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Eric Orr Maxwell Robot Imagine being manager at Jazzy Jay's studio in the late eighties, where some of hip-hop's most legendary music was created. A place where artists such as Tony D, Diamond D, Lord Finesse, Brand Nubian and many others shared inspiration. Eric Orr was not only the studio manager. He was also art director of Jazzy Jay's Strong City label and continued to make a name for himself while drawing for Brand Nubian, DITC, Positive K, and Dallas Austin's Rowdy Records...

You did art work for the Strong City label, how did you get the job...through Jazzy Jay?

I sure did, Jazzy Jay was very instrumental in my position as art director for Strong City Records.

The Nu-Sounds cover is one of our favourite hip-hop album covers of all time...with King Kong looking through the window on the front cover and the group not knowing, and then on the backside they are lying on the floor, all shook up (laughs)...

That cover was a collaboration with the art director from MCA records, Tracy Counts. She and I worked together on that one and I must say that she really had a lot of input on that cover. I have to give props where it's due.

You featured on the Nu-Sounds 12" 'Condition Red' right?

Yes. That all came about because I just happened to be in the studio when Nu-Sounds were recording that song. They had a few people giving the verse a try but they weren't the right voice. DJ Fashion asked me to give it a try and everyone in the studio was like; 'That's it! Lay it down, Eric!'

So you were hangin around in the studio a lot?

Not only did I hang in that studio a lot, I was also the studio manager! I would be the one to book the groups studio time.

On Jazzy Jay's 'Cold Chillin In The Studio...Live', it was the first time that Lord Finesse rapped on wax, Diamond D also did some of his first recordings on that record. Were they nervous?

Nah, not at all! Finesse and Diamond have always been and always will be professionals when it comes to this rap business.

Diamond D and Lord Finesse went on and made a name for themselves, also the late Tony D of course, but there were a lot of one-hit-wonders on the Strong City label, despite their talent. It's like without the support of Strong City they we're lost...Ice Cream Tee, Don Baron, D-Ice, Raheem, MobVersa, and so on... What happened to them?

Well, in my opinion there wasn't enough support from our parent company, MCA Records. Masters of Ceremony had 'Cracked Out' and Don Baron had the hit single 'Sexy'. Both singles were getting much air play across the country, but for some unknown reason MCA didn't want to back Strong City any longer so those artists you mentioned didn't get the full support that they deserved. I don't really know what happened to many of them, been out of touch with them since my days at Jazzy Jay's recording studio, Strong City Records. I wish them all the best on whatever they are doing now.

Is there any relation between Rohan Robotham and Rappin Max Robot or you guys just liked to use the name Robot?

Funny you should ask that question because I designed a logo for Rohan and it was a 'robot DJ' but there is no relation between my character 'Maxwell Robot' and Rohan Robotham, that just happens to be Rohan's real last name. But I can tell you, after our days at Strong City, Rohan and I started a small white label called 'ROOR Records'. Which a combination of both our last names. Rohan 'DJ Fashion' would remix records and we would press a limited number vinyl for the DJ community. It was very successful at that time. Rohan eventually moved to Florida and the label and we closed the record label down.

Another Jazzy Jay protege Skeff Anselm produced for the group Y'all So Stupid...on Rowdy Records. You also designed for Rowdy Records, what's the link there?

Well, Skeff Anselm was first engineer at Jazzy's studio. When MCA dropped the Strong City relationship, we were still recording music for other artists at Jazzy Jay's studio. Then, Rocky Bucano, who was Jazzy Jay's partner in Strong City records, was given a chance to run Rowdy Records because of his relationship with producer Dallas Austin ( of TLC fame). Dallas was always a big fan of what we were doing out of Jazzy's studio and asked if Skeff would be interested in working with one the artist from the Rowdy label. It goes on from there, I was asked to design the logo for Rowdy records. So the very first Rowdy Records logo is also one of my designs.

The Strong City catalog has been re-released, the Ultimate Force record was unearthed...what did that mean to you, did you get in touch again with Jazzy Jay?

I have always been in touch with Jazzy Jay, he's like a brother to me. We go waaaaay back! I was really happy that Ultimate Force was re-released because their album was never released on Strong City and it would have been the next album out on the Strong City label before MCA pulled the plug.

We have to know: did you get paid for those reissues?

Yes, I was compensated for my work.

Those reissues had a different logo right? With a Kangol hat? How come?

Yes it did! Nice catch! That was the very first Strong City logo I designed. Jazzy Jay loved that version but his partner Rocky, wanted to update the logo a bit so I did the second design, which most people are familiar with. Jazzy was happy with the second design but thought it would be cool to use the very first logo on the re-release project and I agreed.

Your work is simple but clever...is that your secret to success? The Positive K logo, the Rowdy Records logo, Brand Nu logos, DITC logos...

Well thanks a lot for the compliment. I really do appreciate your acknowledgement of my work. I guess if there is any 'secret' to my success it would be to try and stay 'clever' and 'simple' I guess.

How did you get with Pos K, through Brand Nu? Because he featured on a Brand Nubian record, we remember...

I must say that a great portion of the design work I did was because so many golden age hip-hop artists came through Jazzy Jay's studio to record their songs. That studio was a Mecca for so many classic artists in the hip-hop industry.

A few years ago you designed Serato picture discs...

Yup, sure did! Actually I'm the first artist to officially design a picture disc for Serato and once again it was all because my involvement with Jazzy Jay.

What are some of the rap albums you listen to nowadays?

I do listen to what's going on today, but classic hip-hop rules my playlist.

What are some of your favourite hip-hop album covers of all time?

I really like ODB's 'Return of the 36 chambers', Tribe's 'Low End Theory' and artist Joe Bucks' 'ReVisions' cover art series.

With digital downloading, do you think that the album cover will become less and less important?

Nah, never! It's just being delivered to you in a different way. Music and art will always go hand in hand.

You were down with Keith Haring. How did you meet?

I met Keith at the Roxy roller rink, he came up to me and asked if I was the one how was 'tagging' my 'Robothead' character in the NYC subway system. We had admiration for each other's work, he was a really good guy.

You had a few expositions in Europe, are you planning some more exhibitions worldwide?

Yes, I do plan to have more shows at home and abroad. I recent had a show in Auckland, New Zealand. I would love to do a music and an art show in your area at some point (wink).

Who knows?! Thanks for the interview.


POSTED 08|22|2011
conducted by cpf

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