ART:CAST SPECIAL & INTERVIEW Baby Rollén

If love was measurable, Baby Rollén‘s current and upcoming releases would break any scale. With the release of his Love Potion EP, kicking off his own label Slump Recordings, the Londoner delivers seductive music for the body, mind and soul and at the same time pays tribute to UK Dance Classics, Acid House and Balearic Breaks. However, the Love Potion isn’t the only music from Baby Rollén that makes listeners and (future) club goers tipsy, another four tracker on Magic Carpet is already lined up as well as a single track, Metallic Humanoids, for Gestalt Records’ anniversary sampler. In-between all these releases Baby Rollén’s found the time to chat with Torture the Artist about the non-pandemic reasons to start a label, his musical background and upbringing, current reads, artists that led him into the electronic music scene, cheat codes and above all the mixed and compiled an art:cast.

Torture the Artist: Hello Baby Rollén, tell us something about your day.

Baby Rollén: Hi Holger! My boiler has broken so I’m sitting indoors listening to records with a hat and scarf on!

I strive to create music that will hold its weight both on the hi-fi or in a night-club.

Torture the Artist: Your bio states that a broad sense of club culture is embodied in Baby Rollén. How do you manage to keep that club-vibe alive at the moment or have you ever discovered a brand new side of yours over the past months.

Baby Rollén: I have definitely been listening to and creating a lot more music that I wouldn’t class as strictly club music (although most of this is currently unreleased). I’ve always spent a lot of time in the studio or listening to music – so this influence of “listenability” in my own music is not new. I strive to create music that will hold its weight both on the hi-fi or in a night-club. Throughout lockdown life, I have been listening to just as many club slammers as interesting musical-journey-type records. Boards of Canada’s Tomorrow’s Harvest, Ex-Terrestrial’s self-titled album from last year, and plenty of 90’s Bristolian Trip-hop have been on the stereo recently.

Torture the Artist: You just released your Love Potion EP, which marks the first release of your label Slump Recordings, and a four-tracker called Near Future on Magic Carpet after. What was the crucial point or moment that you decided to start a label these days or have you simply produced a lot of music during the pandemic that you want to release?

Baby Rollén: The pandemic didn’t encourage me to start a label at all, in-fact Slump was due to launch at the beginning of 2020 but I got cold-feet with all the clubs being closed. I soon realized people’s appetite for dance records had not stopped and I put the wheels in motion for the Love Potion EP. That and my forthcoming release Near Future are my first solo EP’s, but I have been collaborating with two incredible talents and great friends Desert Sound Colony and Gallegos since 2018, and the reactions from these collaborative records encouraged me to hit the studio hard and get my music out. It’s thanks to these two that I had the confidence to launch Slump Recordings.

A four-track record with the same rhythms and sound selection can often become boring before the end.

Torture the Artist: As beforementioned, the first EP is Love Potion and musically portrays different facets of your artistic being. Stylistically one can find influences from House and Techno as well as Acid and UKG. Where does this variety come from and what is the Love Potion that accompanies each track.

Baby Rollén: I come from a broad musical background and get a little bored in the studio when everything starts sounding the same. I started playing the guitar in numerous bands and went on to study sound engineering at university, so I like to incorporate a lot of influences and styles into my records. A four-track record with the same rhythms and sound selection can often become boring before the end. There has to be a balance between consistency and variety in the record. I look at someone like Picasso’s artwork and see how frequently he changed his style due to his influences and surroundings and I realize it’s okay to do this. There are no constraints, and the artist’s brush strokes can be visible through changeable styles despite the final piece’s varying shapes, colors, and sizes. I hope my music sounds coherent to the listener as it feels very natural making it.

Torture the Artist: The thing with track titles is that some are just randomly chosen as ideas subtly popped up in one’s mind or artists have to quickly find a working title etc. What’s your procedure when giving your music names?

Baby Rollén: Generally, they are completely random thoughts or influences from books, records, or films. Often something that is on my mind during the conception stage of a recording.

Torture the Artist: What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

Baby Rollén: There are so many books and films I watch on repeat this is hard to answer. I’ve recently finished reading ‘The Haçienda – How Not To Run A Club’ by Peter Hook. If you love clubbing – or even just music, you’ll love it. A truly raw account of the early rave days.

I’ve been a bit of a vinyl fanatic since I was a child.

Torture the Artist: Coming back to Slump. What else do you have planned for the label and will every release be on vinyl?

Baby Rollén: All the EP’s will 100% be released on vinyl. I am a bit of a record fanatic since I was a child, and it was definitely the reason I decided to start DJing. There is a clear culture around the format which I love and I always aim to release as much music physically as possible.

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Torture the Artist: How did this passion for vinyl get started and do you remember your first bought record? What memory do you connect with it?

Baby Rollén: I’ve been a bit of a vinyl fanatic since I was a child. My dad has always had a serious record collection, mostly Jazz, Blues and he also loves Trip-Hop, and I always held them in high regard. I remember him showing me the sleeves and liner notes, reading every detail on the record front to back – and being in love with the covers and artwork. It took him a long time before he let me play his records; around the age where I was tall enough to start scratching his favorite records, he told me off, then taught me how to handle them properly. My love for the entire package you get with a record, is partly what made me want to start the label, being able to write the music and do all of the artwork and design myself. It’s very satisfying to hold something you’ve made from scratch. I think the first record I ever bought was Brown Paper Bag by Roni Size. It reminds me of my first pair of turntables, and how impossible it was to mix records with them!

I guess it is maybe even my real name.

Torture the Artist: To what extent is your moniker Baby Rollén connected to your overly ‘rollin’ bass lines or does it refer to something else in your life?

Baby Rollén: I wish it was that simple. No, I was leaving a studio session with Desert Sound Colony, after he had encouraged me to find a name for my solo productions. I went to see my parents and my mum had unearthed a box of things from my childhood. Inside this box was my birth certificate and other things I had never seen, including a name tag from my time at the hospital as a newborn baby. The name on the tag read ‘Baby Rollén’, as I was an unnamed baby and my mum’s surname is Rollén. This was probably the first name I was ever given, and I felt that was a good enough reason to take it on. I guess it is maybe even my real name.

Torture the Artist: Coming back to music and your upcoming release, Magic Carpet takes us on a ride to the Near Future, what picture of that in the club context and around does the four-tracker draw for you?

Baby Rollén: Near Future, the track is a futuristic, old-school track. It’s named with a nod to the early UK Breaks tracks and Detroit Techno it’s influenced from. I always thought this music would have sounded so cutting edge and sleek at the time, whereas now we consider it to be a bit dated. The title is a reference to this interplay of an old aesthetic with a futuristic direction.

Torture the Artist: Who’s the Dirty Blonde (Filthy Mix) dedicated to or is it referring to the German expression for beer, ‘dreckiges Blondes’?

Baby Rollén: It’s named after and dedicated to a fictional heroine who carries a samurai sword. There is an obvious clue in the track which you can hear when it’s released in April!

Torture the Artist: Even though your music is quite classy and timeless it sounds fresh and hits the zeitgeist. Would you say that with the world grinding to a halt, a way to cope with that musically is to get back to the basics, to emphasize a rawness and create edgy music to make people feel it and that the perfectly counterbalanced music is outdated?

Baby Rollén: A very endearing comment thank you. I actually constantly battle (like so many other producers) with over-crowding my tracks. Much of the final stage of production is spent deleting sections of the arrangement or taking sounds out, I’m very glad to hear that it’s working. I try to keep the hooks hooky, the drums interesting and polyrhythmic, and try very hard to keep the number of sounds in the production down to allow the space in the music to emphasize the notes and grooves.

Torture the Artist: What was the most memorable feedback you’ve got for your music and by whom?

Baby Rollén: I was once sent a pretty mind-blowing voice note over WhatsApp from Kerri Chandler, who had just played my music to Larry Heard whilst warming up in a club in the US together. Larry’s voice will forever stay with me and encourage me. He’s one of my biggest influences.

Anyone can have a diverse musical interest and express this through their music or DJ sets.

Torture the Artist: As already mentioned you are musically rich and diverse, is this your sense of entitlement, meaning to create something eclectic, and does this also apply to your DJ sets or maybe that’s even something that comes from Djing?

Baby Rollén: I don’t think eclecticism belongs to the entitled. Anyone can have a diverse musical interest and express this through their music or DJ sets. The breadth of styles I play in my sets comes down to listening to music for its quality irrelevant of style. I enjoy listening to everything from Jazz to Drum and Bass, sometimes even a bit of Chopin. There is only good and bad music, not good and bad genres. I am also blessed to be surrounded by friends who all listen to really different music. I’m probably considered the “boring techno friend” who listens to the ‘dumph dumph’ music, too many of them.

Torture the Artist: When did you decide to go all-in with electronic music and why don’t you ‘slump’ or is that part of the path you follow?

Baby Rollén: I fell in love with electronic music as a teenager, listening to Four-Tet records like Pause, lots of Madlib and J Dilla. It wasn’t until I started getting into clubs that it really encouraged me to start making it. Being in front of a proper sound system for the first time really hit me. I thought, yes, I have to try this. I credit this all to the drum and bass scene at the time, going to Ram and Metalheadz nights and being totally mind-blown by the subs and intricacies of the drums.

Torture the Artist: What job did your parents see you working in?

Baby Rollén: I think they assumed I would become a working musician as a guitarist. This really changed when I went to university and started clubbing properly. Before that, I was 100% determined to become a session musician. Either way, I’m a broke musician at the end of the day.

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Torture the Artist: What are your three favorite musical findings during the club-lockdown?

Baby Rollén: As I mentioned before, Ex-Terrestrial’s self-titled LP. I love Yansima’s productions, on R&S and Nara Records. I often go running with Underworld’s Everything, Everything live album playing. It has some of the best energy I’ve ever heard on a record. Lots of ‘Good Looking Records’ old releases (LTJ Bukem’s label), and I always tune in to Rinse FM for Paramida’s show. Her mixing and selection are tip-top!

Torture the Artist: If life were a video game, what would be some cheat codes for it?

Baby Rollén: Thought you’d never ask… “CIRCLE, CIRCLE, L1, CIRCLE, CIRCLE, CIRCLE, L1, L2, R1, TRIANGLE, CIRCLE, TRIANGLE”

Words by Holger Breuer

Photographs by William Spooner