Count Zero's Robots Anonymous is an offbeat, tongue-in-cheek work in which retro pop meets electronica. “I've always been interested in mixing rhythm-section stuff and electronic stuff,” says Peter Moore, Count Zero's primary songwriter, who also recorded and engineered the album. Robots Anonymous pays tribute to pop luminaries such as Gary Glitter, Peter Frampton, Portishead, and Blur while also referencing Aphex Twin and Squarepusher.
Count Zero consists of Moore on vocals, keyboards, and guitar; Will Ragano on guitar and vocals; Brendon Downey on guitar, keyboards, and bass; Elizabeth Steen on keyboards; Bernard Georges on bass; and Eric Paull on drums. The band recorded 7 of the album's 11 tracks in Béla Studios, which is ensconced in the basement of Moore's three-story house in Brighton, Massachusetts.
“I built an adjoining control room,” Moore says. “There's a laundry and furnace, and it certainly isn't soundproofed, but it works for me. I can have clients over.” However, the room lacks adequate sonic separation. “When the whole band is playing, the live sound is overwhelming the sound coming off the monitors in the control room,” he says.
Moore owns both current and vintage recording gear. “I like the hybrid,” he says. He used a Digidesign Pro Tools III system running on a Power Mac 7500. His main synth is a Kurzweil K2000R, and his sequencer of choice is Opcode's Studio Vision. Moore's mic cabinet consists of a Microtech Gefell UMT 70S, an AKG D 112, an Audio-Technica AT4051a, Crown PZM mics, a Sennheiser MD 421, and a vintage Shure 55SW. His outboard gear includes an HHB tube preamp, a Summit Audio DCL-200 compressor, an Empirical Labs Distressor, a Lexicon MPX 500, an Ensoniq DP/4, and a Tech 21 SansAmp. Moore treasures a Premiere Spring Reverb Tank built circa 1960. “I've always loved the sound of spring reverbs on things other than guitars,” he says. “They just add an automatic cheesiness.”
The acoustic drum parts on Robots Anonymous breathe well amid the album's electronic elements. Moore lets Paull's drumming set the pace, refusing to lock it into sequenced patterns. “A drummer drives the whole band,” he says. “That's what keeps it feeling like a rock band.” Moore recorded drum tracks through the Summit compressor to an Otari MX-505 Mk III-8, 8-track analog tape recorder synced to Pro Tools, sometimes sending the overhead mic signals directly into Pro Tools. “I like the Otari for the beefiness that it has,” Moore says. He also used triggers.
The drum sounds on “go Go GO” are samples recorded “in this abandoned bank vault with two cheap condenser mics placed left and right, John Bonham-style,” says Moore. “I like the fact that I have my own sounds.” The pianos on Robots Anonymous are samples of a 1933 model Steck Baby Grand from Moore's childhood home. The string samples on “Roach Motel” originate from a sample library he created.
All the tracks on Count Zero's Robots Anonymous segue into one another. “I tried to get the bass and drums together, and then everything was added on one by one after that,” Moore says. “I always have a DAT at the ready to be able to record an idea. I'd record the band jamming sometimes,” he says, cataloguing “the key, tempo, and vibe.
“I try not to dictate every single thing, so the band has some leeway,” Moore says of the songwriting and recording process. “It seems sort of autocratic, but it works. It just means I have to do a lot of work, so whatever. I like it.”