Interview: I Am Robot And Proud

I got in touch with the man behind I Am Robot And Proud the other day, Shaw-han Liem, to see if he'd be up for doing a quick interview for blogTo. He was which I was extremely pleased about.

You could say that he produces beautifully warm, electronic music in which quirky offbeat pentatonic melodies and weird instruments combine to create very live sounding, organic textures. But that would sound pretty pretentious and probably wouldn't make you much the wiser. So instead of treading down that path I suggest you check out some tracks for yourself at the excellent newmusiccanda site right here.

Then read on to see what he had to say...

The electronic scene in Toronto seems to be gaining a lot of momentum but a lot of the attention seems to be coming from outside of Toronto itself. Is that frustrating for you?
It has historically been tough for electronic musicians in Toronto, I'm not sure why. Maybe people aren't used to it yet, but hopefully this will change with time. I love rock bands as much as the next guy, but it's nice when something unexpected happens.

Your sound reminds me at times of a great band I've seen a few times, To Rococo Rot. Are you a fan?
To be honest, I've only heard a few songs of theirs. But I have heard the comparison before, so perhaps I should find out more about them. I am a big fan of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, and more recent groups like Mouse on Mars.

Where's your favourite place in Toronto to hang out in the evening?


I live near Trinity Bellwoods park, and spend my time in that area.

You've played all over Toronto, what's been your favourite venue?
After a while, all bar/club venues start to feel the same. The shows that stick out in my mind are places where you wouldn't normally see a show. Once I was part of a show that took place on a balcony in Kensington market. We set up speakers and pointed them at the street. Trinity St-Paul church is also an amazing place to play music.

What's the last album you listened to and loved?
Hmm that's a tough one. There is a Canadian band called Snailhouse who recently released a new record, which I love.

Your sound has a very live feel to it, how much of the music is sampled and how much is played you directly?
I grew up playing piano, so I'm most comfortable with a keyboard in front of me. I like to record from a lot of different sources. I am working on a new record which has guitars, pianos, saxophone and flute arrangements, live drums, as well as a lot of electronic elements.. I put all these things into my computer and cut them up. That's the most fun for me, to try and use a variety of different sounds and make them sound like they belong together.

Do you have a specific creative process (a focus on images or themes for example)?
Generally, I start with a group of sounds and it eventually turns into an idea. Why a does a certain group of sounds remind you of snow? It's a totally mysterious thing to me. I think it's mostly trial and error.

You release things through different labels - Dubtone, Darla, The Blue House. How does that work!?
These are small independent labels that generally only have resources to release a few things a year, so it usually works out that when I have some new songs to release, I need to fit it into their respective schedules.

What are your plans for the rest of the 2005?
I'm completing a new record right now which will come out early next year on Darla. I'm also putting together another compilation for a website that I run (www.thebluehouse.org), which will hopefully come out around the same time.

Images courtesy of the I Am Robot And Proud website.

Thanks again to Shaw-han Liem once again for taking some time out to speak.

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