Roberto or Rob Kirkaldy as he is also known is a name that has been causing some serious waves through the London and Berlin Techno scenes over recent years. He takes his influences from Detroit and the underground sound of Dutch techno, and has fused the sounds to create his own unique blend of fine techno. As a DJ he brings special energy to the dance floor that is the product of many years of dedication to the art. His sets explore all angels of techno, and he is often seen playing at venues such as Fabric, Berghain, and Tresor.
Over the years Roberto has released his music and remixes on labels such as Fachwerk, Phobiq, Artform, Affin, and of course his own new label Fossil Archive. His music has been remixed by the likes of Samuel L Session, Mike Dehnert, Jamie Anderson, and Steve Rachmad. Decoded Magazine caught up with Roberto to talk about his sound, his new label, and how it all began for him.
Hi Rob, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. What have you been up to with your day?
I got back late from a gig in Aachen near Cologne last night, so I’ve been recovering in bed for much of today! I’m slowly starting to wake up and feel more human again now. The gig was really great, it was at a former air raid shelter which is now a club called the Musikbunker.
Your first foray into electronic music was through DnB. What drew you towards DnB back in the day?
Initially, a friend at school played me a tape of a live recording from a rave in 1995 where Mickey Finn was DJing. From that point I was hooked and started collecting tapes, which shortly led to buying turntables and vinyl. I’m not sure what it was specifically which drew me to it, but I remember loving the drum breaks which were used in the tracks. The bass was great, but I only fully appreciated that when I started going to clubs to hear DnB on a big sound system.
Why did you decide to move away from DnB and start to play Techno?
In 2006, as part of my acoustics degree, I was doing an industrial placement for a year near London. Whilst I was heavily in DnB at that time, I went to a couple of house and techno nights in London with some friends. In 2007 I returned to Manchester to finish my degree and didn’t make or play any DnB. When I finished my degree I rejoined the company I did my placement at to work full time and started going to more techno nights in London. I had tried to get back into DnB, but the sound had changed and it no longer appealed to me. All of a sudden the music had got more commercial and was all over daytime radio. After more digging around, I realised that all the sounds I liked previously in DnB came from Detroit techno. From that point on I started to experiment with making and playing techno.
You currently work as an acoustic consultant, as well as DJ and producing. How did your career path come about, and do you feel it helps in any way with your passion for DJing and music production?
I was studying music technology and sound engineering at college and heard about an acoustics course at the University of Salford, as the college used to have links with Salford. I went up to Salford for an open day with my dad and decided that was the path I wanted to take. I couldn’t do Acoustics initially, so I had to do a HND course in audio visual systems there beforehand. Later, I had the chance to do an industrial placement year and decided to try my hand at consultancy. I really loved the work so after my degree I knew what I wanted to do. There are some overlaps with my music, as I know about room acoustics. That can help sometimes when I play in venues where the sound might no be so good. Generally though my work involves environmental noise, so there’s not a huge crossover. Most of the people I work with are heavily into music though.
Let’s take a few minutes to talk about your productions. Am I right in thinking your first release was back in 2009 with Twin Soul? What made you want to move into music production?
The first release was in 2009, but on a label called Clubbed Up. Some friends from Birmingham were setting up a label and asked me to be involved. It helped me get started. I had starting producing around 2001 during my DnB phase, so I had gained some knowledge about how to make a track. It was the next natural step to take. I was completely obsessed with music, so I really wanted to try my hand at making it.
Since the early days you have built up a good working relationship with the likes of Jamie Anderson, Joachim Spieth, and Shlomi Aber. How did these relationships come about and what have you learned whilst working with these artists?
They all came about in different ways. I met Jamie when I was playing in Liverpool years ago. The night was a bit of a disaster, but the one great thing that came from it was meeting Jamie. After that I sent him some music and he really pushed me. We are really good friends now and I have a huge amount of respect for him. He is a really talented producer and one of my favourite DJs. He’s always on hand to give me advice. I got to know Joachim and Shlomi by sending them music. They seemed to like what I was doing and friendships followed.
When you are locked away in the studio what elements do you start to look at first when producing a track? Do you have a particular workflow?
It depends on how I’m feeling, but generally I start with the drums and then build a groove from there. Sometimes I may play with a synth or find a sample to create a hook first though and I then build the groove around that. In terms of workflow, I try to build the initial loop idea up as best as possible, so all of the elements are there. I then do the arrangement and leave the majority of the final mixdown until right at the end.
What pieces of hardware/software could you not live without in the studio?
I love my Mackie HR824 monitors. I’ve had them for over 10 years and they still sound wonderful. I also use Cubase, so that is a pretty essential part of the puzzle for me. I’m not a big hardware guy, but in the last few years I bought a Yamaha DX100 and Roland JV2080 which both sound amazing!
Let’s talk about your new label Fossil Archive. Why did you decided to run your own label, and what is the concept behind it?
I really wanted to have my own outlet for my music. I’m a bit of a control freak, so having the opportunity to do things my way with no compromises was a big thing for me. I would get frustrated when labels released 12” records with multiple tracks on each side cut at 33rpm. I wanted to change this, so all of the Fossil Archive releases are cut with one track per side at 45rpm. The goal with the label is quality over quantity. I would sooner release less often, but aim to keep the quality as high as possible. The tracks have to be tried and tested over a period of time, which has some parallels with the idea of a fossil. A fossil can be buried deep under ground for millions of years, until it is discovered. Essentially I want to not rush things and do it properly.
Your label is currently on its second release which features two tracks by yourself and Jamie Anderson. How did the two tracks come about, and did you guys work together in the studio or via the internet?
Before Jamie moved to Berlin, I spent some time at his house in Wales with him and his family. We were jamming in his studio with his hardware. We built up the basic ideas for both tracks together. Billingsella was mixed down and finished by Jamie shortly after and Corrugata was finished later on by myself at my studio. Working together in person is more difficult now that Jamie is in Berlin, but we still send ideas back and forth via the web.
One thing I did notice about the label is the fabulous and detailed artwork which comes with each release. Can you tell us a little about the artist and how you come to work with them for the label?
Me and some friends used to run a club night in London a few years ago. Through doing this I met Laura Wills (Just Add Bunny) who is a very talented artist. She used to design our flyers and when the idea of doing a label with a fossil theme came about, I approached her. She was really keen to get involved and has produced some amazing artwork so far. She has just completed Fossil Archive 3 and 4 which are looking really amazing. I’m really happy with how she has realised my ideas.
Over the last couple of years you have been asked to compile two CLR Podcasts, which are sadly no more. What were your first thoughts when being asked to record a mix for Chris Liebing?
It was a pretty daunting task, but I really enjoyed putting together both mixes. The first one was a mix which featured some of my tracks, along with tracks by others I was, and still am really into. I didn’t want to repeat the same idea with the second, so I decided to try something different and do a mix which was exclusively all my own music, apart from an edit I did. Doing a mix using all my own music was something I always wanted to try.
A few months back you played at Fabric and I believe it turned out to be quite a special night. Can you tell us a little about the night and what made it so great?
Yes it was a very special one. I opened Room 2 which I always enjoy. After I played Terry Francis went on followed by Karenn live. Robert Hood was then due to close, but after a couple of hours the room was still completely packed and Robert couldn’t carry on, so I was asked to carry on after him and close the room. Robert has been touring a lot recently and has been trying to cut down on doing really long sets. It was a shame because he played an incredible set, I didn’t want him to stop! Closing the room after such a legend was a real honour though and was absolutely magical!
You are due to play over in Berghain again in September for a Fachwerk party. Can you tell us a little about the label night, and anything special you might be planning for the night?
For some years Fachwerk have had a label party towards the end of the summer at Berghain. Last year I was honoured to be a part of it and this year I am fortunate enough to be asked again. It’s a very special place to play and doing it alongside my Fachwerk buddies makes it even more exciting. It will be my third time playing there. I don’t have anything specifically planned (I never plan my sets), but I hope to be able to play some new unsigned tracks of mine as well as new forthcoming Fossil Archive material.
You have spent quite a bit of time over in Berlin over the years. When the lights go out and the party has finished where are some of your favourite places to hang out and chill (if that is possible) in the city?
Recently I discovered The Record loft. It’s a great place to lose yourself for hours and dig for records. I also love going to small restaurant in Friedrichshain called Kurhaaus Korsakow. The Fachwerk guys turned me on to that place. It does great German food. There’s also another great little place in Friedrichshain called Datscha that does Russian food. If the weathers nice, I like to hang out by the river off Kottbusser Strasse.
Over recent months we have seen a number of DJs pretty much destroy their careers via social media due to outbursts and inappropriate behaviour. What are thoughts on the likes of Facebook and Twitter as an artist today, and what do you feel are some of the pros and cons of such tools?
It’s a great way of connecting with people and letting them discover what you are about. You just have to be careful not to get yourself into any negative situations. I try to keep away from any negativity to be honest. I just don’t see the point and try to focus on the positives. Life’s too short to be negative.
Can you tell us five tracks that are currently rocking it for you right now?
Ok some new and old ones here:
Endlec – Suspense
Mike Dehnert – Hain
Steve Rachmad – Thera 1.0 (Newly Assembled By Heiko Laux)
Roman Lindau – Blue Jive
Qindek – Outbreak
Finally what can we expect from Roberto in terms of releases this year? Is there maybe an album on the horizon?
Fossil Archive 003 is coming in October. It will feature two new tracks by myself. Following that will be Fossil Archive 004 in March 2016 which features Voiski and myself. I’m also working on new material for Fachwerk. I’d love to do an album at some point, but I don’t feel as though I’m ready for that yet. I’d like to continue to release 12’s for a bit longer first.
Tracklist is unavailable due to Roberto recording the mix live at Musikbunker Aachen, Germany.