Rising techno star BEC on her new label, working a hybrid setup and keeping things simple
“When I look back on tracks of mine that have been successful, they are usually the more stripped back ones. Simplicity is an art in itself, after all.”
Brighton-born Rebecca Godfrey, AKA BEC, has been crafting deep, titanic techno in Berlin for the past few years and has rapidly garnered attention and acclaim. After Pan-Pot’s Second State imprint released her debut EP, industry heavyweights Carl Cox and Adam Beyer quickly snapped her up for their respective labels – Intec and Drumcode. Sharing her deep knowledge of studio technology, BEC has collaborated with Roland and Novation to create numerous product demos and videos, and has amassed some pretty enviable gear in her Berlin Riverside Studio. Onstage, she wields three Pioneer DJ CDJ decks and has performed on some of the globe’s most iconic stages, including Burning Man, Warehouse Project, Tobacco Dock, Watergate Berlin and Fabrik Madrid, to name a few.
BEC’s own self-titled record label is now well underway, with three-track EP, BEC 002 – Turning Point, now available to purchase and stream. We enter her gear-packed, new studio to find out more about the label, her devotion of synths and drum machines and how clever use of Instagram is helping her to reach new fans.
Hey BEC, congratulations on the second release on your new BEC label. Can you tell us a bit about it and why you decided to start a label specifically for your releases?
I started my own label mainly to have more creative freedom. Firstly, deciding exactly what I’d like to release and to be able to be more experimental or cross-genre without being limited by the sound of a certain label. The other reason is the more practical reason of timing. There are only a handful of labels that I’d really love to release on. And, of course, all of these labels are very popular, meaning that their schedule is tight and the timing doesn’t always work well with mine.
What challenges have you confronted with having your own label?
Managing the distribution. I don’t have a label manager, so I’ve taken the DIY route of setting it all up myself. The distribution has definitely been challenging, I had no idea how complex it would be to ensure my music gets uploaded onto all the right platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Beatport, etc. I have a distribution partner but it still requires an understanding of how it all works to make sure it’s done correctly and on time.
The new release on your BEC label is Turning Point. Did you approach anything differently in the production compared to BEC 001?
Yes, quite a bit is different here. For BEC 001, I focused on creating tracks that had a vocal element to them. This became the main focus so I just built some solid drums around that. I would say they are less complicated in terms of production, for example with Downwards Spiral, there are barely any elements to the track, just drums, a sine wave, a thin pad and vocals. However, for BEC 002, I focused more on sculpting the sounds.
Where is your studio based now and how did you design it in the way you wanted?
It’s at Riverside Studios Berlin. I’m so happy to be there, it’s a really tight and talented community. I only moved in one month ago, so I’m still getting properly set up but I spent a day cabling and rearranging with my new studio partner Phillipp Eltz. We’re really pleased with how it’s looking so far. On one side we have my Jaspers synth stand, which is amazing, and this has now been filled with most of the gear. On the left of the studio we have the Arturia MatrixBrute which takes up quite a bit of room but definitely deserves to.
What new gear do you have your eye on at the moment?
I’ve just got my hands on the MatrixBrute which has blown my mind – such a giant, powerful synth and so easy to get used to. But now I know they’ve just released the PolyBrute, so naturally part of me is wishing to give that a try too.
What’s your general workflow in the studio? Do you start on a particular synth or does your process start in-the-box?
It completely depends on what mood I’m in. Sometimes I love to just jam and go wild with only hardware. I find this more natural and it feels like playing instruments more than it does working in-the-box within Ableton Live. There’s a danger with that, as it’s so fun I can get carried away, then suddenly a few hours later I still haven’t recorded or arranged anything. My most productive workflow seems to be when I start in-the-box and get a good foundation for the track laid down, then record certain sounds individually using my hardware setup. For example, focusing on recording just a 16th hi-hat with automation with my TR-8S, or a synth line, or even one synth note with the MatrixBrute.
Why have you chosen Ableton Live as your primary DAW?
In the beginning, I was using Logic Pro but I found it quite fiddly. I heard others speak about the simplicity of Ableton Live and how fast it is to use once you get used to it so I switched. I find it super powerful and extremely intuitive to use. However, now I’m using the Reason Rack within Ableton too – which is like the best of both worlds as I love the effects and synth plug-ins that come in Reason – especially the Scream distortion unit.
Do you have any synth and effects plug-ins that you gravitate towards on your tracks?
I must say, I’m the sort of producer that finds what works and sticks to that workflow. I’m not using different plug-ins that often. I use a very simple drive effect that I found for free on the internet by a company called Abletunes that do a series of one-knob plug-ins. I love using Native Instruments’ Reaktor for synths, the block library is so powerful as it’s a modular software system that can create anything from FM based sounds to more analogue-sounding artefacts.
What’s your general process for creating big, deep techno kicks?
If I’m working in-the-box, I use Kick 2 by SonicAcademy followed by the Scream distortion unit within the Reason Rack which adds a nice grit to the kick. However, if I’m doing this I would duplicate the kick first and apply the distortion, plus some saturation to only the mid and hi frequencies. The original kick track would then contain the full frequency and bass range. If I’m going to use my gear, I’d turn to my good old Analog Rytm by Elektron that has a superb kick and bass engine.
What are some production techniques and tips you always keep in mind when making your music?
I always keep in mind the fullness of the track that I’m creating, ensuring that every element that I add will fill a layer of frequencies, but not take away from other sounds on the frequency range at the same time. Because of this, I mix as I go. I try to keep my tracks as simple and with as few elements as possible. When I look back on tracks of mine that have been successful, they are usually the more stripped back ones. Simplicity is an art in itself, after all.
Processing sounds and adding effects can completely transform a sound. So when I’m creating a sound from scratch, I keep in mind that this is only the basis of what it will sound like in the end. I do use presets sometimes – and think there’s nothing wrong with doing this – but I always ensure that I’m manipulating the sound heavily afterwards.
You’ve taken to DJ streams since lockdown began – how have you found it?
It’s hit and miss to be completely honest. At the beginning of these terrible COVID-19 times, it seemed most people loved to watch live streams. However, it became very oversaturated, and the production value on a lot of streams was pretty low quality, making it difficult to enjoy. I’ve done a few I haven’t been totally happy with. There are a few I’ve taken part in which I’m proud of, such as the Beatport live stream aired on Twitch, which had 7,000 live viewers. It kind of blew my mind to think that the amount of people at a medium-sized festival are watching my stream at that exact moment worldwide.
What does your DJ setup look like at the moment? Will you be trying for some new CDJ-3000s?
My DJ setup at home is two Pioneer 900 Nexus CDJs and a DJM 900 Nexus Mixer that I’ve had forever. Must be going on five years now. I also have some Technics which I love to play around on. I would be so excited to try the CDJ-3000s but have yet to get my hands on them and I must say, a few months ago I tried the Denon SC6000 players which I was extremely impressed with.
You post clips of your jams and sketches on Instagram – do you think you’d like to translate these into a live performance in the future?
For sure. I definitely want to move towards a live-hybrid setup. I still love to DJ so my perfect setup would be to combine both of these, but without a laptop. I prefer seeing artists perform without a laptop.
How important do you think Instagram is in getting your name out there? What have you found works well for you?
It’s extremely important at present. Natural posts definitely work the best but I feel they are the hardest to achieve. It’s so much harder than it looks to constantly be active and to create posts that engage. You have to be continually thinking of the next piece of content that is going to be interesting, stand out and yet still look natural. I like to show myself in the studio as that’s my natural habitat and I like to get feedback on what I’m currently working on.
Finally, what do you anticipate for the future of live music given the ongoing pandemic? Will we return to normal anytime soon?
I’m split between being positive and being a realist when it comes to answering this question. At first, we all thought we’d be back to it as usual by Autumn 2020. Now my agent is looking at bookings for September 2021. It’s the furthest ahead we’ve ever had to plan and even Autumn 2021 isn’t certain. My positive outlook hopes that Spring 2021 will bring more events and fewer restrictions, even if they are smaller ones and not larger festivals. My glass-half-empty approach would be that we might not be back to normal now until 2022. But let’s stay positive!
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