No Looking Back
Now 39, Danish born Trentemøller’s sounds have finally caught up with his look.
Early on he made blistering minimal techno, but the years since have seen him slowly transform into much more of a songsmith who loves a massive guitar lick as much as he does The Fall.
It has made for a fairly distinct evolutionary path that has taken in three distinct but connected studio albums and myriad live shows all around the globe. After last year’s Early Worx compilation, he now has a new album out that is another fine and absorbing full length proposition. He plays Oval Space on 3 October for Avant Garde so we caught up with him to find out more about his incoming projects.
Last year was extremely busy for you with the release of Lost Reworks and your second US tour. How was the tour and did you form any new musical alliances?
Yes, it was our second US tour last year, and it was fantastic. I really love touring with my band. Its such a privilege to be able to travel the world and t at the same time playing your music for people. I made good friends with Jehnny Beth from Savages and their producer Johnny Hostile who also warmed up for us on some of our European shows last year. So talented and nice people! In fact this year Savages asked me to mix their next studio album and since I’m a huge Savages fan I of course said yes. I have finished mixing that album some months ago.
What made you want to revisit your own work and release a remix album?
I always think, after some time , it’s fun to see where I can take some of the songs further. It’s a bit the same process as playing the songs live with the band. We try out different ways of playing the music and because I use a lot of time trying to write strong melodies it’s actually quite easy to play the songs in very different modes and vibes.. So I did the same thing with the remix album, tried to see where the music would take me and often the songs turned out very different from the originnals and that was of course also the whole plan .
You are a man open to very many ideas and methods. Is that a search for something or is it more out of curiosity and interest?
I don’t really see it that way. It’s very much the music I write that kind of ‘demands’ how it should sound. I don’t really think that much in terms of boxes like.. ‘this is a folk song, so we HAVE to have some acoustic guitars on it’ or ‘this is more a electronic tune so I need some 808’s’
It’s much more about what every song needs, what is the vibe of the tune, the atmosphere. Then I try to follow that vibe.
You wrote the theme for AMC series Halt and Catch Fire, are such projects something that you are looking to explore more?
Not really , my main focus is on my own stuff. In fact AMC asked me to write a theme that was quite close to my track Still On Fire from my last album, because they really loved that tune. Nearly the whole AMC crew went to see our concert when we played in LA and they came backstage after the show and said hello, so that was of course quite big for me. Later when I came back to Denmark they wrote me and told me about this series that takes place in the 80’s and they could hear some of my 80’s influences in that song I think, so they asked me to do the theme.
"In a perfect world there would be no singles."
You have a very fine art/scientific approach to your music exploring concepts like audience participation. Tell us about some of the outcomes from the Come Undone DIY video project?
It was just a simple idea we had during our rehearsals for the last tour. We rehearsed Come Undone in a new version for live and we thought, why not record what every musician is playing and then just give all the recordings to the fans to play with and also this way they had the chanche to actually see what each musician plays live for a whole song.
Would it be fair to say that your single releases are where you do most of your experimentation, especially with more electronic sounds?
No, not at all. It’s the opposite actually, you find the more experimental stuff on my albums. Not so much on the singles. Singles are more for the radio and unfortunately they don’t wanna play an 8 minute long song. I don’t really think in singles when I do my albums. I’m a bit old fashioned and really love the album format and try to do an album as one long journey. Unfortnalely the focus nowadays is much more on the damn singles, because it’s easier for the blogs, people are listening to music on Spotify etc as single tracks, not so much as albums. That’s pretty sad I think. And my music is not very good for singles. In a perfect world there would be no singles if you ask me.
Since The Last Resort that had glimmers of Indie, Rock and Punk elements, your music has evolved in a way where they have become more prominent. What made you return to those sounds of your early days and the setting up of a full live band?
It has always been a part of my music taste, but as I develop myself as an artist I also make music that does not sound the same as it did 10 years ago, I at least hope so [Laughs]. Again, it’s really not something I think that much about, it’s the music that decides how it will sound. Sometimes it’s more electronic sounding, other times it’s more shoe gaze or what ever you call it. The challenge is to make it feel natural and that you actually don’t think in genres when you listen to my music, but you just feel the moods.
Are there any limits to the scope of where you would take your music, within your last album Lost you explore a spectrum that goes from the Folky tones of track The Dream to the more industrial sounding Techno of Hazard, are there any other sounds you plan to explore?
It depends on the song I write, I don’t sit down before an album and think ‘Now I have done a techno track and an indie kind of track — I need to do a jazz song’ That is not how it works for me. Again, fuck the genres and just make some music! That is my mantra! Don’t think too much about it.
You seem to work with a lot of guitar based acts with a twist of 80’s synth like Depeche Mode. What are some of the early influences that attracted you to those sounds?
I’m a BIG fan of The Cure. They are such a huge inspiration to me. Especially the 4 first albums and Disintegration. But also Suicide, Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Cocteau Twins , Joy Division, Ride and Slowdive…The list could go on!
Are you still doing many DJ sets and how does your approach differ to that of your current live sets?
No, very few actually. I only have done around 8 this year, including the London gig. I have decided to not DJ that much anymore and rather play with the band. But I’m really looking forward to this gig. It’s a very different thing compared to playing live with the band. It’s very intimate playing your music live , and DJing is fun but it’s more about getting people to dance and then surprise them at the same time, challenge them a bit without their knowing. It’s two different things basically. I like both, but to me nothing beats playing my own music live with the band!
Remixing is something that you are well known for, the list is immense; from your award winning remix of Moby’s G’, to the Grammy Award nominated remix of Franz Ferdinand’s No You Girls. What is it that you find so important and enjoyable about these re-interpretations?
To explore where I can take a good song! I love doing totally new chord progressions, new baselines, new rhythms and still have the vocals to work with that. Hopefully so it sounds as the most natural thing. It’s fun to do but I say no to a lot of requests because I rather focus on making my own stuff. remixing for me can easily take the same amount of time as it takes to write and produce one of my own songs.
It has been said that you enjoy being in the studio as much as being on stage with the band, how do you balance the two or prioritise one or the other?
It’s actually very easy. I isolate myself for about a year in the studio working on an album, and then after that year I’m pretty ready for actually seeing some people and play the music that I have done by myself! So it’s always a relief to go on tour and have that kick it is to play the music live . Then after 1 or 2 years of touring I really look forward to go back into my cave and write new stuff.
Tell us about the rare vintage gear you have added to your studio, which you have used on recent remixes. What have they added?
I have not done that many remixes lately, but right now I’m working on the next studio album and I have a lot of old synths and outboard gear that I’m using on that. I just bought two stringers (a Hohner String Melody and a Roland RS 202) from the 70s and they sound fantastic. On the new album some of the tunes has these massive string pads and I used the stringers for that. I also bought some old crappy spring reverbs that sounds so dirty and rough..it’s all over the drums and vocals.
Recently you have been mixing down Savages new album, what else are you working on at the moment?
I am 100 % focusing on writing and producing the next album that is what I’m doing all the time right now actually.
You have a solid fan base here in the UK, is it a preferred place to bring your music and what can we expect from your upcoming show at the Oval space on 3 October?
I have not been playing that much in the UK, so of course I really look forward to DJ in London in october. I play a big mess of my own edits, it’s like 95 % of what I play actually.. it’s edits of my own stuff, some electro , indie, arabic , kraut… Blah blah…I just try to put together the ultimate music that would get me on the dance floor. I like to lead the crowd on a danceable journey and mix together music you might not always expect you would dance to.
Why do you think the UK, in particular the London electronic music scene has built up the reputation that it has?
To be honest, I don’t really know that much about the UK electronic music scene, I don’t follow the electronic scene anywhere that much at all in fact. I use so much time and energy on my own music that I rarely have the time to really go into one specific scene or genre geographically. So I’m maybe not the right one to ask about this. But as you could see a lot of my inspirations are actually UK bands from the 80’ and 90’s those ‘gothic’ bands and the whole 90’s indie scene… Wow, so many great bands.
Trentmøller plays Oval Space on 3 October for Avant Garde