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Interview with ROBOT KOCH

Isolation Series – 01.03.21


Robert Koch aka Robot Koch is a Los Angeles–based German artist, composer, and record producer.

Robert Koch aka Robot Koch (pic: unknown source)

1. First question is actually a bunch of interconnected ones: how was your introduction to music? does it run in the family? was it in school, a particular friend or concert?

My family was not musical at all. My mom liked music, my dad was not very interested in it. I grew up on the soul and funk tapes of my mom. She listened to lots of Temptations, Stevie wonder, Isaac Hayes... Motown stuff, so that was the earliest music I remember growing up, and that Phil Collins tape 'Face value'... I loved the atmosphere of "In the Air Tonight" and the epic drum break of course.


2. Can you instantly name one album or song that is connected to a unique moment in your life? do you have many of those?

Yes. It wasn’t until I was 12 that I knew I wanted to make music. I was 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), and this video came on by the band Faith No More.

The song 'Epic' blew my mind, visually and sonically. By the time the piano exploded in the video I knew I wanted to make music. So I started to learn the drums. I started out as a drummer in a Death Metal band and went on to play more indie and jazz-infused stuff in bands. I only then discovered DJ-ing via Hip-hop. From there, it was a short way to making my own beats and producing tracks. I had a really eclectic musical socialisation, with influences from John Coltrane, Slayer, Moondog and Radiohead. Years later, I came back to the piano and now it's my favourite instrument to compose with.


3. Name one artist, living or dead, that influenced your music-making the most.

There is not just a single one. My musical taste is created in patterns where different artists play equally important roles, it would not be possible to single out only one. but here are some: Beastie Boys, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Four Tet, Radiohead, John Coltrane, Harold Budd, Aphex Twin, David Axelrod... to name a few, the list goes on.


4. Which is the one venue or place on earth you'd like to play live? if you’d have complete freedom how would that happen? any guest musicians? any other media involved (art installations, film,...?)

I loved playing in Planetariums. With my immersive show Sphere I toured planetariums worldwide, that was an amazing experience. I heard that there are giant dome venues being built, I'd love to play one of those, maybe with an orchestra and with 360 surround sound and visuals.


5. What is your favourite instrument of choice or piece of recording equipment? and why?

Piano, it all starts there for me. It's so expressive emotionally and it has this depth in sound. it can work on its own or leave space for other sonic sources to co-exist in a bigger composition.

6. Any artist or album that really blew you away in 2020? It was a strange year for music right?

I always like new releases by Lorn. I love his sound design. Other than that I listen to lots of Ambient music but not only recent stuff. My most listened to record in 2020 was a record from 1978: The Pavilion of Dreams by Harold Budd.


7. I was very interested in the Outlaw Ocean Project and enjoyed your music for the project. Can you talk a little about how you came to be involved in it?

The New York Times journalist Ian Urbina reached out to me, he said I was one of the artists he listens to most and explained the concept to me. The idea of fusing journalism and music is a powerful way to tell a story.

Ian spent over five years at sea, documenting a diversity of abuses ranging from illegal fishing, human slavery, intentional oil dumping, the murder of stowaways and many other crimes against people and the environment.

Ian did not only provide me with an advance copy of his book, he also sent me sounds from an archive of field recordings he had done during his investigations. All this fuelled the music on this EP.

I think art can be a form of activism too.


8. Do you have a strong stance on climate change?

Yes I do. I think it's the #1 challenge of Humanity right now and it should be made absolute priority on all political agendas.


9. What is your opinion on streaming platforms vs the physical record experience? do you still buy lots of records?

I still have my vinyl collection but I gotta say I also use streaming platforms. I like to just look up a song or an artist quickly and like the idea of creating my own playlists, like it made mixtapes back in the day. I'm not too nostalgic about the old days, I love tapes and vinyl and I still own them but also use streaming services for music. I gotta say since I'm more of a digital nomad these days, I also like to own less stuff in general, that's why I don't buy records any more. so my vinyls are stored safely but I don't use them very often in my day to day life.


10. How did the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your life personally and how was it in creative terms as Robot Koch?

First all my tour dates were cancelled which was a big bummer because the album "The Next Billion Years" had just come out and we had a big tour with an orchestra planned, tickets were on sale already and then it was all cancelled.

But I was lucky actually,  I was presented with a scoring opportunity, to make the music for the Amazon Prime show 'We Children From Bahnhof Zoo' which just came out.  So I spent most of the lockdowns in my studio in LA and worked on the soundtrack for that. That really saved me. I also found time to work on some other music projects, so for me it turned out as a blessing creatively.


Robot Koch insta, official