Frederic Robinson has just followed up his "Mixed Signals" Lp with "Live Signals" a live based reinterpretation of the same ideas, and we have to say it is amazing. We speak to the man himself to find out more...
Live has become such an ambiguous term over the last decade, especially within the realm of electronica. Whenever we see live we have to assess what is actually meant. Is it acoustic? Is it sequenced? Is it triggered? To the ear, Live Signals seems to be a mixture of all of the above, What does "Live" mean to you and how did the project come about?
What I consider to be 'live' has changed quite a lot over the last year. With every show I played I got new impressions and ideas and had to rethink many opinions that I had before I actually started playing on stage. There was a time where I went for a 0% playback approach, where I would play and loop everything from drums to harmonies to bass lines to melodies and effects. In my more recent shows I try to use one interesting instrument for every track I play. That approach gives me more possibilities to focus on single elements instead of recording loops as fast as possible to keep it the music moving.
The original Mixed Signals was an intensely intimate listening experience. The live rework feels like an old friend returning home full of warmth and equal anticipation. How far did Live Signals have to be distanced from the original Mixed Signals, and equally how closely did you feel it had to stay close to Mixed Signals?
'Live Signals' is a live show from the musical material I had available at the time I made it. I was in the midst of creating my debut album at that time so most of the music used came from there. How close it would be to my studio album did not really concern me, I wanted to play music that works well in a live context and is fun to perform on stage. 'Moods I' to 'Moods IV' were improvisations that appeared during my rehearsals, which I then made part of the performance.
How well does the original Mixed Signals lend itself to being reworked into a live interpretation? There are obviously string elements for example that would seem straight forward to reproduce, but to what extent can this be true of the project as a whole?
There was a time when I considered adapting my studio work to my live performances which would have meant using only instruments and sounds that were part of my live setup and arranging the music in a way that makes it easy to perform. I eventually decided against it, because I did not want to have any limitations in the studio. 'Mixed Signals' is not easy to perform live. For some tracks it is possible with my current instruments. Some would need new instruments and some would need me to be much faster than I am ('Particles'...). I think there will always be music on my releases that is not really meant to be played live. Most of the times those tracks also work best in a home listening environment.
What were the highlights of Live Signals for you when creating the album and also now as a listener maybe slightly more removed from the creative process?
I am very happy with how the live version of 'Secrets' turned out. It has a very different feel compared to the more fragile original. The 'Affirmation' remix and 'Moods III' are just a lot of fun to play. I really like taking a break from balancing many different loops and just sticking with one instrument (the violin in this case) for a while. That kind of changes my role from a conductor to a soloist which is a nice change of pace and also influences the resulting music. 'Scales' is based on a piano improvisation I spontaneously recorded in a friend's living room. I definitely want to turn it into a studio production at some point.
Does Live Signals represent a new direction for your music or another avenue?
I really like the live album for showing my studio work in a different light and there is certainly a lot of interaction between my shows and my produced music, but when my sound changes direction (which it hopefully constantly does) it does so in the productions. That is where I really experiment with everything. That is also where I can spend two weeks on two minutes of music and then decide to abandon them. Experimenting with the live sets is much harder, because there is always a deadline involved and creating a full hour of music is not something you do spontaneously.
Frederic Robinson - Live Signals is out now.