The last few years have been hard and fast for techno champion Rebekah. Her profile has grown substantially and a recent show at the AVA Festival highlights the lengths people will go to watch her perform.
With a new release, her first this year and coming next month on Soma Records, we woke her up from a lunchtime nap for a quick chat.
Attack: Last summer Attack hosted a week’s production masterclass at Access Creative in Birmingham and we learned you also attended the college some time ago. Can you tell us how it helped your career?
Rebekah: I completed two years there about ten years ago. It was the equivalent of three A Levels and I finished a Creative Music production course.
I was the oldest student and was about 28 or 29 at the time. Most of the people on the course were quite a bit younger than me but I really loved it. I had been producing alone for about a year whilst taking one on one sessions with one of the tutors. I then decided to join the course and despite being told I would learn things I didn’t want to learn…I loved it and it turned out to be one of the best times of my life.
It helped in many ways despite not being as in-depth as a university course. It gave me a load of small tips and fundamentals especially how to finish tracks. It really helps to learn that discipline and to get your music over the finish line.
Talking of finished music we’ve just been listening to ‘Peaking’. It’s sounds great and good to hear you’re releasing music again.
Glad you like it.
‘Peaking’ actually came from an all day jam with the Novation Peak. Over the course of the day I was jamming and just made it there and then. I have to say that I do like the new EP and do feel like it’s a new development which is important to me.
It’s also my first release of the year as last year so much of my time was setting up for the live set, that I debuted at ADE, and subsequently didn’t have too much material around.
This year it’s been worse! I’ve just been doing loads of admin so I just haven’t had the chance as I’ve been catching up on so many other matters. But when you take some time away from making music, the results can be positive.
Do you think it’s good to release a lot or take your time to improve and release when ready?
Well I kind of knew I would be ok for a little while to have a break from making music. My last release was towards the end of 2018.
I feel that there are a lot of artists that release a lot of music. However, in many ways they are repeating the same tricks and are actually more skilled in just repeating those tricks. Basically, they’re good at just that one thing.
Maybe it’s to my own detriment but I try to avoid that as much as possible. I think sometimes I’m on to something but without trying to repeat it perhaps I miss the chance to develop it.
How do you avoid repeating the same trick and consciously trying to develop your sound?
I like to take my time learning hardware and with software I got bored which is why I don’t put music out so regularly. I typically make stuff on the road but this time I wanted to really use the hardware I have in the studio. So, the approach has been different this time around and I’ve had to make the time to step back and develop.
So ‘Murder in Birmingham’ is the first record you’ve made not on the road?
More or less. ‘Peaking’ and ‘Murder’ were both half completed in the studio so it’s been more in between road and studio life than usual.
Are you active in trying to stay on top of the latest music technology?
Yes and no. For the live set I knew I wanted to do modular. So, I knew I needed to take the time to step back, learn what I needed for my purposes and then use it live. I’m still quite rudimentary in my knowledge but I want to go deeper and I plan to do so soon.
I’m not one of these guys who wants to get on top of everything that’s new and recently available. From my side, I’ve always been about really knowing the gear you have and getting the very best out of it rather than falling into the trap of having too much stuff and not knowing what to do with. Besides, it can be expensive to keep buying new gear and more so if you’re not going to use it.
The goal in my mind is to know your studio really well in order to meet the challenge of making an album. There are so many good albums out right now that have fantastic sound design, layering, concepts etc so I’m in a transition period where I’m asking myself ‘what am I saying musically?’ – ‘what am I about?’. Part of learning new gear is to help create a new direction. It can take time and so it should.
We’ve seen you recently dropping ‘Cages’ by Paula Temple. Surely working with Paula keeps you on your toes?
To be honest, Cages is probably the highlight of my set right now!
Paula is an incredible producer and blows my mind. She can be lost in sound design and will work on a kick drum for a week! I on the other hand have less patience, but being around her makes me want to improve.
The same goes for Tommy Four Seven. Both artists have individual approaches which push people and make you want to improve. The whole scene is benefiting as a result and it’s particularly exciting right now.
I’m in a transition period where I’m asking myself "what am I saying musically?
Anyone else you can recommend right now?
I just listened to the I Hate Models album. Some of the tracks on there remind me of early Daft Punk. The whole French thing really comes through and there is definitely something in the water in France that makes the music funky and experimental. Anyone who listens to it will know what I mean…
Also Ansome…his new album is great, the first time I listened to it the first two tracks were really slow and melodic, I was like “Kieran are you ok???” but thats the beauty of albums people can hear a different side to you as a producer, the long player gives you this opportunity.
Your journey has been a long one. Is that a fair assessment?
I’m happy it took so long if Im honest as I definitely appreciate it more, than say when I was in my early 20s, I don’t take the success for granted. Occasionally I get sad when I look at other younger DJs But I have to remind myself I made certain choices, like partying too hard that held me back.
One of the wake up calls came when I saw another DJ who was around 40 years old and out of their mind and it was not a good example for me to follow, I didn’t want to get to that age and still be getting that smashed. Possibly my vanity saved me in the end. So for me I’m glad that, and its some time ago now, I was able to get sober and focus on my goals.
Has an increased profile changed the way you think about yourself or your career?
I believe I’m a person of extremes and I think my life reflects that. I’ve gone far beyond where I thought I could go. Initially I wanted to be part of CLR, and that was great but when that ended I needed to re-think.
Once goals happen, and then in this case come and go, it throws you off for a while and you have to reassess yourself constantly. The number one thing is being a servant to the music and not forgetting that. The music will always be bigger than the person and I’m very aware of that.
I think the business side has helped and played its part. At college I enjoyed business studies, I know there is a lot of hate right now about where the scene is in regards to “business techno” but as a producer you need to know about PRS, PPL, GEMA etc to be fully in control of your music. When you are younger you just want to make beats but it’s important to know about the music business, it can help you make good decisions in building a career and understanding how to make money from your music.
For example working with Paula for our B2B project came with a bigger challenge after we completed our shows, just the transition from big festival techno to what works back in the club and in my sets took some time to navigate, I had to find my groove again. There is pressure from the younger producers who are pushing the music faster and harder, with weirder breakdowns, more distortion, but for them and the young clubbers they have not heard this music and I still believe they should get to enjoy what was good about the rave and hardcore era. I suppose my journey is still on going, Im still searching, I could have 16000 tracks in my collection but in my head there is still one out there that I haven’t got that will blow them all out of the water
Do you find your fitness regime is symbiotic with your music?
I simply can’t operate without keeping fit. It’s like moving meditation and it gives me a natural high! I think that’s just how I am: high intensity both in and out the studio/club and I want to share and let others feel that energy.
I believe my DJ sets are reflective of the sports I do today and not the drugs I did in my twenties. My lifestyle changes are reflected in my music and performances for sure. I also don’t think Techno is a genre that necessarily needs drugs. The music is interesting enough to dance too without needing substances.
How about your diet? You recently decided to pause being a vegan?
I was a vegan for three years but I left it behind due to my sports training as I was curious to see how my body responded to dairy, eggs in particular.
These days I’m always travelling with protein powders and bars but if all you are having is carbs, it’s definitely easier to get a plate of that wherever you are performing on the road. For me the problem with carbs was that they made me overeat. I can’t justify not being a vegan, and I’m not trying to either!
I believe my DJ sets are reflective of the sports I do today and not the drugs I did in my twenties
Being vegan requires a lot of discipline and I take my hat off to the other DJs’s that do it. I’ve put my sports goals first for the time being but I will go back to it as I believe its the only way forward. It’s quite clear that everything is changing and that we’re watching the ice caps melting in real time in no small part due to our consumption of dairy products. I know I sound hypocritical right now but it has to change and it either will or it will be forced upon us.
Being vegan however was great for my health. When I moved to Berlin I was under a lot of stress with my hair falling out and I also had a cancer scare. I decided to look at what I was eating and started to focus on what I should be eating. I went vegan for my health and my health returned rapidly. However, to stay vegan it’s very important to focus on the other factors that being vegan involves like the treatment of animals and our environment.
Before we go, what’s the latest with your Elements label?
We’ve got a new release out by Axel Picodot who is a French artist and its probably the most fun release on Elements. Its a five track EP and I’ve been playing a lot of his music in my set, probably two or three tracks of his unreleased stuff as well as this EP.
Also releases from Joefarr and Storb are coming later this year, including some great remixers on both EP’s.
The whole idea with Elements was to put out four EPs, we have 4 vinyl and 4 digital so I am feeling the concept is complete and maybe looking forward to a new concept for 2020. Before then we are launching a female clubber range with Hex Clothing which drops in the Autumn along with some label parties to close out the end of the project..
Rebekah’s ‘Murder in Birmingham’ is out July 1st on Soma Records. Find her on Instagram.