music • 19 Jun, 2015
You Better Obey: Free The Robots And AnyArena
Chris Alfaro’s Beatmaking Before-Show Breakdown
Chris Alfaro is Free The Robots. He makes beats he broadcasts from his LA base. But Obey Radio’s brought him here on tour. It’s the next stop on after two shows in the Philippines (where his family are from). “Honestly? I probably chopped off two years of my life in the past two weeks,” he sighs.
To break those road blues, he’s brought along Roam Elsewhere. The two go way back, “Roam’s been someone I've been DJing with since right out of high school.”
For his famous 2013 Boiler Room set, Free the Robots looks holed up in a crash landed spaceship somewhere subterranean. He comes on all mad scientist amidst lights that flicker and flash. “You tap into another dimension that no one else can understand, and no one can define but you,” he explains.
It’s a little bit of what’s coming to The Observatory on 20th June.
Which famous robot (e.g. Robocop, Wall-E, Chappie) shouldn’t be free?
They all should be free...because my name said so.
Capital Steez’s ‘Free the Robots’ (that you produced and gifted your name to) is a paranoid rap classic. How big a loss to hip hop was his passing?
He’s definitely a big loss. Not many MCs at his age expressed a message so deep. He transcended entertainment. His music was education and inspiration.
Where’s the line between genius and madness?
Genius tends to redefine logic, and it drive us in directions disconnected to the ways of the outside world. It’s not negative, and as artists I think we have to go there.
And how do you stay on sanity’s side?
To me, there really is no right side. Once you tap into it, you’re above traditional definitions, and it can manifest as a bright future or even self destruction.
You’re here as part of Obey Radio, an outreach programme of the Obey brand. What’s your creative connection to them?
[Original street artist] Shepard Fairey created this iconic force called Obey that’s contributed to the evolution of street culture. I’ve been kinda countercultural all of my life, not only through Obey, but scenes associated with it like punk, hardcore, reggae and hip hop.
What’s your recipe for creativity?
It’s about the freedom to disconnect, to stir that pot, and disturb your own comfort zone.
Where have you been musically and where are you going?
I hit the decade mark with the FTR anniversary project this year. It felt like its time for a new beginning. I’m a very different person these days, and I feel like this rebirth will take me further than I've ever gone, with new projects that are anonymous...for now.
In your new video for track ‘Blow some smoke’, Opio raps, “In the background I maneuver”. What’s important about being an underground artist?
I think this age of connectivity has broken the boundary between over- and underground. Before being underground was just something that I always associated with. I have a tendency to question everything and pop culture was never my thing.
How’s your tour journey been so far, and what’s the road ahead looking like?
I started with 2 shows in the Philippines. It's a very intense place, and my people out there were amazing about showing us their versions of each city. And the road ahead’s exciting. Last time I visited, this music was in its early days here so I want to see how things have evolved musically and culturally everywhere we go.
Your 2010 album was titled ‘Ctrl+Alt+Delete’, the computer command called the three-finger salute. How would you like to be saluted when you come into a room?
Salutes are awkward. I'd rather have a cheers and some whiskey!
You’ve brought along Roam Elsewhere. Can you describe his music?
We’ve the same music taste. Check Roam & Urth’s ‘City to City’ and you'll know what I'm talking about. Roam is the only one who’s down to go in those directions with me.
And you’re playing at The Observatory. What’s your last unusual observation?
I spent 6 months of last year wandering the world like a gypsy, and I’m off again. Stepping from my comfort zone in strange lands leads to lots of self observations. Now it’s hard to call any place home, I'm just going where fate takes me and my music…
(Words by David Kaye)