Interview: Five Minutes with Robot Koch
Los Angeles-based award-winning artist/producer/composer Robot Kochappeared on the lineups of major festivals like Coachella, Sonar, Mutek and played Boiler Room several times. His unique sound of organic electronic music has been called “Wonderful and Strange – pop music from the future” (by John Peel of the BBC already in 2003).
Koch appeared on the lineups of major festivals like Coachella, Sonar, Mutek and played Boiler Room several times. He has been steadily crafting a remarkably mature and original sound that expertly combines a deep and cinematic atmosphere, emotional reflection and space-age beats.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
It’s the best way to express something in a creative way that you could not put into words otherwise.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
It goes hand in hand. Sound inspires the idea and the idea informs the sound.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Yes, but in a different way than before. On previous records, I featured vocalists mainly, this time it’s an instrumental record, an electronic/orchestral hybrid. For this, I worked with conductor Kristjan Järvi and his nordic pulse orchestra who were fantastic to work with.
The first single ‘liquid’ was orchestrated by Viktor Orri Arnason, who previously worked with Johann Johannson and Hildur Guðnadóttir. The track ‘dragonfly’ was orchestrated by John Metcalfe, whose previous work included string arrangements for Peter Gabriel.
What’s on your current playlist?
I’m very eclectic in my taste. It literally goes from ambient to death metal. So you’ll find bands like Rivers of Nihil as well as artists like Harold Budd. On my road trip playlist are songs like ‘planet caravan’ from Black Sabbath or ‘fade into you’ by Mazzy Star. Also featured there are current artists like Douglas Dare, Ry x, along with some really old stuff by Simon Diaz.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
It’s magical when you feel the energy coming back from the people. Especially after shows, I connect with fans and it’s beautiful to hear their stories and how my music is a unique soundtrack to their lives. It’s great to connect in this way.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
There are technical aspects but also metaphysical aspects. I meditate regularly. In meditation, you go deep into what science calls the unified field. The more your consciousness or your awareness is expanded the deeper you go to this source where ideas come from. Technically speaking, I just love to experiment with sounds by allowing them to unfold. When I work on an analogue synth, it’s like a dialogue. I want something from it but it also wants something from me.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
Wake up, meditate, make breakfast. After going through some emails I get into the creative space where I need to be undisturbed. I turn off the phone and either pick up on some work I left the day before or start creating something new, depending on the project. Most of the work is finishing ideas. Ideas are very elusive. they come to you when you make space for them to appear. It can be almost effortless receiving ideas – but once you capture an idea the real work is to turn it into a finished piece.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
yes the faith no more moment: I was 12 years old, sitting in front of the TV watching MTV. I grew up pre-internet so MTV was the window to the world in provincial West Germany. This video for the song ‘Epic’ came on by the band Faith No More. It blew my mind, visually and sonically. By the time the piano exploded in the video I knew I wanted to make music.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
A bottle of water.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Snakes of Russia, Kloxii, Josin, Delhia de France, Jan Wagner
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Being in nature. Reading a book. Hearing an inspiring sound.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
When I lived in Berlin I had a bigger studio with lots of outboard gear. After I moved to LA I totally minimized my setup, right now I work with only a few synths and pedals like the Lyra 8 or Roland Juno. A pedal I used a lot lately is the Fairfield shallow water. My DAW is Ableton, I’ve used it since version 1.0 and my monitor speakers are by Hedd Audio, they sound great.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Yes, I have this side project called ‘Dreaming Of Ghosts’ which is ambient alternative/dream pop. We recently placed some music on the Netflix shows “Another Life” and “You”. The debut album came out last year. I also work as a producer for other artists, like Delhia de France.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
It’s been a lot of learning and refining. It’s a process and I’m in it for the long haul so it takes a lot of patience and the will to get better step by step. Once you realize that there is no ideal state to achieve and that it will always be a process it becomes more enjoyable.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
I’m excited that my new album “The Next Billion Years” will be out on April 24th. For this album, I recorded the Nordic Pulse Orchestra with conductor Kristjan Järvi in Estonia last summer. There will be live shows with the orchestra this year and possibly an interactive sound installation around “The Next Billion Years” theme as well. I’m developing that now.
I made a remix for Alex Banks that will come out on Max Cooper`s Mesh label in April.
I’m also working on a follow up for my immersive AV show ‘Sphere’, which sold out in planetariums worldwide last year. Looking forward to meeting new people and old friends on my tour this year.
Famous last words?