Interview – Robert Walter

Photo Credit - Julia Mordaunt

Fall is beckoning and with it comes the cool autumn tunes. After a dramatic and full summer of intense heat and vibes, the music is set to go into a more solid groove. Thanks to artists like Robert Walter, musical adventures are sure to offer a well-needed respite from the hectic season. The man, made famous by his band Robert Walter’s 20th Congress and the stunning funk act the Greyboy Allstars (we reviewed their awesome show a while back, you can read it here), is set to release a new studio album ‘Spacesuit’ this September to the praise of many. Robert took time to delve into this new work and his overall craft in the music space.

Mr. Walter had much to say on his new celestial body of music. “The new album is heavily influenced by the science fiction I was into as a kid. I grew up loving comic books and movies and used those as well as music as an escape. I reconnected with that stuff while writing this music. I really wanted to make something that felt cinematic. It plays like a story or concept record. I thought it would be cool to combine improvisation with some more adventurous production rather than the more natural, documentary style that most jazz recordings use.”

His growth as a musician has been natural all the way through. “I have been trying not to worry so much about the conventions of genre. I learned to play, like most people by imitating my favorite musicians. Over the years I’ve been searching for a voice that includes those influences but is more authentic to me. I think I’m coming to a much less self conscious way of playing and writing. I feel like recording ‘Spacesuit’ has freed me from a lot of my own expectations about what is available musically. I feel more open and liberated to experiment.”

Aspirations for the rest of 2018 are simple and sweet. “I hope that people treat each other with kindness and respect. It feels like the culture is coarsening lately.” The endless creating is a positive way to remain optimistic of the future. “I love to collect records and am continually in awe of all the great music that people have made. Whenever I’m in a rut I just think about how thankful I am to be able to create stuff. It’s amazing to have an idea and make it into an actual thing.”  

Within the music scene, the changes are bittersweet. “It’s great that technology has democratized the opportunity to record and distribute music. At the risk of sounding like a grouch, I do feel like there is such a huge amount that is available now that each thing seems less valuable. Back when I was a kid and only had 15-20 records I really knew every note and part of them. Now it’s easy just to skip around and skim the surface of anything that doesn’t immediately grab you. Some of the best albums take a few listens to get into to. That’s why I like vinyl records best. It forces you to commit, at least for a side.”

Visual artists help support the creative spirit of his work. “Chris Foss was a big inspiration to me for this album [along with] H.R. Geiger and Moebius. Those 70s-80s illustrators really get me going.” Along with that, films are a powerful asset as well. “I’m gonna say Alien. Even the TV commercial was scary. I still watch it every six months or so. [It has a] great score by Jerry Goldsmith too.” Robert is active in other mediums to keep the creative juices flowing. “I paint a little and enjoy cooking. It’s nice to make art that is not part of your job sometimes. I’m not very good at painting, but it can kickstart my brain if I’m blocked musically.”

More music is well on the way. “Getting the music from ‘Spacesuit’ out is the focus for the foreseeable future, but I’m already starting to write music for my next album. So far it’s informed a little by 90s’ hip-hop, but that will probably morph a few times before it’s done.” Folks can pre-order the new album here.

Jam on.

Give a watch and a listen to some fresh tracks from ‘Spacesuit’ and a live performance from the House of Blues below: