Although Rebekah has been in the trenches as a working DJ going back to the '90s, only five years have passed since she had her breakthrough with Chris Liebing and his reputable CLR crew — a seemingly perfect match that came as CLR was unfortunately coming to an end. But the influence of CLR could not be overestimated.
After a steady stream of EPs that seemed to be the very definition of modern warehouse techno, Rebekah eventually hooked up with the Glasgow-based Soma Records, where she debuted her first full-length album Fear Paralysis last year. Where her previous EPs relied on floor-filling hard-edged bangers, Fear Paralysis explores more nuance and succeeds in the long-form story arc that is more appropriate for the album format. There are peaks and valleys of sonic sculpture that explore an impressive range of emotional depth not often found on techno long-players. The album is still rooted in the darker side of techno, but has far more going on beyond the hard techno.
Rebekah in the DJ booth has set herself apart by embracing technology by way of the hybrid DJ format. A mixture of hardware drum machine, four decks in Traktor DJ software and a fistful of midi controllers, it is the juggling act of gear that allows her to push the concept deejaying far beyond simply mixing one song to the next. It allows for an approach that utilizes the best parts of live performance and deejaying.
Rebekah has been a constant force on international techno stages over the past five years, but trips to America have been scarce — she rarely has more than three gigs in the states per year. Last year included a standout debut performance at the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit, but her Dallas appearance is at a private event and is her only U.S. stop on her February run of gigs.
We spoke to Rebekah about her process, collaborations, techno in the U.S. and upcoming releases.
Fear Paralysis was a different kind of offering than we have seen from you in past singles. How different was your approach to the longer narrative that comes with an album versus singles?
Fear Paralysis definitely came about from the need to create something different. I had been writing harder music for EPs and at some point you do hit a wall and end up repeating yourself. Being in the studio one day, I just sat down and allowed music to come out without the constraints of the dance floor. It was also a period of time where I was unsure about where I was heading musically, so in fact the whole album was fairly cathartic too. All in all, the whole process channeled all of these feelings, which created this theme throughout the LP. The actual process was different, too. I started with a lot of three-minute sketches, which was the bones of the album, and then I approached the arrangement all in one go and then all the mixdowns. This was over an 18-month period. With this process, it keeps all the music interesting and you never get bored of music in the same way as you would if you completed the whole process for one track and then put it aside for 18 months.
I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but your Into the Black EP on Sonic Groove Records seemed to have something different going on — in a good way. What was going on with the process behind that release?
It was building on what I had learned from creating the album and the continuation from some of the harder more experimental tracks on the album, to then use that for an EP. I also knew with Sonic Groove it has to be special. Adam X is very picky about what he puts out on his label, so it pushes you more to go that extra mile and take some chances.
How did you end up on Soma Records?
I had played for the guys in Glasgow back in 2014, and we discussed the possibility of an EP as far back as then, so the minute I had a demo together, I sent it over and they were really responsive and positive about the music and the relationship just went from there. When the album music started taking shape, I sent them the sketches and they again really liked the music and were keen to hear the full arrangements but provisionally agreed to put it out.
How long before you tackle the album format again?
I can't see it in the immediate future as I’m having too much fun making singles and learning more about sound design. I tend to go with the flow, and when the calling comes again, no doubt I will go with it.
How did the collaboration with Paula Temple come about? Will there be more of that in future for live shows or possibly taking that collaboration into recordings?
Paula and I met a few years back as we both live in Berlin. Circumstances came to play when I managed to talk her in to coming to Crossfit with me — trust me, I drank the Kool-Aid and try and get everyone to join. So we trained together and there was a lot of hanging out and getting lunch afterwards, which we built a friendship over. She is such an amazing person and talent. We always knew it would be really fun to collaborate together and what better way than to join forces for some b2b gigs? We both crossover musically but have a different take on the genre, so it was nice to explore this together. I think we both learned more about ourselves and came away with something new for our approaches to deejaying through the process. This year we are doing more b2bs throughout the year and we are figuring out how we will play, but we know for sure it will have more live elements to it. As for music, no plans currently as we both have other commitments.
I first came across you in a series of podcasts that you had up before you started getting a steady stream of releases rolling out. Are those archived anywhere where they can still be heard?
Haha, really? That must have been quite some time ago. There are some older mixes still available on my Soundcloud page.
You have only played a handful of gigs annually in the U.S. The more aggressive side of techno has not been as much in demand in the U.S. since the peak of rave in the '90s. That seems to be changing in recent years. Have you noticed much of a change in U.S. techno on your trips here over the past few years?
It’s definitely expanded, especially after the EDM explosion. The kids that really liked electronic music were always going to evolve into different genres. There seems to be more parties across the country with promoters taking chances on underground DJs. This also might be due to how connected we all are on social media and how music is so readily available.
You had an amazing set at Movement last year. How was your overall Detroit experience? Had you been there before?
Movement was one of my favorite gigs in the U.S. to date, so it was nice to see this kind of festival there. As for Detroit, the city is mind-blowing; I think it really is one of a kind. The desolation of the city centre always gets to me when I visit. I had been once before back in 2015 and was [it] great to see even in those short two years how much the city is now developing. It really has potential for artists and musicians to live there and create a new Detroit — now that would be interesting.
How much has being from Birmingham influenced your development as a DJ and producer?
Birmingham gave me my first exposure to techno back in the mid '90s, and even when I wasn’t playing techno in the early 2000s, it was always with me as my beginnings. Carrying those experiences has helped me translate that into my own performances and that need to want to share the energy from those parties to the young clubbers who are now going out for the first time. I remember vividly those first times, and it was unlike anything else. I didn’t know any of the tracks, but it was super crazy. I think it was the happiest I had ever been in a club. Techno has this energy, and my spirit definitely resonates with it.
Do you have roots in industrial music or punk music in your background?
Unfortunately not. I was too young. I veered towards grunge in my early teens. Funny enough though, my mom was an original punk in the '70s, so I grew up with music on all the time. She listened to everything from Dillinger to Kraftwerk. She has a killer 7-inch collection. As for industrial, I am only just starting to learn about it, and that really came from my quest to understand the history of techno in Birmingham and the artists that paved the way. Post punk and industrial were their main influences. But what I like about techno and the beauty of it is how generations will have different influences and how that then translates to create new subgenres, which is always driving the music forward.
What drew you towards doing a hybrid set?
I just wanted to challenge myself a little more for the album tour which I did last year. For many years I was so scared of technical advancement. I was literally one of the last DJs to change from vinyl to CDs when they first came out in the early 2000s. Nowadays I try my hardest to embrace technology. The only thing that was hard was choosing how I wanted to play with the huge amount of possibilities available.
What are you using in your current live rig?
I stripped it back again to a DJ set, so Traktor with four channels open, the Roland TR-8 and FX. I suppose it’s the modern take on decks, FX and 909, which will always work well with techno.
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Do you plan on experimenting with more hardware in that rig in the future or actually crossing over to the full live set route?
What I learned from the hybrid set up is that you always have the DJ part to fall back on, so it was difficult to incorporate the live parts for longer periods within a set, so the next step for 2019 will be to go fully live. I am thinking already about how I want to do that and excited to start getting some new gear this year and fully releasing that project.
What is in the future for Rebekah in 2018?
2018 is already shaping up to be a great year. I have a double EP on Mord coming in April, and EPs for Soma and Sonic Groove for later in the year. My Elements label will also see new releases this year along with some parties in Birmingham and Barcelona and more to be confirmed. Also another challenge for this year was to do more all-night-long sets. I will always be the DJ foremost and collect so much music that I wanted to be able to share a wider range, and with the all-night-long sessions, you can really tell a story and that excites me.