Chain D.L.K.: Your musical career started in the early ’80s when electronic music inItaly was in its infancy. What do you remember of that time about the musicscene?
Alexander Robotnick: I was lucky to have lived in Florence in that period. My town was almost theonly one in Italy that immediately acknowledged the new things coming fromthe UK and USA, in the early ’80s. The music, theater, art and design scenewas really avant-garde.You know, it’s rare for an artist to be born in a cultural desert. [It justhappens to] genius men. ;)I took part in a large group of people [whose artistic vision was] reallyprojected into the future, no matter that most of them are forgotten now.This happened because Florence, despite its avant-garde movement, wasprovincial. Sometimes in such situations miracles happen.
Chain D.L.K.: As far as I remember, dance music in Italy was something that wasn’trespected and it was considered only as a commercial thing. Now, thanks tothe [new] international interest in Italian electronic music of the ’80s,things have changed. Can you tell me how did you live through this process?
Alexander Robotnick: In Florence we didn’t consider Italo-disco an avant-garde movement. For mytaste those people where just stuck in the ’70s. Yes, of course I was a fanof disco music in the ’70s, expecially the funky side, like Chic! Or[Giorgio] Moroder too.But in the ’80s I was more [inclined toward] Joy Division. Moreover,honestly, at that time I listened to only a few things Italo, just thecommercial ones, really terrible. I discovered tracks like [Charlie’s]”Spacer Woman” just a few years ago.
Chain D.L.K.: I don’t know if this is true but I think that a good part of your work isbased on irony. You know, titles like “Celle Vache de Ma Mère” or “CiucciKola” are difficult to be taken as serious stuff. Can you tell me how do youusually see your work and how did you create these particular songs?
Alexander Robotnick: Music is not just a job for me, it’s also a kind of psychotherapy….Sometimes I’ve enough freedom in my head and attitude for joking to producesuch things. But not always. It’s just a side of my character.
Chain D.L.K.: You reached a certain success on foreign countries. How was your musicperceived over there? What were the main differences [with respect to]Italy?
Alexander Robotnick: Sometimes it’s hard to understand it. Like the issue of Avida forCrème Organization. It’s sung in Italian….Anyway this question doesn’t concern just me. Italo-disco too is perceiveddifferently abroad than in Italy. People abroad appreciate more theoriginality of the sound, more than in Italy, whereas we are inclined toappreciate more the sound from abroad, with the only exceptions concerningthe Italian song.
Chain D.L.K.: On the mid-’80s the Alexander Robotnick Project was put on hold. Can youtell us how and why did that happen?
Alexander Robotnick: Giampiero, the head of Materiali Sonori, pushed me to make some disco music,because we were both broke. “We can make easy money with disco music,” hesaid to me. “Just put a bass drum in four/four and you sell 10,000 copies!”So I worked on a disco track with my cheap electronic equipment. The trackwas “Problèmes d’Amour.”Anyway, I was disappointed by the results of “Problèmes.” We sold just10,000 copies, so it was the minimum figure, as I said above. And I startedto be involved in different things.But some years later I understood that the track had an impressive influenceon dance music and it was a cult track for some DJs.In the end it’s better like this. It’s not bad to have a song that is stillrelevant for the scene.
Chain D.L.K.: Can you tell us something about your experience with the GiovanottiMondani Meccanici crew? It was something based more on multimedia stuff,wasn’t it?
Alexander Robotnick: Basically I was the musician of the group. I made soundtracks and ambientmusic for videos and installations. GMM was a real multimedia group. It wasstarted by the founders Andrea Zingoni and Antonio Glessy as a comic forFrigidaire, which was an alternative Italian magazine back then.After Loretta Mugnai and I were included, it expanded also to video, music,art and fashion. That last one killed the project.
Chain D.L.K.: The nineties saw you working mostly on ethnic stuff. How did this kind ofswitch from electronic to ethnic music happen?
Alexander Robotnick: Since the ’70s I started to collect Arabian and African cassettes. I alwaysloved world music and I still love it, especially Indian. Anyway nowadays Idon’t believe so much in the cultural mix anymore, but in that period I did,a lot.I had bloody [good] fun with Masala and The Third Planet. We experienced akind of “new wave” of world music. And let me say that I was thrilled to beplaying live with them!But maybe it was too early…. After a while we were flooded by “chill out”music using exotic samples, and then September 11th spelled the end.
Chain D.L.K.: Listening to your latest album, which I hope won’t be your last (as thetitle is My La(te)st album), I noticed so many influences from thenew wave of electro dance music. Influences that weren’t present on Ohno… Robotnick! Can you tell us what has been the process that broughtyou to this new sound?
Alexander Robotnick: DJing, obviously. You have to be informed about new dance music, when youare DJing.Every time I find a good record in a shop I’m happy because I’ve a new toolfor my performance. This also affects my way of composing and producing.Anyway, When I work alone as Robotnick, I’m inclined to mix different sidesof myself with different periods of my music. I can mix samples taken frommy old 4-track cassettes with digitally processed sounds and analog synths.”New” sound? I basically used the same synths I had in the early ’80s….
Chain D.L.K.: Besides the collaboration with Lapo for Italcimenti, do you have any newcollaboration in line or would you like to collaborate with someone inparticular? Do you think you’ll release something else under the Italcimentimoniker?
Alexander Robotnick: Lapo is a friend so periodically we get involved in some new project. I’mgoing to release some tracks we made last year, but I’m afraid it’s a moretechno project.I’m working right now on the remixes from the album. I asked for a remixexchange with some friends. Basically I want to play more of my music duringmy DJ sets.
Chain D.L.K.: Between the last two albums you released two collections of old tunes.How did you do the track selection? Do you have other old songs to use fornew compilations? What do they sound like?
Alexander Robotnick: I recently made a double CD dedicated to Italo-disco. I just pressed 100 andgave them as present to people. The original idea was to release it througha label, but having just calculated the licensing cost…there’s no way. Soyou can download my DJ-Sets, if you like….
Chain D.L.K.: Will you ever reissue your first MLP and singles? I saw Materiali Sonoriprinting a CD with several versions of “Problemes d’Amour”….
Alexander Robotnick: [That song]is just out both on vinyl and CD. The vinyl is released by Clone andincludes 4 versions. The CD is made by Materiali Sonori and includes almostall versions of “Problèmes.” It’s a crazy CD. All tracks are “Problèmesd’Amour”…it’s a real trip. It can be useful to some DJs who can choosetheir version, I think.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s next for Alexander Robotnick?
Alexander Robotnick: Maybe to move from the countryside. It’s so hard to live without DSLnowadays.I also want to better organize my studio and the layout. I’m overwhelmed bythousands of cassettes, DATs, tapes, instruments, CDs, CD-Rs, DVDs,instruments, computers…. Oh, my God, a life of music is heavy, alsophysically….
Visit Alexander Robotnick on the web at:
[interviewed by Maurizio Pustianaz] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]