manchester but lives in Shanghai. He runs The Shelter, the biggest underground club in Shanghai. The club is really focused on booking futuristic electronic music, underground stuff, and fresh, new, pioneering music. He's a big fan of Kode9, we've booked him to come play in Shanghai twice. Both times, we went to the studio together and recorded some stuff. That's how I got on his album.
Are you enjoying the Academy experience?
I think it's amazing. I've never done anything like this before. It's mindblowing. There's nothing like this in China. Before I came here, I tried to imagine how it was going to be, but I didn't know where to start. So when I got here, to see the whole thing, and meet all the amazing musicians, and they all have beautiful personalities, it's all just so cool.
What do you plan to do once the Academy is over?
My original plan when I came here was to work with different producers and musicians. Another thing is that I really wanted to make good contacts with Red Bull Music Academy and the participants, because I want to see if it's possible to bring those musicians to China to play and show young Chinese people music from Europe and the whole world. Basically, I want all my friends in China to feel what I feel now.
Artist Name: Nehuen
Real Name: Nehuen McAllister
Currently Residing: Barcelona, Spain
XLR8R: How long have you lived in Barcelona?
Nehuen: Since 2005.
But you're originally from Buenos Aires. What prompted you to move?
I finished high school and I went to work, but I always wanted to make music and wanted to buy vinyl and I knew I couldn't do it in Buenos Aires. I have Italian citizenship, so I had the chance to go [to Barcelona] and start from scratch. I came to Europe basically to study sound engineering.
So you started producing once you arrived in Barcelona?
No, I was playing around before and playing instruments—real instruments.
How would you describe your musical style?
I tend to not have a specific style. I tend to work more like a normal producer, making any style, because I would like to work with other people. I wouldn't mind producing a hip-hop record and then a heavy metal record. I just do what I'm feeling in the moment. If there's something I hear that I like, I try to play with that, and when I put in my input, maybe I come up with something new. I hope so.
What sounds are you feeling the most these days?
I'm feeling all of this juke stuff quite a lot and this acid thing that's coming back. Basically everything around drum machines and drum-machine sounds. I'm interested in that sort of simplicity and rhythm.
How did you hear about Red Bull Music Academy and what made you apply?
I heard about it from a friend who is also a producer, Cardopusher. He's from Venezuela, but he lives in Barcelona. We met and have been friends since day one. He applied and [was accepted] in 2008. I saw the concerts and the lectures, and heard what he was saying [about RBMA], so after that I kept on watching lectures and even listening to the radio because I found it very interesting. So, I applied for the London one and nothing happened, but then, this year, it did.
Are you enjoying the experience?
Of course. I can't complain about anything. It's great. It's a great opportunity.
What do you plan to do once the Academy is over?
I'm going to have a little vacation. I'm going home [to Argentina] for a holiday. When I come back, I'm going to start working on post-production. I have a music production company with some friends, so we're going to start slowly building that. I'm also going to be making music for myself, and I'm always trying to find vocalists and people to work with.