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5 Minutes with Robot Koch and BlankFor.ms – The Playground


A beautifully distorted and experimental collaboration, Robot Koch and BlankFor.ms’s latest singleMigratory’ is a delightful blend of all things mind-bending but yet it is still an enjoyable listen for the palette. Released via the label Trees and Cyborgsthis latest single follows after their previous track ‘Subtle Ones’. Like the change of seasons and all that it entails, this latest release is varied in texture and range but still maintains an overall charm and warmth to it. We chatted with these acts about their latest collaboration in the exclusive interview.

Stream/ download: Robot Koch and BlankFor.ms – ‘Migratory’

This release follows your previous collaborative single together – ‘Subtle Ones’, How did you two meet?

BlankFor.ms: We met via social media, and bonded over a shared love of analog tape and its expressive potential. We continued to chat for quite a while before finding ways to collaborate, and haven’t looked back since

Robot Koch: I followed Tyler’s work on Instagram and found his approach really inspiring. We connected only online over a mutual love for sound design and textures, then met a while later in real life for a coffee when Tyler was in LA

How did you guys collaborate with each other for this particular release, since you are both based in the US?

BlankFor.ms: It was all remote, covid times such as they are. I sent Robert the opening piano chords along with a simple 4/4 kick beat. He responded with a ton of inspiring material to go along with it, almost an entire track’s worth already. I then added elements (melodies, noise, textures) and put a number of sections through my tape machines and analog distortion devices. We then decided on the edit and mix, and finished it up.

Robot Koch: Since Tyler is based on the East Coast and I’m on the West Coast, we didn’t get to sit in a studio together for this. We exchanged ideas via file sharing and the song came together really quickly.

You both have unique sounds. Has the process of collaborating together changed your production methods at all?

Robot Koch: I took a leaf out of Tyler’s book in regards to tape manipulation for sure, he inspired me to get into tape loops and all that stuff.

BlankFor.ms: For me collaborating with RK is a constant source of inspiration. He has a natural touch for dynamic percussion and open cinematic sound design. His tendencies leave a lot of room for the sorts of unstable, midrange-oriented sounds that I often use. All of this has certainly influenced my solo works.

This release follows a more beat-focused production, what inspired this shift in tempo?

BlankFor.ms: Much of my work isn’t beat-oriented at all, rather textural and harmonic. So working with RK has been a great way to stretch into the beat territory, something I plan to do more of in the future.

Robot Koch: I released a bunch of more ambient-type stuff recently so it felt good to write a more beat-driven track again. Also, it helps to differentiate my main project Robot Koch more from my ambient moniker Foam and Sand. I have more ambient stuff in the works as Foam and Sand and will probably make more beat-focused stuff again as Robot Koch. But the edges between the projects are always a bit blurry and I like it like that.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

BlankFor.ms: As early as I can remember, creating art is what gave me purpose. At first, it was drawing comic books, but in my early teenage years I heard Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and it’s been music ever since. Music is the only way I’ve found to communicate those inexplicable, ambiguous, indescribable feelings that for me, are such a huge part of life.

Robot Koch: Music is a way of expressing emotions beyond words. It’s a beautiful way to connect beyond language. It’s magical how it works and the part about it that can’t be explained is the one that fascinates me the most.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

BlankFor.ms: Sound, 100%. I’m not concept-based. I find a sound that evokes a feeling, and then I give it momentum, narrative, and life.

Robot Koch: I’m often drawn in by the sound, but it’s the idea that comes first.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Robot Koch: I love collaborating, and believe that 1+1 = 3

What’s on your current playlist?

BlankFor.ms: Kali Malone, Duke Ellington, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, and Inoyamaland.

Robot Koch: I listen to lots of ambient music, here is my playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5ZSqht4BRKSnBloL2sVTmb?si=52536bf802ef4add

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

Robot Koch: It’s magnetic. The music finds the people who need to hear it somehow. The people who come to my shows don`t always know what to expect, which is a good thing I think. I like to switch up the formula, and never repeat myself too much. So there is an element of trust and curiosity too between me, my creative process and my listeners.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

BlankFor.ms: Cassette tape is a huge part of my process (including this track). I bend, twist, and shape almost every sound I produce on cassette. That acoustical magic that happens when audio is transformed into magnetism on the tape does something to the sound that just connects with me. It adds life, imperfection, and ambiguity.

Robot Koch: I like to resample things through tape a lot lately. I love recording synths or piano on it at a really slow speed. It adds nice texture and unsteadiness to the signal which I then magnify by compressing and EQing it. Layering is obviously a big part of it too. I have my own sample library which has a lot of my sound design experiments in it. Sometimes I just create an interesting-sounding thing and don`t know what to do with it yet.

It then goes into my library, and when I’m working on a piece of music I can just go through my library and see what fits in. On some days sound design and composition go hand in hand. On other days I just have a musical idea and have no time or head space for sound design, because I want to stay focused on the composition/writing part of it. Then I’m glad to go to my library to sift through it for a sound design element that complements what I’m working on.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

BlankFor.ms: I work in stages – sometimes composing, sometimes sound shaping, sometimes mixing. I like to have 3-5 tracks in process at all times and I dip in and out of each throughout the day. It helps to keep my mind and ears fresh throughout the process. There’s a give and take to the process as well. I often compose ideas in a DAW first, and then reshape them with cassette tape and effects pedals… In a way, the two parts of the process battle each other.

Robot Koch: I know it sounds boring, but I love routines. So here is a typical day; I wake up at around 7 and do some pranayama/breathwork, followed by twenty minutes of meditation. Then some light yoga or chi, not every day but most days. Then, shower and all that, then breakfast. I don’t have a long way to work because my studio is in my house. I walk down a few steps with a cup of tea, and I’m in my studio, which is a separate part of the house, looking into the garden. I love getting natural light. My studio back in Berlin was a dark cave.

Then I started working on music for a few hours every day. It’s just part of the routine, and there is always something to do; scoring or production stuff, my own artist stuff, remixes, just experimenting with new ideas. It’s part of my daily practice to just show up and work on music every day just like I meditate every day. Like with everything, you get better if you do things consistently, so I guess I just improved my mixing and production skills over the years by just showing up every day, come rain or shine.

Then a coffee or lunch break, often I meet a friend for coffee or combine a meeting with getting lunch (it’s also nice to get out of the studio at this point, and I love walking too. I don’t have a car, never owned one). After this, I come back home and work on music again for a couple of hours, until dinner. I haven’t watched Netflix or anything like that in months, I’m totally behind on movies and TV shows, but I just enjoy reading and watching science-type stuff on YouTube or Gaia. I really enjoy diving deeper into subjects I’m fascinated by. And I don’t stay up late anymore; I was a night owl years ago, but I also had pretty bad insomnia, and changing my sleep routine helped a lot, so that works better for me.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

BlankFor.ms: I played the trumpet solo of Miles Davis ‘So What’ for a high school jazz concert, and fell in love.

Robot Koch: Watching the music video for ‘Epic’ by Faith No More on MTV. I was twelve and had no idea what I was looking at, but I knew there and then that I wanted to make music.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

Robot Koch: A bottle of water.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Robot Koch: Finnegan Tui.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

BlankFor.ms: Good matcha.

Robot Koch: Nature and Silence

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

BlankFor.ms: Probably more than you wanted but…

Tape Machines:

Tascam 414 MKII

Tascam 424 MKI

Tascam PortaOne

Tascam Porta02

Library of Congress C1

FoldyMakes Modified Walkman

Error Instruments Loopman

Fostex R8

Synthesizers:

Moog Matriarch

Moog Sub Phatty

Sequential Prophet Six

Electron Digitone

Elektron Digitakt

Arturia Microfreak

Effects & Signal Processing:

Chase Bliss Mood

See also

Chase Bliss Blooper

Chase Bliss Thermae

Death By Audio Echo Dream 2

Death By Audio Rooms

Retroactive Pedals Dot Chaser

Fairfield Circuitry Meet Maude

Source Audio Ventris

Walrus Audio Fathom

Walrus Audio Ages

Meris Mercury 7

Befaco Crush Delay V3

Strymon Magneto

Mutable Instruments Beads

Schlappi 100 Grit

Steady State Fate Stereo Dipole Filter

Universal Audio Apollo X8 Unison Preamps

Robot Koch: my studio back in Berlin was filled with gear. when I moved to LA in 2013 I stripped it all back down. Now I still work on the laptop, HEDD Audio Studio Monitors, Synths like Lyra 8, Roland JX (the boutique version), Moog DFAM, Yamaha Porta Sound, guitar pedals like the Fairfield Shallow Water, and many tape recorders. It’s not a huge collection, but it makes me more creative to have less stuff around. I think simplicity and limitations are good for the creative process.

Any side projects you’re working on?

Robot Koch: Foam and Sand, my ambient project.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

BlankFor.ms: Every day.

Robot Koch: Very much so. Just looking back as a kid growing up in a small town, I’m realizing that I’m manifesting my dreams really; scoring my first TV show or movie, creating immersive events like the Planetarium shows I’ve done which end up winning awards. Remixing artists like Rammstein or Max Richter. I’m doing many things today that I didn’t even dream of as a kid, so I’m just grateful for the journey and I’m curious about where it will lead me.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

BlankFor.ms: Over the next year I have a massive “Artist Series” instrument coming out with one of the world’s most popular VST makers, a feature video in Ableton’s “One Thing” series, and a video game score with an award-winning software publisher, and a new album coming out.

Robot Koch: Got more singles for my ambient project Foam and Sand coming out, as well as the score for a movie and a video game.

Famous last words?

Robot Koch: it’s past my bedtime


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