Alexander Robotnick : Electro Revival

Robotnick interview by Hervé Lucien, October 2003- Grosso Modo Production
Translated by Raphaël Messand

Robotnick is a cult musician for the electro buffs who immerse themselves again in the Eighties production. Miss Kittin, Kiko, The Hacker and a wave of bootlegs (about twenty up to today including one from Carl Craig) paid their tribute during last months. Yet, at this juncture, the unpredictable Italian is back to business with some new productions and a surprising and totally new live act/DJ set…
Robotnick aka Maurizio Dami made himself known in 1983 with a few Ital-electro –disco singles such as Problèmes d’Amour or Les Grands Voyages de l’Amour. Those tracks released during the very beginning of the electro-dance music would bring him a passing fame in Europe: the slightly trash exoticism of this middle-of-the-road popular song in French with a strong transalpine accent will make him a kind of electro Jacques Dutronc. Yet, very quickly, Robotnick lapses into theatre and audiovisual music and, in 1987 he made a complete change of direction taking over the register of world music. During years, Robotnick would cease to exist for the general public making endless collaborations on his own label Hot Elephant with African, Indian and Kurdish musicians.
Was it the end of Robotnick first version? Actually, it wasn’t: Miss Kittin brought out again Dance Boy Dance (a 1983 track) on her mixed compilation Radio Caroline while Kiko lines up a series of reissues and remixes thwarting a rush of bootlegs. Moreover, Maurizio, which Grosso Modo met again in Italy, has not consigned his first love to oblivion. This acknowledgement results since a few months in several live acts and DJ sets by Alexander Robotnick across Europe! The Florentine blithely blends his own cuts remixed with the must in modern electro and that electro he simply contributed to fond in the early Eighties. Is there a Robotnick method? “Usually, I prefer dance music which makes more way to the melody and the originality of structures. I don’t dislike house or techno as long as they are of good quality. But when I started to work with those kind of sound, I rapidly got bored because I found all that too cold”. A common point with his new friends The Hacker and Kiko with whom he has started a new collaboration. As, on the melodic dimension of his compositions, the producer is intransigent as well when it comes to make his tracks known to clubbers. Beside, he intensifies this occupation “I’ve never thought seriously about deejaying because I’m not very cautious with vinyl… I developed my DJ set in April 2003 when I eventually managed to get a computer gear, which met my needs. This laptop Djing allows me to bring a musician touch in my sets and to play my own tracks live”. That is an original aspect on the current electronic scene, strengthened by this fifty years old young fellow playing behind his desk, who is likely to be the more reserved pioneer in the present electronic music

Alexander Robotnick Interview by Ben Gomori

You have helped to influence many a great artists over the last two decades….but who were your greatest influences growing up?
The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Sorry for such a trivial answer but, you know, I’m aged. I’m from a generation that wouldn’t listen to just a couple of genres and there was no such thing as music style. Every artist represented a unique and original style, and I loved different things, so it is very hard to say what really influenced me. Obviously, talking about Alexander Robotnick, I’ve been influenced by Kraftwerk and Grace Jones.
What keeps your going in 2007? How come you haven’t just faded out of the electronic music game?
Necessity and passion. I simply can’t live without making music.
Are you still producing?
I just released a CD called “My la(te)st album”. I’m working on remixes from it right now. I also like to remix tracks by other artists.
Anyway producing music is my addiction . I just can’t stop .
Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
Actually I don’t have many ambitions. Living by the music I make has always been my greatest ambition. Through ups and downs I’ve been able to do so.
I’d like to have the time to make other things I love. Writing and video editing. For instance.
Do you think people misuse the word “electro” these days?
Words are just a convention. The same word can be used to define different styles in different times. The difference between techno and electro is very subjective nowadays.
Why do you think there has been such an Italo-disco revival in recent years?
People still need to hear some melody sometimes. Techno and house music tend to create a kind of flat mood : things get some appeal only if you get a little high. But in this way, you know, you risk getting into trouble.
Italo-disco instead creates a funny mood whereby people can have fun without drugs.
You are playing for Electronation at The Egg in London this Friday, a big Dutch promotion that’s now touching down in England. How have your experiences in Holland and England been respectively? Do you see many similarities between the two cultures or not?
It’s Europe. Club people are very similar everywhere. In Holland the audience is even more receptive to Italo and electro-disco than in England. Anyway in both countries they are very open-minded and curious and indeed very often ready to listen to something different as long as it’s good. This is the reason why I’ve always had fun working in UK and Holland.
I played many times in London throughout the last 4 years. This is my second gig at the Egg .
What will you be serving up in musical terms at Electronation? What should we come prepared for?
I usually play different things. I use a laptop for djing and I re-edit everything I play. In this way I can create my personal sound of tracks coming from different times, thereby giving them a more homogeneous mood. So, when I play, you can listen something hardly ever played by other DJs.
I also perform some of my tracks live. But, without making a show-case, I simply mix them into my DJ-set.
What’s your favourite thing to do in the world, and where is your favourite place to do it?
Slow traveling by a two wheel-vehicle, possibly provided by engine. The place is the South of India.
What was the last tune you heard that blew you away?
That’s the hardest question… To mention just one: Robert Babicz – Sin

Alexander Robotnick: The Godfather of Italo-Disco Breaks His Silence

Robotnick Interview by Benedetta Skrufff 20.7.2004

“I only made Problems d’Amour back in the 80s because someone suggested to me that I write a dance tune in that genre because there was a lot of money to be made. He told me even crap electro-disco tracks would shift 10,000 units then ironically Problems d’Amour sold exactly 10,000 copies, a pure coincidence that convinced me the track was crap after all. After that experience I decided to leave dance music completely behind, also because I couldn’t speak English.”

20 years after he first released Problem’s d’Amour avant-garde electro artist Alexander Robotnick still prefers to do interviews in Italian though his English is much better and Problems d’Amour is finally acclaimed as an italo-disco classic. He’s also a fast-rising name on the still-growing global electroclash circuit, in marked contrast to his earlier 80s electro-disco career.

“I remember a few friends coming back from London and New York City back then told me that they saw my track in the shops, but I never quite believed them at the time,” he admits.

“Don’t forget I’m a very provincial guy from Florence, who sung Problems d’Amour in French only because I couldn’t speak any English; I lived a very provincial life and never took any risks. It wasn’t until 95, when I started using the internet, that I realised what impact that track actually had. Before that I had no idea whatsoever.”

Appropriately, the track appears on his critically acclaimed new mix CD “The Disco-tech of Alexander Robotnick’ which mixes 80s anthems from the likes of New Order, Yello and Visage with cutting edge electro tunes from FPU, Miss Kittin and Bangkok Impact.

“The critics seem to like the choice of tracks and the sense of continuity I’ve managed to create between tracks that were written twenty years apart,” he points out, “that’s what I wanted to achieve and I feel I’ve fulfilled that goal.”

Skrufff (Benedetta Skrufff): When did this new cycle in your career actually begin?

Alexander Robotnick: “Everything started last September, when I was approached to do the mix CD though initially I was reluctant to accept the offer as I had previously made a decision never to record or do any promos. My attitude at the time was if people wanted to hear me, they should come and see me playing live, which I also wanted because when I perform live I manipulate and remix absolutely everything I play.”

Skrufff: Though you’ve also started DJing recently. .

Alexander Robotnick: “Yes, last year I finally decided to let go of my dislike towards vinyl. Someone sent me an email asking if I was still DJing which was something I’d never actually done before, but on this occasion I decided to respond differently for once, to not refuse the offer. So I said yes I’m still DJing, though with a laptop, then immediately went out and bought a laptop straightaway. Fabrice Guarnascione of the French label Grossomodo was the first to book me to play at the club Spartacus in Provence (France) where I ended up playing with Kiko and The Hacker. The club was packed, I felt great, people liked my set and my career has taken off since then. Even now I’m very busy with DJ gigs.”

Skrufff: How does the DJ role compare with producing, are DJs the new rock stars?

Alexander Robotnick: “As a DJ I need to keep my musical knowledge constantly updated whereas a producer I never really had to care about it before. Because doing that takes up a lot of my time I consider it the least appealing side of the job, also because I don’t like going to record shops though luckily I have people who help me out and others who send me promos. I’ve also tried to minimize the distance between being a musician and a DJ, by completely manipulating and layering the tracks I play in my set. On top of the vinyl I use a keyboard and a laptop, I sing, do voiceovers and perform a little though I always try to keep my equipment to a minimum because I usually play in tiny spaces that I share with pints of beer, bottles, people and so on. As far as being treated as a rock-star is concerned, my audience is into electro, electroclash, and italo-disco and is not really into commerciality, it’s a smaller scene, but in my opinion it’s an amazing one. The artists are extremely talented and friendly, respectful and helpful, which is something I’ve never experienced before. There’s a constant desire to share and collaborate with one another, which I initially found almost shocking. “

Skrufff: How surprised are you by italo-disco’s comeback?

Alexander Robotnick: “I’m not really surprised because I believe that in music there is always a twenty year cycle. Personally, I was lucky to meet younger musicians from the scene to keep me in check and to share my experiences with. I have been part of so many scenes throughout my career that it’d be easy for me, whilst I’m writing a track, to unwarily slip into other styles of music.”

Skrufff: Have you always made a living as a musician?
Alexander Robotnick: “For almost all my life, yes. I worked briefly as a civil servant before Problems d’Amour first came out, then I gave up my day job and disappointed my family. Ever since then I’ve lived off my music through highs and lows, composing film soundtracks and for a while also bits of music for theatre, for fashion shows and so on. I’ve been though some very difficult times financially, in fact, just recently I went through another one, though right now it seems like I’m entering a happier phase.”

Skrufff: You seem to have been very much living the life of an artist . .

Alexander Robotnick: “Well, so far I haven’t reached a level of fame which would allow me to live with no worries, though having said that I’ve met a few very famous artists who’ve also been through difficult times financially. Fame doesn’t exempt you from worries forever. It comes and goes very quickly.”

Skrufff: Which other instruments do you play?

Alexander Robotnick: “I started out playing jazz guitar, towards the end of the “70’s I had a quintet and played standard jazz, then in the “80’s I was captivated by electronica, left the guitar behind, which now I have completely forgotten how to play and took up keyboards which I still play today. I studied music but I’m mainly a producer so I don’t really need to play instruments for what I do. Though knowing how to read music is always very useful.”

Skrufff: Was Problems D’Amour a big success when it was first released?

Alexander Robotnick: “Under certain aspects it was, but not for me personally. I did it only because someone suggested that I write a dance music track since in that field, he said, there was a lot of money to be made. He also said that even a crap track could have shifted 10,000. Ironically Problems d’Amour sold exactly 10,000 copies, a pure coincidence that meant I always considered the trackto be be crap after all. After that I decided to leave dance music completely behind also because my English was awful. Thinking about it, I should have moved to America, since the track sold well in Detroit, Chicago, New York and San Francisco but it did absolutely nothing in Italy, which left me disappointed.”

Skrufff: I was under the impression that at the time you were part of the Italo dance music elite, hanging out with Moroder, Grace Jones, Donna Summer and people like that. . .

Alexander Robotnick: “Definitely not. Don’t forget I’m a very provincial guy from Florence, who sung Problems d’Amour in French because I couldn’t speak any English. It was only around ’95, when I started using the internet, that I realised what impact that track really had. I had no idea whatsoever.”

Skrufff: How did you proceed after giving up electro?

Alexander Robotnick: “I went to work with a multimedia group called Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici who initially made their name by drawing cartoons for the Italian cult magazine Frigidaire. We threw ourselves fully into the art world by doing some beautiful work; we travelled, did video installations for events connected with contemporary art, but essentially we were moving into a very difficult and closed scene, and eventually we got burned. We were the first at doing something that today is a standard, but back then it was almost considered sci-fi.”

krufff: Are you still part of the world music scene today?

Alexander Robotnick: “Yes, I still play in a group called The Third Planet with an Algerian, a Curd and a Sardinian musicians, we’ve recently released a CD in India and we are well known in the States too, but even that hasn’t been an easy ride because in the World music scene you are judged by your political stance, so if you don’t align yourself with certain ideals that go from general protest to green issues, you are not taken into consideration, even if your music is the best in the world. This is especially common in Italy, and since I still live here it’s a problem.”

Skrufff: Do you disagree with these political issues?

Alexander Robotnick: “Not at all, it’s just the way they try to brainwash you that I don’t approve of. To me it’s ludicrous to judge art from a political angle. Music is the expression of an individual, we should learn from history how political regimes have often annihilated artistic expression in the past.”

Skrufff: You said in Time Out recently that we’re now living in post-modern times, what did you mean by that?

Alexander Robotnik: “I meant that realities don’t die and get replaced by new ones any longer in the way it used to happen. Our societies are now layered, they tend to overlap each other and co-exist, a little like in Phillip Dick’s Bladerunner where the old and the new live side by side. I find that India, and especially cities like Bangalore and Mumbai, offers the perfect example of the ancient blending with the futuristic, in a well integrated manner that shows no contradiction. That to me is a post-modern society, where there’s no longer the illusion or the utopia of continuous progress. For something that progresses something else regresses, effortlessly, and that’s the reality of the world nowadays.”

Robotnick Interview 05/05/2007

Your musical career started on early ’80s when electronic music was
at the beginning in Italy. What do you remember of that time about the
music scene?

I’ve been luky for living in Florence in that period. My town was almost the only one in Italy that immediately acknowledged the new things coming from UK and USA, in the early 80s. The music, theatre, art and design scene was really avant-garde.
You know, It’s rare that an artist born in a cultural desert. Just genius men do it 😉
I took part of a large group of people really projected in the future, no matter if most of all are forgotten now. This happened because Florence, despite of it’s avant-garde movement, was provincial though. Sometimes in such situations miracles happen.
As far as I remember dance music in Italy was something that wasn’t
respected and it was considered only as a commercial thing. Now, thanks
to the international interest on italian electronic music of the ’80s,
things has changed. Can you tell me how do you lived this process?

In Florence we did’nt consider the Italo-disco as an avant-garde movement. For my taste those people where just stopped at 70s. Yes, of course I was a fan of Disco Music in the 70s, expecially the funky side like… Scic! Or Moroder too.
But in the 80 I was more on Joy Division. Moreover, honestly, at that time I listened to just few things of Italo, just the commercial ones, reaaaly terrible. I discovered tracks like “Spacer Woman” just few years ago.
I don’t know if this is true but I think that a good part of your
work is based on irony. You know, titles like “Celle vache de ma mère”
or “Ciucci Kola” are difficult to be taken as serious stuff. Can you
tell me how do you usually see your work and how did you create these
particular songs?
Music is not just a job for me, it’s also a kind of psycotherapy… Sometimes I’ve enough freedom in my head and attitude for joking to produce such things. But not always. It’s just a side of my character.
You reached a certain success on foreign countries. How your music
was perceived over there? What were the main differences respect Italy?

Sometimes it’s hard to understand it. Like the issue of Avida for Crème Organization. It’s sang in Italian…
Anyway this question does’nt concern just me. The Italo-Disco too is perceived differently abroad than in Italy. People there appreciate more the originality of the sound, more than in Italy where we are inclined to appreciate more the sound from abroad, with the only exceptions concerning the Italian song.
On the mid eighties the Alexander Robotnick Project was put on hold.
Can you tell us how and why did it happen?

Giampiero, the boss of Materiali Sonori, pushed me to make some disco music, because we were both broke. “We can make easy money with disco-music” he said 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 equipement. The track was Problèmes d’Amour
Anyway, I was disappointed by the results of Problèmes. We sold just 10.000 copies, so it was the minimum figure, as I said above. And I started to be involved in different things.
But some years later I understood that the track had an impressive influence on 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 still relevant for the scene.
Can you tell us something about your experience with the Giovanotti
Mondani Meccanici crew? It was something based more on multimedia stuff, was it?
Basically I was the musician of the group. I made soundtracks and ambient music for videos and installations. GMM was a real multimedia group. It started by the founders (Andrea Zingoni and Antonio Glessy) as a comic for Frigidaire that was an alternative italian magazine, then, as Loretta Mugnai and me have been included, it expanded also to video, music, art and fashon. The last one killed the project.
Nineties saw you working most on ethnic stuff. How happened this kind
of switch from electronic music to ethnic?

Since the 70s I started to collect arabish and african cassettes. I always loved the world music and I still love it, expecially the Indian one. Anyway nowadays I don’t believe so much in the cultural mix anymore, but in that period I did a lot .
I had blody fun with “Masala” and “The Third Planet”. We experienced a kind of “New wave” of world music. And let me say that I was thrilled for playing live with them!
But maybe it was too early.. After a while we have been flooded by the “chill out” music using exotic samples, and then the eleven september said the end.
Listening to your latest album, which I hope it wouldn’t be your last
(as the title is “My la(te)st album”), I noticed so many influences of
the new wave of electro dance music. Influences that weren’t present on
“Oh no… Robotnick!”. Can you tell us what has been the process that
brought you to this new sound?
DJing, obviously. You have to be informed about new dance music, when you djing.
Every time I find a good record in a shop I’m happy because I’ve a new tool for my performance.
This affects also my way of composing and producing.
Anyway, When I work alone as Robotnick, I’m inclined to mix different sides of myself and also different periods of my music. I can mix samples taken from my old 4 tracks tape-cassettes with digitally processed sounds and analog synts.
New sound? I basically used the same synts I had in the early 80s…
Besides the collaboration with Lapo for Italcimenti, do you have any
new collaboration in line or would you like to collaborate with someone
in particular? Do you think you’ll release something else under the
Italcimenti monicker?
Lapo is a friend so periodically we get involved in some new project. I’ve to release some tracks we made last year, but I’m afraid it’s a more techno project.
I’m working right now on the remixes from the album. I asked for a remix exchange to some friends. Basically I want to play more of my music during my DJ-Sets.
Between the last two albums you released two collection of old tunes.
How did you do the tracks selection? Have you other old songs to use for
new compilations? How do they sound like?
I recently made a double CD dedicated to Italo-Disco. I just pressed 100 and gave them as present to people. The original idea was to release it through a label, but just calculated the licensing cost…
no way. So you can download my DJ-Sets, if you like…
Will you ever reissue your first MLP and singles? I saw Materiali
Sonori printing a CD with several versions of “Problemes d’Amour”…

Problèmes d’amour is just out both in vinyl and CD. The vinyl is made by Clone and includes 4 versions. The CD is made by Materiali Sonori and includes almost all versions of Problèmes. It’s a crazy CD. All tracks are Problèmes d’Amour… it’s a real trip… It can be usefull to some DJs who can choose their version, I think.
 What’s next for Alexander Robotnick?
Maybe to move from the country-side. It’s so hard to live without the DSL connection nowadays.
I also want to organize better my studio and the layout, I’m oppressed by thousands of cassettes, DATs, tapes, instruments, CDs, CDRs, DVDs, instruments, computers… oh my God, a life of music is heavy, also fisically..

ROBOTNICK INTERVIEW 14/ 05/ 2007 by B.B.

Was it difficult to adjust to DJing after being a musician for so long?
On the contrary it was easyer to me. To be a musician allows me to perform a special mixing in key and the full re-edit of most of the tracks I play.
Also the use of musical software for DJing comes easyly for my musical background.
What made you rediscover electro after spending so much time working on other styles of music?
Expecially the compilations by Lectroluv and by DJ Hell, 4 years ago. The Electroclash sounded to me very familiar and pushed me into the new dance post-house.
Are you still working on world music as well? 
No, I don’t. First I have no time for it anymore, then because I feel it out of this time. But you can’t say… maybe in the future.

At the time, were you aware of how the early alexander robotnik records were affecting dance music in america? did you recognise your influence on house music?
I reconnize my influence on electro, but I’m not sure about house music. To me it’s originated more from black music. Anyway I contributed to make popular a way to use electronics

Do you see the dance music today as being a ‘retro’ thing, or is it still futuristic? 
Sometimes it sounds a bit “retro”, expecially because too many DJs insist to recreate the mood of the 90s, but things are changed and many people like to listen to and dance something more than a rhithm for hours.
This also explains the meaning of the revival of 80s and Italo-Disco.
Could you see yourself trying to connect the non-electronic music you’ve made with the electronic stuff someday?
Yes definetely, at the right time (to me).
What’s coming up from your label?
I just release a CD called “My la(te)st album. I’m working on remixes I want release in vinyl.
You’ve talked before in interviews about post-modernism and music – do you think that this is a recent situation, or are we just recognising it now? 
Since a while the music became “ambient music”, including rock and dance music. Often it’s just a background. It’s as the form becomes the meaning, that is a post-modern situation. Everything becomes a sign and the signs considered as a whole make the ambient.
Do you ever regret not continuing with the alexander robotnick stuff during the 80s and 90s?
I really never stopped the things, simply I was mainly involved in different kind of music.
If you can’t develope a thing it’s better to suspend it and to get again into it after a while…
Then I’m too curious as character to stay into the same stuff for longtime…

Robotnick interview – Vancouver 14/05/2007

• What does the term ‘Italo-disco’ mean to you? Do you relate to it?

I relate to it because I’m Italian… But the tracks I made in the 80s don’t sound Italo-Disco to me. The Italo-Disco comes from the 70s disco music, I come from New-Wave. The Italians started to make good disco music when it became easyer to produce music with the help of electronics. We did’nt have so many good drummers and bassists as in the US.

• How do you feel about being seen as “a cult musician for electro buffs”? Are you aware of the influence your music has had on generations of electronic music fans and producers?

Come on.. It’s a very underground cult, anyway I’m pride of this, why not? And this make me more relaxed in my job, because I feel a lot of love from many people, it’s something very natural and spontaneus, nothing to do with the feeling of a rock star / DJ star. I can talk with people, so it’s ok like this : underground.

• Do you have thoughts on the longevity of songs like “Problèmes D’Amour” and “Dance Boy Dance”… why do you think they still sound so fresh to so many ears? Do they to yours?

Yes, they do it also to me, (with some edit ;). I think they still sound fresh because they are different from any other productions made in the 80s yet saving the mood of the 80s. What is out of the styles, or dies because has no sense, or becames a style itself. If it’s good, obviously…

• What contemporary electro artists do you enjoy listening to, and why?

Too many, my hard disk is full of good new tracks. Many of them got more results in singles then in albums. An electronic sound always risks to saturate your listening, so it’s not easy to find an album to listen to. It’s better a DJ-Set, where you can change sound many times. Anyway, I like the artists of Creme and in general the music from Holland and Belgium.

• People like Carl Craig have made a point of telling their fans about your music. Has this recognition felt important to you? Is this part of why you’ve returned to making electro / disco?

Honestly at that time I was not so interested in dance music, and now, like DJ, I follow different styles and again I’m not interested in that area.

• What is it about electronic music that keeps your interest and inspires you? 

Still some old stuff, but honestly I never understood very well the meening of “inspire”…

• Do you feel there is a creative connection between what you were producing in the ‘80s and the new electronic music you make now? Please describe what feels similarly or different about these time periods for you.

Different is the life, that is everything. Very similar are the electronic instruments I use and the way I play them.

• What piece(s) of musical equipment are most important to you?

It’s the computer, since the 95. Before it was the sequencer machine.

• You make electronic music and write a great deal about love; where is the meeting point of the two for you?

The meeting point is between music and love, I don’t care whether electronic or not.

• With almost 40 recordings, how do you mark progress for yourself as a producer?

Ther’s no progress, just transformation. And it’s very hard at the time to understand if your production has sense or not. sometimes both the producer and people need time to understand it.

• You didn’t start DJing regularly until 2003; what has DJing given you as an artist?
How does DJing (ie. audience response) now influence your production work?

DJing give u less stress in competition. In fact, when you listen to a good track in a record shop, in a way you are jelous, but in the other side you are happy because you got a new good track to play when you DJing…
As to the influence, yes, obviously you like to produce something to make people dancing, anyway my dance music is heavily influenced by myself.

• What is your dream scenario for DJing and/or presenting your music live?

A very long radio show where I can play a kind of history of the electronic music according my personal taste and experience.

• There is lots of video footage of you playing to large crowds and having a great time as you do. What are you thinking as you dance, sway and play to new audiences?
– Do you ever feel that there is an age divide or does music erase that?

No, I don’t feel an age gap. It’s like in the western movies, ther’s always a funny old man dancing or playing violin.
When you play you don’t think about what you are doing, fortunately. After the gig I feel love for the audience.

• Do you consider My La(te)st Album to be a dancefloor record?

No, I don’t. I think I don’t play the tracks as they are, I’m remixing them for DJing. Then I’ll release 12″s

• After 25 years of releasing records, what are some of the most significant things you’ve learned about yourself as a person and creative spirit through making of music?

I always have been aware that music is a kind of therapy for me. If I don’t produce music after a while I feel very bad. It’s an addiction. It’s also my business, no doubts. In the periods I have a real mental freedom, I have more interesting results. But “inspired” or not I need to make some music

• Please tell us a little about what your future holds: upcoming releases, projects, touring etc.

Just to keep on what I’m doing. Developing my DJing technique, playing more stuff by myself and release some 12″s

Robotnick interview – Manchester 05/05/2007-

Please introduce yourself

My nickname is Alexander Robotnick, it means “Alexander the worker” in Russian. Anyway I’m Italian, from Florence. In fact my real name is Maurizio Dami.
I’m still investigating but I think to be one of the oldest DJs in the world.
But in another side I’m a newbe, I started just in 2003! A track of mine, “Problèmes d’Amour” made in ’83, is considered as significant for the history of electronic dance music. Anyway during my career I used different styles of music working also on soundtracks and installations.
Talking about dance music I basically jumped the 90s and I landed directely here from the 80s.
At present I’m involved in the dance scene most as a DJ. It’s great for me because it’s a new thing and I’m still thrilled!

1981 you foundet together with some friends the dance cabaret band Avida. Did you relised at that time, that you were part of a complete new era – in music, fashion, style?

Yes definetely I did. Also because I’ve been luky for living in Florence in that period. My town was almost the only one in Italy that immediately acknowledged the new things coming from UK and USA, in the early 80s. The music, theatre, art and design scene was really avant-garde.
You know, It’s rare that an artist born in a cultural desert. Just genius men do it 😉
I took part of a large group of people really projected in the future, no matter if most of all are forgotten now. This happened because Florence, despite of it’s avant-garde movement, was provincial though. Sometimes in such situations miracles happen.


what do you think … why have italiens this flamboyant style in fashion and music

Do you think so? I’m not sure about it…. Italy is the kingdom of individual talents. The cultural and social environement does’nt allow to such people to take root. In fact most of them lives abroad… It’s a long story, you know. Moreover at the present if you want to build something new in Italy you can’t avoid to be involved in politics (any). That’s the reason why many free spirits tend to escape…
Anyway… good food and wine, great landscape and a sweet language have some influence on Italian people, I think 😉


… and why didn’t you liked Italo Disco in those days?

In Florence we did’nt consider the Italo-disco as an avant-garde movement. For my taste those people where just stopped at 70s. Yes, of course I was a fan of Disco Music in the 70s, expecially the funky side like… Scic! Or Moroder too.
But in the 80 I was more on Joy Division. Moreover, honestly, at that time I listened to just few things of Italo, just the commercial ones, reaaaly terrible. I discovered tracks like “Spacer Woman” just few years ago.


which piece of your music are you the most proud about?

« Les grands voyages de l’amour ». Both for the music and the lirycs. I made it in ’82. Anyway it’s hard for a musician to evaluate his own music, because everything is strictly linked to a period of life. I usually need more than 20 years to start to listen to my music properly… that is the case of “Les grands voyages de l’amour”.


how did you survived the 80ies? and what can you say to the people who are experimenting with drugs nowadays?

That is a very up-to-date topic, seeing the Guardian’s issue. My answer is like Edith Piaf.. “Nooo rien de rien… nooo je ne regrette rien ! » . What can i say ? Drugs are not an experiment anymore. People tend to use them as support. That is a bulshit! Expecially talking about heroine and cocaine. After a while you start to suffer the side effects more than enjoying the substance and then everything get difficult. It’s so obvious… A friend of mine saved me just saying another obvious sentence : “You don’t need it”.


in the 90ies you were traveling a lot and produced so called world music. Can you tell us something about this part of your life?

As I told you, it’s too early for me to speak about it… I was really involved in the cultural mix. And actually this happened to me a longtime ago. Since the 70s I started to collect arabish and african cassettes. I always loved the world music and I still love it, expecially the Indian one. Anyway nowadays I don’t believe so much in the cultural mix anymore, but in that period I did a lot .
I had blody fun with “Masala” and “The Third Planet”. We experienced a kind of “New wave” of world music. And let me say that I was thrilled for playing live with them!
But maybe it was too early.. After a while we have been flooded by the “chill out” music using exotic samples, and then the eleven september said the end.
But I still love India and I like to go there when I’m free (never!). This love started for me in ’86. What I like of India is the music, for the first, expecially the “temple music” and the people. Ther’s maybe some connection between Italian and Indian people..;)
Anyway I’m not involved in religion at all, I’m a sceptical man, I just feel good there (expecially in the South) and I also appreciate the country’s developement.


you started your DJ-career 22 years after releasing your first record. What changed your relationship to the medium vinyl that late?

I’m too old to appreciate the vinyl. After 20 years fighting against screatch and glitch my generation welcomed the “cassette” age, and then the coming of CDs.
It’s just few years ago, when I started to DJing that I understood a sample thing: the CDs have no use in Clubs. It’s not a matter of the media (definetly better than the vinyl). It’s just because the CDs are bilt for domestic and driving use. Often they are too compressed for using them in clubs. But if you sample a vinyl at high resolution and you make a CD, it sounds the same, come on!
I usually do it with my laptop. So, in the end… I still buy vinyl records!!


do you like playing in gay clubs?

Yes I do, because gay people have an excellent “party culture” The atmosphere is always joyful!

Robotnick Interview about Italo-Disco (2003)

1) Who do you think are the Ital Disco pioneers?
After the enormous success that “Saturday Night Fever” (the movie) had in Italy, many Italian producers started to produce disco-music, somehow encouraged by the Italo-American feel the movie had. To many of them Disco music was a commercial alternative to the horrid Italian “light” music (that of Sanremo Music festival). And it was a big business too, targeting the world market not just the Italian one. But results turned out to be poor except for Imagination , Giorgio Moroder, La Bionda brothers, Mike Francis (later) and few more.
2) Do you think originally, this music was a pacier and more electronic version of disco music?
Electronics was a great resource to Italian disco for the simple reason that in Italy there weren’t as many talented musicians around as there were in U.S. studios, where excellent bass players and drummers -most of them coming from jazz and R & B – abounded. Therefore electronics was a necessity choice.
3) Why do you think it was so popular in gay clubs? Do you think it’s because gay clubs have often been at the forefront of new club music, or because it was and is simply great dance floor music? Or was it all just a coincidence?
One of the major traits of the Gay culture is its strong sense of humour. This takes gays to love the most trashy and kitsch things on the one hand ( and I hope I don’t belong to these) and the most innovative and least mainstream on the other ( and I do hope I belong to these latter).

4) Do you think a lot of Ital Disco’s trademarks – the use of musical elements like strings, the rich production values, the trippy synth sounds and the tructured use of 4/4 beats predated a lot of what would later happen in house and techno?
House music was born in the USA, as a recovery and development of Disco music that had been declining in the early 80s.It got to Italy with three years delay at least. While DJs in Detroit played House music , Italian producers would still release romantic, old-style Disco music.
5) Bearing in mind it had all these traits, would you agree it was the first electronic dance music?
Maybe but it’s not my personal experience. The Electronic dance I’ld dance to at Tenax (a cutting edge club in Florence in the early 80s) was that of Human League, Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, Soft Cell, Eurythmics and German post-Space electronic music such as DAF’s.
6) Do you think that this was why early house DJs could relate to it and played it?
No, they didn’t, as far as I know. The first house DJs in Detroit and Chicago would play black music “a cappella” mixed with house-made tracks with drum-machines such as TR909 and electric pianos like DX7.
Problemes d’Amour is an exception to that and anyway it was never labeled as Ital Disco. And in those days people wouldn’t pay so much attention to defining music genres.
7) Do you think that the best bits were taken from Ital by 80s synth pop artists and house producers / DJs and that this is why the music took a popularity nosedive in the 90s?
When House music became popular in Italy, that was already 1987 and it was its second wave. Many productions had moved to the Netherlands. The buzzword was “new beat”. It was a strongly ironical kind of music (enough to think of “Marina” recycled by its original performer who had made a hit of it in the 60s). This music was the trademark of a careless and desecrating generation (“Dov’è la festa?”) openly breaking away from the dark generation ( the de-generation of Punk and New Wave generations ) that infested Europe int the mid 80s.
This is when Italian dance starts becoming popular around the world not for its trashy exotism but rather for its quality. I’m thinking of one track in particular: Sueno Latino (instrumental version) that was the first track to undermine the Anglo-Saxon and Afro-American hegemony over Dance music.
8) Someone recently said that the great irony about Ital is that there are more records in this vein coming out nowadays than ever before? Why do you think this is?
Because in those days only the most trivial stuff would become popular and this discouraged the more innovative producers or obliged them to lower their quality level. Today, on the contrary, it’s the most interesting things that period produced that ere being re-discovered.
9) Do you think producers like I-F, Legowelt, Alden Tyrell, Daniel Wang, Bangkok Impact have succeeded in bringing this sound to a contemporary setting without merely making it sound like a copy of the older material?
Yes, it’s partly true. But maybe such DJs and producers have a much better insight into the underground productions of those days and it’s to those that they relate.
10) Many of the producers just mentioned were making this music before the advent of electroclash; given that it’s melodic, funky and trippy, why didn’ t Ital become big instead of its poor musical cousin, electroclash?
I don’t know if Electroclash is really poorer than Ital Disco, as you say. Furthermore it meets many youths’ taste for a somewhat darker and harsher kind of dance music, but of a different harshness than Techno-hammer, rather in the wake of early 80s Punk and New Wave.
11) Do you think the popularity of electroclash will help or make it easy for Ital to become popular?
I think that Italo Disco as a definition is probably too ambiguous as it includes both the trashiest stuff produced in the 80s as well as some really cool and original tracks.
12) Why are so many modern Ital producers Dutch?
Because it’s there and in the U.K. that the cult of Ital Disco developed in the days of Pirate radio stations broadcasting from The Channel. To them it sounded exotic and funny but, honestly, in other European countries it sounded like trash or like a late mimicing of American Disco music.
13) Do you think nowadays, Ital has a more varied sound, or does it have much the same characteristics it used to?
I hope that the Ital Disco that is becoming succesful today will be better than what became popular in the 80s.
14) Is modern Ital impacting or having an influence on other styles – house, techno etc? What do you make of the influences it is having on the output of labels like Kompakt?
The point is that people are probably tired of dancing to the same one measure groove that’s endlessly repeated. Sure this is very effective, the closest you can get to tribal rhythm, it takes you easily into trance and makes you forget all trouble. But I think that the emotions you feel when you dance to a melody or a varied bass line have no equals. If by ItaloDisco you simply mean going back to dancing to “music” then welcome – or if you are really keen on that – welcome back Italo Disco !
15) Legowelt’s ‘Disco Rout’ was played by all types of DJs – from techno and house to trance. Why do you think this is? Is it because it’s funky and mix friendly or simply a great tune? Are DJs also picking up on other Ital tracks?
When a dance track becomes popular as an evergreen , that simply means it’s a great Dance track that remains great all along the ages. This, in all modesty, I think was the case of Problemes d’Amour too.
16) Do you think Ital will crossover or will it stay an underground sound? Do you think it should have crossover success?
During 28 years of dance music there has been such a cluttering and layering of stuff that not even the best of music archeologists would ever make out whose what, what’s revival and what’s crossover. As a matter of facts, it’s just a bunch of elements that keep coming back over and over again with but a few variations.
17) Are there any good Ital clubs?
Do you mean in Italy? It’s like asking if there are good Yoga centres in India. Of course there are, but I don’t know if they are the best. The most popular Italian clubs are probably in Ibiza.
18) Finally, what are your 3 favourite Ital tracks ever?
If we are tolking about 80s Ital Disco :
1) Survivor (Mike Francis)
2) Tarzan Boy (Baltimora)
3) No tengo Dinero (Righeira)

Robotnick Interview 2004

1. Dance Boy Dance…now and past ..this is a pure amazing song, very underground!
Talk about it: origin, concept, words.

Dance Boy Dance is undoubtedly an underground track: in those days I’d work in a windowless basement lit up by coloured neon-lights which I calles “my cripta”. It reflects the kind of mood thare was in Florence in the early 80s: a mix of irony and darkness that was very exciting and spontaneous
but unfortunately vanished , choked by fashiion and “stylism” during the mid 80s.
In all the tracks I did as Robotnick there is always something theatrical. So I’d immagine the protagonist of the track as an old dirty guy who is turned on by some dancing boys, a somewhat horror scene. And in fact I used it in Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici versus Dracula, a theatre show with Sandro Benvenuti as Dracula based on the comic strips by the same group published on frigidaire.

2. What are you looking for in a beat?

What everybody is looking for: that it is interesting and nice to listen to, that it makes you move and doesn’t bore you too quickly.

3. maurizio Dami – A. Robotnick: lots of Italian bands in the early Italo-disco period , changed their names, it’s curious..

It may be curious for you but not for Italian people. It’s like in Spaghetti Western movies : everything was anglicised and not only for the international market but for the domestic one too. As a matter of fact when the late 70s Italian progressive rock wave was over , the reference model evrybody was clearly looking up to was the U.K. and partly New York.
But I made a different choice and took a Russian name, Alexander the worker, which is what Alexander Robotnick means.

4. Your label “Hot Elephant Music”: new artists involved and projects.

When I created Hot Elerphant Music I wasn’t thinking or expecting this A.Robotnick’s revival . I was still very much involved in World music and with my partner Ludus Pinsky (lapo Lombardi) I was experiencing with a range of new sounds (lounge etc.)
Unfortunately the Third Planet’s and Masala’s world music was probably too special to flow into the chill-out and tribal-house wave and did not gain much reputation, although it has quite a number of fans scattered around the world. I don’t want to repeat the mistake I made with Robotnick in the 80s and have a lot of labels asking to licence T.T.P. ‘s and Masala’s music in 20 years’ time ( as I might no longer be around by then). So, although it’s difficult, I try to dedicate some time to that project too rather than filing it away as I did with too many things.

5. Tell us your India experience.

Well, I’m in India right now also to finalise the licencing deal I have with Times Music, an important indian label which is a branch-company of the daily paper Times of India. I hope this will give a new momentum to the Masala project thaty I consider the greatest breakthrough in my experience with music.
As to India there are some who develop a sort of addiction to it and visit it every now and then. It’s not the religious aspect I’m after, nor am I involved in any superstitious worship like Sai Baba or anything similar. I just love Indian music especially that of South India, bajans, temple music when it comes full-blast and somewhat distorted from trumpet-like speakers. A sound of unattainable char! Old tapes by famous artists such as Lata Mangeskar, the Bombay Sisteres etc. All stuff produced in the 70s and 80s. Just fabulous! Today’s music is crap but they only play it on

6. What do you think about 80\90 current fashion style? like it or not? Is it on your way?

I don’t care much for fashion , I only changed my hair-style and the style of my pants a couple of times. And when you age a bit you realise that fashion keeps turning around the same elements over and over again , so you are no longer struck with it.
As to this 80s revival (and indeed every 20 years there seems to be one), honestly I can hardly perceive it but in a few exterior aspects. The spirit with which the new generations re-discover the 80s is totally different from what we felt in those days. As a matter of fact every age is unique
and unrepeatable . So the real \question is: do you like the new generations? And my answer is: I like them for certain things ( better organised, better fit for social relations) and I don’t for other things ( less independent in their judgement and opinions, a real fear of being a maverick, a very shallow approach to social and political issues).

7. What do you say to new musicians , new electronic artists?

If you want to end up broke , then be yourself! Whoops! sorry, maybe I should not say that!
Just kidding..studying the past is important because any novelty comes from a deep understanding of the past, avoiding to fall into the trap of vintage which is much closer to collectionism than to art.
Furthermore, beware not to mistake electronic music for something different from music. Whether electronic or not, studying music is essential or you’ll remain just an amateur.
You can do without the music academy if you do not intend to play classical music. Much better a jazz class that will open up your mind to all the aspects of music.

8.What about the current house-tech global scenery?

I still have the unpleasant feeling that the last music revolution I witnessed was that of house music in the late 80s. Today the average quality of dance productions is very high but you very seldom come across something really new.
I must say that I’m tired of techno in all its variations. I aknowledge its power to make you dance , to put you into a sort of trance where you forget about all your trouble. But I’ sick and tired of one-measure bass-lines played over and over again. In a few minutes I give up dancing and head
to the bar. I love those artists who compose dance songs that have a melody, some chords, something you can remember.The compilation I put together for Yellow productions fully reflects my current taste in music.

Robotnick interview – Chicago August 2005

How do you feel about the increasing interest in Italo Disco?
There are gems of dance music produced in the early 80s in Italy. Unfortunately during that time I hated that music because I knew just the more commercial tracks, really cheasy music. Recently I discovered lot of underground artists, as I am too. Whose tracks inspired many producers from the present time.
I’m not really surprised about this increasing interest because I believe that in music there is always a twenty year cycle.


Which artists inspired you to make music?
The first time I went to a club for dancing I was 16 and the DJ was playing « Satisfaction » by Rolling Stones (just released). So I listende to so many artists during my life that It is hard to say who influenced me.
Anyway In the early 80s my favourite artists were Kraftwerk, Suicide and Yello.

Did you study music formally?
I started studying music very late, when I was 27. I studied guitar at a Jazz school in Florence for three years. During that time I played “Jazz Standards” with a students’ quintet.

Have you always made a living as a musician?
I made lot of jobs during my life. I started when I was still a student working in a factory. My last job was a gouvernement job. I left it in 84 and I live by music from that time.

What’s your preferred method for making music, on computer or with
I use both. You can’t to give up both the computer and the analog syntetizers. I work by computer in a very hight digital resolution. I record into the computer all my analog sounds.

I heard that you hate vinyl, is this true?
For my generation there is nothing really exciting in vinyl. We fought for so many years the crackles and noises and terrific equipements…so, when the audio-cassettes era came we felt it as the beginning of the liberation from vinyl.
Anyway I still buy vinyl. Most of tracks I have in my hard-disk for Djing are grabbed from vinyl. I don’t do it for a supposed superiority of the vinyl as media, I’m scheptical about it, but it’s true that most of dance CDs are mastered in a wrong way and for this they are unusefull for Djing.

Are you still interested in World Music?
Not so much as some years ago. I still listen to Classical and light Indian Music for my pleasure and relaxing but I have no time to make it anymore.

How did you get back into doing Italo mixes and DJing?
To be onest I did’nt get back at all….in fact I never made Djing in my life.
I started 2 years ago for the first time. It’s Fabrice Guarnascione (Grossomodo Productions) who offered me the opportunity to make my début as a DJ at Spartacus Club in Aix-En-Provence with Kiko and The Hacker. The night was a success that encourages me to do more Djing.
At present Djing is my main job.

Do you DJ from a laptop? Any plans to perform live?
I DJ from the laptop and my performance is always a semi-live. I use a keyboard midi-controller for mixing and playing live over the tracks, and usually I sing a couple of songs.
I’m scheptical about making a true live in the clubs. In most of them ther’s no stage, no back-stage, no stage-mixer and monitors and the P.A. is not set for live music.

Are you excited to be performing in Chicago? How many shows are you
doing in the USA?
Yes I am, obviously. Chicago is the city that discovered my music during the early 80s. I’ve never been here up tu now.
I will play in Chicago, N.Y. (Love, Sept 10) and Washington D.C. (Nation, Sept 15)

What is Hot Elephant Music all about?

It’s my personal label. It’s just un excuse to release my music by myself.

Italo Disco can sometimes sound sexy or humorous to American ears. Is
this intentional?

Most of times the umor was not intentional. Maybe the sexy it was. I remember some lamped and bleached artist with chains…they felt themselves as sexy.
Anyway in Italy there is always a kind of sarcastic taste for the orrible.

What can Chicago audiences expect at your gig here?

My way of Djing is original. Most of tracks I play are re-edited or remixed by me and I cover many styles inside electro. I think it’s a kind of new-wave of Djing.


Robotnick Interview 2003

1 – Talk about your style and your sound evolution

Good question! I’ve been asking myself the same thing foryears…fortunately my my fans seem to know better what my style is !
What I hate is homologation, that’s why I tend to ride on a side-trackomewhat from mainstream and market expectation, with obvious ly negative economic consequences for me. I like making the kind of music that I have in my mind with the equipment I have at hand because that’s the only way I know not to miss the original idea. For some time I’ve worked in expensive studios to get a more professional sound but results were poor.

2 – Italy dance-electronic culture scene: now and past!

As to the past, for most of the 80s I couldn’t really put up with Italian Disco . Except for a few cases, like Mike Francis, whose music I really admired although it was so distant from what I was doing, all the rest sounded like underdeveloped stuff to me. Maybe because the best of it , the more alternative stuff would hardly be heard on the national market and therefore wouldn’t always reach my ears.
The Dutch and the British seem to be much better documented about Italo-Disco which became a real myth for them .
Since the coming of House music many things have changed and all along the 90s I’ve heard wondedrful stuff, sometimes quite ironical stuff as well a lot of crap coming from Italy.
At present, world techno is so standardised that it’s hard to express an opinion about it. Everything seems to sound alike and little innovative. I liked Omino Stanco a lot, I hope he’s still around and kicking.

3 – Tell us your last “Live set” experience

As soon as I could afford a sufficiently powerful lap-top I set off to realise an old dream of mine.
A DJ-set where I remix all the tracks I’m playing. This is something you can’t do with vynil (which, I’m sorry to say I never quite liked, I prefer tapes). I always liked remixing famous tracks but I’d never found any use for that. (I don’t do bootlegs). Now as a DJ I can do whatever I like with the music I play as long as I give the credits and require not to be recorded during live performance to avoid any use as bootleg. So I’m having a lot of fun. I now have a 4 hour DJ set of 80s and contemporary tracks, all of them personally remixed plus my own tracks that I sing live and some basis I play on. Wherever I did it , it’s been greatly succesful!

4 – Talk about DJs

That’s a thorny topic as I am myself a DJ now. Let’s say that I didn’t considered them much for a while. Now that I am a DJ myself, I understand it’s no easy job.
Anyway, I rarely danced in a club till the end of the night without getting bored after a while …I mean good DJs are not many. Years ago I appreciated Farfa who, at a rave, took me to dance a kind of music I wouldn’t normally care for.
Then there’s the whole issue of DJs as the new Bosses of the Music system. This is unfortunately the consequence of the devastation of the record market operated by digital technologies and the no-copyright movement. Musicians will most probably go back to being considered like servants. Their new masters will be the multinationals. Music will survive only as ads jingle. DJs will run this new (ancient) system.

5 – How many bootleg/re-edit about “problemes d’amour” around the world?

I know about 6 of them but there must be many more..

6 – and version, remix?

There are no real remix. Most people just cut the refrain out (which is, by the way, the only bit of the track I’m really proud of) and add a few sounds on the drums and bass-line. Carl Craig’s remix is ridiculous, somewhat insulting in the title (problemz) and illegal too as he ‘s never paid a cent for it.
The various “remix” that are around were made by me in the 80s.

7 – Analog or Bit-Laptop?

Both. I work on the computer but I sometimes import analogic stuff recorded on tape.

8 – France and your life (lots of your music-trax french titles…)

It’s a love affair that dates back to my childhood, when I was crazy for French singers , from Edith Piaf to Gilbert Becaud but also including Francoise Ardit and Antoine. Furthermore I’m really hopeless with English and Italian doesn’t really inspire me.
French culture was fantastic in the 60s and 70s, then it collapsed but right now it seems to be shyly emerging again.

9 – What do you think about the evolution of sound? Where do we go?

We shouldn’t forget that human senses are not perfect and have limited perceptive capacities. For instance, above a given acoustic pressure (exceeded by practically all clubs and concerts), the human ear can no longer exactly detect the pitch of notes. So that music is perceived as a sort of noise that is quite an advantage to bands wih poor singers and DJs who can’t mix on the same tonality. It’s a night when all cows are black. A very boring night. For instance I feel very frustrated as a DJ when I hear that often times some amazing effects I got by superimposing tracks on nearby tonalities are totally lost in clubs beacuse of too much loudness.
As to the future, we need to bear in mind that all effects based on psycho-acoustics have been already lavishly used by today’s music. Real breakthrough in sound is little likely to come. So we can only go back to deal with music, a rather exciting prospect for musicians. But, please, turn the volume down by a few dbs if you really want to enjoy it (the good music!).

10 – Your Motto is …

The more you go for something , the further away you get from it

Robotnick Interview 2000

Where do you come from, musicaly speaking ?
As a musician :
I started studying music very late, when I was 27. I studied guitar at a Jazz school in Florence for three years. During that time I played “Jazz Standards” with a students’ quintet. Then in the early 80s I started getting focused on electronics with “cheap” instruments such as TB303 and TR 606. Now I work exclusively on my PC.

As a listener :
In the late 70s I listened to a lot of Jazz from the 60s (Coltrane and Davis), Fusion (Weather Report, Don Cherry) as well as Disco music. Then in the 80s I was really impressed by the New Wave and turned my attention to bands like Police, Joy Division, The Cure, Yello, Contortions, Tuxedo Moon, Residents etc.
In the early 80s my favourite artists were Kraftwerk, Suicide and Yello. Later I appreciated the Depeche Mode, Eurythmics and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. All along the years I’ve always loved Grace Jones, the divine.

Why did you choose this name ?
Because I wanted to stress the irony in my music.It’s also a futuristic name (in Russian robotnick means worker) and tharefore it was perfect for that kind of music.

you are italian, why are you singing in french ?
Because when I was a kid I loved French music very much (Gilbert Becaud, Françoise Hardie, Edith Piaf etc). I imagine Robotnick as the typical Russian artist who migrated to Paris.

Why did you choose to use synthetizers instead of traditional instruments ?
You should turn the question to those who did that first….When Robotnick came out there had already been the Tangerine Dreams, Kraftwerk e John Foxx.

You are from the sixties… how do you see the evolution of popular music
since this era ?
In the 60s and 70s there were no music genres but the fundamental ones such as Jazz, Rock, Classical and Easy listening. Each band or artist was a different thing. Then there were those who imitated them. Today if you imitate an artist you’re not considered an imitator but someone who belongs to that music genre. This “collectivisation” of artistic expressions kills individual ingeniousness and depresses the quality level. Now there are thousands of artists who all sound alike and can only be distinguished by the music genre they make. The audience is confused and no longer interested in artists and ends up relying on DJs who therefore become the real bosses of the music system.

You are well known for a track called “problemes d’amour” who was quite inspirationnal for the chicagoan scene… how did you make this track ?
I made that track as an attempt of making Disco music and possibly some money. But as I was Robotnick, what came out was no disco at all and had a limited success, a kind of “underground” success which (as you say) was inspirational for the birth of house-music. I produced Problèmes d’Amour in a studio near Florence (Studio M), with the assistance of Marzio Benelli, the owner of the place, who also did the recording and mixing and played some synt lines on the instrumental B side of P d’A. I composed the track, I programmed the sequenzers and played guitar as well as singing, of course. The female vocals were by Martine Michellod, a Swiss friend who also helped me translating parts of the lyrics. No one else took part in the production. The instruments played were: an 808 Roland, 2 TB303 (Roland BassLine), 1 Synt Korg MonoPoly e una Gibson guitar + an Arp Quadra by Marzio Benelli. We recorded on a 16track TEAC.
what do you thin of this eighties revival ?
It’s a sort of automatism: everything comes back into fashion 20 years later. It would be exciting to see the development of certain trends which, despite their limited success in the 80s , were artistically very interesting .

You’ve done video art and various soundtracks… what did it bring new to your vision of music ?
I learnt that all music tends to become ambient music and art, music and pictures become some sort of interior decoration for physical and emotional spaces. As Eric Satie had already understood at the beginning of the last century and as Brian Eno did in the late 70s.

Do you live from your music ? do you have another job appart from music making ?
I earn a modest living from my music. I never joined the mainstream and therefore my means are limited.

What does your music sounds like now ?
I make several kinds of music: The Third Planet , Masala, E.A.S.Y., L.Pinsky & A.Robotnick, Alkemya. I have specific feelings, sounds and approaches in composition and production for each one of them. As to Alexander Robotnick, I ‘m finishing his come-back album. I created (virtually) the same equipment I had in ’83 to find back that sound. 20 years have not been there for nothing so you’ll also find some drops of the other music experiences I made blended in the tracks.


An old Interview to Alexander Robotnick (20-02-98)

How did the Alexander Robotnik track come about?

In the 1983 the innovative feeling of the British Electro-Pop (Human league- Soft Cell- Depèche mod) started to become exhausted, replaced from a patinate Pop and from a mannered Dark-Rock. During that period I was singin in Italian, I theorized a kind of dance-cabaret, I didn’t have any money and I had bought a TR-808, a Roland Bass Line and a very cip synt : the Korg Mono-Poli. I met Giampiero Bigazzi, manager of Materiali Sonori, he told me that I could get money doing Disco-Music. It was easy to realize it and an ugly disk could easily sell up to 10,000 copies, he said . I started working immediatly . I had 2 problems: 1) I didn’t speak English 2 I didn’t listen to Disco-Music for more then 5 years. I chose to sing in French because I had a good accent and when I was young I loved French songs (Gilbert Becaud ecc). I was a musician with a jazz back-ground and I did’nt have any difficulty to write a disco-funky groove on the TR-808. The Roland Bass-line was an infernal machine and few people knew how to program it ( songs, not simple patterns, I mean). I was known as Bassline- magician. From what did I have influenced? From all the musicians that I loved until that moment (I was 33 years old! ) and above all from Wether Report, Kraftwork, Talking Haeds, Yello and the British New Wave.

I realized Problèmes d’ Amour in 2 days in a studio near to Florence. All the equipment was non-professional : Mixer and 16 tracks recorder Tascam, TR-808, 2 Basslines, Korg Mono-Poly. The only professional Synt was an Arp Quadra used for chord-pads. A Swiss friend of mine (Martine Michellod) sang the background vocals. The staff of Materiali Sonori fell in love with this song and they invented a new Label: “Fuzz Dance” for which I made other records (Mya and Mirror , GMM ecc.ecc.).

Do you feel like Problems D’Amour and the other tracks on Fuzz Dance wereahead of their time?

Problèmes of Amour was not considered in Italy (here in the disco-clubs you could still hear classical 70s Disco-Music), but an importer from Cicago bought 10,000 copies in few months of it. During the Midem of Cannes everybody looked for “Problèmes of Amour” and MASO came to an agreement with SIRE. Few months late SIRE had bought from the WEA and everything stopped. “Fuzz Dance”, the WEA compilation went out 2 years late; in the meantime I changed style and tastes.

In that period people coming back from USA told me about a strange music that sounded like mine made by piano and drum machine. It started to dominate the Dance shene of Chicago, they said. It was called “house music”. Like many Italians I mistaked house music for home music (like non professional music). It didn’t arrive in Italy until ’87. So“Problèmes d’Amour” were ahead of his time

Robotnick interview – ACROSS THE LINE – 31/03/2007

Let’s get started then. First musical memory?

My dad playing the piano and my mother singing….

Ever played Ireland and if so where, when and how was it for you?

I played several times in Ireland, most of all in Dublin. The first time was October 2003 at Metropolitan (I had just started off as a DJ); then again at Metropolitan in 2004. In 2005 at Traffic, in 2006 at Music Center in Temple Bar, at Garden Party in Meath, at Cyprus Avenue in Cork and then again at Music Center in Dublin. All my gigs in Dublin were organized by ElectriCity. I always had a lot of fun . Dublin is my favourite venue…

What prompted you to get fully involved in dance music?

The fact that I had no job…uh uh…just kidding. I’m indeed fully involved in dance music because DJing is my major activity. But when I make music I don’t particularly focus on the dance-floor. The tracks contained in my latest CD that is being released , do have a dance rhythm but were not conceived to be played in clubs….for that purpose I’ll do club-remix..

Last piece of vinyl you bought and is it going to finally pop it’s wee
plastic clogs soon?

Alex Gopher – Brain Leech (Bugged Mind rmx).
I’m buying much more vinyl now than in the 80s. Because I’m a DJ. I like the way vinyl records sound in clubs. But I use my laptop for DJing. So I sample the records at high resolution and then play the waves using Ableton Live and a good quality audioboard. In this way I can preserve the original vinyl sound. So as long as I am a DJ , I’ll buy vinyl.

Best clubbing experience?

Dublin and London…. and Barcelona.

Your house is on fire, you can only carry out one piece of vinyl or CD, what
will it be?

Problèmes d’Amour (the big label).
Anyway, supposing I had already saved a copy of it at my mother’s, then I would pick “A love Suprème” by J.Coltrane.

Non dance music, what are you listening to at the mo?

Late 60’s Jazz, Early 80’s Rock and the promos I receive.

Do you have any famous DJ mates and if so who, and what are they
really like? Go on you can tell us..

Mate? Impossible, I live in the country-side in Tuscany, I only have some friends who are musicians , living not far from my place….
On my first gig as a DJ I played with The Hacker and Kiko. They disclosed a whole world to me, I learnt a lot by listening to them. I also learnt form Marco Passarani and many others. Anyway I’m a fan of resident DJs because they are often the best and have the hardest life because they have the same audience for a whole season.

Stuff Ministry and all that crap, what is really the best club in the world?

It would be arrogant to name one. I’ve only experienced a tiny proportion of all clubs in the world. But I enjoyed parties at Nitza and The Loft in Barcelona a lot.

Your criminal record – whats the worst piece of music ever played out?

Do you mean the worst piece of music I ever made? “Forza Fiorentina”, a song dedicated to the local soccer club… it’s beyond imagination…

Best DJ in the world and why?

I don’t think there is any best DJ in the world whilst there may be the best classical music piano-player.
I believe that – given a certain standard of technical skills and music sensitivity – every DJ expresses his/her own personality , taste and feelings that are difficult to compare. It’s easier to express an opinion on how a piece by Bach is performed.


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