Few DJs have truly trashed the rulebook like Fake Blood. When his remixes snuck onto the dance scene in 2008, he shied away from the spotlight and, like a dancefloor ninja, managed to keep his identity firmly under wraps. There were no gimmicks, no stadium-sized headpieces or fancy dress masks to obscure him, just a desire for club heads to absorb his music without any preconceptions.
Consequently, the Internet exploded as blogs rushed to try and uncover him first. Some argued that he was Fatboy Slim or Switch; others teased that it was Tiësto. Erol Alkan got in on the act too, and mischievously sparked a rumour in the NME that Fake Blood was, in fact, Soulwax. The mystery was so great that even Radio 1 queen bee Annie Mac had no idea who he was.
"In the beginning, I didn't have any publicity, I didn't have any photos and I didn't make any merchandise, so people filled the vacuum themselves," he says. "They started websites to speculate about my identity; they turned up to my gigs in homemade T-shirts, necklaces and gas masks and sunglasses drenched in blood. I stepped out of that world and they stepped into it, as if they'd created part of it. That inclusiveness has been one of my favourite things about doing this."
Eventually, the hype reached a deafening volume. When he released Mars that November, a single so crushingly infectious that it became 2008's most memorable club anthem, Fake Blood decided it was time to lift the lid on the producer behind it. For his first DJ set in Sydney, out stepped Theo Keating, a veteran beat-mangler previously known for his work as The Wiseguys, DJ Touché and The Black Ghosts, the latter whom Fake Blood had first remixed.
Four years and four EPs on, Keating is still something of an enigma. He doesn't prey on fame, he does very few interviews and he isn't part of a DJ crew: he has always preferred to let his music speak for itself. He's been in no hurry to release a record either - until now, that is. Keating has found a home on Different Recordings, which counts club crusaders like Tiga, Felix Da Housecat and Vitalic among its roster, and is finally ready to present his mission statement: Cells.
"An album is such a personal manifesto," he says, of why he has waited until now to release Cells, "and, in some ways, I didn't feel as if I'd earned that. I hadn't got their full attention yet." He should, however, give himself more credit. Since Mars, Keating has released another chart-nudging single, I Think I Like It, remixed everyone from Hot Chip and Gossip to Calvin Harris and Sway, produced three memorable mixes for Radio 1 and appeared on huge party bills with the biggest names in dance music. He has also started a label, Blood Music, and has hosted its showcases at Social Club in Paris and London's Fabric. And - yes, there's more - he has just dropped a new EP, Yes/No, to ready fans for his debut long-player. The world, as it happens, is bloodthirstily waiting: Cells is one of the most anticipated dance albums of 2012.
It's a daring one at that. Cells is an 11-track distillation of Keating's surreal vision, an electronic masterpiece skewered by his love of the macabre, the uncanny and the sinister. He has trapped his signature breed of savage, Godzilla-strength basslines and laser-blazing four-to-the-floor inside his very own suspense thriller. On London, his jacking rhythm is haunted by taught strings and menacing analogue synthesisers, while End of Days is an apocalyptic and cinematic techno opus in which time is running out for whomever is trapped inside the rhythm.
Keating simply refers to his sound as "other stuff". "I start with the idea that something should be danceable. That's the spine along which I try and hang off all these other ribs," he says, "and then I like to dress that framework with an idea or an aesthetic that other people don't use." In Sideshow, that's a warped answer to classic Italo-house beats heard at a Victorian funfair, while Another World manipulates Balkan brass into a minimalist tech-house jig. It defies all convention.
"The album definitely has left-of-centre moments because I wanted to show some other facets to what I do and enjoy making," he says. "Not every track on Cells is overtly made for the dancefloor. Some of the sounds will definitely be a bit unorthodox, but, then again, the way I make music is strange to most people: it's a little bit 'wrong' because I never learnt the 'right' way to produce." It's not all weird-and-wonkiness, though: Cells has its uplifting moments too, especially on All in the Blink, a twist on the humble funkified electro-disco nugget featuring Keating's fellow Black Ghost, Simon Lord, on vocals.
Above all, it's this desire to be genuinely creative that drives Keating forward. When he's not firing up the thousands at festivals across the world, he can just as easily be heard playing in the top room of a pub in north London - or even at the British Film Institute. There, in another unexpected twist, he thrilled fans with his live soundtrack to Suspiria, Dario Argento's 1979 Italian horror classic, which he performed alongside a screening of the film earlier this year.
And, while he makes futuristic rave bombs for the new generation of clubbers, Keating is, at his bloody core, a proper crate-digger. Just check out his six-strong Soundcloud mix series USED, a celebration of the vintage samples used in classic hip hop records, which have each amassed over 20,000 plays so far. Mixes like these and his intricately sample-laden Suspiria soundtrack expose him to be, not only a technically superb turntablist but an exceptional artist too.
"From age 12 onwards, hip hop was my major love," says Keating and, even now, it has influenced his production technique. "I never learned to play an instrument and then got into production; I got into music through hip hop, especially its cut 'n' paste style and manipulation of samples," he continues. "That's never left me. Even if I do a remix of someone, I'm still chopping them up like I'm chopping up samples from old records and combining them in the same way." And if you pay close attention, you can see a similarly old-school approach in his DJ performances, in which he uses two CDJs and two Technics turntables to bring in acapellas and sound effects and to scratch live with.
Perhaps what makes Keating an even more captivating producer, though, is that he has cracked the key to what musicians crave most of all: longevity. "You just need a hunger for new music, a curiosity that needs constant feeding and, crucially, be open to change," he muses. "The enemy is nostalgia. If you can always find stuff that excites or interests you, and let that inspire you to try new ideas, then you can enjoy yourself. That, really, is at the heart of it all."
If ever that rulebook needs rewriting, we'd give Theo Keating the blood-inked quill any day.