By day Howard Rigberg is a computer programmer specialising in web design. By night however he transforms into an illusive carbon-based machine known as My Robot Friend.
A long time player on the fringes of New York music (He appears is the video to Le Tigre’s ‘Deceptacon’) Robot came into his own when he began making his own solo electro noise, or as he puts it: “Pop music for my weird universe”.
Robot’s second album ‘Dial O’ is out in June on Glasgow’s Soma records. A cut of precision synth-pop with a human soul that sounds something like the musical history of New York squeezed through an 808 State unit. His bleeps and fuzzes underscore everything from hip-hop MCing to a cover of Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ and a vocal appearance from Anthony Hegarty of Anthony and the Johnsons.
Beyond the machine music his live performance also demands attention, including as it does 3ft neon fingers and animated videos. Robot himself dresses in a home-made electric suit complete with a mixture of neon and fairy lights snaking around his body till they reach an illuminated flashing helmet. There is also the small matter of his penis: “I have different attachments, I have ones that shoot flames and sparks, but not everywhere will let you use them so I also have one that shoots plastic snow stuff.”
For him the visual performance is almost as important as the music: “I try to make something visually different for each song…I go through different phases of concentrating on making the music or the show, at the moment I’m spending a lot of time wiring and fixing.”
So, My Robot Friend, why robots? “Robots are machines designed to help humans, programmed in some way to serve human kind. That is kinda the way I see myself.”
By Kenn Taylor