A milky dream of hip-hop, BoC-style electronica, ambient and er, indie, it’s a record where self-consciousness doesn’t exist and Baths – like Lil Wayne or Lil B, although the former FACT mixer sounds nothing like them – gives his listeners everything, good and bad. Baths will be touring the UK this month, we caught up with him to talk about Cerulean, his past work as [Post-Foetus] and life in LA.
Cerulean kind of came out of nowhere for us – we weren’t aware of you until it arrived in the post. What’s the Baths story leading up to that, like how did you start making music?
“I was classically trained on piano for around eight years, had a falling out with classical music and training, then returned to piano only to write original material. That started around age 13, I believe. Shortly afterwards I began recording things. Using MIDI at first, then audio… I taught myself more production techniques as time went on, and I continued to learn more instruments during that time as well. Some I learned in school (viola, upright and electric bass) and others I taught myself (guitar, drums, singin). I’ve just been recording ever since then, all the way through, leading into the stuff I’m doing now.”
You were doing the [Post-Foetus] stuff for quite a while prior to Baths, right? Why did you feel the need to do a new project, and what’s the relationship between them?
“Yes, but the new project mostly because I wanted a name that was more lasting than the obscurity of the name [Post-Foetus]. I am still the only person writing the music for both monikers. Initially I separated the two in my head along the lines that [Post-foetus] was a very pre-meditated endeavor… A lot of the ideas were conceptualized before I ever started recording, whereas Baths was about letting go, and recording music within the moment that I felt inspired. The songs on Cerulean came together much more quickly as a result. They felt spontaneous for me. However, for future Baths material, I hope to have a healthy blend of the two things. Heavily thought out ideas mixed in with more spontaneous ones.”
There’s definitely a very human element to what you make; there’s a real lack of self-consciousness to it, which is really endearing and contrasts you from a lot of electronic music around. Did you always want to stand out in that way, or did it just come naturally?
“I think it came naturally because that’s exactly the sort of music I fell in love with… where you feel like you are getting to know an artist the more you listen to their music. In a way that’s not necessarily a conscious thing, though? I think that within the realm of electronic music, where freedom and experimentation are so crucial to the art, it’s like you almost can’t help but be yourself. Your source material is limitless, so you are kind of forced to find yourself in that endless void of possibilities.”
Keeping with that theme, Cerulean does seem to be a record that you really gave everything to, and in that sense, one of its strengths is in its natural imperfections. Do you think that’s fair, and are you going to approach the second album in the same way?
“Yes, imperfections and humanity in electronic music are what I’m all about. I went into Cerulean not wanting to have any preconceived notions other than making something “accessible and beat-oriented.” I didn’t want to take the material, or myself too seriously at all. You can’t, really… It’ll all fall apart if you realize that you have to make an effort to be yourself.
“The second album is already an entirely different affair (I have 3 or so songs in the works), and will undoubtedly still have an enormous piece of myself ingrained in the music, but I am not making the same album. All I can say is that the overall tone is much darker— almost antithetical to Cerulean.”
It also came out on anticon. Were you always aware of those guys, growing up? Them and Def Jux and so forth are a pretty big reference point for a lot of early-20s musicians over here I think – more than would probably admit it.
“Yes! It’s still an honor and a thrill to be a part of such an amazing label. It’s kind of surreal how supportive everyone on the label has been. I don’t think the process could have been any easier.”
Daedelus seems to have been a constant presence in your musical rise – putting people onto you and stuff. How did that happen, and what sort of relationship do you guys have?
“Yes, he has been. I was a fan of his music, and there was a Jogger show I went to a few years ago, just before their album came out on Daedelus’ imprint Magical Properties. I Ioved their set, and told them, and we started talking. We got along, and talked well into the evening, and I was able to squeeze one of my albums to them (an alternate version of the [Post-foetus] album The Fabric) in a way that wasn’t obnoxious. They actually listened to it very soon afterwards. Their friend+manager Dimitri got back to me right away and said that he’d send a copy to his friend Daedelus – I freaked – and he asked to set up a meeting to chat within a week. It was a very welcome precedent to meeting Alfred in person, to know that he liked my album. It was surreal when we first spoke. It’s been wonderful getting to know him and Jogger and their entire group of amazing like-minded people.
“Since then we’ve done one-offs together, we see spend time talking at shows, we’ve hung out on occasion, had dinner… just casual LA livin’…”
Do you consider yourself a part of that whole LA scene? I know you’ve said before that Low End Theory is your favourite clubnight.
“I think I’d want to answer both yes and no. I certainly love L.A., the music coming out of L.A., and all the amazing musicians and groups and scenes, but you can’t help but want to develop your own identity. Community is a wonderful thing, but I don’t want what I do to be defined by a scene, I want my music to speak for itself… I would think that’s the goal of any artist, in any medium, right? Maybe? I dunno.”
What does Baths have in the pipeline right now?
“I have a bonkers amount of touring that’ll only subside come April or May of 2011, which is when I will officially start working on the next album. Ideas are brewing all the time, but I can’t wait to sit down and genuinely dive deep again.”