An Interview with Robot (Scarborough hardcore)

In the concrete trenches of Scarborough grinds the unrelenting steel and bone of Robot. Founded sometime back in 2014 with the release of their debut EP, Burn, the then four-piece would undergo a series of line-up changes and tumult that left the band’s future uncertain. Nearly three years later; however, Robot found traction and persevered. They enlisted Z, their new bassist, into their ranks and instead of seeking a replacement guitarist, Robot maintained themselves as a lean (though ultimately rawer) trifecta. Comprised of Davey, Jordan, and Z, these three came blaring back last October with a new EP titled Process—a succinct skull-cleaving slab of hardcore splattered with bleak lyrics.

I came across Robot early on in my searches for bands to contribute to the upcoming compilation. And within the opening seconds of Process‘s first track, “Never Alone”, I was crushed. I was fortunate to make contact with Davey, who gladly accepted the invitation to contribute and additionally answer my questions below. He along with Jordan and Z were also very kind to provide me details for an artist profile, which you can read here. In their profile, you can sample their presence in a live setting and also read up on each of their favorite records. Embedded below is “Never Alone”. Thank you so much for reading.

You just came back from a pretty long hiatus, some line-up changes, and you recently dropped a new EP, ‘Process’. Was the three-year period between your 2014 EP ‘Burn’ to now tumultuous?

It was very difficult and awfully depressing with constant lineup changes and full time jobs that prevented us from making any real headway in terms of traveling or even playing shows in our own city. We came close to throwing in the towel a few times but with some perseverance I think we are stronger and more confident as a band now then ever before!

Back in late 2015, you parted ways with former band mate Paul. Before his departure you were a four-piece, but after he split you decided to continue on as a three-piece. What led you to remain as a trio going forward?

Purely logistics. We were pretty busy at the time with our real life alter-egos and that combined with a dose of awful luck leads to a lot of trouble getting the band together in one room. Most of the songs were written with one guitar in mind anyway, so we decided that we could get away with that without sacrificing anything and ruining the experience. (Plus we were sick of wasting time teaching new members old songs.)

Do your new songs reflect sentiments and/or insights regarding your process of reforming and coming back?

Most of the newer songs were actually written when the bands future was completely uncertain. At the time I was under the impression that we might not ever actually end up playing any of it live. Although it may not be directly reflected in the songs the uneasy state we were all in definitely left its mark on ‘Process’.

The lyrics in particular are bleak; their delivery rasped and shouted in this ferocious strain. I noticed some recurring themes related to fevered dreams, nightmares, and struggles within the mind. What headspaces were you in when you penned these words? Are you drawing from personal experiences?

“I am my own worst enemy and I know it, and I hate it” is the main theme behind ‘Process’. Most of the lyrics were written during sleepless nights/waking nightmares out of sheer frustration with my own actions or mental well being and the lyrics describe the struggle as an attempt to change this situation (hence the process). Most people can relate to having that shitty little devil on their shoulder who causes them endless grief and I think almost all of the songs could be interpreted as a self-flagellation of sorts.

Jordan (left) and Davey (right) (photo credit: Jerome Constantine)

Was is cathartic writing and recording these tracks?

In my opinion playing music is always going to be at least somewhat cathartic especially when it’s written about personal experience, but by the time the EP was recorded I felt like I had a lot more left to say. That being said, finally hearing it recorded was a huge relief and although I can see us playing most of these songs for some time we are looking forward to writing some new music.

How is it to be back in front of people and playing these songs live?

We are super excited to be playing and making the most of it while having a lot of fun. Our live set is more energetic then ever as we aim to give everyone a more compelling experience!

The musicianship on ‘Process’ sounds tighter, the riffs are unrelenting, and at times crunchy and bouncy, cemented by the unfettered precision of the drums. Did your approach to writing songs change or evolve between ‘Burn’ and now?

When we started writing songs for Process, we knew we wanted them to flow and have a cohesive feel which I think we managed to achieve to some degree. Whereas all the tracks on Burn were written completely separately and just recorded together at a later date.

How do you typically begin writing a song?

I usually have somewhat of an idea for how I want a song to flow before we actually start putting it together. I’ll bring some riffs and ideas to band practice and the song will go through a hundred iterations of itself before it ever makes it off the chopping block and into the studio. We try to keep our sound original while remaining respectful of the genres which have inspired it, so we usually end up trashing 90% of the stuff that doesn’t embody the feel we’re looking for.

You classify yourselves as Scarborough Hardcore. Is there a vibrant scene of hardcore bands in Scarborough and its surrounding areas? What genres are emblematic of the region?

I know of a handful of hardcore bands that have started in Scarborough in the last 10 years, and maybe 2 of them are still around now. We had a pretty big venue (Rockpile East) but it got shut down within a year due to lack of use, which is telling of the area. That being said, most people interested in playing music here end up moving to downtown Toronto, where the hardcore scene is starting to grow once again after years of stagnation.

I read a small interview snippet with your new bassist, Z—how he’s from Beijing, moved to Vancouver years ago, and recently relocated to the Toronto area for a new beginning. How did you meet Z and make him part of ROBOT?

I met Z through a Facebook merch swapping page. I bought a Napalm Death and a No Warning tee off him (coincidentally our band sounds like a mix of those two…). Later I asked him if he wanted to play bass in Robot and the rest is (recent) history!

Did bringing Z into ROBOT’s fold shift the band’s writing dynamic?

Z has a relentless approach to playing bass while being a huge gear head so it has definitely brought a brutal dynamic to our songs in a live setting. It isn’t always easy to find people in the same creative wavelengths, so it was a relief to meet somebody who understood what we were trying to do right away.

Z (photo credit: Capten Zomby)

What do you want people to feel and experience when they listen to ‘Process’? Is there a salient message you’re communicating?

Process is lyrically more of a symbolic documentation of emotions and I wouldn’t say there is any real coherent message anywhere in it. I hope most can enjoy the whole EP as a sonic experience, but it would all be worth it even if people like just one or two songs.

Now that the machine seems well oiled and running, what are you focusing on as a band for 2018?

It’s time to jump in the mix and get our hands a little bit dirty. More shows, more music, more blood!

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Thank you so much, Robot, for your time and being apart of the upcoming compilation. And thank you readers for giving Robot your attention. You can snag a digital copy of Process at the band’s Bandcamp page. Follow them on Facebook for updates on new music and shows (if you live nearby). Also, check out their artist profile here to learn a bit more about each band member and their favorite records.


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