Reset Robot, aka David Robertson, has been gradually ascending through the ranks for the past decade, and if you haven’t heard of him yet no doubt you will in the years to come.
Having nestled among the Drumcode ensemble Robertson has been continuously making big-venue techno (as well as more ambient material) for similar minded labels such as Truesoul, 8-Sided Dice, and his own Whistleblower imprint.
What stands out about him is how firmly on the ground he is; regardless of the kind of stadium aspirations other DJs of his ilk may have, Robertson is a family man who will as happily talk about the gardening or putting his kids to bed (which he had just managed to do before the interview), while still playing the mainstage at Junction 2 or Tobacco Dock. If not playing out he can be found working relentlessly in his studio which was finally being refitted from the garden shed into the house (apparently central heating had never been so good).
Following his latest EP Attack of the Denim Hand, Robertson let us in on all these little elements that make up his life:
So we were going to ask how Printworks was as you’ve just played there, but I saw in an interview yesterday someone had asked the same question.
That’s the thing with these kind of interviews. When you do some close together you end up answering the same questions.
Well I was going to ask how it feels doing all these interviews. Does it feel like extra work that as an artist you’d rather not do?
Haha, no not at all. I just think when you’ve done one with similar questions, do you need to do another one? But then you might have a different readership, with different questions. I don’t think it matters too much as long as the questions are good and relevant.
And Printworks was good in the end?
It was very good.
Did you get to experience it much as a punter?
Well I played from five until seven thirty and I think I got there for about two, so I was there for a good few hours before my set. And then I hung around until the end. I had some friends up with me, and we got down onto the main floor and checked out the sound system, and listened to some of Adam [Beyer]’s set and listened to some of Joe Mull’s set as well. I got down and threw some shapes on the dancefloor haha.
Well it’s good that you can still do that with all the responsibilities of a job, and family life as well.
Well I like getting amongst it you know. Getting in the crowd and seeing what’s what and meeting people, and chatting to people. You know the Drumcode parties, you see all the same people all the time at these events, so you get to know a lot of the same faces, which is nice. In the UK you get a core following for these nights.
You’re playing the UK and abroad in equal measures. Do you feel more at home playing to a UK crowd?
I am more comfortable playing in the UK. I like playing abroad, you know, people from different countries like different styles and sometimes your sound might not quite fit, and sometimes it will go down quite well. You just have to go with the ups and downs. The stage that I’m at I’m quite happy just to go to the gig and assess it when I’m there, see what the person before me is doing, see what the crowd are doing. I might have a set prepared and might have to completely change it. But that’s what DJing is about, you have to read the crowd a bit. But I also like to change it up to keep me interested, I don’t want to be playing all the same records all the time.
Is there any gig abroad that has gone terribly wrong that you can laugh about now?
One of my worst gigs ever was playing in Ukraine years ago, and I got to the gig and the warm up act was a comedian dressed up as a devil for New Years Eve. And there was just a bunch of people sat around at tables listening to him do this comedy act and I came on and just played to loads of people sat down.
So you’ve been playing out now since the early 2000s, do you think crowds come to a party with different expectations now?
I think about when I first started going out sixteen, seventeen, and the kind of experience I was having. I think people going out now for the first time are having exactly the same experiences. I don’t know if expectations have changed, you only have to look at the production work of something like Printworks to see how much that kind of thing has changed, the production of venues has changed a lot. People want to have incredible sound systems and really good lighting. But people also just want to go out and have a good time, hear good music, and I don’t think those things will ever change will they?
You’re from Portsmouth, which isn’t known for its music scene. But how important is to for you, with people moving to London, Berlin, or Amsterdam, to be surrounded by other artists, as an artist yourself?
Well, there’s a lot of people down here playing and producing you know you’ve got, James Zabiela, Ronnie Spiteri, Alan Fitzpatrick so there’s loads of people who’ve come out of this south coast area. But I feel like you’re close to everyone anyway, you know, you can email someone or pick up the phone, I don’t know if I need to be enveloped in somewhere like Berlin. I understand why people do that, to really get into a scene and immerse themselves in it. But it’s not something I’ve felt a need to do.
So you feel you can be successful, without having to be part of any specific scene?
I think you can. I think you can be your own entity as long as you can connect with others. I think networking is really important. I think now you have to be going to nights, and meeting people, and pushing yourself onto people, without being annoying. You can do that without having to move to far.
And so you’ve been running the label Whistleblower for a few years now. Do you think that’s taken over from the DJing at all?
It’s definitely something that’s taken over my work daily. Myself and Aaron [Rhymos], have taken over the day to day running of the label and have been coordinating the musical direction, but no it’s not taken over from my DJing and production. But it is something I’m constantly dealing with, I’m constantly dealing with PR people and distribution, so it is more work now, but that’s fine, I’m up for it.
And so your EP, Attack of the Denim Hand has come out. How has it been producing that?
It’s been good, done a few good bits of press. And it’s been good seeing which DJs have been feeding back to it. I really like this release.
Do you find with things like social media, it’s quite hard to keep your own sound?
It’s really difficult with social media, because you can hear that people are not copying, but trying to follow specific trends. If you look at techno now, if you look at how many styles within that genre there are, you’ve got people like Tale of Us, people like Radio Slave, then people like Matador, and the Drumcode sound as well. There’s so many niches within techno at the moment, you know the more melodic stuff has been popular recently, and recently everyone has been making this more stripped kind of sound. So, it is difficult. But if you like something and want something, you’re going to try and replicate it. You can’t really say it’s right or wrong. With all these sample packs that are around now, it’s so easy for someone to pick one up and put a few loops together and say that’s a tune. So things can start sounding a bit generic.
So I hear one of your pastimes is gardening. Do you still find time to do the garden?
Last year I was a bit slack, but around this sort of time I’ll be getting my flowerbeds weeded, and start planting seeds. It’s just something I like to do, it makes me feeling good, and I like the garden when there’s loads of greens growing. I don’t know if it’s therapeutic, but it’s something I really enjoy doing. I’m not very good at it yet. If something doesn’t work one season, I’ll try something different the next season.
What artists do you think we should keep an eye on this year?
I think, within the techno scene, people who’ve been around for a while but are really starting to take off are people like Ø [Phase], he releases on Token and some other really good labels, I think he could be really big. I think Ronnie Spiteri, could do really well, he makes more pumping house stuff, he’s been working hard.
These artists have been around for awhile and have only just started to break through. Has your career followed similar trajectory?
Exactly, I mean for me its been going on for nine years now, and I would say I’m fairly established, but I would still say there’s quite a few steps to go before I can really say that I’m there. I think you can have a really quick rise up, but I would say I’m on the slow and steady rise. Its only now that it’s starting to pick up though, and I think back that I’ve been doing this for eight years. It’s definitely not a new thing anymore.