Electronic music titan Robert Babicz releases his long-awaited new album The Owl And The Butterfly this month, bringing together his signature blend of deep techno and melodic house.
The rather cryptic title is an attempt to sum up his two-decade journey through music. “I wanted to find symbols to illustrate the process that I’ve been through as an artist, and the owl and the butterfly both have deep meaning for me,” he says. “The butterfly is a symbol of transformation, and the owl stands for wisdom… At this point in my career, I feel like an advanced beginner!”
Babicz moved to Germany from his native Poland in the early ‘90s, immersing himself in the burgeoning techno culture and attending parties like the iconic Love Parade. He remembers a sense of freedom in the air at that time and says that, since then, boundaries between electronic music styles have become more rigid and defined. He tries not to let new and current trends influence his own work, but as someone who plays in clubs every weekend, that can be impossible.
“I hear the DJ playing before me and the DJ playing after me,” he says, “so I hear a lot of new music. In addition to this, I’m a mastering engineer – I work for many different people and different labels, and so I can see trends as they start, I can hear people starting to copy certain sounds or follow certain rules.”
While he takes note of what’s going on in the world of electronic music, Babicz is determined to always try and find his own way. “I’m only human, so I take on influences, although I try not to as much as possible,” he says. “People always ask what kind of music I’m making, what style I’m working in – a few years ago, I decided that the only answer to that question is that I do Babicz Style. I think every musician should just do their own thing, and offer their own personal view.
“I’ve always been an individual when it comes to music,” he continues. “I’ve released on many different labels under many different names, but I’ve never been part of a group. That might account for my way of thinking.”
Many producers will slave away in the studio for weeks working on new tracks, and then play them in DJ sets to gauge the crowd’s reaction. This is not the case for Babicz, who finds that to be a tedious way of working and instead plays everything live and in the moment. His show is built around an array of synths, and he improvises all the way through the show, constantly dreaming up and refining new ideas on the fly.
“I really like to just play along with the machines, with no idea of what’s going to happen,” he says. “It’s very immediate. As soon as I try something new, I can say ‘this was an interesting move’ or ‘this was totally wrong, I should never do this again!’ All the improvising gives me knowledge I can use during the week in the studio. Improvising in my live set is the best musical education I could ever have had.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN