Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s not likely The Bloody Beetroots are going anywhere anytime soon. With 2009’s electro-classical-punk epic Romborama and a recently released Best of … Remixes (which showcases the prolific Beetroots’ mixes of others’ songs, including The Chemical Brothers’ “Dissolve” and MSTRKRFT’s “Bounce”) under their belts, an ever-evolving live set that’s morphed from a high-energy, two-person DJ set to a full-on frenzy-inducing live band, and exclusive clothing collaborations with designer VendeTTa, the aggro-electro revolutionaries continue to recruit zealous droves into their fan base. Perpetually clad onstage in their signature Venom masks, blurring the lines between fashion/art/music, maintaining a highly active social-networking presence, and furthering an anarchical, vaguely political “us vs. them” agenda firmly rooted in punk rock, The Beetroots have become impossible to ignore.
Of course, The Bloody Beetroots is essentially an alias for one Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo, the Italian electro guerilla/mastermind behind the mask. In person, Rifo is gently polite, humbly self-assured, smaller in stature than his larger-than-life stage persona suggests, and pretty meticulous about avoiding cameras.
We sat down with Rifo to talk about his desire to connect with fans, the enigmatic Beetroots image, the evolution of Death Crew ’77 (DC77 for short and ’77 being the year of Rifo’s birth), and more.
You requested that no tape recorders be used for this interview. Why?
Paper is much better – it’s old school!
The last time we spoke, you said you would eventually play without the masks … but they are still part of the show. Is this something that you want to continue?
I wanted to take them off, but I evolved the project in another way. The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew ‘77 is a new concept.
Is it because you’d like to keep the aura of mystery around the Beetroots?
I don’t know if “mystery” is the right word. The Bloody Beetroots is becoming a kind of community now. I want to show that you can hide yourself and do something. I don’t care to go to television or the mass media to do something – our system expresses ourselves. It’s our system, it’s everything we have -- it’s our strength, my strength, and also the strength of the people. They believe in me, I believe in them.
People seem to either love or hate The Bloody Beetroots. Why do you think what you do is so polarizing?
The [Beetroots] concept is pretty extreme. When you do something extreme, it’s pretty common. It’s good to know [the naysayers] hate me for some reason. I want to know the reason. I’m evolving The Bloody Beetroots because I love what I do.
When you find something that works, you don’t want to change it. I can be a DJ for the rest of my life, but I don’t need money or a house or a car. If I have money, I prefer to put it on the evolution of my project. I want to show the people that there’s a different way to see things. But I’m not teaching, just showing.
Although The Bloody Beetroots began playing out as a DJ duo and are now a multi-member live band, you continue to be the “face” (albeit masked) and “voice” of the group. Is that intentional?
I compose the music and I use Death Crew ‘77 as an arm of expression, so they play what I compose. I think my composition is really intimate – I can’t share the kind of process I have in my mind, [but] I can share the lyrics. I was limited when I DJ’d – I had a good feeling, but as a musician I have to press myself. That’s why I built DC77.
I’m working on some new songs have Dennis Lyxzén from [seminal Swedish hardcore punk band] Refused. I’m writing music, he’s writing lyrics. He has something really cool to say.
You have a pretty huge online following, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. Do you write the updates personally?
Yes, I like talking with people. I want to know what they think about life, art, culture, music … I post what I enjoy in my life and I want to share it with them. I want to keep it real – it’s important for me and the people as well.
A little while ago, you posted something that said “Some newspapers are not reliable sources of information – the conspiracy has just begun.” Was this a reference to an article from inthemix that slammed you for saying “electro” is overrated in another interview?
I don’t release many interviews for this reason. Some newspapers bring what I say in a different context. I’m not angry about it, even if they speak bad about it. But the only source is me -- the [Beetroots] website, Twitter, Facebook … the other sources are not official.
What’s up next for you?
New music, new evolution, new things … I want to release an album and then a movie, linked to the album. Not like Justice or Soulwax, something really different. It’s going to take a long time. It’s pretty pretentious but I want to do it.
What direction do you see the next album going in?
It’s evolution, but I’m gonna keep the harmony, the Beetroots sound. One more step forward, and absolutely electronic.
Everything is new now. I don’t even know what kind of genre I play, I just play what I feel. People have the same reaction as me, so this is great.