"I’ve lived in Santa Fe just over a decade, but you get to this point living here where you’ve almost gotten everything out of the town you can,” Red Cell tells SFR. “Don’t get me wrong, I love it here. It’s just that this opportunity to move to Tangier is the kind of thing that really only comes along once in a lifetime, and that’s if you’re lucky.”
You heard right, Santa Fe: The local promoter, artist, writer and generally beloved citizen is leaving us for Morocco at the end of the month, and it's a huge drag.
You may know him from any number of artistic outlets through the years because, chances are, you've seen a Red Cell event. He first entered my consciousness as a manager at The Candyman back in the days when the shop also housed a space for record sales, and the job solidified his place within the community as a music lover. He worked there until the shop's reconfiguration and eventually pursued a degree in self-design and experimental curation from the College of Santa Fe, later the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. It's an area of expertise that might just as easily be called "fancy art training," but it would aid in Cell's work with his music promotion effort known as The Process, his website, and his eventual partnership with fellow local arts genius JC Gonzo, called the Product Division.
Cell would also collaborate with such local organizations as MIX and the After Hours Alliance, but before either even existed, he booked dozens of underground musicians and performers at clubs like Corazón, Santa Fe Complex, High Mayhem and even in his own living room.
According to Cell, "I brought something like 200 acts in six years, and despite bringing bigger and better talent each year, it got harder…like, with Mona Mur from KMFDM, I think about 30 people showed up for that, and so as much as the upcoming move is a sort of romantic gesture to the universe, I had to realize that I was paying out of pocket and couldn't afford to keep subsidizing Santa Fe's cultural scene."
The remarkable thing about Red Cell was his willingness to operate within the confines of well-known genres while expanding collective knowledge through lesser-known artists who represented those worlds. We're all aware of music like folk or punk or rock, but the acts brought to town by Cell that could technically be labeled as such were always fringe or outsider artists. There was always a tremendous opportunity for enlightenment and broadened horizons at a show sanctioned by the man, which makes his move a major blow.
And yes, although much of the credit for the many phenomenally cool shows belongs to Red Cell himself, he maintains that whatever success he enjoyed can be attributed to friends, colleagues and the community.
"Oh, I almost always had some kind of help, and I really have to give it up to Christel Davies, as she was my right hand when I was doing The Process," Cell says. "Without her unfailing support, none of those shows would have happened. I hate to use the word, but I am blessed to have had so much help from the community because I absolutely could not have done any of this on my own."
Personally, I'll miss Cell on a couple different levels, and given how many acts he booked, I had to ask about his favorites. He didn't even have to think about it before we compiled the following list of his Top 10:
Legendary Pink Dots
"Oh, this show was a godsend."
"Obviously he's a folk legend, and we had to turn people away at the door."
"She went from one of my heroes to becoming a dear friend…just a fantastic musician."
"His first show ever in the state was for me, and he played for two-and-a-half hours!"
"There was hardly anyone there, and it still wound up being one of the best shows I ever did."
"They're a huge name now, almost to the point that I can't believe they played here.
Rio en Medio/Pillars and Tongues
"These acts played here so much that I'm doubling them up and calling them the unofficial house bands of The Process."
Word Virus with Idris Goodwin and Shelly Hirsch
"It was a poetry slam kind of thing, and I think 30 or 40 people performed… incredible."
John Balance Deathaversary
"Balance was, of course, in Coil, and for the 10 th anniversary of his death, I had 13 bands cover Coil songs in rapid succession. It could have been a mess, but it worked out beautifully."
Godspeed, Red Cell…I love you, girl.