ROBERT STRAUSS with ABACUS and LUPO at Andy Poolhall (489 College), Saturday (February 11). $5. 416-923-5300. Rating: NNNNN
It was only a few months ago that Robert Strauss's critically acclaimed Quasars And Phasars LP came out, and not even a year since his first singles were released, so what's the up-and-coming Toronto producer doing talking about another full-length album completed already?
"When I first got signed, it was like the bedroom producer's wet dream. I've been so excited, it's like I died and somehow came back to life, so I've just been going crazy in the studio," says Strauss on a break before going into yet another session.
The death he's referring to is the dissolution of his former band (Life) and the end of his pop ambitions in the late 90s, which he credits with turning him to production and underground dance music.
"I was the typical artist, the guitarist/singer/songwriter. My band was signed with Warner, but years went by with nothing to show, meaning our business just stayed on the shelf, which seems to happen all too often. For most of my young musician life, I was trying to become something, trying to become a rock star, and it was hurting me emotionally and spiritually. I ended up just walking away from it all. I bought my first set of equipment but felt kind of like a loser because my dreams hadn't come true."
Once he stopped trying to become something else, and once he'd removed himself from the pop machine, Strauss's eyes were suddenly opened to the possibilities of electronic music, and he loved the flexibility and diversity of the scene.
"My introduction to dance music was sort of a wrong turn around a left corner. At that point, I thought I knew a lot about music, but I decided to walk into this record store around the corner from where I lived that I'd never gone into before, Metropolis Records. I told the guy behind the counter that I wanted to hear some music where one person was playing everything, like Prince. He pulled out some Compost stuff, and I was instantly blown away."
Strauss's subsequent compositions have explored various tangents of soulful dance music, from broken beat to leftfield disco to deep house. The new album, Mr. Feelings, which he describes as being more raw and live-based than his previous outings, won't come out until late spring/early summer, and will involve more collaborations, including an appearance by cult soul hero Leroy Burgess.
Until then, watch for releases on Osunlade's Yoruba, as well as a Lady Alma collaboration on Diaspora Recordings.