Tim, the photographer, and I meet Baba Stiltz in the foyer of his hotel room. We’re all late to the agreed meeting time of 3pm and he’s carrying a criminally large Starbucks coffee. He removes his headphones and shakes our hands. It’s the last leg of an eight week tour. He’s tired but hospitable—taking us up three levels to his hotel room, offering us candy and apologising that he only has water for us to drink.
“I wanted to meet here because this is how I live. This is what my life looks like,” he says, gesturing around the room. There’s an open suitcase, new records still in their plastic, water bottles, candy, books, and new clothes from his friends at P.A.M. We make small talk on where we all grew up, the books we like to read, the cities we like to visit, our choice of alcohol (his is Beaujolais wine—a type of red best consumed chilled).
For someone who describes themselves as “not a very exciting guy”, there’s something elusive and enigmatic about Baba. It’s something that you can’t put your finger on, though you try again and again. But it’s not to be mistaken for pretentiousness. He’s just a man that knows what he likes and goes with it.
He first released music in 2011 as a one man indie folk band, The Bethlehem Beard Corporation. He produced two albums under the pseudonym and in 2013, he began steadily releasing electronic music under his birth name. Now he’s going back to guitar music, back to the Bright Eyes music he started listening to as a teenager.
As we finish the shoot and the interview wraps up, Baba Stiltz walks us out—partly because we were in the middle of recommending books and partly because he needed a cigarette.
Are you still obsessed with cooking?
Oh yeah—it’s my favourite. I really like cooking.
What was the last cooking video you watched?
I think it was a noodle tour of LA. Just some Youtube vlog guy.
Was there anywhere that you thought about going to?
There was some places I’ve been actually…
Yeah. He’s a pretty bespoke noodle man. He knows his noodles. [Laughs]
I trust this wholeheartedly. What do you do on a long haul flight?
I’ve recently been reading a lot more. I download all the podcasts I want to listen to. Just the regular travelling stuff. I have stuff to listen to. I have a Nintendo Switch which I haven’t played in ages but I still bring it with me in case I feel inclined. I try to watch a movie maybe? Reading has been really helpful this tour. It’s been really fun.
Have you found any new authors that you really like?
I bought this book when I was in Cambridge in Boston in Massachusetts. It’s by Dodie Bellamy. The book was published in 2015, I think. It’s called When The Sick Rule The World.
I’ve been meaning to read that.
It’s a really good book. I highly recommend. I enjoyed that. Then I re-read Orlando again. I come back to that book every couple of years. It’s funny and it’s a good read.
I find Virginia Woolf’s writing really poignant. She broke a lot of the rules of writing.
I mean, it’s pretty wild to think about the context [in which] she was living and the effect she’s had on so many modern day authors. I’m not too smart about this stuff… but like I can definitely see a thread. I like that book. That’s all.
Do you have a favourite Powerpuff Girl?
I like Mojo Jojo. They need the dichotomy. I like all the Powerpuff Girls. I think they all represent something within us all.
What do you do in your down time?
If I’m not thinking about music or making music, I like walking. I go for walks. I sleep when I can because sleep is good and important. Its nice. [Laughs] I walk and I cook. And specifically, I go on walks to eat something. I like to enjoy a meal by myself and then take a long walk home. I’m not a very exciting guy… I enjoy the small things. I hang out with my friends. Basic stuff!
What’s your comfort food?
It depends. Seasonally. Weather. Something I enjoy a lot is garlic rice with a fried egg and some chillies. That’s very easy to make and something I enjoy eating. I also enjoy Swedish pickled herring and sour cream and potato. That’s a good meal. I really like the simple stuff, what I grew up eating basically. I have a soup I make, it’s kind of a vegetable chicken stock soup with chicken dumplings. It’s nice when it’s cold out.
Who taught you how to cook?
Same with music, my dad taught me the basics. Like this is how you make an egg and this is how you break down a chicken. Like my dad taught me three chords on the guitar. From there, I was like, okay I’ll figure out the rest. A lot of it was self taught, through Youtube. And then usually when I’m at my grandma’s house in the States I’ll watch her. She hates when I ask for specific recipes so I’ll just have to watch over her shoulder. Just figuring stuff out, the same with music.
What was the last song you made like?
I recorded some stuff in LA. It’s pretty like down tempo, pretty mellow stuff. I’ve been writing a lot of new lyrics. I’m kind of transitioning into different things from electronic dance music. I’m making more guitar based music again. That’s what I’ve been working on recently.
Are you still into Bright Eyes?
Oh yeah! I was listening to the first two songs off Digital Ash [in A Digital Urn] the other day, and it’s a great opening of a record. It’s really good.
Where were you when you first heard Bright Eyes?
I must have been somewhere in Stockholm probably. There was this specific record store that stocked up on a lot of contemporary American indie music. Like midwestern, you know Omaha based stuff. That’s kind of how I got into it.
Do you still go to a lot of record stores?
I go to one specific record store, that’s kind of where I really got into records. It’s called Snickars Records in Stockholm. To be honest, when I’m travelling I’ll go to a record store. But I can get stressed out by the environment sometimes. In Stockholm it’s nice. I’ve known the guy for like 10+ years. And I worked there when I was a kid. I go there just to relax and find music and catch up on things. It’s a great record store, I highly recommend it.
Can you do a decent plié still?
Oh yeah! I got some moves, still.
I was a ballet dancer for like seven years.
No way! I can do three tour en l’airs.
What! That’s such a difficult move though.
Yeah I was pretty good.
I got as far as going up on pointe and then I bailed.
Especially for women, it’s a strange thing. It’s not good for your body at all. As a guy, it’s a little easier on your body for sure.
I’ve heard you say that while you don’t regret doing ballet, you definitely don’t miss it.
I mean, I don’t miss the education part of it. That kind of sucked. With that said, I do miss the context of the training and the communal feeling amongst the class and being a part of the company at the Opera House and certain teachers. I do miss that experience. But it’s tough when you’re that young, and it’s six days a week of physical activity. Mentally, it’s pretty wild.
I miss how my body felt back then. You know, it was a professional education. When you’re on that level of training and dedication, mentally, it’s an art form. It’s a pretty cool thing to be in. When it feels good, it feels pretty amazing.
How does your body feel now?
It feels good. [Laughs] I mean, just eat everything in moderation, eat what you want. Just like, try to take care of yourself when you can. And try to make happy decisions.
What’s the happiest decision you’ve made in the last 48 hours?
Just going for a walk and listening to some music.
What did you listen to?
‘Night Moves’ by Bob Seger. It’s a good song.