Rewrit­ing his code

Sh*t Ro­bot’s new al­bum is darker and rougher than pre­vi­ous work, says Mar­cus Lam­bkin. Don’t ex­pect to hear it live though, he tells Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY -

The good news from Ger­many is that the shep­herds are in fine fet­tle. These are Mar­cus Lam­bkin’s neigh­bours in the small vil­lage be­yond Stuttgart that the Dublin na­tive now calls home. It is far re­moved from the elec­tronic mu­sic world that Lam­bkin knows from his day job as Shit Ro­bot, but you get the feel­ing that the like­able, down-to-earth pro­ducer and DJ prefers it this way.

The other good news comes in the shape of Lam­bkin’s third al­bum. What Fol­lows may share sim­i­lar­i­ties with From the Cra

dle to the Rave (2010) and We Got a Love (2014) in terms of a great roll-call of col­lab­o­ra­tors, but there are some strong, dis­tinc­tive dif­fer­ences in the wash that make this record stand out.

This time, guests such as Hot Chip’s Alexis Tay­lor, LCD Soundsys­tem’s Nancy Whang, DFA lu­mi­nar­ies Mu­seum of Love and Juan Ma­cLean, New Jack­son and Jay Green work with Lam­bkin on tracks that are dark, edgy, sub­stan­tial and en­gross­ing.

Lam­bkin lists sev­eral rea­sons for the change in mood be­tween al­bums. “Get­ting older, chang­ing mu­si­cally, get­ting into the darker end of things, get­ting away from the more disco and poppy side of things, get­ting back to my un­der­ground clubby roots.”

But the main rea­son for the change of gear was an un­hap­pi­ness with his last record. “I was ter­ri­fied with We Got a Love,” says Lam­bkin bluntly. “I was in­se­cure be­cause I didn’t know what I was do­ing and I was a bit lost. Half of it is bang­ing and the other half has some poppy stuff and I didn’t have a clear di­rec­tion. I was putting my­self un­der a lot of pres­sure.” From the Cra­dle to the Rave had James Mur­phy of LCD Soundsys­tem pro­duc­ing, which Lam­bkin says was a “pretty sweet safety net to have”. We

Got a Love was the dreaded sec­ond record.

“I was caught half­way be­tween the DFA disco-house world and a de­sire to make house and techno. I don’t think it’s a ter­ri­ble record, but I wasn’t su­per-con­fi­dent mak­ing it. I’d loads of doubts and ques­tions. It’s a bunch of songs put to­gether, as op­posed to a co­he­sive record.”

Poppy pres­sure

Lam­bkin suf­fered a sort of iden­tity cri­sis when he was DJing. “I found my­self get­ting booked for lots of gigs be­cause of the poppy stuff on the record, so I’d be sort of ex­pected to be play­ing disco and Italo and 1980s and ironic hits and that’s not what I do. Peo­ple would book me and they’d ex­pect disco and I’d play tougher house.

“Peo­ple would say ‘oh, he’s play­ing very hard’, and I got a few com­plaints. But I didn’t think what I was play­ing was too tough, though I have been guilty of do­ing that on oc­ca­sion be­fore. It wasn’t even bang­ing techno.”

Be­tween records, Lam­bkin re­dis­cov­ered what first turned him on to dance mu­sic back in Dublin. “I found I wanted to get back to play­ing the mu­sic which I fell in love with when I ini­tially heard dance mu­sic,” he says. “And that was drum ma­chines and synths and lock­ing into a groove.”

Once he had his mood mu­sic in place, Lam­bkin be­gan fill­ing in the gaps.

“I started out with noth­ing and gave my­self a cer­tain amount of time to ham­mer it out, and that’s the record. If it ended up a bit rough around the edges, that was fine. I didn’t mind if it was a lit­tle rough and ready be­cause that’s what I wanted. I wanted it to feel like it all came from the one ses­sion. I was in a much dif­fer­ent frame of mind.”

As al­ways, the new Shit Ro­bot record boasts guests and col­lab­o­ra­tions aplenty.

“I col­lab­o­rate out of ne­ces­sity be­cause I can’t sing and can’t write lyrics to save my life”, he says. “I’ve enough trou­ble strug­gling to get a beat and a bassline to­gether that I don’t have time to be com­ing up with great lyrics – never mind singing them.”

One of his first calls was to Hot Chip’s Alexis Tay­lor.

“When I started to think about the al­bum and hav­ing songs as op­posed to tracks and started work­ing on two of them, it was ob­vi­ous to me that I had to have Alexis on board. I learned a long time ago about the dif­fer­ence when you work with the pros. I could have spent six months work­ing on that song, play­ing around with it to get it right, or bring in some peo­ple not at a high enough level.

Al­ways on

“With Alexis, he came back to me two days af­ter hear­ing the mu­sic for the first time and he’d the song done. He’s work­ing all the time. I’ve watched him in the stu­dio and he goes to his phone and flicks through all these lit­tle

I col­lab­o­rate out of ne­ces­sity be­cause I can’t sing and can’t write lyrics to save my life. I’ve enough trou­ble strug­gling to get a beat and a bassline to­gether that I don’t have time to be com­ing up with great lyrics – never mind singing them

lyrics and phrases which he’d writ­ten down. He’s con­stantly writ­ing and not­ing, which makes a huge dif­fer­ence com­pared to some­one like me who comes along once in a while and thinks he can write a song.”

Still, there are times when col­lab­o­ra­tions do not gel and plans go awry. “It can make for un­com- fort­able con­ver­sa­tions in the stu­dio,” Lam­bkin says. “I’ve been very lucky be­cause I keep it to friends or friends of friends. It has been sug­gested that I reach out to a big pop star, but that’s not me. Even though my records may seem a lit­tle guest-heavy, I’m not into the guest-star al­bum. That has never ap­pealed to me.”

He ad­mits that rop­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tors can be hard.

“It’s not nice get­ting re­jected, no mat­ter how nice they are, be­cause they’re re­ject­ing your work. The only per­son I ap­proached out of the blue was Lidell Townsell on the last record. He doesn’t nor­mally do that kind of thing, but the name in­trigued him and we Skyped for half an hour, and he was su­per-nice and we did it.

“But it’s not all like that. I’ve had oc­ca­sions – even with friends of friends, even with peo­ple whose work I’m crazy about – where you don’t click with some­one for any num­ber of rea­sons and it just doesn’t work.”

What Fol­lows is re­leased to­day on DFA

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