Home Interviews Feature: Robbie Fithon [Interview]

Feature: Robbie Fithon [Interview]

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Robbie Fithon makes a momentous return to his 6913 Digital imprint with the outstanding EP, The Valiant Fading. Having picked up early support and praise from the likes of John Digweed, Tale of Us, Ame, Dixon, Danny Tenaglia and many other headline DJs, this is a landmark release for the label. ‘The Valiant Fading’ blurs the lines between melodic techno and cinematic ambient with retro analogue synths and drum machines combining to produce an emotional sonic journey through sci-fi landscapes and dreamy neon worlds. We had a chance to catch up with Robbie for an exclusive interview just prior to the release. Enjoy!

Hi Robbie, thanks for sitting with us today. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

I’ve been revisiting Kraftwerk’s albums recently. Also I’ve been really impressed by the way electronic music has evolved of late. I’ve been sent some amazing demos of Melodic Techno which is less dancefloor focused and more complex in terms of composition and sound design.

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? The UK was hit pretty hard early on. How are things now? Are you seeing some brighter days there now?

Until people come together and accept collective responsibility for preventing transmission and finding a vaccine, nothing will change. This pandemic and the way it has been mismanaged by so many governments, including our own here in the UK, has really exposed some fundamental flaws in the global political structure. The UK government is completely transparent in using the pandemic as an excuse to blatantly widen the wealth gap. Rather than focusing on preventing transmission, they seem to be using the opportunity to drive independent businesses out of existence, particularly in the arts and entertainment sector. I’m afraid the outlook for the UK is pretty bleak right now.

How did your summer differ from previous years?

Georgie-May (my fiancé) and I usually travel a lot, so spending all summer at home was a really big change for us. We ended up driving to Scotland and hiking up Ben Nevis after 6 months of isolation, just for a change of scenery.

What is something you do now (regularly) that you did not before COVID-19?

Wear a mask in public! Seriously, I think many of us (artists) have become a lot more political as this crisis has really exposed the dishonesty self serving nature of our politicians.

How has this new normal affected your inspiration and creativity in the studio?

The style of music I’m creating has evolved into a more ambient, cinematic style. I’m conscious of the fact I don’t need to think about what will work on the dancefloor as much.

Once nightlife eventually resumes globally what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

We’re looking at a post Covid future where a very small number of very large companies own and control almost all of the venues where we’ll be able to hear music. As large corporations tend to be run by people whose sole objective is profit I think its highly unlikely things will change for the better, at least not at first.

The light at the end of the tunnel would be that, as history has shown, it’s entirely possible there’ll be a backlash to this market driven, profit focused model and we’ll see very small venues begin to open, catering to more underground tastes, along with a resurgence of illegal underground parties.

What is your feeling on all the live stream sets happening now because of COVID-19?

It’s really good to hear new talent and this has shown us all how talented some of these unknown artists can be. It’s also shown the established artists who are in it for the love of the music rather than just the money, with DJs like John Digweed and Sasha doing free livestreams while other big name DJs are trying to charge people.

You have a new EP entitled ‘The Valiant Fading’ out now on your 6913 Digital imprint. Tell us a bit about the release and walk us through the production process on the title track.

With The Valiant Fading I set out to produce a soundtrack for an imaginary Sci-Fi movie, set within the parameters of the Melodic Techno sound of 6913 Digital. The title track was produced using Ableton Live, as all my production are. The chords came first, a progression in G Minor. The cool thing about electronic music is that the sound design has to match the notes and chords. You can write a piece for strings or piano that sounds great, but try playing it on a synth with a certain sound and you often find the need to make changes, so it’s a different way of composing. Drums are generally added gradually throughout the production process, as they are a really important element in electronic music. Lead parts and arpeggios most often come about as a result of experimentation, just jamming along with what’s already there, the chords and drum programming.I took a different approach to the arrangement of these pieces than I normally would for a Melodic Techno track. I wanted each track to tell its own part of the story, so I used long fade intros and ambient sections rather than the more DJ friendly rhythmic intros and outros.

There were a lot of retro drum machines and analogue synths used in the creation of this EP. What were some of the pieces you used most?

The Yamaha CS80 features very heavily across the whole EP, as does the Roland TR 808. I feel the CS80 sound is associated with that Sci-Fi vibe and the 808 compliments those sounds perfectly.

When listening to the EP in entirety, how do you feel the tracks complement one another, versus if they stood alone?

When I release an EP (as Robbie Fithon) the whole EP is intended to be listened to as one coherent entity. The tracks are in order in which I intend them to be listened to. There are tracks which will stand alone better than others, but I think they’ll sound better in context of the whole EP.

What are some more recent inspirations (musical or not) that have fueled your contemporary soundscape?

The SpaceX launch was a big deal. Not only for the significance of marking a new chapter in space exploration, but I feel it brought a new sense of optimism to the world at large. And obviously we can’t avoid mentioning the pandemic again; the sense of uncertainty and growing feeling that our leaders are betraying a us seems to be creating a feeling of solidarity among artists.

When it comes to your productions what is it that you’re aiming to achieve with them?

It’s interesting to deconstruct the music of artists from different musical backgrounds and identify the influences. Most of my contemporaries in Ambient music tend to come from strict Classical backgrounds, whereas I’m able to blend that with my experience in producing Techno and House music. These influences can be heard in my compositions; the looping phrases, the transitions between sections and the use of synth effects and drum machines. I guess I’m attempting to combine what I do in my Techno/House productions with the Classical and Ambient style compositions.

You’ve been primarily releasing music under your LANGBARD alias over the last year or so. What was it that brought you back to your original moniker for this particular release?

Mainly the situation with the global pandemic and the effect it’s had on electronic music. With a noticeable move towards more “listening” music than club focused tracks, it made sense for me to put this new material out under my own name. LANGBARD is still very much alive as a project, but the main focus was always more upbeat, club friendly tracks. Whereas my output under my own name is much more Ambient/Electronica.

Are you experiencing a shift in taste or a prioritization of non-club music for your label at the moment because of the lack of live gigs?

Definitely. Just as my own style has evolved around this, I’m also receiving a lot more demos that are clearly not intended for club play, but still fit nicely into a Melodic Techno mix. The sound of 6913 Digital is beginning to change and I’ve noticed this in a a lot of other labels in our genre too, particularly the bigger ones.

Is there a movie you would have loved to have produced the soundtrack for? And if so why?

Ask any electronic music artist and chances are they’d say Blade Runner. But since Vangelis did such an awesome job there, I’d pick something more obscure like The Andromeda Strain or Solaris (the original by Andrei Trakovsky, not the recent remake)
I think my spooky, minor key style would be a good fit for the darker, more tense nature of movies like these.

Current five favourite tracks?

Colyn – Merging Realities, from the Patterns EP.
Kidnap – Silence
Space Motion – Playground
Carlo Whale – Melancholia
Stylo & Space Motion – Sunshine

What is your favourite food?

Middle Eastern

Iphone or android?

Iphone since version 1. Everything else is Apple so it all works together.

What does the remainder of 2020 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

We’ve got some great releases lined up on 6913 Digital before the end of the year and I have a film score underway which is really exciting.

‘The Valiant Fading’ is out now via 6913 Digital: https://bit.ly/3k5b6Rk

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