Origins: Terrace in conversation

10 Minute Read
Written by Sharon Andrews

The much acclaimed producer reflects on a prominent career in the underground.

Burning down the house with the many faces of techno legend Stefan Robbers.

Whether it be putting out killer electronica under his Terrace, Florence, REC, ConMan, Sierra Romeo, or Acid Junkies guise, or releasing music on his own Eevo Lute Muzique or on the much- respected Delsin…

Stefan Robbers output has been nothing short of monumental since he first started tinkering with synths back in 1990.


As one of the most influential producers of a generation we discuss the changing landscape of ‘Techno’, the roots of his sound, what inspires him in the present and what is yet to come…

It really is a great pleasure to talk to you Stefan. How are you?

“I’m fine, thanks. Currently quite nervous as we are moving the studio to a new place, and soon the mixing desk (which weighs about 300KG) will be lifted to the 2nd floor, which is an exciting, yet risky operation. Fingers crossed it will all go well.”

I am called to action by your new release on Cyphon Recordings – ‘Thermionic’ as Terrace. As we know you under many guises, what is your definition of the Terrace sound?

“I would say ‘melodic techno for dancing and listening’. Sometimes more generally referred to as ‘elegant electronic music’. But Terrace is what I work under mostly nowadays, most other projects are in the past. So, the music has become broader in style.”

As a pioneer of the Dutch techno sound and beyond, how much of your influence comes from Detroit and its techno culture?

“Originally, when I started making music, I was influenced mainly by Chicago Acid House and Detroit Techno from the very beginning of the era. I was fascinated by how it contained emotion in a very mechanical music structure, as well as its primal rhythms that made it so natural to dance to. So, I wanted to make this music too, which resulted in a quest for the music machines they used and how to operate them.”

Mike Banks has mad respect for you. Who are your idols of Detroit electronic music aside from Mike and the obvious Belleview three?

“For me, hearing the early Detroit and Chicago sound was most influential. And it sticks to my memory. Many of the early records I could recognize by the first beat even. After I started making music myself, influences also came from other music genres with artists like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Front 242, but also pop music like Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears, OMD.”

Mixmag called you ‘Eindhoven’s Mozart’. Do you think that there are connections between some classical compositions and electronic music?

“It is way too much credit to be called that. I’m not a trained composer and classical music is at a totally different level.

I wouldn’t say there are connections, but of course there are influences. I think they mostly referred to the amount of detail in my music as well as the emotion hidden in it, aspects classical music has as well.”

You’ve played as part of a 30-piece orchestra in Finland.

“Oh, it was a long time ago, and I remember I was quite naïve then. The idea was since my music has a lot of pads/strings sounds this could be played by an orchestra. But I knew nothing about arranging music for this purpose. We were lucky the conductor was open-minded and helped us a lot with this. Once I understood the layering of the instruments, such as assigning the lower and higher notes of chords to different instrument groups, this became an idea I also did with synthesizers in music I made after this.”


"The main criteria was always that the music sparked some emotion."


Eevo Lute Muzique began in ’92. Was it all about your own releases then or was your vision to create a stage for techno artists in the future?

“It was originally about music I made that did not have a platform and could not be placed in one since it was quite different from what we knew. It developed into something more after that when we supported friends to release music too.”

You describe Eevo Lute as electronic music with an elegant lean. How does this impact the music that you select for the imprint?

“Absolutely. But the main criteria was always that the music sparked some emotion. As I happen to like elegance, in the form of complexity that has to be discovered, with many subtle details.”

The Acid Junkies electronic live act began quite early in your career in 1992 with Harold de Kinderen.

“Harold was working abroad, and I borrowed his TB-303, as I wanted to make some acid house music and mine was broken. So, I programmed this machine and added drums, etc. But I also used some of the patterns in it that Harold made earlier. The label liked my stuff and released it, and as Harold returned, we decided to make it a joint project.

We really liked the ‘live feel’ of our music together and quickly became popular live acts. Acid Junkies became the outlet for me to express my raw, harder sound that I liked as well, and it created an interaction with a live audience that simply gave us so much energy and good feelings that we really got sucked into this. We played all over the world with Acid Junkies including Movement back when it was scattered all over the city. Nowadays, we are working on new stuff, and we do occasional live shows.”

Rec & ConMan are the most purist and minimal of your sounds. How much are you still into this minimalist sound?

“I like some modern minimalist music, especially deep/hypnotic techno, a lot of which comes from Italian producers, and I think you can hear this sound in my current music.”


Over the years you’ve remixed for artists like Carl Craig, Ron Trent, Sven Vath. Are you working on any projects now? How do you feel about remixing these days?

“No projects currently. I have mixed feelings (no pun) about remixing. I really like some remixes from producers with a signature sound, as they create a new interpretation of a song. But Terrace is always about creating some new, personal and I don’t think I have a ‘signature’ that is easy to apply to existing music, so remixing is complex. Hard work for me. I always have the feeling I would rather make something new myself instead.”

I watched your BAMTV vid on the calibration and tuning of a Roland TR 808. These tutorials really are a gold mine source for synth nerds.

“It feels good to be able to tell people about my experience. I also use the internet to gain knowledge and skills and it is nice to give something in return. Also, to make a tutorial, I first have to learn myself, so the videos are a motivation to study and explore.”

Given the prevalence of techno currently, do you feel satisfied with where techno is at?

“I do not follow it closely really. When listening to playlists, I pick out songs that trigger me, and often these are the deeper, minimalist sounds. I hear a lot of retro elements in new techno music too, and often get asked to produce songs that sound like the 90s’ but for me this is not interesting. I did this then and I do different things now. But I can understand that younger artists do this, they are influenced and motivated by it the same way I was when starting out.”

Techno’s not for hanging out in your living room is it? Can you relax to techno?

“Yes, I certainly chill to techno or even fall asleep listening to it!”

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about techno?

“Techno as word has a different meaning nowadays. Anything electronic and danceable seems to be categorized as techno and it also became a lifestyle/fashion thing. For me, this has nothing to do with what I see as techno.”

You are known for your reviews of tech. I was talking to someone recently about the TB-303 and he was using a Cyclone Analogic TT- 303 Bass Bot as it was simply what he could afford. What do you think of the TT-303 to replicate the acid sound of the classic Roland?

“Nothing sounds like a real TB-303. It can be close, but originals have something that cannot be reproduced. That being said, in a mixed song it is almost not audible.”

What is your current technology top tip for budding producers?

“Leave your screen and DAW sometimes and try to add some hardware that can be tweaked as you record. It really adds something personal and spontaneous that gives more life to a production. It can be a synth, effects unit of even a mixer.”

What do you know about Cyphon Recordings. Give us a roundup of the ‘Thermionic’ EP.

“They asked me if I had any music, and I sent them some recent recordings. They liked it a lot and I liked the idea that they released a broad musical spectrum. Some may call it techno, but I think it is much more than one direction/style, and this EP flows in various directions as well. From old skool electro to Detroit and even hypnotic stuff.”

So, you are working on a ‘Terrace’ live set now.

“It is more an ongoing process. In live sets, I like to ‘dub’ my sound, so when I have new songs released, I develop a version that can be dubbed/rearranged on the fly, whilst keeping its signature so it stays recognizable and has the same feel as the original. So, I could play live anytime, hopefully in the UK soon!”

What do you think is the most exciting thing to happen in dance music right now?

“I don’t really follow it, so music I hear has often been happening for a while. I like the more synthy approach music is taking, with layers of electronics and more melodies, songs that tell a story over time instead of being a long loop.”

Do you have a guilty pleasure? Would we ever catch Stefan Robbers listening to disco or Balearic?

“Absolutely. I really like Italo Disco, even the cornier ones. That music is so great in production, but for a purpose that is totally different from what I would do, that this really gives me goosebumps and I’m fascinated by it. In fact, I plan an ‘80s’ album which is me describing what I like best about this period, made with instruments from that era.”