2ND BIRTHDAY SPECIAL EDITION - ROBERT BABICZ
Updated: Jun 17, 2022
We are rarely lucky enough to meet kindred souls through this journey called life and when we do it's an almost instantaneous feeling of unexplained familiarity. A connection that can infectiously bond certain people through a myriad of all sorts of things… sometimes love… sometimes grief.... sometimes laughter… and [in this case] definitely an obsession of all things electronica.
If anyone has managed to create a synonymous personal sound over the past three decades, Robert Babicz, would be that man. Not only is he one of the most prolific Polish-born producers, he is also a master engineer and live performer who is renowned for genre-hopping through a kaleidoscope of sounds ranging from techno to breaks to acid house and ambient with ease.
Robert has devoted his life to his craft and in doing so has released over a staggering 1000+ records on some of the worlds most well respected records labels such as Bedrock, INTEC, Kompakt, Intec and Audiomatique under an umbrella of successful pseudonyms including Acid Warrior, Sontec and Rob Acid. In recent years, he has focused increasingly on his own imprint, Babiczstyle, which epitomises his sound, emotions and ethos.
To call Robert a ‘one of a kind’ artist is akin to stating that the sky is blue. It all seems pretty obvious doesn't it? He has the ability to speak about music with the enthusiasm of a child yet the wisdom of an elder using poignant statements such as the one made in this very interview that “Music is Magic” and of course it is! We [as music lovers ourselves] are all hyper aware that music is the one universal truth that fosters connections with like minded souls from all over the world with no need for words. MUSIC IS MAGIC! The true power of music is that of reminiscent memories and how they bind us together on not only a surface level but on a spiritual one as well.
When you listen to Roberts music it is as clear as day that he was born to create it.
Music that has a retention of soul that is unparalleled.
Music that was mystically predestined.
I hope you enjoy the read.
Hi Robert! How are you today?
Hi Bean! I'm very well, thank you.
Tell us about your story and how you first came about the dance scene? What were those seminal moments that shaped your musical career from the very beginning to now?
As a small boy growing up I had this small radio that I was constantly using. Just me and my radio! I grew up with a lot of 80’s music and Italo disco was huge for me at the time. Looking back, I think the catalyst for all of my musical endeavours came from this really late night radio show which played experimental electronic music. I had absolutely no idea about any of this kind of stuff at the very beginning. The first time I tuned into this show they played things like Stockhausen and Tangerine Dream and for me it was like I was listening to alien communication. I was only 9 years old at the time and to be honest I was really afraid listening to it but I just couldn’t turn it off. I thought I had found something that was changing the whole of humanity (hahaha).
This was a truly pivotal moment in my life though because it’s the first time that I understood that sounds can really touch you (and other people) so deeply. The next time I had this same feeling was when I first listened to future acid tracks and it was so totally different…. I was positive it had to be made by aliens again! Lol….
So the transition for listening to music at home and going out and immersing yourself in the scene, how did that happen?
Well, in Germany you had to be 18 to go out and I think I was only 16 when the first acid house wave came through so for me it was just a radio thing for a while. At the time all my friends hated electronic music anyway so it wasn’t until the 90’s when the techno scene started in Cologne that I started going out. There were only two clubs so it was like a family and everything was so new. No one knew what it was going to be right? We all loved this crazy strange music and I mean ‘a club’ back then was really just a warehouse that was completely dark with only a smoke machine and a strobe! You had no idea there was a DJ there at all because you couldn’t see them.
At that time, I thought I was going to be in I.T. or a computer programmer or something like that. I mean, I liked music and started experimenting with the first basic music programs but I never really got the connection at the beginning. Then I met one of my close friends Oliver Bondzio [one half of the duo Hardfloor] and they really loved acid music you know… the stranger the better to be honest and anyways, he was going on holiday and told me that I could borrow some of his gear while he was away to try and make some music.
He gave me his 909, 303 and all this classic analogue equipement. Again, I had no idea what any of these things were. I had no musical education but I somehow worked my way through it and recorded many many tracks on a cassette tape. Three weeks later I gave him his gear back and I saw this advertisement in a DJ magazine for a new record label that was searching for a techno newcomer. This is really really crazy you know because I sent that magazine the only copy of all the music that I had made on that tape. A few days later, I got a call from them saying that they loved what I sent them and that they wanted to release it! I remember they asked for the master and I was like "Huh? You have the master! That’s all I have!" so basically my first ever vinyl record was made from that cassette tape! Crazy stuff….
A few months after I released this record I got a call from Riley Reinhold from Traum Records. Back in those days Riley was a DJ and promoter and he got my number from somebody after he had listened to my release. He told me that he was having a party THAT very night and that he would really love if I came to play. Ok so firstly.... I had never had a gig in my life… Secondly, I was extremely shy [like EXTREMELY shy] and thirdly.... I had no instruments! I [of course] told Riley I would play and he ended up borrowing some equipment for me for the gig. The instruments were all totally different than what I had used for my release though so I only had two hours to figure out how to use the drum machine and synthesizer. They were also empty so I had to program them all but I somehow managed to play an improvised 90 minute set that night. Something just clicked inside of me after that where I understood I could be myself. I could give love and receive love in return with no strings attached. Up there I could just let myself go.
From then on I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.
I’ve heard that you usually make most of your tracks in ONE DAY! Is this correct? Do you think that by working at such a super fast pace that it allows you to really focus on the mood and the emotion of the certain track without coming back to it in a different mindset on another day?
I actually have a concept about this very thing! Right now I have a lot of students who take my production classes and for me when you get that first idea and you play around with something you have this certain feeling. I, personally, think it’s really super important to rush through this and try to finish this first idea because this is super pure. At the very beginning the music is coming solely from the heart so when you leave it for a few days that ‘heart feeling’ is gone and you are just making music purely with your logical mind. It’s a completely different thing. It’s really important for me to be as pure and emotional as possible. I’m not after being perfect… I’m after living in those initial moments of emotion.
You are self-taught correct? I have read that you use the gift of synesthesia to create your work. Can you explain to our readers [who may not be familiar with this term] what you see with this gift of yours? Is it shapes? Colours? How do you think this helps in creating your music?
For me listening to music and seeing the music was totally normal. I was super surprised when I spoke to other people that they didn’t have this. I see this morphing shape that is connected to emotions.
The greatest benefit of having this is knowing within a millisecond if something is wrong or right. When I make music I just stop thinking and go completely to this emotion state and let everything just flow. I don’t have to think about how to do things and I just let it happen and see how it feels so I’ve learnt to completely trust my intuition. Everyone has an intuition and you just need to learn to trust it and then things will happen.
You seem to love to jump from genre to genre when it comes to your music. Anything ranging from your futuristic electronic and ambient soundscapes of Quattro II all the way through to your say ‘Space Funk’ on Selador which is more driving and almost electro-funk-esque… What inspires you to all these different genres and how would you describe your sound in your own words?
I invented the word ‘Babiczstyle’ for this reason alone. I mean, for me it is the conclusion of 30 years of electronic music. I find my inspiration from every person I talk to and every place I see and it’s just me transforming energies constantly. Electronic music is my way to transform this energy.
You have been quoted to say, “Music is not a business, it is a way of living”. Can you please elaborate on this? I Just wanted to add that I find it rather refreshing that this is your stance on the world of being a producer/DJ when so many others are all about ‘business techno’ and making money?
I have dedicated my life to this ethos. I mean, I am obviously really thankful that my music has given me the opportunity to make a living out of it but I would be making music regardless because I have to! During covid I lost all my income. I was close to being homeless to be honest but I didn’t stop… I just made more music because it’s in my soul. I’ve dedicated my whole life to music so for me it's not about money.
Speaking about covid.... How do you think the whole ‘lockdown’ situation affect you and your music? It seems to have affected a lot of artists differently as there was no touring and a sense of isolation. Do you look back at the music you made through this period and like it or do you have certain feelings attached to it?
Good question! It was actually a very emotional time Bean. The thing is before covid I was making music during the week and then I tested it out on the weekends so it was always a constant and immediate response to my music. Then covid hit and I lost the connection to the dance floor. I guess, the lockdowns gave me more time to do other things, for example, I started my music mentoring program so this actually really saved my arse.
As most artists during this time, I lost all my income but I started taking students through their music journey with two discord groups, one in Germany and the other for the rest of the world where I sit in the background like an old uncle (lol) and give my students tips on anything from what they can improve on to handy hints on music production. It’s a direct and nice way to have contact to a professional and getting all your questions answered straight away.
I never ever thought I would be a teacher one day … never in a million years! Over the course of 30 years I was just doing my own thing you know… I never had to ask questions or get someone to teach me anything as I’m self taught but having my students has really taught me so much about myself and why I do certain things a particular way so the past two years have been a huge learning curve for me.
Now I have student from all around the world and it makes me super proud to see how they improve and hit milestones they never thought they could like releasing their own music. It’s a nice feeling and one of the positives to come out of lockdown.
I remember watching your live stream on John Digweed’s ‘Bunker Sessions’ during this time and a few people sending me your track list days later filled with ID-ID which got me thinking…. You have SO MANY UNRELEASED tracks everywhere! What do you do with all this music that never sees the light of day? I’m assuming you must have hundreds of tracks that are just sitting on a hard drive somewhere right?
Hahaha! I now have a folder of over 120 unreleased tracks Bean. I don’t know... I guess I haven't been in the mood to think about releasing them. To be perfectly honest, I have been a little bit depressed over the past few months when I saw the whole scene come out of lockdown and everything was exactly the same. I personally thought after covid that the scene would have a ‘restart’ but I was wrong. Nobody is trying to take risks and this was really depressing for me so I didn’t release anything because I felt I wasn’t in the ‘right place’.
What did you think a 'restart' might achieve?
I was really hoping that because people were sitting at home for two years that they would be open minded and explore now sounds but right now all they want is "the same of the same of the super same".
For me, as an artist and as a musician, I’m really open and I really love going from one eclectic feeling to the next and not just playing the one emotion for two hours… No! I like my audience to travel with my music. I mean, I’m playing all these unreleased tracks now and testing them on the dance floors again so that's good I guess. I’m not sure I will release them all but at least I can test them out now and see how they go on a dance floor.
Congratulations on your gig with Carl Cox at DC10 coming up over the summer! This really highlights what a huge width of music you cover. Do you find the need to produce a certain ‘sound’ for these kind of gigs? Say more techno etc...
No, not really. I try to connect to the people and really feel what’s going on and then let that energy flow up to me. Every party is unique because the crowd are essentially playing me instead of the other way around, they just don’t know it ;)
Do you have any producers that you would love to collaborate with in future and why?
I mostly do stuff on my own but I do have a project coming up with my friend, Marc Romboy.
During covid I found I also had more time to try to do experimental things and I had a release with psy trance producer ‘Freedom Fighter’ which was different.
I am working with New Zealand producer ‘Grouch’ right now so keep your eyes peeled for that and I have also been working on some ambient tracks that I have used my own vocals on which is really interesting and exciting!
What is the most difficult thing about being Robert Babicz?
It has got to be the non-stop music in my head. I even dream of making music! My studio is on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because I dream about tracks and then I have to get them out of my head and create them as soon as possible. This never stops so I’d say the worst thing about being me is that I would sometimes like to be able to just relax!
Ok so I’ve been meaning to ask you this question for so long… What is your affinity to your red scarf? You seem to wear it a lot whilst performing.
Haha! The scarf... About 15 years ago my ex-wife received the red scarf as a birthday present but she really didn’t like it for some reason and I don’t know.... I quite liked it so I took it to a gig with me. The first time I wore it onstage I forgot I had it on but once I realised I really felt the energy of the scarf kept me in a safe place. Now I understand why Superman wears a cape! It’s like this…. During the day, I’m the 'normal' Robert Babicz but as soon as I go onstage, I put on my scarf and I am someone else. The scarf helps me… It’s got good energy!
What is some advice that you can give to someone hoping to make a career in music production?
My advice is always the same.... Don’t give up! Whatever happens always believe in yourself. You need to make the music that you really really love and not listen to the comments of other people. If you love the music you are making and it is genuinely touching your heart there will be people that will feel that and you will find your crowd.
When I started making my music everyone kept saying “Robert is crazy! Nobody will ever like this noise" but it was MY sound. At the beginning, it’s ok to try to copy what other people are doing in order to learn the craft but I don’t think it’s really necessary. Just do whatever you want and if this is totally different to what the ‘normal’ sound is then great. Any trend you follow has actually already happened so you are essentially running behind something and therefore will never be at the front. If you make something that is solely your own sound then you might be “too early” [I know all about this from personal experience! Haha!] but at least you're not running after something that has already done.
So, in closing up today, what does the future hold for you Robert? What are you most excited about? Any new releases and gigs coming up we should know about?
Besides Babiczstyle and Birdcuts, I also have a new label coming out where I want to run a kind of experiment to be honest. I want to release a new unreleased track every two weeks and see what happens. I have so much music that has never seen the light of day so I’m going to open that vaults and let them out. I finally feel that the time is right now which is really exciting!
I also have a lot of gigs coming up over Summer that will be filled with a constant flow of Babicz so stay tuned on my socials for more info!
Thanks so much for helping me celebrate GDMC's 2nd birthday Robert! Till next time...
You're welcome Bean.
Links to all things ROBERT BABICZ below:
You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyWRnmlRZchk7SxSzX0bsjA
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Our next interview will be published on Friday the 2nd of July at 7:30pm (AEST)