rkss, real name Robin Buckley, makes contemporary computer music whilst exploring “politics and aesthetics of club culture, technology and queerness.” Having previously released music on labels such as Alien Jams and Condition, rkss’ last construction was the self released project ‘Queer Plastic – Intimacy of Plastic and/or Dildos (Part I & II)’ – which explores our intimate relationships with plastic in its many forms.
Her album for Lee Gamble’s progressive UIQ label, DJ Tools, is made entirely from a sample pack called ‘EDM Kicks Vol 1’, with the producer manipulating the ready made sounds via computer music processing techniques, and subsequently forming material in an entirely different context to the pack’s creators.
Made up of nine tracks, rkss states that “DJ Tools was where I began to formulate my own relationship to club culture as a mostly sober, transgender person, what version of club music did I want to engage with in that social space? Fluid, dynamic and reacting to audience. Highlighting the social. Sharing & connecting through my difference rather than erasing it.” Catching up with the artist, rkss runs us through some of the early influences of electronic music that helped shape the record.
“Hyponik asked me to write about the music that influenced DJ Tools. So I decided to write about my early influences of electronic music. This is pop music, electronic music that crossed over to the mainstream and would later be called EDM or can be seen as a precursor to EDM. I have a lot of nostalgia for these pieces of music because back then I was a guitar kid playing Arctic Monkeys covers and stuff so these were my very first introductions to electronic music. They are somewhat in a chronologic order of when I discovered them, but since I can’t rely on my iTunes Date Added, it might not necessarily be so. There are five on the list however that were added to iTunes on 22/01/2008 at 20:29, over a decade ago, I think because the family computer had died and so I had to transfer over all the songs to the new hard drive.”
1. Alice Deejay – Better Off Alone (1998)
From what I can remember these were very early electronic records that had commercial success, and so I was able to hear them on the radio, with Better Off Alone reaching No. 2 in the UK pop charts (I was still living in the UK at the time).
2. Stardust – Music Sounds Better with You (1998)
Reaching No. 2 in the charts, I remember loving the looped disco samples and the vocals by Benjamin Diamond.
3. The Ones – Flawless (Phunk Investigation vocal mix) (2001)
This track only reached no. 7 in the UK charts, so I must have been getting into deeper cuts, or probably just watching whole episodes of Top of the Pops as they made their way up the chart. Probably my first introduction to heavily processed vocals and high-pass filters.
4. DJ Sammy & Yanou feat. Do – Heaven (2002)
Heaven reached No. 1 in the UK singles chart. Given the texture of the samples of the chords, this must have been my first influence for what would become DJ Tools.
5. Daft Punk – One More Time (2001)
I was really captured by the anime video which I saw on MTV. Though perhaps it was MTV2 Pop which, according to Wikipedia, “mainly focused on Europop and eurodance music (uplifting house/uplifting trance, vocal trance, pumping house, progressive trance)”. I think I was starting to become aware of song structure because I adored the really long breakdown. Or maybe a taste of what would become my love of ambient music.
6. Underworld – Born Slippy (1996)
This track feels like it kind of haunts British pop dance culture in that it was released in 1996, re-released in 2003 and obviously was the soundtrack to Trainspotting, which I probably only watched much later like in the mid 2000s. So I’m not sure when this track entered my life apart from being on
my hard drive as one of the tracks amongst the five on this list from 2008. Also when I listen to the track now I read the intro, “she was a beautiful boy…”, as about a transwoman. Although I am probably projecting.
7. Fedde Le Grand – Put Your Hands Up For Detroit (2006)
I went to secondary school in Munich and the club scene seemed to be favoured by the very wealthy German students at our school. So of course as a guitar kid at the time, I had to hate all their music, I didn’t understand the social aspect at all and never ended up going to P1, a local Munich club serving up the most contemporary electronic chart music since 1949. However, this was one of the few songs (apart from Day ‘n’ Nite (Crookers remix) by Kid Cudi (2008)) that ended up on my hard drive and I would listen to at home on my own, alongside Bloc Party or Foals or whatever.
8. Swedish House Mafia Featuring Pharrell – One (Your Name) (2010)
I love the combination of the very long introduction of a kick drum turned melody (very sound art) and those huge anthemic chords. The track is very representative to me of peak EDM, and is also a kind of warped indulgent prog rock, but made in 2010 on laptops.
9. Vengaboys – Up & Down (1999)
I’ve been revisiting this track because I don’t remember being hugely into Vengaboys when I was younger, but what I love now is the strange opening monologue that seems like some kind of capitalist realist or left nihilist position on music production which I rarely hear in any, especially experimental, music. For a dance track, the melody and composition are flawless and I love that iconic, yet generic (or maybe it’s a Hyperobject? [via Roc Jiménez de Cisneros]) scream sample.
10. ATB – 9 PM (Till I Come) (1999)
The only thing I remember about this actually super explicit song (which obviously went over my head at the time) was the synth glide melody. It was a re-discovery for me, I was reminded of it by Lose You by Henrik The Artist (2016). However, it took me about a year to find it after digging and asking many friends who potentially knew their electronic pop history far better than I did. I was singing the melody to all these different people and, despite them all knowing the song, it was finally Calum Gunn who actually remembered the name of the track (s/o to Calum!).
DJ Tools is out August 31 on UIQ.
Preorder it here.
Featured Image: Alessia Gunawan