An Interview with Robert Koch – Coachella, L.A., Spotify, and coming “Full Circle”

June 1, 2022
Jordan Russell Lyon 0
Interviews

LA-based artist Robert Koch, originally from Germany, is a talented and award-winning composer/producer/artist. His reflective, mature and original sound features on numerous TV shows and films, including You, Another Life, The Blacklist, Riverdale, and Life in a Year. Clearly, Robert is a widely skilled artist, and he has agreed to an interview with Ready Steady Cut!

1. On paper, you are a writer, artist, composer, and record producer (P.S., well done on all of those achievements). What is a typical working day for you?

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 and 20 minutes of meditation. Then some light yoga or chi gong, 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. So 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 start 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 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 come shine.

Then a coffee or lunch break, often I meet a friend for coffee or combine a meeting with getting lunch (nice to get out of the studio at this point, I love walking too. I don’t have a car, never owned one.) Then I come back and work on music again for a couple of hours, until dinner. I haven’t watched any 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 for me.

2. You have had some massive achievements, such as playing at Coachella and leading your own record label. Is there a particular achievement that you are most proud of?

Just looking back and 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. 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.

3. How did the move from Germany to LA happen? And was it an easy or difficult process for you?

It was a gut feeling decision. I find that life rewards you when you listen to your intuition. It was not a rational decision to move to a city where I didn’t really know anyone and which is at least twice as expensive as the one I moved from. But 8 years later, I’m still here, and I’m glad I listened to my intuition back then.

4. You have had your music featured in various productions, such as the San Andreas trailer, Dark, The Blacklist, Lucifer, How to Get Away with Murder, and more recently, You. Did you make the music purposely to be featured in the shows/films, or was your music sourced by the production team?

No, all these songs that are placed on films and TV shows were songs I made for my albums or EPs. None of them were made with film or TV in mind. The music supervisors found them and reached out to license them. The only time when I make music specifically for movies or TV shows is when I’m the composer of the film; then, I really write the music to picture.

5. You have a huge profile on Spotify, with over 644,000 monthly listeners. Currently, your top track is “Here with Me”. What deep cut would you like to recommend to our readers?

It’s hard to answer; I can’t really favor any songs of mine over others. But I will say that my latest releases are usually where my head is at this particular time, so I’d suggest just listening to the latest release.

6. Your latest album, “Full Circle”, is “created with loops that magnify the irregularities and imperfections of cassette recordings and then shape the artist into hazy meditative journeys”. Could you tell us more about that album and the inspiration needed to make it?

Sure, in 2019 I recorded my album “The Next Billion Years” in Estonia, together with conductor Kristijan Järvi and his Orchestra, the Nordic Pulse Ensemble. When I released it in the spring of 2020, we had a full tour already booked with the full Orchestra to perform the album live. But of course, none of this happened. With the pandemic, everything came to a stop. There were no shows, and I couldn’t support the album with live shows.

But the lockdown gave birth to a new side project of mine: “Foam and Sand”. Unable to tour and with lots of time available in my studio, I started making ambient music with tape loops, just for myself, as I found the process really soothing and healing. I released a few tracks under the radar, without anyone knowing it was me, and the project started to have a life of its own for a while until I revealed it in 2021 as an official project of mine.

And then, 2 years later, I had the idea to revisit my “The Next Billion Years” album. I felt that there was so much potential in it still. Even when I first made it, I felt like I could have made at least two albums out of the material I recorded in Estonia.

So, I decided to revisit it through the lens of my ambient project, “Foam and Sand”. “Foam and Sand” has its own signature sound. It’s a different musical language that is close to the one I use when I write as Robot Koch, but it is also its own unique expression. It’s an even more intimate musical approach. Instead of these larger orchestral arrangements that I used on the original album, these new compositions are more minimal, more micro than macro. They are about simplicity, slicing off anything that is not essential. One of the sonic hallmarks of “Foam and Sand” is that I embrace the unsteady beauty of tapes in the sound creation process.

7. What advice do you have for those that aspire to work in the music industry?

The music industry is a big thing that contains many players; some of them are not in it for the music but for the money or fame. But let’s say you’re in it for the music and for self-expression, then this would be my advice:

Trust the process, which means trusting that your music will find the person that needs to hear it when the person is ready. So, it’s less about what you want (like “my music is out now, and I want everyone to hear it “…this is understandable but not entirely up to you) but more about trusting universal timing to connect the music that came through you with the person that needs to hear it when that person is ready to receive it or needs to hear it.

And it might be just that one person, or it might be thousands of people. It might be instantly, or it might take years. It’s not up to you (the artist). Your job is to bring it into existence and make sure it can fly. It’s a part of surrendering to allow that to happen rather than trying to force it to happen. So, all you can do is show up every day, work on your art and keep sharing it (which includes making sure it can be found out there as good as you can too). The rest is not really up to you (the creator).

And I think many artists make the mistake of stopping or slowing down their creative process because they don’t see instant results. That would be equivalent to a gardener not continuing to sow his seeds because the seeds he planted don’t give him instant fruits. Instead, he could just trust the seed to transform into a tree and, in time, bear fruits. And he doesn’t have to wait for that and suspend all the other garden work in the meantime. No, he keeps going and plants more seeds and looks after the plants that have already started growing but also leaves them alone. Always a fine balance.

That’s the kind of attitude I try to keep in mind in my creative process. It’s about accepting that it takes time. But it’s by no means passive because of this; quite the opposite: you can still keep yourself busy creating new music and making sure it can be heard out there. And then forget about it once it’s out and you gave it your everything promoting it, and then focus on the next thing (project, record, whatever it is), and when you already forgot about the thing you planted a while ago, it comes back around and surprises you with the fruits it bears.

8. And finally, what does the future hold for you?

I’m wrapping up the score for a film score and the score for a video game. The movie will be in theatres this or next year. The game will be out in the Fall, I think. I also finished a new album of my ambient project, “Foam and Sand”, that will come out next year (with the first singles being released this year still.) I’m working on a few exciting remixes and production/collaborations that will also come out this year. That’s the future for this year, at least!

And that’s a wrap for our interview with Robert Koch! We’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.