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Feature: LANGBARD [Interview]

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Amidst much praise Robbie Fithon conceptualized the LANGBARD alias in 2019. The UK artist revamped his creative process and carved out a unique and contemporary sound as a result. Just a handful of releases into this new journey and the Manchester resident has already earned support from the industry’s top tastemakers in Adriatique, Ame, Solomun, Tale of Us and John Digweed. Now on the cusp of a new EP for his 6913 imprint we catch up with Robbie in this exclusive interview. Enjoy!

Hi Robbie, thanks for sitting with us today! Tell us where in the world you are today and what your plans for the week are.

Hi Guys, thanks for having me! I’m currently in London, setting up lots of new releases for 6913 Digital and working on a couple of remixes.

Tell us more about your story. How did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a producer and Dj?

I grew up surrounded by music. My dad was a well known DJ in the Disco era with a residency at one of Manchester’s most popular clubs. So collecting records and creating mixtapes was always part of my life.

Tell us about your record/music collection, where do some of your early influences live? Or can you name five tracks that were influential in your musical development?

The moment I knew I wanted to produce music was the first time I heard Detroit Techno. It was introduced to me by my great friend, Johnny Abstract, a legend on the Manchester underground and to this day one of the best DJs I’ve ever heard.

If I had to pick 5 tracks that have influenced my sound more than any others it would have to be (in no particular order);

Underground Resistance - Predator Basic Channel - Phylyps Trak Maurizio - Ploy (UR Mix)

Basic Channel - Quadrant Dub Underground Resistance - The Theory

How has growing up in and living in the UK shaped your sound and career?

I feel I’ve been very fortunate being based in the UK. The whole electronic music scene was adopted earlier here and grew much faster than most other places, so I was exposed to a lot of different influences from the outset.

I think in the beginning, back in the vinyl days it was probably a bit easier to run a label from the UK because the infrastructure was established earlier, but now we’re in the digital age I don’t think location is a factor.

Are you musically trained? And do you think it’s necessary for success in writing electronic music?

I don’t have any formal musical training, however I did take the time to learn music theory and develop a basic understanding of playing keys.

It can’t be understated how much of an advantage it gives an artist to have some knowledge of music theory and playing skills. Music is like a language and while it may be possible to get by winging it in certain cases, it’s always apparent to the listener if the progressions work properly. Plus it makes creating music much more rewarding and workflow much more fluid.

You previously released under the name of Robbie Fithon but sometime in 2019 retooled your sound and opted for a career reset with the LANGBARD alias in a way. Tell us about the decision to do that and was this creative shift something that just happened naturally in the studio?

I was producing and releasing music in several quite disparate genres, along with scoring music commercially under my own name and I wanted to create a new identity for the particular type of music I was most passionate about as an artist. LANGBARD is about that particular deep, melodic, ethereal brand of Techno that I love to produce and play.

You have a new EP entitled ‘Remnants Part One’ out this week on your 6913 Digital imprint, tell us a bit about the collection and walk us through the production process on one of the tracks, whichever one you like.

Remnants is a concept I arrived at after going through my catalogue of unreleased work. Each instalment of the Remnants output will be based around the same format, a collection of modern, melodic Techno tracks with a nod to my early influences, hence the name Remnants. I see the influences of those early Techno classics in the music I produce as a kind of residue from that period.

My production process is very streamlined. I work really quickly. I love the sound of analogue gear and a lot of the sounds you hear in my music are produced using my collection of analogue synths. I produce using Ableton and have created my own template which I use to produce all my tracks. The Allen & Heath K2 controllers I use on stage are also used in my productions to record automation in real time, as I believe it’s important to continually make subtle changes to sounds over the course of a track. I also use an Allen & Heath mixer in the studio and all my audio is routed through its internal interface. People often comment on the warmth and width of my productions and I attribute this largely to Allen & Heath’s sound quality. I’ve used their products for years.

Recently you’ve only released projects from yourself on the label, are you still planning on signing other artists as well? If so, what advice would you have for someone hoping to release their music on 6913?

Yeah, the decision to just put out my own music was so I could really establish a distinct sound for the label. I knew exactly how I wanted 6913 Digital to sound. It seems to have worked as I’ve started to receive some great demos now which fit the aesthetic perfectly. Actually I’ve recently signed a few new artists and you should be seeing those releases soon.

In terms of your own tracks how do you decide what gets released on 6913 as opposed to sending them out as demos to be released elsewhere?

When I produce music I’m never thinking about labels or a release. After a track is finished I listen to it a few times before deciding whether it fits with the 6913 vibe or if a different label would be able to make a better release with it. If I do send music to other labels, which is rare, I’m extremely careful about the label I send it to. There are only a handful of labels I’d want to see my music on. This is not because there aren’t a lot of labels I respect, I respect and support lots of labels, its driven by artistic sentiment in that I feel there’s only a very small group of labels where my music could be correctly represented.

Who do you show your music first before introducing it to a wider audience or sending it out to labels?

I play everything to my DJ and Producer friends before doing anything with a track. However I think through experience I can tell when something is ready to release so I pretty much already know it’ll be going out on promo.

What’s a piece of gear that gets used on every track? And what are some of your favourite studio tools?

Great question! I have a big collection of analogue synths, but among them were isn’t one that appears on every track. For that it would have to be a few plugins I use every time. These would include Lennar Digital’s Sylenth1, Waves L1 Limiter, Ableton EQ8, Max 4 Live’s LFO and Valhalla Vintage Verb.

What do you enjoy more writing originals or remixing? And how do go about deciding on what remix projects to take?

It’s interesting because sometimes remixing can be more rewarding than actually producing your own music. It’s a different artistic challenge to take something that already exists and make it into something else, rather than creating something from nothing.

As for deciding what remixes to take on, I listen to music critically, as I imagine most producers do. So when I listen to a demo I’m already thinking about whether I could do a good remix.

The industry and how fans discover new music has changed dramatically in the last 10 years or so. How do you discover new music nowadays?

I find my main source for discovering new music is the same as always, by listening to DJs. I think this is still true for a large percentage of electronic music fans, which is why it’s so important for DJs to take the time to listen to promos and take risks playing new music.

There are a lot of factors which affect the perception of an artist other than his music these days, social media for one, how much emphasis do you put on stuff like this? and what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?

Social media comes in for a lot of criticism in our industry, and while I agree the obsession with image over quality is definitely a problem, I don’t hold the same negative opinions of social media as a lot of DJs and Producers do.

I think used correctly it’s a great tool to connect with likeminded people and get yourself noticed as an artist.

There certainly was a period where promoters, and to a lesser extent label managers were influenced by an artist’s social media numbers, but from the conversations I have it seems that way of thinking is quickly disappearing.

Anyone can buy a ton of followers/likes, or whatever, but the fans of electronic music are sophisticated and intelligent. They’re able to discern great music from mediocre. This is why we’re now seeing even the really big labels signing tracks from new artists who have very small followings on social media.

Besides music, do you have other passions or talents? Can you think of doing anything else other than music?

Just about everything I do has something do with music!

Current five favorite tracks?

Spelamp - Into The Dark (Hannes Bieger remix)

Recondite - Tunnel

Mind Against - Walking Away

James Solace - Ghost Town

BLANCAh - Walk In Clouds (Fur Coat remix)

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

My fiancé, Georgie-May. She’s like sunshine in my life.

What does the rest of 2020 hold for LANGBARD? Anything you can tell us about?

Lots of really exciting new artists with releases on 6913 Digital, more to come from the Remnants series and a top secret new project collaborating with an amazing vocalist.

'Remnants' Part One is out now on 6913 Digital, you can purchase the release here: https://bit.ly/2XJGtJJ

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