Frederic Robinson: Vamplifier
‘I try to make a distinction between music I like and music I respect.’
Frederic Robinson is industriously working his very unique method, surrounding himself with all manner of unusual strategies and sound sources and arriving at unexpected musical destinations… hold up: surely a real life parallel? How many artists can you name have appeared from apparent obscurity to quickly appear on stage at the Royal Albert Hall? (Well, ok: apart from Led Zeppelin of course… )
Quick! Time to grab a swift chinwag with the man from Basel before his next maverick move…
Frederic I believe that you are already planning new work? This, hot on the heels of the Vamp EP and Live Signals?
I am in the process of finishing my bachelor in music tech, working on a new live setup and will start work on my next album soon.
OK. So since Mixed Signals – such a typically subtle title – can you bring us up to date?
Since Mixed Signals I have released the Vamp EP and a live album called Live Signals (preview at end).
Both are based on material that I made during the creation of Mixed Signals, so it is all familiar territory. I might change my approach in the coming months when get back into full-time production but I guess I will find out when I get there.
Regarding Vamp: I’m a big fan of ‘Wheels’ on this new ep… it’s very ‘visual’, did you have something in mind when you created it? Feels like a small movie.
As you might tell from the title, it is about movement. The picture I had in mind was something like looking out of a moving vehicle. I have that with much of my music, though.
It’s awesomely soulful and uplifting… do you draw from non-D&B music in order to make music that is exciting WITHIN a D&B ethos?
Pretty much all of my inspiration comes from outside D&B. For some reason almost all of it comes out of the UK though.
I like to make fast and colorful listening music so a connection to D&B easily happens. I listen to a lot of singer/songwriter stuff, electronica artists in general, interesting bands – Dawn of Midi… check it out! – and the occasional contemporary intellectual workout. I find a lot of exciting things in all of these and there’s much more I haven’t even discovered yet.
I also try to make a distinction between music I like and music I respect. That way I can draw inspiration from a bigger field without really needing to like it all.
On some of your tunes are those real drums and strings I hear? Do you use such things for recording? It’s just that people tend to ‘just’ use computers so much now. There’s so many little random things – good and bad – about real instruments.
I record a lot of the percussion sounds I use myself. When I want a sound that is supposed to serve a function, rather than just be interesting in itself, I usually use samples … recording something like a fat snare is hard and not really worth my time.
When it is about interesting sounds that have more personality then I record them. The percussion in my track ‘Mixed Signals’ is made of closely recorded bottle caps. The strings in my tracks are sometimes sampled, sometimes recorded. Again, they serve a function, so it is easier to get the best possible string sound out of a sampler than tuning the violin and getting back into practice.
I don’t see myself as an instrumentalist.
The word ‘Vamp’ makes me think of words such as: promise, glamour, tragedy, drama, artifice, time passing. What about you, why the ‘Vamp’ ep?
‘Vamp till ready’ is a term from the jazz world. The band repeats a short chord progression until the soloist starts. My album track ‘Vamp Till Ready’ is mainly based on repeating elements building up to something. The EP features that track and its live version which is where the title comes from.
I am always happy about people making connections that I did not think of at the time.
Synkro has done a fabulous job of ‘Mixed Signals’: almost like a good friend putting on an exhibition of your work and making the body of work look different to what you may have done. Wicked remix!
Very true. I have been a big Synkro fan since I first heard his music and was very happy about having him remix one the album tracks. He has a great feel for arrangement and structure and much more patience than I do. I think the remix gives the listener a bit more time to really appreciate the individual elements than the original does.
Back to the beginning and the talk of your live work, where would you like to take it?
I want to experience all different kinds of live scenarios. Most of the shows I played so far were quite intimate and personal and I quite like that. I enjoy the possibility of interacting with the audience which is not so easy on bigger stages.
I’d really like to play with a band at some point. That will probably lead to a different sound and I like that idea. I am also working on a visual concept and I expect it to become part of my shows at some point.