JG and the Robots
Welcome to Brutal Resonance JG! Let’s start up with a simple but important question. What are three of your favorite albums of all time and why?
JG: Kraftwerk's "Computer World". Without Kraftwerk, electronic music would not be what it is today. For me, this album exemplified the pinnacle of electronic music. I loved the topics of the songs and the amazing way they gave sparse light sounds such tremendous rhythmic power. Tomita's "Planets" is another top one. Classical music is my first love, especially from the Baroque era. But moving forward in time, "Planets" by Gustav Holst is my favored symphony and Tomita’s "Planets" is by far the most amazing adaptation of a symphony by an electronic music composer. My third choice is the rather obscure album by Arthur Brown titled "Requiem". This is an absolute electronic masterpiece! It is an astounding sonic journey in synthesizer layers and visualizations. The album is not based on songs but on the theme of the coming apocalypse. In a secular way, it weirdly takes the listener through the Rapture, the Great Tribulation and eventually nuclear annihilation. Nothing is left for secular man in the end. Requiem is simply an astounding piece of work.
Let’s dive into a bit of history. What brought you into the realm of electronic music? Was it a soundtrack or another band that made you want to pick up a synthesizer?
JG: When I was around eight I convinced my parents to get me a home organ (a Kimball Swinger 500) I loved it! I started off playing JS Bach and that sort of thing but eventually was able to add a Roland SH 1000 synthesizer to it. That got me into rock cover bands.
I never thought of myself as a singer until I heard Gary Numan, and I was like, "I can sing like that!" Now in my mid-teens I started writing songs for a band called Members Only. We gained a little notoriety with a Numan sounding song and video called “Mirrors” that rotated on MTV’s unsigned band show. Then one night that all changed when I went to my favorite place called The Hot Klub and saw the NY electronic group Our Daughter’s Wedding. I walked out speechless. To this day it is still one of the most high-energy concerts I have ever experienced. The very next day I immediately broke up my band and started T-4-2 with my high school friend Jim Goff.
Your first dive into electronic music was with T-4-2. Where did that name stem from and how did you get the project started? Were your surprised by the success of the band?
JG: So powerfully Influenced by what Our Daughter’s Wedding was doing, I wanted a name that sounded like that - an event - something people were doing together. When it came to mind and I went to write it down, I was like hey, this also works as an acronym. At first we were very quirky and different. We had songs like 'Synthetic Food' and 'Electric Sally'. But what made us unique was an Apple II computer that Jim had written a program for that could count voltage pulses off our 808 and Lynn Drum Machines. This allowed it to keep track of the song and talk in its computer voice with me as I sang. We were tremendously popular locally but not advancing with label interest. With the help of our local fans we were able to record our first album “Shockra” at Dallas Sound Lab. It is our first album but ended up sounding nothing like we did live. Shortly after that Jim Goff took off to live in Nepal. That’s when I convinced Will Loconto to join me. He had a great collection of songs from his previous band that we re-worked together. We put out a very popular tape called “Hot on Top.” We then released a couple of EPs with Oaklawn Records and then were signed by Columbia Records just a few short months latter. I was very surprised how fast it all happened after slugging it out in local clubs for all those years.
After a couple of successful releases with T-4-2, your bandmate Will Loconto went on to work with Information Society in 1993. Was it hard to adapt the live shows after this?
JG: That was a hard time for me. I was sure if Will and I had kept going it would have pushed us up to the next level. But he was not convinced. Since T-4-2 was now on much larger national stages, I thought it would work better if I added more members. So I toured along with INSOC with two drummers and two (sometimes three) backup keyboard players. I only sang vocals. We had a minor hit with a track called 'Rhythm Machine' but it was just not the same. It never felt right so I shut it down.
Both yourself and Loconto had a reunion in 2010. What was it like being reunited after so many years apart? Did you guys click like in the beginning of T-4-2 or were some adjustments necessary?
JG: Our reuniting can be totally credited to Robert Ehlinger who is a super fan (now our booking agent) in Houston, TX. I got this phone call out of the blue from him asking interview like questions. Eventually it led to an invitation for T-4-2 to do a reunion concert at Numbers in Houston in 2010. Will was up for it so we met at his studio in Austin, TX and began rehearsing for it. It was an instant click and a little weird. It was like we had never taken a near ten year break. Technology had advanced a lot so live performing is actually much easier now with the audio tools we have than what we used back then.
I know that T-4-2 is still going hot. What do you have in store for the future? I read that you’ll be opening for Gary Numan soon as well.
JG: T-4-2 has started releasing music again around 2015. First with a collection of DJ tracks called "Voltage". Decoder is a collection of all new songs. We also have "Vintage Trax" that is a collection of revamped early Jim Goff-era stuff and a re-mastered red vinyl release of "Hot on Top". We are now digging through old boxes of tapes and finding some pretty good unreleased stuff, mostly demos for the Columbia release "Intruder". We are going to release that as a collection called "Demo Days" sometime before the end of the year. This thing with Gary Numan is really cosmic. Obviously, I have always wanted to do a concert with Numan and here he is just now releasing and touring with his new album that he named "Intruder"! "Intruder" is the name I gave our Columbia debut release back in 1994! What a connection! Massive thanks to Ehlinger for making it happen on September 25, 2021.
Now let’s talk about your solo project, JG and the Robots. Where did the inspiration for this project initially come from?
JG: I began hearing music that did not really fit T-4-2. For others to hear it, I wanted to create a persona where the electronics making the sounds were being controlled by humans morphing into the electronics. Bringing the two together...electronic music with electronic beings.
JG and the Robots has a focus on using artificial intelligence in its audio-visual production. Most notably, the music video for ‘I’m Thomas Dolby’ has a deepfake version of Thomas Dolby. How did you first stumble into this territory?
JG: If we are going on a journey into sonic electronics, the voices we hear need to come along with us. The lyrics for most of what you hear are 50/50 electronic manipulated voice and purely computer generated vocals. The only time you will hear any natural voice is with a featured vocalist such as Kurt Larson from Information Society or Jean-Luc DeMayer from Front 242 to name a few. When Deep Fake AI generated face manipulation came to my attention, it seemed like a natural visualization to pursue. To my knowledge it had never been done in a music video before and since I already had this idea for the track I wanted Dolby to sing I thought I would approach him about it. Dolby was not very cooperative from the start. He did not like the early mix of the song and would not agree to sing it. He felt it was too narcissistic for him to sing about himself that way. I wasn’t going to let that stop this great idea, so I took samples of his voice and used various electronics to manipulate it into the vocal line. Dolby had placed on-line several really good videos of him giving lectures on film scoring so I downloaded that and then recorded video of myself mouthing the words to the song mimicking his positions. I hooked up with Jan Fischer, in Germany via a DeepFake blog page and sent him what I had. He really made the magic happen. When you watch the video I am everything from the metal collar down and Dolby is the face mouthing the words that the AI interpreted from the video of me singing it. The end result was something really spectacular and Dolby gave his approval for it.
I also read that JG and the Robots wishes to transcend the premise of basic EDM. Could you elaborate on that? What problems do you find within EDM?
JG: The world of EDM has been somewhat illusive to JG and the Robots. EDM is a DJ based experience and JG&R is more of a concert performance experience. I think Daft Punk brought those two worlds closer together than any other. As things progress with JG&R, the future will evolve EDM closer to what we do because the DJ experience really has no where else to go.
Right now you have a series of ongoing audio-visual singles which include ‘Robots In Berlin’, ‘I’m Thomas Dolby’, and ‘We Want to be Like Humans’. Do you plan on collecting these songs in a complete album or EP later on in the future?
JG: Yes. Working to add more tracks to that collection. Also looking to add a DeepFake video with Kiss.
What else does 2021 hold for JG and the Robots? Do you have any other singles, EPs, remixes, or shows planned?
JG: There is a concert scheduled for San Antonio in November. At the conclusion of the 'Spirit in the Sky' video the robosapian makes it up to another existence. So moving forward there will be a new look for JG and the Robots starting with that concert and being seen in new videos.
Lastly, I’d like to thank you for your time. I leave the space below open for you to mention anything I may have missed!
JG: Just want to say thank you to those that have supported T-4-2 all these years, especially those that have been there from the beginning. And thank you to those that have connected with JG and the Robots, we look forward to going on an amazing journey together.
This interview was commissioned through our Ko-fi page.
Having said all that, I did used to call my willy Adolf because he liked invading foreign territory!
Global Citizen, Apr 28 2014
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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