Robosonic Interview

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– Hello, i’m glad to ask you some questions for Differentgrooves.com
In the last months you published some nice stuff on OFF Recordings and on Stil Vor Talent, another good remix of course on SVT and Defected In The House, and a cool feature in a Bargrooves compilation. How do you feel right now to have released your music on these important labels?

Cord: Thank you. Man, we’re happy about the recognition of our work. We’ve been doing this actually for years. We played hundreds of DJ gigs, learnt music production from scratch, got to experience some of the label business and other aspects of working in the music-field like running our own podcast series and so on.. Nowadays we try to be less „jacks of all trades“ like we used to be and prefer to partner up with the right labels, agents, management to make our music heard – we focus on writing and producing music as well as DJing and networking, which has proven to be working out well for us.

– History in brief – what can you tell us about your music/culture background and your first approaches to house music?

Sacha: I grew up in Belgium with the focus more on classical music – I started to play cello when I was a kid. My sister is a pianist, so that gave me a push to start making music myself. In the mid 90s I changed the cello for turntables and went raving instead.. my favourite venues at the time were the Fuse Club in Brussels and the Food Club / Silo in Leuven where I saw DJs like DJ Funk, Dave Clarke, Jeff Mills, DJ Sneak, Green Velvet, Blake Baxter who became my heroes and influenced me to buy and spin records. When I was 18 I moved to Scotland to study architecture and besides that, a few mates and I threw some parties there too. Only one year later I won a Vestax DJ competition in Edinburgh, playing House, Techno and Ghettotech. The prize was a battle mixer and a show on BBC Radio Scotland. At the turn of the century I moved to Berlin and got lost in the local club-scene. I started to work in a sound studio to learn Cubase and produced my first beats. Around 2005 I finally quit architecture because I lacked the passion for it! I rather wanted to get serious with music: I met Cord that year and we immediately started making tracks together under the alias „Robosonic The Hedgehog“. We produced mashups and really DIY stuff at first until it became clear that we wanted to do this professionally. I applied at the Berlin University Of Arts to study for a postgrad “Master of Acoustic Communication”. Karl Bartos – formerly part of the German band Kraftwerk – was my professor. He taught me the fundamentals on the way he sees and makes music, which culminated in my Master Thesis about creativity and copyright in the internet age. From around 2008 I’ve been making and performing music full-time, in different combinations but mainly with Cord and solo under my real name Sacha Robotti. That roughly sums up my musical background, and as you can see, it‘s a mixture of learning by doing and an academic approach.

Cord: I’ve had piano lessons when I was younger. I liked drums too, but suddenly fell in love with the guitar. Punk, Hardcore, 60s & 70s, Hendrix and some more crazy hippie stuff I just couldn’t resist. Around the age of 15 I got really hooked on the HipHop culture including turntables and beatmaking. I soon started to release Downbeat, Breakbeat and Mashup vinyls mostly on my own imprints (e.g. „Broken Bootlegs“ with Gaucho & Shir Khan). Over the years I somehow crossed over to the four-to-the-floor heartbeat. Until I moved to Berlin I had experienced house music rather as a commercial pop phenomenon but didn’t understand so much of the deeper meaning. Meeting Sacha at some point was a great inspiration because he had experienced serious underground club music for a few years already, while I was digging in some other crates.  In University I did various courses in musicology and finished social sciences with a research project about “DJ culture in digital revolution.” (http://www.berlin-kreuzberg-institut.de/cord/CORD_LABUHN_DJ_CULTURE_Synopsis.pdf) At the latest then I consciously decided to dedicate my life to music and make a living of it. Over the years Robosonic became my playground, laboratory and professional structure for everything regarding electronic dance music – DJing and production of House, Techno, IDM, you name it. With my personal solo work I rather focus on the opposite of pumping 4×4-music at the moment. I got a passion for Bass, HipHop and Beat Science but also songwriting and minimalism in various forms such as classical.

– What is Berlin Kreuzberg Institute, its main concept and when this idea was born?

Sacha: In 2008 while Cord was in Argentina for a year out, my friend Harry Avers from California who runs the infamous „Noice!“ podcast and label, had a slot open for us on Proton Radio USA. So I took this opportunity and started BKI (Berlin Kreuzberg Institut) in collaboration with BMI (Berlin Mitte Institut), which is the „mother“ of BKI so to speak.

– Why the word “Institute? Maybe the question can sounds stupid but it seems that the use of that words makes it a formality…!

Sacha: The word „Institute“ is a joke! And it’s playing on the German attitude towards many things. It’s between a prejudice and the truth, as Germans like to get organised in committees, institutes, agencies, bureaus, commissions, you know that kind of thing. We sometimes receive super serious applications from people who want to work for „our company“ because I think the imagery that the word „Institute“ sends out, is one of big classrooms, lectures, laboratories, entrance lobbies, secretaries, CEO’s and head researchers.. hilarious.

– What about the collaboration with the Berlin Mitte Institute? It seems like you’re good friends are support each others.

Sacha: Berlin Mitte Institut (BMI) had been existing for a few years already and was run by this guy Fresh Meat, who they call „Doctor Techno“ in Berlin as he has kind of an entertaining style and tries to incorporate theoretical academics into electronic dance music. He’s writing his PhD on that subject too and he’s the one who came up with this whole „Institute“ idea. Fresh Meat used to throw these weekly BMI liveshows from his „Institutional“ living room for years, it was streamed live online via video and audio, if I’m not wrong that was years before Boiler Room or similar concepts appeared.

DJ T, M.A.N.D.Y., Florian Meindl, Ruede Hagelstein, Cesare vs. Disorder, Jeremy P. Caulfield, and countless (!) other players in the game showed off their skills musically at the BMI shows and explained what they‘re about in short interviews. I met Fresh Meat when I mixed on one of those shows in 2007 and we became friends and collaborators.. we played at a lot of parties together over the years, also in other cities.  In contrast to BMI, BKI isn’t a live streaming platform, it rather provided an outlet for artists who would create content that could be made public and stored as an archive of DJ mixes, live sets and Skype interviews. For me the idea of BKI was to start building a network for Robosonic, discover new acts of the scene and show respect to producers who‘ve been active in the underground for a while.. While there seemed to be a need for this kind of infrastructure at the time, nowadays BKI is creating much less content, because every artist, label and blog has an own podcast and the internet is flooded with mixes.

– What do you think about the Berlin music scene? Usually do you work more in your city or around in the country?

Sacha: We’ve played a lot in Berlin over the past few years, at least once or twice a week, often at crazy morning hours like 8 til noon or so – those times can be really random. The city is funny that way, parties can go on for days! The Berlin natives like to celebrate and the city attracts gazillions of party tourists from all over the world who have the time of their life and fill up every club every weekend. Some of them stay here for a few years and start making music themselves or work in the club or music biz..

Cord: Now we play more like once a month or once every two months in Berlin, and the rest of the month around the country or internationally.. for instance we just came home from a 3-week-tour in Latin America with gigs in Mexico City, Playa del Carmen, Bogotá – it was great and we love touring. Studio magic happens in Berlin though, we live in the same house on different floors and both have project studios where we work on music during the week.

– Anything cool in the pipeline you will release in the near future?

Cord: NOIR just released David Keno’s “Sunshine” with a Robosonic Vocal Remix and a Club Dub. Another thing that’s coming up is a remix for Kerri Chandler – it was a special honour for us to get our hands on a tune by this House music master! Additionally, you can watch out for a follow-up of ours on OFF Recordings, probably in late spring or early summer. And furthermore, we collaborated on 3 tracks with the Adana Twins, which will be released on an EP on a well-known label from Hamburg in May…we’re very excited about this: A strong A-side called „La Fique“ plus some funny edits on the flip.

– Thank you for having spent the time to let our readers know more about your music and thoughts!

Thanks guys, it was a pleasure!

Interview by Matteo Pitton

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