‘Sphere‘ is Robot Koch’s 7th album and depicts the artists preference for multi-layered soundscapes that enfold their full potential in a 3D /AV environment, which anaudience could firstly experience during Robot Koch‘s two live-shows at the Planetarium in Berlin, where he introduced his darkly driven, with sci-fi-sounds enriched and cinnematically touched spheric electronic music to a wider audience. Shortly before the release of the album, which came out October 12th on Trees & Cyborgs, Robert found the time to give Torture the Artists some insights of the album, how he overcame the fear of ‘Sphere’ possibly sounding too dark for his audience, the idea behind the new live-concept and what to expect as well as which character he could imagine to stare in a sci-fi movie.
It’s an experience somewhere between watching a 3D movie and being at a concert.
Torture the Artist: Hello Robert, tell us something about your day.
Robot Koch: It’s now 4 days before the release of my album – and less than a week before the premiere of my new live show – so part of my days currently involve answering lots of emails and otherwise, rehearsing for the show. Later on I`ll be live at Red Bull Radio, and tonight I`m meeting some friends for dinner.
Torture the Artist: Your album ‘Sphere’ is due to be released shortly and will be accompanied by two live shows at the Zeiss Planetarium in Berlin. Do you still have time to enjoy your beloved ‘Matcha tea’ at the moment?
Robot Koch: Yes, I did have a matcha this morning; I love it, even more than coffee, but I also love coffee…
Torture the Artist: Do you follow a certain routine before playing a show? For example, do you prepare your music at a certain time or is there a ritual you do before you play?
Robot Koch: This will be a totally new show/a world premiere, so there is no routine to it yet. But usually when I play, I like to be backstage and to relax – maybe even meditate if there’s time.
Torture the Artist: The album is written and produced for a 3D / AV environment. Therefore, the approach when producing the album was a different one to previous albums of yours. What made you decide in the first place to choose this approach?
Robot Koch: I wanted to do something entirely new and different. I‘ve been playing in clubs for more than 10 years and the idea to do something in a planetarium has been in my head for a while. I just love the idea of doing something totally immersive; it’s an experience somewhere between watching a 3D movie and being at a concert.
One of my fears was that the album might be too dark and that some people would perhaps not be into it because it has no featured vocalists on it like the other albums I have released in the past.
Torture the Artist: To what extent has the album come closest to stretching you to the limit, and, if so, how did you overcome this?
Robot Koch: One of my fears was that the album might be too dark and that some people would perhaps not be into it because it has no featured vocalists on it like the other albums I have released in the past. There is no ‘Nitesky‘ on this one for example. But I overcame these doubts by just really trusting my intuition – and doing what felt right and authentic. The album is the soundtrack to my new live show but it also works on its own. I`m actually incredibly happy with it now, but during the process there were doubts. Any artists face these kind of things in the creative process I guess.
Torture the Artist: Which artistic frontiers would you like to cross with ‘Spheres’?
Robot Koch: I wanna establish a new live show that leaves the club and traditional concert venues behind and offers a brand new experience to the audience that blows their minds – visually, musically and as a whole! It feels really liberating to create something new and where the outcome isn’t totally clear. It’s a brand new journey and I’m curious to see where it takes me.
Torture the Artist: Whilst producing the album what was a sound or studio device that always did the job when you perhaps found yourself stuck creatively?
Robot Koch: When I get stuck I usually go for a walk in nature. But one really inspiring sound that never lets me down (and is very dominant on the album) is this Russian analog synth, the Lyra 8, which my friend Schwarzmodul introduced me to.
Torture the Artist: For ‘Sphere’ you avoided any collaborations with vocalists. Did you mean to keep it as ‘Robert Koch-ish’ as possible without too many further influences, or did you decide not to work with other artists on the album, as it’s clear that this contrasts with your previous album?
Robot Koch: I really wanted this project to be a solo album which would contrast to all the features and collaborational things that I’m doing elsewhere. Consequently, this is the first Robot Koch solo album in more than 3 years.
But of course I have had many releases with other artists, like Delhia de France and other vocalists that I work with. I love working with vocalists and I will continue to do so, but this album was purely intended as a solo album, so there are no vocal guests or collabs on this one.
It‘s all one total process anyway; there’s never a final goal.
Torture the Artist: ‘Sphere’ is ‘the exploration of inner and outer space, the balance between nature and technology, and the quest for the unknown – which is ultimately a search for oneself.’ For you personally, what did you discover about yourself during the production process (that had perhaps not been well-balanced before)?
Robot Koch: Overcoming the doubts around trusting yourself was a well-balancing result of this process. Listening to your own intuition was a big thing I took away from this process – even more so than on previous albums. There is a nice quote from Alan Moore who says something along the lines of: Only the things you do without the fear of losing, or the desire of winning, are truly pure. Maybe I got closer to this in the process of creating ‘Sphere’ this time round. It‘s all one total process anyway; there’s never a final goal.
Torture the Artist: Referring to the question before, does the usage of organic instruments depict ‘nature’, whilst synthesizers and machines portray ‘technology’? How do you wish the terms ‘nature’ and ‘technology’ and how they are balanced to be understood?
Robot Koch: Yes, the organic sounds are produced by acoustic instruments (like piano or strings), whilst the futuristic, dark synths elements are created vice-versa – that’s the balance between technology and nature that I seek in my sound. But also the earthy, grounded approach of being in the moment and the constant pull into the future, where AIs and Cyborgs are not a far-away reality any more fascinate me as a topic. I think our survival as a species will depend on how well we balance the nature that we`re part of and the technology that we create.
Torture the Artist: What was a hypermoment in the process of creating ‘Sphere’?
Robot Koch: Hypermoment means that the future, the past and the present coexist in one moment. This is also a phrase coined by Alan Moore. I really recommend the documentary ‘The Mindscape of Alan Moore’. For me, being in the moment, which I practice in meditation, is the best way to be creative, because you bypass the mind and just flow.
Working on ‘Sphere‘ was like scoring my own Sci-Fi Movie.
Torture the Artist: In 2013 you moved to Los Angeles, which is known for its humongous film industry. Does this go hand in hand with your penchant for Sci-Fi movies, and do you find that you are closer to possibly produce the soundtrack for a movie?
Robot Koch: Yes; working on soundtracks, scoring films or TV shows is definitely something that’s on the horizon for me, as lots of my music have already been used in films, TV shows and movie trailers. To me, working on ‘Sphere‘ was like scoring my own Sci-Fi Movie.
Torture the Artist: Was the cinematic aspect in your music a natural development or evolution of your sound, which generally and what role did and does your new home play for this development?
Robot Koch: I’ve always gravitated to cinematic, atmospheric sounds. I grew up on 80s sci-fi movies – like the original Star Wars trilogy, Alien, and Blade Runner. I just adore soundtracks and the cinematic aspect of music generally.
Torture the Artist: In regards to the question before, how has the move to Los Angeles affected you personally?
Robot Koch: Well, it has done so profoundly. I tapped more into a spiritual lifestyle since I moved there, which affects both my personal life and my work very positively. And I grew a lot as a person, overcoming or facing old patterns and fears/limitations and cultivating an increasingly positive view on life in general.
Torture the Artist: Coming back to films,which movie would you have liked to produce the soundtrack for, and why?
Robot Koch: I love recent films like Annihilation, Arrival and Ex-Machina. But all these scores are perfect. I’d like to score a film like these – intelligent sci-fi.
I’m fascinated by the deeper and darker aspects in art and life.
Torture the Artist: Where does your preference for sci-fi movies and the connected darker and partly dystopian atmosphere and settings stem from?
Robot Koch: As I pointed out before, I grew up on that kinda stuff, but generally, I’m fascinated by the deeper and darker aspects in art and life. The unknown has a great appeal to me. It scares some people. To me a dark room is nothing to be afraid of, but something to explore.
Torture the Artist: If you could star in any movie, which one would it be and what kind of character would you like to play?
Robot Koch: Haha, I guess a cyborg/shaman type character, or an alien in disguise.
Club culture is part of my musical preference for sure, but I would never want to limit myself to that.
Torture the Artist: Last year, you released your ‘Fluid EP’ on Hamburg-based label Diynamic. Is this your way to still remain a part of the more underground scene and to not forget where you are musically rooted (even though HipHop had been your ‘first love’) before getting in contact with electronic music and its scene?
Robot Koch: To me, it’s all just music. My new album sounds way more underground to me than my EP on Diynamic, which was very DJ-friendly in parts. Yes, club culture is part of my musical preference for sure, but I would never want to limit myself to that. Different styles and genres are just various languages that I use to express myself creatively.
Interview by Holger Breuer