I decided this was more than worthy of reposting. This is an interview that my friend and I did with Robot Koch for City Full Of Neon Lights. It was right after his show with Madlib at 1015 in San Francisco. Robert is an AMAZING person. Please support his music, tell your friends, read this interview.
City Full Of Neon Lights: Welcome to San Francisco! For our readers who are not familiar, please introduce yourself and tell us what you do.
Robot Koch: Well, my name is Robot Koch, actually my name is Robert Koch, but Sacha from Jahcoozi (Sacha Perera) nicknamed me “Robot” because I tend to, you know work a lot, sleep a little…..very little, so that’s how that whole robot thing came about. What do I do? I am a music producer, I played drums in a band when I was 15, got into DJing electronic music when I was like, I dunno, 20? I’m 33 years now so I’ve been doing it for a second. I play all over the globe actually, I used to play a lot with Jahcoozi but I quit, well, I’m still their producer, but I don’t play live with them anymore because it just got too much for me, cause I have a lot of production things going on and just being on the road with them was intense also. And then I started my own thing and that sort of blew up as well, you know so I am just trying to balance it out, just concentrating on Robot Koch and like, all these studio jobs that I have.
CFONL: “Like all the side projects your working on?”
RK: “Right, cause I also do some like productions for some major labels.”
CFONL: Could you tell us about the side projects your doing?”
RK: Well it’s not really side projects, I’m like a music producer, I’m signed to Sony Publishing in Germany, and they give me like some jobs sometimes remixing bigger artists, European ones. I produce tracks for other people’s records also, that part of my job, how I live, but obviously Robot Koch runs well as an entity by now, you know? So I’m touring a lot, and, it’s cool, I like the duality of studio and live shows, you never get bored you know?
CFONL: Who are some artists that you have you have been feeling lately? Maybe some future collaboration in the works you could shed some light on?
RK: Actually what’s coming out in March on Project Mooncircle, the label I release on, is John Robinson, previously Little Science of the Science of life crew. He’s down with all the cats, he’s known in the scene but never really blew up that kind of……like MF Doom did or something.
CFONL: How did that collaboration come about?
RK: We met, we just played one show together, and then Gordon from our label was like “you guys should work on an EP”, and it blew up into an album size.
CFONL: So it will be an album not just an EP?
RK: Yeah it’s an album.
CFONL: When your working with other artists and doing their remixes, what are some of the obstacles you face if you are not working with them directly face to face in a collaborative project?
RK: Well both are really important you know, so the thing between me working as a solo artist and working with a band, even with Jahcoozi it’s like three people, three opinions, a lot of talking. What I love about my solo stuff, I just do (makes the music).
CFONL: You have the ability to do what you need with the sound.
RK: Totally. I do know when it’s finished also, you know. You don’t discuss when it’s finished you just feel it, and that’s cool you know, be at peace. With a band you’re always like “it’s not finished”, “yeah I think it is”, “we need to change this part.” But, having said that it’s obviously great working with people cause they feed the gene pool of ideas with their input, so it can also be bigger. That’s why I do both.
CFONL: It (working in a band) helps you think of things you wouldn’t have thought of before, you feed off each other.
RK: Exactly, people think differently you know, so that’s the good thing about it.
CFONL: There are a lot of people you work with we’ve never heard of before, how do you find these people to work with?
RK: I like to challenge people with that actually, new names, new sounds, like discover something. Like Grace, her full name is Graciella Maria, she’s a singer from Mexico, she’s my girlfriend actually, just some gossip for the blog you know!
CFONL: You said you were in Portland last night, how was the show/venue?
RK: It was good, the venue was smaller so it was kinda packed out, but it was all good vibes from the start, people were feeling. I dropped “Hard to Find,” people were being crazy and shit. I felt it you know. Also there is this kind of hippy vibe sometimes, there was this girl that gave me this like stone….
CFONL: Crystal wrappers!
RK: Yeah something like that, I’m into that shit you know, call me esoteric but I love it
CFONL: How is the music scene/nightlife in Berlin different than here in the states?
RK: Well obviously a lot of people come to Berlin because they see it as the never stopping party, there’s no curfew like that club Bergheim is open like all the time, you can go there like three in the after noon and people are still there from two days ago. So that is one thing people come from abroad for. I don’t embrace that so much, I go to some after hours for a laugh after a good breakfast you know, see people pilled out whatever, like alright you know!!! It’s a cool city, it has a vibrant scene, different scenes, there’s techno, the whole East West thing.
CFONL: Yeah it’s got a lot of historical background, sort of like Detroit, where a lot of this music originated.
CFONL: It’s also like people making sense out of chaos, taking industrial failures and making them into amazing clubs.
RK: Yeah that whole DIY thing about it also, people just making things out of what’s there. And that’s cool about Berlin, clubs keep popping up and closing down.
CFONL: We constantly hear about people moving to Berlin, for instance Lando Kal….
RK: Yeah I know Kal and his girl Lynn, but we haven’t had a chance to hang out, we’re both so busy.
CFONL: I know you craft your magic in multiple styles of music including Barefoot, World Music 2.0, Dubstep & Post-Rock, do your methods change depending on the style of music you are making?
RK: Not really, because my style is always eclectic, it’s never really purely one thing, when I make a Dubstep track, well all my tracks have some dub element you know, like you call it Dubstep or whatever-step.
CFNOL: But more of like a production element?
RK: Yeah, it’s more like how I use sounds, the balance between digital and analog, which is important to me.
CFONL: I feel like you use a lot of elements, of just like (the sound of) breathing.
RK: I love that, I love the intimacy of sounds, but not just like voice, also synthesizers if you really compress some noise through filter sound. Just excerpt that very frequency and push it up, it becomes really intimate; you become really intimate with that sound.
CFONL: It’s like you become intimate with your machines…
RK: We’ll I’m not sure, that’s some fantasies of yours!!!
CFONL: And making things that sound one way, sound completely different on record. A voice, just me breathing, isn't musical but you make it into a beat and I think that's amazing, almost magical.
RK: I think found sound is also important. I am into field recording, recording things and incorporating them, when I was in Mexico I did a lot of that like influenced music. And the world real is sound you know, its all there.
CFONL: What are some artist that you have found out about recently that really moved you and inspired you to get to your equipment and making something
RK: Well, obviously, James Blake is a big one for me right now. I can't help it you know?
CFONL: Obviously, right?! Fuck, obviously…….. right? Jesus.
RK: It is such a good record, but also the EPs he did before.
RK: Yeah, Klavierwerke. That’s also my shit because he used the piano sound, the intimacy, it’s like the low end without having any of this like, Brostep…
CFONL: There’s no struggle to it, its very natural. You feel it, but it doesn't make you do something, doesn't make you go like this [makes bass face].
RK: Its not pushy you know, it’s subtle. I love the fact that it’s subtle.
CFONL: Is he [James Blake] really big in Berlin?
RK: I think he's blowing up.
CFONL: Is the Brostep scene have the same kind of following and hype in Berlin as it does here in the states?
RK: No, we have that with techno, big room techno. We have the cool minimal whatever and then you have the main room, which is like [?]. And that’s what I think Brostep is for Dubstep. It’s for 16 year old kids and shit.
CFONL: It’s like that first step you know? Which I think is not necessarily a totally bad thing because it brings people into the music… but for the wrong reasons.
RK: But then again, I have to tell you, I was having this discussion with Evan from Surefire Agency this morning. He said that its obviously inviting a lot of people who have never been into that kind of music towards its. Because it’s so easy to get…
RK: A diluted, accessible version of it. But some kid who digs it and digs deeper might find some quality, so that’s just a door opener for them. Which is a good thing. Even for me as a producer, some major labels are approaching me now because of this Magnetic Man in the charts, which isn't Brostep, Katy B and shit you know. So they are coming to like, "your doing this 'Dubstep' right?" And if I can make a remix for them, which is cool because I do it my way, but the reason they ask me is only because there’s people like Skrillex, you know? Inside out about because he is on Deadmau5's label or whatever.
CFONL: So when you approach a remix, does the process begin with a dialogue between you and the artist or more between you and their record label?
RK: No, it’s different actually. With smaller artists its directly and with bigger ones its the management and the label. But I just wanted to say one thing about this Brostep, because how I flipped it recently. I was asked to do this remix of a major German artist, well you wouldn't know him but he is a platinum selling guy in Germany, never heard of him abroad but he is a big name there. So did the remix for him, and they kinda wanted the dubstep…
CFONL: The main room Dubstep hahahhaah….
RK: But I made some proper, like, post 140 like, you know this kind of Martyn-esque, even like what James Blake was doing on Klavierwerke, some really subtle… and they were getting back to me going, "wow we didn't expect a chill out remix from you." I'm like, "Yo you gotta check that sub bass!!" Because if you check it on your fucking laptop speakers, that’s what these A&Rs do, and they are just hearing some pats and bleeps not one hundred percent of the track you know? I got so cracked up when I read that.
CFONL: The scary part is they heard Dubstep or Brostep on those speakers and think it sounds good, imagine what their ears hear, if they think that sounds good…
RK: That’s why they like Magnetic Man, because all they can hear is the mids so they think its like a rave or trance track. And the pop voice and trance beat. Its cool though, I'm not hating on it for the reason that if pop becomes better because of that.
CFONL: What if it makes this main stream Dubstep better? What if it becomes so accessible that all these different people, they have you make a "Dubstep" remix that they think is going to sound like Skrillex but actually sounds like ROBOT KOCH, obviously, so then these kids are like, "oh Dubstep remix! Oh, wait what is this? Its way better!"
RK: Exactly, I think its something you should see as a chance and to embrace it you know? And it puts pressure on the producers because they have to push it a bit harder, even the underground cats, because if what they do now becomes pop they have to keep pushing the limits and find the next new-new. So that’s how the whole evolution goes on, that’s why I call the whole thing "Next-Step" because its always the next step, its never defined, its liquid.
CFONL: Has is the music industry’s evolution effected the way you perceive being a musician? Specifically relating to the rapidly growing amount of overnight internet celebrities and the overall accessibility the internet allows.
RK: Well yeah, it all changed after the Internet. I'm actually happy about the fact that the industry is suffering because its changing you know? And obviously if I would have been in the situation I am in right now ten years ago I'd be loaded you know? Because people were! A major artist nowadays sells like, in Germany, a hundred thousand records its considered great you know? But like ten years ago they would have been dropped for that, it would have been a flop because the scales have changed. And that’s cool you know, because people have to find new ways of doing it. I think the music industry was so hedonistic and so….
RK: Yeah, saturated, that’s what it is. Well the downside though is, with the Internet and with music software becoming cheaper and more accessible for everybody, there’s a lot of mediocrity out there. I mean, its more democratic in a way, everybody can kind of get their sampler/sequencer thing going on for cheap. Back in the day it was like the bands, you got into a studio and finally got their word out, but not everybody could. But nowadays everybody can just release their forty, fifty tracks. So having a release doesn't mean anything, everybody can constantly release something.
CFONL: That’s also, in a way, empowering for people who are just starting off. What advice would you give to people that are starting in the music industry right now?
RK: That’s a good one. I’d say go for quality you know? Because all these kids that drop a beat tape with 40 or 50 beats on there, and I’m talking to these people saying, "make ten tracks and make them dope!" Why make 50 you know? Why like spam the world with more information, just sit on it a bit longer. Don't be like, just cause the upload goes so fast, here’s another one! here’s another one! Just go in it, be sure, grow on it. And then release it to the world. Don't let any fart of yours go out there you know? Sorry, I’m not hating on anybody.
CFONL: I love it, you can hate on people though.
RK: That’s why people appreciate music less. That’s why they download it and don't buy it. Because there’s so much watered down shit.
CFONL: It’s like a currency, a free currency, and it doesn't mean anything anymore.
RK: Right, and it has to mean something again. And that’s my advice to aspiring musicians and producers would be; make it mean something again and then people will feel it and will wanna pay for it or whatever, you know.
Stream the latest mixtape by Robot Koch below:
44 Flavours Mixtape by Robot Koch on Mixcloud
Please support and buy his music!!