Trentemøller carves his niche
Being unable to pronounce an artist’s name properly, even in an age where so few music-based conversations happen IRL, seemingly negates the fact you’ve been a fan since 2006.
When Trentemøller first appeared, comfortably in the same year as Thom Yorke’s Eraser and Kieran Hebden’s bizarre but wonderful frissons with Steve Reid, thousands of 00s techno kids stumbled over the syllables. But now Anders Trentemøller’s music has gone beyond its initial connotations; transcending the idea that he was ever just another European electronic producer. He proved himself brave and experimental with 2010’s Into the Great Wide Yonder, and then last year’s Lost – a stark homage to both the simplicity of the pop song and the talented vocalists he chose to work with. And now, September will hail the release of a Lost Reworks album, where his songs will once again be revitalised and rejigged into beasts of every genre. All that, and we’re still not quite sure how to say it. Sorry Trentemøller, you deserve better.
So, Lost came out last year, but you’ve been really busy since then. How long ago does the release feel?
We’ve been playing a lot of shows in Europe and the States and we also warmed up for Depeche Mode. So it feels like several years since Lost came out, because we’ve been playing those songs with a full band, very differently compared to how they sound on the album. I’m really looking forward to writing some new music and that is what I’m slowly trying to do when I’m not playing festivals.
So you’re the kind of artist that needs space to really concentrate?
Several times I’ve tried to bring my laptop and do some stuff on the tour bus but it really doesn’t work for me because I just want to hang out with the guys. I really need an isolated space around me to get into the mood and not be confused by other inputs. It’s about locking myself into my studio for 12 to 14 months and really not seeing that many other people. When I’m writing my albums it’s not with a band – it’s just me in my studio alone.
Before you started making music under your own name you were in bands with other people. Is that what made you realise you like writing music to be a solitary experience?
Yeah, that must have been 20 years ago now. That was really fun for me but it was also a struggle because there was so much compromise. I really love working alone. When I present a song to the vocalist I’m working with, it’s nearly complete. I have very clear visions about how the songs should sound and how the melody should be. But it’s also great after all those hours working on my own to have some input and feedback.
There were a lot of collaborations on Lost. What are the pros and cons of working with a Danish vocalist instead of an American one? Do you prefer either?
The funny thing is that with [Danish vocalist] Marie Fisker, all I have to do is knock on her door because we share a studio. So it was easy to go to her and share ideas. But it’s almost the same thing if I send things over the net, to a band like Low for example… all the vocalists I work with actually prefer to work alone and have their own space, because they’re used to working with their own bands and producers. It’s a very intimate thing to try to make music with a person that you don’t know personally.
Were you surprised that there was a mutual respect between you and these artists? Or did you instinctively know that your music had a kinship?
No, I was really honoured and I was jumping around when I got the Low vocals because they sounded so fantastic. It was incredible that our music melded so well together. I was lucky that all the vocalists I asked to sing on Lost said yes. Because all the songs were written especially for their voices, if they had said no I would have been totally lost and would have had to start all over again. I just crossed my fingers and hoped.
Lost has more traditional songs than your previous albums. Do you have any favourite pop artists that have inspired this more melodic stuff you’ve been doing?
The Cure. There are so many layers: simple pop songs with heavy, dark stuff going on. And then there’s new artists like The Soft Moon, who are creating this stuff that sounds like old Joy Division. I grew up in the 80s so those bands were the soundtrack to my teenage years.
So, why release Lost Reworks? Did you just feel the songs had more to give?
It actually started off with the Swedish singer Jenny Wilson, who wanted to do a cover version of Candy Tongue. I was totally blown away by it. I started thinking that it could be fun to pick out some of the songs and give them a new life because the melodies are so strong that they can work in other forms.
Do you leave the remixer to do what they like with the song? Or do you give direction?
It is totally up to the artists. I really respect their approach to music, so I just give them all of the stems and they can do whatever they want. That is only possible if you really trust and love what an artist is doing. In the past I got some remixes that I really didn’t like because they were too close to the original, and I want an artist to take a song and make it totally new. Especially in a tonal way… that they aren’t just adding extra drums or a new bass but they’re trying to make their own songs out of my stuff.
So which remix surprised you the most?
I think the Toydrum remix of Come Undone and the Jenny Wilson one. The Toydrum guys did a much more kind of rock, dirty version of the song. On the album it’s very clean, down-tempo and low key. And they turned it into a sexy, dirty monster.
It is totally filthy.
I was really surprised, and it made me want to do my own remixes of my own songs too. I thought that these songs could have multiple lives when I heard that.
Are you lining anyone up for the next album yet?
Not yet. One of the things that I thought about with this last album was that I didn’t want it to be a ‘featuring’ album. Even if there are five or six vocalists, it was still an aim for me to make it personal and for it have an organic flow. My idea, in the beginning, was to make it totally instrumental, but then in the writing phase the songs started to demand vocals. So I’m quite curious to see what will happen when I start writing again: I don’t yet know if it will be vocal-driven. Maybe the next album will be an instrumental record like my debut.
I think in the hands of anyone less careful, Lost could have been a duets album. But it was very much yours.
And that was my big fear: that it wouldn’t be personal and it would sound like different songs on different albums. But I hope it melded all together and the production felt continuous.
You’re playing Berlin Festival this year. Are you looking forward to it? Do you know the Berlin crowd well?
Yes I’m really looking forward to it. We played over there lots on our last European tour, so it always feels good to play there. People are maybe a little more open-minded. But sometimes they are so used to hearing a lot of different kinds of music that at the beginning of a show you have to convince them. It can be hard to get them really into it. But once you’ve got them, the feedback is great.
I’m going to try and say your name, can you score me?
Trint-eh-meh-leh. How was that?
Ehhhhhhh…. yeah. Maybe seven out of 10?
Damn. Are you used to people saying it wrong?
Yeah. In the UK I’m always ‘Trentmoller’. They even spell it differently, sometimes they put ‘Trent’ as my first name and ‘Moller’ as my last. They also do it in reviews and on posters. Everywhere else people spell it right and say it wrong, but in the UK it’s wrong from the beginning!
I’d like to apologise on behalf of the UK.
No no, that’s fine! Sure, it’s just easier to pronounce that way.
So my friend’s neighbour’s WiFi network is named after you. She’s been trying to guess their password. What do you think it might be?
My own WiFi password is actually ‘Sycamore’ because it was one of the songs from the last album [Sycamore Feeling]. Perhaps she could try that.