Fans of Madlib and J.Rocc will be happy to hear that one of Los Angeles’ finest live sound modulators is coming to Shanghai later this Saturday, lighting some quality musical fire to Yuyintang’s stage.
The cat responsible for this much refreshing sonic arson is Chris Alfaro, aka Free the Robots, a genre-busting artist who mixes in his live sets all sorts of crazy psychedelia, jazz, Bollywood, twisted beats and B-boy scratching that have seen this dude rock shows in Europe, Japan and, of course, the States.
Before flying out to his 5-city China tour, Layabozi caught up with Chris and chatted about the mechanisms of his music, his musical ADD problem and “the LA VIBE”…
Layabozi: What led you to baptize your project ‘Free the Robots’?
Free the Robots: I had several music projects with experimental rock bands, producing for MCs, DJing and battling. There were too many projects to count back then and I felt like none of them was getting the attention they deserved. I then saw how artists were using MySpace to get their music out there and that gave me some ideas. When I discovered that Yesterday’s New Quintet’s music was made in its entirety by no one less than Madlib, THEN I was really blown away and decided to do something for myself, uniting all my artistically disparaging projects into one. I chose the coolest name among my projects at the time and it stuck!
FTR: The energy in LA is Huge! So many talented artists condensed in such a small area, it’s insane. Daedelus, Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Gaslamp Killer… it’s got one of the healthiest, strongest scenes anywhere.
LYBZ: Is it something they have been putting in the water there?
FTR: To lay it simple, it’s The Vibe. It’s like all the artists in LA are actively doing something in their own world. All the worlds inevitably connect by association. There are so many different styles and flavors, no egos… just music and mutual respect.
LYBZ: Is there anybody that you find particularly inspiring?
FTR: The Gaslamp Killer! With a don’t-give-a-fuck-who-likes-this-music attitude, he cracks heads open with his free-spirited inclinations. He never catered and that’s why I respect him so much. When we were all coming up in the scene, no one really understood him. He played what he wanted to hear regardless of what the crowd wanted and he did it with pure energy and undeniable skill. And the music he plays!!! It’s enough for years of inspiration!
LYBZ: You are releasing your new album this year. How different is it going to be from your self-titled EP?
FTR: My first EP was heavily inspired by jazz and psych from the 60’s. I’ve grown a lot since that last record. The new album pretty much tells the story of the last 2 years of my psychotic life. It will be heavier, dirrrtier, and more pysched out… with special guests, bearded ladies and more.
LYBZ: Sounds like a circus on tape… Now people here like to hear something different from the usual DJing… How LIVE is your live set?
FTR: I’ve got my MPD32 drum machine locked and loaded with some Kaos effects, sampler & turntable locked and loaded! All parts are chopped up for improvisation. Then all the additions and effects are like sprinkles.
FTR: It’s a progression. You have to hear it from beginning to end to get the full gist of the direction. Some parts are psyched out and sustained, others are bass heavy and bouncy, while the later end is more up-tempo. I have a serious case of musical ADD, so there are a lot of changes and different moods. It’s all about keeping things fresh and interesting.
LYBZ: So, do you feel more like a DJ or a producer?
FTR: Producer first, DJ second, although scratching is a big part of my original production.
LYBZ: But at the same time I read somewhere that you won a Music Award in O.C. for “Best Club DJ”.
FTR: Yeah… It is a bit of a surprise to me because I don’t consider myself a club DJ. OC’s club DJs play to packed clubs and keep people moving. I play at only one spot (my Restaurant called The Crosby), and I play what I want to hear, in hopes that I could open people up to something new. Not really fitting the description of a “Club DJ”, but I won, so… whoohooo!!
And to finish it off… if you could bottle up any local sound in China and take back home to sample, what would it be?
FTR: Probably just strait up traditional Lute or Zither music. It’d be fun to flip up something so soothing with some Psyched out dirt. See you this weekend!
Catch FREE THE ROBOTS live at Yuyintang this Saturday, starts 11pm. Cover is 40 RMB – free for Cu&Paste Design Tournament attendees. Support: Sickstar, Jammala (Thunder Percussion Group).
Mache is a hippie witch that was born under Beltane's full moon. She enjoys talking to ghosts and interdimensional beings, and cooking for her friends and beasts. She has Chilean wine in her veins instead of blood,and at the moment she belongs to China.