Q&A: Babe Rainbow Winds Down 'Endless Path' With 'Chopped and Screwed' Beats

Published at spinner.ca

By Anupa Mistry

It’s only been two years since Vancouver’s Babe Rainbow, aka Cameron Reed, began dreaming up dense, diabolic beats on his computer, but he’s already releasing a second EP for super-esteemed electronic label Warp. The ‘Endless Path’ EP is an eight-track collection of Warp-encouraged sonic experiments in free-form bass music traipsing through surreal, cinematic territory. Part of a wave of renewed, Internet-fueled enthusiasm for forward-thinking beat scientists, Babe Rainbow is also fresh off playing Mutek, Montreal’s digital music fest, and producing for a curated list of up-and-coming rappers.

Straddling the cusp of so many scenes might seem daunting, but Reed is affable and totally nonplussed leading up to the release of ‘Endless Path.’ Spinner caught up with him to talk about Vancouver’s electronic scene, working with Warp, and why no one really knows how to make electronic music.

Okay, so I never really associate Vancouver, B.C., with electronic music…

I came from punk/noise scenes and it wasn’t until getting picked up on Warp that people from the electronic scene began paying attention and reaching out. I’ve learned over the last two years that the scene is small but the attention toward it is growing quickly. At Mutek, I was part of the New Forms Festival showcase, and played with a collection of West Coast, Victoria, and Vancouver electronic beat artists. Seven acts of varying styles, from the same place, in a city like Montreal, at a festival that highlights the cutting edge of electronic music … seeing how people responded to that was really incredible.

You’ve mentioned in interviews that you don’t really know how to make electronic music proper. Do you still stand by that statement?

Making electronic music is so unlike any other thing. You can grow up with piano lessons or figuring out chords to a Green Day song. But with electronic music, even if you know how to use a program or have one synth and a drum machine, it is so difficult to just recreate your favourite electronic songs. Especially abstract stuff, like the guys who made Warp “Warp” — Autechre and Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. So in a way, no one knows how to make electronic music, you just “do” electronic music. That’s the amazing freedom I’ve found working in that medium: making music, with no rules other than, “I like that last Liars record, let’s try to evoke that sort of feeling,” and building around that.
Your music is kind of diabolical sounding — where does that come from?

When I listen to a lot of music nowadays, I feel the same thing. Bands don’t really pull any emotions out of the listener other than happy or sad. But the human range of emotions is so vast. When I’m producing and I write something that actually affects me, I will continue working on that, whereas if I write a melody that’s just sort of nice, I tend to scrap it.

Conversely, and I know its other people’s music, but your mixes are pretty upbeat.

One of the hardest things I find doing my music live is finding a linear narrative. Going through the catalogue of things I’ve produced, they’re all very different and it’s hard to put them together in a way that makes sense to a listener. So DJing — dance, rap, four-on-the-floor — yeah, it’s for fun. I don’t think a musician, especially one that has two EPs out, has to be one thing. The music that I make is dark, and that’s intentional. I want to have fun if I party and I’ll bum people out with the music that I play if I’m doing a live set!

Tell me about putting ‘Endless Path’ together.

I had been producing straight since the label decided what songs they wanted to release for the first EP, ‘Shaved,’ last year. Warp is incredible to work with — they’ve always encouraged me to keep experimenting — so I sent demos to the label as they happened and got great feedback. Eventually, they brought up the idea of another EP and suggested songs that would fit. I don’t think I’m artistically prepared to produce a solid body of 10 tracks that complement each other because I’m still in my own phase of experimenting. But that’s certainly a goal moving forward.

Is there weird pressure being signed to Warp?

When it first happened I yelled, then looked up the guy’s name because I thought someone was playing a prank on me. I don’t feel any pressure; making music should be fun and that’s why I do it. I feel more pressure from the community when people make music that’s similar or new artists get attention. That makes me feel like I have to step my game up. I’m definitely not trying to live up to the greatness of a labelmate like Brian Eno.

How did your hip-hop collaborations with G-Side and Main Attrakionz come together?

That is all through my homie Davey Boy Smith, out of London, who runs the rap blog Southern Hospitality. They’re doing some serious behind-the-scenes right now hooking up young rappers with forward-thinking producers of a variety of styles. I think they just hooked up [Montreal’s] Lunice and Young L.

Do you think listeners have to be familiar with the concept of “chopped and screwed” music in order to be able to relate to your work and put it into context?

I feel like screwing a track does a lot to make someone hear something else other than a straight remix, but yeah, when I produce I generally take a synth line and say, “Okay, what’s the least obvious way to approach this?” That’s probably partially why most of my stuff gets deemed “sludgy electronic.” I don’t think people know what I’m trying to do or make or my background, but it’s resonating. Hopefully people keep their minds open to new, different sounds.

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