Q&A with DJ and music producer Robosonic

Music producer Robosonic was surrounded by musical inspiration.  Whether from the golden age of hip-hop that he loved so much, simply from his parents‘ record collection or the musical instruments that he found himself naturally able to master.  It was from a young age that Cord’s fascination developed and turned to DJing and producing, as he taught himself everything from beat-making and scratching to self-releasing.

With his love of music deep and varied, Cord has always played, produced and written at the highest level and with collaborators spanning the genres. The Berlin resident took the world by storm as Robosonic with a string of popular releases that went into the crates of countless DJs worldwide and made it to top spots in the infamous Beatport charts.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Expression, empowerment, independence, love, peace, happiness.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

More often it’s a sound, a sample, an instrument recording carrying an emotion or vibe. But sometimes I come up with a concept and then start finding the right sounds or write very focussed to match an initial idea.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Often, yes. As I grew into beat making and production with Hip-hop and still love that whole universe I do invite rappers I used to buy records from or I find fresh vocalists like Ashibah or Glitterbox’ Fiorious to give productions more of a song twist. And of course, I love to collaborate with fellow producers, if the chemistry is just right. That can be super inspiring and unexpected sometimes. Check my latest release ‘Ghetto’ with Big Shug of the Gang Starr Foundation on my label OUTTAKES.

What’s on your current playlist?

At the moment due to the Corona crisis, I’m quite focussed on my own creation but always digging new music of course. I usually have some great lyricists on my playlist, like Brother Ali made another real good album I discovered recently. Hypnotic electronica, neo-classical, or instrumental Hip-hop works really well when I have to do paperwork or read things. From classic J.Dilla material to Prefuse73 or contemporary composer genius like Nils Frahm. Club music-wise you can check my ‘Miami Sessions’ official mix-compilation.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

If I’m lucky I’m booked for an open-minded audience that trusts me to take it on a journey. I usually play very spontaneous and do improvise a lot on the 4 CDJs, read the room, play as personal for the people and the particular night as much as possible. If the alchemy works out, there is a lot of love. I’m not a big hands-in-the-air type of person when I play, because I do actually work wheels and the crates of music that I bring. But the feedback I often receive is that people enjoy seeing me excited and happy to do what I do. I’m trying not to be too much of a distraction from the music sometimes but still stay in close touch with the faces in the crowd that I draw good energy from. Over the last 15 years of DJing, I’ve seen and read a few.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I chop, I screw. I might have developed a distinct sound by certain pieces of gear, that I use a lot. It’s definitely not any particular VST, plug-in or software. Rather the sample sources I chose, some vintage effects maybe or instruments. When I upgraded my Technics turntable setup with a vinyl control system the scratching and cutting I once practised as a kid found into my production and I would refine that idea of ‘Golden Era House’ hybrids. 

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

When I have said, a vocalist coming for a more spontaneous session in the afternoon, I would begin the day listening to his or her stuff, get a better picture of the spectrum. Then I’d look through beats and sketches I already made or start to draft something new, drawing inspiration from the feeling their music, video or imagery would give me. Then later working together it’s about chemistry again. If the music hits a spot or the artist comes with a clearer vision there will be a creative process of writing or straight recording. Before the end of the day ideally, I try to lay it down to a little demo piece, so that everybody involved can listen to it and we take it from there. That’s the day and probably there is a night of experimenting again, free-flowing. Saving some outtakes and such.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

Probably a few, for every instrument I got into, or DJing or production, or House or Techno. One crucial moment is definitely 16-year old me in a record store, digging in the crates, thinking: I want to make my own record and have it standing here in the company of these other music minds and souls, that’s my family. Didn’t take that long until I entered that game of pressing my own vinyl.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

No doubt the closest is my PUNCHI towel scarf (www.punchi.de), I sweat when I play and dance, so I had to invent that tool some years ago and it’s still the best merchandise I can think of. Besides the technical equipment like a recording device, I carry in my suitcase I often have stickers to hand out, a banana and a chocolate bar, in case I’m running low on energy. Saved my ass a few times.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

So many. All my collaborators. Cakes Da Killa, Fiorious, Ashibah, Boogie Vice, Three Machines. After kicking off this crazy year in South Africa I’d love to work with Joburg’s Sho Madjozi or Youngsta CPT. There is immense potential in many African countries, but they suffer from racism, inequality and economic barriers. Since a lot of my musical influence of African-American culture is rooted there, I’d love to use some of my reach and potential for organic and heartfelt collaborations.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

A heartbeat, a doobie, another creative or beautiful mind. 

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

Ableton is my central workbench. Definitely have to mention my DSI Prophet 08, Korg SV-1, different vintage Dynacord Echocord, Maschine as a substitute for my earlier Akai MPC 2000 affection and as I said my turntables and record collection. You can add any web browser as a gateway to the history of recorded music and sound. If I have access to all this and you lock me in, I might get pale and skinny, but never bored. 

Any side projects you’re working on?

Always. Cord Labuhn would be my outlet for downtempo, electronica and hypnotic hip-hop production, basically, anything that would not exactly fit Robosonic as a dance music entity. I also support the ‘Kinder vom Kotti‘ crew with production work and event wise my ‘Aus Der Reihe Tanzen’ residency at the Ritter Butzke club in my neighbourhood of Berlin Kreuzberg.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

Definitely by teamwork, some long-term partnerships like my mixing engineer Jesco Lohan. Through previous team members, mentors and partners in crime over the many years. And then, of course, my own diligence, constant motivation and drive to reach out to my people and spread love, hope and change.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

More Golden Era house with the Lost Boyz, Rah Digga, AG of D.I.T.C. and those. Definitely some out-of-the-box material on my own label OUTTAKES, like a stoner tune with B-Real of Cypress Hill and some more techy joints for the DJs floors for when the event business is back on track. More Outtakes and Punchi wearables to come for sure.

Famous last words?

Keep it unreal. Stay alive and healthy. 1 love. 

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