“One third nostalgia, one third party, one third love”: In Conversation with Robert Parker
Interview by Maya-Rose Torrão
Swedish synthwave master Robert Parker has been making music for over 20 years, fusing electronic genres such as synthpop, chiptune and disco together to create his own retro synth-saturated sound. Robert Parker trained classically in piano when he was growing up but then began to experiment with more electronic sounds such as 1990’s tracker music and retro beats. This sparked a love affair with analog synthesizers, his first of which he acquired in 2009, and ultimately led him to create the synth-driven sounds he produces today.
So far, Robert Parker has played shows in Canada, Australia, France, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Russia and China, spreading his love of retro sounds across the globe. He has recently release a brand new album, ‘End Of The Night’, a 10-track LP featuring an eclectic array of analog and retro digital sounds and showcasing the vocal talents of artists Doubleboy, Miss K, Calderon and Preston Knight.
Listen to Robert Parker’s latest album, ‘End Of The Night’, below.
We caught up with Robert Parker and chatted about nostalgia, collaborations and doing what you love.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts? Why music?
I’ve made music for more than twenty years now, I grew up in a home with a lot of music. All my siblings, including me, took piano lessons. As a child of the 80s, I guess you get a lot of your influences from your childhood and early youth. It’s something you always gravitate back to, in some sense. For me it has been important to take elements from my past and make it into something new. The artwork to my music is mostly done by others. When I ask about artwork I try to not control too much. Mostly the people doing covers for my releases get free hands.
Describe your sound to us in your own words.
One third nostalgia, one third party, one third love.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
When I produce new tracks, I listen to a lot of music I love. You always need a base of ideas to build from. Usually I listen to a lot of early French touch music from the middle/late 90s. There is still so much to get inspired by from that era. In many ways the French touch movement has a lot in common with the synthwave movement. So yeah, I would say I start with the idea, with a concept, and then dive into the sound.
What’s on your current playlist?
Always different. Right now Alan Braxe, Fred Falke, Etienne De Crecy, Dimitri From Paris, Kid Loco…
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I’m so grateful people come and party when I play music. I like smaller events the most, when you get a familiar feeling, get to talk to everyone and everyone – including me – is partying together.
Strangest/weirdest/wildest fan experience?
Being recognized by a fan when I attended a baptism ceremony.
Take us through a day in the studio with Robert Parker.
I work best between eight and twelve in the morning. Usually I start with listening to music I get inspired by and go from there. Sometimes I start out with baselines, sometimes with beats and percussion, sometimes with chord progressions. When I want to use hardware synthesizers, I do that, when working straight into the computer is more inspiring, I change to that. For me it’s important not to get too comfortable in one method.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
Yes. When I heard the track ‘Rubicon’ by Alan Braxe and Fred Falke back in April 2004 (It was on an Erlend Oye mixtape) I thought “Yes, this sound is something I want to build my own sound from”.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
You’ve been playing shows all over the world this year, tell us about a highlight from your 2018 run of shows.
Oh. Tough question. So far all my gigs have been a great experience. I guess we’re in a phase when everyone is still discovering each other, like when you’ve just fallen in love with someone. In any case, all my three gigs in the US have been amazing; in San Francisco, NYC and Rhode Island. Great people, very warm and welcoming feelings. I met a lot of people there I have been chatting with online for years and finally met in real life. Very emotional actually.
Any emerging/unknown/upcoming artists on your radar?
Yes, Wice. He’s great. If he plays his cards right he can be the next Deadmau5 for sure.
What gets your creative juices flowing? What gets you in the mood to create music? Whether it be music from other artists, art, film, nature etc…
A good night’s sleep, a cup of coffee and some new tracks I’ve just heard that inspire me.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I started out in the 90s with tracker music. Then it was only me and a cheap computer, and some samples. Since ten years ago I’ve been collecting vintage gear. I started out with a Korg Polysix, a Juno 60, A roland SH-101, a Minimoog from 1973, and some drum machines: Tr-707, Oberheim DX… I use everything, but not always. I turn to the hardware when I want to get inspired.
You recently released your album ‘End Of The Night’ – congrats! Tell more about this process and how it was putting this body of work together.
Thanks! Yes the album features several collaborations (see below) and I was really aiming for an album with more vocal tracks. I tend to go in cycles – when I have made an instrumental thing, I want to do more vocal tracks, then I gravitate towards instrumental music again. It keeps the work interesting. A few tracks were as old as ten years, and a few were new collaborations.
The new album features a couple of collaborations – how did these come about?
Yes for ‘End Of The Night’ I wanted to have an album with a lot of vocal tracks. Since a few years I became good friend with Doubleboy, who almost lives next to me. He’s both a great singer, producer and songwriter. I’m very happy that he wanted to do a collaboration. The track ‘Make Love’ with Miss K is actually almost ten years old. I recorded it back in 2009, back then I sang the lead but for this release we decided it would be much more appropriate if a woman did the singing. I did the vocal backing tracks, though. Calderon, I have been in contact with for years on a Swedish synth forum. He had a long hiatus with no producing and has just started up again with our collaborations. Just one month before the release I felt that I lacked a soft ballad for the album. I then came across Preston Knight who I saw sang a cover of one of my old tracks. I was very impressed by his voice and asked him if he was interested in doing a collaboration – and very quickly ‘I Recall’ was born – and with that track, the album felt complete.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Not really. I have seen several other artists do that, but I really only have time for this project. I am aiming for a slow burn.
You’ve been making music for many years now – How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
I am much more confident with what I do nowadays, and I definitely don’t stress anything anymore. When I was starting out I had so much I wanted to do at the same time, but I was maybe not always skilled enough production-wise. Now I feel that I know more about the craft, so to speak – but I also let it take more time.
Break down the news for us: what can we expect from Robert Parker this year?
This year I will end with a few more live shows and the next year will be filled with tours, a new EP, more music videos, collaborations and much more – I will keep on doing the things I love with the people I love.
Listen to Robert Parker’s 2016 hit ‘’85 Again’ below.