An interview with Frederic Robinson

Judging by his live performances on YouTube, Frederic Robinson is a glimmer of rare musical talent in a scene saturated by otherwise samey producers uncomfortable away from their computers. Robinson’s style of production is so dynamic it is almost impossible to categorise. When cajoled, Robinson describes his music as “euphoric up-tempo electronica” but to the discerning listener, it’s clear Robinson’s compositions are heavily influenced by DNB.

Robinson’s rise to the spotlight should envoke envy amongst other aspiring artists. He explains how after uploading his tracks to Soundcloud’ he was lucky that the “right people found it”. Aged 21, Frederic Robinson had his first live performance in London with Ulrich Schnauss; was signed by Blu Mar Ten Music (BMTM) and collaborated with Stray. Quite an impressive array for such a young producer.  It is evident from my interview with Robinson that the label have allowed him great freedom as he expresses his joy about not having to “make compromises” with his production. Robinson certainly deserves such a professional reception. Self-taught, he has been producing music since the age of 12, and only uploaded his first track five years later when he finally deemed it ‘flawless’. Robinson’s dedication to his craft is impressive.

Frederic’s debut album ‘Mixed Signals’ has just been released. The albums title track is a personal favourite, and considering his obsession with faultlessness it’s bound to reflect elements of true genius. He also plans to extend his number of live performances over the next year. As far as upcoming electronic music goes, Robinson’s unique style and sound is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

You are already recognised as a unique new talent in the electronic music scene. Describe your journey into this world, how and where did it begin and how has it progressed?

I have been making music with the computer in all kinds of genres since I was 12 years old. At 17 I slowly got comfortable with showing stuff around so I started uploading my music on soundcloud. My first releases on Diffrent and Brownswood happened because I uploaded the tracks and the right people found it just by browsing. I actually never sent around any demos. There was always more demand than finished tracks, mostly because I work incredibly slowly… I was never really part of any local scene and pretty much all of the recognition I have gotten so far has come from the internet. The city I currently live in, Basel, isn’t that vivid either and I definitely plan on moving somewhere where there is a scene for my music at some point.

How would you describe your music? Would you place it in any specific genre?

Most of it is very energetic and ‘short-tempered’ I would say. I love complex music, I love euphoric music and I try to combine both in my own music. There are hundreds of hours over several weeks in every track I make and that leads to a completely different perception of time. Things that seem interesting after listening 10 times in a row suddenly become boring after  the 80th listen. So I change things; I add details; I go in a new direction 90 seconds into the track. I guess it becomes very miniaturized at times. All these preferences go very well with the IDM/DNB template so although I would not say I make DNB, I developed my music out of that genre, mainly the tempo, the rhythms and the sound aesthetics. When I am asked now I usually say I make euphoric up-tempo electronica.

You look to arouse euphoria amongst your listeners how do you go about achieving this?

I would not say I am actively trying to arouse euphoria. I am making music primarily for myself and I am in the lucky position that people consider it worth releasing and worth listening to. When I make something which I really enjoy, the people who have a similar taste will get something out of that. I am not really comfortable with the idea of ‘achieving’ something with my listeners. I guess I am too much involved with the music to think like that.

In an interview with ‘Urban Essence’ you said the song you are most proud of to be your remix of Pedestrian’s “Hei Poa”. Is this still the case? If so, why?

I am still very proud of that remix, but I have spent the last year making my debut album so something was bound to take its place. My new favourite track is called ‘Mixed Signals’, just like the album, and I guess I will say more about it once it is out in October.

Working with Stray on ‘Thumbprint’ must have been an intense but exciting experience. How do you feel about working with other producers? Were there many quarrels over the direction of the song or was this largely consensual?

Stray is in fact the only person I have ever collaborated with. The sessions were indeed intense and we often wanted to go in different directions, but that is the exciting thing about having more than one person try to create something coherent. If both of us had the exact same ideas and preferences then it would not make sense to collaborate at all. I am currently doing many collaborations with my live setup. That way of working with other people is much more intuitive and I feel like you learn a lot more in ‘realtime’, too.

How did ‘Blu Mar Ten’ find you and how has your career progressed since you were signed by them?

I think Chris Blu Mar Ten noticed me after appearances on Hospital Records and its sister label Med School. One day I got an email from him mentioning the possibility of me making an album for BMTM and inviting me to London. Not many musicians in the situation I was in back then get offered to make an album and I gladly took that opportunity. I have learned a lot since then and I am excited for the things that are to come. I guess the most valuable lesson was that I do not have to make compromises with my music if I want it released. Something I might have started doing if I would have kept on releasing singles on different labels.

For your first live set in London you played with the German legend – Ulrich Schnauss. How was that as an experience? Would you consider him an influence or inspiration to yourself and to your music?

The whole experience was incredible. The music I played went over very well with the crowd Ulrich attracted so the atmosphere was amazing and I had great fun. I cannot imagine a better live debut. I was actually quite surprised by the positive response afterwards… forced me to put “what to do when you’re on stage, people clap and you’re not playing” on the list of “things to practice before the gig”. Ulrich is not an influence on my music, but he is definitely an inspiration. I have only recently been introduced to the possibility of a living off one’s music career without any side jobs and Ulrich is a prime example for that. Being able to spend everyday writing and playing your very own music without any compromises seems like the perfect life for me and it is highly motivating to see that it is possible.

Which other artists have influenced your music?

The list grows longer and longer every month. I have a few mixes on my soundcloud that showcase some of my influences. Just to name a few: Husky, Brambles, Airhead, Nik Baertsch’s Ronin, Apparat, The Field, James Blake, Lapalux

You began as a classical violinist – what caused you to experiment with different and more electronic sounds?

I wanted more control over the music I play. Performing other people’s music was not enough, so I switched to jazz violin. Improvisation was great fun but I wanted everybody in the band to play what I wanted to hear and because I was around 12 years old, they didn’t really listen to me. The computer was just complete freedom and after I started realizing my musical ideas in there, everything else seemed like it was not versatile enough. My interest in making music outside a DAW has come back by now though and there is a lot to explore. It won’t be classical violin though.

Does the structure of classical music still have a bearing on the melodies you produce?

It influences most of the melodies we hear nowadays. You hear the structures everywhere and they eventually sink in until you notice when somebody is not working within them. It certainly makes a difference though when you know the techniques behind it. I learn them at uni and sometimes I actively choose to use them on melodies or harmonies in my music for fun. Does it help me make better music? I do not think so. Authenticity is much more important than knowledge.

What previous musical training did you receive prior to your audio design course in Switzerland?

Not much really, apart from the violin lessons I had drum lessons for 2 years. Everything else I taught myself.

The underground, electronic and classical music scene in Germany has a huge audience for the sort of songs you create. Why did you decide to study in Switzerland instead and how has your music been received there?

I started studying Audiodesign I was 19 years old. I did not know much about the music scene in Germany and I didn’t know what role my own music would play in my life. I went to Switzerland because it was the second search result when googling ‘audio design’, right after Kent in the UK for which my grades weren’t good enough. So I ended up here pretty much by chance and I was very lucky that i found a place that actually teaches me all the things I want to learn and many things I didn’t even know of before. As far as reception is concerned, most of my listeners are from the UK and only a minority is Switzerland.

What are your plans for the near future? Is there a point musically which aim to reach?

While the album is being released I will focus mainly on live performances and finishing my bachelor. There are many things in music which I want to try out and I honestly cannot say what kind of music I am going to make next. One goal is definitely to get enough profile to at some point be recognized by the people that inspire me. I guess that will partly be done by gaining a bigger fan base and partly by just getting better at what I do. The list of things to try out is long and I don’t feel like looking for a niche to stay in anytime soon.

Mixed Signals‘ is available now, you can get it here