A Letter From The Editor
French Horn Rebellion is the band you love, you just might not know it. They without a doubt have come across your feed and have been saved to a playlist; easy to do with over a decade in the industry. But even on the rare chance they didn’t? Well guess what, they helped produce MGMT’s debut album, have toured with some of the biggest names in Electronic/Disco, are releasing multiple new artists under their label. Not only are they intelligent musicians, they are intelligent people. Very few people I meet in the industry can discuss 19th century philosophers and their application to the music community.
DnM: Robert, thank you for getting together today. I know we had a bit of the run around.
French Horn Rebellion: Yes, so sorry about the timing! I was excited to see your message, though in my Reddit account. I hadn’t checked it for quite some time before I saw your message
DnM: Ha, yeah. I suppose for some disclosure. We connected over at reddit.com/r/nudisco. You were posting something and I manage that sub.
French Horn Rebellion: I was on Reddit, actually, because I’ve been trying to ‘hack’ my mac and was looking for tips on how to install this eGPU I just bought. It’s been my hobby of late. Also, I did a pretty cool music ‘hack’ that I learned on there. There’s some pretty amazing artificial intelligence programs out there that can create music from scratch. I saw some tutorials on there, and was able to make some pretty ‘out there’ stuff.
DnM: It’s great for all sorts of things like that. Both connecting with people and all sorts of ‘hacking’. But, what I like to do to start interviews off is two things. First, a quick recap of everything so we can start on fresh ground and two an icebreaker. From that we can kind of free flow it. Cool with you?
French Horn Rebellion: Sounds good!
DnM: French Horn Rebellion is comprised of you and your brother David, both from Wisconsin. The name itself comes from you being a near professional French Horn player but Rebelling against the standard professional path. Largely because of how much it easier it is to write and produce electronically. You guys are influenced by an array of things, like french electronic, New Jack Swing, ‘ O’Hare Airport, and Carl Jung. And from a division of labor standpoint, you tend to focus on the musical composition and business while your brother David is more on the production side of things. Sum it up or miss anything?
French Horn Rebellion: I’d say that’s pretty close! Though I would say entering into electronic music has proven to be just as, if not more difficult that playing French horn. After so many years, I suppose you realize it takes a lot of time to really be a master at anything.
DnM: Very true, they say 10,000 hours to master anything.
DnM: What is it like to work and spend so much time with your brother? I can’t imagine you guys being the type to have blow outs at thanks giving dinner.
French Horn Rebellion: I think over the years we have learned to work together better. Especially recently with the Toucan Sounds releases, I think we are starting to be apart of projects that have the most honest expression since some of our earliest work. I think times we’re harder to get along when we were being thrown through the rigamarole of music industry expectations, whether from labels, managers, powerful industry professionals…If we rely on our values, on who we are, why we make music, what kind of life do we want to have – at the studio, and for whoever we are working for – we work together fantastically well.
DnM: There’s never Malcom In The Middle Esq wrestling/fighting?
French Horn Rebellion: There was a time when we would get into shouting matches, and get upset with each other. But I think those dark moments normally happened from outside forces. The music world can be tough, and really force yourself to look in the mirror.
DnM: Yeah, I’ve seen that from the outside. It can be a not so pretty place. Is it fair to call you guys OG in the electronic music space? You’ve been around since 2007.
French Horn Rebellion: Sometimes it does feel like we are OG’s in the electronic music space. Back in 2007, when we started this thing, electronic music was in a completely different place than it is now. At the time, it felt like what we were doing was more of an extension of punk music from the suburbs, rebelling against boring stuff with guitars. But that electronic scene has changed dramatically. Right now in Brooklyn is an extremely exciting time, because it feels like we are making punk music again – but this time, at clubs like Bossa Nova Civic Club, or Black Flamingo. Doing something on the edges of house, techno, and disco. There have been a lot of changes, no doubt. But I think now more than ever, the indie community has been focused on honest expression, and elevating voices of those that have historically been marginalized.
DnM: Yeah that is definitely notable in the music world these days. Collaboration and community seem to be very important to French Horn Rebellion.That could be anything from Deidre & the Dark, YouTooCanWoo, your collaborations and tours with people like The Knock or my boy Mystery Skulls. So I am curious, how do you conflate this with the individualism of Jung – another influence
French Horn Rebellion: Well, honestly my brother is the expert of Carl Jung…but from the many long flights where David would constantly be talking with me about it, I could tell you that the development of the individual happens through the ‘process of individuation’ (I think)? Haha. I see the process of individuation as your world constantly coming down around you, and when it come down around you, you need to rebuild, and you become stronger. When everything comes down around you, I think that’s where the community comes into play. Your community can help you keep on the right path.” … other thing is ‘Toucan Sounds’ is technically not capitalized .. ‘this is party’ should say ‘this is partly’ in this section This is party where we got the idea to create this free-flowing creative space in Brooklyn. We had a lot of skills from being in French Horn Rebellion that can apply to other artists. What we’ve found is that by focusing on other artists over the last two years, we have gained more perspective on music than we ever could be simply continuing with French Horn Rebellion 100%.
DnM: Very well put for not being the brother expert on the matter.
French Horn Rebellion: Well thank you much. Yes I try to listen to my brother when I can hehe.
DnM: You come from a very musical and entrepreneurial family. What’s it like and why is it so important to be independent in the musical world? If I am not mistaken you guys are essentially self-managed, do your own booking and releases. Basically the fully spectrum.
French Horn Rebellion: Yes, French Horn Rebellion has certainly been an interesting journey. It’s funny because back when we were 20 years old, and starting out, we desperately wanted to be signed by a label. The folks we were working with at the time did the best they could, but ultimately we were forced to become Indie if we wanted to stick around. It became the best thing we ever did. By being indie, we have come to know the full spectrum of the music industry. Now, owning a label and studio, we can provide services to other artists with our experience. Now, through Toucan Sounds, by being independent, we can create that creative space that is so unique and difficult to manifest. Even for French Horn Rebellion, now that we have created this ‘house’ at the studio and record label, our future stuff I think will be a much more honest expression of emotion than anything we’ve done to date. That ‘house’ could only have been made by being independent.
DnM: Having that ‘house’ allows for the freedom of expression, the individual, and the community.
French Horn Rebellion: Exactly. For me, I find it very difficult to make anything truly alone. Music is, of course a language, and it requires discussion between people. We have found a huge benefit of having this community … to stimulate ideas and expression. But how does that work into the process of individuation? An example would be that you worked by yourself on some music for like 2 months, showed it to your community, and find out that it’s horrible lol. So you need to rebuild and move on your individuation process. Something like that, maybe?
DnM: More of a feedback loop? The community cannot exist without the individual. The individual cannot exist without the community. When the individual improves himself he improves the community and vice versa.
French Horn Rebellion: Yup-you got it!
DnM: Have you guys ever the conversation of ‘fuck it, let’s sign to a big label and make 4 on the floor in major C and just Scrooge Mcduck it”.
French Horn Rebellion: I feel like the pop tracks that stick are ones that go through a similar process. The difference between a ‘hit’ and a ‘dud’ is so minute. In order for a ‘hit’ to happen there has to be some kind of honest emotion pure in the session. You basically just don’t have as wide of a color palette to use … it would be like painting something in primary colors, vs a full spectrum.
DnM: Again, bringing us to ‘is my individual experience related to many peoples experience’ and can that be expressed appropriately
French Horn Rebellion: Definitely an element of that — though a lot of ‘weird’ songs will sound really like ‘pop’ songs if you just change the arrangement. I was listening to this Spotify Playlist that has all of Leonard Bernstein’s spoken lectures on recording in one place. In one, he talked about Jazz, and tried to explain what it is
French Horn Rebellion: They go through a ‘blues’ and rearrange to show the blues in classical formats. I feel like it’s a similar way to describe indie vs pop music. In the 1950’s when this was recorded, people that Jazz wasn’t even ‘art’ because it was too ‘out there,’ and classical music was kind of like ‘pop’ at the time.
DnM: I can’t speak to the theory of jazz only that the chords hurt my hands and brain
French Horn Rebellion: haha it’s so true. That’s been a lifelong goal for me – to be able and play jazz piano
DnM: As for Toucan Sounds, your new record label, would you say this is your primary focus now and less so FHR?
French Horn Rebellion: French Horn Rebellion we went pretty much full time for about 9 years .. and over the course of that time, it became clear to me that we were running out of things to say. This is party where we got the idea to create this free-flowing creative space in Brooklyn. We had a lot of skills from being in French Horn Rebellion that can apply to other artists. What we’ve found is that by focusing on other artists over the last two years, we have gained more perspective on music than we ever could be simply continuing with French Horn Rebellion 100%.
DnM: What is it, beyond community building and ‘showing of the ropes’ do you guys hope to accomplish with TS?
French Horn Rebellion: We hope that from this community we will launch the next big cultural project. We have been apart of projects from MGMT, The Knocks, Sofi Tukker, and now Blu Detiger .. we hope that this community will move the dial culturally. Our experience has been unbelievably valuable, which is why at the studio, we have tried to create a safe space for creativity. That space is applicable to artists in the community, but also major brands. Everybody needs room to be creative.
French Horn Rebellion: it’s ironic that we are doing this interview now, because after two years, and many EPs released on toucan sounds (we co-produce, and write on most of our in-house releases), we are actively working on a new French Horn Rebellion album.
DnM:Oh pray tell!
French Horn Rebellion: We had our first mix session on one of the new tracks last Friday! Was the first time we had worked on original FHR material in about two years. The new French Horn Rebellion material will be much more experimental than anything in the past. There are a lot of things we’ve wanted to say for a long time, but didn’t know how to do it.
DnM: Very dope. .Well, Robert. I think I have taken up enough of your time. Really appreciate you taking the time and getting down in the weeds with me today.
French Horn Rebellion: Yes of course! Thank you for having me.