Mr. Roger Robinson is a Trinidad born and Brixton based poet and musician. I discovered him through his collaborations with Kevin Martin known as The Bug. As a trio, alongside musician and fashion designer Kiki Hitomi they form King Midas Sound (KMS) a contemporary dub-lovers rock band. He tours the world with this band but also attends and performs his poetry at special events.
IM: Good day Mr. Robinson. Could you please talk about your dub poetry record on Jahtari – Dis Ah Side of Town. I loved it and I would like as many people to hear and give it a listen, because it’s an amazing work and people should open their minds towards this genre more. All the amazing voices of Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mutabaruka, Benjamin Zephaniah or contemporary characters such as yourself, The Spaceape, Rider Shafique, Jabu and Gaika should be given credit as much as written poetry.
RR: Dis Side Ah Town was an album that was in my mind for a couple of years since the London Riots in 2011. When Jan from Jahtari Records invited me to make a dub poetry album I knew this was the platform for it. I definitely had the idea of how I can make a record that people can turn their minds to the issues that might concern me and also be entertained at the same time. Dub poetry as a form was perfect for that because it has traditionally dealt with social and political issues well so it made sense.
IM: You’ve had a very productive year with Edition 1 from King Midas Sound coming out as well. How was it to record this LP and then take it to the stage. I admire and know the subtle difference between KMS on record and live, even though you, Kevin and Kiki haven’t performed yet in Romania. I’ve seen Mr. Martin under his The Bug moniker with Flowdan awhile ago in Bucharest. It was one of those gigs where the soundsystem got on his nerves.
RR: Edition 1 was written when my child and Kevin’s child lives were both under threat. I think Edition 1 has that raw emotion that we were both feeling at the time. Live is a different proposition because different questions are being asked in the live environment than in the listening environment. We didn’t want to lose the raw emotional element but there is a difference in amplification. Sound is the real difference live. It’s less subtle but equally as powerful.
IM: When is your future book coming out? Is it a compilation of recommendations such as Tao Te Ching as I suspect or is it a novel?
RR: Are you talking about the artists advice book? I’ve taken a little hiatus on books for a minute to concentrate more specifically on music projects, but the advice will continue on twitter. When a book does come out, it will probably be a compilation all the advice, or the best 200 pieces of advice we’ll see. I’ve started a talk based on the advice called Unlocking your Creativity and I’ve done a few of them now and people seem to get a lot from it. I’m doing one in Amsterdam in January. So I’m excited about doing more of those but a book will come out at some point, I just can’t say when.
IM: Roger talk to us of your Brixton Walk & Talk interviews. I’m also in love with such discussions and I see you enjoy them a lot. Tell us about your thirst for these culture sharing conversations and the whole concept.
RR: There's no big theory to it. I like art and artists so talking to them is fun and interesting for me so by extension I hope it’s fun and interesting for someone else.
IM: Can you tell us a little how you see cinema? Have you got a favorite screenwriter? Maybe director? Is your craft, your art, highly connected with movies? I’ve seen some of your videos and I can sense that you cherish symbols or you like to collaborate with cinematographers who transcript symbols and metaphors.
RR: I really like documentaries. Hoop Dreams, When We Were Kings and Four Little Girls are among my favourites. Some of my favourite films are The Lives Of Others, Central Station and City Of God. One of my favourite screenwriters is Charlie Kaufman. I’m not sure that I consciously connect my work with film, but when I write I think in terms of narrative and imagery from my practice of poetry that’s where the symbols come from too, poetry.
IM: Some personal questions: What is your family like? How do they encourage and support you? How do you feel like when touring or being away from them? What is your faith? God, Jah or something else? The Earth? I love the KMS tune Earth A Kill Ya.
RR: My family is very supportive. I have a young son who is 2 years old now. It’s hard leaving them to tour, but my wife is used to it and supports it. The hard thing is me being homesick for them. In my younger days I was Rastafarian in my philosophy (in that I don’t smoke weed and I don’t think Haile Selassie is a God), I’m Christian by religion. Earth a Kill Ya comes from my Rastafarian philosophy.
IM: I appreciate a lot the definitory reggae movies. How do you feel about unique Caribbean fictions like The Harder They Come, Rockers, Babylon, Smile Orange or modern affairs like Cool Running, Dancehall Queen, Home Again and Shootas?
RR: I love Caribbean films, some of them are so bad they become good in a cult way. Rockers is a film that informs me the most, art wise and aesthetic wise. Rockers had all the greats of reggae before they were great and the fashion sense is untouchable. The Harder They Come is a classic and Jimmy Cliff rules in it and the soundtrack is amazing. The others films you mention were somewhat entertaining with some great lines.
IM: Is is different to work with Kevin Martin as The Bug then to collaborate with him in King Midas Sound? You did quite a few tracks together in the late nineties and also closer to our days on London Zoo. I feel a little bit like ever since KMS developed he concentrated on collaborating with similar voices such as yourself and Kiki. I feel that when in listen to Save Me and Rise Up from Angels and Devils. How do you find the LP?
RR: Working with Kevin on The Bug was different in that I’d come in do my thing and get notes from him. Whereas with King Midas Sound we spent a lot of time together in the formation of ideas. We listened to reggae non stop, we talked about things we liked. Recorded stuff based on those ideas, tested things out, regrouped ‘till we came with a sound that we both liked. So I was there and integral to the formation ofKMS, but not so with The Bug.
IM: What do you feel when you listen to what you did with Kevin while he was making Techno Animal albums? I know you used have a technique closer to rapping.
RR: I still like some of it. Dead Man’s Curse still sounds fresh. I just explored different things not long after, but I’m not ashamed of that stuff at all.
IM: How do you view collaboration and collaborators? Do you listen to the musical input by Mr. Martin’s collaborators like Flowdan, Warrior Queen, Daddy Freddy, Roots Manuva, Miss Red, Grouper, Dylan Carson of Earth, Gonjasufi, Manga and Death Grips? How was it collaborating with Christian Fennesz?
RR: Collaboration for me is our separate entities, that need to come together and create a new entity altogether, or else the collaboration will be redundant. I’m a big fan of all Bugs collaborators they’re all great in their solo careers. I really liked Gonja, Dylan, Grouper, Death Grips, Roots Manuva and Daddy Freddy before they worked with Kevin. The rest I met through Kevin and became fans.
The Fennesz collaboration was so easy that it seems that he has been a fourth member of KMS all the time. He’s a super professional musician so it made everything quite smooth. Both Kevin and I were massive fans of him before we asked him to collaborate.
RR: Thank you very much! Happy New Year and have a nice day!
IM: Thanks for the interview and support Andrei.
Roger is available online: