Washington EDM artist Robert DeLong may have been something of a world-beater this year, but he’s mainly just having fun. BOB GORDON reports.
Since his Just Movement album dropped in April, Robert DeLong has seen his music light up territory after territory. When he looks back on 2013, he will indeed be able to say that, to quote the huge Global Concepts single, he made people ‘fucking dance’.
“It’s been amazing,” he reflects. “It’s cool to see it filter throughout the world and seeing what regions respond to it. It’s exciting. It’s great after spending a lot of time on these songs alone in my room (laughs) to see them affecting a lot of people and open doors for me to be able to travel, which is awesome.”
That time in his room was well spent, even though just how long DeLong worked alone on those songs seems to have become a bit of a blur.
“It’s hard to say exactly, because a lot of these things were written, maybe even five years ago initially, but they’ve changed a lot since then, through performing them and spending time just evolving them in the studio.
“Global Concepts, that song was written about two-and-a-half years ago, whereas other songs were written, as I say, about five years ago. The whole process was pretty much me, alone, working on them for a couple of years then last year I went into the studio with this guy Mundie and we finalised everything over two harrowing weeks (laughs).”
It’s a concept that has indeed gone global, but DeLong had no such visions of success when he began working seriously on his music. Eventual performance, however, had a huge influence on what he had already created.
“Initially I had no ambitions,” he notes. “I was just writing songs and it was fun to record stuff. As time went on and I started performing, I guess, I started to realise that I could do something with this, that it was a viable use of my time. I started performing about two-and-a-half years ago and it was a bit different than it is now, but that was when I also realised that I wanted to integrate the dance element a lot more into my performance and subsequently I went back into the studio and re-thought a lot of those songs which were not even dance songs to begin with.
“I reformed them that way to make everything kind of coherent so it would be a much more fun experience, I guess, to see me live.”
It’s one thing knowing people are listening to your music in other countries; it’s another going and performing it to them. For DeLong, the reactions around the world have been interesting.
“Generally I find that if it’s the right environment people have kind of the same reaction,” he says. “They let loose and have a good time, dance and whatever. My performance is pretty high energy and if we have a good sound system we try to destroy everything as much as possible (laughs).
“It’s pretty consistent in that sense, especially if people have an expectation of what I’m going to do. Sometimes I think that if people have no idea of what I do and they see me live a lot of times they just kind of stand there and watch because it’s pretty different, I guess. Which sometimes is disconcerting to me (laughs) but it’s all good.”
DeLong started out on drums, playing in indie bands. His first instrument remains an important component in his music, not just in terms of beats, but his overall musical view.
“I’ll always approach things first and foremost from a drummer’s perspective,” he says. “I think that helps a lot for me, especially early on when I started getting into dance music because it was initially really easy for me to identify rhythms and create them.
“Beyond that, I guess, as a drummer a lot of times your job is to just be the guy in the background overseeing everything, making sure that everything is holding together and trying not to get in the way, but provide a basis for the music. I think a lot of drummers become producers because of that. They see everything from the global perspective, as opposed to, say, guitarists who just think about every note they can play (laughs).”
DeLong has become infamous for his use of handsets and controllers in his music. When it comes to creating an instrument that previously didn’t exist there’s no one to teach you and no rules to follow.
“I’ve always been a tinkerer and curious and it just kind of evolved,” he says. “Now for me it’s fun because it’s a way to reappropriate old technology and recognise that I’m probably better with a gamepad that I am with a keyboard (laughs).
“It’s fun to be able to find new tactile ways to interact with music. At this point, as long as it’s digital information in your computer, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing – as long as you’re interacting with it you can have any means of creating or interacting with the sound. For me it was just kind of a fun thing, but it’s evolved to be a big part of my show.”