It's been two years since Rebekah, the British monarch of hard grooving techno, has touched down on the shores of Australia. Her imminent return is begging to stir up techno head all across Melbourne and Sydney.
Since standing behind the turntables for the first time two decades ago, Rebekah has established herself as one of the leading exponents of techno. Her love affair with the harder sounds stretches back to the legendary Que Club in her hometown of Birmingham where she drew influence from the likes of Dave Clarke, Derrick Carter, Richie Hawtin and Billy Nasty. The fact she now shares billing with artists of this calibre is testament to her talent.
Before she destroys us with her sets, this writer got the opportunity to shoot over some questions to pick her brain.
From personal experience, how important would you say it is to be patient with your DJ’ing/ music career? Did you have a second job to get by when you were working on your craft? How long did it take for you until you felt like you had “made it”?
My experience really was an accumulation of things, I stopped partying in the first instance, took some time to really separate my love of music from drinking, I always think that when you are in party mode, you generally do what you have to do but nothing more and music needs a clear head to be able to manifest itself, to be creative to work on projects, for me anyway :) The second part was just letting go of any expectations with my music and DJing and just to create what I like with no reason or end game. When you create music the label should really be the last part of the process, and sometimes the music doesn’t even get on to a label and you have to be ok with that. During this period around five years ago I worked full time at Apple, prior to that I worked as a model and did some promo work, as well as help run some events in my home city and of course part time gigging, mainly in the UK. Working at Apple gave me a steady income where I stopped pushing for bookings and focused on the production side of things and it also kept my mind busy so I was unable to obsess or allow my idle mind to generate the before mentioned expectations. This period of time was really lovely, even spiritual in some way. This of course was my path to letting go of control and just seeing what would happen.Everyone’s path is different in the creative industries but this is what worked for me and within 10 months I was able to stop working altogether. Obviously the lead up time to this was a good 16 years….but most people don’t realise that! As for making it, it really depends how you define that, I think it’s important to keep working on projects, once one is finished move on to the next otherwise you will become stagnant.
A lot of techno artists listened to various sub genres of rock music before entering into the techno realms. Before electronic music entered into your life, you were listening to grunge music. Why is it that, in your opinion, many producers/ Dj’s and listeners come from rock to techno?
Perhaps it’s the similarities in energy that draws them to techno, it can be quite aggressive and brutal and I suppose rock, metal, grunge, punk all share that common theme. Especially it seems with the UK producers and the sounds they create, whereas a comparison would be to look at early Detroit techno where the influences were electro, disco, New York house and latin beats and the sound is altogether different again. Another interesting aspect is the rave and breakbeat influences which UK techno moved on from, everything evolves and is inspired by something else, producers will always create outside the box to make something new.
You’re coming down to Australia for two gigs, first in Melbourne for Stranger’s 3rd birthday and then for a show are the Burdekin Hotel in Sydney. Where’s your head at coming into playing these shows and how was has your past experiences in Australia been?
The last tour in 2014 was really interesting to get an overview of where the scene was at in the cities I played, but I am excited to return and play for a new promoter and crowd. I am aware of what guests have been coming over so know the sound works well, Melbourne was probably my favourite city, sharing similarities with Berlin and at times it felt I could also be in the UK, it really does have that European vibe. And in keeping with that, Stranger was a great party and people reacted well to the music and when the resident DJs are warming up and closing with quality techno you know it’s got a healthy scene.
Have you heard much about the bustling techno scene down in Melbourne?
Haha, see above answer, looking forward to coming back, maybe also to try out some even more tougher and experimental sounds.
You’re a “visual person”. When you start working on music, does your inspiration mostly come from visual cues or do you also factor in other forms of inspiration? Does this form of inspiration apply when you’re performing a DJ set?
It really depends but it definitely is one of my tools, I use memories or a feeling from the weekend if it was particularly good or mentally transport myself back to one of my favourite venues aiming to get a feel for the acoustics. I also recently got back in to sampling, so I would just hear something on a tv show or movie which would speak to me and I would use that and build a track around it. On other occasions I can just sit still in the studio for a few moments and ask myself what would I like to come out, a way of clearing the mind and mental clutter. For my DJ sets I try to work solely on energy, I have a baseline (no pun intended!) of what works for me to start bringing my energy up and then I see how it works with the crowd, I also have caught myself humming to the beats, some kind of weird fifth chakra alignment to the music, I swear its something new with me and something I do automatically, as you can tell I’m slightly nuts! Then whilst I keep an eye on the crowd I will try and take it in different directions but all within a similar energy range and the occasional cool down or rest track can be played.
Recently, you’ve been playing some shows with Ritchie Hawtin’s PLAY Differently mixer. How was your mixing experience on it and how did it affect the way you approached a DJ set? What’s your comparison between the PLAY Differently and your beloved Xone 92?
Well there appears to be a new kid in town….it was an absolute delight to take the Model 1 on the road with me, within 5 minutes of playing on it you hear the sound quality, its warmer in the mid range. I don’t feel the need to have 4 channels playing at once like I do with the Xone 92. Another aspect is that you can boost a selected frequency range which came in handy mainly in the kick and sub. I am sure most techno DJs will agree that is what varies most widely between tracks, so those that may have been benched due to having not enough impact can now be bought back in to your set. The low and high pass filters instead of EQs also makes for a smoother sounding mix too. It’s on my hit list to buy but I recently bought the Oberheim Ob-6 instead.
In an interview from earlier this year (for getintothis.co.uk) you mentioned that you’ve been playing with a Roland TR-8 drum machine for you sets. How’s your experience been using the drum machine thus far and have you thought about working it into your DJ sets?
Setting it up with Traktor made it pretty solid and it was lots of fun when I toured with it. The only draw back is that I was working 5 channels, plus managing individual kicks and percussion hits and it started becoming a little overwhelming, and at times it was tough keeping everything moving fast within the set, so I stopped the kick and then just used the clap and ride cymbal. Then, at some point it felt like such a big piece of kit to carry for just two extra sounds within a set, which I can also just use sampled hits with Traktor, so in the end I have decided to go back to drawing board and create more of a semi live/DJ set and do a proper tour when my album comes out next year. This will be more special and give me more time to get comfortable, the inclusion of the 303 will also make for some extra craziness.
One thing that makes techno so great is that it is always innovating itself. How would you describe the new sounds that you’re hearing over in Europe?
Yes it totally is, I am hearing a lot of industrial sounds, broken beats which then passes over to the ambient and experimental genre which gives techno producers some more freedom to be creative, this for me is where I hear the most original music. Also the analogue arps within the more dance floor lead techno may have reached critical mass but it shows no sign of stopping too. There is also some drum n bass variations coming through too which makes for an interesting take, slower obviously but maintaining strict true to form percussive workouts. Outside of playing shows and working on music, what kind of personal interests/ hobbies do you explore?
The past year has seen me get seriously obsessed with Crossfit, it started as something for me to get my fitness levels up but the benefits are way bigger. I just can switch off for an hour or so a day, it’s kind of like a really tough zen state and has helped me give less of a damn about what’s going on around me, that’s not to say I don’t care, I do, but the day to day trivial things just don’t bother me anymore.