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Allen 'Robot' Van Wert
Born: August 15th, 1977 in Scranton PA, USA

Allen Van Wert is an all embracing, sensitive, outstanding cutting edge guitarist, musician and composer. His music overflows with emotion and driven with such passion taking you from a gentle babbling brook to an explosive mountain top. Allen nicknamed 'Robot' has been credited as having a very futuristic sounding experimental style, exploding and breaking the limits of guitar based music. (without the use of FX or any editing tricks). A composer guitarist who isn't afraid to do it his way, a different way, revolutionizing music, a true pioneer.

ALLEN 'ROBOT' VAN WERT

Allen aka 'Robot' has taken some time-out to give me
a very interesting and generous interview.

TBT: Hi Allen to get an insight & understanding of your amazing gift we must start at the beginning ~ Do you come from a musical family, were your parents musical at all?
ROBOT: Yes, my dad played guitar and steel/slide guitar and both sides of the family have alot of musicians...mostly country music. My parents used to play ALOT of music on CDs and records while I was growing up so I have alot of older influences in rock music.

TBT: So when did you first get interested in music?
ROBOT: I used to pretend to be in a band with my brother, cousin and friends...everyone wanted to be the drummer cause they got to play on the pots and pans loudly. We were really young and I remember putting on little shows for family .. was alot of fun. I have a picture of me playing guitar at age 3... just strumming and goofing off.

TBT: What a lovely start. Where you ever in a school band?
ROBOT: No.. I thought they were nerds so I didn't join in.. I did however ask if they would allow guitar in their jazz band.. they said no... makes no sense to me, but I do wish I played in the band. I used to yodel and sing in chorus though... that was well before high school.

TBT: What music did you listen to back then?
ROBOT: Whatever my parents happened to play on the radio or CD etc... then I began listening to rap then metal music and a little harder edge as well as classical.

TBT: So which musicians influenced your early years
ROBOT: My dad...Grandfather...Pink Floyd...Peter Gabriel...Metallica...Megadeth...Michael Jackson...Hendrix...Nuno...Satriani...and tons more..basically whatever I heard. and Video game songs and FX in the games.

TBT: That's good some people just stick to 3 or 4 favorite's so tunneled and stunting. Was the guitar your first instrument of interest or choice?

ROBOT: Well... I first took lessons on Piano... I remember coming home from listening to a song on the radio in the car.. and I went to the little casio keyboard and just played it all from memory. My Mom thought it was amazing and had me take some lessons... The piano teacher got really mad at me because I wasn't reading the notes and would rather play it by ear. That didn't last long at all. Then I was given an electric guitar... HORRIBLE.. it couldn't stay in tune.. the amp was really lame and blew out every few minutes. I took some guitar lessons from a local jazz musician who taught me to read music and forced me to use my Dad's huge acoustic guitar only.

TBT: LOL.. So at what age did you start playing guitar?
ROBOT: I have pictures of me strumming at age 3... but who knows. I remember really practicing hard around age 14 or 17 .. somewhere in there is when I got serious.

TBT: What guitar did you start with?
ROBOT: An acoustic...Then a real crappy beginner guitar. Then I was given an old Telecaster... then an Ibanez... then my dad made me a guitar.. then a Jem.. Then a Schecter 7 string.. I use mainly the homemade guitar though.

TBT: The homemade one sounds interesting we must get back to that in a bit .. What sort of bands did you gig with when leaving school?
ROBOT: I gigged with a few bands while in school I believe... They were usually into either classic rock.. like Eagles.. or 80s rock like Bon Jovi or Winger etc. The cool thing was I had to learn alot of guitar parts and solos for those bands. I think there were about 2 bands while in school... and after... about 6 or 7. I played in completely different genres too.. I love all music. I once did a jazz gig.. I showed up and met the bassist 5 minutes before the show.. just me him and a drummer. We just improvised completely.. no songs.. no set... it went over very well was for an upper class business meeting..I only made 100 bucks.. but that's not bad at all for not having to learn any set list. Speaking of which.. from the bands I've been in I probably learned well over 400 songs by now... That helps alot when writing and breaking rules. I know what's been done and how.

TBT: Over 400 that's some achievement so much music .. Did you like the live music scene?
ROBOT: I do and don't.. I love playing and stuff.. but I HATE setting up and breaking down.. Then the long drive home etc. I wish I could just play.

TBT:
Ya .. tell us about it LOL. Now the guitar your Dad made .. that's sounds fascinating, can you tell us a little bit about it?
ROBOT: Its dark walnut.. straight from a tree... was very hard to cut and took many tries to get it all finished... Took about a year or so to complete. Was my Dads first guitar... I'm surprised it works at all.. and amazed it sounds so good. It has a warmoth neck and 3 pickups.. bridge is a semour duncan.. neck is a stock gibson and middle is a fender lace sensor... so I can get alot of real nice tone from it. The ROBOT sounds I do are best done on this guitar.. I don't.. know why.. but it just sounds great on it.. also blues stuff. I have a trem setter in the back from Hipshot to keep the bridge stable during bends within held chords. I had the frets all redone last year due to wear from playing it so much there were huge dents in the frets. The people who did it for me did a super job. The neck used to have problems with shifting out place from where its screwed in... That has been corrected with some cardboard shims and glue... It's one of a kind. It has a 5 way pickup selector and 2 switches.. one 3 way for polarity.. and one that does nothing.. LOL yet.. I wanted to put a chorus inside there or an acoustic sim.. didn't do it yet. The 5 way is wired wrong.. but it has a real cool sound I like that way.. I made sure the guitar shop didn't change it while refretting.,. cause they called and said..."this think is wired all wrong.. " lol.. I told them DON'T.. TOUCH IT! its just how I want it. I have a tone knob for the middle pickup separate from the bridge and neck tone, this allows a real wide range of tones for clean and warm leads.

Robots homemade guitar

TBT: Wow that's awesome, sounds awesome on your CD too. Your Dad must be an amazing fella. What started you composing?
ROBOT: I used to "remix" rap songs I recorded on a tape deck from the tv.. and random things I recorded...I made up this cool method where I would use 2 different tape decks both with a dub function.. and would create an echo by offsetting the start time on one.. and would dub it back and forth.. was alot of fun.

TBT: Is there any person or persons that may have influenced your composing?
ROBOT: Joe Satriani... because I learned almost all of his songs and analyzed them all day like a weirdo. At one point friends called me baby Joe cause I sounded so much like him.. I also listened to classical music and that gives me a really unique perspective in a basic rock genre. Also.. this is going to sound really weird.. but, often when I'm playing guitar.. usually alone.. I will have a window open, or can hear the wind outside... and when I play something really, really pure and completely feel it.. the wind would blow harder.. and into the window at me. I'm a scientific thinking person and don't believe in alot of the ghost stories and things.. But honestly.. it happened... often.

TBT: How brilliant.. such inner intensity.. so I must ask is there anything that inspires your composing?
ROBOT: yes, everything. It is good and bad.. because if I listen to music out of genre I find myself kind of bending my writing to that style some. And that's bad when your attempting to stay in one marketable style of music... because If people are expecting guitar based music.. And my CD has me rapping..it doesn't make them happy usually.

TBT: What journey has brought you to this cutting edge you are now on?

ROBOT: 17 hour days of practice and or playing with other musicians. I have an insane drive to learn music and be the music.. So it was the natural thing to do. I know what sounds like what over what.. And what progressions yield whatever result.. But you come to realize.. It isn't so much a science as it is an art.. a live art.. you give feeling to each bit of sound... its unique. I got to playing the weird ROBOT things from having too many people tell me I sound like so and so.. Or I don't.. have my own thing... So I started taking all the little weird things I did in private on guitar.. And started developing them into this.. thing. I play guitar on chat rooms online sometimes.. And people who first heard me said.. That's a MIDI file.. Or its not guitar...etc... so I played along with this idea.. And made the name ROBOT... then went back in the chat rooms and didn't talk.. I would only reply with a "0110101100" LOL generic binary code... I used to actually program computers and make my own video games on the Amiga system. I wrote alot of music on those as well and did some sound processing things.

TBT: LOL .. Yes you also musically back video games can you explain how this happened?
ROBOT: I read about this guy named Jesper Kyd who was also into old Amiga video game/demo things.. he used to make music for them.. in tracker etc. He now composes music for big name game titles .. sometimes employing a big Hungarian orchestra...well... I sent him my CD to have his opinion.. Then we talked on the phone.. And he liked it alot.. We agreed to do some collaborating on his and my stuff... He emails me tracks and I play the guitar to it and send it back... its really easy and fun.. I will be on a sound track for a new game coming out soon on the x box 2 I believe, and all the new consoles.

TBT: What games have you worked on?
ROBOT: So far that's undisclosed info...somewhat even to me.. lol

TBT: We will have to start looking at the credits on our games, good luck in that part of your career. What do you believe to be your bigger hi-lites & achievements so far?
ROBOT: Nothing really.. Just making music and getting to be myself musically. People often compare me to the other guys making their own music..Buckethead.. Mattias.. Ron Thal... but honestly.. I was doing it long before I heard of them... plus Its different.. we are all doing different things.. BUT because we all sound "weird", people assume we're all the same or something. I was told I was really Buckethead so many times. Its rather upsetting.. but I guess its better than not being heard.

TBT: Tell them all you are allergic to feathers LOL. I think however, you are being a little modest about your achievements from what I have read on your website and listening to your CD. Which brings us to your debut CD.. how many of your guitars do you use on it?
ROBOT: 2...the homemade.. and the jem

TBT: and how many on any single track?
ROBOT: for rhythm.. I usually double and dead pan them for power.. lead is one .. sometimes a harmony part... the ROBOT sounds are all one guitar.. almost always the homemade one.

TBT: Do you mix the other music and sounds in yourself or are any other musicians involved
ROBOT: I do all of it.. mixing mastering.. programming.. editing.. its alot of work.. actually 80% of my time on it is working on the drum programming and synth stuff.

TBT: You say your next CD will be more technical, hope there will be plenty of your guitaring on the tracks???
ROBOT: I'm planning on it being very extreme... alot of technical guitar.. basically so I don't have to do it again LOL.. I figure.. once I do a shred type CD no-one will mind me playing more melodic things. Right now I don't have any guitar written for it... Just alot of really cool electronic grooves and progression ideas. I'm a jazz writer usually.. meaning I write the progression.. And melody comes from it.. although on the last CD.. the song Boundless was melody first.. I sang it all in one take then learned what I sang on the guitar and wrote some progressions to fit it.

TBT: I will look forward to it being finished. Do you see yourself playing with a live band again?
ROBOT: I was recently.. but not my own music... I would love to.. It's just finding the right group of people to play it.

TBT: Yes I can understand that, so what are you wanting or hoping for in your future musical career?
ROBOT: Stability.. where I can write and record and not have to worry about money. I'm also planning to revolutionize music... or to help.

TBT: Every now & again a musical genius will along and do that, you are certainly on that cutting edge. What music and who do you enjoy and listen to now a days?
ROBOT: I listen to alot of Lionel Richie and Seal.. some Diana Krall and jazz/classical radio...I tend to not listen to guitarists as much as I used to.

TBT: What do you think of today's modern music scene?
ROBOT: I think its filled with people who want to be famous and not people who want to be the music and create something great.. all they do is copy what sells and attempt to fill a void in their personality by clinging on to some vague rebel attitude that is lame in my opinion. To them its more about looking cool than being a musician.. the radio and tv is now only about 10% musicians.. And 90% actors. Its very strange. I thought it was changing .. but its just seeming to get worse.. alot of people blame the band Nirvana... honestly.. I loved their music and put it right up there with the Beatles. It just feels like music to me.. you know.. it isn't all image and bullshit.. I can tell they really loved it. Its something special.. also.. if that sparked 80s guitar music to go down hill.. it isn't their fault.. Its the general public.

TBT: Well said .. alot of your techniques are unique ... without giving any secrets away have you any tips for other guitarists?
ROBOT: I think the ROBOT sound has to do with subtle ways I play more than any specific lick or musical idea. Basically.. Its playing things that people aren't used to hearing on a guitar, like.. the same note being activated more than one time in a row in a way people wouldn't expect, or using no vibrato.. or using a very weird vibrato... another thing to mention is this.. I don't use any reverb.. or Delay.. Its completely dry tone with alot of gain and uses the neck pickup often. No chorus flange or phaser... I used to use a slow gear thing.. where the notes wouldn't play until 2 millaseconds after I hit them.. but it didn't make the sound much different.. And I never considered it an effect.. I don't use it anymore anyway. I use 2 or more fingers on the picking hand to tap and band and slide notes around... basically things that cannot be picked at the speed I do them at sound cool.. I was once trying to do a lick from pacman when he dies... and I couldn't quite get it right by picking it.. so.. I used 2 fingers on each hand to play the part.. VERY fast.. And it sounded so weird, and many ideas came from that thought.. doing things that people aren't used to hearing from the instrument. I don't use any devices or objects to do it.. just my hands.. I recently have been doing the same things straight into a mesa triple rectifier without touching a processor.. And they sound just as cool as using the gain setting in my gp-100 roland processor. so it's not about any fx or tricks.. just doing things differently.

TBT:
Amazing .. so have you any advice for the young teenage guitarists?
ROBOT: Escape in the music and learn theory like you were the one inventing it. Make it your own thing.. don't assume something a book says is correct...make it pass your own ideas and filter it first.. that way you will remember it forever and will completely understand it. Also practice more than you feel is normal and buy and study the music from guitar based artists.

Allen 'Robot' Van Wert

That was awesome ~ Thankyou Allen 'Robot' Van Wert for giving us your time for this interview, giving us such an insight & sharing your thoughts with us in such detail.
All good luck for your future . . TBT aka Beverley

Robots album can be purchased at
CD BABY
This album is not only full innovative techneques and bags of soul, it is so tantalizing, I have listened to it for hours and hours over time and I heard something new each time. To fully appreciate and understand his tracks the whole album is a must, the samples do not do this talented musician full justice.

VISIT "ROBOT"

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