There have been plenty of sibling acts in dance music; the Hartnoll Brothers forging Orbital's intricate techno, Board's of Canada's Michael and Marcus, The Knife's Karin and Olof Dreijer, and The Jackson's- possibly the most famous siblings of them all. But there's been a lot less in the way of father/ daughter combos - in fact we'd hazard a guess that Floorplan's duo of Robert Hood and daughter Lyric are the first. And if they're not the first to exist, they're definitely the first to be touring the world, playing shows at clubs and festivals to sold out crowds eager to hear their latest album blasted at Function One levels. The album, Victorious is exactly what you'd expect from a Floorplan release, 11 tracks of upfront house, disco and techno bangers, with the occasional overt shot of gospel, a nod to the Hood family's deeply held Christian beliefs.
We gave Robert a call to discuss the record, and he proved to be a charming conversationlist - happy to discuss his religious beliefs without ever getting preachy or judgemental. Midway through he pointed out that 'we come with love'. After half an hour conversing with one of the most warm and humble techno innovators I've spoken to, I can only agree...
Can you explain how writing with your daughter works?
She’ll come to me with an idea, perhaps a bassline, and I’ll say, well maybe I have a drum pattern that compliments that. She’s a fan of Frankie Knuckles and MK- her house sensibilities have really progressed over the years. So we’ll get together a drum loop and a bassline, then later on I might add a line over the top of it. We just bounce ideas off each other – we’re constantly coming up with these silly songs when we’re riding in the car and when we get home we’ll say, let’s try some of these songs we’ve come up with just for fun. We’ll start to layer different vocal samples and stabs here and there, but I’m letting her really take the wheel and drive the car, I’m just along as a co-pilot.
Can you hear this album sounding different to previous Floorplan releases because of Lyric’s input?
Yeah, definitely. Her youthful energy is breathing new life into the album. As I take a step back and look at it now, it’s definitely not just a ‘Robert Hood doing Floorplan’ type of project, my daughter is coming into her own and spreading her wings, I’m just guiding her and exposing her to house music. Her excitement in what she’s hearing as I’m playing her old Guy Called Gerald and Marshall Jefferson records, that excitement is bubbling up and coming out on the album.
Do you argue when you work together? Who has the final say?
Yeah, sometimes. There were times when I felt a need to push for a certain direction, and take the wheel and guide it. But for the most part it was us bouncing ideas off each other- the track Music is mostly Lyric, she bought the drum patterns and the bassline, I tweaked it a little bit her and there and layered something on top, but it’s pretty much all Lyric, the same for Higher. But for tracks like Spin, that was something I dreamt up, I took the lead on that one.
You’ve got the track He Can Save on the album, one of your direct spiritual tunes – was it important to put that kind of overt spirituality on there?
Yeah. I wanted to do something spiritual; the album is called Victorious which is a spiritual title. I had to put something on there which reflected my thoughts on eternal salvation, and what it means to me for Lyric and I to reach out to the world and preach the gospel through electric wires. To do that, to blend techno, house and disco with gospel to get the message across was kind of tricky. But the message , I think, is coming through in a powerful way.
Do you ever receive any backlash from Christians who feel uncomfortable with the idea of testifying and club culture coming together?
Yeah, sure. I’ve had one of my church members say that they couldn’t understand how you could be a minster and a DJ at the same time. But I think I’m gradually planting seeds of change at the church I attend. It’s Christian conservative – very conservative – and change is frowned on in this circle, so change has to come gradually. I think that gradually people are starting to see it as a ministry. There are people who’ll take against it, and that’s OK. But certainly, I see this as a ministry. I think that God put me in a place where I can take a gospel message to an audience that may not necessarily get to church or open a bible, but they can see a bible through me. Some people’s perception of that may be warped by their conservative ideas, but gradually things are gonna change.
I take it you haven’t played any of your tunes in your church?
No, but my daughter has DJed as part of the praise and worship team – that was her first DJ gig in fact. She’s played a techno gospel song, I can’t remember it’s name, and there were people who loved it. It changed the atmosphere in the church, we got out of this box of how praise and worship is meant to be, it was awesome, it was just amazing to watch my daughter take the lead on that.
Nightclubs can be quite chaotic, un-Christian places. Do you ever feel you need to protect your daughter when you take her into them?
We go in there with the idea that we’re covered by the blood of Jesus. When we’re going in there I lay my hands on Lyric and speak against demonic forces that may come against me and my daughter, and my wife. So when we come into this atmosphere, we come in with authority – with God’s authority. God’s not giving us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love. We know we’re there to deliver a message – when you know that you’re on assignment as a representative of the kingdom of heaven, nothing can hurt you. People have offered me a joint at a club, or have offered my daughter a drink, so I’m watching her and guiding her in what to do and what not to do, and how not to offend anybody, and how not to judge people as well, which is an important bit. We come as servants, we’re here to deliver and to serve you, and to set this table for anyone in attendance to come and dine on this meal we’ve prepared. With that aesthetic in mind, of course Im watchful, that’s my baby, that’s my daughter and kids are impressionable, she’s young and this is all new, and its my job to guide her through. The world is watching every move you’re make, they’re watching your temperament, in the same way we’re watching Donald Trump, and this election unfold heh-
Talking of Donald Trump, you travel in Europe a lot so you must be aware of how baffled a lot of us are at The Donald. What’s you’re take on his rise?
I’ve never seen anything like this election in my life. To put it in perspective, people are afraid and the fear will cause you to lash out in anger. This past 8 years we’ve had the first black president, a president with a Muslim name; Barack Hussein Obama. People say they’re angry about government- they’re not angry at government or government policies, they’re angry at what they think they’ve lost control of. The Conservatives, the GOP think they’ve lost control of America to this black, Muslim president. If you see something that you don’t really understand and you’re scared of you’re first reaction is to lash out and try to kill it. Donald Trump is the loudest opponent for them, so they’re going as far right as they can possibly go. They’re lashing out in a very violent fashion. Any other time we wouldn’t have this Donald Trump, who’s a great business man, but I don’t see him as a president.
I’m not sure he’s a great business man – he’s run a lot of companies into the ground
Yeah, he’s been sued a lot as well, so it’s all debatable. He’s good at honking his own horn, that’s for sure. But if this were 8 years ago we wouldn’t have this. Fear has built a platform for Trump. Had it not been for Obama and peoples hatred for Obama we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. I think after all is said and done, Obama will be thought of as the Martin Luther King Jnr of this age. But right now people are showing their true colours. Hate has been lying dormant for a while, but now police are still lynching black people because they can get away with it
Is this something you’ve ever wanted to address with your music? It seems like America has deep structural problems with race-
Absolutely. I’ve absolutely thought about it. I didn’t want to approach it from a platform of anger and emotion – I wanted to approach it from a place of love and not get so wrapped up in my emotions and my feelings. I wanted to - it’s a delicate situation. I figured after I’d calmed down after the whole Trayvon Martin thing – but, see, it keeps on coming, and getting worse. You know, Walter Scott, then Freddy Grey in Baltimore, then the situation in Flint, Michigan, it’s got my feelings bubbling up, I don’t want that to be my driving point. But sometimes the anger can be a catalyst and a spring board for change. So, Im just praying about it, and trying to let God direct me in how I should approach it. But certainly, I do want to address it.
So in the future we might see a Robert Hood protest album?
Someone’s got to write What’s Goin On for the modern age-
Someone’s got to write something. You can’t have a platform in music and the arts and not use your voice to speak and say something. I’ve heard something about Jaenelle Monae doing a song and a video saying the names of those victims and their tragedies. When you have a voice you’ve got to say something. Tupac Shakur, his voice was so powerful, but I don’t think he used it to address social issues in a way he could have. His voice was so powerful, he definitely touched on some political issues, but he could have been so much more effective
Who knows what he would have done had he not died-
He said something that touched me about the inner cities – he said black people are scared of the same things that white people are scared of. There are black people in inner city neighbourhoods who fear the same crime that white people in the suburbs fear, and people don’t think about that. I thought that was a great point. You’ve got everyday people who live in urban neighbourhoods who are hard-working people, you got teachers, people who work 40 hour a day jobs, who are just trying to make a living, who are afraid of home invasion. I felt the same way – I was living in Detroit and I was afraid of the same things as white people in the suburbs, fundamentally we’re all the same. That was a great point. I think he had an influential voice, but a lot of people he had in his circle, people like Suge Knight, were very instrumental in how he presented himself. I think that was unfortunate and misguided. I agree though, he was taken up prematurely because he has something to say.
So if it’s not going to be a protest record, what have you got coming after this current Floorplan album?
I’m not sure yet. I’ve been recording, and the water is constantly flowing. I’ve got a lot of ideas and a lot of concepts. It’s just a matter of strategically picking what comes next, and being guided by the holy spirit. It’s all down to God’s timing, when God tells me, OK, now it’s time for this. When we did We Magnify His Name, and we did Paradise and the Omega album, God literally told me, OK, this is the time to do this. We’ll see what happens next.
Floorplan - Victorious is forthcoming on M-Plant.