The Music Enjoyer: Robin Hatch

The Music Enjoyer: Robin Hatch

"The Music Enjoyer" is a series in which I ask music-oriented people for a bit of their musical DNA — the music they listened to when they were younger, the music they listen to now — and also for some practical info, like their favorite ways to find music and actually listen to it. Last time on The Music Enjoyer, playlist maestro and cassette aficionado Sweet Palma shared his musical DNA, from childhood Morrissey CDs to acid-enhanced Grateful Dead deep dives, and it was epic to say the least.

Now we have the pleasure of getting to know the musical vibes of Robin Hatch. Robin rules. Her home base: Toronto. She is a keyboard player who has played with Fucked Up and Our Lady Peace, and she is currently in the live lineup of legendary funk metal group Porno For Pyros. She is a composer: her most recent album, 2023's Piano III, features instrumental piano pieces that possess an exquisite, fragmented tension (big psychological thriller energy); her prior album T.O.N.T.O. is the kaleidoscopic result of four days of studio time spent with the titular TONTO, aka the world's largest analogue synthesizer...look at this shit:

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Robin also once went on my podcast to talk about Frank Zappa (oblig. podcast disclosure), being uniquely qualified to talk about Mr. Zappa, given she passed an audition to join Dweezil Zappa's band. She also has a sickening green screen setup, and once daisy-chained keyboards together in order to successfully play the surprisingly complex Elton John song "Benny and the Jets." And she made semi-speculative sponcon for Beats headphones that, to me, was undeniably Art. (I asked her about it, and it appears as a BÖNUS QUESTION at the end of the feature.)

Anyway I'm just a big fan and you should probably be too, if you are not already. Let us now learn more about Robin Hatch as a Music Enjoyer...

What music did you listen to when you were a kid?

When I was a kid, I listened to a lot of Broadway soundtracks for shows I’d see posters for, like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. My mom took me to see The Music Man, Camelot, and West Side Story at the Stratford Festival. Besides that, I was training in classical piano from a pretty early age so listened to a lot of Haydn, Beethoven, and Chopin, then Bach, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff as I got older. I was a big Beatles fan as a kid except I was terrified to tears of "I Am The Walrus" and the big crescendo part in "A Day In The Life." I loved "Rhapsody in Blue."

don't kill me for using the Bernstein rendition, I've just got Maestro on the mind

What music did you listen to when you were a teenager?

When I was a teenager I listened to a lot of Elliott Smith, and Weezer. I liked all The O.C. bands… Rooney, Phantom Planet, basically anything Coppola family-adjacent (found out about Sloan from the Virgin Suicides soundtrack).

Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes, pretty standard suburban fare. I was a huge Ben Folds fan, obviously, as a pianist. Where I went to high school, Billy Joel and Elton John (my favs) were certainly not cool, but nobody had heard of Ben Folds. I liked the Police, The Stones, ABBA, Madonna, and Michael Jackson. I loved new wave radio hits, like the Michael McDonald cover of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

Growing up as a teen in the early aughts definitely informed my preferred way to consume music, which is to say I like to have about 150 songs in rotation, and sprinkle in a few new songs here and there.  

How has your music taste developed since then?

Since then, I’m essentially into a broader catalogue that hits the same notes that I would have been into as a teenager, I’ve just had more time to listen to different stuff. Like, deep cuts of genres you would still only hear on the radio and no one would ever consider a deep cut. You graduate from Motown to Stax, from John Williams to Henry Mancini and Jan Hammer. I love “Something About You” by Level 42, Split Enz, and Janet Jackson. I listen to a lot of Gino Vannelli and Phil Collins on repeat one. 

It used to be that the older you got, at least in the way I imagined it, the more you settled into your interests, and just "were a Springsteen guy" and so on. Now with algorithms and social media there’s somehow this tangible pressure to stay fashionable when it comes to music, which is both good and bad, but for the purposes of this Q&A I will say it's good, because as a consumer you have an endless library of possibility at your disposal. I only just started listening to Stereolab and feel like I’ve missed out not getting into them sooner. But the nice part about being older is when you finally get around to checking out Cocteau Twins or whatever you can sort of self-curate the songs you like a bit faster because you’ve already listened to so much other music, and you already know what your taste is. 

When I was a teenager and probably still now, I had an oppositional defiance towards checking out music if other people told me to. For example, my high school jazz band teacher put me on to Chick Corea but I only just recently gave him a fair shot. Sometimes you just have to consume music in your own time. 

Lately I'm more into jazz and I say that with like a asterisk in case any jazz players are reading this because my knowledge is still pretty cursory, and in particular, jazz that makes you feel hopeful, with all the corny connotations that I associated with watching this almost youth-group-type lecture video Wynton Marsalis put out called “Tackling The Monster” that they showed at my high school.

This is because the more I try to learn how to play jazz, the more I truly confront the Dunning-Krueger effect and realize how difficult of an art form it is to pull out of your ass and improvise. A calmer bare bones approach to jazz from a place of curiosity has only recently dawned on me as more easily accessible to play than say, the Jaco Pastorius/Bill Evans jazz you think you can only really truly understand if you’re “at the end of your rope” or whatever. And that has translated to how I listen to jazz as well. Like right now I'm really into this Chick Corea Elektric Band live performance video. I used to hate shit like this but now when I watch it I get inspired by how he says "shh" so people quiet down to listen to his super low volume DX-7.

holy cow. this man has elevated shushing to an art form. how do i be like him?

Listening to contemporary pianists like Chilly Gonzales, Rachel Eckroth, Brad Mehldau all make me want to get off my ass and practice. And I like electronic music, where I wouldn’t have had any idea what that was as a teenager, but to my earlier point my comfort zone is where the composer or artist was classically trained so the “flavour profile” includes a lot of Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, etc. 

It sometimes feels like a chore to consume stuff like Autechre in a similar way to reading a difficult novel, where sometimes you have to let it wash over you and you end up deriving almost a meta-structure that is sometimes more meaningful than the music itself. I have to be driving somewhere for an hour straight on a highway to go out of my way to put that on. But I like it, if I feel like I need to go into a trance they are my go-to. Have to be in a certain mood though, the way that if I’m feeling super anxious I can’t listen to "Revolution 9." 

What is your favorite way to listen to music? (i.e. speakers, headphones, digital vs analog, etc.).

The best place to listen is in the car because you can turn it up like an asshole. For practical reasons, If I’m learning music, the best way to listen is on headphones because you can hear all the different parts better. 

I listen “on digital.” Apple Music sounds about a billion times better than Spotify so I prefer that. Just like virtual synthesizer software, I find digital audio has reached a place where it’s not intangible, but still sounds pretty close to the real thing. 

I guess I like listening to “analog” in the right company, if they have eclectic tastes or a crazy stereo setup. I can’t afford to buy records anymore unless it’s supporting friends on Bandcamp, I have too many other stupid purchases to make. 

Where do you find new (or new to you) music?

My favourite place to find new music is on the Bobygamesdotcom twitch stream. Every Friday night he streams a bad movie and afterwards screens a bunch of curated city pop and power pop videos. 

I like to find a compilation list, put ten or so of the albums on a playlist and hit shuffle, then any of the songs that I really like I put on a different playlist. 

I’ve recently been going through a list of records Andy Partridge (from XTC) found influential

And here’s a compilation list I was going through during the pandemic. 

I like going down rabbit holes of particular session players, and seeing all the different songs they recorded on. Apparently on Tidal you can sort by artist in this way, and hopefully the other streaming platforms follow suit because I am not paying for another d*mn subscription. So I mostly find out about that through Wikipedia. 

There are a select few people whose taste I respect enough that I won’t never check out anything they send me. Or people on Twitter where I’ll usually click on whatever they post because they shared something about George Duke the other day. Palma, who you had on this blog, has amazing taste and posts a lot of great music on his Twitter. I found out about Emiliano Salvador through him. Similar to how seeing a great player makes me want to get up off my ass and practice, seeing or reading someone speak really enthusiastically about a band will usually egg me on to check them out. 

Besides that I guess I find out about music from dating people, or if I'm ever working part-time jobs with younger people they always know about a bunch of bands I've never heard of.


How did your incredible #beatspartner video from last year come about? I have been on the production side of branded video before and am very familiar with the vagaries of sponsored content. If you wouldn't mind sharing the backstory, I would love to hear about it.

The Beats story is—I have a friend who works at Apple Music Canada, and after the release of my last record "Piano III," he very generously put me in touch with his colleague at Beats Canada, who works out of the same office. They were in the process of rolling out their new Studio Pro headphones, and as it was explained to me, had three categories for "gifting" (I can't recall the exact word they used): legacy (mostly high profile major label) artists, newer (major label) artists, and up and coming independent musicians. I fell into the third category, with the instruction that if I were able to make viral content with the headphones, which I got sent free, they would be more likely to continue working with me in the future.

So I spent about two weeks non stop writing music, then filming and editing this big embarrassing ad that included filming the audio signal going into my oscilloscope then running that into video synth software, and spending hours like, rotoscoping everything and stitching it together on a pretty garbage laptop. Basically the concept I imagined was to put one of my weird niche synth videos in the context of the larger-than-life ad that Dr. Dre made for the official Beats account. I also thought it would be funny if for the voiceover I paraphrased a dumb version of the marketing jargon used in the official Beats ad.


Thank you @Beats by Dre for the new Studio Pro headphones. I love them! #beatsfam #beatspartner

♬ original sound - Robin Hatch

When I sent it to the Beats rep I initially got an out-of-office reply because he was on vacation then he basically got back a month later to say "got it, thanks". Which I think was really funny! Not trying to kick a gift horse in the mouth. But yeah it got like 1500 views on TikTok so guessing they won't be reaching out again. 

If you've read this far it's your civic duty to go juice that video. Jk...unless. Anyway, thank you Robin!! Go listen to Robin's music here. And if you like I Enjoy Music, tell a friend about it.