“Darker & Sadder” – Baby Tap talks new album ‘Orion’
Baby Tap is fascinating in every way. His futuristic fashion will catch your eye, his ferocious stage presence will captivate you from the off and the music seated behind all of this is just as unpredictable as you may expect. The Nottingham local pops up at numerous local events and has forged a close following of friends and spectators – like it or not, you will not soon forget a Baby Tap performance. I spoke to Avess, the man behind Baby Tap, a few weeks ahead of the release of ‘Orion’, a record he describes as “the second chapter of my legacy as a human being”. For Baby Tap, this is the record he is doing everything he can to push out into as wide an audience as possible and with a top 5 in the LGBTQ+ Music Chart, he is off to a great start.
“I think it’s more eclectic. The production is better and my rapping is better”, Avess says when asked to compare ‘Orion’ to his previous records. “I think it’s sadder and darker whilst being more melodic and poppy too. I let my influences roam more freely.” More poppy it certainly may be, if the lead single ‘True Love’ is anything to go by. Avess agrees: “I think it’s one of the more poppier tracks and I guess I wanted to surprise people with something a little different, or more elevated”. When questioned on the decision to launch it as the first single from ‘Orion’, complete with a sharp, visual feast of a music video, the reasons were clear: “It had the most feeling behind it. The song is about something important I had to express. I was really hurt, angry and sad when I recorded this track so the whole process was more like an exorcism than a musical business venture. I didn’t think “oh this is going to be great as a single” – it kinda just manifested itself. I ran a few tracks by my videographer and he was most drawn to True Love, so it was meant to be.”
It’d be a mistake not to put a little more focus on the video itself – watch it and you’d have no idea that Baby Tap was a fiercely DIY artist, leaning on his own hard work, funding and contacts to create high quality content. “They’re not that expensive really, at all. Saying that, I bust my ass waiting tables for a year to save up enough so I could move out of my parents’ house but I spent the £1500 on the video instead. I think creativity is more important than money”. When it comes to videos, Avess knows what he wants and knows what is realistic to achieve – still, he takes on the help of his friends and contacts to deliver the best possible product: “I think I’m really lucky to know a lot of very talented and skilled creatives. It definitely helps being able to call on a friend, or even a friend of a friend to help you instead of looking for production companies on Google. There’s more love, trust and mutual energy involved. Knowing how it all works helps a lot. From the cinematography to the production and post-production. I studied it in college and I’ve just experimented with video making for a long time.
Now setting his sights to the future, more videos may well be in the pipeline should funding prove viable: “True Love has been the biggest video project I’ve ever done in my life and I really wanna save up for the next one and then the next one after that. To be totally honest I want someone out there to give me a stack and be like, ‘you’re good at it, here’s some money to do a new production!’”.
So, why the title ‘Orion’? It comes as no surprise that there are many reasons why Baby Tap saw it as the perfect title. “I always used to look at Orion in the sky above my house when I was a kid. It’s just the constellation I’ve always looked at most and found most fascinating a formation in the night sky. The most obvious one from my location anyway. Orion’s this dude with a bow and arrow right? I left home when I was 21 and came back six-and-a-half years later. I sat on my bed and looked out the window and I noticed the constellation and I just had this feeling of… Oh, everything’s okay. There’s someone watching over you. Like, you’re good. I know that sounds dumb, but I found comfort in this big pattern of stars”. He dug deeper into the story of Orion and found even more parallels: “Orion was the son of Poseidon and a hunter… I guess there’s something about masculinity invloved. A lot of the songs are about relationships, lovers and sex. I guess half of this album is relating to Orion as some kind of representative of men in my life. Apparantly the gods pissed in a bull’s carcass and buried it in the ground.Ten months later, they dig it up, and hey-presto. He’s born. That’s me.”
As Avess mentions, sex is a recurring topic throughout the tracks on the album so I wanted to ask if he thinks society as a whole, is warming to the idea of sexual liberation and more open discussions on the subject. “I think we, as a whole, are becoming more aware and open which is beautiful and brilliant. I adore and admire how liberating and empowering and powerful sexuality in art can be but I also think the mainstream media likes to pump out a load of crap to make big bucks for straight men that usually involves degrading woman and lgbtq+ people.”
Looking back to the early days of Avess’ life, it was clear he had a creative flair – he scored third place in an international Poetry competition, though he confesses he “(doesn’t) know what that means but I have the medal and I’m proud of it”. Producing his own music wasn’t quite as simple, requiring more than a pen, paper and creative mind. That too, however, had humble beginnings: “One day I found a demo music maker in a box of cereal and I fell completely in love with music production. I started experimenting with any software I could find including making midi makers. I just found it really fun and I’ve kinda done it ever since. Pretty much every day”.
He had an early taste of success in the world of production too, thanks to everybody’s friend Tom and the early social-media revolution that was Myspace where Avess hosted songs “with chickens squawking and people screaming“. It went down surprisingly well. “I used to post tracks on Myspace and I remember people at college being into my weird hyper beats”.
As a listener may predict, the range of influences on Baby Tap’s music is vast. “So many artists inspire me. Bjork, most definitely. The intricacies and uniqueness of her style and production is insane. I think she’s super punk. M.I.A. is a massive inspiration too”. Speaking specifically of what inspired him to make music as Baby Tap in the first glance, he comments: “I guess the digital hardcore, industrial and electroclash movements inspired Baby Tap’s birth. I’ve been writing music as Baby Tap since 2007 and I was most defnitely influenced by bands like Cobra Killer, E8or and KMFDM. DIY punk artists like Peaches and Angelspit. Bands that specialized in fucked up beats and unique production methods. I think the digital hardcore movement, trash, noise and punk culture inspired me to make art, in general.” Baby Tap also acknowledges goth metal as something that “resonated with me most when I was a teenager”.
The poppier side of his music is also accounted for: “I love noise music but I have an affinity to pop, hip hop and R’n’B too. Nicki Minaj inspired me to start rapping after I heard her verse on ‘Monster’ and I have to note Azealia Banks too. Hanayo is fucking amazing, her album ‘Gift’ is from another planet. I also loves me some Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Smashing Pumpkins”. Focusing it on the tracks on his upcoming album, he continues “Death Disco is a track I wrote about nine years ago that was inspired by Lady Gaga and I don’t want to admit it, but I wrote Running Your Way after hearing Bodak Yellow too.”
On a similar note, I wanted to ask Baby Tap which artists he rated today and to highlight some of his personal picks from the scene at the moment. “I think there’s some cool shit happening. I mean, you should listen to Baby Tap but I have to say I love what’s happening in female rap at the moment, artists like Doja Cat and Rico Nasty bringing a whole new level of fun and freshness which was very much needed. I think too many people take too much shit seriously so it’s nice to see something tongue-in-cheek and off-the-wall. I think you should listen to $waggot too. He’s my online musical sister. We’ve worked on a few tracks together and I just think his style is so innovative and his music is so raw and real. To a gay boy like me anyway. He just released his album ‘Traumavision’ and it’s fucking fantastic.”
“Check out Bone Cult, Franx, Nana and Arch Femmesis too”. Avess gives the nod to the fellow Nottingham based acts, all of whom have shared stages with Baby Tap in one guise or another. “I’m honoured to call them my friends and they’re all doing something unique and very exciting. They make me wet”. Clearly proud of the creativity that his city is producing, he summarises: “I think there’s a lot of amazing alternative shit happening in my city. I think it’s important to find out what’s happening locally and support that shit.”
Back to ‘Orion’ then, all of these muses and influences have collided into what Avess would argue is his strongest work to date. When I asked which artists inspired the record, he acknowledges influences broader than a single artist or band: “I think the album pays more tribute to styles and genres in general instead of any specific artists. The inspirations are vast and varied, and some not even musical inspirations. ‘Dummy Deadlock’ is my homage to that 90’s Dutch gabba and German hardcore music. There’s nods to synth-pop, house and industrial music too.”
In a question that I’m sure is equally as frustrating as it is impossible to answer, I thought I’d give a shot at asking Avess to pick out his favourite track from the upcoming album. “I think Flowers, the opener track. I think it’s the prettiest song I’ve done. Maybe the last track M-Kaset too because it’s really stupid. I’m excited to see what people think of the collab track with Question too. It’s a straight-up rap track which I’ve never really done before and I think my flow is SICK on it”. Kudos then for giving an answer where most artists don’t, but since when did Baby Tap ever do what most artists do? Despite his answers, it’s clear that, whilst he can pinpoint a few highlights, he takes ultimate pride in the body of work itself. “I guess I’m more excited for people to experience the album as a whole piece. I think there’s a lot of angles, corners and nuances on this album. I want people to listen to the whole album, it’s a journey” he explains.
Another local artist, Question, appears on the record as Baby Tap alluded to earlier. I was curious as to how these two artists came together and, ultimately, how their collaboration was thought up. “We had mutual friends on the club-kid scene in East London back in the day. One of our friends was putting on a club night in 2014 and asked us both if we’d do a rap battle. We both agreed to do it but what nobody knew is that we met a week before to hang out, drink peppermint tea and discuss verses and our approaches. I’ve admired his energy and freshness ever since.” Again, Baby Tap isn’t like other artists, and nor is Question by the sound of things – seems like a perfect match.
“I moved back to Nottingham after seven years in London and a year later he moved back too, by chance – I didn’t even realise he was from Nottingham. I was writing this album and I was inspired to do an in-your-face, techno trap song and I wrote the beat with Question in mind. I recorded the song and sent it to him and he liked it! We met in a studio near my house and recorded his verse. I think the track should be a music video too. It would be sick!”
My last question, and for me the one I was most curious about – how does an artist like Baby Tap produce fiercely creative music and visuals whilst also making a living? “Oh, I’m just fucking eating crystal lychees and gin sorbet in LA every day. It’s a party at the beach.” If only that were true. “No, erm… I work four days a week. I spend pretty much every evening at the moment on Baby Tap and then all of my days off are centred around the musical or creative tasks I have to do that day or that week. It’s stressful sometimes. It’s like revising for an exam constantly. I just try to follow my gut and remember that the main thing is that I’m enjoying myself but it’s really important to me”. He hints at a bit of time away from Baby Tap after the ‘Orion’ promotion wraps up: “I have more work to do but after that it’ll be nice to switch lanes for a bit. I haven’t been on holiday for two years and sometimes I don’t really have a social life because of Baby Tap. It’s a lot of work.”
Avess’ dedication to music may have often felt against all odds. Growing up and overflowing with creativity yet having to put in years of work alongside a day job as a means of income. Most of us can barely muster the strength to do much more than shower and cook after a busy days work but, determined to make his voice and music heard, Baby Tap has tirelessly dedicated himself to his vision and ambition for his project. “Making music doesn’t pays the bills. I do it cos I love it and I do it cos I have a vision”.
‘Orion’ is out on the 1st September.