(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – In the tradition of electro-rock groups such as Devo and the refined performance art of Laurie Anderson, My Robot Friend – a musical and performance art project led by Howard Robot – performs at Club B-10 at MASS MoCA on Saturday, February 23, 2013, at 8 pm. Howard Robot performs in an elaborate, personally-designed light-up suit while interacting with illuminated objects, wireless video cameras, pyrotechnics, and other odd home-made props. There is also a lightness and very human whimsical quality to Robot’s music which might appeal to fans of They Might Be Giants.
The initial inspiration for My Robot Friend came as the result of a modern dance piece choreographed by Miguel Gutierrez. In 2000, Gutierrez developed a piece for Le Tigre’s song Deceptacon and asked Howard Robot to dance with him and make some costumes. After several performances of the dance around New York City including at the Performing Garage in SoHo, Le Tigre heard about it and asked the two to perform with them at the now defunct Thread Waxing Space. The energy of the live show and the inspiration of Le Tigre and their music motivated Howard Robot to try his hand at homemade electronic music.
The name “My Robot Friend” originally came from Howard’s perspective as he began to negotiate the world of electronic music for the first time. It was a sharp contrast to the deeply democratic and often fraught emotional process of working with other people in a band. The more time that he spent in the studio with his computer and other electronic equipment, the more he personified the gear that he worked with. After a while, all of the machines began to feel like… friends. And the process of making music with machines seemed like an approximation of genuine collaboration, enough so that Howard dubbed his musical studio “My Robot Friend,” and a band name was born. It wasn’t until Howard began to think about live performance that he realized that he too was a robot…
The central idea of the concept, as posed by My Robot Friend, is that human beings are actually advanced machines — “squishy machines,” if you will. Howard Robot elevates the concept of a “robot” to an advanced machine that is programmed to serve humankind. Evolution, the random acts of genetics, and environmental factors have programmed us with a specific set of internal instructions about how we should live. The central goal of our existence is to actualize our internal program of service to humankind. Howard posits that humans actually are robots without any poetic metaphor applied. In a very real way, Howard IS your robot friend.
My Robot Friend was born from the ashes of the late 1990s New York City band Princess (made up of Howard Robot, Miguel Gutierrez, and Autojulie3000), which broke up just before signing on to the legendary label Too Pure (PJ Harvey, Stereolab). It was then that Howard Robot, who had previously worked as a computer programmer, constructed the first version of the light-up suit that would evolve with time. Robot donned the handmade suit in 2001 and took the stage, covered in duct tape, LED lights, and electrical wires. New York City dance club audiences and critics immediately took notice. My Robot Friend earned a spot on Rolling Stone’s annual “Hot List” in its first year of existence.
In November 2004, My Robot Friend’s debut album, Hot Action!, hit the Top 20 Electronic Albums on iTunes international sales charts. Since then, My Robot Friend has released two full albums and numerous EPs. Artists such as The Pet Shop Boys and Robbie Williams have covered My Robot Friend’s songs. Remixers and collaborators have included bands as diverse as Antony, Matmos, Modeselektor, Jeans Team, Dean and Britta, Electronicat, Safety Scissors, Derrick Carter, Tommie Sunshine, Outputmessage, and Zombie Nation.
My Robot Friend takes the stage in MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 on Saturday, February 23, at 8 PM. Club B-10 is an intimate, casual venue on the third floor of MASS MoCA. Full bar plus dinner and snacks from Lickety Split are available before and during the show. Tickets are $12 in advance, $16 on the day of the show, and $10 for students. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office, located off Marshall Street in North Adams, from 11 AM until 5 PM (closed Tuesdays). Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings. MASS MoCA is an independent 501(c)(3) whose operations and programming are funded through admissions and commercial lease revenue, corporate and foundation grants, and individual philanthropy.