A conversation with Northern Poland's electro producer Robodrum

Coming up in the sixth of my series of conversations with electro producers, DJs, label owners and scene makers, I travel virtually to Northern Poland to the city of Szczecin to speak with Robodrum. He's not only busy dropping dope music in his home bass of Poland, but also had a feature cut on the excellent Advanced Funk Volume One compilation released this year. This is the second interview I've done in Poland, and a follow up to the recent interview with Elektropunkz label head Elektromonter. We get deep on this one.....

First things first, tell the City of Bass readers a little about yourself

My name is Przemek Kuduk, and I go by Robodrum. I come from Szczecin, a city in the north west corner of Poland, very close to the German border. I started producing music around 1998. Around that time, Poland was experiencing it's first wave of rap music and I set up a crew with a few friends to try our hand at hip hop. Of course, this was all very amateur, but it served as my introduction to music production. My main role in the group was serving up beats. We wound up doing a few concerts and came out of it with three or so demo's, all on cassette tape.

It was this experience that really turned me on to the original sounds of early hip hop, otherwise known as electro funk. My first big inspiration, as I'm sure he is to many in the scene, was Grandmaster Afrika Bambatta. His ideas and global perspective, the Zulu Nation... all of this served to show me the way, if you will. When I first heard 'Planet Rock' it ignited a spark in me.

No doubt. Planet Rock was really a bridge to so many producers, myself included. So the original sounds of old school hip hop, electro funk, they got you going. Can you tell me a little more about that?

Hip Hop culture, of which I was a huge fan, was comprised of course of the four elements, from rhyming, DJing, graffiti and breakdancing. It was breakdancing that really gave me the electro virus, and that's been going on 12 years now. Every time I'd go to events and parties, I was always most amped for the b-boy battles, because I knew when that part of the evening would get going, the DJ would be dropping cuts I couldn't get my hands on at the time - old school electro and breakbeat classics!

Additionally, one of my neighbors sorted me with a little CD burned from MP3s. It doesn't sound like much, but for me it was as if I'd received a gift from heaven - it had cuts from Aux 88, Egyptian Lover, Hashim. As my ears and eyes opened to this greater scene, I started to make up for lost time, watching old school classics like Beat Street, Wild Style... I didn't yet know about the new school sounds of electro at the time, but I do remember in the late 90s Westbam was kind of bridging this gap between old school electro and more modern sounds.

It was really around 2000, I was telling a mate of mine about my fascination with the sound of old school electro funk and he wrote me back with only two words: Rother and Exzakt. That was a wrap, these two artists opened a new world to me and I've been on the electro path ever since.

Tell us about your studio and production philosophy

Unfortunately I am limited to producing via software, which I'm sure has some kind of influence on the my sounds.

You know, Przemek, this is a debate that rages on in the production world, but listening to your records I'd be hard pressed to tell how you made your cuts - its just quality and I don't particularly take one side over the other - its not the tools you use but what comes out in the end. Listening to your music from the early days to now, I see a really big progression. Tell me about the evolution of your sound.

I've always looked at producing electro music as pure and clean fun. When I listen back to my early recordings from 2000-2003... It sounds totally amateur, but it brings back good memories. I see a young producer who's just discovered a secret vision and who's producing music for aliens.

That aside, for some time now I've been studying the art of mastering, because I see gaps in my sound. To this day, I'm still not 100% happy from the technical side of things. In the past I didn't really care about this side of producing, I was more lost in the creative process and creating dope records, but now I feel it's really important.

I guess in part this has to do with that my music is being heard by a bigger audience. You want your tracks to sound on par with what other artists are putting out. I always get encouraged by positive reviews and words from fans, but I can't get away from this feeling that my sound isn't 100% where I want it to be yet.

I think that's the bane of every producer, even the big guys. Whats your process? What gear or software do you use?

I start out with laying down drum sequences, and dropping them in FL Studio and layering them with effects. For processing samples I use Goldwave and Cool Edit. My final mix down processes and prep for finishing is in Acid Pro. I use a variety of text to speech programs, as well as Cylonix vocoder. Other than that, I'm always looking for new sounds and dialogues. Lately I've been having a lot of inspiration from American 1950's era sci-fi films. I love to chop and sample the dialogue from these films!

I came across you and elektropunkz after my interview with DVS NME from Dark Science Radio. He mentioned you guys as ones to look out for when I ask folks about who they're checking out. There's a lot of electro music activity going on in Eastern Europe and former soviet bloc countries. Alavux from Serbia had some interesting things to say about this, as did Elektromonter. I'm curious as to what your take is on electro in Eastern Europe and especially in Poland.

Yes, definitely you can say there is a bigger consortium of electro music coming from Eastern Europe. There's more and more quality producers and DJ's from either former Soviet block countries and from the Balkans. Why now? Where were we in the 90s? Where were we during the time when electro, and electronic music in general had its big push in Great Britain, Germany, France...later in Spain and the Scandinavian countries? Alavux talked about it from the perspective of the mental influence the Eastern European history has had on producers. I fall on the side of politics and society. For the longest time during the iron curtain days we were blocked from access and information to the outside world, not just from the music perspective but in general, everything.

There wasn't a lot of knowledge and info for example about Kraftwerk, or the hip hop culture in the US... even after the wall fell, until the middle half of the 90s people only had access to two television stations. Only folks with money could afford themselves the luxury of a satellite antenna and access to MTV, for example. Later with the full on access to the internet, that was the real eye opener for folks. It's only now that we're in the process for making up for lost decades of information, culture etc.... and hence why you're seeing this influx of electro from the east!

I left Poland many many years ago, right before they shut down the country with martial law and so forth. I remember my first visit back after communism fell in 1992, it was a very weird time. Since then, Poland has really moved towards westernization - can you tell me how this influence of Western culture has affected your musical stylings, and if any remains from the dark days in Poland remain and influence your music in particular?

I was born during the martial law years. During the entire 80s, life in Poland was very much full of hard times and constantly the unknown. In 1992, when you came back here, we had our new government, our new president and finally democracy. This was indeed a time of great change, and which didn't fix things as quickly as everyone had hoped of course. It wasn't until after the fall of the old regime, and the long process of dismantling the censures, that musicians could finally, without outside influences put there art out there as it was intended. It was the time of the first Polish hip hop groups, which greatly influenced me. These events really showed me that real change was possible in Eastern Europe.

After the events in Poland, the Soviet regime collapsed, other countries in the region embraced democracy and the communist regime evaporated. Did these events have an influence on me and my music? I don't think so. I would venture to say that hard times in the 80s to the eyes of a child didn't really look so bad. Although I might have these times ingrained in my soul and psyche, because I do make lots of dark paranoid dramatic tunes :) I can't imagine making 'happy' electro. I love darkstyle.

That's an interesting perspective. It's funny, because I don't have a lot of memories from Poland, but I do in particular remember standing in long lines to buy a piece of bread, and I remember the store being almost completely empty. This would be in the late 70s thought. But you're right, I'd be hard pressed to say that these memories have influenced my own production style, but who knows. Tell me, what do you think about the state of the electro scene overall and where it's going?

I don't think there's any reason to worry about the future of electro music. What's more, from the last 2 to 3 years, there's been so many dope producers that have come into the mix, so to speak, that once could say there is a new wave of electro music happening now. Almost on each continent, you can find a group of people, sometimes a bunch, sometimes a few, but always a group who are feeling this electro vibe and making things happen. But I don't see this music becoming popular with the masses. I think real electro in general has a rather underground feeling. Of course this doesn't apply to electro-house, or electro-pop and the rest of that mess. Reading the commentary on Soundcloud tracks, or on sites such as electro empire, technobass.net, I see artists and producers treating each other with respect, pushing each others sounds and generally creating this family vibe. Producers remix each others tracks, they invite each other to collaborations.. The electro scene hasn't had it this good in a long long time. If only some of the bigger names in the scene would come back and start putting out electro again, it'd be all good!

Any thoughts on the top newcomers to the electro scene to look out for?

My favorite up and coming producer from the Polish electro scene is dj NAIL, which I'm sure we'll all get to hear his music publicly soon. He's a very talented cat, and who's also producing ambient as well. Also, I'm checking for DJ Eprom, one of the cream of the crop in terms of turntablism, and he not only produces electro but also just released a dubstep album.

Next up for me would be Cody Commando... he really represented on a recent EP release for DJ Xed's Crobot Music. He's a young producer with a real knack for minimal dark electro. I should also mention Edemski, who's got a great live PA act. If heads are into freestyle, they should also check for Extatick, Makush1no and Sonic Division.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Elektropunkz of course - they're not only organizing and putting on events, but releasing music and doing many other projects for the Polish electro scene.

Around the beginning of December, you'll be able to see Synapse from the UK here. We already had DMX Krew, Illektrolab, Legowelt and thanks to the initiative of other promoters, brought in DJ Xed and N-Ter. We've got parties going in cities such as Warsaw, Wroclaw, Bialystok, Lublin, and Lodz. From time to there are electro parties in Gdansk as well.

Can you share any night clubs or other spots folks should check out if they visit the city of Szczecin?

Two clubs to look out for are Mezzoforte and Alter Ego, where along with the PCV crew I organize dnb, dubstep, electro, and breaks parties.That's really it as far as the underground Szczeczin nightlife.. the majority of folks here go to events with techno, tek-house, minimal , trance, rnb, dancehall or hits from MTV of Viva ;).. I go to these from time to time . We also have a yearly music festival BOOGIE BRAIN, worth checking out.

Where can bassheads find you on the web?


You can also find me on www.binalogproductions.gr

Thanks for taking the time to let heads know a little more about you, to wrap up, what's next for Robodrum?

My most recent releases you can find on a couple of different compilations. On``ADVANCED FUNK vol1`` - on that one I put out `Army of Droids` (Note- you can cop this most excellent track and the rest of Advanced Funk here)

Robodrum - Army of Droids (Advanced Funk vol1 bonus track) by robodrumakaelectromonter

For an upcoming release on Elektropunkz ``THE ROBOTS RIOT-Act One`` I'm putting out `Retrolectroboteknoise`. I also have three tracks coming out on a new compilation called Poltron Invaders, which is a joint project with several Polish artists, also coming out on Elektropunkz. Finally, I'd like to mention a goal of mine, to put together a 4 track EP and have it put out on Canada's Intelligenix Records... I'm hoping they'll dig what I'm cooking up enough to put it out.

I wanted to say thanks for having me on the City of Bass blog. I'd like to send a shout out to DVS NME , DJ Skeme, Chris Spotta, DJ Elusive, lb.ip, Binalog, Illektrolab and everyone who's kept me going with words of encouragement.

Editor's note: Robodrum's interview was translated to English by the author. .....

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