The one-of-a-kind musician Bei Ru reflects on the origins of his intricate style and artistic career
March 3, 2021 | by Creative Armenia
Electronic, funk, soul, psychedelic, and Lo-Fi music with a pinch of Mid-Eastern rhythms… Bei Ru’s style is not easy to describe but easy to be taken away by. Growing up surrounded by the vibrant culture of Los Angeles and influenced by his Armenian upbringing, he has intertwined his life story with his music. With numerous successful projects behind him, including the one-of-a-kind album Little Armenia, and numerous commissions from some of the world’s most recognized series and brands, including Nike and How I Met Your Mother already, Bei Ru’s creativity only continues to flourish. Our interview with 2021 Creative Armenia-AGBU Fellow Bei Ru starts now.
CA: Tell us a little about how you began your journey of becoming a musician.
BR: I started taking piano lessons at the age of 6, and continued until I was about 15. During the last few years of lessons (which were mainly classical piano), I was completely into electronic and rap music and didn’t have much interest in anything else. I was DJ’ing house parties around that time, and eventually bought a keyboard/sampler and began working on producing my own music. I got more and more obsessing with that and after some years of working with other vocalists, I decided to make an album that was based on reimagined versions of Armenian songs from the 60s and 70s. That became my first album, Little Armenia, which sparked what eventually became a full-time career in music.
CA: What is a single work of art or a person whose work influenced you the most? Why?
BR: I think it would be almost impossible to narrow down my influences to a single person or album, but production-wise, Madlib and J Dilla were both huge influences and inspirations. I also grew up listening to Armenian music, and am a huge fan of jazz, soul, and rock.
CA: Your music blends many genres, including Electronic, Funk, Soul, Psychedelic, Lo-Fi, and Mid-Eastern rhythms that also reflect your Armenian, Lebanese, and LA backgrounds. How natural or continuous was your arrival to that style?
BR: It was totally organic. It was a combination of everything around me and that I grew up with which naturally came out in my own work. I’ve always had trouble narrowing down my own sound to just one type of music just like I could never only listen to one type of music.
CA: You have explored your Armenian heritage throughout your music and in particular in your Little Armenia album, for which you played off of samples from rare and obscure Armenian records. What was it like working on the album? How did you come across some of those records?
BR: Working on that album was incredibly fun, even though it was at a point where I didn’t know if I’d be able to pursue music as a full-time thing. But that also gave me the freedom to not worry about how it would be interpreted and to focus on what I felt like creating.
The Armenian records came from my parents’ collection initially. I also found some cool ones in used record stores in LA and discovered dozens of artists that were lesser-known but who’d made some amazing music during the 60s and 70s by reinventing traditional Armenian music with the music of their time. And being heavily inspired by producers like Madlib and J Dilla who created such incredible works out of samples from records, I felt like finding these obscure Armenian records that no one knew about was kind of like finding special ingredients to create new things out of.
CA: Outside of independent music you have also worked on a number of soundtracks for such titles as How I Met Your Mother, Nike’s Sport Changes Everything campaign, and award-winning VICE film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. How is the process of working for film and television different from the work you do independently?
BR: It’s quite different since it involves making something to fit a particular vibe or scene rather than just making whatever I want. It’s definitely challenging but also extremely helpful in that it sometimes forces you to step out of your comfort zone and learn things that wouldn’t normally be required in your own work.
CA: While you have already explored many genres and music styles, is there an instrument or a style you have not tried yet but would like to?
BR: I’ve always wanted to play drums and have actually been recently considering buying a set. I’ve always had a deep admiration and respect for drummers and drums to me are possibly the most important part of the production. You can always tell a good producer apart from a not-so-good one by the use of their drums, both rhythmically and sonically.
CA: Creating music involves immense levels of creativity and dedication. What do you personally find the most difficult when working on a project?
BR: The hardest part for me is always trying to figure out which song should be single and which one will be the most well-received one. There were many occasions when my favorite songs didn’t stand out to others and songs that aren’t necessarily my favorites became the ones people gravitate towards the most.
CA: How has COVID-19 and lockdown changed your creative routine?
BR: At first, I wasn’t doing anything creative. But a couple of months into it I started working on music obsessively and was making anywhere from two to eight demos a day. I think I made 400+ instrumentals in 2020, many of which I’m planning to release this year. It has made me want to make the absolute most of the downtime and be as productive as I possibly can.
CA: You have worked on numerous projects throughout your career. Which one are you the proudest of? What makes it special?
BR: The one I’m most proud of is the album Custom Made Life that I released last year. It was my first time writing, singing, producing, and playing my own music, which is something I had always wanted to do but never got around to. It also might be the most eclectic album I’ve worked on since I made an effort to try and incorporate an array of influences rather than sticking to one particular musical theme.
CA: Tell us about your daily creative routine.
BR: I wake up, meditate, go for a run, shower, and start working. I usually work for about 3-4 hours at a time and take a brief break in between and go for a walk. I do that every single day aside from Sunday, which is the only day I don’t feel guilty about not working on music.