[tweetmeme] [fbshare type=”button”] The 20 question interview series by editor Rick Jamm continues with indie rocker Robbie Tee who has spent 30 years working his craft between many highs, lows and lengthy intervals and who today is finally starting to reap some benefits.
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
Robbie: We’re talking about 30 years now. Started hitting the pots and pans in my mother’s kitchen ever since I can remember
2. Who has been, or are, your musical influences?
Robbie: I often get asked this question and the answer’s always the same. Every muso who’s ever lived before me. However to be more specific, if we’re talking drums then it’s Steve Gadd, if it’s guitars then the names are Eric Clapton, Santana and Al Di Meola. I didn’t mention Hendrix because here we’re talking god, and it’s so easy for anyone to say how they been influenced by god.
3. Put together your dream jam session band made up of your all time favourite musicians.
Robbie: Drums – Steve Gadd, Bass – Stanley Clarke, Keyboards – Jon Lord, Guitar – Eric Clapton, Acoustic Guitar – Al De Meola, Saxophone – David Sanborn, Vocals – Gino Vannelli. Once again I won’t mention god.
4. Describe your first instrument or piece of musical equipment.
Robbie: A very cool black Ludwig drum kit that my mom bought me, without Dad knowing of course.
5. What CD is in your car stereo right now?
Robbie: At the moment I only travel on 2 wheels, but my mp3 player is loaded with Joe Bonamassa, probably the only major label guitar player worth a listen today.
6. Which song or musical composition do you wish you had created and why?
Robbie: “I want to know what love” is by Foreigner. “Wish you were here” by Pink Floyd. “Soldier of fortune” by Deep Purple. “Lately” by Stevie Wonder…and the list goes on and on. I love heart ripping atmospheric ballads that leave you breathless. I don’t do many because you need an exceptional voice to convince listeners. Out of my league…
7. The greatest album ever, and why?
Robbie: Steely Dan – Aja. Every single note or sound produced on this album is exactly where it is supposed to be. It is impossible to improve the immense work done here. I have listened to it thousands of times over. Engineering, production, musicians and songs there is no alternative means of doing this album any better. I mean I would change a couple of things on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”, The Beatles “Sgt. Peppers” or even Dire Straits “Love Over Gold”. But Aja for me, is untouchable. All you have to do is listen.
8. If you were forced to pick one, which of your original compositions is your favourite?
Robbie: It’s almost always the next one I’m working on, but if I have to mention one, it’s “Hannah”, a song I wrote more than 10 years ago and never had the occasion to release yet.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your music the way it is?
Robbie: My honest and undying love for the pop rock sound of the 70’s and 80’s. A simple heartfelt lyric, a catchy chorus and some raunchy guitar riffs to move the rhythm.
10. Does the place where you live ( or places you have lived ) affect the music you create and in what ways?
Robbie: Well songs are basically the stories of our lives, our lives happen in the places we live or visit. So yes it does affect my music. More than the music it’s the lyrics that take you there.
11. What aspect of music making excites you most?
Robbie: Composing new material and working in the studio. I love putting things together…creating.
12. What aspect of music making discourages you most?
Robbie: The commercial aspect. Anything to do with selling music. It’s like selling your kids. First you have to convince everybody that they’re the best on the block. Then you have to set a price for them!
13. What are your thoughts about the actual state of the music industry today?
Robbie: I think the industry is going through major changes. The power is slowly moving into the hands of who creates the music, and that is the artist. I think the A&R men in grey suits should all be hung by the balls until their scrotum bags fall off.
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed (and one you didn’t but should have)?
Robbie: The one I followed: “Never give up, you’re never too old to play music”. The one I should have followed: “Don’t trust anyone in this business, especially you’re friends.”
15. At this time in your career, as an independent artist, which factor do you desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure etc…) and why?
Robbie: A much bigger budget…to achieve all the above-mentioned things…but mainly to bribe radio stations and fake sales on iTunes for better publicity.
16. How often and for how long do actually practise or exercise your talent
Robbie: Talent is too big a word for me. However the answer is hardly. I compose a song on Monday morning, write the lyrics after lunch, lay down the tracks and mix it by Wednesday. On Friday I can’t even remember the title anymore because I’m already working on the next one. Over the years I have accumulated over 1000 songs just waiting to be released.
17. Which is your favourite distribution platform ( Tunecore, Audiolife, CD Baby, your own Website, etc…) and why?
Robbie: I have at some time used them all, but it’s not the platform that matters. It’s getting known that does. In this the music industry hasn’t changed much. You have to get yourself known. On the radio, TV, Internet or wherever and here the majors still have the upper hand. They have budgets to plug any artist they want to sell. If no-ones ever heard of you or know what you’re called, they can’t exactly search for you on iTunes or any platform for that matter. This is probably the best piece of advice I could give to any artist starting to sell independently on internet. Don’t worry about the selling platform, spend time and resources in creating a buzz about yourself through social networks, private radio stations etc. Get your name heard big time.
18. Live gigging or studio recording, pick your first choice and why?
Robbie: Although I do adore the odd handclap and shriek, I prefer the secure comfort of a studio, where I can indulge myself to my heart’s content without annoying anyone and when I make a mistake (which is often) I just do a retake and Bob’s your uncle.
19. Analogue or Digital effects in music production. Choose one and tell us why?
Robbie: Digital…because it is able to emulate the warm analogue sounds so well and so much quicker. Almost all my guitar sounds are old school rock classics that come from GTR2 or Guitar Rig4. Plugin, preset, play…it’s that simple!
20. If you were not a musician, what would you be doing today?
Robbie: I would be in my old personnel manager job, with no debts nor any taxman on my heels!