Electronic Rock Musician Rob Nelson Reveals His New Album to the Northland

Paul Whyte

This week I continue with another interview with electronic-rock musician Rob Nelson. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to and review a couple of Nelson’s albums in the past few years, but Nelson is still pretty obscure when it comes to this area. On July 3, Nelson hopes to introduce his unique synth driven songs from his new album titled “Crystal System” at The Red Herring. There will be a listening party and a meet and greet with this progressive musician at 6 p.m.
The listening party is a first for Nelson as he has stayed out of the limelight and is almost exclusively a studio musician. Another first for Nelson is that he will be releasing this new album on CD where in the past he has stuck to digital downloads except for promotional copies for radio stations or CD reviews.
We called up Nelson, who lives down in Gordon, Wisconsin and talked to him a little bit about his new release and his plans on emerging as an artist in the Northland.

Reader: So the first time I talked to you was for your album “My Avatar.” That was a little while ago. I was looking back at it and in My Avatar there were themes in your music that you described to me. Does this current album have any kind of a theme?

Nelson: This has more of a musical theme over a literary theme. There’s one thread in common for all four songs on this album and that’s that they tend to be fairly heavy rock and roll, almost a heavy metal feel, but that’s just for part of each song. Each one is pretty diverse and I incorporate different styles. Over the course of the album you’ll hear not just heavy rock and roll, but jazz, a little swing, modern electronic music, and it’s all side by side, but the one thread that connected them is that they had a really heavy vibe in some part of each song.

Reader: So are you still working with Mike Milenkovic?

Nelson: Yes, he plays the guitars on all four tracks here.

Reader: Yeah, there’s defiantly some metal shredding going on in ways.
Nelson: There certainly is in “Vampire Hunter.” That has a metal feel. But I guess the shredding is more in “The Pulse,” especially in the finale.  

Reader: It doesn’t look like you’re working with Emi Jarvi any more. (A soprano vocalist who was featured on the My Avatar album).

Nelson: Not for this one. There are no vocals on this one. I’ve got songs for her and I’ve some songs for our local favorite, Hannah Rey too. I’m hoping to work with her fairly soon. We’ve talked about it, we just need to get our schedules together to do it.

Reader: That’s interesting. I’m guessing you have a home studio.

Nelson: I do.

Reader: I might get a little more techie here. Are there any keyboards or units that you’ve been using a lot lately?

Nelson: I use the M-Audio Keystation Pro 88. I use that as my controller so I can do all the keyboard parts that way. I record in MIDI. That’s how I can get the wide variety of sounds. The software that I use to record MIDI is Sonar, which is a tremendous MIDI platform. I really love working with it. For live tracks, anything that’s not done with the controller, I use Pro Tools. Mike, when he records his guitar tracks at home, he uses Audacity, which is a free download and works very much the same as Pro Tools.

Reader: So does he record at his own house and sends you the files?  Tracks over and then sends them back?

Nelson: When a song is done or close to done, I’ll send him an MP3 and then he’ll upload it into Audacity and then he records all of his guitar tracks. When his tracks are done, we just do it via file sharing.

Reader: I’ve heard of people doing that. Is that what you’d do with Hannah Rey if she was to work with you? So she doesn’t have to drive from here to down there.

Nelson: We’ve actually talked about her coming down here and recording at my house and Crystal Detlefsen (KUWS/freelance videographer) is going to come down too and film it. I just recorded an interview with Crystal and it’s going to air this Friday and we talked about that a little bit.

Reader: So on July 3rd you’re going to have some sort of listening party?

Nelson: That’s on Friday July 3rd at 6 o’clock at The Red Herring.

Reader: What music are you going to reveal? I’m guessing this new album is definitely going to be on that.

Nelson: We’re going to do that. I don’t know if we’re going to do anymore. I haven’t talked to Bob Monahan. He’s setting it up. There might be more if that’s something he’s willing to do. Right now, I only planned on doing this new album, especially since I’m not known locally. I’m known outside of here, but hardly anyone in the Twin Ports knows me. So this the way of introducing myself so they can hear the music, look at my face and associate the two.

Reader: I was going to ask about that. I remember when I reviewed My Avatar a couple of years ago that you had somewhere around 100,000 likes on your Facebook and now you’re up to around 150,000 now. Where are these fans coming from? How are people finding out about your music?

Nelson: It’s mostly in Europe, South America and the Pacific Rim. These are areas where instrumental music is still very big. Obviously in mainstream music in the U.S., if it doesn’t have a verse and a chorus and vocal hook, it’s not on the radio, period. But in the rest of the world, they’re still listening to instrumental music. That’s been a big threshold to me. It’s not going to get on mainstream radio. And you’re not going to get on mainstream radio unless you’re already famous.

Reader: Yes, that’s usually the way it works.

Nelson: Then you can get through the focus group and the marketing will sell you to Clear-Channel and Red Rock. That’s how the program is run. I’m very happy that I can still get played on independent radio and public radio locally.

Reader: Do people just download your music or do you mail out CDs to the places you mentioned?

Nelson: Up until now it’s always been download. This is the first time that I’ve ever done CDs. Crystal was the one who put it in my head to do a CD release event and I thought about and it was a great idea. This is the way I can meet people face to face. I’ve been getting out a lot more and people don’t know that I’ve been doing my own music. This is the way of showing the Twin Ports my music.

Reader: So the new album is Crystal System and I’m guessing there will be CDs at the listening then?

Nelson: They’re going to be ready any day, they’re getting printed and are probably done, and they’ll be for sale at the event and also at Electric Fetus after that.

Visit lagasongs.com to download Nelson’s available albums, or stop in to The Red Herring on July 3 at 6 p.m. and welcome this emerging musician to the Twin Ports.