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Horses in The Chat by Staley Sharples


5th March 2021
It was April when Harrison Rodrigues aka Baauer introduced himself to Discord & Twitch. The producer, like several others, turned to these new networks to connect with his audience. Tours and festivals were being continuously re-scheduled or cancelled, as fans and artists alike wondered what was next. The uncertainty of the future ran high as we all attempted to navigate living through our first global pandemic.

Baauer’s Twitch streams are an escape that many have needed. As our planet erupts in fires, earthquakes, sickness, violence, and hate, Baauer’s streams provided a portal away from it all. Fans have watched an artist react and create during major historical events, and as he has grown into the medium, the community he’s built has grown with him. In a challenging year, Baauer’s Twitch and Discord community became a much-needed respite from the anger and hostility of the world.

Into 2021, Baauer has continued to stream. He’s baked bread, hosted beat battles with a host of guest judges including Hudson Mohawke, Flume, Kenny Beats, Diplo, Rebecca Black & Four Tet - and made an entirely new compilation of work on air —The BopTape, a free mixtape hosted by comedian Patti Harrison

On November 13th, 2020, I spoke to Baauer in a live-streamed interview on Twitch. The GRAMMY® nominated producer and I talked about his career and the making of Planet’s Mad & The Boptape.

Our conversation has been edited for clarity.


Stales: I want to talk to you about how your year has been. What was it supposed to look like for you? When did you decide to alter the plan?

Baauer: Great question. I mean, you already know. The plan was: release Planet's Mad. I finished it, like… I'm gonna say I finished it in May. No, no, no. I finished it pre-COVID. Maybe in February. The plan was to release it and have all these bangers to play live and have a wonderful tour and have a great time. But of course, 2020 had different ideas. 2020 had a different plan for me.

It did. It did have a different plan.

COVID, blah, blah, blah. Released it during all this shit. All my plans for touring and playing this album live and having fun with it were all cancelled, which sucks.

That's true. But, now you're on Twitch.

Now I'm on Twitch.

What made you say, I'm going to be a Twitch streamer? How did you make that leap?

I gotta shout out the man Kenny Beats. Kenny hit me up randomly and was like, “Yo, do you want to come on the stream one day?” I already knew he did Twitch. I’d tuned into his streams a couple of times. I just popped in and saw what he was doing but never thought about doing it myself. Then I went on his stream. It was super fun, really cool. Then he did the classic thing of being like, “Yo, you gotta stream, you gotta do it.”  Kenny Beats, he’s a life coach guy. So, that's what pushed me over the edge. That's what got me started.

Were you familiar with the Twitch and Discord platforms, or did it all kind of happen this year?

Not really, no. I sort of knew about all of them in passing, but I didn't really know. I didn't know what Discord was. I had never heard of that. I was starting everything fresh.

Yeah, I mean, you definitely seem like a natural when it comes to streaming.

Thank you so much.

Yeah, I mean it. Obviously, I'm a big fan. I really enjoyed watching the streams and getting to know everybody this year in the community. I want to jump into that in a second. I want to talk to you about how the transition towards streaming. How is that different from performing at a DJ set? Was it hard to make that leap?

Um, it's different from… performing a DJ set. There's a lot of talking. I never talk during a DJ set. I hide behind the loud ass music. Yeah. I never thought I could be able to talk… I never thought I could make music in front of people, ever. I never thought I would be able to talk while making music. Or… talk well. I'm not even sure I can talk well to this day.

You sound great to me. You sound like you're just talking just fine.

Thank you so much. I don't think I've ever been a good speaker, ever. Honestly, in a social situation, I'm pretty shy. I don’t really talk much. Even backstage at a DJ gig or whatever, I won't be talking to people. I'm not, like, chatty. I'm, like, on my phone, scrolling through my phone in a corner. The thought of broadcasting and talking to a bunch of people and making music, I never thought I would be able to do that, never.

How did you get over that fear… or, you know, like, how did you… other than just, I guess, doing it… were you nervous the first time you streamed, like, what was it like?

I was nervous. I was mostly nervous because, I thought, oh man, I'm going to be doing a stream, and there's only going to be ten people in there. But whatever. That's why I tried to stay a little secretive at first. For those that have been here since day one on the stream, know that at first I was a little lowkey. I put my username as harrybaobao. I didn't put it as baauer. I wasn't really advertising it at first. I was trying to dip my toe in and see how it went. As I did that, I discovered I really liked talking to the chat, making stupid jokes. I was like, okay, I kind of like this.

I think that’s part of what’s made this community really special—you are really responsive in the Discord and with the chat. Was that something you intended to do, to be so hands on with the fans and the community?

It pretty organically evolved that way. I never would’ve thought I’d be talking to fans like this. At times it’s felt like, is this wrong to do? I’ve second guessed myself. Should you not do this? Am I, like, breaking something I've built? Then I realized, no! Fuck that! Guess what, it’s 2020, no more of this bullshit.

There’s no rules!

No rules! I guess some people are like a cool figure that you appreciate from a distance. But over time, I realized I'm not that type of artist. Fuck it. I'm the artist who talks to everybody, and it feels good.

The fact that you are really active is what has built the community into what it is. Something I also noticed is your community—

The word community feels a little cheesy in a way… but it's also nice. I've felt it used in a way that feels a little bit… what's the word…

It's marketing-speak.

Yes, market-y speak. Which makes it feel not so genuine. But it is a very genuine thing. And very organic.

It is. Absolutely. Something I've noticed is everybody's really respectful of each other. Everybody is really inclusive. I've collaborated with people from Discord on creative projects. It's like a collective.

That word feels really good. If I want to brand it as something, I want to say collective.

When did you feel like you had something really cool going?

Yeah, like, a couple things… not to gas you up, but I saw you on a podcast or something shout me out. I was like, alright, hell yeah. That was dope. Obviously, the Bop Battles… which isn’t even something I wanted to do because I thought that was copying Kenny Beats. I didn't want to be copying everything he does. But basically, Yank the Tank, and some other kings and queens in the community told me to. So I started it because people told me to. Not because I did it on my own, but because the chat told me to. Now, that's become one of the most exciting parts of the stream for me. It's a way to discover the talent that's been bubbling in the chat, the immense talent that's been hiding inside the chat.

Yeah, I mean, there are so many artists in here I've become a fan of because of everybody interacting and posting music in the Bop Battles. Did you have a plan for the stream going in? Were you just going to do production? how has it evolved? How has it changed over time, and what has inspired you to make those changes?

It's evolved. Shout out to the Bop Battles. That's probably the strongest evolution in terms of a structured thing. Apart from that, I haven’t done too much. It’s whatever I think of that day. If I hear something that day and I want to sample it, whatever. Shout out to my manager Mason and Dom, my team, my squad. They tell me to do more structured things, bwhich I understand. At the same time, I get kind of stressed out. I like doing it as a train of thought too, because that’s when you find weird, interesting stuff. Let me give it to the chat: do you want to see more structured stuff on the stream?

I feel the chat takes a really active role, more so than in other streams.

The chat takes an active role.

Yeah, I feel like the chat is a part of the whole soup.

The chat is a huge ingredient in the soup, and I want to keep it that way.

I think it's really cool you've been able to develop this. I know you've said on the stream several times you've kind of adapted to making music more easily with the chat present, with people interacting with you. With that said, how has your songwriting and creative process evolved throughout this year with Twitch? Do you see yourself going back to making music on your own privately? How has it changed your process?

 It's changed it immensely. I get stuck a lot when I’m making music, and I’ll usually just put it down and go do something else. It's a time when I would wish I was a duo or a part of a group so I could turn to my friend and ask what they think. Now, the chat is that. I say to the chat, should I do this or do this? Even just reading someone saying, hey, put the snare there, I'm like, yeah, for sure. I think it tells me that it’s been in my mind the whole time, I need someone else to affirm it. If I ask a question in the chat like A or B, it's pretty much always 50/50.

It's that instant feedback. I'm sure that has to be awesome.

I never thought it would be as good as it is.

Yeah, I mean, you also have to be comfortable as an artist to put yourself out there like that. How did you develop that sense of confidence in your music-making, and have you become more confident through Twitch streaming?

Yeah, I guess so. I feel more confident talking to people. Now, I'm like, okay, I feel better. I feel like I can ask people questions better.

Yeah, you seem like a natural talker. Even just talking on a Zoom call for a while, I feel so exhausted after. To stream regularly and basically have to talk for two to six hours in a row... how do you get past that block? Do you ever feel fatigued?

Yeah, totally. This week, actually. Tuesday, Wednesday, or something, I streamed. I said it. I said to everybody, I don't have it today. I was joking when I said I had a little man in my brain who makes the songs, but I do kind of think that. It just wasn't clicking. I can't explain why that is. Sometimes, I'm just not feeling it. I can go on the bopline. I have some other things I can do. There are some days I'm not feeling it.

How did the bopline come about? Is that a Kenny inspired thing? I feel like it's a critical part of the stream.

First of all, 100%. I got that from Marc Rebillet, you know him? He's incredible. When he was doing his thing, he had a phone number up and had people call in. I wish I had more to it, but I just copied that. That became the bopline.

But now it’s yours, because it’s the bopline.

Exactly! Now it's not just about making bops. Now I can be some sort of weird radio DJ person thing. It's a mixture of everything. I like this idea. I don't even know what it looks like, but I like where it's going.

Have you ever gotten into a crazy situation on the bopline? Or, maybe not crazy, but gotten into conversations where you didn't know how to proceed.

This wasn’t strictly on the bopline, but there was someone named lilbaobaoofficial who came in there. At first I thought it was funny, but then they made a really creepy video. It ended with someone in a black leather glove stabbing a knife into a table or something. It was honestly scary. That one frightened me a little bit. You don't see lilbaobaoofficial anymore. Where the heck did he go?

He went back to the Mad Planet.

He went back to the Mad Planet. So, that was an interesting moment.

How do you react? I mean…

That one, I was genuinely scared. Genuinely. Like, I turned it off. I walked around. I think now it's okay.

Okay, we talked about the bopline a little bit. We talked about the Bop Battles. I want to talk about the tape. 

Let's talk tape.

The Bop Tape.

 Let's talk The Bop Tape.

We're talking tape.

Let's talk tape!

You've made many bops on stream. How did you select what made the cut for the tape?

For this one, it's literally a snapshot of basically when I started, up to a couple months in. It’s not everything. I’ve made a lot since then. But this is a collection of the first little batch. So, I wanted to do everything on the stream, because it helps me make these decisions. I went through everything I’ve made so far, and they told me what should be on the tape and what shouldn’t. I did a couple days of going through every old project and finding out what works. I took the best of the best, the cream of the crop: all killer, no filler.

I'm also curious about the Haribo obsession. When did young Harry first discover Haribo?

When I was a young lad. Haribo is from Germany. I lived in Germany when I was 5 and 6 years old. It was probably then, but I don’t remember.

You lived in London for a time too, didn't you?

Yes.

Did your Dad travel a lot?

My Dad was travelin', and I came along.

Do you ever miss living abroad, or do you love living in New York? Do you ever think about going back?





 I do, of course, love New York forever. But, especially since COVID, I really want to go somewhere else now. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Now more than ever, I've wanted to travel. I'll go anywhere. Chicago. Texas. Please. 

Please, let me in!

 I’ll go anywhere.

So, COVID. Obviously, it's changed everybody's lives. We can’t travel, we can’t do a lot of different things. Artists were hit really hard not being able to do live performances. When we have COVID more under control and have live events again, do you feel you'll continue Twitch streaming?

100 percent.

How do you think you'll integrate it with touring and stuff?

I honestly don't know how that will work. I found a lane here that feels so right and so good. But it's transformed my music-making life, honestly. It's completely transformed it. For better or for worse, I don’t know yet. But so far, it’s pretty good.

How was your process of creating Planet's Mad? Obviously, it's different because it wasn't on Twitch. How do you feel that making music on Twitch will impact your process moving forward?

I'm thinking about it now. I don't even know. If I were to put together an album now, every demo I would pick out as an idea to put on an album would be something I’ve made on Twitch, period. Every single one. So if I continue at this rate, you will see 100% of the stuff I make on live. That's a crazy thought to me.

Yeah, it's interesting because you blew up with ‘Harlem Shake’, which became a meme. You've accepted yourself into this “internet culture”. Like, I’d say Twitch is something that maybe the average person wouldn’t be super familiar with, but someone who’s really online would be into it. Do you feel that experience changed your relationship with Internet culture, or has that not been on your mind as you’ve explored this new online platform?

Baauer: I think embracing it is the key. Everything has been online since day one. You see what I do. This is what I’ve always done. I look on YouTube, I rip the audio off and do a little flip of it. For a long time, I was like, “I’m not the internet meme guy. I'm a serious artist. This is art.” Now, I’ve transcended that. I'm even more inside of the internet. I'm fully beamed into the internet from start to finish.



You're inside the computer.

I am the computer. It's kind of tight.

Were you ever into online communities as a kid like Reddit or chatrooms or forums?

Not really, to be honest. I had friends who were, but I never really was into an online community. A bit, but not really that heavy, to be honest.

I know you're a little older than I am. I was really into social media, but I wasn’t like...

Let me ask you that question. Were you really active in a certain community online?

Kind of. I always thought of myself as a passionate music fan. I would go to fan websites for all of the boybands I was into.

What are some of those specifically?

Well, I was an *NSYNC girl growing up. I love Backstreet Boys now, but *NSYNC was my jam.

Damn.

For me, [finding online communities] comes from a place of wanting to connect with people who share the same interests as me. I’ve always kind of gravitated towards making friends online. I've made friends I met through Tumblr that I've been friends with for over a decade. It’s always been something I’m naturally interested in, but I realize that my experience probably isn’t the same as everybody else’s. It made me curious about you, like, maybe he's an Internet nerd like me.

I am now!

Welcome to the club.



I love it.

Which other Twitch streamers do you like?

Other than Kenny Beats? Four Color Zack. A king. I really appreciate him because he’s always finding different, weird, funny shit to do to involve with his stream. I love that so much, and that’s something I always want to try to do. Not in the music thing, but Hasan Piker, you know him?

I do know him. Is he still with The Young Turks?

Now he's doing his own Twitch. If I ever want to watch the news, I watch him. It's not a music thing but a big shout out to him. I also have to shout out Sushi Dragon. Sushi Dragon is what the future is going to look like.

I don’t know anything about this person. Is this a music stream?

It's not a music stream. I don't even know how to describe what he does. He has all this technology all over him. He's… he's literally wearing a computer. You gotta watch it. He's got all these things on his hands. He looks like a cyborg.



That sounds sick.

It's so sick. He's completely… If you just see me, I'm 2D. He's like 4D. He's inside of the Matrix.

Are you saying you'll do VR streams next year?

I like that idea a lot. I want to do what he does, but it's so advanced what he's doing. I don’t know if I can do that.

I think you can do anything you put your mind to. You are a creative risk-taker, even with the Planet's Mad movie. That concept alone was a huge undertaking, to create a movie that goes along with the album. What was the process like?

I wanted to create a world along with the album. I was inspired a little bit by Porter Robinson with his Worlds album. He literally created a world, and I thought that was so cool. I loved getting so into movies and books. I love lore. I love getting lost in the lore.

Lore is the best.

Lore is the best. I thought, let me do this myself. I could create my own thing. Like, let me use this not just as an album but as a way to create my own little world, you know?

How did you bring it all together?

It was tough. I didn't sit down and write it out. It definitely… like, over the months of putting the album together, I did it bit by bit.

So, the song was created, and then the sequence?

Yeah, kind of. We’d get a general idea of how things would look and then try to match it and put it together. I should also mention I wrote the story alongside a friend of the show: James, my brother.

We love James. Have you worked on other projects together?

We've worked on other things, but this was the first actual project I’ve worked on with him, which is cool.

How long did the whole process take?

It took almost a year.

Damn.

Pretty much a year.

When COVID spiked, and everybody realized the world was going to shut down, how did you cope with those emotions?

It was a bummer. I was more scared about everything that was happening. It is what it is. It sucks. Let's just go ahead with it.

I mean, you jumped into streaming quickly.

Yeah, before the album was out, I was streaming. That was a good thing to direct my energy into. If I wasn't streaming, I would have been mentally worse.

You would've just had loaves of bread around you, just everyday baking new loaves.

My loaf game has gotten so much better.



I want to see the leveled-up loaf. Anyway, I was going to ask you more about lore. Where was your inspiration coming from for Planet’s Mad?

Baauer: The first thing that comes to mind is Fifth Element. The movie.





Great movie.

Right? From start to finish, that was the number one inspiration. 

If you want to watch this stream, you have to watch Fifth Element.

That's required viewing. Multi-pass.

You need a syllabus. Honestly, I feel like there's lore in your stream now. There are so many jokes, stuff like the piss-cage (Editor’s note: a chat reference to getting temporarily banned from the chat by a moderator). I'm sure people who come in [to the stream] who don't know what that means are like, what are they talking about? Let's go back to Planet's Mad inspiration. I'm all over the place. I'm getting excited.

We love it. I thought you were going to ask about the piss-cage.

I mean, yeah. Let's talk about it. Where did that come from?

I copied it from another stream.

I'm sensing a pattern, and I like how you’re making it work for you. 

I'm making it work.

Where do these organic jokes fit in, like, how do you decide what sticks?

I throw a lot at the wall and see what sticks. 

Are there any you can think of that fell flat?

Not many, but one thing I wish took harder was "pound off in the comments." I thought that one could change the game. That's how it works sometimes.

I like "pound off in the comments.” I love that it can be open to interpretation.

Thanks for the pounds, everybody. That wasn't a way to get "pound off" to work.

Of course. Only the most real answers only.

Real answers only.

Real talk. Where do you see the stream evolving?

I want to involve other people more—other producers, artists, comedians, you know—people who make stuff that I love. Number two, always involve the chat more. The chat is the beating heart of the stream. Whenever I have a problem, I go to the chat. The bopline is one example of that. It's just been super fun. 

The fact you incorporate some of the chat into the show is what makes the show so special.

That makes me want to do more with the chat.

You can go to the chat for emotional support.

I do that sometimes.

Have you ever felt like you're having a bad day, and decided to jump on and stream to see what the chat has to say?

Oh yeah. I’ll disguise it in a jokey bit, but what’s inside is very real. The pain is very real. Or whatever emotion it might be. Doesn’t always have to be pain. It could be joy!

So, that therapy couch moment is real?

I'm not going to do it now, but I was thinking about that.

Do you think streaming on Twitch has brought you out of your shell in your personal life, or do you feel like you compartmentalize your public persona and private persona?

While Twitch streaming has gone up, social interactions with people I don’t know has gone down.

That's a good point.

But I was at a BBQ outdoors with a mask, socially distanced, and I was thinking to myself… these strangers…. Usually, I’m terrible in that situation. Like at a cocktail party... How are you? Are you good in that situation? You know one other person. Could you go up to one group?

I get social anxiety, but I almost get more social anxiety with people I do know.

Like when Hex Cougar walks in the room (Editor’s note: that’s Stales partner), you get very anxious.

Yeah, when he walks in, I get drenched in sweat. No, I'm just kidding. But yeah, if I'm at a party where everybody's significantly cooler than me, I want to die.

But, cool, what is that, really? State of mind.

It’s true, it’s true. Sometimes I can get there, but it’s like... the social anxiety can feel like you're standing in a room and you’re engulfed in flames, but nobody else is noticing.

I feel like I’m nude in front of the whole class, and they’re all laughing at me.

I wonder if that's happened in the history of the world.

It probably has. I feel so bad for whoever that was. That's a classic bad dream.

Weird off-topic question—do you ever have recurring dreams?

Yes. I don’t have a particular dream, but I have a theme, a thing that happens. Which is... a secret room. What does that mean, chat? I always have a thing where I find a secret room. Whether it's in my apartment or anywhere, I'm always like, oh, a secret room. I never knew about this room. Oh wait, someone just did a quote. “To dream of a secret room represents your neglected potential or realizing an undiscovered aspect of yourself. Realizing you have more than you thought or that something is possible after first believing it wasn't. It may be time to restart something you've forgotten or abandoned.”

That's interesting. I've never heard of that being a recurring dream for someone. That's a generally positive recurring dream to have.

Let me add—and by the way, I realize, talking about dreams is one of the most boring things in the world.

Is it?

I also have one where my grandmother's trying to murder me.

Are you close with her?

Yes, I love her, she's the best. She’s the absolute GOAT queen. But, yeah, I have a thing where she’s chasing me. I go into the bathroom and lock the door, and she turns into a thin piece of paper and slides under the door.

That’s horrifying. When you had that dream, did you feel kind of shook when you saw her next?

No, I don't think so.



So back to the Bop Tape. I’m so excited

I'm excited too. I got one of my favorite comedians, Patti Harrison, to host the mixtape and do some in-between drops. That was a cool thing. That was the first time I've collaborated with a comedian I'm a massive fan of.

I'm super excited. I can't wait. I've been here from the early days, and I can’t wait to revisit these bops you’ve created.

Thank you queen.

Thank you king, for doing all that you do with the stream. I found a lot of really cool friendships this way.

That's so sick. For me, Twitch is like, a thing to do. If someone can have a little more happiness as a result of it, that's an amazing bonus and an amazing gift. I love to hear that.

Absolutely, it’s true. I'm so glad we got to chat. This was really cool. Do you have anything else you want to plug?

Baauer: Thank you so much. Planet’s Mad out now. Bop Tape out now. Twitch stream at twitch.tv/baauer.

Join the Discord over here. 






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Shipping worldwide March 31: this limited edition Blu Ray of Baauer’s GRAMMY® Award Nominated ‘Planet’s Mad’.