Bloody Beetroots is Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo, the Italian producer born the same year as punk rock, a fact emphatically made clear by the “1977” tattooed across his chest.
In fact, that tattoo is about the most identifying public feature of Rifo, whose penchant for wearing masks (see other cultural phenomena from Underground Resistance to “V is for Vendetta”) seems to be a declaration of ominous anonymity that defers the spotlight to his long list of productions, projects, films, art, manifestoes and musical incarnations emanating from his
Bloody Beetroots production epicenter: Bloody Beetroots DJ set where the decks-manning Rifo is joined by FX man Tommy Tea; Bloody Beetroots Deathcrew 77, his “electro-punk” band with drummer Battle and Tea capable of turning a gig for thousands of fans into a political rally/empowerment seminar, and in his forthcoming embodiment, Church of Noise, which is nothing short of a “cultural-musical movement,” as Rifo calls it, with Dennis Lyxzen of Swedish hardcore punk-pioneers Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy.
Bloody Beetroots has always been an anomaly amidst the cocooned trends and coddled pedigrees of dance music. After fits and starts in Italian garage-punk bands, Rifo launched Bloody Beetroots in 2007. Over the next three years, he would win the support of electro house heavyweights Etienne De Crecy and Alex Gopher in Europe, and Dim Mak’s Steve Aoki stateside, with each production more elaborate and ambitious than the last.
From the start, Bloody Beetroots was capable of synergizing sonics and sensibilities from The Damned to Debussy, the anthemic wistfulness of new wave and primal screams of hardcore punk, into remarkably actualized efforts that became platforms for larger socio-political historiography and cultural histrionics: the homage to Italian Futurism of “Rombo,” the cinematic soundtrack to Nazi resistance (and you thought it was just dance music) that is “Domino”—the striking black and white video for which features Rifo using only a book as weapon, and the kick drum pattern, in an irony too rich to ignore, recalling New Order’s “Blue Monday.” Then there’s the sci-fi fantasy anarchism of writer Michael Moorcock in “Cornelius” and the Trekkie techie nerd joy of smearing sounds that is simply, cerebellum-meltingly “Warp.” Clearly on Rifo’s watch, anything’s not only possible—but from the sheer vastness of sounds and media that have materialized—probable as well. From one-man studio production to full band live show with Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77, dance tracks to films, photography, fashion and socio-political activism are all encompassed.
“Electronic dance music is the bridge that spans my musical influences,” explains Rifo. “My intention was to use the energy of punk to give it a devastating new form—one that embraces different universes of sound, the ordered chaos that I live every day, the unique shape that every thought should have.” This “ordered chaos” has resulted in much more than music on many levels. This isn’t dance music as hedonistic escape, he says, this is shared adrenaline as catalyst and call to action. Free your ass and your mind will follow, to flip a Funkadelicism.
“The music is meant to inspire, to dream and to give a reason of strength, but it also has the power to bring people together forever. And that’s why I try every day to give my audience a full view. Photography, music, fashion, icons and world history. There are many levels of communication.”
It’s this communication he is confident that can spark thought and action in listener’s lives, because similar experiences have in his. “My life is about growth, development, art and courageous actions. I firmly believe that life is made of this,” Rifo continues. “I’ve spent a lot of time over the last four years with anarchic subcultures—musical, artistic, political—and I saw in the eyes of the people the desire to reverse the situation. Anarchy, to me, is a way to free ourselves from the bite of our time. I use a multi-disciplinary action to make people free.”
Rifo clearly wants people to have more than just a good time, he wants them to re-imagine their whole world and start a new one. “I see no real revolution of our time. For years the underground world has tried to fight the rival ‘normal’ world. It’s time to create a parallel one. If we can’t fight the system, we must learn to benefit from it to build something new.”
Hence, Church of Noise, Rifo’s inaugural collaboration with Sweden’s Dennis Lyxzen (Refused/The (International) Noise Conspiracy). “Dennis and I have decided to break the mental barriers and we are here today to fight together,” he explains. Of their otherwise unlikely pairng he says, “There are many common ideas between Romborama [his debut album] and The Shape Of Punk To Come [Refused’s seminal album]. Both are primarily inspired by the anarchism of Malatesta.”
You don’t have to know your anarchist history to get what Church of Noise is about: faith and frequencies, the familiar and the ferocious, and most of all, freedom. With its siren-call of bittersweet strings waving like morning-after battle flags as well as the raw, chugging live bass and guitar-shards framing vocals that alternate between adrenal caterwaul and spoken-word break-downs (“…It only takes a sound to change the beaten path/It only takes love and courage to take it all back”…), Church of Noise is the most ambitious Bloody Beetroots recording to date.
Truly as Rifo’s calls it, “a cultural/musical movement.” From its manifesto (yes, manifesto): “Church of Noise is a congregation of lovers, fighters, sinners, artists, misfits, outcasts, losers and weirdos. In other words, normal, irrational, angry, happy, fucked-up people," it says, sounding as much like an apocalyptic cult or maybe even an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, very lower-case catholic and all-embracing but also something very positive and looking forward.
“My whole life has been determined and shaped by the people I’ve looked up and the people that have supported me,” says Rifo. “Bloody Beetroots and Church of Noise is something I owe to people to potentially be as important to them as things that influenced me to make the choices and live as freely as I have.” Mindless techno bollocks this ain’t. Enjoy. But more importantly, be inspired. To dance, sure. And hopefully, to live freer.