Blood red electronic rock and roll.
The Bloody Beetroots are not a particularly UK-recognised phenomenon compared to their profile in the States or the rest of Europe. Their Brixton Academy show was a blistering display from a group (although headed by the protean Sir Bob Rifo) and yet there wasn’t much of a noise in the general media or in the social sphere. Admittedly, that could be due the reverberative nature of the social networks: we only hear what we’ve already heard, and new things struggle to break through. However, for Sir Bob and his alliterative band of Bloody Beetroots, barriers are being broken. Sitting at a grand piano surrounded by Gibson guitars the diminutive masked dilettante spoke to Trebuchet about rock going electric without taking 30 pieces of silver.
If I were to sum up your sounds I’d say that The Great Electronic Swindle (TGES) has elements of classic rock with EDM flourishes, is that how you see it?
The aim was to create something unique by blending multiple genres with a common denominator. The common denominator is electronic music which is part of the pop world. I wanted to use that underneath a blend of multiple genres to create Bloody Beetroots’ new sound. The reason why is that I’m a listener first of all. When I go to rock concerts, a live rock concert, I feel that the sound is not contemporary.
Now I like this music, but it doesn’t sound as powerful as say the electronic sound (within music). So I want to blend that. I want to give Rock and Roll the power that we have in Electronic music. On the track ‘My Name is Thunder’ as an example we have something like AC/DC with a pepper in the ass!
Can you describe how elements of electronic music can contemporarise rock?
I’m taking the humanity of rock and roll, the analogue, and putting it in something that is digital in a way that doesn’t take away the human condition but gives it balls.
In your press release you suggest that it’s time that listeners took a look at electronic music and made some discerning choices about whether it’s actually any good. With The Great Electronic Swindle you suggest that the undifferentiated commercialism of this music has to stop?
Absolutely. That was the purpose, but also to create and give some substance and content to a genre that doesn’t have it anymore. When we started ten years ago this genre was underground, there was no money, we were playing in dirty clubs right there with the people, but it has become so huge that it’s part of a different machine now. The machine called ‘music business’. I have nothing against the music business but it has transformed electronic music into something that is super flat.
[In many situations] My music may not be the priority of listeners, at large festivals for example where I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t feel any type of soul out there. As a musician I want to give my voice to something that could be relevant and which tells a story. The story here is my life for the last four years.
How did you translate that autobiography into music? Is each song a moment that you’re reflecting or is it more organic than that?
Each song tells you a story it’s not necessarily a link from song to song but it does show four years of life. At this stage it’s hard to attach the moments together, and we could spend months talking about each song individually and the story behind every song but what I wanted to do was create empathy with all the singers (TGES uses different singers on each track) who were friends first of all. I wanted to have all my friends on this album to create an empathic story. I care so much about music that I want to care about the lyrics too.
Did you write the lyrics or did you allow the singers free rein?
It was a bit of both. For example with singers Jay Buchanan (Rivals Sons) and Nick Cester (Jet)it came from our friendship.
I woke up one morning thinking that Nick was the right singer for that song (My Name Is Thunder). I had no idea where Nick was living at that time and I had no idea whether he would commit to recording. So I contacted my manager saying ‘I need to collaborate with Nick’. I then discovered that Nick was living Como in Italy at that time so I drove over to Como and said to Nick ‘Hey, let’s have a Pizza and some wine’ so we ended up having a great pizza with all his friends and we became friends. After sharing stories of life, after having the same aim to make a great song, after that we started.
The same thing happened with Jay Buchanan, we spent three day together, three days becoming friends before we started talking about a song.
I’m a big fan of meeting people. Like today I’m talking to you, here, face to face. We’re sharing experiences and if we don’t create empathy between us we cannot tell a story to people. It’s the same between you and I and it’s the same between the singers that I want to have on my record. Without that empathy I’m not going to be able to create the content and substance in a song that makes it ‘music’.
Did you have the music before these collaborations took place, and did you ever revisit or modify the songs after the vocals were recorded?
I absolutely had the music ready to go and in this case I didn’t go back and rework the music. I love creating the story first, I have all the colours that I want and I can give my friend the mood and based on that mood they can create something aligned. I’ve never tried the upside down of that. Maybe one day.
A double album?
17 tracks Double Vinyl and I’m happy that the record label said ‘lets go for it’.
On ‘Nothing But Love’ there is a mood that is quite different from the rest of the album. It goes to a delicate place where the other tracks have a much more aggressive sound. Can you tell us about where that depth came from?
Probably the experience I had with Jay was the deepest that I’d had in terms of music in the last ten years and is why it sounds that great. Our meeting was really something unique. When I first heard Jay’s voice on ‘Jordan’ I fell in love with his voice and I wanted to meet him.
I remember the first time we met, when I was living in Los Angeles, we were in room and there was this intense sort of vibe about him, an aroma too. A little bit of rosemary, patchouli, you know, incense. He gave me a hug the first time we met. There was really something going on. I immediately felt that this man has really got something to share. I want to listen to this guy.
We spent two days, me not talking and him just talking. About everything. About how he was living, about his struggles, about how he wanted to maintain a career and also a family. How important his family was for him and how he creates a world around this bottle of love. It was something that I really enjoyed and as soon as he started talking about these things, I knew that ‘hey, you’re my man’. I felt that we were friends because I feel the same way and I care about those things. I chose to wear a mask ten years ago because I wanted to protect my privacy. I really want to enjoy normal life with my family, friends and girlfriends. I need to have a not alienating life in order to create something that is unique with power and substance, and that’s something I felt from him. Inside him there is a crazy strength to protect this core of his family and in the song you can feel that. It sounds unique because our meeting was unique.I had the draft of the music ready before we met but we spent a long time mixing that song. I wanted it to be proper because Jay deserves a lot. I wanted his voice to be the voice of this album.
What musical influences have stayed with you over the years?
I was thinking about this recently and I came up with a list of artists and albums that have really meant a lot.
Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks
Prince – Purple Rain
Frank Zappa – The Man From Utopia (which used the same illustrator as Bloody Beetroots)
Wendy Carlos – Switched on Bach
Rage Against The Machine – RATM
ACDC – Back In Black
The Prodigy – Fat of the Land
Chemical Brothers – Surrender
Kraftwerk – Manmachine
New Order – Power Corruption Lies
No Italian albums, I notice? No Goblin for instance.
Well now Justice took a lot from Goblin and I like Simonetti and all the guys but I don’t get really inspired by their work even if I like it. Profondo Rosso is one of my favourite tunes by Goblin. There is a cool Italian band called PFM, which were another prog rock band from Italy and maybe there’s a little of their Impressioni di Settembre that you can hear a bit in Nothing But Love, but only a touch. There is something there in terms of the melody and in fact the melody of Nothing But Love is pretty intricate and at some point it goes up and really pushes.
Also in the Day of the Locust you can hear my influence of Morricone in how I use the strings and horns and you can feel it there.
There is an incredible underground scene in Italy with bands like Zu and Ovo….
Well if you know Zu then you might be interested that for a certain amount of time the drummer of Zu played with the Bloody Beetroots! We have common friends in people like Mike Patton, who’s a good friend. He lived in Bologna for a while.
But you know, I get inspired from a lot of things during the day, just from living. I’ll have an idea for a song at 10am, and then another idea at around lunch time. All these moments give me colours that I use in my music.
That all sounds very easy and organic. Do you ever struggle to get certain songs right and do you cherish those ones more because of the effort?
I don’t know if I think that way because I don’t go to the studio often. I love living my life and so if I have a story to tell I go to the studio and tell that story. If I have a good story I know I’ll probably have a good song. I guess the message is if you don’t have a good story to tell don’t go into the studio!
There is a sense of a political message on the album. A sense of bold confidence that listeners are encouraged to take and run with. Were you reflecting something in the political sphere as well as the musical?
I want to make a statement about the state of electronic music at the moment and that statement is ‘no’.
Do you think that electronic music is a microcosm of wider problems in society?
Hmm. That’s tough. Sometimes when I go to a concert and I see an artist on stage I might ask them later on how did you write that song? and they’ll answer ‘I didn’t write that song’, ‘Oh, how did you produce that song?’ and they didn’t produce it either. So you can see that we have a problem here. That happens a lot and it’s been happening a lot in the last five years. I discovered that there isn’t a lot of honesty or integrity with performers (can you really say ‘artist’?) and their fans and I want that honesty. That’s why it’s called The Great Electronic Swindle.
The music business is hiding what they want people to call ‘artists’, I don’t want to be too generalistic, but this is something that I don’t like personally. As a listener I want to go to see a live show and be completely sure, 100% sure, that what I’m experiencing is a real artist. That what I’m listening to is the core of the music because without that I cannot create a connection. The business is selling you an experience, they’re selling you festivals, but they’re not selling you artists anymore. It’s easy to create an artist to fill a gap, to sell the festival. I think we need to bring back the real meaning of music.
I’m talking about more EDM festivals of course.
Do you see yourself as an EDM artist?
I hate that word man. It’s a soup. How can you name everything in that? It’s way too general.
It does contain a lot of anodyne noise but then there are good artists like Deadmau5 who are lumped in as well.
He’s a great artist, he’s a wow artist. His music is always interesting and he always has a position. I think it’s important to have that. I want people to make a choice. Just be honest. If you don’t like my music just say no, if you say ‘yes’ then great let’s go! I want people to make a choice, I want to make a choice myself. I want to know what’s good and what isn’t. I want to go to have an experience and see the artist and I want to like them.
Bloody Beetroots – The Great Electronic Swindle – Out 20th October 2017 on Last Gang Records
Photos by Trebuchet