Interview with Robin aka RBYN

The founder of Through These Eyes Records reveals the reason for the closure of his label and details of his work as a blogger and DJ.

Interview with Robin aka RBYN
RBYN (Through These Eyes Rec), Krach am Bach Festival 2018 / Photo: Chris aka Moonwalka

Through These Eyes was an active record label from 2016 - 2020 based in Berlin, Germany. It was founded and run by DJ and blogger Robin aka RBYN. In his words, Through These Eyes was "a label that encompasses everything around its artists and their quality music repertoire and its up-tempo resonance. It focuses on Halfstep and Jungle sounds within the range of 160-170 BPM, following an independent and DIY approach".

On 12 March 2024, all fans of Through These Eyes Records received an email on Bandcamp informing them about the latest community post:

Hello everyone! Please note that I will delete this Bandcamp page until the end of march 2024. I don't have time to run the label anymore and don't plan to release any new music through TTE. Please download your purchases if you haven't already. Cheers, Robin

Although the label had not released any music for four years and unofficially had no plans to continue, this was the first official statement on the end of Through These Eyes. Fans who buy music on Bandcamp can download music in various formats at any time as well as stream it. The closure of the label on Bandcamp not only leaves practical gaps for fans who have bought the music, but also leaves a hole in cultural history. Leipzig-based LXC and Booga, both of whom also run DIY bass music/jungle labels in the broadest sense (Alphacut and Defrostatica), then had the idea of interviewing Robin. The interview was edited and published in German on Robin's blog and in English on Booga's blog.

Booga: What was the first record you bought for a DJ gig?

Robin: I started out as a dubstep DJ because all my friends were drum & bass DJs and I didn't want to buy "their" records. When dubstep came along, I finally had "mine". As with so many people, I think my first record is quite unspectacular, certainly not a "Midnight Request Line" or similar trend-setting release: Elemental / Mathhead - Bleep / Stagger Dub. This 12" vinyl release still combines everything I like about dubstep. Influences from various other favourite genres and a lot of bass.

Booga: What made you decide to become a DJ?

Robin: As I wrote above, all my friends were DJs and so it was only natural that I would also play when I found "my" sound. At the beginning of Dubstep, nobody in Bielefeld played it except me, so if I wanted to hear it loud on big systems, I had to do it myself ;)

Booga: When you look back on your first DJ gig, what do you remember?

Robin: Haha yeah, I couldn't really beatmatch and was only allowed to play the warm-up from the warm-up, simply because my friends wanted to hear dubstep. I was definitely hooked after that and wanted more. 

Booga: What were your most important DJ gigs and why?

Robin: 2008 Mobilat, I was booked for the first time outside of Bielefeld and the journey alone was adventurous, it was definitely super fun and I was awake for 3 days ...

2014 Gremlinz Berlin. I had just become the resident DJ at the H.O.M.E. party series and it felt like all my Berlin friends from different bubbles were at the party. Looking back it was the perfect party.

2018 Fusion, the third time at the festival was the best. The tension to dj toned a bit and I was finally able to play the set I've always wanted to play at a festival. When the stage manager said that there were still so many people there and they weren't closing the hangar for the time being so that people could still dance in front of it, it was the best feeling.

Booga: At the Tieffrequenz festival in Leipzig, I experienced you as a passionate DJ who was fully in the flow. Do you sometimes miss DJing? 

Robin: Yes, of course. I think it's the same for everyone who has played in front of a large crowd before. Especially when you've found another really brilliant track and you start imagining in your head what setting you'd like to play it in. That's when your fingers start to itch. 

Booga: And what do you think of the Tieffrequenz-Festival in retrospect, can cross-city event concepts contribute to the dissemination of hybrid bass music / footwork jungle in a meaningful way or do the locals have to get it together themselves?

Robin: That's a difficult one. I think this "travelling" aspect is great and I think that the different cities as locations have definitely created new connections. But I honestly don't think it's resulted in much more than a handful of follow-up gigs. I think it's the locals who need to get involved, especially with newer sounds and genres. 

Booga: Which gig type are you preferring? Club gig or festival and why?

Robin: Club gigs were always my favourite. Dark, good sound for the heads and sleeping in bed afterwards, not in a tent ;)

Booga: I first recognised you as a music blogger, who published releases, mix sets and interviews from the broad field of bass music with a lot of love and knowledge. What was your motivation for this?

Robin: Again, there were no music blogs for bass music in German. So I wanted to do it. I'd previously worked for the music magazine Resident, which gave me a bit of practice in writing articles and reviews and I wanted to take it a step further. And as I read a lot of blogs back then, it was a logical step.

Booga: In 2020 you stopped the blog and you publish releases and mix sets on tumblr at long intervals, mostly without comment - you can't and don't really want to let go - right? Will you send more signals there?

Robin: Haha yes, well spotted! I've always thought that good music should be shared and I'm always itching to do so. Tumblr is a relatively simple and quick way to share something. So yes: I'm sure there will be irregular recommendations from time to time.

Booga: You like to work thematically in your DJ mix sets. I really appreciate that because I immediately assume that these sets have been preceded by a considerable screening process of tracks so that the theme in this form will last a while for you. Is that how you work, or do you have a different modus operandi?

Robin: Yes, exactly. For a while now, all my sets have had a certain theme that gives them structure and according to which I choose the tracks. It can often be just one track that I really want to include. I really like that and get a lot more out of it than if I were to mix down the latest releases/promos, for example.

Booga: What motivated you to take the step from DJ to label owner and manager?

Robin: At first it was really just down to the first track from DigiD, which I really wanted to release because it hadn't been published anywhere yet. I thought about it for a while and came up with the name/logo and then, with a lot of support from friends, I got started. Again, it was the next logical step for me: I was a DJ, knew that I had good taste in music and could promote the releases well via my blog.

Booga: At the beginning of TTE, you focussed strictly on vinyl - no digital offerings, not even on Bandcamp. The releases were stamped by hand, everything was very minimalist and DIY but clearly well done and in style. How did this approach come about and did you have any role models that inspired you?

Robin: At the time of TTE001, digital formats were already on the rise and every release was available as an illegal download from the release date. I asked myself what the fans actually get when they spend €10-15 on a record. It quickly became clear that "vinyl only" offers many advantages. Even if it was an extreme hustle every time, because Bandcamp is not designed for it. In my opinion, the vinyl format made the releases last longer and gave them a different value than digital releases. DIY was already an aspiration of mine, I wanted to have as much as possible in my own hands. On the other hand, of course, there were also cost reasons. I was able to offer the records at a reasonable price.

Booga: The artists on TTE come from the Netherlands, Austria, UK, Italy, Germany and Russia. How did you work as an A&R with the different mentalities of the artists, did you want to be involved in the development of the artists or were you clearly focused on releases? How did you communicate your vision of the label to the artists?

Robin: You forgot the USA ;) Sometimes it was complicated, precisely because of the mentalities and my vision of TTE. But most of them were very happy that their music was being released on vinyl and liked my vision. I was definitely involved in the development of some of them, and after certain releases you could see how successful things were for the artists. I'm still particularly proud of the Yoofee EP for that very reason. 

Booga: Four years ago, you released Omega, a compilation that marked the end of the label. Was Through These Eyes a rollercoaster ride for you with highs and lows or a constant, straightforward work?

Robin: The absolute rollercoaster! Several times I thought I'd chuck it all in and made too big a mistake this time. Then there are artists who promise tunes and then ghost you for months, lack of money, lack of time and this constant waiting. Waiting for the tunes, waiting for the masters, waiting for the test press, waiting for 300 records ... then there was the dispute with the designer of the logo and so on. But somehow it worked out and at crucial moments I got a good deal with Unearthed Sounds (RIP since 31 July 2023) so that I didn't have to store and sell 300 records per release myself. With the Omega release, I then had the problem from before the other way round: a vinyl-only label now releasing a purely digital compilation ... I looked at some ideas for a physical release, but nothing really fit.

Booga: When it comes to the international perception of Through These Eyes, what were the highlights for you?

Robin: I think it's definitely the "Sun People - Fight Dem Back" record. Somehow, from the signing to the release and the hype and sales, everything went smoothly and perfectly. When I saw Anna Morgan play it on a sound system in Brooklyn, Ticklish on his US tour and various DJs from England on Rinse and at Outlook, it was THE highlight of TTE. Even Tracy & Ezra from ZamZam Sounds wanted to do a remix of the tune. [Fight Dem Back is also LXC's favourite track of TTE]

Booga: In hindsight, how do you rate the collaboration with magazines and the online press as a blogger with your own publishing experience?

Robin: For the first review in Mixmag, I drove halfway across Berlin to buy a copy of the mag. I quickly came to the question: How many people have bought the record after reading this review? But I think that people were/are more likely to be influenced by DJs or selectors on the radio. Especially as I only got the review through paid promotion via an agency. What always works well are premieres of tunes on Soundcloud accounts that stand for a certain sound. I've often made use of that too.

Booga: In 2020, you stopped actively running your blog as well as the Through These Eyes label. What were your reasons for this?

Robin: The reason is actually time. I didn't have such a time-consuming job until a few years ago, and my family has also grown since then. For the label, I realised that I could no longer pursue such a clear line of the style I did before. Vinyl was slowly becoming less relevant as a medium, the prices for production were going up sharply and more presses were closing down, which overburdened the other pressing plants even more. Then there was the bankruptcy of Unearthed... and artists who saw you as a vinyl label and were disappointed when you could only offer a digital release. In addition, the sound that I was pushing with my label was a bit "out", labels were either releasing a lot more straight 174 bpm drum & bass again or specialising in jungle. I no longer felt that my label concept was contemporary and appropriate.

Booga: Would you do anything differently if you were to start a label again?

Robin: I only had 100 copies of TTE001 pressed because I had absolutely no idea how it would sell. It was incredibly expensive, but I couldn't offer the record (especially as the first on my label) for such a high price. I think I made a real loss on the record! So I would definitely do it differently. And of course with the knowledge of today, to offer a release only as a digital download and not as a 12" vinyl.

LXC: Some close peers here have wondered about the closure, especially about the wording that the TTE Bandcamp account will be cancelled completely - how did it come to that, what advantages do you see in it?

Robin: As I haven't released any tracks on TTE myself, I only manage the income from downloads and streaming at the moment. It's incredibly time-consuming to create the individual invoices for the artists. That's why my idea was: All producers get all the rights to their tune back from me and sell it themselves on Bandcamp. Then I no longer have anything to do with managing the income. I don't want to owe anyone any more money. But now I've heard that some people are in favour of leaving the releases there for archival reasons. I also know of artists who don't have a Bandcamp account or who have other jobs. Their tunes would then really no longer be available. So they stay up there. Just so that you can no longer buy them.

LXC: Do you still have backstock of TTE plates in stock and if so, what is your strategy with them?

Robin: Most of it is gone along the bankruptcy of Unearthed, I'll never see these records again. I still have some backstock from TTE005 & TTE007, but they'll stay in the attic for now. So there's not really any strategy.

LXC: Your blog was definitely a great collection of current bass music, thanks again for all the recommendations and inspiration - it was almost difficult to keep up with everything at times. Did you receive promos from artists and labels for reviews, or did you really spend half the day looking through Soundcloud?

Robin: It was really an evening-long programme to search for new music. The exceptions were 1-2 promos a month for a review. At some point I stopped promoting parties that I had nothing to do with because I thought it was kind of weird. But apart from that, it was all hand-picked content from me.

LXC: Which labels, artists and comparable blogs do you currently see as the most promising successors in your eyes?

Robin: I don't know any more. If I did, it would be Ronny and his blog Kraftfuttermischwerk, but he recently wrote himself that his music/mixes aren't clicked on that much anymore. At the risk of sounding very old now: I wish there was a return to forums. That's where the best exchange took place for me. 

LXC: Over the last 20 years, a lot of groundbreaking things have happened in the broad field of bass music: Dubstep, Halftime, Jungle Revamps, you name it ... What are your favourite things to look at today, what are some fresh playgrounds for the near future? What would you like to experience, where do you see potential?

Robin: What I find super exciting is when footwork producers leave the traditional paths and expand their sound. Jlin does that really well, and Heavee's new LP is also heading in that direction. So 160 bpm is definitely still a great area for experimentation.

LXC: How do you feel about diversity in the music release landscape? TTE was completely male-dominated as far as I could see, wasn't it? Did you still have the topic on your radar and keep an eye out for Flinta and BIPoc representation opportunities?

Robin: Yes, I've actually only had male producers on the label and I'm one myself. I think the topic is super important and I would definitely have worked on it in the years after "Omega". 

Booga & LXC: Thanks Robin for your time and the music you unearthed.

Booga's favorite Through These Eyes tune is Blue by Yoofee / TTE006:

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