Bebop & Rocksteady will be familiar to most as Shredder’s blundering henchmen in ‘Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles’, two street punks mutated into a warthog and a rhino at the behest of their leader. Well, it seems they’ve mellowed slightly with age, and more crucially, embarked on a new career.
In their new incarnation Bebop & Rocksteady are the aliases of electronic mavericks Ben Mallott and Luke Sanger, AKA Ben Pest and Luke’s Anger. With roots sewn in the rave scene, the two producers have evolved to become integral parts of the UK underground over the past decade, aligning themselves with the tough, experimental techno sounds pioneered by the likes of Jerome Hill, Neil Landstrumm and Michael Forshaw. As well as past releases on Don’t Recordings, Tigerbass and his own Bonus Round imprint, Luke can be found moonlighting as the funk-fuelled Duke Slammer, whilst Ben will have been known to some as ‘The Black E’ alongside Cristian Vogel, and keyboard player in the band ‘Pest’.
2012 saw the duo unite under the Bebop & Rocksteady moniker, fusing their shared love of hardware, acid and bass, and releasing their first batch of weapons – ‘Catalunya’ and ‘Rubber Sophie’ – on Addison Groove‘s ‘Lost in Translation’ imprint in January. They’ve kindly given us an exclusive stream of ‘R2D2CB’ from their forthcoming EP ‘Mod Botherers’. We caught up with the pair to chat turtles, techno and ‘ABM’…
Let’s get the non-music stuff out the way first – tell us about the name. Are you Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles fans? Or just a pair of mutated punks?
Ben: I’m happy to report it has very little to do with a certain bunch of pubescent tortoises skilled in the martial arts. I’m Bebop, he’s Rocksteady.
And how did the collaboration come about?
Ben: We were both playing at an Uglyfunk party circa 2006 and it was suggested that somehow we were rivals – I think we both found that quite funny. That was probably the genesis of the idea.
Luke: Haha I’d forgotten about that! Yeah, I think a collaboration was always on the cards.
For the uninitiated, describe the B&R sound in three words.
Ben: How about two – acid bass!
Luke: Or even, acid bass music! We could abbreviate it to ABM and make it big in the U.S?
That I would like to see! It’s a return to the weirder, wonkier sounds you both made your names from. Do your hearts lie at this end of the electronic spectrum?
Ben: It feels very natural for us I think, especially when working together perhaps. But I’m into all kinds of stuff and so is Luke.
Luke: Making off-kilter music for big sound systems is definitely something we’ve both had a fair bit of practice at.
Tell us a bit about your creative process. Are you spending time together in the studio or throwing ideas back and forth online?
Ben: It certainly started by doing it that way but now we’re rehearsing the hardware together for our upcoming live shows.
Luke: One example would be in ‘Catalunya’. I made half the sounds on the OP-1 sat up a mountain in the Pyrenees, then Dropboxed them to Ben, who made some more and it goes on like a game of audio tennis.
Run us through the B&R studio.
Korg ESX1, Electron MM & Octatrack, Yamaha dx200, Nord1 rack, Nintendo DS, ipad, Minimoog, OP-1, TR808, Tempest. Plus some outboard FX like a Spring Reverb and Space Echo RE201, also various guitar pedals etc.
Let’s talk about hardware, as it appears to be integral to the project. It seems that for many DJs and producers returning to more traditional methods is a kind of antidote to the digital age. What are your feelings on this? Is your attachment to hardware and vinyl purely for sonic purposes or is there an element of tradition and heritage in there?
Ben: It’s just more fun to use live, sounds great and to be honest what I like to see when I’m out is people actually doing shit with their hands, as opposed to just zoning out with a laptop.
Luke: I agree, I think people like to see the connection to the sound they are hearing, whether it’s playing a record or manipulating an instrument.
How will this translate to your live performance? Can we expect a full hardware show?
Ben: You certainly can!
Luke: Oh yes! Doing a proper live show together was half the reason for the project.
And when will this be happening? Are there dates? Festivals?
Luke: We are doing a full hardware set at ARC Festival in Bristol on April 27th, which is shaping up to be a wicked audio/visual event. Organised by the guys who do the amazing RFID ‘immersive dome’ stage – a really forward thinking crew who have booked me and Ben individually at various parties over the years, like Bloc Weekend and Shambala etc.
Speaking of Bristol, how did the hook up with Addison Groove’s ‘Lost In Translation’ label happen?
Luke: I sent Tony some tracks a while back. He especially liked ‘Catalunya’ and was caning it in his DJ sets for a few months before deciding he had to put it out.
What other forthcoming B&R material can we look forward to?
Ben: ‘Mod Botherers’ – a six-track digital release on Bonus Round next month.
Luke: It basically follows on what we started with the LIT 12″. Covering 808-heavy bleeps n’ bass to warped Chicagoan techno, plus a really jacking remix of ‘Rubber Sophie’ (LIT002) from the awesome Jerome Hill! We’ve also just finished a squelchy remix for Si Begg, coming soon on his Noodles label.
And what’s happening in the solo worlds of Luke’s Anger and Ben Pest? Anything exciting in the pipeline?
Ben: I’ve got a release coming up soon on Horror Boogie. Scoring a feature film is currently keeping me busy, and the Pest band are doing ‘The 12 months of Pest’ every month on Soundcloud.
Luke: I’ve been focusing a lot on my Duke Slammer project, which is paying off with some nice gigs and releases coming up.
As you both come from a techno background, I’d be interested to hear your take on the genre’s status in the UK at the moment. It’s enjoying huge popularity in the clubs and permeating the sets and productions of many ‘non-techno’ artists. How do you feel about that?
Ben: It’s easy to forget that techno was popular in the UK back in the 90s – in London many of the big clubs played techno on a Friday and house on a Saturday. That was every weekend!
Luke: Yeah it’s cool that it’s having a resurgence in popularity. Away from the mainstream clubs and media, underground techno parties have never gone away and long may they continue!
Finally, the Turtles are about to destroy the Technodrome. Which item from your studio do you save?
Ben: I just got a bass guitar for my birthday that I really like. It’s very sexy and could potentially be weaponised somehow…
Bebop & Rocksteady’s ‘Mod Botherers’ is released March 4th on Bonus Round Records.