Monday, 26 April 2010
INTERVIEW: Free The Robots [Alpha Pup]
With the LA beats scene getting a veritable banquet of props from publications and blogs like ours over the past couple of years you could be forgiven for getting a little lost in the melee of producers promised by some to re-energize the scene - that incidentally has not shown a single thread of slowing down since I first heard the Beatnicks 12”s back in 2007. As a key proponent of the community feel of the Californian scene, Daddy Kev – a name you might have seen or heard name checked on wax by rappers like Busdriver, Subtitle, The Grouch and Sole – his involvement in the running of the Low End Theory club alongside fellow residents Gaslamp Killer, Nocando, D-Stylez and Nobody and his own Alpha Pup imprint has done a superlative amount for some great producers. He's given a home to many, releasing notable work from Nosaj Thing, Sonic Router bud TAKE, edIT of the Glitch Mob and most recently, (and quite pertinently for this article at least) Free The Robots.
FTR's latest work, Ctrl Alt Delete, follows a self titled Free The Robots album that appeared in 2008, and a collaborative EP with GLK mooted as The Killer Robots. It’s a 13 track opus that rolls through multiple moods and styles flirting with mammoth bass weight on ‘Orion’s Belt Buckle,’ capturing the energy of early Sixtoo productions on opener ‘Sci-Fidelity,’ utilizing the off sync snare beautifully on ‘Turbulence’ and ending up deep in prog rock territory towards the tail end of the album. A record that after a trusted recommendation hit us square between the ears, engaging our brains as much as our neck muscles, so much so we went straight after an interview, intent of giving something we constantly enjoy, the coverage we figured it deserved…
Sonic Router: For those who may not be so up on you, can you introduce yourself and what you do?
The names Chris Alfaro and I make dirty, psychedelic, electronic music under the alias Free The Robots.
What the story behind the Free The Robots moniker?
The name, 'Free the Robots,' was originally a metaphor that represented the state of music at the time I started the project (early 2000’s). It was based on my vision of how the music industry ran before the boom of homemade productions and the rise of the Internet music/social networking age. Back then, everything seemed to follow a bunk system. Majors had a firm grip on peoples mind states when it came to music, and it was very unhealthy for the creative mind. It was like a mass of Robot artists, and Robot fans being fed the same thing from the same source. The story's obviously different these days… The evolution of D.I.Y. culture over the past few years has risen above and taken over. People are setting precedents every day, and doing so right from their own bedrooms. I think it’s beautiful! The Robots have been freed…
Other than that the name just sounded dope to me.
The debut album Ctrl Alt Delete is out on Alpha Pup now. What was the inspiration behind it? What can people expect from it?
At the time I was making it, I was going through a major life transition. With that came a lot of intense feelings. Trying to juggle my priorities and my sanity with my only outlet being music had a serious effect on my creative process and the inspiration for this record. It’s darker, louder, and much more aggressive.
It flips from prog instrumental hip hop, to all out bass line tearouts; it has a real mongrel sound. Why do you think it came out sounding the way it does? I mean has like dubstep been as big an inspiration for you as psych/kraut rock evidently is?
I’m deeply rooted in psychedelic, Kraut rock, dub reggae, jazz, hip hop...etc but over the last few years the energy of the dubstep sound has been undeniable. The aggressive intensity of it was the perfect fit for my mood at the time. It sort of reminded me of how I felt when I was listening to hardcore/punk music back in the day. Extremely heavy, but it can calm your nerves at the same time. The record sounds the way it does because my production process starts without thinking. Whatever I’m feeling at the time is how my music comes out. The mood of the record is an accurate description of my mental state at the time.
The album also has a lot of moments with rich layered melodies but it also manages to chop up the 8 bit, computer game sounds in the same breath. Do you work heavily with samples? Can you explain a little bit about your processes?
Samples weren't the main focus for melodic content of this record. I stirred away from my original, sample-based, format, which forced me to develop myself as a musician. Most of this record is purely original. A good amount of the record started from my, late night, after a long stressful day, recorded improv sessions on my keyboard…no thinking, just feeling, and jamming.
Alpha Pup seems to be killing it in terms of album releases lately. How does it feel to be in such esteemed company?
Alpha Pup to me is just as much a family to me as it is a label. Everyone involved, from the artists to the team behind everything share the right mindset. I have the utmost respect for Daddy Kev as an artist and a label owner. Not only does he get it, he knows how to make it happen.
Your part of a very fertile Californian beats scene… what do you think it is about the music from the area that is so influential?
The synergy between the artists in LA right now is heavier than it’s ever been. With so much talent condensed in a small area, it can only mean progress, and the sounds coming out of the woodworks constantly amaze me. Being surrounded by good music, and good people, and good vibes keeps me inspired to do what I do, and I’m sure it does the same for many artists. One thing is for certain, people are becoming more open minded.
Who else should we be keeping an ear out for?
As far as the next wave of Los Angeles beat makers, definitely Mono/Poly, Tokimonsta, Mathiew David, Teebs, Co.fee & the My Hollow Drum family, Baths, Friends of Friends...all that and much more
Is there any wisdom you’d care to share with our readers?
One thing Ctrl Alt Delete taught me is this: you can learn from your mistakes, scrap it, and move on, or you can come back to that mistake and make something beautiful out of it.
Ctrl Alt Delete is out now on Alpha Pup Recordings.
DOWNLOAD: Free The Robots - Orion's Belt Buckle (Right Click/Save As)