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Interview: The Bloody Beetroots

The enigmatic figure behind the Bloody Beetroots, Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo chats to Stephen Connolly about the process of composition and the importance of punk-rock

Bloody Beetroots’ veiled mastermind has a silly name. It would be deceitful of us to pretend otherwise. One advantage of interviewing the man himself via email is it negates the need to awkwardly stammer a request for a man titled ‘Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo’ to an impatient PA over a crackly international phone line.
Bloody Beetroots’ official website describes the project as “an anomaly amidst the cocooned trends and coddled pedigrees of dance music.” A fraction self-aggrandising that may be, but Sir Bob is clearly determined to stand apart from the rest of the rabid pop-electro pack, and often succeeds. How though?  It’s not the black Venom mask disguise; the likes of Deadmau5 and Daft Punk have been concealing their identity with outlandish headgear for ages and by now the notion is old hat.  It’s also probably not necessarily the music. It must then be something less superficial.
Perhaps it’s how seriously Sir Bob appears to take all this, compared to most of his contemporaries. “This isn’t dance music as hedonistic escape,” he explains. “This is shared adrenaline as catalyst and call to action. Free your ass and your mind will follow, to flip a Funkadelicism.”
The Italian multi-instrumentalist Simone Cogo formed the Bloody Beetroots project in late 2006 and quickly won the benevolence of the wise men of electro-house, Steve Aoki, Etienne de Crecy, Alex Gopher and several others. He has since then involved himself in virtually every artistic aspect of the project, including directing the music videos and designing items of clothing, with much success. In 2009 Sir Bob toured with Aoki and in 2008, his song ‘Butter’ was included on the soundtrack for FIFA ‘09 and adverts for season two of Jersey Shore, as well as featuring extensively on European and North American dance charts.
“I studied at art school and the two subjects which really shaped me are photography and life drawing. There was a certain strength which came from working with a thick graphite pencil and black and white photography which inspired me and now inspires my complete Bloody Beetroots aesthetic. The market is really competitive at the moment but everyone is so unique. [It’s a] race to nowhere and if we started to compete then we will just end up copying each other. I have never felt any anxiety of expectation with my music but I do feel a sense of disappointment with how the electronic scene has been taken advantage of by the music industry. My efforts now are to restore the dignity and the true form of the genre, so we don’t lose sight of why we all do this.”
Worth a bash, we guess. In addition to touring his DJ set (with his collaborator Tommy Tea) his decision to tour as live band ‘‘The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77’’ offers more dynamism and potential for unpredictability in live shows than the rather sterile and austere laptop, sequencer and lights-driven, orthodox performances of his more renown contemporaries. This, no doubt, can be at least partly attributable to Sir Bob’s duty to punk-rock’s history: ‘‘[It] has been an essential part of my musical growth but it has completely lost its social impact. I say this reluctantly because I actually can’t think of another genre of music which has taken its place in creating a revolution. The social context which made it so important has been lost as the genre changed so drastically. We need to learn how to make people aware of the social and culture importance in music.’’ In fact, of the few ways to distinguish Sir Bob from the others in the live band is to search for the ‘1977’ tattoo adorning his sternum; it’s a year given significance by him due to it being the birth year of both himself and the genre of punk. Well, almost.
In October of last year Sir Bob opted to release the latest single, ‘Chronicles of a Fallen Love’, purely in sheet music form initially, inviting fans to put forward their own interpretations before the frenetic official version (with guest Greta Svabo Bech singing) was released. “This was a conscious decision because I wanted my fans to view the song as a piece of music. Often in dance music people don’t treat the music as if it is that, they treat it as if it’s disposable. My idea was to make it about the music, and nothing else.”
A number of fan-made ‘premixes’ subsequently surfaced on Youtube, displaying varying degrees of inventiveness and, as Sir Bob ruefully notes, musical competence: “The response was brilliant, but I was so surprised that a lot of my fans couldn’t read sheet music and had to use software to convert the score.”
This is but a part of an interesting, if perhaps not very durable, trend developing. Also released in the past year , Beck’s most recent album ‘Song Reader’ consisted solely of a collection of sheet music scripts and artwork, and will allegedly never exist in an official audio format, save for interpretations from other performers and fans uploaded to his website. And you thought My Bloody Valentine were wilfully obtuse.
When composing a song, Sir Bob explains that he initially devises a title, and all melody and vocal content, if any, follows from there. “The real magic of creating music is that your hand guides you as a composer. I always imagine I’m travelling or see myself on a colourful journey and that sometimes quick-starts the process.”
This isn’t the end of that however, as Sir Bob goes on to excitedly allude to his future plans of experimenting with gospel music, as well as a new album and, mysteriously, a film. This endearing level of artistic ambition, or, as those less-enamoured by Beetroot’s thumping charms may put it, pretentiousness, as opposed to gimlet-eyed capitalism, is perhaps what makes Bloody Beetroots that bit more interesting than some of competition on Beatport’s charts and, crucially, more likely to be remembered.

The Bloody Beetroots play The Academy on March 8th