Mr. K's Orchestra Videos

Mr. K's Orchestra

Mr. K's Orchestra

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The Kyd The Shy Performer

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.

Twenty-one-year-old 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."

The 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.

Robbins 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. K's Orchestra."

Just 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.

At 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.

Robbins 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."

Robbins 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.

Mr. 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 a computer.

While 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.