A Chat with Robert DeLong

On some of your bios, you’re described as a “LA based dance-pop one man band”. However, you now have a drummer perform live with you during a few songs. Does that mean you’re going to have to change that bio?

Maybe! Adam, who’s drumming with me, is my stage tech. I was just like “hey man, you’re good at drums, why don’t you just drum for a couple tunes.” I like it, especially for my club shows, because it frees me up so I can occasionally just be a frontman and not have to worry about all the shit going on.


I heard you spent some time in Denver back in 2016.

Yeah, I moved there at the beginning of 2016 and lived there for a year and a half. I enjoyed it; it was a nice break from the Los Angeles chaos, and I’d been on the road so much at that point that it was a nice reprieve from everything. I wrote a lot of music and just kinda figured out what the hell I was doing. I went hiking a lot. I ran every day. I lived right next to a nice park. It was really beautiful, but I was flying to LA at least once a month, if not more, to do writing over there. It was a nice break, but when I came back, I liked LA more than ever.


Why Denver?

I don’t know. I think skiing honestly – I made it out quite a few times that year. I just thought it was beautiful. It reminded me of the Northwest, but a little bit different. It was just sort of an arbitrary decision honestly. I was just like “I want to move somewhere, let’s go let’s do this”.


Would you move back again?

I had a good time. I’ll go back to visit, but I doubt I’ll move back.


So, if you decide to take a break again before your next release, where do you think you’ll go next?

I mean, I would love to do Brooklyn. But I know it’s so expensive.


Would you go to Thailand? You’ve mentioned that you visited there.

I love Thailand. Thailand is so great. We were looking at places in Chiang Mai while we were there, and the price of living there would almost be worth it, even if we had to pay for the flights. It’s doubtful that I would actually follow through with that though. I’m needed back in the States so much, and it’s an expensive, long flight.


In the past, you’ve said that you’re trying to “further the future of technology and music”. Is there anything that’s going on that you find especially scary or interesting in terms of new technological innovations?

There are so many cool things right now. I do think the whole virtual reality thing is great. I mean, there are so many uses for it now, like gaming. It’s been around for a long time, but it’s actually starting to become something more public and more functional. I have a song that’s going to be in a virtual reality game coming out. It’s one of those games where you’re performing the songs. There’s also so many other crazy things like, technology helping people with disabilities to use their mind to control different things – whether it be appendages, or cars, or text to speech. Cool cool stuff.


Anything scary that you’re worried about in technology?

Your phone listening to everything you say and then sending you advertising based on it. Who knows how that will work as it becomes more integrated into our lives and the government gets a hold of that. Yeah, I think it’s all very scary, but I do have faith that there’s plenty of good hackers and hacktivists out there that hopefully can maintain the balance.


What’s the VR game you’re going to be a part of called?

It’s called Electronauts. You perform the songs, and you can remix them and play them however you want.


Which song of yours is being used?

It’s a weird kind of B-side. I released the song maybe a year and a half ago. It’s called ‘Paint Between the Frame’. It’s kind of like a deep techno thing. Really different than a lot of the stuff I’m putting out now.


Speaking of VR and video games, you use a lot of video game peripherals in your set up. Have you thought about somehow including VR in your live performance?

I have thought about this. I just feel like it would be so boring to watch someone on a headset up there.


Are you familiar with the stuff that IBM is doing with their AI Watson, and the producer Alex Da Kid? Alex Da Kid used Watson to write a song by feeding it pop culture snippets and a bunch of Billboard charting songs from the past few years. Does this worry you, or is this an exciting new way to leverage technology in your craft?

I think that’s awesome. I mean it’s one step close to the technological singularity. I’ve read the machine learning, AI comedians, and the jokes it’s written, and they’re funny because they don’t make any sense. So we do have a little ways to go; I’m not too worried about losing my job as a songwriter. I mean the irony is that songwriters write like 400 songs before they have one that’s a hit, but a robot could write 400 songs in 30 seconds if it had a fast enough processor. But, you have to imagine that a human being has a certain amount of random creativity that a robot doesn’t.


Well they say that the careers that are going to be the safest in this technological revolution are the ones that require creativity. So you’ll have a job when the singularity occurs.

It’s totally true though! I mean, technical things, where you just have to put the rivet in the same spot every time, from a programming standpoint is a lot easier to do than to try to imagine how this would make someone feel.


You’ve mentioned in the past that you have a laser harp. Can you tell me about it?

Yeah, unfortunately, I couldn’t use it for my Toronto show, as it has to be in total darkness. It’s a laser, so you can get permanent retinal damage if you look right at. I use a paddle to control it, and it’s anywhere from 5 to 15 laser streams. It sends a signal to the computer and then you can control it vertically


How did you decide to incorporate it into your set?


One of the main innovators in electronic music performance, Jean-Michel Jarre, has used laser harps for years – that’s how I first heard of it. But, I haven’t really seen any other artists using it in modern music.


Will you use it on your existing songs, or is it for a new song?


Well actually, when I can, I use it with ‘Favorite Color is Blue’. It’s super cool. I’m working on a few other things that are laser harp features. We’ll see – I’ll find a few other ways to use it.


Are there any other instruments out there that you would love to get your hands on?

There are so many cool things I really want to get my hands on. I forget who makes it, and it’s very expensive and very hard to tour with, but there’s an instrument that’s like the scene in ‘Minority Report’ – where he’s on the screen and moving stuff around. It’s a midi controller. Super cool – I definitely want to do that, but it’s really hard to tour with something that’s a giant piece of glass. I love anything that’s very visual and electronic


Your latest tune, ‘Favorite Color Is Blue’ not only features K.Flay, it was also written with her. What was it like working together with her?

Well, it was amazing. We found out we were living in the same neighbourhood, and just became friends. We literally ran into each other at a bar and then hung out a few times. She had a BBQ party at her house that I came to, and the next morning, we got up and wrote a song together. It was just really fun and easy. She got my vibe and I got her vibe immediately, and I think we both had just a tiny enough of a hangover that we were both like “fuck it, let’s write stuff”. And it worked.


Will you write more with her moving forward?

Yeah, we’re actually going to get together next month, have a couple of days, and see what happens. We probably won’t do one that’s the same format though so we don’t repeat ourselves.


Are you working on any other songs that feature different artists?

Not any other features right now. I’ve worked with some other artists though, and different songs have sort of amounted to different things. I’m producing a song and co-writing with an artist called James Supercave out of LA. He’s an up and coming psych pop act. Really cool stuff. I’m just a big fan of his music honestly. I hit up my management, and they had started kind of peripherally working with him, so it was easy to hang out. I’m really pumped about that. He was someone I was a huge fan of, and then I got to work with him.


Have you finished writing all the songs for this album cycle?

I’ll be putting out an EP. I’ve written so many songs; I imagine I’ve written hundreds of songs in the past two years.


How do you pick which ones make the cut?

I try and rely on other people to help me sort through them because I lose perspective with my own stuff. Some things I feel really passionate about, then two months later I realize they’re not good. I’m glad that someone’s like “Robbie calm down, this might not be that good”, and then vice versa, I’ll be like “this song is boring” and then two months later I’ll be like “no this song is great. I can see why you like it.”


Has every song that you’ve ever made been listened to by someone else?

Oh there are so many songs I don’t show to people because I know they’re not good. There are certain things that you just know are bad, or are just super weird. I make tons of music that wouldn’t be right for Robert Delong.


Would you give them to other artists then?

No, I’m going to figure out a way to release a lot of it. It’s like instrumental ambient techno. I think this music is relatively inaccessible but maybe it would play well in, like, Berlin.


So it would be for your German alter ego.

I’m trying to think of what a funny German name would be for myself. There isn’t a German version of ‘Robert’ is there?


‘Robert’ with a German accent.

Yeah. I’m not good at accents so I’m not going to attempt that!


Listen to Robert DeLong’s latest tune, ‘Revolutionary’


About author

Katrina is a writer and photographer at Live in Limbo. You can follow her musical adventures at @thekatalysts.