When I first call 22-year-old Swedish producer Baba Stiltz on a jagged pan-European line, he picks up the phone with the grouchy mumble of a man who’s just woken up. Five minutes later, time, I imagine, which allows him to slip into his trademark raw hemmed bootcuts, sports socks, and of course, Birkenstocks, Stiltz seems moderately more willing to chat. Between unmistakable papery hisses of a spliff being smoked, he tells me how he trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet School for six years. It was “okay”, he explains, but if he had it loved it more he would still be doing it. Sadly this, as well as dozens of other brilliantly deadpan quotes are now dust in the digital ether, the original recording AWOL.
In the email exchange which follows, Stiltz alters some of his answers. Never to be pinned down or understood completely, he appears as if through a dense, weed-stained fog of irony and disorientating, mock-serious replies. It’s a fitting conversation style for someone whose output can lurch from the fuzzy, chipmunk-pitched, OG-Kanye stylings of “L Is L”, to the thumping piano-house pastiche “Cherry”, to the ultra-distorted bars he lays down with a Yung Lean flavoured flow in “GHOCT”.
The Sad Boys connection isn’t a coincidence. Stiltz grew up in the same Stockholm apartment block as Yung Sherman (one of the main producers behind the achingly 2014 sound that propelled Yung Lean into the alt-icon stratosphere) and has been tinkering in the studio and hanging with the Boys since before they blew up. “When we have the time, we chill and maybe make a track,” Stiltz tells me, before explaining, “I try to be in the studio as much as possible. Getting something done every day. At least one thing. Then, after a month, I’ll go through the folders and see if anything I’ve been working on is worth completing. Being stubborn usually works.”
Like so many artists whose work is playful in nature – Photoshop collage and a welcome dose of silliness show that Stiltz’ aesthetic is cut from the same postmodern, Tumblr-shaped cloth as Lean and his countless imitators – Stiltz’ light-heartedness belies tireless hard work and admirable technical ability. Although his dad taught him guitar aged eight, it was years of tinkering with a cracked Cubase (a gift from his Godfather, Swedish electro elder Daniel Savio) on a towering Dell desktop that let him develop his own tracks.
When I eventually ask him about the astonishing range of his output, he reasons, “being repetitive is important for the mastering of certain things, your craft, your sound etc. But I don’t care. I am not a robot yet. I’m a human. I feel many things, I want to do many things.” Then, with more than a touch of self-parody he muses, “Kanye does many things? Nina Simone did many things?” Finally, he gets close to something that may, or may not, resemble the truth: “I feel people who actually have the time and interest in my stuff trust me to change and keep doing different things.”
Signed to Studio Barnhus, the lauded Stockholm electro imprint founded by Axel Boman, Kornél Kovács & Petter Nordkvist, Stiltz couldn’t be more genuine in his appreciation of the label: “They’re the first label to believe 100% in what I do and also give me the creative freedom to release all types of shit.” The story of how he signed with them is another testament to Stiltz’ determination. “Kornél booked me to a club that he ran five years ago. After that, I would harass him with calls… His place is around the corner from my studio, so I would come by his apartment and play tracks I had made. I guess I made my presence felt enough for them to see something in what I was doing.”
So, what exactly is he doing right now? Cagily alluding to “two specific projects” that are likely to be albums or meatier EPs, he seems more in control of his stoner-DIY vibe than you might first imagine. He closes with a final rumination, a deliciously contradictory piece of Insta-era existentialism. “I do plan everything. And I also never think too much. Being who you are is important. But a certain level of self-editing is hyper important when trying to realise the idea of self. Who doesn’t like to laugh? Seriously?”