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My Favorite Robot: ‘We pride ourselves on being inclusive and not exclusive’

Marcus Barnes
MFR 300x225 My Favorite Robot: We pride ourselves on being inclusive and not exclusive

From left to right: James Teej, Jared Simms and Voytek Korab

In an age where house and techno is becoming increasingly repetitive and diluted by an influx of new artists with little imagination, there are (thankfully) still plenty of label owners willing to put their principles before making a quick buck. My Favorite Robot, owned by James Teej, Jared Simms and Voytek Korab is a Canadian-based label that does exactly that.

The trio prefer to sign and release music of substance and not necessarily made for the dancefloor and certainly not to follow trends. It’s a stance that has made their label one that I’m always keeping an eye on and one that is a constant source of good music. I caught up with Jared recently to speak about all things MFR-related.

Where does the name ‘My Favorite Robot’ come from?

The name was born as a result of a few too many beers and putting our heads together. We wanted a name that was serious but not too serious and something that reflected the electronic nature of the music. We’re very serious about our music and label but really, we are guys that are sarcastic and love to joke around, we think the name represents that.

How did you all meet?

Voytek and I both grew up in Montreal and met through a common friend that thought we’d get along because of our musical tastes (she might be on to something). It wasn’t too long after that, we started DJing at some parties together and formed MFR. At the start, it was mostly about DJing but it didn’t take long before we started to think more about the production side and started making music together. I moved to Toronto about seven years ago and through the next few years met Nitin, Jonny White, Kenny Glasgow, and the No.19 crew, and of course Teej as well, who was just about to release his solo album on Rekids at the time. Even though Voytek still lives back in Montreal, we’ve all spent enough time between the two cities over the last five or so years that we’re all one big family.

So when and why did you decide to get together and work as a trio?

Teej and I became quite close in Toronto, and right from the beginning he started to become much more involved with the label, working on various projects together with Voytek and I. To join forces as a trio was never really the initial vision, but as time went on, and as we continued to get deeper and deeper into the label project and collaborations, there came a meeting where the idea came out and everyone felt that this was the right time and the right next step to push all of our projects forward. It was a very organic process and we just knew this was our next step.

How did you go about setting up the label?

The label idea came about only after I moved to Toronto and met the No.19 guys who were just getting their label off the ground as well. Nitin was really a driving force in helping give me the kick in the ass to make it happen and actually, Jonny White helped me by managing the label for the first six months and helped with some of the day to day decisions. There weren’t really any problems getting it off the ground.

We felt that the music we wanted to release had a place because it was quite different from what most people were doing and would stand out from the crowd. Whether people would like it was another story, but we didn’t really care about that. To me, I’d rather do something a bit different and have some people that love it and some people that hate it rather than trying to fit in and trying to make everyone love what you do.

Other than that, it’s just been a little luck, some good business sense, and building on small successes to help grow the reach and scope of the label. I also think not biting off more than we could chew is another reason we’ve made it this far. Starting off as a digital-only label and releasing music from the immediate family helped us make our mark and allowed to get us to where we are at now. There is still more to do, but we’re happy with the progress we’ve made as an independent label.

What’s the label ethos?

To ignore the norm and the current trends in ‘dance’ music, and release music that we love. We try not to complicate things or to pigeonhole ourselves into one sound and quite like the idea of keeping people guessing as to what’s coming next on the imprint. We like the music we like, and that’s what we push out through the label.

MFRR is a label that always releases high quality music, regardless of genre or sub-genre – to what would you credit this consistently reliable output?

We’ve been really quite lucky that a lot of artists whose music we love have become big supporters of our music and our label so as we’ve grown, we’ve been able to add some real pros to our roster and that has done nothing but helped our output and consistency

What are your stipulations for an My Favorite Robot Records (MFRR) release?

We don’t really have any. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and not exclusive. The music (to our tastes) just has to be on point and fit with our vision. That being said, as time goes on and we sign more artists to the label, we seem to be have less release slots for new artists and are trying to develop long lasting relationships with our existing artists.

How easy/difficult is it to maintain a record label in the current climate, when piracy/file sharing is so detrimental to making profits?

There is no doubt that this part of the label game is far less fun than most of the other parts. It’s tough, but it’s the current reality for not only record labels, but movie companies, software publishers and so on. All you can do is just play the game and do what you can to have the links removed. We have a company that helps us remove links from the web as they pop up and that is helpful. But as long as people want the music for free, instead of understanding that artists and labels can’t survive without seeing a return on their investment (time or money), the model will continue to be broken and it will continue to be a struggle.

What’s it like working as a trio?

Three heads are better than one. I’m much smarter with three brains… plus I have a terrible voice so with Voytek around, no one knows! I wouldn’t say there are really any downsides. We all get along, and when there are problems we always seems to work it out.

How would you say growing up in Canada has affected your musical output?

The fact that it’s so cold during the winter makes it pretty easy to stay focused on indoor projects like hanging in the studio and making music. But aside from that I think Canada is a place that draws influence from all around the world and many cultures and I think we are quite open-minded to different sounds and aesthetics. And of course, Celine Dion is from here, so if that doesn’t inspire you, I’m not sure what will.

There is such a strong contingent of good musicians/DJs that have come out of Canada? Why do you think this is?

Yes, there have been a really good group of electronic musicians and DJs that have come out of Canada over the years but I’m not sure I can pinpoint one reason that is responsible. I’m pretty sure it’s just something in the water.

How’s the electronic music/club scene in Canada and your own city right now?

Exposure to ‘electronic music’ is really at an all-time high in Canada and Toronto at the moment because of the EDM scene and more clubs than ever are playing that kind of music rather than hip hop/R&B. So it’s an interesting time and hopefully this will serve as a gateway for some to find some better music in the future. That being said, when it comes to the music we tend to be more into, the market is quite small but there are still good clubs across the country that support a more underground sound.

Which Canadian clubs are worth checking out?

In Montreal we play at Stereo, which has a great sound system and used to have a residency at Velvet a few years back which is a dope venue in the ‘old city’ near the port. Toronto has a few good places where international DJs come through like Footwork, the Drake Underground (where we’ll be playing on Oct 25th with Fairmont to launch his album) and Wrongbar.

How has 2012 been for MFR so far? Any notable highlights?

It’s been a great year for us personally and for the label. It’s always satisfying to see that the time and effort that you put into the project is helping it to grow and mature. For the label, 2012 saw our first parties at BPM in Mexico, WMC in Miami, and Sonar in Barcelona. We’ve also started and will continue to release album projects on the label, which to us just seemed like the next step to allow our music to endure. And for us as artists, 2012 has seen a lot of first visits to cities around the world, and seeing the type of support that we’ve gained to date is very humbling! The highlights of the summer to date have to be playing a couple of times for the Circoloco guys at DC10 and an amazing festival we played in Amsterdam called Zomerpark.

What would be the ultimate dream for MFR?

I’m not sure that we are the biggest dreamers to be honest. It’s more about having a vision, and working hard to achieve it. If anything, the dream is for as many people to love the music that we love as much as we do.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

We are just in the final stages of finishing off our second full length album and the plan is to hit the road and continue to spread the MFR gospel. We also have a lot of label projects that need to be pulled together so it will be a lot of work, travel, repeat!

What releases do you have scheduled for the next few months?

We’ve just had Jori Hulkkonen’s album release on the label and that’s is a huge milestone for us. After that we have an EP from Jonny Cruz (with Avatism, Jeremy P Caulfield, and Fur Coat on remix duties), a full length album from Fairmont, followed by an EP for a new project from Kasper Bjorke and Sexy Lazer called The Mansisters. Tons of other great music is in the pipeline as well! As for us personally, we just put out a remix on BPitch Control and are excited about a remix we have coming out on Tim Paris’ Marketing Music label later this year, as well as a remake of Shout from Tears for Fears that we’ll be putting out before years end. Stay tuned!

Are there any exciting new artists that you are listening to at the moment?

We have some great new talent that is had just released or will be coming out with some new material on MFRR. A couple of artists to keep your eyes peeled for are Londoners DeadEcho, Vancouver’ s Stefan Z who also runs a dope label named Rhombus, and look out for Pink Skull on MFRR in the Springtime, they’ve put together the most insane EP of acid house and electronica, can’t wait for that one to be heard.

My Favorite Robot will be in London on November 24 to play at the Basement in Hoxton for Motek. For more information on the trio and their label, visit their website HERE.

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