Don’t be fooled by robotic motifs – Robots With No Soul is an electronic battle cry for authenticity. The British techno renegade is driven by pit-of-the-stomach feeling. There is no boxing, packaging and mass-producing his off-kilter drum beats, raging basslines and emotive melodies. Rejecting mechanical, copy-and-paste culture for something far deeper, his music is a personal exploration into the possibilities of sound.
Robots With No Soul quickly caught the attention of modern techno’s most distinctive duo, Dense & Pika. After joining their roster to play the Watergate Berlin main room in 2018, the DJ-producer just released an album on their acclaimed Kneaded Pains label. But don’t believe the hype – use your ears.
We caught up with Robots With No Soul to talk about his new ‘Rose’ LP.
Electronic Groove: Hello and welcome to EG. Lets open with your debut album ‘Rose’ just released on ‘Kneaded Pains’. What can you tell us about this album and which are expectations for this first one?
Robots With No Soul: Hello to you too, and thank you very much for having me. I’ve followed you guys for a while so this is a tremendous honor. So the album came about via a sequence of events in my personal life in 2018 where I was faced with lots of change and some decisions to make which ultimately led me to build my own studio. Prior to that, I had a few shared ones with mates, but I wasn’t really getting anything done. I guess I was in a bit of a rut. So I spent the following year building the studio, (and quite hilariously I renovated a bus to live in as well!). Once I had finished I felt like I needed to do something to really push myself, certainly on the creative side as up until that point I had mainly focussed on making a specific type of track.
The process of creating an album seemed to correspond well to planning a DJ set in some way, at least for me anyway. I’m a big fan of progression in music plus I listen to albums all the time, so it was a logical move. In terms of my expectations, initially, it was just to complete the project. I didn’t even think I’d even release it. In fact, I wasn’t planning to at all, and then one day I thought “let’s send it out and see what reaction it gets”. I sent it to Alex at Kneaded Pains and he was really into it, so I asked him if he would consider releasing an artist album, and he was. The label hasn’t released an artist album before now, so that’s something I am also very proud of as well. To be entirely truthful my expectations grew as it all began to come together, particularly once it was ‘finished’. I’d be a liar if I said I hadn’t dreamed of a career in music, and this was a great platform for this to happen. Your further questions go into the whole COVID-19 thing and its subsequent impact it will have, so I won’t go into that here but let’s just say as soon as I realized no one was out there DJing, then who exactly is going to hear this album? As things stand, I’m immensely proud of what I’ve achieved, and that’s exactly enough right now.
EG: Where did the name ‘Rose’ come from?
RWNS: In December 2018 my nan was very sadly diagnosed with cancer. It was a huge shock to our whole family. I come from a fairly small, but very loving family. My mother was a single parent as I grew up and my nan was always a huge part of my life, you could say she was my second mother in many respects. She is the most loving, most kind, and hilarious soul I’ve ever known. She has taught me so many important values and she will continue to be a source of inspiration to me as I continue on my journey.
It seemed so fitting to dedicate this album to her, She was born Christine Rose Bellotti. At the time of writing this, she is alive and well! I also have to credit my mum at this point, as without her hard work and determination in finding her own career after having me, none of that relationship would have existed. Two very special ladies in my life and I love them both very much.
EG: Did you have any contributions in terms of production, creative process, or mastering?
RWNS: This is quite a taboo subject isn’t it. When I first read that I thought, “Well of course I surely did”. But we now live in a world where that isn’t always the case is it. I tend to steer clear of politics generally, especially in the music world as it can all become rather silly and there are enough egos flying about the place already, one more is really not needed. So for the record, I make all my own music. I work entirely in the box using Ableton 10 and various plugins, vsts etc. The tracks are all my ideas, I don’t copy anyone else, I just make whatever sounds good to me. In fact, while we are there I will say this to anyone reading. For a good while, I used to make music that I felt would suit certain labels and people, with the view of then gaining their support in some way. Don’t do that guys, its a waste of time. It’s been said a million times and for good reason. When you go for a job interview in any profession, of course, they need to know you can do the job and you have the relevant experience. But above all that they are buying into you. So if you are imitating someone else, that’s not you is it? Be yourself, even if no-one gets it initially. If you like it, there is a good chance fuck loads more people will as well. So all my tracks have been written and produced by me, and I do all my own mixdowns. Mastering isn’t something I’m involved with yet, that gets taken care of by the label. I’m not against people that pay for ghost producers or whatever, but I think its good to have a decent understanding of how tracks are made.
EG: Where did the idea to produce your first album come from?
RWNS: I think I touched upon this in my initial response, but to add more to it I felt that I needed to do something a bit more profound. When you listen to an album you want to be taken somewhere, you don’t know where, but somewhere. That was my intention rather than writing 11 club bangers. That seemed like a waste of time to me. So it allowed me to write musical styles I hadn’t approached before which is removing yourself from any level of comfort which is where we all learn something. I absolutely loved the process and I already have other albums on the go. In fact, one thing ill shamelessly plug here! Kneaded Pains have began a mix series which has some incredible artists lined up, and me! So I’ve decided for my inclusion I will produce all the tracks for it myself which I’ve started and is going really well. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that you’re never going to be completely unique with your ideas and concepts as there are far too many amazing people in the world for that to happen. So just choose a project that excites you and do it as well as is possible. You cannot do more than that.
EG: Kneaded Pains’ has quite a catalog, how did you connect with the label?
RWNS: Make no mistake about it, Kneaded Pains is a world-class label, run by world-class people. That extends beyond Dense & Pika too, I originally sent a track I had worked on with a friend (‘One Way Traffic’ feat Transistor Rhythms) to Nick (Label Boss), whom I knew very loosely at the time. You see, the thing with Bristol (where I’m from) is that its essentially a big village. Everyone knows everyone so its quite easy to meet people within the scene, let’s say. I met Nick actually after chasing a different label a few years before all this and to be completely honest he wasn’t at all interested. This goes back to the point I made about being yourself, Nick has been in the music industry for a long time, ran probably one of the biggest house music labels ever, NRK, so the guy is a big deal. I was pretty scared sending him this new wave of stuff I was creating, but he instantly suggested sending to Dense and Pika. I was quite blown away by this. Then I spoke to my mate Dan who knew Alex really well and he sent this particular track on to him. He replied almost instantly saying he wanted to sign it and before I knew it we are engaged in an email conversation where he was likening my tracks to early Sasha stuff. It was all a bit surreal. Once ‘One Way Traffic’ was released it became clear to me that these guys liked me, what followed was a 24-hour whistle stop tour to Berlin where I played at Watergate with Dense and Pika and Micheal Klien. We all hit it off and we became mates from there. At the risk of being a bit cringe, I feel very lucky to not only know all these people, but have their support. It’s a pretty ruthless industry and nothing will be easy, even when you’re lucky enough to know the odd person. You still have to come up with the goods, so I guess what I’m trying to say is that I must be mint. All joking aside, if your are reading, Thank you to Alex, Chris, Nick, Jamie for believing in me, being an artist for Kneaded Pains is a dream come true and I couldn’t wish to work with a more sound bunch of people. Also special mention to Ross and Pete for the quality 24 hour jape in Berlin!
EG: Moving into current events, how do you see the music industry can adapt to the current situation with the COVID virus?
RWNS: Very good question, the short answer is, no idea. Considering I wasn’t “working” in the scene before COVID it’s hard to have an understanding of which areas will be most affected. So I’m not really qualified to answer that I’m sorry. From an outside perspective, once we are allowed back out I can’t see much being different, People will still want to go out and dance. So there will always be another party somewhere…
“For a good while, I used to make music that I felt would suit certain labels and people, with the view of then gaining their support in some way. Don’t do that guys, its a waste of time”
EG: How has it affected you directly?
RWNS: Well, personally I lost my job, as did my mum. We both work in the construction industry currently which has been impacted by all this. Its been tough for everyone, so I can’t sit here saying how dreadful everything is for me. My Aunties husband, and friend, Patrick lost his Dad to this. He was already ill, but that’s not the point. Patrick wasn’t able to go and see him take his last breath. That’s really sad, isn’t it? That’s the fear with my nan as well, that I won’t get to say goodbye. And worse than that, how would those people that we have lost to this have felt in their final moments? Alone, scared, frustrated. That’s not how I’d want to go.. My personal experience of COVID-19 has been actually quite positive other than all that. I’ve enjoyed watching people coming together more, which is often
the case when the thing hits the fan. All I hope for is that once this moment passes, people don’t go back to their normal ways of living. We should always feel lucky for what we have, always.
EG: Going back to music, you recently did a mix for our techno series. How do you come upon your mixes? Do you first select the tracks or just start playing and see where the vibes take you?
RWNS: For me, I don’t really plan anything anymore, in terms of a setlist. I like to organize my tracks into clear folders and then just hit record and see what happens. The mix I did for you was in one take and I was really happy with it so it was done as far as I was concerned. There was pressure to get it right obviously, considering the wealth of
experience that has come before me.
EG: How is your set planning when playing a club or a festival?
RWNS: All gigs are different, so it’s important to have a well backed up stick with loads of variety in your playlists. If I’m asked to play a warm-up set, that’s what you get…. If I’m playing later, you get something with a bit more energy. Festivals can be different again, just trust your taste and respect the artists following you and you should be onto a winner.
EG: Let’s say COVID-19 virus is gone, where would you play your first set and what would your opening track be?
RWNS: Lovely question. Well, I’d love to be able to have a launch party for my album at some point, and Dense & Pika also have their own out this year so a joint party somewhere like Berlin would be great. First track? Jesus…… something a bit saucy… or if all else fails, Abba.
EG: Thanks for your time and good luck.
RWNS: Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure. I hope your listeners enjoy the mix.
Robots With No Soul’s ‘Rose’ is now available. Stream and buy here.