Having made her name with releases on Drumcode, Second State and Intec, BEC, aka Rebecca Godfrey, is one of techno’s rising stars, performing sets at venues such as Warehouse Project, Tobacco Dock, Watergate Berlin and Fabrik Madrid, as well as the Burning Man festival.
Hailing from the small village of Pevensey & Westham, 30 minutes down the coast from Brighton, she’s just released a two-track remix EP of The Course’s Ready Or Not (which itself sampled the Fugees hit of the same name), which can be purchased here.
She also recently collaborated with car brand Mercedes on their new advertising campaign, for which she provided the music and starred in a commercial.
909originals’ Emer O’Connor caught up with her. Over to you, Emer.
Hi Rebecca, thanks for talking to us. While you love to incorporate acid and rave vibes into your tripped-out techno, when you’re planning your studio productions, where do you look for inspiration?
All kinds of places. I listen to all kinds of music. When I’m at home or on the way to the studio, I enjoy very chilled acoustic or piano music.
I don’t actually listen to techno the majority of the time, like some people may think. Experiencing new cultures, or having a good time with friends – anything can really trigger my inspiration.
Did you grow up with music in your family?
No one that I know of is musical in my family. Although I dabbled in music as a child, I played guitar and piano, then I lost interest and got more into fine art in my teenage years, but I was constantly collecting music.
Then, when I was about 17, I really got into music again. Perhaps I wasn’t as obsessed from the beginning but I’ve always been on a creative path anyway.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of The Score by The Fugees, and you were asked to do a remix of The Course’s legendary track Ready or Not, which samples the rap group’s track of the same name. Can you give us a low down of your methodology when you were approaching this remix in your Riverside Studio in Berlin?
I got asked by the label, Altra Moda, through a good friend. They approached him to ask me to do it and I felt really honoured because The Course remix was played in clubs a lot when I was growing up.
I remember really early on before I even went out to electronic music clubs, I heard this track played so often, although the remake obviously doesn’t use the original vocals from The Fugees.
I thought about it a lot and although I generally never use vocals in my music but maybe I could do two versions, one with no vocals at all using the melody which I love, with a kind of experimental breakbeat type opener, and then the ‘rave’ remix which is more my usual techno style.
I really wanted to use the vocals. I got feedback from the label, saying ‘you know it’s amazing, but what do you think about just using the line “Ready or Not, Here I Come” before it drops, and I realised that if I just used it in that one place it could also be really effective. That way, people recognise the track and then when it comes to the break, they really do.
I really enjoyed creating both tracks and I did them both in one week, which was quite crazy timing from start to finish, I was just inspired and definitely in a sweet flow and excited to create my own twist on it.
Did you know that The Fugees themselves took their sample from the multi-million selling Irish artist Enya and her track Boadicea, and that she was going to sue them for copyright infringement until she realised that it wasn’t ‘gangsta rap’ that they were making. Now that you own your own label, you must be very well versed in copyright law?
Yes, I am indeed and there is an amazing site called Who Sampled – if you go on there and put a track in it’s so surprising to see how many times things have been sampled in very popular music. In my music, now, I tend to try to stay away from anything that’s not from an actual sample pack and even then, I try to only use drums.
I make most of my melodies or vocals myself, firstly to have a more unique sound but secondly stay away from any copyright issues because I’m very aware that they can be a real problem. So I was very excited when the original label of The Course version of this track (I guess it’s got a long history) asked me to get involved, because I knew the sample would be cleared.
One of your previous was Sines and Breaks, and you explain how sine is a basic music wave but it’s also mathematical law relating to the Pythagoras theory. Were you a maths nerd at school?
No I wasn’t aware of that, actually maths was probably my worst subject and I hate anything to do with it, I was always getting numbers wrong so I actually didn’t know that, but I can understand obviously how it’s all linked. I guess everything is mathematical in the end when it comes down to the real foundation of things.
Perhaps sums are not your forté, but music production most certainly is, and you have an incredible work ethic. How many tracks have you made since you decided to do music professionally in 2014?
I don’t know that answer off the top of my head, but yeah, it’s quite a few now. I think I had seven releases on Pan-Pot’s Second State alone, then there’s Adam Beyer’s Drumcode and one on Intec and several on smaller labels here and there. Sines and Breaks was released on my own label.
I’m thankful to have produced so much music and there’s definitely a lot more coming. There’s tonnes in my hard drive, so it’s more about figuring out where it should go.
You’ve been living in Berlin six years now and I believe Pan-Pot were the ones to originally entice you over to live there. Could you tell us how that relationship blossomed, what attracted them to your sound? Also, sprechen Sie Deutsch?
I should speak German by now, I’m going to fully admit it and I actually want to start learning. I don’t think it’s ever too late to start something, so I’m not ashamed of starting now. I have made the decision to go to a language school next month.
As for Pan-Pot, well I met Thomas and Tassilo when I was living in London and by that stage I was just so sick of life in London. I was working as a web designer in an advertising agency and doing such long hours, getting off Friday night and thinking ‘what am I doing with my life?’
I didn’t want to just work this corporate life – it doesn’t feel right for me. Soon after that, I met Thomas and Tassilo in a warehouse event in Hackney, and I was totally blown away by their set. I had already been DJing for several years and putting out mixes and I told them everything and they were so interested in my story. We ended up really connecting that night.
I had also been visiting Berlin myself for a long time and I love the techno out here. Life is so much cheaper than London too, so I could just see it being the natural progression for my next chapter. I made the decision one Friday after work and booked my flight for two weeks later. And I was gone.
You graduated from the SAE Institute (School of Audio Engineering), located in Hackney and Shoreditch, so obviously you were very focused about advancing your skillset to become a music professional?
After I met Thomas and Tissilo, I thought very seriously about my situation, and realistically, these days, if you want to be a good DJ, you have to produce your own music. So, after visiting Berlin for the weekend, I returned to London and started this evening course whilst still working as a graphic designer. Once I completed the course, then I moved over to Berlin.
It took a very long time after that course to get me to where I am now. As everyone else out there knows whose trying to learn how to produce music, you need to put the hours in.
In terms of equipment, you must have bought tonnes of studio equipment over the years?
Yeah, it’s been a slow process, buying various controllers, recorders and synthesisers every six months or so. I’ve met so many inspirational people along the way, real hardware nerds.
A good friend of mine has a studio full of machines and I just want to go jam with him all the time, because I realised I love using hardware but I also still enjoy using software too. I share Riverside Studios with my friend Phillip Eltz and we have both acquired so much stuff over the years, which is fantastic, because then I get to use things that I haven’t even thought of before. I love producing in general it’s so much fun.
You must also love DJing, the feel from the crowd. It must be very special for you when you get to play your own tracks out too. Do you prefer to play live or would you mix with vinyl too?
While I do love vinyl, right now I just play with CDJ’s because when you’re travelling around the world, transporting vinyl is just another level of difficulty. Just now, on my tour, I had 17 flights, so I can’t imagine hauling a vinyl bag on all those flights.
While I love playing with CDJs I intend to incorporate a mobile hybrid live set-up, whether that might be plugging in a drum machine like Roland TR8 or something into the mix. But right now I just use the Pioneer RMX station which I like because I can layer drums over the top of my DJ set and at least that’s giving my set more of a live deal.
I do use three decks, sometimes even four, and that’s also why I like using CDJs because you can loop very easily. I don’t like people to recognise what I’m playing, I like to kind of be remixing on the fly. Another DJ that does this really well is Len Faki, he’ll loop tracks and build up with other tracks over the top so you can’t really ever hear exactly which one track is playing. That’s the style I really like.
By your early twenties you had already played across the globe, in The Egg in London, Watergate, De Marktkantine in Amsterdam, Burning Man, and Rainbow Serpent festival. Was that your last gig before the pandemic?
No it wasn’t, although Rainbow Serpent was phenomenal. My last show before the pandemic was in Belgium at Compass, which has shut down now but was an incredible venue. It was actually a friend of mine that was doing the event; so there was a friendly face there, and we had this talk backstage, like ‘hey I think the whole world is gonna shutdown, maybe even in the next few days – this may be the last gig that I play’.
I remember this conversation and then then the very next day it was true, the world did shut down. It’s absolutely insane to even think of that now!
So how did it make you feel when 2020 made you pause after such ferocious pace at that stage?
Yeah, I was kind of anxious about what would happen and wondered if some artists that may be getting to the top would just be forgotten about.
I wasn’t really sure what was the best way for me to stay active and present – a lot of people were saying ‘don’t release this music, it will be a waste’, others were saying ‘keep on releasing’.
I really just had to trust in myself. I did spend the first few months in the studio but after that I found it really hard keep up the motivation. So I took a very long break and I was thankful to pick up on my graphic design work to keep paying the bills.
A lot of my friends in the music industry were left without any job at all and ended up working in the vaccine centre – well at least they had some means of income, even if it was a really unexpected one. But yeah, it’s been a very long time out.
I’m so so happy now, I’ve just come back from five weeks on tour with my busiest period ever. I just started back DJing events across the Americas. It feels like I’ve kicked off on an even better foot than where I left off a year and a half ago, which is still sinking in. It’s just amazing that I have the opportunity to do that.
It must feel insane that you can travel like that so soon; go from Bogota to Medellin, to Guadalajara, to Mexico, Philly, Miami, Vegas, LA and then Austin; are you in anyway worried about the health or social implications of touring throughout the pandemic or how badly do restrictions affect you?
I am fully vaccinated, and I do wear mask at all times while travelling on flights, in airports. Even if I’m not required to, I still do that out of respect for other people. In Germany they vaccinate you with AstraZeneca and then the Pfizer was my second which is the absolute best protection you can get, statistically.
I made sure I was vaccinated before I left, if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have wanted to go at all. In terms of the people in the clubs, yeah, I do think about it. In countries such as Colombia, unfortunately, they haven’t been able to get access to the vaccine like we have in Europe, and speaking to the promoters out there, a lot of them that are more well off, are flying over to the States to get back vaccinated with their families and coming back.
Some promoters have dealt with it a lot better than others – for example, the guys in Incognito in LA are amazing, I’ve played for them three times now and they are super careful, they require a negative test as proof that you are clear or you have to be fully vaccinated. I feel I felt safer playing at some events rather than others, but in terms of the crowd, I just really hope that more and more people decide to get vaccinated, so that we can just get back to normal even quicker.
We actually have an 80% vaccination rate in Ireland but we’re not allowed to have any gigs except open air events with 200 people. Whereas everything is all go in Northern Ireland – its biggest techno festival AVA will be held on 24th September, and there’s no problems there. In terms of the way you treat your production like a day job, when you’re not travelling, do you have grounding rituals that you perform, and how do you stay motivated?
Yeah I do treat my job like a 9 to 5, I’ve never drank in my studio, it’s my work time, I stay in a solid routine, I have my own schedule and and I’m lucky to be able do my own thing and something I really love.
So, I feel like I need to keep it like a bit regimented and keep getting things done, and I even have weekly targets and monthly targets. I treat music production like when I when I did my design work.
I get up early and always meditate, I exercise at home, have a smoothie and a coffee and take a 20-minute walk to the studio. I could cycle or take public transport but even if it’s not great weather I’m just always walking , because I find that I like that time to set-up my day in my routine. If it’s a good day, I can spend the entire day there, but if it’s not going so well then after lunch I might decide to leave because I don’t believe in just pushing it in the studio.
There are other things I can do to stay busy in the studio but not be working on music, such as organising samples or collecting new music etc. I think of the psychology; it’s just like if you can’t sleep in bed, the recommendation is to get out of bed, do something else and then go back to bed, because then your mind doesn’t get used to staying awake in bed.
Now that things are opening back up, can you get out to other gigs and places yourself and surround yourself with creative stimulation?
I had so much inspiration on tour, and since my return last week I’ve been in my studio and already made two tracks that I’m super happy with, so it just shows how life is a revelation really, just being out meeting people, playing playing the music that I’m creating and seeing people’s response to it.
I’ve done a bit of research and it’s plain to see you’re a highly trained, experienced and talented producer and DJ, and you’ve done the hard slog to get to where you are. But at first glance, with such high profile successes and accolades, maybe to many purists it might seem that you’re part of that social media-driven ‘business techno’ scene. What would you say to that?
Yes, it’s a difficult subject, I do really appreciate that you recognise that I have had a hard slog to get to where I am, and it’s true I do get put in that box a lot.
I mean I’ve even had criticism when I’ve posted studio videos before, most notably the one on Beatport, when people ‘it’s all fake, and clearly I don’t make my own music’.
I thought, ‘well, you clearly don’t follow me then’, because if you watched my stories I’m in the studio every single weekday when I’m in Berlin. I do feel that with DJing, it’s somewhat like kind of easy to learn the technicalities and naturally anyone who’s extremely passionate would one day just want to learn how to make their own instead of maybe having help do it.
The industry has changed over the years and I don’t have anything against people who don’t make music but I do naturally have more respect people that make their own music. It’s very clear who does and who doesn’t, because I feel if you make your own music of course you’d be posting it on social media.
You have 20,000+ followers on Instagram, it and it’s clear that you have a very established sense of brand; can you tell us about your journey of building that army of followers, and most recently producing the music for the new Mercedes campaign?
Yeah, that was amazing. Well, with Instagram I don’t have the hundreds of thousands or even millions that some people have, but there has been a really slow but very authentic rise in my followers. It’s kind of gaining traction even more recently and I really appreciate everyone that follows me and everyone interacts a lot with what I post in the comments, which I which is what I get the most from.
In terms of the Mercedes advert, they approached my agent and said that they were looking for someone in Berlin and that they liked my music and would I be interested in creating a track for an advert.
They were doing a series focused on creatives, so they did one with a photographer, one with a fashion designer and they wanted one with electronic music producer. I was lucky enough for them to to ask me – it was a huge honour and this was the first time I created music for an advert. Also, they wanted me to create a track in my style, which was even better.
The filming was a whole day just one day in winter in October, so it was freezing and it was a very long day, but it was really great and I am very proud of the end result.
Had you done much modelling or acting in the past; there is a big difference between DJ profile shots and commercial modelling?
I’ve never done acting before, but when I was around 16 to 19 I did a bit of commercial modelling, so that probably helped a bit. It was good fun doing it.
What did you make of the voiceover that they used in the Mercedes ad, when I watched it, I knew that couldn’t be your voice, a young woman from Brighton?
Yeah, that was a bit strange, they actually recorded my voice to start with but then they decided in the end to use an American voice. Although I did ask for my voice to still be used, they weren’t up for it.
It’s a huge brand, so I guess what they say goes at the end of the day. I was really happy with the rest of the video; I thought especially the camera guys did incredible job.
Finally before we wrap, let’s go back to where we started with Ready or Not – Lauryn Hill was just 21 when she recorded the hook and then she went on to produce one of the greatest solo albums of all time and win countless Grammy Awards. Do you have your eyes on any musical accolades in the future yourself?
Oh, that’s a question I’ve never thought of before, actually. I don’t really have my eyes on a prize I guess. I just want to influence as many people as possible with my music and if I can help share my skills with world I will.
That’s why I do a lot of master classes. One day, I would love to maybe teach less fortunate children or you know just give back in that sense.
I know the Mercedes Benz advertisement was your first mainstream project – perhaps in the future you might be doing more soundtracks for film?
I did sign with the publishing agency, Buddha Music, but I’ve actually just been focused more on my own productions. I definitely want to dig into that more in the future and I will do, but right now it’s it’s something that I’m not actively pursuing.
Thank you very much for giving 909originals so much of your time, and I’m sure our followers and yours will enjoy learning more about you.
Thank you so much, it’s been, honestly, with all your interesting questions, probably one of the best interviews that I’ve ever done. I really enjoyed what you have to say and your perspective as well, it was really good to speak to you. Thank you so much.
[Words by Emer O’Connor]