Robert Rental – in his own words, Mod-Con fanzine September 1978

“To Robert Rental…. we would be very grateful if you could answer a batch of questions for our Magazine called MOD-CON which operates in Portsmouth. This article would then be published in the next issue in 2 1/2 weeks. Thank you Mod Con.


Q1: As an independent record producer / performer, how much time and effort did it take for the single to be put on the market?

RR: A lot. First of all I had to hire the equipment (tape recorder and mixer) which I had for three days after which I had the master tape and no money. So I borrowed the money to get the rest done, it took about 3 weeks to get master lacquer made, then when I went to get metal stampers made the factory went on holiday. When the holiday was over, the metal stampers were ready, but the record pressing factory went on holiday. At this point I decided to go on holiday, I went to Cornwall. On returning I received the records and began stamping the labels and sticking the cover on. I recorded the music early in June, the records were on the market by September. I was three months older and knew it, but any intelligent person could do it in a month.


Q2: Do you think it’s becoming increasingly easier to bypass the big league labels?

RR: Pass…. no, I think its becoming increasingly more popular as more people realize it can be done, this will take music into areas previously unknown, or ignored because of big record companies’ more …. attitudes.


Q3: Which other artists / groups do you feel you have an empathy with, and why?

RR: Empathy is usually understanding of – or communication level you establish or exists between you and people you work with, so in this case I would say Tom Leer as we’ve been involved in each other’s musical activities for a long time. In a broader sense I feel related to other people who are doing things in a similar way, people doing things independently, small labels, magazines like yours, independent film makers, people experimenting with music.

In the early Seventies I was listening to bands like Can, Kraftwerk, Faust etc in Germany, Captain Beefheart in America, Van Der Graff Generator & Peter Hammill, Brian Eno in Britain, many more but naming names takes up too much space.


Q4: Classification is a bore, but would you put yourself in the same category as (what Sounds described as New Musick? e.g. Throbbing Gristle / Cabaret Voltaire etc etc.)

RR: I agree classification is a bore, as for “New Musick” all I can say is I won’t be saving up for a Dan Dare suit and a synthesizer but I do like a lot of the stuff that’s coming up at the moment. “Cabaret Voltaire” I haven’t heard yet. “Throbbing Gristle” I saw live and was very impressed, these guys go a lot further live, powerful hypnotic frightening music that I can’t resist. I also like “The Fall” cause they do a number called ‘Repetition’ which I think is brilliant, “This Heat” whom I’ve read about but haven’t heard yet also sound interesting, in America I like Talking Heads, Pere Ubu, Iggy Pop.


Q5: Leeds and Sheffield seem to have quite a few electronic / drummerless / avant garde bands / performers springing up, so can you see a scene like that developing in London?

RR: I can see a scene like that developing all over the place. As for London I’ve been here since January 1977 and as for us I know bands like “Throbbing Gristle” and “This Heat”. “The Normal” have been active throughout this time. I think drum machines are used a lot because it’s difficult to record drums in a domestic situation so people find alternatives on the “New Musick” or independent record scene. If it isn’t vital to the sound or is difficult to incorporate, drop it. Personally I like drums but don’t have the facilities to record them properly, but may be able to in the future.


Q6: Do you gig, have you gigged, are you planning to form a band, or is Robert Rental a studio concept only?

RR: Unfortunately I don’t gig but have gigged in the past with Tom Leer in a band called “Pressure”. There is a strong possibility that we might collaborate for the purpose of playing gigs in the future. We’re working on the problem of trying to get some equipment at the moment. When we start doing gigs I’ll write and let you know.


Q7: We recently bought your single in Portsmouth HMV … on playing a couple of times / incessantly I notice a strong dub influence; have you a strong liking for dub reggae? If so, who are the major influences?

RR: You’re right I do have “strong liking for dub reggae”, not so much now as it seems to me a lot of it is sliding into the … easy listening kind of thing.  But I think it has been a challenging and inventive form of music which did much to change the situation in recorded and live music ‘cos a lot of dub stuff is produced on very primitive equipment and they managed to find all kinds of interesting ways of going about this right across the board from songwriting, singing, instrumentation and production. Also I’m a sucker for interesting drum and percussion sounds and bass. It was from listening to bass players like “Robbie Shakespeare” that I got into playing bass. As for major influences it’s like with the current music scene here, a lot of what I pick up on is the attitudes to what they do, not necessarily the music. But I’d have to like the music too and get off on it, but it’s generally the way they use things that rubs off on me, my music isn’t reggae ‘cos I don’t live on a South Sea Island but I do similar things production-wise. I use the sounds that are around me and incorporate them into the music I make. Yeah, influences: “The Revolutionaries”, Lee “Scratch” Perry, “Joe Gibbs”, “Culture”, “Augustus Pablo”. I pick up a lot of reggae from the “John Peel” show, it’s such a good place to find out about many interesting and new forms of music.


Q8: Regarding the b side of your single … what does A.C.C. stand for?

RR: A.C.C. means “Archie Comes Clean” which in turn is meaningless.


Q9: Is there a lyric sheet available?

RR: No, I’m afraid I don’t have a lyric sheet. All I can tell you is the lyrics to both songs come from the same piece of writing all cut up and stuff and represent about a quarter of the whole piece, most of which I have now lost.

I play guitar, bass guitar, stylophone, drum machine, voice on the record, I come from Scotland and I can’t think of anything else to say.

Sorry if I rambled on a bit, hope you can read this awful handwriting, will write and inform you of future developments.

Robert Rental”


And Robert did indeed write to MOD-CON again shortly afterwards:


“Dear Mod Con,

Thank you fort writing back, sorry my letter was so long, hope it doesn’t give you too much of a headache trying to sort it out. Don’t worry about altering the length, I didn’t expect you to print it all. I was just babbling on in general. cos you seemed like friendly people, but I answered the questions too, somewhere along the line. Glad you picked up on Tom Leer recordings. Yes I have heard the ‘Human League’ single, they also did a wonderful session for John Peel, who was holidaying in France, when I finally got my records finished and sent one to him. He did play it on his return tho’. Just to prove I have some self control I’m going to close now, thus avoiding the possibility of this letter reaching epic proportions. Tho I’ll probably write you another long letter in the future.

Yours briefly

Robert Rental”

With thanks to Steve Pescott. Published with permission.