Arguably one of the most innovative performers touring in 2019, Robot Koch has won numerous awards for his spectacular production. His latest tour, Sphere has seen endless amounts of success and acclaim due to its fascinating nature; it’s an audio-visual immersive experience taking place above the listener on a projected dome. To be more clear, the Sphere tour doesn’t take place on a normal stage at a festival, club or theatre, no Robot Koch instead opted to fuse technology and art into performing this breathtaking show in planetariums across the country.
“I wanted to do something entirely new and different, move out of my comfort zone. I‘ve been playing in clubs for more than ten years and the idea to do something in a planetarium has been in my head for a while. I just loved the idea of doing something totally immersive; it’s an experience somewhere between watching a 3D movie and being at a concert” Koch explains.
On the 26th of April, Robot Koch is set to release Sphere Out Takes, a collection of 6 new tracks along with a couple of remixes from the likes of Ryan Davis, Jan Wagner, Daniel Brandt and Chi Thanh. This upcoming album will include tracks that didn’t match the context for Sphere but were still just as cinematic in their presence; a follow-up album in many regards.
Tell us about your earliest musical memory?
I was fascinated with spatial sound early on. One of my first childhood memories is me sitting at my mom’s piano and just pressing a random note while holding down the sustain pedal and just enjoying how the sound reverberated in the body of the piano and in the room, I loved the decay of the sound in space, how it slowly rings out.
At what point in your life did you have that moment where you said to yourself “This is it. This is the type of music I want to create?”
I really got into music age 14 when I saw the video ‘Epic’ by Faith No More on MTV. That was the moment when I knew I wanted to make music. There was an exploding piano and a sound I had never heard before. It had a real impact on me. I knew I wanted to be able to create that kind of an impact on people one day.
Your live performances are truly unique experiences. How did you and Michael le Goff come up with the idea? Do you have any groundbreaking ideas planned for the future?
For Sphere we created an immersive full-dome show, with visuals and surround sound. I came up with the idea because my music kept evolving but my live shows didn’t. That’s when I approached the planetarium in Berlin to see if I could perform there. I realized in that meeting that I didn’t want to just bring my live show to a planetarium, I wanted to create a whole new live show for a planetarium. The album was scored as the soundtrack to this immersive experience. I’m really happy with how well Sphere is being received, we’re exploring how to adapt it to VR and bring it out on a big planetarium world tour this year. I think this is only the beginning of an exciting new journey.
And who in your opinion sets the standard for live performances?
Any artist who dares to think outside the box and embraces new technology early on possibly sets new standards. Amon Tobin did it with his ISAM tour, which felt really new and fresh at the time in terms of projection mapping. I love artists who take the risk to try out something new, to set sail in uncharted territories.
What can you tell us about your upcoming release, Sphere Out-Takes?
This release includes songs I originally wrote for my last album Sphere but didn’t end up using on that album, I think they really wanted to stand on their own. When I write an album I usually write more material than I end up putting on the actual album. The Sphere Out Takes release also comes with some great remixes from artists I respect. So it’s more of a follow-up release to my album Sphere than a new studio album in itself.
Any particular songs that stand out for you?
‘Movement I’ is an emotional piece that I really like, ‘Data Religion’ and ‘Contact’ are pieces I use in the Sphere live show and I am really happy with how they sound. And ‘Manifold’ is a special one to me as well. It went through many versions until it finally revealed itself to me.
With Robot Koch taking such an incredible visual approach, can we expect visually stunning music videos for some of the tracks?
Yes, there is a pretty stunning video by Mickael Le Goff for ‘Manifold’ coming up actually.
You seem quite fascinated by space. What is it about the vast emptiness surrounding us that intrigues you so?
Space has fascinated me early on, when I got into science fiction as a kid, everything about space travel, aliens and otherworldly sounds really sparked my imagination.
I felt inspired and felt a need to convey my fascination with space in a creative way.
I was a big Star Wars fan, my dad gifted me the trilogy on VHS when I was 6 years old, it had a huge impact on me. Later movies like Alien, Blade Runner and ET played a big role too. I was already a big fan of those soundtracks as a kid too.
Looking up at the night sky impresses me as much today as it did as a child, not only because of the infinite number of stars but mainly because of the unfathomable space around them.
So the space around things, the nothingness of space fascinates me and I seek space in my work too, the right amount of reverb around a sound, making it small and intimate or epic and far away is something I play with a lot. Distance vs intimacy. I’m also very interested about how space is described in spiritual teachings, the idea of space consciousness which represents freedom from the ego and materialism.
Do you have any inspiration outside of your genre? What do you turn to when the creative well runs a little low?
Nature is the number one source of inspiration for me.
What is your opinion on the ever-spreading sub-genre vine? Are there too many? Do you think there’s perhaps a sub-genre that doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
I don’t think in genres anymore. Personally, I think we already live in a post genre time.
As a music artist it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business.
Is there anything about the scene that you would personally change?
To me it’s very closely connected, it’s not only about what you do but also about how you do it. Your art shows in every aspect of how you communicate it, so the business side is just another creative challenge that can be seen in an artistic way.
Any new or upcoming artists on your radar? Who shouldn’t the world sleep on?
Josin, Dreaming of Ghosts, Delhia de France, Jan Wagner
What single night out has been the most memorable for you? As a performer? As an attendee?
It’s hard to single out just one night, both for me as a performer and as an attendee. Here are two non-representative examples from recent times: the premiere of Sphere was a special moment, I knew it was the beginning of something new.
As an attendee I really enjoyed a night on Vancouver Island, where I spent some time in a meditation retreat on my own and as I was overlooking the ocean from a cliff an orca showed up close to the shore. The full moon was out and it was so quiet. I could hear the breathing of the whale as it swam off into the dark water. A magical moment.
Is there a motto you live by? At the risk of sounding morbid, is there a final message you would like your fans to remember you by?
I’m wearing a Morbid Angel t-shirt as I type this (yes, I also like death metal), so no problems with morbid topics.
My motto would be that I just try to be present and have a successful present moment, every moment. Future and past are just stories in your mind. they are not real. All there really is and ever will be is the present moment. So might as well enjoy it 🙂
Catch Robot Koch live:
May 4th: Mutek SF/ Morris Planetarium, San Francisco, USA
May 24th: Full Dome Festival/ Jena, GER
June 5th: Full Dome Festival/ Brno, CR
June 29th: Planetarium/ Luzern, CH
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