robert hood

The Origins of Robert Hood's "We Magnify His Name"

In the first part of a new series we spoke to the legendary Robert Hood about God, techno, and his incendiary Floorplan project.

by Josh Baines
02 October 2015, 12:30pm

The sad truth is thus: most music, most art, even, is completely, utterly, headfuckingly mediocre. A good 99.9999% of the collective creative output from the moment we crawled out of the primordial ooze doesn't deserve being remarked upon. It's for that reason that the mediocre is worse than the bad — at least terrible cultural objects elicit some kind of response.

It's arguable that dance music is a medium infected by the mundane a bit more than others are. Each week thousands of truly unmemorable, faceless, bland, poorly-executed and ultimately pointless records hit the virtual shelves of beatport et al. We're saturated in and weighed down by this mountain of digital dross, this tech-house landfill. Which is why a good record, a great record, an amazing record, feels so life-changing. The diamond in the rough shines all the brighter for being surrounded by gruel and chickenshit.

"We Magnify His Name" by Floorplan, AKA Robert Hood, is the brightest of the lot. There are moments, hours, days, weeks, months, when, if you asked me to name the best record of all time, I'd be able to tell you in a nanosecond that without a doubt it's "We Magnify His Name" by Floorplan. I'd have God on my side, by the way. I'll come back to that in a second.

If you've been trapped under a rock for the last few decades, here's a quick rundown of who Robert Hood is and what he does. Hood, born in Detroit but now residing in Alabama, is a pivotal part of the story of techno. As one of the founding members of the legendarily confrontational and intellectually rigorous Underground Resistance crew — alongside Jeff Mills and "Mad" Mike Banks — Hood's place in techno's history was already confirmed even before he invented minimal as we know it with 1994's seminal Minimal Nation, and founded his M-Planet label the same year. His dedication to the strict rigidity of techno in it's purest state — the perfect midpoint between the harsh clang and clank of industrial, acid's inhuman squelch, and house's mechanistic heartbeat — has seen him spend the last two years creating and curating a body of work that's largely unparalleled. From the nocturnal emissions of Motor: Nighttime World 3 to Omega's scorched-earth, bruised and battered take on techno, Hood at his best is as good as anyone's ever been.

Read more: Robert Hood on Techno, Spirituality, and Police Brutality in America

Having released records under a variety of aliases, including Inner Sanctum, Monobox and The Vision, Hood seems to have settled, in recent years, on dividing his time and attention between two projects. As Robert Hood he releases and plays driving, hard, fast and terrifyingly precise techno. As Floorplan he channels the word of the lord.

"God literally woke me up out of my sleep and said, "I want you to put the gospel message in your music,"" Hood — a licensed and ordained minister — tells me down the phone from his home in the Deep South. "Basically I want to communicate that spirit, and my relationship with Christ through my sound. I'd been envisaging that for some time but this time God made it plain: I want you to put it out there. I began to question myself and question God and said, "Well, how are people going to perceive it it?" and God said, "Don't worry about that.""

The initial result of this conversation was the Sanctified EP, released in 2011 on Hood's own M-Plant imprint. It's three blistering tracks were, pardon the pun, a revelation of sorts. "Basic Principle" is classic Hood, all big tracky, techy chords that undulate and churn unceasingly over the kind of kick that demands the listener to submit instantly and transform into a dancer. It's raw, stripped back, simple but stunningly effective. That's paired up on the B-Side with the James Brown sampling house screamer "Baby, Baby", a track that's still getting rinsed by DJs to this day. Both of those are solid 8/10s. Easily. The real magic, though, is on the A-Side.

"We Magnify His Name" is a nine minute long gospel house record that liberally samples from the Shekinah Glory Ministry choir's take on the church standard "We Magnify Your Name". Hood's linguistic switchpup — the alteration of the pronoun — is indicative of his relationship to the lord that the producer and DJ has. He is an unabashed believer and music is his way of communicating and channelling God's word. Now, at this juncture it makes sense to mention that I'm an atheist, but listening to Hood speak with such conviction, such passion, such love was, well, stunning. That passion isn't apparent anywhere more than in "We Magnify His Name" — a track that genuinely makes me want to believe. ""When "We Magnify His Name" came out of me, the bassline, the vocals, everything seemed to fall right in place. Listening to it I cried. I just teared up. It was so emotional, so spiritual that I thought I had to do more of this," he tells me. ""We Magnify His Name" was basically my spirit in church, praising God, his spirit and the truth, and shouting out his name. That's what I do on Sunday mornings and round the house and in the car. I praise God for who he is. That's what that song is." That song is also, in my eyes, the greatest house record ever. Seriously. I cannot think of a better example of club music's innate power over an audience. It turns us into believers in something. Even if it's just for a night, we meet in a kind of communion. We're at one with something, somewhere.

To try and understand just what it is about it that makes me feel the way it does, I decided that I had to speak to the man who made it possible.

THUMP: When you DJ you can never know the spiritual persuasion of your crowd. I'm speaking to you as an atheist and that record even moves me. Is that something you're interested in, that you can play deeply spiritual, deeply meaningful records about you and your relationship with and to God to total strangers?
Robert Hood: Here's the thing: You and I are spirits. God is a spirit. So that's how we communicate to God. The Bible says, in Romans 8:16 "the spirit itself, which is God, bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." So our spirits can't help but to feel the presence of God. Whether we're aware of it or not, that spirit cries out and wants to connect to God, but our flesh and our mind wants to to do something else, to deny the existence of it. But that spirit that we really are, because that's really the answer to who we are — it's not this outer shell, not our skin and bones in this body and shell we live in, but the spirit — and this spirit wants to connect with God.

Do you believe, then, that as a DJ, as someone with the ability to perform to thousands of people, do you have an opportunity to help form that relationship with God. Is that something you can do as a DJ and is it something you want to do as a DJ?
What I am is a carrier of light. And it's my job to take that light and carry it and spread it throughout the world. God let me be a reflection of his love and let me reflect his light into the world to let people receive his message, to help people receive all of the good things and the mercy that God is offering. A lot of people won't read a bible, won't go to church, so it's up to me to be a kind of bible they can read, without me having to say a word. They can feel my presence, or rather the presence of God, through me and reflect that. For example, at Berghain, to play "We Magnify His Name" on a early Sunday morning, is just...words cannot describe how that feels, to do that in this industrial German club that's known for a certain kind of sound, and you play a song like that, and it's like having a revival of church on a Sunday morning. It just cuts through the darkness that people might be experiencing in their lives. They don't get a chance to talk and congregate in one place, necessarily. So a Saturday night or a Sunday morning in a club is a place to escape but most of us don't realise we have a church at that time. It's amazing.

Is that the ultimate reason as to why we go to nightclubs, then, to escape the sadness and harshness of reality? Does the club offer us salvation?
There's a sort of release, there. You want to let off some steam because you've worked hard all week or you've studied hard, and on Saturday night everybody wants to go out and party and drink and have a good time and life their live, so to speak. The thing i'm concerned about is that there's this thing here in the states people calle "get your life" and my question is, do we really know what life is? When I was out drinking and partying and getting high, I thought, "Hey, I'm 21, I'm a man now, I can live my life." But I didn't know what life was. What it really was. I didn't know what true life was. Or what death was. A lot of people fall into the weekend. We live for the weekend, like the old O'Jays song. Then there's Sunday morning, the day of the Lord, and a lot of people focus on partying and Sunday is a time to reflect and sleep the day away. There's more to life than that.

What else is there? Tell me.
Eternal life. This life here is just a brief interruption in eternity. This conversation right now is a moment in time. We're going to have this conversation and the rest of the day will go on. This is just brief. To put it in perspective, the rest of life, which is eternal, that's what true life is. That's what there is. Jesus said, "I am the truth, and the way, and the life." Without Jesus you won't find any true life. What separates us from Christ is death. God meant for death to be a transition to go from this life to eternal life. From this natural existence on earth to an eternal life. The devil intended to twist that meaning, and separate us from God. We have to understand what life is. Love and grace and mercy — that's what true life is.

To come back to "We Magnify His Name" as a song...I was lucky enough to see you live earlier this year in Paris, and I was on the stage with yourself and Lyric and had a kind of out of body experience when you finally played it. Is that what you as a producer want to do to people?
That is my prayer. The thing is, i've never heard anyone say that about me and my music. I've heard some different positive things about it, but i've never had anyone say that. That is exactly the peace and the sense of well being and the connection to the holy spirit I was trying to achieve with that record and I was just glad God used me to be a vessel to go from God's heart to your heart. Honestly, I thought people were going to say, "Oh, he's just trying to do some gospel record" but that's what I was hoping and praying for. I didn't want to make an anthem that made Robert Hood's name bigger but to magnify God's name. It's all about God. It's not about Robert Hood. It's about Jesus. That's what I'm passionate about. That's what my hope, my vision, and my dream was: to magnify His name. Let's all live for a very long time. Let's get our life.

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