Robotaki’s Live Music Experiment conducted in Chicago

By Nancy Huynh

Robotaki conducts an entirely new reality through his sole voice. It’s not often you experience a live EDM set where the performer only plays their own discography. This is a goal for many music producers to be able to not only produce a large collection of their own music, but to also perform an entire set solely their own music. Preston Chin, better known under the name of Robotaki, achieved this for his Fall 2018 tour through “The Experiment”. Robotaki brought his intimate live experience and production to the Chop Shop & 1st Ward in Chicago.

Robotaki is a Canadian music producer known for his attentiveness to details and the use of funk, electropop, house and disco sounds in his music. His aim is to create positive music that encourages humans to dance, as well as experience a new musical experience never heard before.

The show started with the live performance from Ehiorobo, an alternative, R&B and electronic vocalist and performer from New Jersey. The performance consisted of vocals combined with electronic instruments, evoking sounds of soul, jazz and electronica. The following opener was Brocratic, also a music producer from New Jersey. His sounds consists of organic soul, bass and electronica. The opening producers expressed much energy in not only their music, but also throughout their performance, in which engaged the crowd and warmed them up for the live experiment to come.

Prior to the show I was able to briefly chat with Robotaki, asking what to expect for the night. He said to me, with laughter: “hopefully something you’ll enjoy! We’ve worked hard for months putting this together”. Normally with EDM tours, the set lists aren’t often drastically changed, and usually remain the same. This influenced my expectation for the night, where the set will be just like the sets performed on the previous tour dates. However, Chicago’s live “Experiment” became much more intimate to everyone’s pleasant surprise, including the performer himself.

The Experiment Live began with the visual engagement of the stage production.  The stage set up was symmetrical, consisting of tall parallel light beams that surrounded the drum kits, pianos and electronic instruments in the center. Further this, fog machine and small flashing lights below the parallel beams were in effect. The introduction light show began, with a vocal narrative that the followed the deliberate sequences of the lights. The narratives were audio samples of astronauts ready to take off in space. This creative choice not only expressed space exploration, but also create a sense of exploring an alternate reality. Could this reality be a place that Preston wants his listeners to explore?

The Experiment Live musically consisted of solely Robotaki. This ranged from original tracks, unreleased tracks, remixes, mashups, live edits as well as tour exclusive live edits. There was even mentions of performing songs and edits he doesn’t normally play in his live DJ sets. The performance went beyond playing from the computer, but also incorporate live performance of EQ turntables, drum kits, piano, flute and singing vocals.

As the show went on, Preston grew more and more connected with the Chicago crowd and its radiating energy. Due to this connection, at one point of the show he decided to be vulnerable, performing what he’s been practicing but not entirely confident in yet. Continuing on his goal to performing solely his own music, he took this further and premiered a couple of his recent projects that included his own singing vocals.

Post the set, I chatted with Preston again for further insight on his vision for the EP and the tour, as well as plans for the future in regards to his music:

“The setlist appeared to be more spontaneous than pre-planned, why was that?”

Preston: Right before the show, I was planning to play the regular set. However, the vibe of the venue and crowd was just beautiful, and I wanted to play a set based on the vibe crowd. It became more intimate. I did this to set the mood.

“I noticed the narrative audio throughout the show. Where were the narrative audio samples derived from? What was the reasoning behind the audio sample choice in your live set?”

Preston: “The narrations are actually audio samples from the Apollo landing mission. Even though it doesn’t totally match the science concept of the tour, I wanted to match the feeling of space and exploration. I also just love Cowboy Bebop, which inspired me to add that feeling to the show.”

“Why did you choose to play certain live instruments?”

Preston: “Because I was brought up on them, they are all and the only instruments I could play.”

“Was tonight’s show your first time performing your music that included your own vocals?”

Preston: “Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t really consider it singing. I was more adding the elements to a song. But, I’m going to work to get more confident along the process. I literally just bought a microphone before coming on this tour because I wanted to add more to the experience. I then wrote two really quick demos that I turned into sounds.”

“Are you thinking to have more singing in the future?”

Preston: “I already know I’m not the best singer, but I want to improve that and improve my writing.

“Are you self taught?”

Preston: “Oh yeah, I’m self taught. I’m not taking any lessons. However, if I could pay for lessons I would do it, but I already pay a lot for food –laughs-”

“What inspired the science theme within your music? Were you always into science?”

Preston: Yeah! It’s kind of a tongue and cheek thing, I’ve always been into science. I actually have two degrees in science. I got my undergrad and masters in Biology in Montreal. I’m not even really using that right now, but with my EP I named the songs and concepts after my background knowledge. It’s kind of amusing, but it shows how crazy life can be. It doesn’t really matter, because there is no right or wrong.

“What are your music plans for the future?”

Preston: I really want to work on a second EP, or even an LP – something longer. It’s going to be more coherent, because the EP consists of songs over the course of two years put together, so I want to start from beginning to end with a solid idea.

Throughout the set, the crowd shared much love and energy, where everyone was dancing nonstop. Through the Experiment Live, Robotaki successfully connected with the Chicago crowd, creating an intimate setting that evoked a sense of positive emotions, exploration and curiosity, as well as successfully performed an entire set that solely consisted of his own musical work.

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