Squarepusher Composes for Robot Band Z-Machines [VIDEO]


If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re turned on by robots, and hopefully by the music of Squarepusher. Well friends, you are in luck today, because now you can enjoy both at the same time.

Brought to you by Zima (???), favorite beverage of teenage girls everywhere, (apparently in Japan especially), Squarepusher’s new song ‘Sad Robot Goes Funny‘ is performed by a band of robots. And really, who better to perform Tom Jenkinson’s maniacal sounds? Someone should have thought of this a long time ago. Of course, it was Molson Coors Japan Co., right? These are the lengths that Japanese advertising goes to, and frankly I’m blown away. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen robot used to perform music, (check out Eric Singer’s Lemur Bots or Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion), but this robot band has some undeniable flair. My question is, who gets to compose for the Z-Machines next?

View the video, read the [extremely thorough] press release below, and make sure you scroll all the way to the end of this post for a brief interview with Squarepusher on his thoughts about the project.

To: Members of the Press September 4, 2013 Molson Coors Japan Co., Ltd

78-finger Guitar, 22 Drums, Beyond-Human!

Squarepusher and robot band from Japan in Music of the Future collaboration — a must see video!

On September 4th, ZIMA, an alcoholic beverage brand of Molson Coors Japan Co., Ltd. (President: Kenichi Yano) that has always been at the forefront of youth culture, will start streaming the video of “music of the future” created together by the party robot band Z-MACHINES and highly acclaimed UK electronic artist Squarepusher. The music will be released on iTunes Store under the artist name Squarepusher x Z-MACHINES on the same day.

Referred to as “an attempt to break new ground for emotional machine music” by its composer Squarepuhser, Sad Robot Goes Funny features the superhuman prowess of Z-MACHINES, showcasing in particular the stupendous chops of the guitarist playing multiple melody lines with 78 fingers and 12 picks at lightning speed in the latter half of the song. On the other hand, the music also tells an emotional story contrary to the image of robots always being mechanical. This makes it a truly groundbreaking piece of music from Sqaurepusher to open the way for new music of the future.

The music video featuring Z-MACHINES’s performance was produced by Daito Manabe of Rhizomatiks, an up-and-coming director who recently garnered attention at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. To project the cool, minimal image, the robots’ playing were captured at super-close distance using cameras attached to a robot arm which enabled some dynamic camera work probing into the close-ups of Z-MACHINES in action. Highlighting Z-machine’s structure in detail and how they produce sounds, the music clip is filled with astonishing images that you’ve never seen before. We invite you to come watch this “video of the future”!


Z-MACHINES is a social network party band of three robots developed by ZIMA for the “party of the future”. Its creation was supervised by Yoichiro Kawaguchi, a professor of the University of Tokyo, and artist Naohiro Ukaawa.

MACH -Robot guitarist challenging the speed of over BPM1000

Mach, Z-Machines,

MACH inspires music creators to advance the possibility of music with super-accurate playing beyond human ability – it can not only play ultra-fast, but also play the slide, mute strings, and use the whammy bar. He’s also equipped with the “Body & Soul: Synchronicity System” where he will bang his head in synch with the movement of the audience watching the performance online. He will bring together the audience and players for a whole new party experience. .

ASHURA -Robot drummer that can play the most complex rhythm on 22 drums!

Ashura, Z-Machines,

The special drum set consists of 19 drums and 3 bass drums which are more than double the usual set – it is the one-and-only drum set in the world specially developed for ASHURA. The extreme dance rhythm possible only for a machine drummer inspires composers for a totally new musical innovation.

COSMO -Robot keyboard player resembling a future life form!


Cosmo, Z-Machines,

COSMO’s sexy neon colors add a touch of flamboyance to the Z-MACHINES performance. Designed with the concept of “future life form”, he is supposed to be an ancient life form evolved a few thousand years ahead. He has spiral shapes in many of his body parts, which is a symbol of primordial life energy, and revs up the party “spirally” upward with music. He can emit light from the eyes through user demand online, playing the role to unite the party involving the power of the online audience.



Squarepusher, a.k.a. Tom Jenkinson, is a leading artist of Warp Records. His revolutionary style of works is influenced by all categories of music including the experimental and, particularly popular “drum & bass” style inspired by the music of jazz and fusion. Ufabulum, a new album released on May 2 is characterized by the extensive use of electronic sounds throughout the album with super-fast and super-complex rhythm reminiscent of his earlier works. The jazz-oriented feel of “Feed Me Weird Things”, beautiful and pop melody of “Hard Normal Daddy”, and acid and aggressive “Go Plastic”, all make this the best-ever album exceeding the perfection of his classic Ultravisitor.

He played in the Fuji Rock Festival in 2001, and also sold out all shows in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya for his Japan tour of 2004. He also put on an astounding performance recently at the Electraglide Festival in 2012.

Daitdo Manabe

Daitdo Manabe, Z-Machines,

Daito Manabe’s works are created by rearranging familiar phenomena and materials after looking at them from a new perspective and understanding them in a fresh way. His goal is not to create rich, high-definition, and highly realistic works, but rather to use careful observation in order to discover the intrinsically enjoyable elements of phenomena, bodies, programming, and computers. In 2006, he founded rhizomatiks, a design firm that covers a broad range of media, from web to interactive design. In 2008, he founded the hackerspace 4nchor5La6 (Anchors Lab) with Motoi Ishibashi.

Born in 1976, he graduated from the Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science, Tokyo University of Science as well as the Dynamic Sensory Programming Course at the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences. He has used his programming skills to participate in various projects across a range of genres and fields. He is also active in educational efforts in countries around the world, holding workshops among other activities in locations such as the MIT MediaLab and Fabrica. Many of his works and workshops are aimed at children, such as a computer workshop held in a Thai orphanage. Participated as a presenter at the openFrameworks developers conference and the Cycling 74 Expo. Juror at the 2009 Prix Ars Electronica, and received the Award of Distinction in the Interactive Art Category at the 2011 Prix. Received 1 Grand Prize, 2 Excellence prizes, and 7 Jury Recommendations at the Japan Media Arts Festival held by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Responsible for the video projection and creation system as well as the balloon explosion system for Perfume’s 2010 Tokyo Dome concert, for which he received much attention, such as being featured in the opening pages of Japanese Motion Graphic Creators. He directed Etsuko Yakushimaru’s “Venus and Jesus,” “Lulu,” and “Body Hack” music videos, as well as her website. He also provided an earlier-made work as a commercial for the Spring 2011 Laforet Grand Bazar that received attention from media around the world, including the New York Times and the Guardian.Featured in the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase in 2013, he has also produced music videos of artists outside of Japan including FaltyDL and Nosaj Thing.

Squarepusher’s comment on Sad Robot Goes Funny

Q. When you received the offer (to make a song for Z-MACHINES), what was your first image of the song for Z-MACHINES?

A. My first idea was about the robots being sad because they are just treated by the public as entertainment machines, and all of their other qualities are neglected. And so this sadness comes out in the music they play, and strangely becomes one of the reasons why the public like them because they seem to be able to evoke strong emotions in their audience. But when the public goes home, the robots play their own music which is more fun and to do with their playful aspect – they think back to being young robots, before they were employed in the sphere of public entertainment, and remember the silly antics they used to get up to. So the first section of the piece is them entertaining the public and being sad, then the second section is them having fun when the public goes home, and lastly the third section is when the public comes back and they are sad again.

Q. Why did you decide to join on this project?

A. The idea of making music with machines fascinates me, as people have often assumed that for music to be emotionally powerful it has to come directly from a human hand, whereas I disagree with that, and enjoy proving those people wrong. This project is an excellent way of exploring that area more.

Q. When you actually joined this project, how did you feel?

A. I was very excited and once I had all of the technical information I got to work on it straight away. I made the piece in three days I think.

Q. What do you think about your song?

A. I think that it explores some of the many fascinating possibilities of music-playing robots. I kept the guitar sound clean (i.e., no distortion) so I could freely explore the possibilities of polyphony. The majority of the guitar element of the piece is written to sound like four guitarists playing even though there are only two guitars in the actual performance. There are so many other aspects of the capabilities of the robots that I would like to explore.

Q. What do you think about Z-MACHINES and their playing technique?

A. So far it seems very impressive. I especially like the way guitar robot plays.