Think there's no Hip Hop in OC? Free the Robots is changing that. Based in Santa Ana, Free the Robots (aka Chris Alfaro) has been brewing a delicious, head-nodding concoction of funk, world jazz, rock, and electro music. It's no surprise he got the OC Weekly 2009 Reader's Choice Award for Best Hip Hop Artist and Best DJ at the 2009 OC Music Awards. When he's not making music or performing, he's running the hip restaurant, The Crosby, in Downtown Santa Ana.
First of all, what did you grow up listening to?
My first record: The Sesame Street LP
My first tape: DJ Magic Mike (Drop the Bass)
My first CD: N.W.A. (Straight Outta Compton)
What's the most unexpected thing about living in Orange County?
Santa Ana, and everything about it.
Any upcoming projects for Free the Robots?
New album in the finishing stages now due for an early 2010 release. Also some remixes and rare compilation tracks will be popping out randomly soon.
Free the Robots have expanded beyond the beards and flannels. How has music changed from when you started and now especially with Low End Theory cultivating a strong electronic community?
The music before was made following a more traditional, sample-based, Hip-Hop style. I would find loops and different notes used in obscure songs, re-alter them with my own ideas, and turn them into something else. I'm taking a different approach on the new material, exploring the full capacity of synthesizers rather than samples. I still blend the two but the majority of tracks on the new record is 100% original composition.
This actually goes the same for the majority of artists coming out of the "Low End" community. The whole "loop digging" hip-hop beat formula has sort of taken the back seat. Most of the kids now are writing their own music, creating their own loops with what they have.
I love the way that the Crosby combines food, art, music and people all together. How did it all fall into place?
We're all friends here at The Crosby, and we're all into different things. That's how it works. When you surround yourself around great, talented people who get it, things just work.
Top 5 albums off the top of your head. GO!
1. TLC - Crazy, Sexy, Cool
2. Gravediggaz - 6 ft Deep
3. CRASS - Penis Envy
4. CAN - Opener
5. Portishead - Dummy
How do you stay creative and inspired while managing your music and restaurant? What's your creative process as far as music goes?
Sure it's a lot of work, but when you finally adapt to the daily routine, it's not that bad. We're a dinner/late night spot and, as a morning person, I have plenty of time to work on music during the day. Night after night I'm surrounded by great people and music. Just being around The Crosby is plenty of inspiration. The average week I'm exposed to the extensive music collections and amazing performers that cover everything that I'm into and beyond. That, and my weekly escapades to the Low End Theory every Wednesday.
I make music while Disney cartoons and romantic comedies play in the background. I also like wearing penny loafers...
You've rolled with some of my favorite artists/DJs/musicians like Gas Lamp Killer, Nosaj Thing, Exile, Daedelus, FlyLo, etc. and you even house Obey Radio. How does interacting with all these creative people affect/influence/inspire your music?
Huge. No matter what I'm doing, I can't help the fact that my heaviest inspirations are my peers. And despite the fact that I'm in OC, I meet up with a good amount [of people] every week, whether it be at The Crosby, The Low End Theory , or on the road.
What is the first song you pick when you sing karaoke?
"The Greatest Love of All" by Mr. Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate..." That boy good!"
What does Free the Robots mean?
It means "Lets party!"
Lastly, what's your favorite robot? Do you have "robot ears"?
I have Robot Beers.
Kristoner hosts Loose Joints Radio