Le Fresh: Robinn
There’s something afoot in the studios, the label meetings and the second rooms of club nights at the moment. Historically, every form of music that’s broken through has been both boosted and on occasion dangerously overhyped by the media’s frenzy to label, categorise and genre-fy it. However, at present, as half the deep-house unit continue to push a Nu-Disco utopia whilst others have subtly begun promoting ‘We Promise It’s Not Electro’, one growing movement remains curiously untouched. In fact, despite it being the overarching sound at this year’s SoundWave festival, not to mention the common link between a slew of Red Bull academy’s latest signings, there isn’t even a name for it. Data Transmission reckons ‘Soulful Electronica’ comes close. At any rate, one of the embryonic group’s newest members: a Frenchman, living in London peaked our interest when it was announced that heavyweight label Compost recently signed his debut album, despite the guy having never released a single EP!
A Graphic designer, videographer and blogger, Tom Le French’s interest in all things electronic music may come as no surprise given his background. His trajectory however, will. Foregoing the well worn route of free gigs and stepping stone labels, Tom’s career has gone from backroom sessions to full strength in under a year, after he sent over a collection of his production experiments under the alias Robinn to global heavyweights Compost Records: a label responsible for spotlighting artists including Jazzanova and Motor City Drum Ensemble, and with a list of confirmed fans including Giles Peterson. Now, with a forthcoming album on Compost and a comprehensive tour being firmed up, the wonderkid speaks to Data Transmission about forward looking electronica, the future, and being French.
Your part of a growing group of producers playing a new, less systemised, bassy sound. How did it all start out?
The music began for me down in the South of France with a bunch of friends, playing Reggae, actually. There were loads of students from Leeds who came over for summer holidays at the time – it was kind of a scene, so local bands began playing that imported sound, which turned out to be reggae. I’d never played an instrument before, but being friends with band members I just started messing about with really basic program, making loops, melodies, drums for the bands. Skip forward a couple of years, and I was contacted to do the exact same thing, just a bit more professionally. Eventually, I began to create my own side projects too.
Your sound itself is hard to describe, it’s got a live feel to it despite being unmistakably electronic. How did it come together?
I guess it stems from the fact I always struggled with ‘club music’. I was never a clubber per say – I didn’t go out and hit it, or follow DJs. I listened to electronic music growing up, and sometimes, yeah, I wished I could make beats like that, but when I tried I instantly got bored. It felt kind of pronounced and rigid. It lacked, a musical feel, in a funny way. So I ended up just doing completely my own thing. In fact, really making the album was the most ‘mechanical’ I’ve been. Collating and editing up the tracks was, for me, harder than producing them in the first place!
But if it’s electronic music, the act of creating it itself must’ve been to an extent ‘mechanical’ – loops, software programs, a little way off from jamming reggae in a garage…?
Sort of. I still compose most of my stuff away from a computer. I sing memos into my phone then I try and write stuff in Logic from that. I get my best ideas when I’m supposed to be doing something else anyway: when I’m at work, or meeting someone for lunch. It gets out of hand though. A few of us all do it now and when we’re drunk we’ll have ‘voice memo battles’. We get interesting looks at the bar…