Podcast 638: ASOK
Breakbeat and rave from one of the UK's finest.
Podcast 638: ASOK
Breakbeat and rave from one of the UK's finest.
Stuart Robinson has been DJing as ASOK for over 20 years. Born and still based in and around Liverpool, north west England, Robinson began his career as a drum & bass DJ after buying his first decks in 1995. He began playing out as a natural progression from the NWDNB (“north west drum & bass”) platform helped to create, a hub to service the drum & bass artists in the local region. ASOK was born in 1999, the name a reference to the Indian intern in the Dilbert comic strip that those in his workplace likened Robinson to.
During the late early 2000s, Robinson was heavily involved in the northern UK’s party scene, purveying drum & bass and then electro-funk and disco, and then breakdance and electro. His career took a change of course when he met Greg Wilson and started the Cosmic Boogie project around 2008, which took him all across Europe—but it also placed a limitation on what he could play, leading him to shut it down.
“I wanted to go back to darker music, so in around 2013 I came home after a gig in Montenegro and shut Cosmic Boogie down,” Robinson explains. “40 odd thousand likes, a million SoundCloud plays—I deleted it all overnight. It sounds stupid but it was incredibly cathartic!”
The next step was to formalize ASOK, and so he set up social media pages and taught himself how to make music. Importantly, it was an alias free of genre, open-ended in that it would allow him to play and produce electronic music of any form, all with ASOK’s breakbeat touch installed from his rave beginnings.
“I enjoy breakbeat more than anything as these were my formative rave years, but my tastes are eclectic,” he explains. “With the ASOK moniker, I am free to play whatever I want in whatever direction I want. I’m not suggesting its groundbreaking, but it is liberating.”
Since his first release in 2014, Robinson has released on Crème Organization—where he released his first album in 2016—Lobster Theremin, and DVS1’s Mistress Recordings. Aesthetically, the project feels like an amalgamation of all that has come before, embracing deep, emotive house, triangular breakbeat, and jacking, nostalgic techno with melody, texture, and soul—much like his DJ sets.
Now aged 42, Robinson is more settled than ever—”winding down and doing the things I love as and when I can.” Five years after he first released on Mistress, he returned to the label with Mistress 14, available now ahead of Robinson’s a busy schedule of gigs across Europe. To mark the occasion, he’s compiled an XLR8R podcast.
Typically eclectic and wide-reaching, Robinson’s XLR8R podcast is the product of 20 years of record collecting. It’s full of quick and punchy rhythm changes, keeping you on your toes, while echoing the reflective tone of his new record—built upon “things that I would enjoy listening to or dancing to that maybe other people will as well,” Robinson says. Rave on.
What have you been up to recently?
All the usual things I guess. I am playing in the few places I have residencies in the UK, messing about with Ableton, trying to get back into swimming, being a dad, contemplating the future. All the usual things.
How are you feeling about the new release on Mistress?
I’m really happy about it. It has been a long time in the making but good things take time to get right. Its probably the most reflective release I have ever put out there of what I am into—as in, a bit of everything. It’s great that Zak (Khutoretsky; DVS1) feels the same way, too. His tastes are more varied than mine, and I really do generally like everything. There are bass influences here, house music influences, techno influences—everything, all fudged together under an electronic music umbrella.
How did the release come about?
The very first release I did with Mistress was in 2015. Ever since then we have spoken about another but you know how it works—pressing plant times, other artist releases, things that are already coming out on other labels, etc. It just takes the stars to align to get a release out these days.
In the years since that first release, I’ve started to send Zak bits and bobs as we always keep in touch, and slowly but surely the release pieced together. We realized the window would come in 2020, so started to think about the flow and the overall vibe—and it worked out. It’s a really good thing to work with the little team they have at Mistress—I know the people well as colleagues and friends, and it’s never anything but working together to get things right.
Which artist or labels are really impressing you right now?
Ah, I’m no good at things like this. It depends every day, on the weather, on my mood, on whatever has happened good or bad that day. I couldn’t tell you artists or labels that impress me as I never look at things that individually anymore. I simply go for sounds I like and that could be anything or anyone at any given time. An artist might make one track I like and then all the others I don’t—I could therefore not stay that artist impresses me. But the track does. Same with labels; I just like whatever my brain enjoys.
When and where did you record the mix?
I recorded it at home. I’m in between equipment at the moment because it’s being serviced, so I borrowed the CDJs and a One 96 mixer from the club I’m resident at in Liverpool—24 Kitchen Street—and hooked everything up to my own technics turntables. Then, just to make sure all sounds sweet, I took it into Ableton and mastered it up a touch with some post-processing.
How did you choose the tracks that you included?
I wanted to get as wide a spectrum of what I like as possible, albeit maybe breakbeat-edged, so I started to rifle through various different folders and playlists from the last seven or eight years, same with records too, and trimmed it down to about 40 or 50 things I wanted to include. Then I just hit record and put it together. Nothing planned too much, the same way I make music really!
What’s the concept for the mix?
Things that I would enjoy listening to or dancing to that maybe other people will as well.
How does it compare to what you’d play in a club?
I would probably be a little more conventional in a club. I do like playing oddball stuff sometimes but I mostly find that I am not really a big fan of the whole journey thing when on a dancefloor. I like quick, punchy, exciting rhythm changes. This mix has some of that too, so it’s certainly reflective.
What are your wider plans for 2020?
I couldn’t even tell you what I am doing this evening, let alone this year. And even if I did, it would probably change one thousand times over. The wider plan is to never have one.
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to download the podcast you will need to subscribe to our Select channel. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
01. Deep Sky Objects “In Lux” (Never Ready Records)
02. Deep Sky Objects “Rays & Secondaries” (Never Ready Records)
03. Kabuki “Shimmer” (Beat Excursions)
04. Otik “Gravel” (InterGraded)
05. ASOK “Space Rockets” (Mistress Recordings)
06. Zodiac & Childs “Get Back” (Zodiac Wax)
07. Reese & Antonio “How To Play Our Music” (Kool Kat)
08. Mosca “Swann Norton” (Mothers Finest)
09. Italo Johnson “ITJ09A1” (Juxta Position Remix) (ItaloJohnson)
10. Larry “Bessemach” (Super Hexagon Records)
11. Dukwa “Violet” (Live Extract) (Dukwa Music)
12. Boirai & Denham Audio “Skrrrt” (E-Beamz)
13. D Dan “Sun Over I-5 South” (Lobster Theremin)
14. J-Shadow “Acid Genie” (Beat Machine Records)
15. HVL “Armadillo Beat” (Hypercolour)
16. Overmono “Le Tigre” (PolyKicks)
17. Asquith “Temple Runner” (Who’s Susan)
18. Internal Affairs “Hands to Heaven” (Reinforced)