Known for confusing listeners until they question their place in space and time, Rrose will take the Underground Stage May 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Movement Music Festival in Hart Plaza.
Rrose, a California native who lives in London, is the musical pandrogynous persona currently taken on by techno producer Seth Horvitz. The name originated as a conceptual character, Rrose Selavy, created by Marcel Duchamp in the 1920s. Prior to taking on the Rrose persona, Horvitz also created music under the name of Sutekh.
The Rrose project was born in 2011 with the release of three EPs and an album on the now decommissioned Sandwell District label. In 2012, Rrose launched Eaux, a label for solo productions and collaborations. Additional Rrose productions have appeared on Stroboscopic Artefacts, Khemia, Infrastructure, and Further Records.
When asked what motivates him to create, Rrose told BTL “It just seems to be the thing that I do best. I don’t always enjoy the process. I don’t always enjoy it but it’s something I feel it’s sort of a calling. It’s what I’m meant to do. I’m making a contribution. What I do influences people and inspires people so that’s the feedback that I get from people, from audiences, from people that are important to me. And that gives me the fuel to keep creating.”
Does the reaction to your presentation in drag differ much from Europe to the U.S.?
I wouldn’t say there’s a real distinction between Europe and the U.S. as a whole. It’s more sort of individual venues and shows that differ. People always ask me the difference between playing in this country and that. For me I don’t get so much of a feeling from a country as I do just from a particular place or event, whatever that happens to be. I get it from what happens at that time and place.
Detroit prides itself on being the birthplace of Techno. So is coming here like visiting the mothership or just another stop on the tour?
Whenever I’m there I’m always keenly aware of the history of it. There’s a kind of honor of being there and being at the festival. That’s always on my mind whenever I get to Detroit.
You’ve been presenting as Rrose since 2012. Has the Rrose persona always been presented as female?
I did not dress for the first couple of performances but maybe the third or fourth I had started. I kind of had the idea in mind when I started the project. I just wasn’t sure if I was ready to commit to it. I had to be ready. It was going to be something that once I started, I couldn’t really change my mind. It would be a commitment. So I made the decision.
Is that a nod to sexual orientation or simply a style choice?
Initially it was a way for me to subvert the element of the white male techno image, which I was not comfortable representing on stage. So it just made sense. It wasn’t something that I decided from the beginning but when I chose the name it was sort of an idea I was kicking around. As I realized how important the project had become to me and how sensual it had become it became more important to deal with the persona and the identity.
Does sexual orientation have any relevance in techno or does the music transcend such binary constrictions?
I think it’s definitely relevant. Techno is interesting. It’s because sort of the history of techno crosses over quite heavily in the gay club scene. But over time it seems like it’s become more and more heterosexual and has more just sort of a macho element to it. As far as the content I think in the ideal situation what techno can do is sort of lift those barriers and make all orientations sort of equal and available and I think the music has the potential to sort of transcend all of those categories and open up possibilities and give people a sense of openness and freedom of expression. And in the ideal situation it gives people a sense that it’s safe to express yourself in any way possible and it’s ok to be with any type of person and express this experience.
How did you evolve into Rrose?
It was kind of a break from the Sutekh project. I drifted away from it for a few years and got involved in other kind of projects and other kinds of music. I distanced myself from the club scene for a few years and ended up going back to school to study music. I started doing composition and sound arts projects and at that point I wasn’t even sure I would be making techno anymore. But when I finished my studies I had the opportunity to collaborate with Bob Ostertag and that gave me some inspiration to make techno again and some time had passed and a lot of changes had occurred in my life. And I felt like the music I was making had a new approach to it, a more focused approach and a fixed identity. So I took some time to decide what to name it and what it was going to be about. I thought it would only be sort of a side project, an outlet for me to make techno while I did other things. But it quickly consumed me.
Does your bachelor’s degree in cognitive science have a practical application for you in the making of music? Is there a scientific component to techno or is it purely emotionally driven?
My degree didn’t provide any kind of technical expertise that contributes to making music. For me cognitive science was a way to study consciousness and the mind through many different perspectives and that’s what I liked about it. I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of a practical application or career. It was just a subject I was interested in. I still think about those perspectives a lot and I’m sure it in some way it finds itself into my practical approach.