On Image For Review
Kyd The Shy Performer
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE
At the bottom of a flight of stairs sits Casey Robbins (The
Kyd) gently tapping his drumsticks against each other to music,
audible only to him. He sits nestled in his drum set on a faded
carpet no bigger than a large area rug. His backdrop is one
where Dr. Pepper cans collect on the counters and a row of seven
guitars display themselves as if being showcased behind a window.
To the right of the Kyd, a mini-recording studio houses enough
equipment to start an independent record label.
Casey Robbins isn't your average musician. He spends most of
his time in this basement, shutting out the noise of the rest
of the world. He doesn't like big crowds. He doesn't really
like going to parties. Instead of alcohol, he ravenously consumes
soda. He gets nervous on-stage before shows. He taught himself
to play every instrument he knows - drums, guitar, bass guitar
and piano - in that order. He flies solo on the majority of
his music and completely controls the production of his sound
from this very basement. "What I'm doing right now is, number
one, just producing stuff for myself, for Mr. K's Orchestra.
But I got a project with my dad and Kurt playing the blues and
I got a project with Joel that I've had for awhile that we work
on off and on. 'Two Mice' it's called. And I record other people's
bands, you know, just for fun and to learn how to record better."
Kyd's sense of social awkwardness makes itself evident in his
demeanor. He's nervous to be doing an interview. He chain smokes
and swills Dr. Pepper out of a liter bottle. His eyes constantly
shift from one place to another in the room and he mumbles almost
to the point of incoherence. But he's direct with his thoughts
and he's nostalgic about his memories of music.
can trace his musical beginnings in Thurston, Oregon, back to
his parents. Both played guitar. 1986 brought Robbins his first
set of drums - a Mickey Mouse set. Robbins began recognizing
beats with a little help from his friends, The Beach Boys, crackling
on vinyl. Robbins worked his way through instruments and eventually
started writing his own music. Through high school, Robbins
formed several bands with friends, inventing group names such
as "Spastic Disorder" and "Destitute." When these bands broke
up a year after graduation, Robbins turned to producing by himself.
"I watched a movie, "Beat Street," and there's this guy, he's
a DJ, and he had this room - this is when I was 16 - and he
had this record player and all these players and all this ghetto
stuff. And he's mixing this stuff and I was like, 'that's awesome!'
I gotta do that.' That's when I came up with the idea of Mr.
as the name suggest, the Mr. K's Orchestra fuses the likes of
jazz, electronica, blues, rock and pop into a cohesive, multidimensional
composition. In some songs, real vocals seemingly float over
a haunting electronica loop and drum beat. "But who knows,"
the Kyd explains, "it's always changing." As if on cue, the
next song solders human-made animal sounds to poppy guitar riffs.
It's not your standard orbital electronica…or rock…or pop. Long
time friend, Joel Magid describes it as "somewhere between Kruder
and Dorfmeister and classic rock-and-roll." But this is a rough
estimate at best.
its most functional level, the sound is generated by laying
down a melody through bass octaves. Those seven octaves can
be manipulated an infinite number of ways and layered over each
other to an even great extent. Robbins tweaks this process by
slowing down the beats to 60 per minute at the beginning as
opposed to a standard 120 beats per minute. After manipulating
the octaves and layers, Robbins then speeds the whole thing
up. The result: "something like a mad scientist on crack," Magid
says. While musical influences such as The Beach Boys, The Beatles,
Dr. Dre and Black Flag aren't directly discernible in Robbins'
sound, they all contribute to the intent. But, like The Kyd
says, as he puffs on a full-flavored American Spirit, "If I
had to describe this music, I would say it sounds like nothing
you've ever heard before." While this mantra may be present
in the minds of all bands, it strikes true with Mr. K's Orchestra.
The eccentricity present in the creator seeps into the tracks
that are laid.
is working on a number of projects at any given time. He chooses
to form bands with only his closest friends and his dad - a
testament to his shyness. He plays shows everywhere around Eugene
with his bands from bars and basement shows. At least once a
month he shows off his mixing abilities downtown at the Black
Forrest. "It's fun to play with other people in a band setting.
Sometimes it's more relieving because you don't have to do it
all yourself. But it's more practice, more rehearsals. If I'm
just producing by myself, I can come down here and just do it
all for however long I want and not have to wait for other people
to get it too."
is something of an anomaly on-stage. It's more like watching
a piece of performance art than mixing beats. Robbins flails
around, sometimes licking the floor, as if suddenly overcome
by an epileptic seizure. Between body tremors, Robbins mixes
beats with prerecorded vocals. Magid forcefully strums along
on guitar. Most of the time the performance is a collective
improvisations. Robbins mixes live beats and Magid invents riffs.
Sometimes Robbins will use prerecorded beats and create a general
structure within which Magid will play. While Robbins always
dresses chic white collar for shows, his accompanist has been
known to don costumes such as a Nixon mask and pajamas.
K's Orchestra is not just a pet project. Over the past five
years Robbins has compiled some 35 albums in the same musical
vein. Through a personal website, users will be able to order
albums in CD format online and sample a song from each album.
Unlike many bands who record an album specifically to be physically
distributed, Mr. K's Orchestra will be solely web-based. It's
fitting that Robbins acts as a silent maestro sitting behind
the Mr. K's Orchestra is in the works, Robbins says he's "just
gonna keep on going - keeping recording and producing new music."
He's not afraid to admit that he's partly in it for the money.
But he's humble. "Of course I would let other people produce
my stuff, because other people's input is always good. But I
don't see doing anything else that would make me as happy."
Magid says, "He couldn't' stop if he wanted to - he might as
well try to raise the Titanic. The music keeps The Kyd sane
and the fact that he can't stop producing it proves it." For
The Kyd it all began with "an uncontrollable urge to make rhythms,"
and that's what it all comes back to.