My Robot Friend

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Photograph by Conrad Ventur

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

"Whenever I'm onstage, there's a risk of blowing up or being electrocuted," says Howard Robot, the one-man act known as My Robot Friend. Onstage, Howard is clad in a retro-futuristic suit of his own construction, with a 40-pound battery pack powering neon and Christmas lights that curl around limbs and dot his helmet. "It's a lot of work—soldering and electronics stuff," says Howard, 31. "It takes about an hour to get into, but when it's on, I really feel like a robot."

My Robot Friend was born when Howard's former group, the esoteric pop trio Princess, broke up in the summer of 2001. Sans band, Howard was left with the desire to play electronic music, but wanted his performances to rise above the boring cliché of most electronic acts—one stationary figure seated behind a laptop. Mission accomplished; MRF shows are hilarious affairs. Howard—or rather, the Robot—banters with the crowd in a processed robotic voice and sings over prerecorded tracks while also playing some keyboards and guitar. Joined by dancers and ex-bandmates from Princess, MRF won over a packed Bowery Ballroom crowd at a recent gig opening for Le Tigre.

While the crackling beats on his self-released CD, Hot Action! (and his forthcoming EP, The Fake), associate him with the electro crowd—and Electroclash impresario Larry Tee is a supporter—the songs are warm, poppy romps filled with playfully lewd lyrics. "I sing about sex and love with humans because I'm preprogrammed to do so," he explains, slipping into his robot persona. If at times it's difficult to tell whether it's Howard or the Robot talking, well, sometimes he's not so sure himself. "When I started performing, I felt I was representing all the helpful machines that couldn't be onstage," he says. "But as I examined the process, I realized that I am the robot."

My Robot Friend performs at Berliniamsburg at Luxx June 15, July 27 and August 31, 2002. The Fake will be released July 2 on Mogul Electro.

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