The Forum: Babe Terror

The Forum: Babe Terror
It’s now been a year since Phantasy released Babe, Terror’s ‘Ancient M’ocean’; a full-length album and audio-visual experiment unlike anything the label had released before, and perhaps our most ambitious and outright unusual project to date. Telling a romantic ‘story that isn’t a story’ throughout its course, the world of Ancient M’ocean exists as both a full-length LP of leftfield pop imaginings awash in reverb and also as a short comic, tenderly illustrated by Michael Crook.

Unfolding slowly but surely, ‘Ancient M’ocean’ takes it’s time to crystalise, and a year on, tends to leave the Phantasy office intrigued and beguiled, while Babe, Terror, has continued to find a fanbase that already includes the likes of Four Tet and Arvo Part.

John Thorp recently took some time to catch up with the relatively elusive São Paulo artist via email in order to discuss his processes and influences, receiving an honest account of the Brazilian artist’s daily life and diverse tastes. You can also revisit or discover some of the hugely individual videos from his visual and musical collaborator, Mario Cascardo. Dive in...
We’ve only learned a little about your life so far. Are you making music all the time, or is it a hobby alongside work? When you are making music, what does a typical day in the life of Babe, Terror look like?

I have a more or less normal life, studying, working, listening to music for other activities, making food. Making music became more and more of an escape, usually something that I create at dawn to rest my soul and then I work on the details in the afternoons, doing the hard work at the less inspiring hours.

Ancient M’ocean was a beautiful album, but also a twenty-page comic. When did that idea develop, and what are some of your inspirations in the world of graphic art?

I'm a big fan of the fine arts and not so much of the comics, although I like those too. Part of my daily activity is art research, and today I am in south African artists like Frederike Stokhuyzen and Lois Wallace. At the time of producing "Ancient M'ocean", it was difficult to detect. But in fact my mind is always nurtured by fictions and art in general. Cinema, cinema on television, the great American and English series, etc. And there are things that always come and go, like the cartoons of the 80s. Nowadays if I did a similar work maybe I would maybe draw on the film "The Lost City of Z" by James Gray, without wanting to imitate it.

You’ve written on your website that you grew up around one thousand records. More than some, less than others, but nonetheless, this still felt like a small world. We all have the opportunity to digest a lot of music today. Is that collection still sacred to you? What were some of the defining highlights, and are you still able to hold them in your hands in order to revisit them?

Yes. I do not actually have that collection anymore, but I've been setting up another one for many years, with those albums I consider the greatest records on this Earth, in my opinion. Lately old vinyls by Roland Vazquez, by the Spanish band Iceberg, and recently, one from of the greatest singer-songwriters of the 70s James Vincent have arrived. I listen to 90% of the music I listen to on my computer, or on an MP3 player. But having the records is like having the fossils, the magical archives and traces of an ancient world that nevertheless belongs to me as well. Some highlights were in 1999; discovering the Emerson Lake and Palmer records, and in 2000 when I found Steely Dan's ‘Pretzel Logic’. It was a world opening up.
When you wrote Ancient M’ocean, it was done so, in your own words, “without thinking.” That sounds like a transcendent, almost ideal state for creating art. Has it been difficult to reach that stage since?

Not really. It is a matter of ambition, ambientation and will. I can make music, it's something I do naturally, the difficulty lies in obtaining perfect energy and ambiance. Sometimes a tiredness falls on me. I am preparing new things, but certainly different ones, some different continents compared to "Ancient M'ocean".

You’ve played alongside the likes of Tim Hecker and Gang Gang Dance and travelled internationally, and pretty much everything you’ve released has been critically celebrated. But you haven’t made the pass into becoming a full-time musician. Given the level of competition (and frankly, bullshit) in the industry, that might be seen as sensible, but it’s an unusual route these days: to make music that touches people like yours does, and still maintain it as a hobby. Is this a deliberate choice to keep yourself creatively fresh?

I feel like a full-time artist. The point is that I live in Brazil, and not much here exists to maintain a "professional life" in music. But what is a "professional life" anyway? It’s nothing. In art, it's nothing. Artistic life in full time occurs in the soul, in the interiors of creativity, and right there I am always a musician. At the moment I am producing an album by a great Brazilian artist, Mario Cascardo, known as Atletas (Athletes), who is a filmmaker as well. We do not do it for money, but we do it, just because it's great. He makes great music, and I'm helping, contributing ideas, seasoning something. There is a line of professionalization of the independent scene in Brazil, but I think I'm kind of lazy and unwilling to get into the necessary rotation: flattery, talking to people who do not care about art, socializing with children. Perhaps this lode elsewhere would more organically link the "professional" with the "musical-artistic," but 1: I'm not at that place; and 2: Perhaps I would be required to do things I do not like to do anyway: playing music around just for the sake of the job, participating in many things other than a lo-fi album or a talented great friend's album. To tell you the truth, I just like to make  nice records, and I'm going to continue doing it probably. I do not like the rest so much.  It’s just accessory.

John Thorp, February 2018.

You can pick up 'Ancient M'ocean' accompanied by 20 page immersive comic from the webstore HERE

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