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Free the Robots

Artist Info
Name
Free the Robots

Occupation:
Producer/DJ

Members:
Chris Alfaro (urthWORM)

M-Audio Gear :
Axiom 61, Mobile Laptop Studio Backpack, Torq Conectiv

Background:
Chris Alfaro is Free the Robots. The genre-defying artist pulls together heavy doses of traditional jazz, Hip-Hop, psychedelic sounds, Indian spice, progressive melodies, obscure samples and devastating drums into a rich pot of sound. His techniques create harmony between genres with the blending obscure samples with analog and digital compositions. Based out of Santa Ana, CA, Free The Robots started as a side project by Alfaro in 2003 while also playing with different bands, producing MC’s, and DJing full time. Having worked with so many different styles of music, Free the Robots brought everything together under one roof, allowing further exploration through sampling. To go along with the samples, Alfaro adds other sounds with controllers, and live instruments (keys, guitar, turntables) to keep the blend of sampling and original composition balanced. Free the Robots has reached a worldwide audience since its humble beginnings and found its place among the top artists in this genre. Since the development of Alfaro’s live show, Free the Robots has shared the stage with the likes of Prefuse 73, Afrika Bambaataa, Flying Lotus, and Devotchka.

Free the Robots
Infusing traditional jazz with classic hip-hop and some psychedelic sounds, Free the Robots (Chris Alfaro) continues to draw a massive underground following from LA to Montreal.

What musical elements make up the Free The Robots sound?

I make all sorts of different music, but the actual sound of the recordings keeps the flow of my tracks consistent. I tend to keep my sound on the dirty side to preserve the flavor of the original samples. I simply chop, rearrange, manipulate, beef-up, and compose layers using live instruments and heavy drum chops to create harmony within a track.

The samples come from just about everywhere—I spend a lot of time lurking and digging around swap meets, records stores and thrift shops. It’s surprising how much good music is mixed in between piles of Barbra Streisand records and old Journey LPs.

How has Torq impacted the way you DJ?

Torq includes tools that other digital DJ applications just don’t have, such as live looping, built-in effects and cue point triggering. It works so well with my M-Audio Trigger Finger that it makes DJing more like live production. The simple act of mixing between songs is the main feature of a lot of computer-based vinyl emulation programs—but from a producer standpoint, Torq allows you to do so much more. Torq really is the most creative DJ application out there. Plus the Torq control records are made from real vinyl. When it comes to scratching, the accuracy and feel make a big difference.

What are your favorite Torq features and how do you use them?

Quick Scratch, the built-in effects, iPod compatibility, the ability to record an entire performance … there's just so much.

I use looping to create live remixes that elaborate on certain breaks in a song. It’s pretty crazy once you get the hang of it. There are so many features in Torq that everyone can use it in a completely different way. It really just depends on how far the user wants to take it.

Describe your technical setup for live performances.

It’s a two-man collaborative jam session mesh of Free the Robots songs. The set hardly ever stops and keeps progressing throughout. I use my Trigger Finger drum pads for manipulating loops and sounds through Torq and Ableton Live. One turntable is setup just for scratching samples. My partner Phil handles a Nord electro, digital piano and a variety of effects processors. Sometimes we switch it up, and I play leads on the Nord and he gets on the drum pads. We like to keep everything moving. The fun thing about electronica is there's so much you can do without following the norm of traditional instrumentation.