“I had a giant lever for a while, but it just made me look stupid…”
Robert DeLong is the only artist we’ve ever had in the office whose session was so incredibly loud every single other company in our building complained. This, we think, is something he ought to be very, very proud of.
“It’s lucky I only did 18 minutes,” Robert says, a huge smile plastered across his face, “or they might have called the police…”
Believe me, they were this close. A hardcore Seattle indie-kid raised on folk and rock, Robert, like his father before him, started out on the drums, but these days you’re more likely to find him manhandling a bunch of hacked joysticks and remotes, using them as controllers, if not whole new instruments, alongside his keyboards, mixer and FX units. Robert’s new single, Global Concepts is a proper riot of dubstep shudder, electro throb and straight-up pop noise, while his album Just Movement takes the one-man band approach to brilliantly new and original places. No one looks like him, no one sounds like him – Robert is one of your actual originals.
“I got into dance music as a drummer,” he says. “I can listen to the same drum beat for hours and hours, but now what I want to do is humanise the electronics. I love minimal techno – but what I do is rock and roll, song and soul…”
So, exactly how hard is it to hack a Wii remote?
Well, I have some software that converts any sort of joystick or mouse into a MIDI controller…
So it’s remarkably simple?
It really is!
That’s a bit upsetting. I had you down as a mad genius.
No, it’s quite easy to hack them – and it’s fun as it’s so visual.
Is there anything you can’t you make a racket out of?
Ha – loads of things! I was working with a giant lever for a while, but you had to move it so slowly it just made you look stupid.
You were in bands at school, right? I’m sensing a shoegazing past.
Oh yeah! I grew up in Seattle so I had a lot of the post-shoegaze scene going on; Death Cab For Cutie, Modest Mouse and Sunny Day Real Estate all really influenced me. Same with Radiohead, Brian Eno and Sigur Ros – they were were huge for me.
What was playing in the house when you were growing up?
My dad was into Big Band music and contemporary jazz – stuff like The Rippingtons and Pat Metheny. In fact, he was my first gig. I don’t know how much his music influenced me, but he has a strong sense of melody and I focus on that.
What five records made you who you are?
That would be Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, Music Has the Right To Children by Boards of Canada, OK Computer by Radiohead and It’s Hard To Find A Friend by Pedro the Lion – that’s an old Seattle favourite!
Is there something that links all of those albums?
There is some connection – apart from It’s Hard to Find a Friend, they all have an ambient part to them, there are field recordings or sonic landscapes unrelated to the song. I love a 3:30 pop song as much as anyone – it’s a great way to communicate ideas with people – but an album is a great thing. I love the idea of thematic and sonic consistency. It’s a great way to spread your ideas, like a show or an opera.
Where do you look for new music?
I play so many shows I end up finding new music that way. The newest thing I’ve been listening to a lot is Lucy, this hypnotic techno producer who’s from Paris and now lives in Berlin. It’s a bit like Boards of Canada, textural and very brooding. I listen to songs once or twice to collect the information then I move on. The music I listen to when I’m relaxing is very simple and repetitive. Something to turn my mind off to.
Who do you look at and think, they really ran their career right?
Well, for the fact they can still sustain and play shows, I’d say the Rolling Stones. Brian Eno too – he’s always doing something new, even if I don’t like it. A few years ago I would have said Radiohead, but I’ve not dug their last few albums.
Does the perfect song exist?
No! Definitely not. Songs exist in a time and a place. The best songs, the more universally relevant – Bach, Mozart and The Beatles – will always survive, but other things are more genre specific and get trapped in that.
What music was playing in your head when you woke up this morning?
Oh, I hate this song, but it was Starship’s We Built This City. That song is such an earworm, they really hit something there!
Finally – crucially! – what’s your favourite noise?
Oh wow – probably the ocean from a 100 yards back. That’s so soothing, it’s pure, repetitive, white-noise pleasure. And it puts me to sleep…