Breaking away a little from the norm, we have decided to branch out a bit from just covering music and musicians. I am very proud to be an owner of a couple or three paintings by Mike Slobot and have always looked for an avenue in which I could help promote in anyway. So here we are, let me introduce to you all Mike Slobot.
BT: Lets go back in history a bit. I know you’re background, you’ve done radio, been a club dj, an independent record label owner. How did you get from all that to sculpting and painting?
Mike: I actually sculpted and painted first. When I was a kid, second or third grade, I had an art teacher that got interested in my work, I guess, saw I was excited about it and I ended up spending half the day, every day in the art room. I had my first show in fifth grade, one of those hallways things, it was a solo show. They ended up taking one of my pieces and put in the principles office and I think it stayed in there for ten years or something. I painted as a kid, and through high school I sculpted. Then I started working in college radio and got excited about music for a bit. Went to school for music production, I kinda came down that path for a while and started DJ’ing and about 2004 I was married and my wife and I were DJ’ing together and we were getting burned out of being out every night promoting and stuff. I picked up painted brushes one day and I hadn’t painted in about 10 years, so I bought a box of paints, and started painting on canvas which is what I’ve always done and my wife said you should paint me a robot and I started laughing and then I did, and I kept looking at that robot said you know I can make one of these. That was 2004 and I’ve been doing it ever since.
BT: So can you explain where the Slobot Universe came from, just from that, or is there a bigger backstory?
Mike: I started making them. My first website actually said “welcome to slobots prepared to be assimilated” and I was telling this guy that my robots are nice and he told me “yeah your website makes it seem like it”. I don’t know why I made them nice, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I’ve never really been into transformers, autobots that sort of thing, plus I started putting human emotions into them. There have been times where I was looking for a job, I’d make a robot that was looking for a job, or just got laid off, and I started seeing that the robots could show human emotion. That’s how they became Slobots, and started being helper robots and started taking care of people, animals and didn’t want to hurt anybody. Just wanted to get along and have a purpose.
BT: Do you have a storyline, where you see your universe going?
Mike: I take a lot of inspiration from Isaac Asimov, I’ve read a lot of his books. I love the movie with Will Smith, but the books are a little more, 50’s, 60’s roboting. They’re little robots and they’re doing this or that and they get programmed to do something and they end up doing something else or they break down and someone has to figure out why. I’m probably just tracking through that universe how Asimov might have handled it. Where you get to the end and the robot does control the universe. I don’t know, I think about the whole idea of AI and keep thinking that somehow we won’t end up like the Matrix. When I think about making robots they’re always helpers or friends, they sort of exist. I don’t have an end goal. The stories just kind of develop as I’m putting them together.
BT: Lets talk a little about music. I know music is a big influence for you, incorporating bands like New Order and U2 in your work. Can you describe, if you can describe it, how music plays off the creative process for you.
Mike: I think music sets the vibe. I really love shoegazer music, and I would actually put New Order in that because of their roots with Joy Division, probably most people wouldn’t but them in that catagory, but I do. My wife sometimes tells me that I’ve got that sort of artist “wah wah” and I put on music that sort of feeds that. Which is why I think the robots look a little sad at times. So that’s the music I listen to the most is shoegazer type stuff, my favorite band in the world is a really obscure band called Starflyer 59, still even after 20 years. First thing I do is get down into the studio and find something that fits the vibe of the day.
BT: You’ve been lucky enough to have your work featured across the country, even globally. What’s the moment where you said to yourself, man people are getting it?
Mike: First time it happened was around 2007 I think. We were living in Florida and we decided to make the big move to the city and went to New York. I realized that I had to work so much to make money just to pay rent it got overwhelming, so we decided to move back and away out the door. I went and saw this guy who had, well they call it a toy store, it’s called Toy Tokyo in New York, but its way more than that. They stock these $300-400 toys from Japan and have a gallery too. I carried some of my stuff in and he said hey this is pretty good and they wanted to put some in the shop. It was literally two weeks before we were leaving the city and we’d been there two years. It was the first real break I had in the city, but he thought my work would be cool against this super collector Japanese stuff. He had other artists working there like Kaws, I guess that was the moment where I said to myself I am pretty good at this and people could like it.
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