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Robert Hood - It's All Hood

Author: Cyclone
Friday, 11 April 2008
3D’s Cyclone talks to Robert Hood about changing styles and changing cities.

Detroit’s electronic scene is populated by more mysterious figures than a vintage comic series. They’re profoundly influential musicians who linger in the shadows of the overground, pioneers who, by circumventing the media’s machinations, have cultivated their own mythology.

Robert “Noise” Hood could be the most inscrutable – and elusive – of these “spectral nomads”. But, as the godfather of minimal techno, his sound is more pervasive than ever. In 2008 Hood has surfaced with his highest profile project in years – Fabric 39 – and is, incredibly, granting select interviews.

“If I don’t have anything to say at that time, I just choose to lay back and let my music do the talking,” he says of his past reticence. “I’m not so much of a star. I’m just a regular guy who happens to make minimal music – that’s me. I’m not into the whole star idea and so I just stay away from doing a lot of interviews.”

Minimal techno has its antecedents in the work of Steve Reich, on the one hand, and Jamaican dub on the other. Yet, together with his ally Jeff Mills, Hood radically reformulated – and re-theorised – the music (as did Berlin’s Basic Channel). Originally Hood was a member of Detroit’s Underground Resistance, the collective of mainly black DJ/producers Mills founded with “Mad” Mike Banks.

Curiously, Hood joined, not as a DJ, but as an MC. He toured Australia with UR circa ’92. He’s invariably described in biographies as UR’s ‘Minister Of Information’, something he refutes. At any rate, he didn’t stay with UR. Hood, along with Mills, quit to start Axis Records.

Their departure was prompted as much by ideological as creative factors. 
In effect, Hood and Mills, aka H&M, eschewed UR’s (admittedly unconventional) political platform for an abstract, or subliminal, methodology. In the early ’90s Hood unleashed his landmark Minimal Nation, the blueprint for the minimalism currently equated with Germany – a long way from post-industrial Detroit.

Inexplicably, Hood soon parted from Mills, although there was no suggestion of discord. Rob launched M-Plant while Jeff continued with Axis. Still, Hood slipped into the background as Mills, himself rather retiring, became the star. Today Hood is the family man, travelling with his wife, who handles the business side. They’ve moved to rural Alabama, of all places, with their daughter.

“It’s a lot different from the city,” Hood laughs. “It took some getting used to. We never imagined ourselves living anywhere else but Detroit – but here we are.”

Hood’s sensibilities have changed since Minimal Nation.

“I don’t produce and get inspired the same way I used to,” he says. “I’m living in a different place now – I no longer live in Detroit, I live in Alabama – so the feeling is a little bit different. My musical approach is more sophisticated, for the lack of a better word. I’m embracing minimalism more.

“It used to be that Detroit and Chicago were my only influences, but now I look for other outside influences – not necessarily from other DJs, but from things in life that are going on around me that are indicative of the future, such as the way things are being designed, furniture and appliances, and just things that we take for granted that are part of our everyday life. I’m focussing more on what’s essential to living – not so much clutter.

“Minimalism has now become its own music form. You have techno, you have house, and now you have minimal. I’m embracing it more so now than ever before.”

WHO: Robert Hood
WHAT: Fabric39: Robert Hood through Fabric/Inertia
WHEN: Out now