With their expressionless fright masks and slaying dancefloor electronica, Bloody Beetroots are proving themselves a mighty force to be reckoned with. Henry Northmore meets them
On the backstreets of Bassano del Grappa, in northern Italy, an ungodly experiment took place. Elements of Slayer and Daft Punk were fused together to produce the mutant progeny that is Bloody Beetroots, a vicious electro duo whose music hits like a fist to the face. Clad in expressionless fright masks they are bringing horror and individuality back to the world of electronica, slaying dancefloors across the globe, from Europe and the US to Australia and Japan they are leaving a bloody aftermath of dancefloor devastation in their wake. The cult of the Bloody Beetroots is growing. And there’s no escape from their addictive, acidic techno attack.
It all started so differently with producer and DJ Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo training in classical music as a child; he was soon lured to the darkside by the raw passion of punk, playing in various punk bands before being turned on by the possibilities of electronica. ‘Electronic music is based on conventional music but it’s also a vehicle for developing new sounds,’ explains Rifo. ‘It has the capacity to generate a new aesthetic of music and this is both indispensable and very attractive.’
Citing names such as Chopin, Debussy, Daft Punk, Black Flag and Joy Division as influences, it is Rifo who writes and produces all of Bloody Beetroots’ output, but to add extra muscle to DJ sets he formed an unholy union with DJ Tommy Tea in 2007. ‘He was the tour manager with my first punk band,’ says Rifo of how they first joined forces. ‘Now he takes part in the DJ sets adding a dynamic, visual element as well as live musical manipulation.’ But they are still heavily influenced by the power of punk: ‘not only as a music, but as a lifestyle.’
Added to this potent brew was a love of comic books, with their black masks borrowed from Spider-Man arch-villain Venom. But it was Rank Xerox, an uncompromising and subversive sci-fi strip from the pen of Tanino Liberatore that really captured a young Rifo. ‘When I was eight years old it drastically changed how I looked at things, I love the way they talk, the ultraviolence and the sense of action in the drawings.’ Its dark, unapologetic philosophy can be heard in their dystopian, futuristic music. They have even managed to secure the talents of Rifo’s childhood hero, with Liberatore providing the artwork for their debut album Romborama, hitting the shelves later this year.
The masks add a strong visual component, creating their idiosyncratic faceless alter-egos, emphasising their unique, all encompassing world view. ‘I have a great feeling for Venetian Commedia dell’arte [15th and 16th century Venetian carnival masks and improvised street theatre] and I’m quite fond of Spider-Man too.’
The final piece of the puzzle was a distinctive name, though its origin is perhaps more logical than you might imagine: ‘It’s pure word architecture to optimise Google searches.’
It’s a many tentacled project with aspirations reaching far beyond just music. For example the thumping paranoia and frenzied breakdown of ‘Cornelius’ was written as an homage to revered sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock (and his creation, Jerry Cornelius – a polysexual, hipster secret agent and adventurer) alongside a limited edition t-shirt from graphic designer Turbo Krapfen and an accompanying video from French filmmaker, Mathieu Danet (think an even grimier version of The Prodigy’s controversial ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ promo) all released on 18 December, Moorock and Rifo’s shared birthday. ‘It’s about expanding the perception of music, destroying the definition of genre and being free,’ says Rifo. ‘All barriers are down, at last. We can consume anything, anywhere. And this is great.’
Anyone who has heard the sonic assault of ‘Awesome’ and its juddering bass underlying threatening, sinister vocals from Cool Kids or the paranoid tick tock countdown and terrifying screams of ‘Warp’ (featuring Steve Aoki) will realise their forthcoming album Romborama should slay all before them setting a new high in dark electronica. And what can we expect form their debut long player of computerised malice? ‘To be destabilised,’ laughs Rifo.
Scoring remix work for kindred souls such as MSTRKRFT, Etienne de Crecy, Timbaland, Crookers and Benny Benassi, even when starting with benign beginnings the Beetroots wreak havoc. Their remix of chart dance starlet Robyn installs her ‘Cobrastyle’ with a bleak, claustrophobic stomp and their rerub of Danish pop moppets Alphabeat on ‘Boyfriend’ produces suitably frenzied results.
It’s a desolate and forbidding world that the Beetroots have created, an electronic soundtrack to bacchanalian rock ‘n’ roll anarchy as the world burns. ‘Angst is the source of everything,’ says Rifo. ‘Darkness nestles in my thoughts.’
Promising full live shows in 2010, as you’d expect, these will go far beyond the usual set of sequencers, banks of keyboards and knob twiddling. ‘I’m working on a live show with l’Accademia di Belle Arti di Milano [The Academy of Fine Arts in Milan],’ explains Rifo, proving their commitment to multi-media domination. Demonstrating his constant craving for diversity, Rifo has once again joined forces with Aoki for hardcore punk band Rifoki and collaborated with French rock act Rinôçérôse on their latest album Futurino.
Now they are bringing their singular brand of alluring digital destruction to the decks at Death Disco, the Arches’ monthly night of electro excess (alongside special guest His Majesty Andre). When asked what to expect on the night, ‘a visit from the fire brigade’ is Rifo’s mischievous reply.
Be warned, The Bloody Beetroots are coming. No one is safe.
The Bloody Beetroots headline Death Disco at the Arches, Glasgow, Sat 22 Aug.