INTERVIEW by BEROZE DUBASH | PHOTOGRAPHY by CHELSEA JEHEBER
“Crisp-as-f*ck” would be the go-to phrase to describe the music of this electronic music duo. Fresh from Minneapolis, J Anthony and Jonny P make up the members of ROBOTON1C. On a mission from the future to save the world of music, ROBOTON1C promises to take you to a place of euphoria and make you forget everything else. Influenced by 80s pop culture and a mixture of beautiful noise, music theory, and harmony, the duo has quickly gained recognition from fellow producers and artists alike. Despite being on the electro music scene for only six months, ROBOTON1C has already played alongside the likes of Girl Talk and Steve Angello. Get ready for the evolution of sound.
Describe your music and how you want people to feel when they hear it.
J Anthony: The word to describe our music the most is “crisp.” We want to get people who normally wouldn’t go out to get loose. We kinda want to be doctors of the dance floor.
Jonny P: If I had to pick one word to describe how we want people to feel when they hear our music, it would be “euphoria.” We want them to get away from their normal lives and into a brand new atmosphere that they’ve never experienced before.
You guys just moved to L.A. from Minneapolis. How did you get your start in electro music out there?
Jonny P: Minneapolis actually has an awesome electronic dance scene. It’s actually one of the top five in the U.S. Whatever’s popular in L.A. is just as popular in Minneapolis, if not more. A friend of ours reached out to us in college and asked us to perform at a bar.
You guys were both at the University of Minneapolis together?
J Anthony: We were both at the University of Minneapolis, and we actually went to the same high school together.
Jonny P: He hated me when he first met me.
J Anthony: Hate is a strong word. I just didn’t really like him because he walked in and he was in a hardcore metal band at the time. He had long hair, wore girl pants, eyeliner, tight shirts. I thought he was a girl.
Jonny P: We became friends, though, and then lost contact. But then my junior year of college we found out that we were going to be in the same apartment. We started partying. And then during the course of partying, we started connecting in terms of talking about girl breakups. And he invited me over to his place to start playing music. And when we would write music we had a blast, and so we started showing it to our friends and they really liked it. So we would start playing it at parties and people really responded.
J Anthony: Yeah, so we were asked by a friend to play at this bar. And we were not ready yet. But we started practicing and then it became a thing that we would play at this popular bar known as Blarney’s on the University of Minnesota campus and we progressively started to get more people to come to our shows. We met a promoter by the name of Jonathan Ackerman and he reached out to us and told us that we had potential. And then within the first two months of playing shows, we got to play one with Girl Talk.
ROBOTON1C has blown up pretty quickly on the electro music scene — why do you guys think that is? What sets you apart from everyone else?
J Anthony: For me, at least, I think there’s a lot of people that DJ, but there’s very few people that DJ and produce their own music. We’ve always considered ourselves producers before DJs. We’re used to being in the studio making music on that level, and when it came to performing for people it was different, because we both have backgrounds performing and turned that into our live performances. We see a lot of DJs that push buttons up there and throw their hands up, but when we’re up there we’re moving around, we’re screaming, we’re getting the crowd pumped up.
Jonny P: I feel like there are some people who do get the crowd pumped, but when we do it, we do it because we’re living in the moment. Like I said, we want people to experience euphoria, and we’ve had lots of people tell us that they don’t even like this type of music, but they were dancing when we were playing.
J Anthony: And when you play a song that you made and spent hours in the studio creating and the crowd loves it, there’s just so much more satisfaction than playing a song that everyone likes that some other dude created. Another obvious one is that there aren’t a lot of black and white DJ duos. He’s a Russian Jew and I’m a Black Greek. It’s not that conventional.
Do each of you have specific roles in the creation of music or do you just mix and match as you go along?
J Anthony: I would say that I’m more in the line of software knowledge and production. And Jonny P’s been playing the piano for 15 years and brought in the element of music theory. I’d never in trained in music at all; I trained myself and matched it with his level of expertise in terms of classical music and theory.
Jonny P: It’s a give-and-take. We have one side that’s technical for production and one side that’s technical for music theory and harmony and chord progression. When we combine it together, it’s a chemistry that works for us.
J Anthony: One thing that I noticed about electronic music is that it’s more noise than melody. But we try to include a lot more music into that. We definitely like noise, but there has to be a balance between beautiful noise and harmony and chords. I think sometimes it gets easy to get lost in the “rock my face off” and forget that people want to hear some good chord progression as well.
What are your influences and where do you draw inspiration from?
Jonny P: We have a lot of influence from the 80s. We like to think of our music as taken from the 80s and brought back to today and influenced by things that are crisp and euphoric. We take what was retro and make it cleaner and louder and crisper. We evolve the sound.
J Anthony: We’re definitely a good example of crossing genres. I don’t know if I believe in genres anymore — it’s just music to us. Anything can go together. It’s our signature style, I guess, a really crisp bass sound with really beautiful elements of harmony put together in a club mode.
What’s a song that you listened to recently and thought to yourself, “Damn, I wish I had done that”?
J Anthony: Lately I’ve been getting into an artist called Le Castle Vania.
Jonny P: I’m always really influenced by what’s going on in music in terms of trends. And one artist that I’ve paid a lot attention to is Dillon Francis. It’s not like I necessarily want to make that type of music, but I respect it. He breaks rules.
What’s with the name ROBOTON1C?
Jonny P: We were pre-gaming before a party and needed to come up with a name. We wrote down a huge list of words and emotions that we wanted people to feel. Words like robot and crispy. But we were at a party too where tonic came to mind, as in gin and tonic. So we came up with a story of who ROBOTON1C is. We’re basically robot-infused humans — some of that robot spirit gets into us and we create this music.
What can audiences expect from your live shows?
Jonny P: Crazy. Stupid. Epic.
J Anthony: Messy. In terms of that everybody there is dancing; there’s sh*t all over the floor. People are just crazy.
Jonny P: People just live as hard as they can when they watch us. They just experience their lives to the fullest.
Jonny P: We just got signed to an electro label called Plasmapool. We also got a distribution deal, and Plasmapool set us up on Beatport to launch our music, which is going to give us a lot more exposure.
J Anthony: 2012 is also going to be a big year for us. We’re going to be shooting a professional music video and have some tour dates lined up.
Jonny P: What we’re actually concentrating on right now is finding a manager that can really throw us in to the L.A. music scene. Someone who can help us with exposure around the area.
And how can Daily BR!NK help?
J Anthony: I think that’s huge. Because this had never been about money for us; we both have full-time jobs. Every single release we’ve had has been a free release. We want to continue to put out good music. Money is the last part. All we want are fans.