In part two of our ageism in dance music series, we spoke with Alexander Robotnick to discuss his experience of growing older while working in electronic music.

In part one of this series, it was generally agreed that ageism exists but perhaps not to the extent you might have thought. On the contrary, the music industry is somewhat unique in that as long as you have fans, or acquire new ones, you can perform long into your twilight.

With DJing, that has at times split opinions. Whereas a male might be considered a legend for “still doing it”, female performers often face questions of “why is she still doing it”? Anja Schneider touched on this in our interview from 2018.

But on the whole, things are not so bad. We happened to speak with The Problemes d’Amour guru and thought we’d pose the same questions to him. Has he stood the test of time as well as his much adored and timeless track?

Attack: Do you feel you’ve improved as a producer / DJ with age?

Alexander Robotnick: I sure did. But only technically. Music is something more than production.

Music and sports share some similarities in the idea that there can be a sweet spot between innocence and experience, and this is where people are at their best. Often with experience, there is ‘scar tissue’ and people are more afraid to push the boundaries. Do you feel that’s as true in music as it is in sport?

Not really. I cannot see any similarity between music and sports. Sure, both can boost the development of a big ego and someone (not everyone, and not the best) can find in it the necessary energy to become successful.

But improving as a music producer doesn’t mean just trying again and again until you perfect your technique. In classical music, mastering a perfect technique is obviously indispensable. But, the creative process in music is much more complicated than in sport.

If you don't end up imitating yourself, as many do, you always have a chance to compose your best track.

Do you feel overlooked as you are, broadly speaking, older than people ‘breaking through’?

Actually, what you feel about yourself is not that important in music. What’s important is that you have the time and the opportunity to be in your studio and just feel good. Frankly speaking, at this time when old is gold, being elderly is the least of all problems.

Do you feel your experience will all combine into your best work in the years to come? Remember the Beethoven analogy – he is regarded as making his most loved work in his final years.

Not only Beethoven. Many of my favourite composers did their best work at the end of their lives.

Giuseppe Verdi composed my favourite opera (Otello) when he was very old. He was also exiled to Paris! Giacomo Puccini was working on Turandot in a hospital bed!

If you don’t end up imitating yourself, as many do, then you have the potential to achieve your best work.

On a human level, is your hearing the same as it was?

Not really, unfortunately.

I’m aware that I can no longer hear the high frequencies correctly. So I often need to use headphones to check the balance, and that’s not good for my ears either. Fortunately, in a modern setup, you can see the waveform. It’s not ideal and it’s an issue I’m fighting.

Have you got better? 

I got better at something.

Are your best days ahead?

I don’t think so.

Do you feel overlooked?

Not really.

Do you ever think about Beethoven – he was making his best stuff on his death bed?

Yes, sometimes.

Is music a young person’s game?

It is not a game either for the young or for the old. If it’s just a game and it doesn’t last long.

The longer you are in music, does it stand that there’s more chance you’ll fall out of love with making music?

If you are completely unsuccessful, probably yes. Or, if you go through a long period without success and money, you may think of doing something else. But for me, and not only me, music is a kind of therapy. The truth is, I feel great when I’m at my studio working. It’s kind of an addiction.

Has the explosion in technology helped or overwhelmed you?

It helped me, no doubt. Even if sometimes it has been a bit hard, in the end, it was worth keeping up-to-date with technology.

Do labels take your submissions seriously while they look for the ‘latest new thing’ instead? 

Unfortunately, there aren’t “latest new things”. Either that or I cannot see them.

Has your audience changed or grown up with you? Think of the Rolling Stones – they (somehow) still sell out shows but clearly, the people there are not the same as the people in the 60s...

Of course, most of my friends know little of what I’ve been doing for the past twenty years!

My audience went through complete changes every 7 years, which is more or less the time period people take to settle down, get married and make babies.

In my case, I also have fans that are my age and sometimes I spot them at the clubs where I’m playing.

Is the music industry inclusive in your view?

It’s inclusive because they want to include you in their vision of music. But that’s not necessarily yours.

Are you aware of labels that only sign producers over X age? 

No sorry, I have my personal label.

Music is something more than production.

Often a female DJ at 50 will hear “why the hell is she still doing it”, but a male DJ is considered a ‘legend’ for still doing it. Do you feel ageism in the music industry is more impactful on women than men?

Honestly, in the last 10 years, I didn’t notice any difference between male DJs and female DJs.

In the 80s and 90s, there were only a few female DJs. That’s one reason you don’t see many elderly female DJs around.

I’m sure however that Ellen Allien for example will go on entertaining us for many, many more years.

What can we expect next from you? Can you tell us about your forthcoming releases?

A new Robotnick EP (three tracks and a remix by Marco Passarani) released by Bosconi Records is out now!

My new album, “Simple Music”, will be released early next year by my label Hot Elephant Music.

Alexander Robotnick’s latest EP “The Hidden Game” is available to buy and stream on Bandcamp.

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14th June, 2022

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