Rob Birch is the vocalist and leader of influential British hip hop/electronic dance band Stereo MCs. Almost 25 years after recording their most successful single “Connected” and after eight studio albums released by labels such as Island Records, K7 and Graffiti Recordings, the band has created their own label in collaboration with German electronic band Terranova.
LuxByNight: You recently recorded an EP together with Terranova. Is this a new direction for Stereo MCs, towards more club sounds?
Rob: We wanted to go back to our roots. We started back in the late ‘80s making underground dance music. We’ve known Fetisch from Terranova since back in the day, so we hooked up with him and thought it would be great to start a label together and make some music with this idea in mind. He’s already been making club music for a long time now and made a good name for himself in Terranova. That’s why we started our label Connected - it sort of bounces between Berlin and London. It’s distributed by Kompakt, a well-respected underground dance label.
LuxByNight: How do people react to this new music?
Rob: I think if we can put a certain energy in the music when we perform live, people can get a buzz out of it. And I think a lot of people who have been into our older tunes have a background in electronic and dance music or knowledge of it. They can relate to what we’re doing because it’s within their experience of sound. We just want to really move away from making traditional song-based music and get back into the groove of club music again.
LuxByNight: Having in mind the tunes that you’re doing now with Terranova, could we expect that maybe the next Stereo MCs album will be more electronic and dance oriented?
Rob: We are working on new tracks at the moment and we want to get the new album ready for next year, because we want to do some serious touring. It will be an electronic album but it will still be a Stereo MCs record. We want it to work on the dance floor. We’d also like to say something about what’s going on in the world today.
LuxByNight: And what is it in the world today that provokes you? It was a crazy year so far…
Rob: There’s a lot of things going on in the world which are quite disturbing. A lot of things have gone on in England which divided the population, as the recent Brexit thing. To be honest I felt really sad that we were leaving the EU. I thought it was quite a negative statement to make to the rest of the world. Whatever you think of the EU, and there are good points and bad points, I think what it did for England was that actually it made us have some standards we had to reach to, in terms of climate change, pollution and how we treated people.
There seem to be a lot of right-wing leaders getting into power now that don’t have much conscience or empathy for people who are in trouble. A lot of the emphasis seems to be on greed, making money and taking things without any thought for the people, as we see throughout Africa or Syria. Does nobody have any feelings for these people? Whole families get separated and have to travel across waters in little boats… and here we are, living in London. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those people, it’s unimaginable. Little children holding their brothers, being shot and bombed… and here we are, able to walk around the park and go down the shop and get some food. And we’re refusing to accept children who are stranded in Calais so that they can be reunited with their families. Where’s the humanity?
LuxByNight: So is there no hope left for the world?
Rob: I think you have to reach for the good feeling inside yourself. Every era of our history has been marked by some kind of struggle and turmoil. I’ve always wondered, if every man just said “I refuse to go out and kill another man because he’s my brother, I’m not going to do it”, then what would happen? What would happen in this word? Wars would just come to an end and all those arms dealers would just be starved of money. That’s probably why they have wars in the first place, because they’re making so much money out of it.
LuxByNight: So your message through music is for peace…
Rob: I’d say, if there was any message, I’d say “Enjoy your life.” We spend too much time being stressed out running after things that we’re told to want in magazines and all that. Enjoy your life and live it, be physical and enjoy your physical body once you’ve got it. That’s why I’m so grateful for music, it has taught me to stay in shape, enjoy being physical, because you reach your spirit by doing that.