Our 50th FACT mix – that’s right, our 50th – could scarely have come from someone more appropriate. Alexander Robotnick is one of electronic music’s most important pioneers, and we’re honoured to have him not only providing our 50th exclusive podcast, but also headling the party we’re throwing this Thursday at the Stag & Dagger festival with our friends at Blogger’s Delight.
Maurizio Dami to his mum, Robotnick first shot to fame in 1983 with the release of ‘Problèmes D’Amour’, an infectiously funky analogue disco bomb replete with the heaviest 303 bassline of all time. A flamboyant, ever-enthusiastic performer, his visionary productions made him a hero in electro and italo-disco circles, before he bega to concentrate in the 1990s on more esoteric work, helming such ethno-fuelled projects as Masala and The Third Planet.
The nu-italo revolution of the past decade has since seen the Italian producer rightly revered as a pioneer of the sound, and he himself has returned to making dancefloor-oriented electronic disco and techno-pop – check his new single, the aptly titled ‘Obsession For The Disco Freaks’. Or better yet, check him on Thursday at our party, as part of the London-Leeds-Glasgow Stag and Dagger party.
Your career began with Avida, right? Can you tell us a bit about that band and that time? How did it influence what you would do next?
“Avida was a band in between theatre and music. Our lyrics and our performance were very ironical, in line with an underground music trend of that time, called “Musica Demenziale.
“Recently Creme Organization released an album by Avida that includes tracks unreleased before.”
What about Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici? What was the nature of that project? Have you done much film/soundtrack/theatre work since those days?
“GMM was a multimedia group, very innovative for those years. We worked on video installations, comics, music, theatre and fashion. We released also an album under that name. In the early 90s the group started to work mostly in the fashion industry and lost its innovative attitude, so I stopped to work with them.”
Your best-known songs, like ‘Problèmes d’amour’, are really associated with that analogue 808 and 303 sound. How has your approach to production changed over the years? Do you still favour analogue? Have you embraced digital technology at all?
“My approach to production changed many times. Early in the 80s my dream was to have just a computer, a mobile one, a small keybord and that’s all. So I could produce music anywhere. And during the 90s this dream became true. For a short period I felt good in working without all those fucking wires and plugs. But then I understood that unfortunately my sound lost most of its warmness and impact. So I bought again all the analogue stuff I used in the early 80s and now my studio looks like the one I used in that time again.”
When you were making ‘Problèmes d’amour’ did you have any idea of how huge and influential it would be?
“No, not at all. I just was aware I composed a good song. But I had no idea how that sound could be innovative. To the Italian audience that sounded just odd and not in line with the pop sound that was in fashion in those days. I was also thinking that my productions didn’t sound professional enough.”
Who was an influence on you back then? Who did you look to for inspiration?
“Ok, I’m almost 60 now. When I composed “Problèmes d’amour” I was already 33. The first time I went to a club as a kid the DJ played “I Can‘t Get No Satisfaction” by Rolling Stones. So it’s hard to say where my inspiration comes from.
“I’m also a person who likes different kind of music: Jazz from the 60s, especially. The rock from 70s and early 80s. The world music, especially the South Indian one, the Opera, some Italian artists as Lucio Battisti and Vasco Rossi…
“In the early 80s I was listening mostly the New Wave: Joy Division, New Order and Cure… I think the inspiration for “Problèmes d’amour” was Kraftwerk and Tom Tom Club.”
“For a short period I felt goodin working without all those fucking wires and plugs. But then Iunderstood that unfortunately my sound lost most of its warmness andimpact. So I bought again all the analogue stuff I used in the early80s and now my studio looks like the one I used in that time again”
When you DJ now, do you favour vinyl or digital, and why?
“I favour vinyl, but I play it in a digital way. That means: I grab the tracks from vinyl to my laptop, I edit them and I play back them by my laptop.
“I don’t think, as many do, that the vinyl is the best media for playing general music. It’s too noisy and uncomfortable. I prefer to listen to jazz, rock and classical music on CD. But still dance music has the best result when played by vinyl.”
Can you tell us about the most memorable show you ever played?
“A concert with my “Indian” band Masala on the top of a mountain in Abruzzo (Italy), at sunrise. This happened in the summer ’94.”
Where does all your incredible energy come from after all these years?
“It just comes from my passion in music. I’m also from a generation that considers the show very important. I don’t understand those musicians and DJs who play live working at their laptop as they are in an office. It’s depressing to me. I like to give emotions to the audience also by my body and my voice.”
How do you feel attitudes to your music have changed over the years? Do you feel like more people “understand” where you’re coming from now?
“This is hard to say. Some do it, also young people, because they are curious about the roots of the music they like. But most of people are just fast consumers, they have no curiosity at all about anything.”
You were heavily involved in Algerian, Indian and Kurdish music with Govinda, Masala and The Third Planet. Do you still listen to a lot of that kind of music? After your work in that area, what prompted you to return to electro?
“No, I don’t listen to that music anymore (Indian classical music). I feel it’s not the right time for that. Maybe, in the future, I’ll do it again, who can say that…
“I returned to electro for two reasons. Because 20 years late I didn’t feel that music as nostalgic anymore, but again “fresh and cool” , and also for money, because the music I was playing up the 2003 was not in fashion anymore so I felt like I was “unemployed”.
“I’m also from a generation that considers the show very important. Idon’t understand those musicians and DJs who play live working at theirlaptop as they are in an office. It’s depressing to me.”
Which of your works are you most proud of?
‘Problèmes d’amour’ of course, and ‘Dance Boy Dance’, as regards the Robotnick production. Then all the work I made with Boliwar Miranda, a bamboo flute player from Bombay, under the name of ‘Masala’.
Tell us about Hot Elephant Music…any new releases coming on the label?
“Actually I stopped to release music of my own. Too much work for not enough money. I don’t like to spend all my time promoting my stuff on
e internet. The situation of the music business also looks too depressing to me. Too many artists, tracks, labels so I feel like to put a drop into the sea. I released so many records in my life, it’s time to concentrate myself in experimenting new music and wait for some powerful label interested to my productions.”
What’s next for Alexander Robotnick?
“I’m more and more involved in producing videos. I had some health problems during the last year so I stopped to do it, but now I feel better and I’m going to work on it again. My latest project names “The Analog Session”. I’ll start to upload new videos on youtube very soon.”
Tracklisting on the way; more information on FACT and Blogger’s Delight’s Stag and Dagger party, featuring Alexander Robotnick, Casper C, Skull Juice and more found here.