Call him Floorplan, Monobox, or simply one of Detroit's finest, Robert "Noise" Hood has a reputation that precedes him. Since cementing his name as a member of the radical political DJ collective Underground Resistance in the early 1990s, Hood has consistently ranked amongst the most respected dons of the electronic music sphere.
This month sees something of a first for a producer many would expect to have few firsts left. Putting his own M-Plant label aside for the time being, Hood is set to release a new EP on EPM Music that combines two of his dancefloor personalities, the minimalistic Robert Hood and the more soulful Floorplan. "It seemed like the right time to do it. I had always wanted to do a Robert Hood and Floorplan release," Hood explains over the phone from his home in rural Alabama. "I don't know if it will happen again."
Hood reveals that the gospel, disco, and house elements on his new EP were directly inspired by Lil' Louis, the Chicago producer behind the house classic "French Kiss." "In the late-80s and early-90s I was just in love with what he was doing. I remember thinking, 'this is what it means to be an artist,'" Hood says. "I found myself drawn to the way he went about rendering this spiritual disco atmosphere."
Spirituality is particularly important for Hood, who considers himself more of a "spiritual dude" than a "religious dude." "Religion, misguided religion, is blinding people from the truth. I'm looking at [the world] through the eyes of love and grace. When you understand grace, you understand that we're all in this together," he says.
I ask Hood how his belief in spiritual grace, along with the radical politics of Underground Resistance, fit in today's America—a nation where police shootings of unarmed black men have become harrowingly commonplace. Where does music sit in this divided society?
"Music is such a powerful healing force," Hood responds after pausing for thought. "It can also incite riots. It's such a powerful form of expression to get us through tough times. I remember listening to this song by Pharoahe Monch, called "Clap." He said one day people are gonna clap, but not a handclap—a gunshot. You see that in Ferguson, after the Department of Justice revealed the racist climate in the administration of the police."
"We see young black men murdered, constantly," Hood continues. "Since 2008"—the year President Obama was elected—"the anger has risen. Hate groups have increased 800% since then. On college campuses, they're making racist chants. It's anger on both sides. Because of the history of the country we don't trust the police. Respect is earned, not given; we all have to earn each other's respect."
The answer, Hood says, lies not in the worldly realm of government or politics, but a higher power: Jesus.
"The Bible says, 'my people are destroyed through lack of knowledge,' but it's not so much that we don't know—it's that we reject knowledge," he explains. "So we need to grab hold of knowledge. Music is a way for me to spread that good news, that gospel."
As one of techno's godfathers, Hood sees his musical mission today as "feeding" the next generation. "The soul of techno was diluted and lost between 1997 and 2007," he says. Only in the late-2000s did techno "regain its soul and turn away from the clutter and unnecessary elements."
"Now that we're in this place where it's as strong as it ever has been, and healthy—I haven't seen it like this in years—it's important not to get complacent," he concludes.
"Now it's about quality control, and it begins with me. The food I serve to the people has to be good quality for the kids to grow up on. So it's very important that I find myself picking through tracks for a set meticulously, trying to find what I'm gonna serve—what's on the menu."
Robert Hood's Shaker/Ritual EP is out April 20 on EPM Music
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