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Born in Malta and raised around the world, Kristian Robinson has learnt to love and resepct other cultures. His music is a contrasted melting pot of sounds, colours and flavours which flirts with rock, lo-fi electronica, pop and about everything in between. His new album, Island Row, offers a good insight on his universe. Here, Kristian has accepted to sit down and answer the questions from themilkfactory.

Kristian, you were born in abroad, and have lived all around the world during your childhood. How do you think this has affected you as an adult? 
I was born in Malta a small island in the Mediterranean, my dadís English and my mother Maltese, I have lived in Dubai (Arabia) for a short time, then Brunei (Borneo) for most of my childhood. I moved back to England when I was 10 and went to school in Devon, then came to London in my teens. How has it affected me? Well I had a broad cultural upbringing, my schooling was very progressive, I have a good understanding of different faiths and cultural attitudes. I still have a hunger for travel and exploration of cultures, be it politics, music or art.

What is your nationality on your passport? 
I have two passports. Iíve got dual nationality: Maltese and English. Malta gets me into places like Libya and Turkey without the grief of belonging to an arrogant colonial power with an army under the influence of George Bush, 

Why did you choose to settle down in London? 
I moved back to England fairly young, went to school here. As a teenager I was in  the suburbs just close enough to go to gigs in town. Why London ? Music, music, music. Plus my girlfriend bought a beautiful but quite decrepit house in East London Iíve been living in central London for 5 years now. It's a very creative area of town. There are a lot of people working hard at there craft here, a lot of new boutiques, designers, musicians, witch makes for a good supportive network for the development of new ideas.

Your two first albums were released through Planet Mu. How did you get to work for Mike Paradinasís record label? 
I like what he did, I was experimenting with sound collages and a 4 track and Rachael (NDLR: Kristianís girlfriend) was sending me mix tapes of all the records she was buying, and hearing Mikeís music helped turn me onto the sound of drum machines and synths. I saw him live a few times and then my girlfriend gave him a tape at a gig because I was too chicken to let anyone hearf it. He called me up and asked if I fancied making an album. I said yes, all right then, seeing as Iíd almost finished making one. I knew the right thing would come along when the time was right. Iím a firm believer in fate. I ended up making two albums because he's a good businessman and has a knack of getting you to sign pieces of paper when you shouldn't. 

Sounds Of The Empire had a much more electronic feel than Island Row, even if you already were using guitars a lot, and songs such as Janome Home, People or Lagoon previewed what Capitol Kís next releases would sound like. Was it a deliberate choice to develop a more ďliveĒ feel on your records? 
Sounds Of The Empire was all based on studio experiments and at the time I wrote a few lyrical guitar tracks but wasn't happy with the way they turned out. The ones I liked went on the album so I took my time experimenting at introducing guitar and vocals; let things grow at there natural pace. With Island Row I found myself back to the home studio set up, logistics of recording at home meant that live drums and screaming guitars were out, and more time was devoted to writing songs and a simpler sampled guitar and voice type of atmosphere. Tracks like Anon and Soundwaves were written for the first album but working them in a new way meant that they got better, my music has always been about capturing performance and thereís always a live element. Sounds Of The Empire was a very live album, a more dub style live sampling mix downs and delay boxes. 

Did you think that people who liked Sounds Of The Empire might not follow you on Island Row because of the more radical sound?
I never thought about that to be honest, Sounds Of The Empire and Island Row are similar pieces of work, they sound totally different but theyíre from the same artist. 

What did you use to listen to when you were a kid, and what brought you to develop an interest in electronic music?
Living in Brunei, I heard a lot of Chinese pop music (on radio, in shops), and a lot of marching band music, simply because there was a large military presence there at the time protecting the vast oil reserves. We had a record by the army of the United Arab Emirates. It was amazing! They played traditional Arabic songs with Arabic percussion praising Allah. I loved Abba for a while then Blondie and the Clash, and then I started listening to Metal and had a good phase with the ripped denim and bad t-shirts. My taste refined and I got crazy for grunge and hardcore, particularly Fugazi and Sonic Youth. This led me to Japanese noisecore and bands like the Bordoms, then came a kind of watershed and the whole spectrum of sound opened up all the way from pop to techno to modern composers. Now Iím listing to a lot of late punk, new wave, and modern electro. Both Rachael and I collect a lot of records. We have thousands of records and really enjoy Djing.

You seem to get inspiration from very diverse sources, ranging from pop/rock to lo-fi electronica. What influences you? Who would you say has made a mark on your musical creation? 
Everything I ever heard has had some influence at some level, but on this album I was very much influenced by imagery, people and places. A lot of the music has a very visual element and a lot of the time I have a story or some imagery that Iím trying to express in a song. This somehow explains the way I can cross over a lot of barriers and genres because I just use whatever I can to get to the point or express the story. Anon is the story of land struggles in Palestine and Israel, using a lot of biblical imagery. In Breakers Iím playing the sound of the ocean breaking on the shores of the beach were I played and swam a lot as a child. City is London.

Why did you want to re-work on Island Row before re-releasing it on XL Recordings? Is it true that you were not entirely happy with the first version released on Planet Mu?
A bit like brain damage or amnesia, all the information is in the brain but its jumbled up and confused and when you open your mouth its all gobbledegook. Take the same brain and same information but everything is working right and it all makes sense, does that make sense? I finished the first version because I was exhausted and couldn't go on. There were tracks I was working on that I hadn't finished, hence essential parts of the story were missing. Now it is perfect, 

Youíve worked with John ďLeafcutterĒ Burton, that we interviewed at the beginning of last year, on Duffle Coat, and heís also remixed Pillow for you. His musical universe tends to be very different from yours. How did you come to work together, and what do you think he brought to your music?
I first met John when I went along to the cut for his first album, Concourse, and we just got on instantly. The funny thing is that his musical universe is not actually as far removed as it would seem at first. He has a love for location recordings and live sound, we were both into a lot of the same music when we were younger, he's an incredibly talented musician and Iíd like to think I am too, so we have a lot to show and teach each other. We've both had a lengthy period of isolated studio work and so it's nice to thrash things out live and collaborate. Now that Johnís joining me on stage, he gets to perform very different material in very different environments and venues and he's a great one at rising to a challenge. Keeps me motivated too! Having John pushing the digital realm forward frees me up for getting serious with my voice and the guitar and is proving to be really exciting. The live show is definitely very exciting, 

Do you have plans for other collaborations? 
There are a few young musicians doing some really good stuff. One of them is Patrick Wolf. He's writing and recording some really amazing music on a laptop and comes to my studio to mix down, his stuff should be coming out really soon hopefully through my own label Faith & Industry if the label works out and doesnít prove to be too time consuming, then who knows what else could happen.

You covered Dance On on the previous version of Island Row. How did the idea of this cover come about? Why did you drop it for the new version?
I did Dance On at the request of Rex Records who were doing a Prince tribute record. That project seemed to be moving slow, so the track went on Island Row. You can now find Dance On on If I Was Prince through Rex Records. There are some really good Prince covers on there, by people like Peaches, Fort Lauderdale, and Op:l Bastards, plus I didnít want people being distracted from my own song writing by a brilliant cover version.

What kind of music are you listening at the moment? What is the last album you bought? 
Last records brought: Wire: 154
Ellen Alien (Bpitch Controll)
Crossover (Gigollo)
Mum And Dad LP (Twisted Nerve) 
Zongamin LP (Flesh Records)

Your music is very often more complex and sophisticated than it seems, with loads going on in the background. How do you actually work?
I spend a lot of time on the layering of sound. I like it when there are different layers of sound you can get into the mix and drift through it and hopefully every time you listen, there will be something new. There for you, my set up is very lo-fi and simple, a lot of time I write and record something, comeback to it, dissect it, re-do a part, take a dictaphone clip, build up a large collage of sounds, find the part that works best, throw the rest away and start again. I spend a lot of time on each tracks and get pretty meticulous with some of the finer details. 

What inspires you to compose? Do you have different ways of working for instrumental tracks and songs?
I'm a bit of a workaholic and always tend to create something. I recently composed a few track over Christmas at Rachaelís parentsí house. It's in the Lake District. Itís incredibly beautiful and thereís a piano there. Sometimes I play around on a laptop, other times on a guitar. I don't have any set rules. I try to push new things. I play new material live as much as possible. I suppose this comes from playing in bands, seems when you play stuff out it's much easier to get an idea weather it is working or not. This rule can't be applied to everything mind.

How did the idea of the rag doll featured on your more recent releases come up? Is it supposed to be a representation of yourself or is it just your way to say that you donít produce faceless electronic music? 
All the art direction comes from my girlfriend Rachael Matthews. She works with textiles, kind of crossing over between sculpture and fashion. She makes all the props and strange toys for the videos and album covers, the rag dolls have always lived with us and it just seemed right to use them. You could read what ever you want into it and you'd probably be right.. The doll is Capitol k

Do you pay attention to what the press says about your music in reviews or features, and how does it affect you?
It's hard not to when it makes all the difference between getting on the Radio 1 playlist or not, selling your record or no one hearing it and not selling. The state of the press in Britain for some areas of the arts is fucked and our attitude is terrible, the whole emphasis is on following there own agenda, pigeon-holing, building barriers, and marginalising artists. Capitol k does not fit in the current agenda. As a friend put it: "it's a bit like trying to sell Martin Creed to THE SUN". European magazines are far superior, more open. They actually have a love of music and see it as there job to tell you about EVERTHING that is happening out there. A lot of British journalists are just social climbers, desperate to be seen with the right crowd at the right party or gig or whatever. It all comes from having too much critic power. It all goes to their head. They think theyíre more important than the music. Some even think they are the ones changing things. They don't really do us any favours. England needs to get off its high horse and open up a bit.

What is coming up in the Capitol K diary?
Quite a lot of gigs. Iím on a mission to play to as many people and different audiences as possible. Everything from Mixing It on BBC Radio 3 to supporting Kosheen. Iíve got a lot of new material written and we (John and I) have been developing it live so, at some point, it would be nice to get definitive versions done. Also, I'm starting a label named Faith & Industry to release some fine fine music that some friends have been creatingÖ 

Capitol K on stage, what does it sound like?
Live guitar and vocals, breaks, drum loops, live electro-acoustic treatmentsÖ Occasionally, when the audience is right I do allot of spontaneous mix down and let some random factors in. Sounds a bit like the albums really, only a bit rougher and harder and more ''live ". Also, I play a lot of new material live.

Do you have any idea of where youíre going for Island Row? Have you already got a feeling of what the follow up will sound like or is it something youíd rather not think about too much? 
I know a lot what the next record will sound like, most of the ground work is done. The tracks are written and Iím working on lyrics concepts and honing the songs down in the live arena... It's all quite different again, so I think there will be more than just a few raised eyebrows when it's released. Ever evolving... constantly changing...

What is the meaning of Capitol K?
Capitol K was a character I created when freestyling some vocals, it means Ego and just fit in with the idea of going solo.

Best place to find inspiration? 

5 greatest albums ever released? 
that's too hard a question... It'd take me a week to think that through

The track that changed your life?
Clash - London Calling L.P 

If you were not Kristian Robinson, who would you be? 
Kristian Craig (bastard child)

Itís Sunday morning, what do you do?
Wake late, have sex, get a bag of records, go to Adrian's coffee shop (coffee@brick lane) and play records to our friends and the customers for about 5 hours, go to the pub, have a couple of drinks, probally bump into more friends who have been working the market (Spitafields), then get a curry and back to the pub just in time for the lock-in...

Thank you to Kristian and Rich @ Almaroad.

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