Interview / Tigerbalm / Ubiquity – By The Insider

Interview conducted by our favourite four-to-the-floor expert, The Insider.

Exiting the excellent Earthboogie, Rose Robinson emerges, solo, as Tigerbalm. Following a superb single on Leng, she’s now been snapped up by legendary label, Ubiquity. Remixed by dance-floor royalty – the likes of Ray Mang, and Max Essa – and doted on by top taste-makers, such as DJHistory’s Bill Brewster, Rose now releases Tigerbalm’s debut long-player, International Love Affair. The album is a real globe-trotting excursion, an audio diary of two years spent travelling, and recorded, in part, on the road. Read on for an insight into to this deeply interesting, and curiously fascinating musical creature.

Cover shot by Andree Martis.

Tigerbalm International Love Affair

Ubiquity is a pretty cool label. Have you been a fan of Ubiquity and its catalogue over the years?

Yes, I love their eclectic mix of funk and global grooves; especially Bosq, Super Yamba Band, and The Flying Mojito Bros. 

Your stunning new album is quite a curve ball for Ubiquity. How did you go about getting the album signed to this legendary label?

Indeed! Michael who owns Ubiquity listened to the album and loved the ideas I`d put forward. Ubiquity are working with quite a few new UK artists at the moment. Enrique, Ubiquity’s label manager is a big disco lover too, and we’ve really journeyed and bonded over our shared musical passions – especially Neapolitan Disco.

I’d love to know where your musical story began.

I`ve always been attached to music on a deep emotive level. I`d hear music, and feel music energetically since I was young. I’m sensitive, and found that listening to bright uplifting music took me to new places, especially if I could dance to it, so I listened to music constantly. I started to learn to DJ in my early `20s. I worked as the music programmer at the Wyld Club for the launch of Wyld London, in Mayfair, and then went onto DJing and music production full time. 

I get the impression your home was full of music. Were your parents big music fans?

100%, and my grandmother was also an opera singer, so it’s in the Robinson bones. I have all her old classical records stashed in Margate in my listening room. My parents definitely hit the gold star with their music taste. Their record collection is stacked with lots of gems like Manu Dibango, George Clinton, David Bowie, Madonna, Loose Joints, Grandmaster Flash, Eddy Grant, loads of New York Disco, reggae, on Greensleeves, Herbie Hancock…

Is there an album you recall as a child that made a big impression on you?

I wouldn’t say that one album changed my life, but I’ve had many inspirations and obsessions. I loved Madonna in her early years (laughs).

How did you start DJing?

I was playing house parties, and then started playing at Momo’s once a month. I got a gig at The Experimental Cocktail Club, which is a speakeasy, where I played `60s funk and `70’s disco, along with highlife and afrobeat. I started playing vinyl only sets at Andre Balaz’s Chiltern Firehouse when it opened – about 8 years ago I think – and that’s when my record collection expanded as the sets were sometimes 5 or 6 hours long.

What kind of records were you playing?

At MoMo’s it would be stuff like Yan Saquet’s Santa Margherita, Dixon’s stripped down mix of Henrik Schwarz & Amampondo’s I Exist Because Of You, and Somebody’s Property by Mash.

Who were the artists and DJs that you were into back then?

Rampa, Audiofly, Pachanga Boys, Todd Terje, Superflu, Afrolicious, Soulwax, Chromeo, Tiger & Woods, Prins Thomas…

Do any of those artists influence the music that you make today?

I was always drawn to Afro House back then, I just couldn’t find enough music that fit the vibe I liked. I love Henrik Schwarz, and was also a bit more into deep disco, and deep house. I still love deep house, but I’m making more sunny music now. 

Who do you think is making good music these days?

Tons of people. Nu Genea, JKriv, MAW, Joutro Mundo, Bastedos’s, Donald’s House, Peggy Gou, Crazy P, Red Axes, Ben Gomori, Roman Truth, COEO, Dengue Dengue, Adam Port, Dino Soccio, Elado, Alma Negra, Aroop Roy, Nickodemus, Narf Zayd & Ezirk, Ray Mang, CCDISCO, Bill Brewster…

Where were your first gigs in the London, and who have you played for?

I’m moved around quite a bit. I started at Chiltern Firehouse, then Brilliant Corners, and Spiritland. I now also play at Little Portland Street and 180 a few times a month. 

I’ve played lots of fun parties like Morning Gloryville, Earthly Measures, Low life. I think Corsica Studios, The Cause, and Ministry of Sound, have been the biggest in London. I found a few fun spots which love global disco and dance to keep me busy, but as you know the nightlife industry is constantly changing.

I personally love playing abroad. My NYC tours are always the best; I played Public Records with A Joyful Noise, 1Hotel, Milagrosa and Soho House Meatpacking this summer. In the past I’ve also played Black Flamingo and House Of Yes. Too much fun!

Are you most comfortable in the studio or behind the decks?

I love them both equally!

Do you plan to take the album live?

Not at the moment, but I would love to. 

Is there a concept to the album? 

Yes. It’s basically a 2 year audio diary, a travelogue. The tracks are grouped in pairs – Waiheke and Cosmic Camel were started in New Zealand, La Brisa and Kete in Bali, Riad de Lister and Bahia Escapista in Brazil and Morocco, and then Tokyo Business and Cocktail d’Amore are dedicated to Berlin. I went to the Cocktail d’Amore party which was incredible.

Waiheke I made after playing Flamingo Piers Festival in Waiheke Auckland. There was this incredible moment during my set and I wanted to make my own track that would suit that moment in case I ever returned. La Brisa was inspired by a beach club that I fell in love with in Bali. Again, I made the track imagining that I was back in that moment. Kete was also the same – a ceremonial sunset track – listen to the instrumental. You’ll hear the Berlin influences in Cocktail d’Amore. I wanted to express that moment when you’ve been dancing for days and the pulse of the clubbing is still with you as you journey on…

Riad de Lister was made when I was on a yoga retreat in Morocco. I started the track then finished it in London. Bahia Escapista was one of my unfinished Earthboogie tracks, which I got to rework – I was inspired by my trip to Rio for Carnival

How did you get your ideas down while you were on the move?

I had my soundcard, laptop, and Ableton so I could just dip into ideas. When you’re feeling a particular way, full of joy, freedom and confidence, then I find this goes into the music and I just go through my archives and plugins, use samples. Then when I’m home I can take it to the studio and pump it up, get people to re-record live elements to bring it to life. You have to invest money in talent in order to create music with a live feel.

The album is musically very solid, and the production shows a lot of polish and experience in the studio. Have you had many mentors along the way?

I was in the studio with Izaak Gray, from Earthboogie for a few years, then David Beiger. I’ve now found a new home at Fish Tank Studio in Hackney Wick. Giorgio and I have been working together for nearly 2 years. He’s an audio guru making things flow for a 100% creative time. He did the Waiheke Bananas For Breakfast Remix.

I have to comment on your look. Your press shots are stunning. Kind of a cross between Mata Hari and the silver screen of Hollywood’s silent era. Have I struck a chord with these comparisons or am I miles off?

I love this description! I adore Pedro Almodovar and Tarantino films, which I think embody this vibe too. Bollywood comes to mind too… I’m wearing an incredible outfit lent by my friend, and fashion designer, Polosophia. The head piece is by my friend Laura Steel, and all the photography was done by Andree Martis, at Luc Warings Studio. 


Have you ever worked in fashion, or art, because the art direction on the album is strong.

I’ve always wanted to have my own brand, but for the moment I love following designers. I’ve had quite a few things made though. Kei Abe did the artwork and designed the record covers 

Tigerbalm Waiheke 2

Tigerbalm Waiheke

I am sure you are working on other interesting projects. What can you share?

I’ve got an exciting release scheduled in May 2023 with Razor N Tape. This one has some very special remixes from Elado and Voilaaa. I also just finished a remix for William Orbit and Warner Music…I`m not sure what the release date for this is yet, so stay tuned but it’s a big afro house banger… Apart from that I’m about to get back in the studio to work on my second album for a little bit before escaping to Mexico for some vitamin D over winter. I want to lap up some Afro-Latin vibes…

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

It’s not about arriving, it’s about making an entrance…

Tell us something we would probably never know about you.

My lucky number is 9, and I was born in the year of the Tiger! Cheers!

Tigerbalm’s International Love Affair is released today, on Ubiquity. 

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