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INTERVIEW: Trentemøller
Theo Ploeg , October 24th, 2013 08:35

Ahead of a European tour next month, we talk to the Danish producer about his recent album Lost and straddling the worlds of indie and electronics. Photograph courtesy of Anne Vlaanderen

“We only have one vocalist with us on tour”, says Anders Trentemøller trying to explain how difficult it is to perform his new album live on stage. It sounds like an excuse, which is typical for Trentemøller. The Danish artist is always looking for the best way to do things. In an ideal world he would’ve gone on tour with all the people he worked with on Lost, his third studio album. That’s too expensive, so fellow Dane Marie Fisker sings all the songs. We are backstage at the Pitch dance festival in Amsterdam, early July.

Trentemøller is on tour as Depeche Mode's support act, doing a few early summer festivals in between. Later that day his band rocks the stage, bringing a steaming performance blending techno, new wave, leftfield, ambient and krautrock together. Fisker sings like her life depends on it.

Different as day and night with British duo Disclosure who are performing live, according to the schedule, but are using pre-recorded vocals. A strange situation since Aluna Francis, who sings on Disclosure’s debut album, also performs that day with her own band, AlunaGeorge. Small effort to get her on stage, you would think. But the laws of commercial performing on festivals are difficult ones. If a festivals pays for two chaps with a backing machine, they get two chaps with a backing machine.

It’s a another world for Trentemøller. “I have a very naive way of making music,” he explains. “I don’t think about the music industry at all or about musical history for that matter. Making music is just my passion. I’ve been doing it since I’m four year old and I am intending to do it until I’m 75. I wouldn’t consider my view on music a childish one, I would say I have a playful attitude towards music.”

The success of this debut album The Last Resort in 2006 wasn’t planned at all, nor did the Danish producer think he was onto something. “I was lucky back then. I suddenly became hyped and was pushed in the box 'minimal techno'. I tried to break out for so many years. Personally I also wanted to get away from the hype. I don’t feel comfortable being in the centre.”

Since the early 90s, Anders Trentemøller had played in alternative rock bands. During a visit to London he discovered Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead and made his first steps into dance music with the live house combo Trigbag, featuring Trentemøller alongside DJ T.O.M.. The duo split after three years, after which Trentemøller ended up in a mild depression, letting his instruments catch dust, before slowly recovering. After a handful of 12"s on labels like Naked Music, Out of Orbit, 3rd Floor and Poker Flat, he released The Last Resort. The album came at just the right moment, as the tempo of dance floor music was slowing down, and the mixture of melancholic and deep dub techno, combined with the lightness and slowness of ambient, as featured on the album, became popular.

“I never wanted to make club music,” says Trentemøller, looking back. But he does and was consequently landed with the tags of producer and even DJ. “Truth is, I don’t see myself as part of the electronic music scene. Maybe I’m even more part of the indie scene, although that’s also not quite right.” Trentemøller slowly got used to the feeling of not quite belonging anywhere: he loves the loneliness of his studio, but loves to play live with a band. He doesn’t like dance clubs, but makes music that is played there. He can relate to the aesthetics of indie rock, but, well, he doesn’t feel completely comfortable with it.

His third studio album Lost combines elements of his debut and 2010's Into The Great Wide Yonder, his introverted second album, but there's also something new. The seven minute ‘Trails’ is a bass and groove-fuelled ode to krautrock with a touch of surf sound. ‘Hazed’ (over thirteen minutes long) is his best techno track up to now: raw, edgy, distant and distorted. And while on one hand Trentemøller draws on dub, techno and ambient for the more experimental material, elsewhere there are some real electronic indie pop songs, like single ‘Never Stop Running’ with vocals by The Drums’ Jonny Pierce.

“I wanted to make a more simple album,” says Trentemøller. Instead, Lost contains his most layered and detailed work up to now. “But they are still very basic and I focussed on the melodies. The songs can be played with only guitar or piano. I don’t want to make music that has only a good sound design.”

Playing them live with Fisker as vocalist is the litmus test. The songs had to be deconstructed to match Fisker’s way of singing. “We ended up with, in a way, completely different songs.” ‘Never Stop Running’ is a good example. On stage the song is much faster and rougher, making much of a penetrating bass line. “Bass is so important. I love it. In all of my productions bass plays a central role. Joy Division and New Order are my favourite bands. The role that bass plays in their music is similar to mine. The bass line is often the hook”, he jokes.

Reflecting on the album, Trentemøller says: “Yes, I am influenced by krautrock and bands like Television. I didn’t want to copy them but wanted to incorporate them in my work.”

There has, though, been too much of the former and too little of the latter with Trentemøller's own music, his sonic template proving a popular blueprint for other artists. “I don’t mind. You should look at it in a positive way: I have influenced people,” he says. “But sometimes I hear remixes that sound like a rip-off. That’s too much. People should look for their own sound.”

The availability of all music ever made isn’t helping, he thinks. “Young people now are making too much effort to sound like music that is already out there. That’s understandable, there’s nothing wrong with using bits and pieces of other music or a loop you’ve made in, for instance, Fruity Loops. When it works, it works; you can’t always make music that is brand new. But in the end you want to create your own sound. Chasing your own dream is much more fun than chasing someone else’s.”

Lost is out now via In My Room. Trentemøller begins a European tour at The Forum in London on November 7; for full dates and tickets, head to his website

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