We’ll be presenting Switzerland’s Round Table Knights as our headliners on Saturday. Although RTK have been producing for quite a while now, 2010 really has been their year, having released the ingenious Caribbean-flavoured monster ‘Calypso’, revolving around a steel drum melody and subby kicks, it’s been smashing big systems for a good six months now. This was shortly followed by the drunken, gypsy-house debauchery of ‘Cut To The Top’. As if that wasn’t enough, they’re now winning over more fans with their remix of summer anthem ‘Coma Cat’. And Jesse Rose praised them as playing the best house sets of 2009.
I caught up with the uber-positive Biru Bee, one half of Round Table Knights, to discuss RTK’s hip-hop past, the state of online music piracy and what it’s like to be part of the mighty Deadfish/Made To Play family…
Note: this is an interview from the Pelski archive and was recorded on 2nd November 2010
Pelski: What was it that first got you into electronic music? Any early experiences that stand out?
Biru Bee: Hhhmmm well I come from hip-hop… first a bit of graffiti but I was too bad… so then I was really into scratching… but my first electronic music to be honest was maybe really bad Euro dance chart stuff from my older sister! haha!
Euro Dance…everyone’s gotta start somewhere …! How long ago was it that you were DJing hip-hop? Do you miss it?
Well we were real nerds about scratching… Round Table Knights was, in the early days, a turntablism team and we were scratching all day and watching nonstop ITF & DMC movies. We also went to the DMC Finals a few times in London but just as guests…hahaha. But we’ve been DJing now for 10 years… and I don’t miss DJing hip-hop because we often play it in our sets….
I guess you’ve picked up alot from your hip hop past.
Your production style I would say owes quite alot to Hip Hop: that really fun sort of cut’n’paste sampling style that you’ve made your trademark (along with the likes of Renaissance Man , ZDS, etc). Would you say hip hop has influenced your current style?
Yes I think it totally has…. especially as you say with the cutnpase / sampling….. but there’s also a lot of other influences from everywhere! As we’re really always open to all kinds of music.
In terms of your productions, you started out on the more colourful electro side of things. Now you’ve definitely moved to a more consistently housey template. But it still seems colourful, playful, if you will? Do you think that’s a fair description of your music: playful and colourful?
I like that you say we moved… and I think that is something really important to us – that we always keep on moving forward. And yeah that description sounds good to me because I never know what to say when people ask what kind of music we do… because if I say I house then people think stuff like DJ Antoine (in Switzerland), so I often say electronic music, or tell them they should just listen to it and call it whatever they want to…
Yeah it’s certainly hard to pigeonhole. There was quite a big change in direction at one point though. I mean, you were producing Baltimore club on ‘Freak For Desire’ and ‘Pop on Hold Me Back’. But then the Belly Dance EP on Deadfish was quite a big departure…
Did you decide suddenly that you wanted to change your style to something more minimal?
No as I say it’s just about moving forward and being open to all kinds of different sounds. There was never an idea like ‘now we wanna do more housy stuff’ or anything like that. We do what we like to do and it’s important to have fun
Yeah, it’s fun-loving music. Speaking of which, I know you used to host some pretty wild parties in Switzerald, do you still run those?
Well I have for almost 2 years run my own Club in Bern Switzerland, where I do the all the bookings and I’m also owner together with some other friends. It’s called Club Bonsoir (www.bonsoir.ch) there we play once a month where we invite friends like Solo, Jesse Rose, Brodinski, Zombie Disco Squad and so on…
Do you have the time on top of all the touring you’re doing at the moment. You’re schedule looks pretty hectic.
Hmmm well I’m really happy how it is… it’s just perfect! The best job in the world! But yes of course it’s busy but as long as we have power to do what we want and as long we have fun doing it, it’s perfect! And yes there is still a bit of free time where I can meet my friends or go to the cinema or whatever…
That’s good to hear.
You’re kind of part of a large crew of what Solo jokingly refers to as – dare I say it – ‘Midget House’. Deadfish and Made To Play spring to mind. Renaissance Man, Mowgli, Solo, Jesse Rose, etc. Is it one big happy family?
With Zombie Disco Squad we’ve been good friends for a very long time. I think they first invited us to London for our first ever visit… and then we invited them to Switzerland. And now on the 5 Year Made To Play [compilation] we did a track together [‘Endless’] and they also remixed ‘Calypso’. But yes it’s one big family and I’m always happy to see them again or keep in touch online and help each other etc… We are very lucky that we are part of the Deadfish and Made To Play fams! Love, Peace, Happiness!
A ZDS remix of Calypso. Sounds interesting.
It’s a BANGER!!!
Ha yeah I think I saw a clip of Jesse Rose dropping it somewhere and everyone going mad.
Yes, it’s out now on the 5 Year Made To Play Compilation.
So this is a bit of a hackneyed question, but given that you guys have very much been loved by the blogs, what are you opinions on file sharing? Has the fact that you originally gave out a few productions/bootlegs for free to the blog community come back to bite you at all? I notice there’s quite a lot of unsanctioned copies of your ‘Coma Cat’ remix or ‘Calypso’ up for free dowload on hypem.com.
Hmmm of course for us it’s super important to have support from all the blogs! I think it’s really helped us a lot. But I’m really sad when I see blogs posting stuff in high quality and sometimes entire releases – they don’t have any real respect. We do our seasonal mixes which we put online for free which is for the people who like what we do, and there we always get great feedback.
Do you think the music industry is being damaged by these disrespectful blogs and illegal downloads?
No I don’t think it’s just because of blogs or the internet. I think the music industry slept for a long time and they made so much money in the early days but then in doing so, as I say, they fell asleep. Today the music bizz changes everyday and I think it’s really hard to make some money as an indie label or artists, but it is possible…
This one’s a bit of a chin-stroker, bordering on the ostentatious … but I’ll ask it anyway:
The likes of ‘Calypso’ and ‘Belly Dance’ rely heavily on samples imported from far-away lands. ‘Ethno-sampling’, as it were. Using horns and djembas, for example, to give it an exotic vibe – a staple of the Deadfish and Made To Play sound. Famed producer Matia Aguayo recently made quite a derisive comment on such music in The Guardian: “Adding a few congas and a ‘Latino’ vocal does not reflect a willingness to learn from other cultures.” What would your response be to this kind of criticism?
Ha ha of course it’s right what he says I think. We would never say that our music has something to do with learning from other cultures…. but maybe if someone hears ‘Calypso’, they perhaps like the sound and start looking for calypso music. But then again I’m not sure, that has never been the idea behind our music, that people should learn something from it or for it to be political… that can be done by others. For me, personally, if I hear something and I like it, then I sample it – as we said before, in the typical hip-hop way of course, with respect. I am lucky that when we go out and play we have the chance to travel to countries that we have never visited before and we can see other cultures and also learn from them. It’s a bit of a hard questions to answer in writing… I think in a way he is right but music does not have to be so serious all the time.
I’d agree that Aguayo is missing the point. The hint is in the title: ‘dance music’ is about dancing, not about insight into far-off cultures.
So I know you’re putting your finishing touches to your debut album. Could you tell us a bit about it?
Yes it will be our first album – released in 2011 – and I’m super happy with it… I think it’s a good mix between dancefloor stuff and stuff you can listen to at home. To be honest I was not so sure about doing a dance album, but now I’m really happy that Jesse pushed us to do it haha… The single will feature Ogris Debris and will be out in Dec! More info on that soon.
Great and have you got any up-and-coming artists you think we should keep an eye on? Any tips?
Yes please go check all our friends from Bern: Mercury they will soon be releasing an EP on Gomma and we also did a remix for them – they are amazing! Also there is Wildlife who has new stuff too… this is a bit more Tropical-Dub-bla bla bla stuff but also very nice. And then please go check out Jagged, they have a new release out soon. Wow there is so much good stuff from Bern! Haha. Also Homework and Monkey Safari, Ogris Debris… A super label I have to say is: Suol! And yes there is so much more other good stuff, it’s crazy, and of course don’t forget to check the news from Made To Play and Deadfish.
Well thanks alot for the interview Biru, we’re really looking forward to having you play on the 6th November.
Thank you! We’re looking forward to it too… and to meet you in person!