Alphabot: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyor of: Human pop, by and for robots.
File next to: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, B.A. Johnston, MATROX
Playing: Saturday May 16 @ Handlebar for Wavelength’s May Long Weekend Blowout —& Alphabot’s first Wavelength since WL433 in 2008!

I had the opportunity to sit down with Toronto musician/artist/robot Alphabot yesterday. He’s an odd sort who puts out sporadic albums, comic books and YouTube videos so I was curious to learn more about him, if that’s the right pronoun. I made a note to ask about robot gender/genitalia but forgot to ask during the interview.

He met me at a coffee shop. He sat across from me, striped shirt, cut-off jeans and vaguely robotic cardboard box on his head. I could see his eyes through the holes in the box, sizing me up. He was very polite but anxious to get started. He’s a busy machine. We’ve known each other for some time but don’t really talk about what he’s working on or his ideas so this would be a bit different.

So, elevator pitch who are you?

I’m a Robot Cowboy Crooner. A machine with a human heart. I’m trying to save the world from the robot oppressors or at least, learn everything I can before it’s too late.

So have you travelled the world?

Yes. And then some. There’s a lot of parts that are secret.

And are the robots invading everywhere?

Pretty much everywhere lots of people congregate. People make robots, so it’s hard to get away from them.

Do other robots make music?

No, but they sell a lot of it.

What’s your favourite music right now?

I’ve been in a real doom cowboy mood lately. There’s this ghost cowboy Shakey Graves I really like. I’ve also been trying to track down a singer/songwriter in Toronto called the Holiday Rambler. There’s a great band playing around called the Flying Caskets. They’ve got a jugular bass player and a guy who plays a bucket with a hammer!

And you read and write comic books?

I read everything. Instruction manuals, plays, movie scripts. It’s all documentation of humanity, and text usually means a lot more than it’s meant to. My adventures are documented, yes. I’ve got a human who likes to draw the stories I tell him. He puts them on the website at

Oh yeah. I think I’ve seen those. I remember hearing you have a comic for every song?

Pretty much. The songs and the narrative are inseparable, really. The song “Pockets Full of Shrapnel” doesn’t make much sense without knowing about the three witches.

I’ll remember to listen to that one. You’ve got a different sound, how would you describe your music?

I don’t really know. I just want to make music that sounds right to me. That’s going to sound different on different days or depending on what I’m listening to. I try to consume as much art as I can, so my art is going to reflect that. My favourite description of my music was “Tom Waits and Paul McCartney in a fistfight on Sesame Street.” Someone said that after a show and I wrote it on a napkin, which I’m sad I lost.

So you do music, videos, comics and your shows with songs and theatrics, do you think bands have to do more to get noticed these days?

I don’t know if bands have to do anything. I’d like everyone to create and get excited about creating. Even if it’s just a process. I just want to make things and I get excited about ideas.

What would you make this summer if time and resources weren’t an issue?

I want to make a board game, a radio show, a line of designer eyewear, a Netflix special… Seriously though, I’m putting up videos of songs I’m working on in thematic locations and updating the comic on the website whenever I can.

I’ve got to ask, what’s up with the cardboard? Are robots really made out of cardboard?

Some are. It’s a cheap material that you can find everywhere. It’d be silly not to use it…

“Do you really believe in robots? Or are you using them as a metaphor for how people—?”

I was reading this question off the page. When I looked up he was already outside. I was hoping to ask that question, but I didn’t expect an answer, really. I’m not even sure he heard me. I stayed, collected my notes and finished my coffee. The TV in the corner chirped out news about the new anti-terror bill in between commercials for the new smartphone and the new Batman movie. He texted me later, apologizing for leaving abruptly but said, and I quote: “Something was happening somewhere else. We can finish another time.” I’ll be at the Wavelength show at Handlebar on the 16th, anyway. It’s sure to be a winner.

—Interview by Jake Roels