On the day of the release of his new collaborative single “Nothing But Love” with Tianda, I spoke to British producer Rob Late about his sound, process, his new record deal and his TikTok account.
Growing up in London, the city has such a vibrant music culture, how did that inform your artistic growth?
It was quite nice because there are quite a few live venues in my area. I loved rock and heavy metal music, that was my go-to thing. I was a session guitar player, and I thought a song was no good unless it had a seven-minute guitar solo. From there I somehow got over to doing pop music and I love it, yeah.
Did you grow up around music?
Yeah, my dad was in bands in the 70s so there was always a guitar around the house, and he was always listening to Pink Floyd, Rush all those types of bands so I couldn’t help but just whack on some Jimmy Hendrix and stuff like that. I got into it that way.
From then to now, what sort of artists inspired you to reach the poppier sound you’re currently at?
It’s funny because when I was a kid, I used to love bands like System of a Down, all those alt-rock bands, I used to love all that heavy music. Then one summer I heard this live performance by Coldplay and like, its always hit or miss mentioning Coldplay because they’re like marmite but I can’t help it. There’s just this one song I saw Chris Martin playing in the rain in some venue and it hit me. You can get across a feeling or a message in something that’s just two minutes and so simple, maybe a bit out of tune. You don’t need to have such complex music to emit the same kind of feeling for something. When I found that out it was like an awakening to try and make really simple music.
Is that your thought process then? To make simple yet evocative music?
Yeah, there’s something about when you hear a song on the radio that’s like, the perfect length, gets a chorus in in the first 30 seconds, where there’s like nothing in it but its so large. I always get jealous and wish that I’d wrote that song myself. I’m always trying to get the point across with nothing because I feel like making music is sort of a triangular graph where, the more complex you make it and the more layers you add to it, you hit a tipping point where you suddenly learn how to just make it simple. I’ve got a hundred songs from the old days that sound like they have a million different tracks on them. Now I’ll just add loads of stuff to a song then mute everything. Then I’ll just slowly unmute, track by track until there’s enough in it to fill the gaps then delete everything else. That’s the process.
Do you have a process? Is there a specific set of things you do every time when you’re making a song?
I think it depends on who I’m working with. I tend to sing a lot of my own demos. I wouldn’t put them out in the public domain, nobody would want to hear those. I love getting a vocal off someone and you can just feel something from that vocal. It doesn’t matter if it was recorded in a terrible bedroom or a top studio, once I hear that vocal, I can’t stop producing it until something is done, it grabs me so much and the process is different each time which is why I love doing it, honestly.
Have you found it easier or harder to find inspiration during lockdown?
I’ve been quarantining for like ten years really, I’ve been social distancing for a while, I’m kind of used to it. I guess you would get a few ideas if you were to go away and get a break for the summer holidays but everything for me sort of comes from watching movies or going online. I’m not a massive social person, I don’t need to go out, but even for me it got a bit much in the winter lockdown, it was grim. I think it’s fine though really, it’s probably helped me because I transitioned from Logic to Ableton during the lockdown and it gave me some more time to focus on like, sound design and things I don’t have the time to do normally. I’d say its productive, but I feel selfish saying that as I know that lockdown has been ruining for so many people. It’s been good creatively but if you grow most from your worst experiences then maybe it was a growth period, I guess.
One thing you have done a lot of during the lockdown is Instagram TikTok tutorials, what’s the idea behind that?
I was always really reluctant to join TikTok because I always thought it was for kids doing dances. It was actually Tianda who got me into it, because she has about 40,000 odd followers on it and she convinced me to sign up for it because it would be good for this release. I was making these production videos; I like editing videos and it’s fun to do. I think it just started because I was bored during lockdown and I made a video making music with my pet tortoise. Just a stupid video and it ended up being shared by all these big pages online, so I figured I’d make some more of these. I posted them on TikTok, and I got people starting to message me and collaborations from good artists that wanted to work. Something that I was reluctant to even bother trying has ended up making a lot of nice connections.
“Nothing But Love” features Canadian vocalist Tianda—what is it you look for in a vocalist for your songs?
There are no criteria. With Tianda I think on Instagram she followed me, or I followed her, and she had this 15 second reel that had like no views and no comments where she made this hook, and she was so warm and so happy in the video. She had this mentality where she doesn’t care who’s watching or who’s going to like it, she just puts content out. That’s one thing I was always shy to do so I like to collaborate with people who not only have great writing and vocals but also help bring you up to a certain level and you help bring them up to a certain level, so you work together to elevate yourselves. I can say that from a business perspective but to be honest, if I hear a vocal that sounds amazing, it doesn’t even have to be in tune or have great range, if it’s got a unique feeling in it, I’ll just run with it.
The song itself feels really effortlessly produced. On top of that it’s just in time for summer (just about), was that effortless summer vibe the kind of thing you were going for?
Yeah, I sort of feel like it happened so organically and so quick and I feel like when something happens quick it’s the best thing, to just jump on it and produce it with whatever comes to mind and don’t obsess over it too much. You can obsess over things so much to the point where you don’t capture the original idea that made you want to start in the first place, moving you further and further and further away from that nice demo that you had. So, I wanted to make it as quick as possible. I guess you can make your music all serious and make people think you’re cool and its always a difficult pursuit. After the year everyone’s had It was good to do something that’s just positive and happy. Because Tianda is quite outspoken on social media she gets a lot of hilarious hate comments, so do I sometimes too. Someone will hate on me and say something about what I’m doing, how it’s “generic” or something, and they’re a producer making pop music too. It shows the anger on social media, so the message of the song is kind of relevant to that too and I think [Tianda] was in that mood too, wanting to be nice to people who aren’t nice to you. Its quite a good message for the summer, I think.
This song is your debut on Soave Records? What’s it like being affiliated with them now? How have they helped?
It makes you feel a bit legit. I’ve put music out; I’ve worked with people on their music in the past and I’ve just started to release my own stuff so I’ve just sort of dripped it out on Spotify without having much of a plan. For this song I just felt like I wouldn’t send out all my songs and just spam record labels unless it was good, and this one just felt so right, we just submitted it and they approved it. It’s been nice to have some weight behind a release for a change because they get big numbers and they’re a really great label. It’s a good chance for us to bring out what we’ve done and worked hard on and we know it’ll be heard by a lot more people than if we were to just drop it ourselves through an independent distributor.
You collaborate with lots of different artists, how do these collaborations inform your own musical style?
Yeah, big time. When you’re producing you imitate all your influences and when you do it enough you eventually start to sound like yourself. If I’m producing for someone and my name is not involved apart from in the credits, I love it because you don’t have to worry about your own sound, you can go a bit mad and do thing you wouldn’t normally do. Whereas, when you’re doing your own music, you’re sort of trying to stay within that thread of who you are. Once you get working with a label you can’t deviate from that too far but when you’re working with other people whether its pop or funk or something, I’ve been working with the band Flawes on Red Bull Records, and its electronic rock and it’s just been so liberating. To be sourcing samples and drum sounds and things like that for bands, I end up expanding the sounds that I like, and I end up using them for other songs. It’s fun to figure out how other people work. You influence them, they influence you and you call come out better for it.
What do you listen to when you aren’t producing?
It’s a mixture between super pop like Julia Michaels, and at the other end of the spectrum is things like Skrillex and heavier music. I could never sit down and relax to some Skrillex but his approach to things is really interesting.
What albums or singles have come out this year that you’ve been enjoying?
Reluctantly, I quite like Justin Bieber’s new album. When you say you like Justin Bieber, what you’re saying is you like his songwriters, his voice, and his producers. I love hearing albums like that though. I’m quite a singles person too, I’ll listen to playlists and a lot of the time I won’t know who the artists are, I’ll just know the song by the lyric. Its quite a bad thing to say as a producer because I should know my stuff.
Finally, beyond “Nothing But Love”, what can we expect next from Rob Late?
I have a few different songs bubbling which I’m going to release through Soave. There’s a lot more dance music that’s coming out. I’m jus trying to get as much of my own sound together as possible and this year I think I’ve definitely managed to achieve that. I’ve got some cool collaborations with some interesting people that I’m excited to release.