For all the charges that face modern Dance music, few artists have remained as guiltless on the grounds of creative integrity and extensive global stamina as Helsinki bred tunesmith Roberto Rodriguez. Though his considerable age and experience may seep throughout the discordant yet uplifting sound scope that has fuelled his double-decade career, every sign-off point for the European stalwart for eclectic underground progressions has signalled something inherently modern and undeniably necessary to the genre and industry alike. But as 2012 set forth his fortified full-length endeavour Dawn, Dan Carter caught up with Finland’s most abstract underground asset to trace the product of six-years studio fatigue, 30-years inspiration and a lifetime of passion for the floor.
While the luscious culture and undeterred style of mid 70’s to early 80’s pop provided an inherently strong influence to the impending ambient groover, his inauguration to overhauling realms of Acid House would signal his awakening to the full potential of Electronic music. To some it was a lifestyle choice, to others a guilty pleasure, but it was within the nostalgic sub-genre’s gritty undertones that Rodriguez first tasted the adrenaline that would stir his extensive studio career. ‘On one of my summer holidays back in 1987 I remember picking up an Acid House collection from a seedy record store. The music was so anarchistic and wild – there didn’t seem to be any rules to it and that was incredibly exciting. Even at the age of 12 it felt like I could one day make this unique music that I had automatically associated with. It was a liberating moment for me.’
Tailored and tuned to the underground from the outset of his phenomenal commitment to that particular energy, Rodriguez has cultivated the industry with wave-upon-wave of wholehearted floor fuel for more than two decades. Developing a rich tapestry of steady and seductive groove work alongside Robert’s stern ear for instrumentals, the Finnish producer’s debut full-length record as Track n Field in 2006 ‘Marathon’ would provide a solid exploration of multifaceted underground Dance music for Nine2Five Recordings. But alas, where his collaborative album alongside Jukka Kaartinen would collect some of the finer flares in unpretentious Electronic outings, the consequence of such a sturdy record would result in several years of full-length fatigue. ‘”Marathon” was an exhausting process for us both and after that record it took me a good six years to get back into the frame of mind to make a solo album. I am of the belief that if you are going to do it, it has to been to you maximum capabilities. Therefore I wasn’t willing to commit a record to my own name until I knew it was something I could proudly carry for the rest of my life.’
But six years, it seemed, was the perfect breathing period for the distinctly deep producer. Eclipsing the underground with an extensive canvas of deep, melodic and sensationally atmospheric grooves, there came an echo of his impressive journey that inspired the next crucial extension of his full-length stylings. The journey from European nobody to Finnish ambassador to the underground, but Rodriguez most certainly made it count. ‘It felt like I had found a sound that encompassed everything I like about music, both old and modern. Time can cause certain frustrations where your creativity is concerned, but to my mind the finished product was worth the wait.’
Faced with a more-than predictable market that rated genre constraints and mainstream gestures over quality, the tides of change made for the perfect for Robert break his own rules and create a sound scope as nostalgic and innovative as his extensive studio legacy. With his story weeping to be told, ‘Dawn’ would prove an overdue chapter not only for Rodriguez’s career, but music as a dynamic cultural entity. ‘The vast majority of my older stuff had been pretty focused towards the dance floor where functionality wasn’t an issue, but it came to the stage where I wanted to challenge the idea of just collecting loads of one-sound tracks,’ he explained. ‘Dawn had to be a story – almost an arc of sounds that made a perfect route from A to B that would have people listening to the journey as a whole rather than skipping through.’
Between the tropical vintage pop ruckus ‘Love Withdrawal’ right through to the down-tempo stylings of ‘Shibuyu’, heterogeneity is the overlapping theme that lands Dawn into a league of its own analogue persuasion. But in his ability to tread respectfully on the 80’s pop influences that shaped so much of his earlier musical experiences, Robert’s fearless approach to such a sacred array of sound plays in perfect testament to his distaste for genre reliance with a subtle sweep of heartfelt musical movements. ‘Pop music is not something I am afraid of. The real test for me was to balance these incredible vocal moments with a sense of both 80’s nostalgia and raw underground depth,’ he explained.
‘Turning to the radio shit we currently hear on MTV was never an option, but I saw no reason why beautiful pop music and Dance music couldn’t coexist in a really satisfying manner. There was a sense of belonging between these two genres that I could not help but unite within Dawn.’
Pitching the dreamlike coexistence between the club floor and his nostalgic pop roots with unfathomable confidence would see leading album single ‘Tell Me’ emerge a solid favourite across the globe. ‘It was almost as if this song had always been in my head, there was no sense of trying to directly imitate anything other than my current musical identity. Between the top line and those juicy 80’s grooves, that was definitely one of the proudest aspects of Dawn for me personally because I had never done it before. In concept it sounded crazy, but it translated onto record beautifully.’
As heartfelt as the musical movements of Roberto Rodriguez may be, his blissful Electronic styling’s have not eliminated the bigger picture that surrounds his wider industry. Outside of the obvious issue of musical piracy, the Finish producer sees before him a world in which the bridge between modern culture and the music industry has distanced, if not shattered in places. ‘Young people have lost respect for music – it is now a fast food industry. There is no loyalty to the labels and bands that are trying to make it and so the industry is reduced to musical snacks, people move from one big thing to the next. That lack of patience is sad more than anything, but you just have to be grateful for the individuals who are still giving artists such as myself a pedestal to make music for genuinely passionate music fans.’
While Dance music’s leading fan base may have their cultural pitfalls to deal with, the turbulent and ever-expansive side note of this increasingly accessible has done no harm to Robert’s creative integrity. As he plays catch up on the vast backlog of remix requests that Dawn inevitably stole him from, his full-length masterpiece may well have set the tone for a new age of Electronic pulchritude, an age within which the subtle yet stylish producer cannot help but relinquish a stern sense of esteem for.
‘They say your second record is the hardest’, says Robert, pondering the road that will lead him forward from this intricate landmark release. ‘That may prove to be my biggest challenge, but it is one I cannot wait to embrace.’
Read our review of Dawn HERE!