Rob, how do you feel during this crucial world times (I mean politics turbulence, Brexit, social media impact, fast changing technologies…)
Uneasy. I wasn’t for Brexit and wanted us to remain part of the EU, but that wasn’t to be. Ironic that it’s the United Kingdom you know? What’s wrong with uniting with the rest of the world. It’s far better to come together in my opinion. There’s tension in the air and you can feel it. People are struggling. That’s not a direct result of Brexit, I think that will take sometime to unravel and understand, but overall, it feels like a few too many mistakes being made one after the other, and cut backs where there really shouldn’t have been. Health care being a major one. Let’s not even get onto the arts. So yeah, it’s not good. We just have to try in our own small way, do what we can to help each other.
Social media? I can’t keep up with it – it changes over night. And it feels very false anyway. I’m not saying there isn’t any good aspects to it – there is, and I’ve connected with incredible people via it. And that aspect is amazing. But It’s essentially a marketing tool to promote your interest or artistic outlet, or platform for people to create a pretend world, in attempt to keep up with everyone else’s pretend world, which leads to an overall feeling of inadequacy. That side of things really is unhealthy. Everything is functioned around social media now, so it’s almost impossible to escape.
Creating of music – what does it mean for you? Is it a long-term process with inspiration coming gradually or it can be spontaneously done – due to modern technology – in a few days?
It’s never ending. And it’s not by choice. I don’t choose to be creative or even try. It just finds its way in, and I’m pretty much either being or thinking/dreaming about something musically. It’s and endless journey and I’ve learnt to really appreciate it and harness it better. Spontaneity is a beautiful thing, and often the best ideas are born that way, but it can be difficult when you’re juggling some many different things in life – that’s where modern recording technology has really come into its own. For very little money, you can have a very basic set up that allows you to catch things as and when they come with quality.
Looking at it from a distance, how do you perceive the changing nature of recording technology?
It’s better and worse, depending on how you look at it. It’s better for the artists, because you get record your own music now cheaply, and professionally at home. Using real drum samples you can make a kit sound like an actually live kit. But then you know, it can have an effect on the live element – I’ve not really been blown away by a new live bands for such a long time. Perhaps there not in the rehearsal room day after day like you would have been years back, harnessing and perfection there art. They’re leant over keyboards for hours on end tweaking bloody hi hats ha. Real producers have had to take a back seat, because labels just won’t pay or see that as priority anymore. Which i think is huge loss. We’ve all become so competent at everything, that we’ve lost our weapon of choice and the desire to be truly immersed and brilliant in that. When I first picked up a guitar, I didn’t care about any other instrument, or producing a record. I was just completely submerged in that and music, and being a great guitar player with a great sound. I’m not sure people think like these days as much as we used to.
Most important/emotional phase of your music career?:)
Right now. I’m always focused on what’s immediately before me, with an eye on where I’d like to take things forward. That’s always the most important thing. Very rarely do I ever look back.
Vinyl, CD or MP3?:)
You know I’m not a purist – sure I like vinyl, but I have a ton of CDs and I listen to music on my phone too. So it would be hypocritical of me to say anything other.
Do you still believe in a concept of album? My young friends or kids listen 60 sec from song and skip to next…or select only individual songs.
Well, I would like to think the answer to that was fairly obvious from newest project/album ha.
Can full album alive?
Absolutely – I’m about to go on tour. It won’t be the same as the record, nor should it be. I’m not writing pop music. It’s always been about creating a pulse and energy in the room, and translating that certain vibe from an audience and sending it back even larger. I want the live thing to be unique. And risky. Not safe. And the music I’m involved In, has certainly never been safe and without its dangers. In more ways than one.
What about Rob Marshall or Humanist project in a next 10 years?
I’d like to see how far I can take. It’s certainly an open door policy for where it could go. It’ll be an ever evolving project with very little boundaries. And that’s exactly how it should be.
Thanks a lot,. Rob!
Mojo Lieskovský/DOUBLE LOUD
March 7, 2020
Album is available on official Humanist store
Rob hails from Teesside in the North East of England, a land of blast furnaces, petrochemical estuaries and fiery skies, the broken heartland of the industrial revolution. He grew up in a small terraced house, with six framed pictures of Elvis in the living room, and music never far from his parents’ record player. At the tender age of eleven, Rob saw Jimi Hendrix on the telly, and his young mind was blown. He spent the next five months secretly stashing his £1.50 bus fare and lunch money by walking to school and not eating, just so he could buy the cheap guitar and amp set he’d set his heart on. He proceeded to teach himself how to play by practicing endlessly to Hendrix, T-Rex, Stones and Beach Boys records.
“I’m fairly quiet and dreamy,” he muses, “my head’s away in clouds of thoughts and imagination, but I’m driven to be as real and authentic as I possibly can musically, trying to push forward and harness all I’ve got; it was never really a choice, but the only thing I ever felt I could do – to swim with the tide, accept your fate, ride the waves. I’m a shy person but on stage my guitar leads me to a place of innate confidence, so I guess that’s where I’m most comfortable”.
Rob formed his first real band in the year 2000: Lyca Sleep spun a dreamy, languorous psychedelica, and toured extensively with South, The Warlocks and Engineers. Later Lyca Sleep morphed into Exit Calm: “This band reclaim the guitar band as something to have faith in again,” wrote Mojo, They released two critically acclaimed albums, played festivals including Glastonbury, V and Leeds/Reading. Big tour supports with Echo and The Bunnymen, Doves and The Music followed. After extensive tours in Europe and Japan, they split in 2015, and Rob found himself without a band, a stranger in rough-round-the-edges, bohemian Hastings on England’s South Coast.
The inspiration for Humanist came after watching ‘The Living Room’ – a documentary about Gavin Clarke, a singer Rob had once shared a manager with. Waking the next day to find Gavin had sadly taken his own life, Rob was so moved by the situation, he sat down to write, quickly developing a piece that sparked an idea for a soaring, ambitious project that dealt with the deepest of themes – mortality, the ways we find meaning, the liberation of the human spirit.
Humanist is a big, ambitious record, a rush of future rock’n’roll which showcases the songwriting and production of Rob Marshall, and the vocal talents of Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode), Mark Lanegan (Queens of the Stone Age) and Mark Gardner (Ride) among others – a heady brew, masterfully conducted by Rob Marshall (guitarist of Exit Calm and co-writer of Mark Lanegan’s celebrated “Gargoyle” album) who wrote, played and produced all the music: a swirling Niagara of fuzzed-out industrial melody and noise, flowing into darker, more brooding territories, the boom of drop forges in shadowy, cavernous factories pounding white-hot steel…
Humanist is also a magnum opus musically, a fully realised and rounded work – not only Rob’s first solo project, it was also the first music he’d ever fully produced, teaching himself production while making the record, just like he did with his signature guitar sound, forging its rich, brooding sound-world on instinct. Similarly, his production is raw, spirited and unique. Rob also played and recorded nearly all of the instrumentation, but he had a vision of the album going far beyond a one-man project, opening its palate and scope by making it a showcase for many of the singers he’d always admired.