I had fun chatting with BroadTube Music Channel about my single "Straight A" the other day, here's the interview:
What are some of the artists that have influenced you so far?
As a skateboarder, I listened to a lot of punk and ska, but what I really loved was Jazz. Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, these saxophonists speak to my soul. I lived in London in the late 90s and was awakened to a world of electronic music in the clubs there, I loved chart toppers Daft Punk and the Prodigy to more underground artists. The grimy London sound really gets me.
Who do you regard as the “Greatest Artist Of All Time”?
Perhaps Mozart? I used to listen to the “Amadeus” soundtrack on a walkman cassette tape player all day long.
Tell us what you know about composition and how you normally go about it.
Composition is all about making choices. These days it all begins with the laptop computer. I arrange some chords using a midi keyboard then find interesting instruments. The key to composition in my opinion is a discerning ear, listening to a lot of music and trying to figure out why certain songs resonate to find your own style.
To learn more about how I incorporate dreams into my DJ mixes, read my story here: https://www.robotdream.com/mystory
Who is your management team?
I have an assistant but other than that I do it all myself! I’m a full time musician, and perform for many private events and clubs. We live in a time that artists have access to the tools to manage their own career. I make a decent living doing music full time, down the road I’m sure I will add more players to my process but for now I prefer to handle things myself. I feel lucky that I can do what I love full time.
What do you think about “Straight A”?
In this song I wanted to explore the combination of organic and electronic elements: traditional acoustic horns, live drums, raw un-effected vocals, with electronic elements. As a cyborg I am fascinated by live instruments as well as electronic sounds.
I have always loved African-influenced music, from afro-cuban 6/8 syncopations in latin rhythm to the triplet in jazz. In Western music, traditionally time signatures stick to either a 2 or 3 based rhythm, but African rhythm juxtaposes and interchanges the 3 and 2 giving it an infectious groove you can’t but move to. As I hold a residency in a club and am DJing every week either there or in a private event, I’ve loved how mainstream the soca/reggaeton/dancehall vibe has become, because I can mix the beat with Hip-hop, R&B, pop, electronic music, and people love it.
Which social media platform that works best for you in promoting your music?
I use instagram mostly to promote my music as I can do short remixes set to interesting video. I also use Youtube and Snapchat. Facebook is lame and full of dinosaur trolls.
What areas could be improved in the music industry?
I think that there’s always hope in the youth. Young people are turned off by corporate B.S. so easily. Just look at the recent downtick in Snapchat, after they revised it to mingle corporate sponsors with your chats. Bleah. We see this with every underground music movement as it becomes mainstream.
I love the age we live in, where we are connected to people all across the globe. Gone are the days of needing a publishing deal to release music, I could record a song right now and have it on iTunes tomorrow. This explosion in creativity and near universal access means a few things, but I see them as positive.
I think that the negative aspects of our current music industry correlate with the negative aspects of our general corporate culture, namely that decisions are driven by short term profits over long term growth and stability, people are seen as numbers on a graph rather than human beings. This translates IMO to underground music trends rising to the mainstream and burning out at a much faster rate than in the past as there are extensive algorithms in place to identify and exploit trends. But again, I see this as positive as there are so many creative people out there who have a voice due to our current tech’s (more) level playing field.
How are you getting your songs to stores and fans?
I use Distrokid to distribute my music across streaming platforms. Gone are the days of me making much from sales, my money comes from live performance. With so much direct and indirect competition for people to go out, I feel lucky to be DJing clubs and venues each weekend.
Sometimes I just walk around a busy city, people ask me who I am and what I’m about. I love their reactions as they see me. I used to hate my appearance and I shut myself inside all day, only going out to raves or skateboarding under the cover of night.
How do you prepare yourself for a live performance?
I spend many hours each week listening to new music and downloading/remixing songs for my DJ sets. This week I performed for a private “back to school” event in San Francisco, so I prepped a lot of 80s and 90s music to fit the demographic, and mixed it with current hits and my go-to beats. I mix in key and have a mashup style so often make combinations that the audience hasn’t heard before.
Because I am performing on average 4x a week year round, live performance usually happens after a long day of working on music, generating leads for new performance opportunities, creating contracts, booking travel and lodging, communicating with planners and venue staff, and getting new music. I wish I could sip tea and meditate for hours before each show, but the truth is I have a very busy schedule where I often get up early and go to bed late. Often I DJ a club Friday night till 2am then get on a 6am flight. I sleep where I can and work incessantly.
Would you rather release singles frequently or just an album once in a while?
As I mentioned before, so little revenue comes from a release or original work compared to the many performances that often original music composition is on back burner as I am just keeping up with a rigorous performance schedule.
That said, ideally I would like to be releasing a single every month. I don’t feel a great benefit in waiting to release an entire album or E.P., but would rather work on a single and video (youtube is king) one at a time. If you release a single without a video, you are missing on a huge potential. So much of my performance is visual, that I make sure to release small remixes with videos multiple times a week.
Which artist would you like to see live?
I’d like to see Janelle Monae, I have a crush on her for sure. Do you think she could ever love a Robot? She often has robotic themes in her visuals. If she’s reading this . . . . let’s get coffee, message me on snapchat: robot_dream
What is the theme of most of your songs?
Most of my songs are about love. My career makes sense, work makes sense, love and emotions are another story. So difficult to navigate. It’s something I’ve never really understood and am always trying to figure out through music.
Tell us about your recording process.
I’m a DIY type person with a home studio and I typically work with others who have a similar setup to record their parts on their own. I use Logic X, sequence the basic structure, send it to my collaborators, then record my individual woodwind parts and ultimately mix in vocals, live drums. I have a go to guy for mixing as I don’t feel super confident in my mixing and mastering skills yet. I have also recorded in local studios, sometimes tracking live instruments on top of pre recorded or sequenced.
Sometimes a career in music can be boring, sometimes exciting, do you agree?
Last weekend I DJed a Friday and Saturday back to back at the same club. Friday night was so dead, I tried to maintain professionalism and did my best to mix a good set but it could definitely be called boring. Saturday night the club was bumping, packed. It was so much fun, I was on my game and worked with the crowd to make sure everyone had a good night.
Where can our readers find your music?
Google Play: https://goo.gl/DCdBoV
And how can people keep up on what you’re up to?
Why are you called Robot Dream?
I am half man half machine, a cyborg as you can see from my pictures. I was given the name by a good friend of mine . . . you can read about my origin story (in graphic novel format) here: https://www.robotdream.com/mystory
What is the meaning of “Straight A”?
“Straight A” refers to the teacher-student metaphor explored in this love song. I think many times people judge someone based on their appearance and don’t give love a chance, they give it an “F” before even trying. Why not try something new? You might like it.