"Whats on Your Mind (Pure Energy)" and "Running" are just some of the dance floor classics by the seminal synth-pop band Information Society, back for 2007 with a new release paying homage to their roots - the Synthesizer. Producer Paul Robb spoke with us about everything from freestyle and changing lineups to free software and the internet. Paul is the kind of witty guy you want to chat with for hours at a pub and new tracks like "Baby Just Wants" and "Back In The Day" would be the perfect soundtrack.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: So, you're the producer guy behind the band, right?
Paul Robb (Information Society): That's right.
RS: Kurt's the singer who's back, and then there's a third guy.
Paul Robb: Well actually there's two other guys, but there's another singer who did some of the songs on this new record. The third historical, official member, going all the way back to the beginning, is James Cassidy.
RS: OK. And he's not involved anymore.
Paul Robb: No, everybody's involved, it's like a big party. We even had Vitamin C come in and sing for us.
RS: Really? What song did she sing?
Paul Robb: Oh, she sings background on a whole bunch of them, and then one of the songs that's actually not on the album, but it's on the EP. That came a little bit before the album called Great Big Disco World. That was a co-lead with, well actually, Kurt was on that song, too.
RS: So one thing I thought was really cool listening to the new
tracks, and I loved it when I noticed, you're using vocal samples
again, like in the old days, when you had all those Star Trek samples.
Paul Robb: Yes, well, you've got to keep your legacy alive. Besides I love that, I love that sort of classic way of using samples.
RS: What are those samples from, if I can ask?
Paul Robb: You know, they're from different places. A lot of those in that particular track are from old movie trailers for sexploitation films from the early 50s. Not Reefer Madness, but movies that were kind of like Reefer Madness, like 'today's wild youth – who knows what deviancy they'll get up to next,' that kind of thing.
RS: For all the gear guys out there, what software are you using
and what hardware are you using?
Paul Robb: I'm a Cubase man.
Paul Robb: Why, is that surprising?
RS: A little bit, yes, most DJ/producers I've talked to mostly
use Logic or ProTools. You don't hear of Cubase that often.
Paul Robb: Yes, well, in Europe Cubase is a lot more popular. I come from a background of MIDI sequencing, not just recording loops and stuff. And so naturally I kind of evolved along with the concept of The Doors, but back when I started, there was no digital audio, so it was all just MIDI from my racks. I still work that way to a certain extent but, yes, I love Cubase and I'm very comfortable with it. I've tried Logic twice. I hated it, hated it.
RS: What synths are you using, what outboard gear?
Paul Robb: I cycle through them. I buy a lot of them and then stop using then when I get bored. But I have a Chord Radius – I use that when we do live shows – that I really dig and it's also like it's own private disco lightshow, it has so many blinking LEDs on it that it's unbelievable. But I've got to tell you, my favorite synthesizers lately, are you ready for this? And I've got some big, expensive synthesizers, too, software and hardware. But my two favorite synthesizers of late have come as freebies on a DVD that's attached to a UK music magazine.
Paul Robb: Yes, it's the strangest thing. One of them is called Dominator, and the other one just came with the last Computer Music and it's called Bass Rack, or something like that. They're great because they're simple, the sounds are totally whacked-out and they're not swamped in all sorts of reverb and arpeggiation and, you know, all this crap that I prefer to do myself.
RS: That makes sense, that makes perfect sense.
Paul Robb: I also have Native Instruments Massive, that's another new one that I just bought that's cool, but it doesn't excite me as much as those two freebies that I just mentioned for some reason.
RS: I notice with this project there's a bunch of remixes on it.
How do you feel about being part of the remix culture, having other
people take on your music and doing new interpretations?
Paul Robb: Yes, I love that. There was a while in the 90s when the remix culture kind of went down this dead end of taking pop songs of the day and completely eliminating any reference to the original song, other than maybe one vocal sample or something. And I think that was a stage that probably had to happen, but you don't really see that much anymore. I think at this point it has become a very healthy interchange between DJs and producers and artists. Also, a lot of the artists these days are DJs anyway, or producers or whatever. But, I love hearing our songs done in ways that I would never have thought of doing, it's a great thing.
RS: Very cool. The new album is called Synthesizer. Why that as
Paul Robb: It's been a long time since we put out a new record, and one of the things that we always kind of felt burdened by in the old days was the backlash against us as an electronic band. Because we were so unexpectedly pop, we were in the charts with people like Eddie Money and Phil Collins, and the label always tried to play down the fact that we were an electronic band. And then electronica happened, which we didn't really care for because of the lack of songs, and we realized, hey, we are a synthesizer band. We play synth pop and really, there's nothing to be ashamed of. We're out, loud and proud, and we are a synth band. Love it or leave it.