Do politics and music mix? More now than ever! Elections in the States, acid reactions by politicians to PJ Harvey’s songs, tons of musicians against D Trump, the ongoing israelian art and culture boycott resulted as a consequence of the continous war with Palestinians. While most pop and mainstream music has narratives and lyrics about how amazing love and life are, up to whom is it to speak the truth? Could be Haifa born, now Berlin-based, The Bug-affliated dancehall-MC Miss Red?
A blast from the past: In 1991, Donald Trump is holding hands with Shabba Ranks and Super Cat, two of the late eighties and nineties most potent and influencial dancehall artists.
Would you like to present yourself in a few short sentences? Sharon “Miss Red” Stern, the Haifa born and bred, now Berlin based, The Bug affiliated dancehall MC. I can guess your nickname comes from your red hair, are you a fan of Yellowman and Purpleman? (I just love the classic dancehall LP The Yellow, The Purple and The Nancy) What are your future world domination through dancehall plans?
I am Miss Red from Haifa city, also goes by Sharon Koti. And yeah I go as red, red hair, red vybs, mi red, red red, all red for me in a way. I love Yellowman Purpleman and the Nancy, definitely some of my favorite dj’s.
My future plans are to keep the vybs high, spread it to the world, keep moving, keep skanking. I am working on tunes all the time and slowly but surely bringing on my next project. At the moment mi a taking part in the ACID RAGGA show – with The Bug and it’s really gettin’ me on a vybe, me full on excited.
Talk please about your planned releases on Jahtari and Necessary Mayhem. You are still promoting the Murder mixtape, is No Guns or Fever your forthcoming single and video?
I am having a release on Jahtari with my hommies crew TRILION , which is built from Easy Rider Sound, 3421 and Ranking Levy outa My Lord Sound. Which will be all about game of old school and new school reggae. Soon a first single from Red Label will drop with the tunes Murder and No Guns. And I will also take part in another release with Dub-Stuy and more, so stay tuned 😉 .
You made the decision to launch you own label, the Red Label for the Murder mixtape. How did that came about and will it develop further than your own releases?
I got in Berlin already for a few months, after I left Brixton, and wanted to start recording a mixtape of my old and new tunes. So I came to Kevin (The Bug) with the idea that we should do it and he was up for it. Then it all just rolled down, making the label, videos, just having fun making it and recording it, whenever there was time. Nothing else then the “Murder” release is planned at the moment. But who knows?
What do tunes like Chaka Demus & Pliers Murder She Wrote, or Ninjaman’s Murder Dem mean to you? You certainly reffer to them in your music, are they behind your lifestyle as well?
Well I dig those tunes yes. For me its classics, for some of the best winners, I know I will always love to hear them out on a system. I will always bring up tunes that I see as big and classics, outta love to the tunes. And yes we murder them in the dance, we murder them with the vybs.
If we are still at the jamaican dancehall culture chapter I’d like to ask ya something more explicit. Your tune Sugar is clearly a dirty dancehall song with refferences to pornographic elements such Punany and male genitalia beautifully expressed metaphorically as Rifles. Is this a feminist message as within Lady Saw’s songs or about the realness, harshness, street cred and cartel experience of jamaican ‘90’s dancehall?
There is a feminist massage, but its more like: me and my girls got the sugar! This is how we want it, lets get it on! This is how its gonna be !
You’ve explained in an interview that the Mi Lost tune is about your personal experience of loneliness in Haifa, Israel. I would guess that the Goddbye tune is again some sort of adieu to your city of birth. I’d like you talk a little about Dis Mi Army. Is it a feminist anthem or a direct refference to the obligatory army service in Israel? Maybe both? How was it in the Israelian Army? Did it leave a mark on you as an artist? The discipline and the whole system had some sort of influence on your writing and challenge as an uprising MC?
It was shit being a solider. I never wanted to be there so it was something that was forced on me and made me to confront some of the shittiest things about my reality. I didn’t had shit. So I worked my ass off in all kind of jobs and practically was sick 90% of the time. It made me wanna get as fucked up as I can, party as hard as I can, which is never too healthy when you are wearing soldier clothes, holding a gun and have commander or whatever.
So I wrote it on my army, my shitti shitti service. But I didn’t want it to be that, I didn’t wanted even to give it that respect so I played with the word diss – as’ this and as a diss. And the actual fact that my army, my real army, is a bunch of Haifa girls that run another kind of business.
The video of Mi Lost was inspired by the Haifa feeling , of being stuck in a place that feels like it’s never going to really change… not talking about the crew, the few people that do try to make some good stuff in the city, but it’s hard to keep it going. It’s not the amount, it’s the quality. So when something does happened, it has 100% good vybs and versatility. But nevertheless, you gotta work hard to move the people!
But the actual song Mi Lost is just about discovering and floating around the world. Having the possibility to cross borders freely and being chilled. Goodbye is more about anything that comes in my way.
How were things musically in Haifa? Can you share some memories about the Roots Easy Rider Crew, about your collaborations with 3421, Eyal Talmudi & Roy Chen. Were those hightimes and a step in your present development? Are these relationships ongoing?
Easy Rider sound is the one sound of Haifa City, so if there is a dance with them you know it’s gonna be nice. They where the inspiration that made me grab the mic in this way. With Malox and Rejoicer it was preety random, but very nice. 3421 are the home band, they also make their own stuff and make original dancehall riddims. With them I had the chance to really work with a live band and get the experience of touring cross Europe for the first time.
All of us together or separate always make tunes, throw parties and stuff in Haifa. And it will keep going as long is the vybs are there and everyoneis feeling it. This means that yeah, it’s ongoing, whenever we get the chance, as we all have different and unique projects going separately.
Are Rollercoaster, Leggo and No Guns policized music inspired by the situations of the music industry, art and culture of Israel? I’ve read about the BDS in lenghty Electronic Beats interview with bookers, artists and curators, poets and activists in Tel Aviv. Did all that pressure feel around in Haifa too? 3421 have a song called Ignore the War. And I recently read an interview with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd about the local israelian boycott. He also spoke in a paranoid tone about the Jewish Government, that if artists in the States, succesfull musicians, would speak out about being against the War in Gaza, or the constant conflict with palestinians, it would mean the destruction of their musical careers. Did somehow this situation made you leave for Berlin?
Especially in times like these, when the place gets even more right wing and scary to be at, a lot of art, music, poems, etc. is being blocked. No only blocked, also the education system is changing for the worst. It’s truly scary how stuff can get more shit than they already are.The thing is that most of the stuff is growing on new naïve generations that don’t know nothing. They keep the people dumb, so they can keep their wars and money. Instead of going left and fighting for peace, the right wing got control and shushes everyone up. But that’s not only in my country… that’s almost everywhere.
Rollercoaster is about a way of living without the control of any government\ institute\ just by yourself in a feeling of having no real ground under your feet…
Leggo is about a “good” bad trip of destruction. As I try to stop it from coming to me, reality keeps turning it on. I left Israel not aware of what is going to happen, but knowing I am more in peace on the road than home.
What is your opinion on succesful israelian artists such as the house-psy-trancers Infected Mushroom and the world-music hip-hop reggae Balkan Beat Box? Or the more close to reggae-dancehall pop-rocker, the american Matthew “Matisyahu” Miller? I guess they’re not a direct inspiration but are they at least business models?
I don’t know about the business models, I’ve grown up on this sounds at raves and radios as some of the greatest hits. But it’s not much of my cup of tea. Matisyahu had a tune I danced on, but then yet never convinced me.
Did you ever fall in love so deep with a certain tune that you’d like to play it live? I know you have direct refferences to Murder Dem on the mixtape but is there a certain song you’d cover? In a subtle way like Warrior Queen did on The Bug’s Insane with Mad World?
Sure. In the end of “Fever” you get a taste of “Not the Man for You” which came from the early tunes of Errol Dunkley. I love to bits the oldschool reggae.
Are you planning any visits to Jamaica, to reach and feel where it all started? Maybe a holiday or even an improvised gig?
I think that in 2 years from now I will go to jameica for at least half a year… see what happens!
I guess you noticed Kanye West sampling Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam on his latest record. Even his 2013 Yeezus has some Assassin and Beenie Man samples. Assasin aka Agent Sasco also appears also on the multi-Grammy winning To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar. The swedish pop-indie-punkers Teddybears have collaborated in the past with Mad Cobra and with Ninjaman, Beenie Man and Natalie Storm on their latest LP. Hits are trendy to have a jamaican feel especially in the summer. There are fertile times for dancehall! Do you think there’s a bastardization of jamaican culture or is it an opportunity for this artists to reach a bigger audience? How does Miss Red fit in pop culture? Would you chat on a Diplo riddim just to follow on Vybz Kartel’s or M.I.A’s footsteps?
I will flow on any riddim I like musically. I won’t ride anything which is not fly, no matter who worked with who.
I definetly fit where pop get twisted.
Jamaican music is out there. Been making people dance for years before they got sampled. So the remix might be bad and people gonna love or hate it, I don’t know, it’s music and music will always have better sides and worse ones.
There’s a personal question I keep asking artists and musicians. What is your family like? How do they encourage and support you? How do you feel like when touring or being away from them?
My family is very sweet and supportive. We miss each other a lot and we meet up every few months… We keep in touch all the time.
How do you feel about unique carribean fictions like The Harder They Come, Rockers, Babylon, Smile Orange or modern affairs like Cool Running, Dancehall Queen, Home Again and Shootas? Can you tell us a little how you see cinema? Have you got a favorite director? Your videos have a great cinematic feel.
I love these movies, each is very special in it’s own way, funny and touching, they are classics! I enjoy a lot of styles in cinema: from Jim Jermush to Larry Clark and from Gaspar Noe to David Lynch. My favorite director is Pier Paolo Pasolini, I love the Italian desert, the chaos and the mood his movies have. The photographer I work with on my videos, who directs and creates with me the whole atmosphere of the videos is Aviya Wyse, we are like ying yang in a way. But also her style of capturing and the aesthetic has always attracted me.
How do you view collaboration and collaborators? Do you listen to the musical input by Mr. Martin’s collaborators like Flowdan, Warrior Queen, Daddy Freddy, Roots Manuva, Grouper, Dylan Carson of Earth, Gonjasufi, Manga, and Death Grips? How was it collaborating with Bim One Production and Gaika? Any more future surprises?
Yes, I do listen to all his collaborators and respect them very much. All have sick sounds and legendary status. It was wicked to make the collabs with both people you mention. Soon more surprises will come! Like something with Ishan Sounds and Rider Shafique, so stay tuned!
People aren’t too supportive of dancehall squeaking. I don’t understand that, I adore that in your style, Horseman’s too, General Levy’s Incredible went viral just for that and Apache Indian also made a strong impression with those hard to reach high notes. By the way I adore the FACT Freestyle! What’s with this preconception?
Well, this is my voice, I can get sqweeky. I love mixing up the high and low notes and a lot of other artists has been doing it before me. I like for example Major Mackerel and Sister Ruby, who also made it in their own way. It’s just fun tell you the truth.
How do you work with the team who helps you promote yr music?
We send the music to whoever we think that might be interested. Just put it out there as much as we can and try to reach as many crowds possible. And keep creating.
By the way my favorite tune is Would You Like. What do you consider you highest high, if someone asked you to recommend them 1 song and 1 song only?
Hard to choose one. I think No Guns from the mixtape is the one I like the balance in the most.
The last serious question in this interview. Do you sing in the shower? How do your lyrics come to ya? Some people are struck by inspiration in such intimate unexpected moments like when in the bathroom or the kitchen doing dishes.
I sing\chat everywhere. Depends on the time, but I always fool around with lyrics and melody. It’s something that can come to me in a splash of energy sometime in middle of doing something else, sometime just writing it, hard to predict it. Only when I need to finish it up it takes a bit more focus.