Revisiting: Red Rack'em - The Early Years

By Alex Traska on 4th Dec

For as long as I've known him, scottish-born Red Rack'em has focussed on steadily developing his career as a well respected and very talented producer and DJ. His ambition is inspirational and he's a very busy man; maintaining a busy DJ schedule around the world, another production alias "Hot Coins" (which recently added a whole live band for the recording of the debut album out earlier in 2013 on legendary German label, Sonar Kollektiv) and numerous requests for interviews and remix work. As if that weren't enough, he also maintains his Smuggler's Inn podcast series, broadcast live on underground web radio station, MyhouseYourhouse radio.

Some time around 2003, Rack'em and Makermet first crossed paths at underground music events during his time living in Nottingham and as creatives looking for mutual help and support in our work we began working together on small projects. Rack'em bolstered the pirate theme of his name with "Smuggler's Inn" parties at various venues in Nottingham. In one of our earliest projects together, Alex Traska (one half of Makermet) produced a series of four pirate-themed movie-style posters to promote some of these events, featuring digital photo compositing techniques to create scenes. The last in that series, shown below, also featured a visual "easter egg" that was an as-yet unpublicised promotional poster for another forthcoming Rack'em event "The Big Shot Ruckus", which can be seen on the board lying against the unconcious "wench"!

saltwater badfriday web-529f55717e6a6

In 2010, immediately prior to his relocation to Berlin (where he still lives today), Rack'em was preparing for the launch of his debut album 'Early Years'. Not originally conceived as an album, the tracks featured had been produced over the preceding years, some having been 12" single releases on labels including London's Tirk Records. Each track came with a short background story, printed in the sleeve, which lent a welcome and human context to the selection. Keen to put more than just his stories and music into the album, Rack'em plundered the family archive of old photographs and even his school exercise books (the pencil writing behind the CD is a recipe for baking cookies!), for preparation as a digital collage used on the final design.

Since the album was released on his own, fledgling label "Bergerac" it was important to keep production costs low. It was originally assumed that producing a digipak CD package would be far more cost effective, but we were suprised to find that the cost was almost DOUBLE. For the sleeve notes, the background stories copy for each track was enormous! It'd have required a far larger and hence far more expensive booklet to feature it all at a readable text size. It had to fit on just 3pp. Another level of complication was that we still wanted to have the collage of old family photos visible behind the text, but with no negative space to play with and text at such a small size, the only option was to use a fairly heavy semi-opaque black layer between text and images. It's a shame that more of the photos aren't visible, but it simply was not going to be possible without doubling the size of the booklet. Maybe there'll be a deluxe version somewhere in the future?


Personally, we feel that one of the most successful aspects of the design is the image actually printed onto the CD itself, featuring an original illustration by Silke Eiselt of a young Rack'em listening to his headphones in a deckchair (the photo of which is revealed when the CD is removed from the tray). The white flood on the CD is interrupted by the 'EARLY YEARS' title and the 'Bergerac' logo so that the holographic silver effect of the CD surface shows through, which reacts nicely with ambient light when handled. Printing on CDs is great, because you're essentially handed a free "silver holographic foil" finish to work with.

You can see more photos of the album design in the "Work" section

As of December 2013, "In Love Again", is Red Rack'ems latest single to hit the shops on the excellent "Wolf Music" record label (in both vinyl and digital formats, available now at Juno records and has been received with great critical acclaim by fans of his gritty, Detroit inspired deep house sound.

To catch up with Rack'ems gigs, releases and podcasts, head on over to his website at

About the author


Alex Traska

Founder / Creative Director

Alex's works with clients as brand consultant and strategist, and with the in-house team and a large network of collaborators as creative director and art director.

Related articles

© Copyright Makermet Creative 2021. All rights reserved.