Walking up a short flight of stairs and past white drapes, we enter a room centered around stacks of electronic music production and mastering equipment. There is an unbelievable amount of dials, wires, keyboards, mixers, compressors and beat machines. The room is so full of gear it emits enough heat to cancel out the pervasive humidity of Maltese winters.
The man at the controls of this mastering studio is Robert Babicsz, an electronic music legend who will be playing on 12 December at Liquid Club. Also in the room is Juliane Wolf, German DJ and producer also on the same line-up. At the dials of these machines the emotions both of these talented individuals can evoke are at very similar wavelengths.
Invited by Carl Schembri, Robert Babicz will play under his original pseudonym of Rob Acid. On the same night we get German-born Juliane Wolf and local acts Owen Jay, Inc.mode (Carl himself) and Aciduant in a showcase of a very high standard of live and mixed electronic music.
Robert Babicz has 28 years of experience in the studio and on stage. In the late 90’s in Malta he played under his pseudonym Rob Acid and claims to have brought the first sounds of acid house and techno to the island. “The reaction of people was great, several Maltese DJs and producers have come up to me saying that they were inspired from that night onwards”.
“Malta’s underground electronic music scene in the 90’s was pure madness, but then it suddenly died. It got too big, promoters got too sure of themselves and people lost a lot of money. The scene disappeared, but now it is slowly coming back”.
Today Rob and Juliane play independently in clubs and festivals over the world. The man himself explains this is an event he performs only a handful of times a year – this is not one to miss.
Robert Babicz’s graduation from high school in 1990 coincided with the kick-start of the techno wave that took Germany and consequently the world. He recorded his first vinyl record that year on a cassette tape, sent it to a local radio station and things were never quite the same for him from that point onwards. “We all thought we were playing music of the future”.
This future music evolved into what he calls Babiczstyle. He has been ever changing in terms of what kind of music he plays and his sets can include spectrums of electronic dance music such as progressive house, techno, and of course acid – the inspiration for his name.
Originally part of Germany’s techno boom, he is a self-influenced producer that admits, prefers not to listen to other people’s music. “Music trends come and go. Listening to someone else’s music means that you are influenced by them and anything you put out will be late in comparison”. I ask Rob – after 28 years, are you still able to find new ways to produce?
“Every day I am discovering something new. Something small, but new. Every few years I get into a depression because I feel stuck, then I have to go to the next level. I have produced over 1000 tracks since I first started, and most of those were done within a day”.
Babicz believes he can produce so fast is due to a condition known as synesthesia, where a person’s senses are joined. For those who live with synesthesia, sound is not only heard, but also seen, felt, smelt or even tasted. In Babicz’s case, he describes being able “to see geometric shapes that have texture and can be felt. It takes 2-3 seconds and I can know what is wrong with the track”.
For Juliane, who has been producing for two years, considers herself to be a beginner in this area, after having spent a decade mixing behind the decks. “Producing is like a fight, a fight with myself. When I first sat down I had to understand how to make a groove. The most important part of techno is not the beat but the groove”. She talks about the process of making a groove – a sound that triggers an innate desire to move and dance. “It’s not just the beat or the kick, it’s much more than that.”
Babicz and Wolf’s dual move to Malta is an important part of the return of the underground scene, especially considering Babicz’s role as a sound engineer, mastering tracks. He can make music sound good from the smallest, grungiest of venues, to massive halls hosting tens of thousands of people.
Why is mastering important? Rob shakes his head as if he is digging deep to come up with a concise answer to my question.
“Mastering music professionally is similar work to that of a makeup artist. You have a beautiful woman. With the best makeup you can turn her into the most beautiful woman in the whole entire universe. With music I take tracks that are already good and rework them into something great that is in line with the vision of the producer.” He says that to take music to a professional level, mastering is more than necessary – it’s the obvious thing to do.
And what should people expect from the event at Liquid?
“Rob Acid is a 100% live concept. It will not be recorded or filmed and is completely improvisational. After the show, I erase any presets or loops. Every show is a one time event”.
Rob admits, “I don’t even know what to expect! I just let things happen. Sometimes I make mistakes and press the wrong button, but mistakes can turn out to be good. ”
Juliane will be playing unreleased material, some of which is inspired by the time she has spent living in Malta. As told during her Radio One interview she has produced a track called Mdina. She was inspired from the silent city to make beautiful sound.
Inscape is a promotion started five years ago by Carl Schembri focused on bringing live electronic music acts to Malta. The live aspect is important, as every event is completely unique in itself. Carl himself is a wizard behind the decks so expect a set from him too.
Words by: Luc John Claude
Photography courtesy of: Praga Agnieszka