International Man of Mystery
Photo by Clément Caron, Courtesy of Creative Commons
The first thing you notice about The Bloody Beetroots is the mask. With white arachnid eyes, the Bloody Beetroots’ comic-book-referencing disguise serves as a distancing device. The brainchild of Italian producer Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo, the electronica act is a force of nature, cranking out high energy dance music with touchpoints across a swath of styles. Roland gear has been a seminal influence along the way. “The JUNO-106 was the first synthesizer I ever bought!” he says. “It’s my first love.”
Following early career support from Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak imprint, Sir Bob continues to expand a discography filled with the type of A-list collaborators of which most festival headliners only dream. “Warp,” his breakout track with Aoki, recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. The enduring interest in that particular song delights Sir Bob, even if it’s a little unexpected. “It’s crazy to say that “Warp” has become a milestone in electronic music and even more wild to know that it was written in five minutes.”
It’s crazy to say that “Warp” has become a milestone in electronic music and even more wild to know that it was written in five minutes.
Sir Bob’s ability to integrate rock elements into The Bloody Beetroots’ production approach is unique. His eclectic list of co-conspirators includes the likes of Nic Cester of Jet on “My Name is Thunder” and Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell on “Pirates, Punks & Politics.” He appreciates what they bring to the party. “It was wonderful to write songs with such talents,” explains Sir Bob. “They were able to take TBB's music to a new level. We often forget how important real musical talent is in the production process of electronic music.”
The Bloody Beetroots’ take on electronic music is more arrangement-intensive than many of his peers, with fleshed our verses, choruses, and bridges. “I’m always personally involved in the writing process with all my singers. Topliners don’t really work. It's my story and I want to share it with the people I choose.”
With its combination of marching band/trap snares and dramatic keyboard lines, the halftime bridge of a song like “Wolfpack” hints at some unexpected influences. “I love creating different moments. That “Wolfpack” bridge is inspired by post-punk/shoegaze bands like Ride.”
A far cry from atmospheric guitar rock, Sir Bob’s classical background also shows up from time to time. “I understand harmony and how it should or could work. Having said that, I love to break down the obvious.”
That same rebellious spirit defines the artist’s image. Mystery plays a large part in the Bloody Beetroots experience, particularly the use of a persona and disguise. Were there acts that inspired the decision to perform anonymously? “Certainly, Daft Punk has played a fundamental role in choosing to wear a mask,” says Sir Bob, before opening up a little more. “The real reason for wearing the masks comes from my desire to protect my private life.”
Photo by Darwin Hansen, Courtesy of Creative Commons
Another consistent talking point for Sir Bob is his love of punk rock, begging questions about what the word means to him and whether any acts currently embody that ideal. Say Sir Bob, “Punk is my way of facing my life since I was born. It has always been like this and always will be.” He accepts, even relishes the way his attitude distances him from his electronic music peers. “I’m the black sheep and happy to be one.”
Punk is my way of facing my life since I was born. I’m the black sheep and happy to be one.
Still, there was no single defining moment when Sir Bob knew he couldn’t live without music. The power of the artform simply took over. “It is the center of my being. Music is the only language that I really know with which I can more or less say all that I have on my mind.
With a new single with DJ Fresch out now, Sir Bob continues his prolific streak. As usual, the only constant in Sir Bob’s world is change; The Bloody Beetroots’ latest release HEAVY is a stylistic about-face from his last full-length The Great Electronic Swindle. “Sonically speaking, HEAVY is substantially different,” says the artist. “It is going to reinforce my electronic attitude for The Bloody Beetroots. The only common thread between the two is the punk spirit behind the journey while creating them.”
It's mandatory to have a TB-303 and a TR-909 in the studio. You’ve created a virtual version of the two so that I can always carry them with me.
His initial love affair with Roland synths continues in the virtual world through Roland Cloud. “I'm a big fan of acid sounds and the first drum machine, so it's mandatory to have a TB-303 and a TR-909 in the studio. By your grace, you’ve created a virtual version of the two so that I can always carry them with me.”
Collaboration continues to play a large part of The Bloody Beetroots’ story. Bass house producer Ephwurd brought his distinctive touch to the single “Wildchild"
“Working with Eph was refreshing. There’s always a lot to learn when you work in the studio with different people. Eph is a magician of the sound design.” That magic extends to an adventurous rhythmic approach. “Composing a 4/4 electronic track that switches to 7/4 is not something that all producers would agree to do. He’s very open-minded.”
A singular career milestone was working with Paul McCartney and Youth on 2013’s single “Out of Sight.” One might imagine creating music with a Beatle is an experience that could leave an artist inexorably different. “It was obviously a fantastic experience that made me understand the purity of the music itself,” says Sir Bob, praising McCartney. “The absence of barriers to the call of creation without bringing bullshit like fame in front.”
He goes on to reflect on the impact their work had on him personally: "Paul is an incredible artist because he is an incredible person. It shines through in his music. It’s the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned on my musical journey.”
I tend to go to the studio with a very specific idea. Roland Cloud is the clothes that I choose to dress the idea with, especially the groove.
Roland Cloud continues to play a role in his creative process. “I tend to go to the studio with a very specific idea. Roland Cloud is the clothes that I choose to dress the idea with, especially the groove.” He also effuses about the convenience of the Cloud. “I’d say try it as soon as possible. I spent a decade sampling your stuff to make it portable and now it is like pure gold.”
Asked for some inspirational words for aspiring artists launching their own careers, Sir Bob is quick with some pithy advice: “Be yourself and grow.” Spoken like a true superhero.
The Bloody Beetroots latest EP, Heavy, is out now. Follow The Bloody Beetroots on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to see where Sir Bob takes his musical identity next.
Join Roland Cloud and try on some musical personas of your own!
BY: ARI ROSENSCHEIN
All uncredited photos courtesy of artist