Mostly Robot Interview: DJ Shiftee, Jamie Lidell, Tim Exile, Jeremy Ellis, Mr Jimmy @ Sonar 2012

Native Instruments recently announced the formation of Mostly Robot – a team of five exceptional and well-respected musicians and performers.  The members of this super-band includes Dubspot instructor and turntablist extraordinaire DJ Shiftee, British soul singer and electronic musician Jamie Lidell, the ridiculously talented Jeremy Ellis, producer and performer Tim Exile, and keyboard player Mr. Jimmy. Dubspot caught up with Mostly Robot ahead of their highly anticipated debut performance at Sónar 2012 by Day Program for an exclusive interview in which the members discuss their shared ideas, influences, the current state of music technology, the future of the band, the importance of the human element in live performances, and much more! Needless to say, their performance at Sonar is guaranteed to be one of the most unique events at the festival this year. Read our exclusive interview below.

What are some of your shared ideas, influences, views on the current state of music technology?

Jamie – Make laptops fun.  Everything that used to be done in the realm of synthesis and the analog world can all be done on computers .  You have to embrace the laptop and not deny it as something that’s ugly.  It’s not everyone’s favorite aesthetic, but you can’t deny it. Feel the power, use the power.  It’s an open book.  You can liken the computer to an instrument that no one’s learned.  You can’t really master a computer since it’s growing away from you.  There’s no end. You can’t get to the end of level boss with a laptop.

Jimmy – We all use computers in a crazy way as new instruments.  If you deny the computer, you’re missing out a little bit.  What’s cool is everyone is flipping it in his own way.  Laptops have started to creep on the stage or backstage of every band.

Shiftee – We are all trying to push the envelope in our own fields with respect to technology.  I don’t think anyone settles in to what they’ve always been doing.  New toys come out and we want in.

Jeremy – We’re all definitely pushing the envelope as far as our skill sets and technology is concerned.  It’s also pretty strange to hang out with this many people who know what an LFO is.

Tim – I completely deny the existence of laptops.  The laptop never happened.  Steve Jobs never lived.

Tim Exile and Native Instruments present “The Mouth”

How are you all preparing for the Sonar performance – individuals and as Mostly Robot?

Jamie – Lyrics.  Lyrics is a big thing for me.  Memory and learning stuff quickly and holding the form of these songs.  And before, writing, writing the melodies and lyrics.  It’s old school.  I’m taking the old school in a way.  Singing, songwriting.

Jimmy – Programming.  I think everyone did a bit of programming. Whether it’s the last month or the last year or two years, everyone’s been programming.  And dreaming!  Dreaming first, programming second.

Shiftee – I’m eating a ton of Gazpacho.  Seriously, I ate 8 bowls of Gazpacho yesterday.  As a group, we work largely in a song structure. We’ve got our tunes, so a lot of the preparation is just arranging and practicing our songs.  Right now, we’re practicing for a week in Sitges, Spain – villa style.

Jeremy -  It’s the mindset of taking a one man band and removing chunks of it robotically.

Tim – I am trying to work out how I can have enough will power to do 25% of what I normally do.–j0_yxBaYJamie Lidell – Little Bit of Feel Good

What’s the ultimate goal for Mostly Robot? What are your plans after the > Sonar performance?

Jamie – The ultimate plan is pleasure.  Musical pleasure.  It’s a decadent band.  We are in a villa right now with catering to do 1 show.  We are embracing the decadent potential of this band.  It’s a got a lot of weird intersecting things, it’s like a meeting of the minds on a technological and musical level.  It’s cool just to see where everyone’s at.  Everything else is a side effect.   We can relax and be creative.

Jimmy – Ultimate goal is just to have fun.  That’s my whole deal.  I want it to be the funnest hobby band in the world.  If we get together 3-4 times a year.  Friendship, healing.  I hope I can convert everyone to Jesus.

Tim – I’m going head to head with Jimmy and converting everyone to Buddhism.  I’m in it for the hang, gonna see what happens.  I want to make some Mostly Robot machines.  Especially Robot machines.

Shiftee – The rehearsals have produced some cool music, so watch out for some Mostly Robot releases.  We’d like to keep playing, even if it’s a few times a year.  Get together, hang out and have fun, make some new music, and play a show or two.  Watch out for Mostly Robot brand gazpacho as well.

Jeremy – World robot domination.

Traktor Kontrol F1 – Scratch Clips w/ Shiftee and Greg Nice

Why the decision not to use a MIDI clock and emphasize the human element/your individual ability to playing independently on your own but keeping the group in mind?

Jamie – It forces you to actually play live.  Everyone can play live, so everyone does play live.  That’s what keeps it a little wonky and wobbly.

Jimmy – This is one I kind of didn’t believe in at first.  But after we got into it, that’s the whole point, taking computers off quantization.  In Nashville, that’s everyone’s problem with computers.  “What, you’re on a grid!?!?!?  You guys are faking it.  The computers are doing all the work.”  It’s not like that.  So we’re slipping off the grid.  It makes it breathe.  It makes it real.

Tim – I’m kind of stuck with my own MIDI clock.  My machine has its own thing, so it snaps to its own grid.  Sometimes I go off the grid. I can’t really keep a free tempo, it needs to be locked to some kind of tempo.  It’s a little difficult in the band, since everyone else is playing free.  I’m a free floating clock, I get my clock out and rock out.

Shiftee – I think that’s when we all have the most fun.  When you’re off the grid there’s a layer of excitement and danger.  We’re mostly robot, but we’re still humans.

Jeremy – I never use MIDI clock personally.  It is indeed about the human element of the robots.  Robots need to be programmed.  You can program them to act freely.

Jeremy Ellis performs on Maschine Mikro

Conceived by Native Instruments, Mostly Robot will utilize an advanced array on NI hardware and software, pioneering a creative interplay between technology and cutting-edge artists from diverse musical backgrounds.

Mostly Robot is a real band, made up of exceptional artists: Jamie Lidell, Tim Exile, Jeremy Ellis, Mr Jimmy and DJ Shiftee. Truly ‘live’, each musician plays independently of each other – instruments are synced only by the human element, with no MIDI clock or prepared grid obstructing their creativity.

Placing themselves in the tradition of inspiring jazz concerts, Mostly Robot draw their magic from bringing highly skilled individuals together, creating a unique momentum. What’s more, the Sónar showcase is a rare moment to catch a glimpse of yet unreleased song material from individual band members.