Interview: Berlin-via-Lebanon experimental artist Rabih Beaini
February 20th 2017
When it comes to electronic music, Lebanese-born, Berlin-based electronic producer Rabih Beaini is innovative, curious and forward thinking.
He puts out cutting edge analogue techno experiments, composes exploratory soundtracks, and releases music by avant-garde beatmakers on his label Morphine Records. Beaini has produced LPs for the late pioneering American composer Pauline Oliveros, French mechanical-orchestra creator Pierre Bastien, and the explosive Indonesian duo Senyawa, just to name a few.
Now he is here in Sydney to play the Most ii – The Singularity, an experimental noise opera currently touring the country with Poland’s Mikolaj Trazska, Remont Pomp, The Useless Assembly and Lismore locals Tralala Blip. The Ears Have Ears team caught up with Rabih to see what we can expect from this exciting tour.
You started out making techno in the 90s in Lebanon – what started you down the path of becoming a producer?
To be exact, I started DJing in Lebanon in the 90s, but wasn’t until I got to Italy that I started producing music. After participating in private courses for music production and studio engineering, this is what got me into the actual production process. It was exciting to discover more about studio recording and DAW at the time.
Relocating to Venice for a time in 1996, you founded Morphine Records, home to releases from Pauline Oliveros, Sote, Hieroglyphic Being, Container and more. What made you start your own label?
While playing gigs and making music in north Italy in the early 2000s, I felt there was a real lack of more forward-thinking labels in the dance music scene, and I decided to start my own. Initially the label was more focusing on a raw and diverse house and techno sound, it slowly opened into a wider spectrum and special projects.
Recently you soundtracked Vincent Moon and Priscilla Telmon’s short film Cosmogonia. What drew you to that particular work?
We started a live project – me and Vincent Moon – last year, expanding what he calls Live Cinema, where he mixes films he shot and I process the sounds from the films and add my own. Cosmogonia was a similar collaboration with him and Priscilla Telmon, where they ‘performed’ the films in a sort of a ritual, and I was using some of the sounds of the films with synthesizers and processing pedals.
Is scoring for video works something that you want to do more of in the future?
Of course, it’s almost a natural path for every musician – to evolve into including the visual sense, and create a connection with images. I have often worked on live scoring for films, especially with my band, Upperground Orchestra. I had several performances with live soundtracks in different film or music festivals or locations.
Previously you’ve spoken about lack of diversity in the music industry, specifically citing the lack of female DJs on the Dekmantel festival lineup. How should experimental and electronic music communities be addressing this issue?
Equality, simply. I come from both the club and the experimental scene, and the club scene was until recently well known for the big lack of true female artists, and the few that were there were almost an exotic figure that almost wasn’t required to have skills – or in a case of simple fails, were completely demonised. I think we’re still far from a real equal stage, but I see a big change already happening. I think many are working on fair lineups, and my remarks go to the ones that aren’t even considering it yet.
What’s your process for creating live works?
I create based on the environment, project type, location. I need elements to include in my work, and I place my work inside the environment without forcing it. I probably learned that from architecture school, where the cardinal points are the most important for the creation, the communication with the environment and the natural blending in with the community that inhabits these surroundings. I find this process highly inspiring as well.
Currently you reside in Berlin – what’s your experience of the city and its experimental music scene?
I find Berlin a great deal of inspiration on many levels: from its history to the people living in this city, the community feeling it offers, the structures available for creative spaces and recreational spaces, to the great amount of musicians and artists that constantly evolve with the city. I’m now noticing a very important shift in the local scene, where a few years ago electronic music and experimental improv scene were quite distinguished, they are now opening to each others in a very creative and substantial way. It’s really refreshing.
You’re in Australia touring with MOST ii with Remont Pomp, Tralala Blip, The Useless Assembly and Mikołaj Trzaska. What can we expect from your live set?
This is an incredible project, with a huge output. It’s a sort of a ‘Space Opera’ with visual parts and narration parts, but the overall is never too much: it’s drifting in smooth and splendid ways. This is as far as I can tell for now, I can’t reveal much of the music and the parts. But I can say it’s a one of a kind experience for me and I’m still humbled and grateful to be part of it, to share a stage with so many talented musicians and such a dedicated team. I guess people will also love it, it’s so natural and organic.
WHO: Rabih Beaini, Mikolaj Trazska, Remont Pomp, The Useless Assembly, Tralala Blip
WHAT: Most ii – The Singularity
WHEN: Tuesday 21 Februay
WHERE: The Red Rattler Theatre, Marrickville
HOW MUCH $10 on the door. More info here