Music is uniquely human; the creativity and perfectionism that we see in the finest music the world has to offer to demonstrate that beautifully.
But what if I told you we aren’t the only ones to pull that off?
What if I told you robots could do it?
It might not be surprising, considering the advances we’ve made in the field of robotics, and as a fan of metal greats like Tool, I was obliged to check them out.
Listening to their music was pretty eye-opening, and learning about their creative background even more so, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
This article will be looking at some of the most popular non-human music bands I was able to find that are sure to blow your mind!
If you’re looking for music that’s a bit away from the norm, you’ll find this list interesting.
Currently, all-robot bands like Compressorhead, Z-Machines, and ONE LOVE MACHINE BAND are mostly art experiments, and as AI and robotics technology go mainstream, we might even see our first commercially successful robot band in the near future.
I take a look at some of the more popular robot bands, and you’ll be able to see what kind of music they perform and where you can find their material.
While not completely automated and making their own music, Compressorhead is a robot band with six “members”, all of them made from recycled parts.
They play real instruments with the help of a MIDI sequencer that is programmed beforehand.
The actual people behind this robot band are headed by Berlin-based artist Frank Barnes and his associates with some members from the Canadian punk rock band, NoMeansNo.
They write the songs and are music directors and vocalists for this project which started in 2013.
Compressorhead is still active now, with their latest and only album, Party Head coming out in 2017.
They started with covering popular metal bands like AC/DC and Pantera, but they began writing their own music when they started gaining some spotlight.
Aspects of heavy metal and punk rock feature heavily in their debut album, which you can find on YouTube or Spotify.
ONE LOVE MACHINE BAND
ONE LOVE MACHINE BAND is another project from Germany from a Berlin-based artist and sculptor, Kolja Kugler.
The band has three members and a backing group of whistling birds, all made from scrap metal.
Since Kugler himself accepts that he isn’t an engineer, the charm of this randomly put together rusty robot band is only enhanced, with each performance being unpredictable as the last.
The music isn’t the main focus of this project, with Kugler putting in the most effort on how the robot members look.
They play punk rock music with the help of pistons and other pneumatic equipment that somehow seems to work.
Nevertheless, the band is a wonderful expression of artistic talent that seems to come naturally to Kugler.
You can find the band’s performances on YouTube at several maker fairs and engineering expos.
The Trons are a robot band based in Hamilton, New Zealand and are the “brainchildren” of musician Greg Locke.
Locke made the bots out of spare parts and other electronic equipment.
He initially wanted to build a robot drummer but expanded that idea into an entire band.
The first thing that sticks out about The Trons is that they aren’t the heaps of twisted metal that we saw from the two bands earlier.
They have lampshades and other assorted items for heads, mic stands, and similar items for their bodies, and it took about nine months for Locke to put everything together.
The Trons work with indie music, and they’ve been on several tours in New Zealand and Europe.
Critics have been mostly favorable to their style of more mellow music compared to other robot bands, which is a stark contrast to The Trons’ industrial look.
You can find their material on YouTube from their tours or exhibition performances.
Z-Machines is a collaborative project of Japanese roboticist Kenjiro Matsuo and English electronic musician Tom Jenkinson aka Squarepusher.
The band has two members, with the drummer having 22 arms and the guitarist with 78 fingers.
Everything is powered by pneumatic systems and electric motors, which Squarepusher programs beforehand.
The robotic and glitchy additions to Squarepusher’s regular music that Z-Machines is surprisingly appealing to Squarepusher fans and newbies alike.
Jenkinson took up this project because it satisfied a childhood fantasy of getting to work with robots, and he is already pretty receptive to new technology.
Electronic fans have a great point for getting into the band culture unique to rock and metal and other genres because Squarepusher hasn’t completely gone towards the whole rock and roll thing with Z-Machines, and electing to keep the electronic aspect of his music.
The other neat aspect of the robots is that they can change what they perform based on how their audience reacts, but this had only made an appearance on their debut show, and we can only speculate if they try this again.
You can find their music on Apple Music and YouTube if you want to check them out.
Captured! By Robots
Going to metal grindcore this time, Captured! By Robots have been active for decades, starting from their debut album in 1997.
It is the creation of metal musician Jay Vance because he found it difficult to work with people, and since a band needs multiple members, he made robots as his bandmates.
The music that Captured! By Robots deals with is mostly very nihilistic, and their robot members reflect that idea.
The bots look post-apocalyptic and wouldn’t look out of place in a Mad Max movie.
He has a whole backstory for the band about how the robot members enslaved their frontman JBoss (Jay himself), and now he is forced to perform about robot uprisings.
A series of computers control the pneumatic valves that move the robot’s fingers and movement.
Although the movement is janky like every other robot band we’ve seen here, it doesn’t take away from the artistic intent that Vance has shown through his creations.
You can find the band’s work on YouTube and Apple Music.
What is the Appeal of Robot Bands?
Anyone who has followed a band for a long time will relate to the fact that regular bands are made up of people like you and me.
They will have their faults and disagreements, and most of the time, these disagreements would impact their work, and quite a few bands have broken up because of these differences in opinion.
The members would have to deal with each other’s ego, which is especially difficult in the fame-focused business of music.
Robots completely do away with that issue, and most of the creators of the bands I’ve talked about today share the same sentiment.
How will there be any conflict between the robot members of the band if you could just turn them off at the end of the day?
This is just one of the appeals of robot bands, and musicians also find this interesting because it becomes an avenue where they can experiment and try new things without impacting their main project.
The relative novelty of machines or robots playing something inherently human for so long also attracts many fans interested in robotics and music.
Metal Music For The Future
As research in AI speeds up as the years go by, we might even start to see music that’s composed and performed entirely by AI.
The projects and bands we’ve seen today have someone squishy behind them, but if you add an AI that can create music, then you have a completely autonomous band, comprised of robots that can play music.
There are already some experimental AI projects that create music, but they’ve still got some ways to go.
We’re looking at the possibility of a completely autonomous band that combines an AI that creates music and robots that can follow the composition in the not-so-distant future.
Even though this won’t replace traditional human music or bands, it is still an interesting aspect of AI worth keeping an eye on.
With the artistic liberties that a musician can take, the day we see a fully automated robot band might not be so far away.
You May Also Enjoy Reading:
- Who is Miquela? Meet The Robot Influencer
- Is There A Robot That Can Draw?
- Cooking Robots: Can We Automate Cooking?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can robots compose music?
Robots, like the ones we visualize walking around and being made of metal, can be programmed to create their own music.
Researchers have been trying to develop an AI that can create music, so its possible that this can happen in the future.
Can robots be creative?
Robots can be creative if they’ve been programmed to do so.
Advanced AI can learn from their surroundings, and if a robot is programmed with such an Ai, machines can be creative.
They may even surpass humans in the future.
Who was the first robot to sing?
The first humanoid robot that sang was Sophia, a lifelike human android developed by Hanson Robotics.
Will technology replace musicians?
While AI won’t replace the traditional musician note-to-note, it is still possible.
As computing power increases, more powerful, AI can be developed, which can take up the role of the average musician.