Personal Playlist: Lance Rock of ‘Yo Gabba Gabba!'
The man in orange on Nickelodeon's kids show says he's been blown away by Brian Eno.
Lance Rock is best known for his work as the proverbial ringleader of the “Yo Gabba Gabba!” world. As the orange-suited human among the fanciful characters on the Nickelodeon kids show, it's his job to wrangle Muno, Foofa, Brobee and the rest and guide them through a vivid world that features among its regulars musical luminaries Biz Markie and Mark Mothersbaugh.
Wrangling is a job that's not necessarily new to Rock, born Lance Robertson. Before he became a celebrity for the preschool set, he was a regular DJ whose dance sets mixed old school and new school, a member of the band the Ray Makers, and a longtime Amoeba Music employee with a voracious appetite for new sounds. Robertson took time out of the highly successful Yo Gabba Gabba! tour, which arrives for a stint at Club Nokia on Friday and Saturday, to talk about his favorite music right now.
Pop & Hiss: What are you listening to on this tour?
I'm listening to a lot of new music right now, and the thing I'm listening to the most is the new Brian Eno record. I'm blown away. It's like elements of “Here Come the Warm Jets” — elements from all of his vocal records mixed into an ambient record.
That's the record that I use right now to block out all the noise at work. It's the perfect combination of ambient and active music.
That's what I like about it. But I'm an old indie kid and usually like a lot of distortion and the other elements. I was like, “Eh, it will be all right.” But I was shocked at how much I like it. I like it more than the Eno/Byrne album that came out a few years ago.
I used to be a huge Stereolab fan, and their new album, “Not Music,” is not great, but there are some really catchy things on there. It is what it is. I think a lot of people are in two camps about Stereolab. Their early stuff was definitely very much like Velvet Underground and Neu!, and then they dabbled in other elements. They've got a sliding scale as far as the bag of tricks they have — and I like all the tricks. Sometimes it gets a little old, but I like those things, so I can't really fault them too much for that.
And then there's the new Squarepusher record [“Shobaleader One: d'Demonstrator”]. It's pretty good. I still like electronic music, but when it got ushered into popularity and everyone was doing it, it became filled with all these subgenres and I was like, “What are you talking about?” I just got real bored with that, and it was very limiting. But Squarepusher is really melodic, and has weird time signatures. I'm not impressed, necessarily, with “math rock.” It's cool, but I still want to have some sort of visceral response, as well.
Aphex Twin is a genius, because he gets every aspect of it. He's got a dark humor, he's got a playful humor, a sense of melody but he likes to make noise. I'm into all of it, but when they start to get too serious it starts to get a little boring. But this is probably the most accessible Squarepusher.
Do you still have any regular DJ gigs in Los Angeles?
I had to give it up everything for the show. I couldn't schedule anything that was on a regular basis, because I didn't know when I'm going to be touring and not. But I would love to do some sort of intermittent thing. I'd love to do that, but I'm in the middle of gigs right now. It would be fun to do something.
What's your perception of new pop music these days? Do you listen to the radio?
Not by choice. But being on tour and going out, I'm exposed to a lot of things. I don't even know what to say. I hear a lot of people talk about Lady Gaga, and to me, I don't care about her at all. I'm not one of those people that say, “She's outrageous.” Hey, I'm glad she's there because at least she's doing something that's more interesting than most.
But to me it's like 1974 right now, when they had “Up With People” and stuff. All these kids want to go on “American Idol” and be on TV. I thought kids wanted to rock, or at least do something different. But they just want to sing show tunes. And I don't want to sound like I'm ragging on Lady Gaga. I just don't care about her records, but at least I'm glad she exists and she's doing something interesting.
-- Randall Roberts
Photo credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times