Keep It Local: Rudolf C

Salt Mines co-founder and hero of the lo-fi scene, Rudolf C emerged in 2015 as one of Melbourne’s most interesting and exciting electronic musicians. Strictly hardware only – both on stage and in the studio – his distinctive sound was showcased on several overseas record labels in 2015, earning him a solid international reputation. Excitingly, his stance in Melbourne is catching up to this overseas reputation, thanks largely to his co-founding of a hugely successful record label, as well as a trove of dream bookings.

We had a chat to him about production techniques, his musical influences, living in Coburg, and the strength of the Melbourne underground dance scene in 2016…

Jacob: Hey Ru! How’s life? How’s music? How was the Lobster Theremin showcase a few weeks back?

Ru: Life is good, smooth sailing over here. I’ve just finished an EP destined for a 12” release in the next few months, so I’m not working on much new stuff as of late, just a few new live sets for sometime in the future. The Lobster showcase was ridiculous, Route 8 was one of the guys that got me into dance music in the first case, so getting to play a live set & hang out with him was something else. They’re all just great people, it was lots of fun being a part of the tour.

Jacob: So special to be on the bill next to Route 8, especially with that little (LIVE) next to both of your names! On that note, you’ve built your reputation locally through playing that way. Are you just a sucker for hardware synths or is there a deeper reason that you play almost exclusively live?

Ru: Hah yep, I’ll definitely be printing that poster out in A0 and tacking it to my front door.  And yep, I’m a massive sucker when it comes to hardware… I spend a lot of time trawling gumtree for synths. I started playing live originally as I’d been doing a lot of live recordings to tape, then I saw Terekke play live twice in a week and that really pushed my curiosity.

It’s cool to be able to take pretty much the centrepiece of my bedroom into a club and play an hour or so of my own music to people I don’t know – the adrenaline is insane.  I think I just like having complete control of what’s happening. Playing live is great because you can be as flexible as you need, and if the crowd isn’t reacting like you thought, you can skip through, or you can extend parts if they’re enjoying it. I’m also not a very good DJ.

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Jacob: So while your local rep is built on live performances, you’ve simultaneously and almost independently built an international reputation by releasing on labels from all across the world (Portugal, Berlin, Seattle, London etc). How much do the live performances and your releases bleed into each other?

Ru: I think that my live sets and released music are completely different. I play a different live set every time I play, so they’re always written with a specific gig in mind.  With that being said, my next EP has a track or two from my very first live set.

The live sets are built for club environments, however the music I make and (hope to) release is usually made with little intention of being “playable” so to speak.

Jacob: That’s a fairly unique way of doing things, and while your music can be pretty exhilarating, especially that live material you that you make for the club environment, it’s also replete with beautiful pads, sad chords and wistful vocal samples. Do you try to consciously balance these things out evenly when you prepare music or does it just come out like that?

Ru: Not particularly no, it just feels like the natural way of doing it.  When writing for a live set, I do tend to actively write heavier stuff, but when recording music for myself at home, I almost always produce softer, hazy, dubbed out stuff.

It’s not that I don’t like heavy stuff, in fact I prefer it when playing and if I’m out at an event, but I prefer to write music that I think would be suitable in a non-club environment, less energetic music. It’s usually slower and touching more of an ambient note, and as I mentioned before, Terekke is a major influence on that.

I think I prefer writing softer stuff for myself because it’s very calming, and playing and writing lots of live sets can get quite stressful.

Jacob: Yeah, totally. Plus, I think you’ve also just described a lot of the most distinctive qualities (hazy, dubbed out, ambient etc) of the ‘lofi techno’ genre that you’re most prominent in. Did making this type of music happen organically, or did it take time and concerted effort to learn the techniques and styles?

Ru: It happened mostly organically to be honest, I had always gravitated towards less polished music, whether it was hip hop or punk, so when I started getting into dance music it seemed like the obvious direction.

When I was still making music completely inside my computer, it was much more polished and clean, and making the switch to hardware is what pushed the music into what you could say is ‘lo-fi’ territory. I don’t set out to make stuff sound lo-fi, it just comes about through the recording process, and some of the hardware filtering I use.

In my very first EP, the sound of a ground loop in my bedroom is present the entire way through hah.

Jacob: So how often do you get to sit down and make music in an average week?

Ru: I usually make a track a day. 90% of them don’t get finished though, as I get bored and start something else, but I’m not doing anything at the moment due to some unforeseen circumstances.

Jacob: Do you have a routine or start the same way? What comes in what order?

Ru: Not really. Usually I start with a kick drum just to get the tempo in my head, then basic chord progressions, pads, a little melody… It’s all over the shop usually. Percussion and basslines often happen around the same time though, I think the two tie together nicely.

Jacob: Doesn’t have to be your favourite piece of gear, but what can be heard most frequently in your music?

Ru: Probably my Alpha Juno 2, my first ever analogue poly, I don’t use it as much anymore as I just got a jv1080 (which is insane) so at the moment the Alpha is a $500 midi controller – but I could never sell it, I love that thing so much, so versatile and so different to the other juno models.

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Jacob: I reckon i end up thinking about techno music for about 18 hours a day. How important is time away from the studio + music in general important to you, both in a creative way and in a mental headspace way?

Ru: I think it’s pretty necessary, I get kinda stir crazy when I sit around all day trying to force stuff to happen, but I do spend 95% of my time outside listening to music and thinking about making tracks. It’s definitely needed in a creative sense though, it can get pretty rinsed pretty quickly if you just keep doing it, I’ve made some real reaaal bad tracks doing that.

Jacob: Where do you go to clear your head then? Where’s your favourite hangout spot?

Ru: I don’t have a particular way of clearing my head, I work roughly 9-5 doing a fairly physical job so that can be good when the stress gets high, but I also religiously watch the simpsons s01-13 so thats a go to when it gets rough.

My hangout spot is definitely on the futon in the lounge room watching the most fucked horror movies (The Green Inferno) we can find, or on the back verandah on this fresh red bed thing we have. Lately I prefer spending my free time at home, just moved into a new house so i’m enjoying it to the full extent.

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Jacob: Are the people and friends you hang out with into dance music? For a few years, none of my friends were really into the same stuff as me, but recently that’s changed and i feel way more enthusiastic and like i have a lot of moments and memories to share now. I guess i’m describing a sense of community.

Ru: A lot of them are, but a lot of them also aren’t particularly into it either which is also cool.  A vast majority of my friends are musicians so it’s nice to be surrounded by a blend of genres, and they’re all doing really good stuff.

It is good to be in a community like you mentioned though, I really enjoy having a wide circle of friends who share a common interest in dance music as there’s a constant flow of ideas and inspo from all angles, plus the amount of good stuff that comes from that circle is near overwhelming.

Jacob: Yeah Melbourne is so fresh at the moment. We’re so lucky. Could you ever leave Melbourne? Even for music?

Ru: Melbourne is so good at the moment, the scene is crazy.  I don’t think I could ever move anywhere else to be honest, Melbourne consistently treats me right.  Even with all the massive lineups across the world, I still think we have it way too good down here. it’d be nice if the dollar wasn’t so toy and if we weren’t 10,000 kilometers away from anywhere, but I don’t have any serious complaints.

Jacob: Any last shoutouts?

Ru: Massive outs to all the Salt Mines crew & Heads With Tales for treating me so well, you’re all heroes.