Robin Rimbaud

Robin Rimbaud (born 1964) is an electronic musician who works under the name Scanner due to his use of cell phone and police scanners in live performance. He is also a member of the band Githead with Wire's Colin Newman and Malka Spigel and Max Franken from Minimal Compact.

Robin Rimbaud
Birth nameRobin Rimbaud
Also known asScanner
Born1964 (age 5455)
Southfields, London, UK
Occupation(s)Musician, writer, media critic, record producer
Years active1982–present
Labelsswim ~, Ash International, Touch Music
Associated actsGithead

Rimbaud is also a writer and media critic, multi-media artist and record producer. He borrowed his stage name from the device he used in his early recordings, picking up indeterminate radio and mobile phone signals in the airwaves and using them as an instrument in his compositions.

Early life

Born in Southfields, London, Scanner was interested in avant garde literature, cinema and music while growing up. When he was a teenager his family was bereaved when his father was killed in a motorcycle accident.[1] He attended Kingston University in Surrey, earning a degree in Modern Arts (BA). There, he formed a musical project The Rimbaud Brothers with fellow student Tony Rimbaud, releasing cassette editions in the early 1980s, later becoming Dau Al Set with the addition of Chris Staley.


He released Peyrere compilation cassette album in 1986, featuring the work of Nurse with Wound, Derek Jarman, Current 93, Coil and Test Dept. That same year, he composed the soundtrack to a short film A Horse with No Name, directed by Phil Viner, shown at the London Film Festival.[2]

His debut Scanner CD was released in 1992 on Ash International, a subsidiary label of London's Touch Music label. He continued to produce the first dozen releases with Mike Harding of Touch, including Scanner², Mass Observation, Blind, and Runaway Train, a real-time recording of the captivating radio contact between Alfie, controller of the line and Wesley, the driver of a runaway train. Location: New Brunswick, Canada, recorded 9 March 1948.

In 1994, he produced one of the first webzines, I/O/D, in collaboration with Matthew Fuller and Graham Harwood. In 1998, he presented Surface Noise on a London bus, commissioned by Artangel, and won the Imaginaria 99 Award for Digital Arts, ICA London the following year. He re-soundtracked Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville movie in a series of performances around the world, whilst playfully presenting 16 concerts in one evening using a series of Scanner look-alikes to perform in his absence. For 2003, he installed a permanent installation in Raymond Poincaré hospital in Garches, France as part of the bereavement suite Channel of Flight.[3] In 2004, Tate Modern commissioned Sound Surface in collaboration with Stephen Vitiello as their first sonic arts work. In the same year, he composed Europa 25, an alternative National Anthem for Europe that was freely distributed via 10,000 CDs and a website.

He has continued to collaborate with classical musicians – Michael Nyman for Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, Musique Nouvelles in Belgium for their 'Play Along' collaborative string quartet, and opera singer Patricia Rozario for a new untitled work in 2007.

From 1994–2000, he set up and "curated" The Electronic Lounge music club at London's ICA, where these monthly sessions presented nights of music in a social environment. Nights included presentations with the record companies Warp Records, Irdial, Ninja Tune, Touch, Mego, Leaf Records and many others.

Working with choreographer Wayne McGregor, he created Nemesis for Random Dance in 2002, Detritus for Ballet Rambert in 2003, and Qualia for the Royal Ballet in 2004. He continues to work with dance, with new works for Shobana Jeyasingh and Siobhan Davies in 2007. In 2006 he created the sound for Merce Cunningham's E:vent at London's Barbican theatre.

In 2006, he created Night Haunts, a monthly online artwork, working with writer Sukhdev Sandhu and designers Mind Unit. He sound-designed Aitan Errusi's new British horror film Reverb. In 2007 he soundtracked British filmmaker Steve McQueen's film installation Gravesend, at the 52nd Venice Biennial.

In 2008, he was President of Honour at the Qwartz Music Awards in Paris, and scored the musical comedy Kirikou & Karaba in Paris, which was later released on DVD (EMI). He premiered his six-hour performance show, Of Air and Eye at the Royal Opera House London in late 2008, and sound-designed the new Philips Wake-Up Light with Philips Electronics in NL, a lamp to wake you up with natural light and sound.

In 2009, he showed Atlantida, an HD film installation at the Canary Islands Biennial, created in collaboration with filmmaker Olga Mink. In the summer of 2009 he composed the soundtrack to the opening ceremony of the World Swimming Championships in Rome, broadcast in 164 countries, and soundtracked the new Samburg Corby telephone campaign in Italy.

In 2005, he was a contributing curator 'J’en rêve' at Fondation Cartier Paris, and in 2006, jointly curated the video art exhibition 'Mobile' at Espace Landowski Paris.

His BBC radio production of Jean Cocteau's The Human Voice won the Prix Marulic Award and recently, he won First Prize Neptun Water Prize for his installation Wishing Well in Austria, in collaboration with Austrian artist Katarina Matiasek. In 1998, he became 'Professor Scanner' at John Moores University in Liverpool. In 2009 he became Visiting Professor at University College Falmouth UK, and Visiting Professor at Le Fresnoy National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Tourcoing France.

He has collaborated with Harald Bode (posthumously).[4]

He contributed a chapter to Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (The MIT Press, 2008) edited by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky. In 2010 Rimbaud working with The Post Modern Jazz Quartet on Blink of an Eye with a very subtle touch, embedding his sounds into those of the New York jazz ensemble seamlessly as critics observed.[5]

In 2013, Rimbaud dueted with Alexandra Strunin on the song "Robot" from her EP called Stranger released on 29 October 2013.

In 2015, Rimbaud collaborated with textile designer Ismini Samanidou on the "Weave Waves" project for the Sound Matters exhibition produced by the UK Crafts Council with David Toop. "Weave Waves" comprises two textile pieces whose patterns encode recordings of the artists' breathing (the larger piece) and ambient city sounds from London and Manchester (the smaller piece).

Political views

In December 2019, along with 42 other leading cultural figures, Rimbaud signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership in the 2019 general election. The letter stated that "Labour's election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few."[6][7]


Albums (as Robin Rimbaud)

  • Sub Rosa Live Sessions (Sub Rosa, 1996)
  • The Garden Is Full of Metal (Homage To Derek Jarman) (Sub Rosa, 1997)

Albums (as Scanner)

  • Colofon & compendium 1991-1994 (Sub Rosa, 1997)
  • Pelican City vs. Scanner EP (2002)


Further reading

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