The gig: Blake Robin, a.k.a. Luxxury, is producer and songwriter whose accomplishments include writing songs for film and TV commercials, performing at San Francisco's Treasure Island music festival and DJing at silent discos (dancers wear headphones) in Santa Monica. Robin's most recent work includes remixing well-known songs, such as "Hotel California" by the Eagles. Dissection and recombination is the Los Angeles-based musician's forte. He cuts separate components out of a song, breaks them up and singles them out to highlight of music a listener has never heard. For instance, if a song has six guitarists, Robin might isolate a single guitar riff and loop that piece of music during a DJ set. He also writes songs for other musicians.
The journey: Before he was Luxxury, Robin studied psychology and linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He worked for an ad agency in New York after college, and in business development for the software company Red Hat Inc. in San Francisco before fully immersing himself in music. It wasn't until Red Hat closed the San Francisco office that he decided to pursue his passions. "They gave us a big pile of Internet money, enough to live off for three months," he said. "Enough for me to sit down finally and think of what do I want to do."
Down the rabbit hole: Robin briefly tried writing movie scripts. "I got 30 pages into my screenplay and I realized it wasn't very good and I didn't enjoy it," he said. So he started to write songs. Soon after, he decided he should sing too. "It took me down a rabbit hole of enjoying everything about music," he said. "Learning instruments, learning how to record and mix. It was really exhilarating."
Lessons learned: It took four years of trying to write pop music hits before Robin realized his natural inclination as a writer was to do the opposite of what played on the radio. "I wanted to make the music I like popular," he said. There are patterns that musicians can replicate to make hit records, Robin said, but he couldn't do it, despite his best efforts. "My body rebelled against it," he said. In the end, he realized he had to pursue music that made him happy, instant hit or not. Now the musician has two booking agents and a manager. It's not always easy. "But it's a better place to be banging your head because you do what you want, versus doing what you're told to do," he said.
A baron no more: After years as "Baron Von Luxxury," Robin recently relinquished his title — he's just Luxxury now. The name is a response to his boredom with the indie aesthetic of authenticity. "When I first started writing songs, there was such a clear dividing line between what was commercial, glossy, clean, expensive-looking and what was gritty, underground, legit that it just seemed rife for subversion, commentary and parody," he said. He called himself Luxxury because he wanted to make music that simultaneously borrowed elements of high and low art, creating a hybrid that might (and did) confuse people. People wondered, "is this guy mainstream and corny? Or realer than real?" he said.
Life in chapters: Like many people who discovered their passion later in life, Robin used to find himself wishing he had started his career sooner. "There's the sense of 'If I started younger, I would be ahead,'" he said. "But that's normal. You catch up." Robin said it took about five years before he stopped feeling like he was at a disadvantage. He's come to understand that life comes in chapters; it's not one long book. "I had the being a kid chapter. I had the college chapter. I had the advertising chapter," he said. "Now I am writing this chapter."
Simple desires: Robin said he simply wants his life as Luxxury to sustain itself. He doesn't need the level of fame that would propel him to the top of music record, or have him playing the halftime show during the Super Bowl. "I'm not aiming for cultural world domination," he said. "I just want to continue to make music every day."