Sunday, August 01, 2004

rob lee

interview & photos by todd ~ Having not heard from my friend in a while, I thought that it might be time to sit down and chat with him about where he's been hiding and what he's been up to. I first heard Rob play quite a while back at some unremembered party at a time when he was playing more trancier, progressive house stuff, but recognized an innovator as soon as I heard him. He has progressed musically quite a bit since that time and is now exploring the depths of Tribal House.

You were born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. Is that where you first became involved in Electronic Music?

Yea, it was just that underground scene. Back then it was basically the same group of people. Everybody went to the same punk shows, hiphop shows, concerts... you know. I was real big in to Punk Rock as far as NoFX, Bad Religion and Pennywise, those types of bands and I was also real big into HipHop, like A Tribe Called Quest, mostly that East Coast sort of Underground HipHop sound. I really like that, along with FarSide and you know... just that feeling. It was the typical stuff every 14-15 year old was listening to growing up at that time.

I'm sure you've heard of DeepSky, well they were coming up then and there was a couple of places offering Electronic music and well... people invited you and you went and I was real big in to Break Dancing from the HipHop scene and so that's why we went. We went to go dance and have a good time and it was just about the party. Back then it really wasn't about "raves", or going out and getting trashed. It was just parties and you went and you had a good time and Electronic music was coming up, but it wasn't really ever seperated at that time into different scenes, like now. At least in Albuquerque it wasn't, because everything is so tight knit down.

I ended up meeting some DJs through all of this. This guy named Eric Holland. Him and his wife ended up working for my mom at their furniture shop and I met him at this this business casual dinner thing and we were talking and he told me he was a DJ and I got real interested in that and ended up hangin out with him and talking to him a lot more and going over to his house and he got me real in to playing records.

What did you start off playing out there?

I wasn't playing yet, but Eric, the guy that introduced me to a lot of this was into Goa, Trance and House. He played a little bit of DnB. He was an older guy with kids and he and everyone else were mostly just in to playing records. They just liked to play records. They weren't involved in any of the politcs or anything. They just like to have a good time. Like I said, it really wasn't a big issue for him, he just like to hear good music and have a good time and he turned me on to a lot of really good music, not just electronica.

What was the first rave that you played?

I think it would be A Momentary Lapse of Time in Springfield, in March of 2000 and I helped throw the party with some friends. I played, though it was like real late in the night sometime. I didn't do very good at all. I look back on that and think... Oh God how embarrassing to think about to talk about.

But after that, I started getting gigs and I played a party named Violated up here in KC and got in with this group of people. I met SVS, who wasn't SVS at the time, but yea... I met Mike and came up here and lived with him for quite a while and just started getting involved. I worked for 180 Records when they were open, for DJ True. He worked there and just become more and more involved. From there it kind of took off. It happened pretty rapidly too.

Where did you pull the name from, DJ RobLee?

Well, when you're young and your mom yells at you, it's almost always by your first and second name. You know, like, "Robert Lee, Go Clean Your Room." I've never been one to have a nickname. I just wanted to be myself and my last name is kind of a weird last name and Rob Lee kind of fit, so it's just what I used coming up. It's just my name. A lot of people change their names or change their style, but I know a lot about branding or marketing and it's almost always better to keep your same name. You don't change. I've seen DJs change their name and then end up having to start all over again because nobody knows who they are. People recognize your name, but don't know you personally, they look for your name.

Let's get to the real reason I wanted to sit down and talk with you for a minute though... We haven't seen that much of you in the DJ booth this year, what have you been up to? Let's start with style. What would you call your style now?

I play Tribal House, or Iberican house.

Iberican?

Yea.. It's a style derived the area of the Iberican pennisula, south of California. There's some super clubs down there and it's a great tourist attraction.

Do you mean, like the Baja area?

Yea, but there's a sound that comes from there and it's also based in South America. Tons of percussion, tons of horns. Not so much a latin feel, but definitely something different. It's not your typical house. I like house music, but... I used to play a lot of Trance and a lot of Progressive and there's a lot of Progressive Tribal that I'll play. There's a lot of deep chunky grungy dirty house that is really kind of chuggy and that's what I like about it. There's not a lot of cheese involved in it, there's not a lot of super epic breakdowns or anything. It's just straightforward and it's just house music.

One of my goals is to really bring different sounds to this area and bring differnt sounds to people's ears because I feel that not a lot of people in the midwest know what tribal house is. It's real big on the coast. It's big overseas, but it's not big in the midwest at all because not a lot of people play it out here. I think that's half the reason I like it so much is because not everyone is doing it out here.

One of my big influences for playing tribal house and going this direction was meeting up with Josh C. I met up with him two years ago. I met him at this huge outdoor party in South Dakota and we started talking records and he pulled out his box and I started digging through and I recognized all the producers. I recognized all the labels, but had never heard any of the tracks that he had and it was so different than anything that I had been playing, but it was all still in that same vein. We talked and I asked where he lived and it happens that he lived like 5 blocks down the street from me and I told him that we needed to hook up. He asked me about playing records and getting gigs and I told him Ok cool... I want to tag team with you and we did.

Do you have one mix on your web site that is The Prime Example of what your style is?

Sure... Actaully, it's a mix that I recently did for a radio show. You can download it from MoreDrums.com . It's a mix of Tech House, Deep House, Tribal House and Progressive House, but it's all got this dub feeling to it and that's where I'm at now. That's not where I was six months ago and that's not where I'll be six months from now, but it's following a path and I've never really jumped around, but always followed one steady path and I'm always searching for the farthest, weirdest record that just fucking bangs, that nobody else has.

Didn't you tell me something about a radio show?

Well, since I've started producing and since I've started kind of being a hermit and sitting in my basement a lot, I've met a lot of people online. I wanted to find people like Josh that like music like I do. I met some people out on the west coast, just through file-sharing and swapping tracks. I met a record label, Fiberline Audio, and they really liked what I had to offer and they wanted to hear some of my production and they picked up a track that I had written, a Progressive BreakBeat type of track and they really enjoyed it. I plan to continue to put out tracks through them, but they are a digital label, they don't press vinyl and they picked me up and put me on their roster and the A&R rep from there got me in contact with a guy from Brazil who recently moved to Florida to finish up college and start his DJ career and in this he wanted to start a radio show. He owns TunExposure.com and they do radio shows every night of the week and I sent him a mix and he said, "Great dude! When do you want to start?"

What else have you got going on?

I've got several tracks coming out, though I can't say any label names at this point. I have some thing that are ready to be pressed to vinyl and a lot of stuff that I've been passing around that people are really interested in. Josh is very much a part of that and a part of what I do and it's a little weird. I don't know where it's going, but it's going somewhere. You hit a roadblock and you just have to change perspective. There was a bit of frustartion for a couple of monhts and I didn't know how to handle not playing locally anymore, but I decided to take that focus and say screw it and go national. There's a so much wider audience and at this point, I"m back to square one where I'm going to play and make the music that I like and if other people like it, good. It's not about money. It's just about getting my music out there. In the end, yes... I would like to be doing this for a living...

That's kind of my take as well. From a different angle, it is about the money, because this is what you want to do and in order to do it and continue to do it successfully, you have to be compensated for it.

Sure, Sure.. but you can't make it about just the money because then you're back to that whole corporate monster thing and I just want to do what I want to do, not what somebody else wants me to do. There are many other producers out there that are a lot better than me that give me hints and tips and suggestions and that's all good, as long as I keep myself focused on what I want to do and not sacrifice what I am playing or what I am playing to please somebody else just to make a buck. I just want to be able to produce it and if people want it, they'll buy it. It's not the easiest route, or the best way to do it, in terms of trying to make a living at it, but I want to have a foundation. I want to have a solid foundation to set my own sound on. I think that will get me a lot farther in the long run than just trying to make a quick buck, turn it over and rise real fast. I want to take this slow. Three or four years on the local scene is good, but now I want to take the next 5 or 10 and build on it rather than just sitting in KC waiting for the next gig. I, as well as Josh have a lot of gigs lined up nationally that I really can't talk too much about now, as well as maybe an International gig or two.

I've never been outside of the country and I think it will be good. There are a lot of people that are interested, but I feel like I need to be putting out more and producing more. I'm still in the very early stages of what I'm trying to accomplish.

I do have a lot of big things are coming up though. I'm finally on a record label, doing my own radio show. I think those are just the beginning stage of bigger things. I'm finally starting to meet some of the people who's records I play, meet the lable owners. I'm finding my niche, but it takes time. It doesn't just happen in one day and I feel like I got a shot. I feel like I have something special and I can do what I want to do and I'm not scared to find out. I've put in 10 years and it's what I do. I still listen to everything, HipHOp, Punk and all that, but DJing isn't just a hobby for me anymore.

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