Interview | Trentemoller

Interview | Trentemøller

Denmark's techno-rock export is perfectly happy
leaving his club roots behind.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Anders Trentemøller is not short on artistic vision. Each of his three albums since 2006 have felt like a giant leap musically from his early, lush techno output as much as they have from each other. At the same time, each has this undeniable Trentemøller sound to it: rich, dense, emotional, melancholy—music rooted in techno that clearly has a social life beyond the dance floor. 

The evolution in Trentemøller's oeuvre is largely toward a band setting. Synths now share equal space with guitars and you're as likely to hear a drum machine as live drumming. The freedom this has afforded the soft-spoken musician and producer is undeniable. His catalogue has opened up with a diversity that makes surf rock tremolo as likely as driving dance beats. 

Speaking with Anders over Skype not long ago while he was home in Copenhagen on a break from touring, he won't deny there's no turning back. And why should he? Hearing songs like "Still On Fire," which we talked about at length, it's clear that this is the techno he always wanted to be making. Now, he's making as much and more by composing eerie ballads, twinkly pop and, as he likes to refer to it, noisy guitar music.

Here's the man himself to tell you about it in his own words.

I originally had the opportunity to interview you back in 2011. It was the first time you brought the band to the US, and we were talking about how it was an interesting transition. People were still getting used to you going from your moody techno stuff to your moody guitar stuff. Has that changed at all since then? 
In 2010 or 2011 it was still hard for some people because they maybe didn’t know my studio albums and were only familiar with my singles that were more clubby in sound. In the beginning when we were touring as a band it was difficult because some people in the crowd were always expecting something other than what was actually on my albums. Now, after playing a lot of shows and doing more albums it is much easier to go out and play live because people know what the sound is about. Also, when we are playing live there are definitely clubby, not real techno, but electronic elements to the music still, so that helps. 

What about for you, are you finding that this is your musical sweet spot? 
Now, all doors are open because my sound isn’t one specific style. It is much more the Trentemoller sound and that can be quite a lot of things—always with my special touch on it. On the latest album there are these noisy guitars but also the synths and also the electronic things melding together well, hopefully. It is really nice to have this new platform for my music. 

Your new album, Lost, blended these worlds perfectly moving from tracks like “Come Undone” to something that’s more driving like “Still On Fire.” Do you think you’ve struck the balance? 
That is always the challenge when doing an album. I had a lot of ideas and even tunes that didn’t fit this album because they were either too noisy or just didn’t fit into the story that I wanted to tell, something that was organic and had a natural flow. One of the other challenges was that I was using five or six different vocalists and I didn’t want this to be a feature album. It should still be a personal Trentemoller album. So the challenge was to make these songs that have different vocalists fit in with the instrumental songs. 

I brought up the track “Still on Fire.” Is there a story behind how it got licensed as the theme song to the AMC show Halt and Catch Fire
Yeah, actually the guys behind the show, they came to our concert when we played in LA two years ago. They were totally into the music and came up to me back stage and told me about how they were working on this new series and wanted to use some of my music. I didn’t hear from them for more than a year until I got an email that they wanted me to do the title song. They asked for something pretty similar to “Still On Fire” so I took that song and changed a little bit of the melody and the beats and made it into this 30 seconds of music and they were really happy with it. 

Have you seen the show? 
Yeah I really loved it. I’ve seen the whole first season and have heard their working on the second so hopefully that goes through and that they still use my music. 

You talked about the difficulties of getting all the different vocalists on Lost to work as cohesive elements of the Trentemoller sound. How does that dynamic change when you head on tour and don’t have all those different vocalists with you? 
That was a challenge that I worked on with Marie Fisker. She sings one of the songs on the album, “Candy Tongue,” and she’s such a fantastic talent for understanding music. We sat down with an acoustic guitar and me on the piano and found the fundamental parts of each song, what was the melody about, how about the chorus and how could we make each of those sounds Marie’s sounds. So it was almost like doing cover versions of my own songs because I really didn’t want Marie to copy what the other vocalists did. That wouldn’t fit her or the songs. 

That sounds like an interesting part of the creative process that people probably don’t really think about—getting ready to go on tour. 
For me, doing an album is a very lonely process. I’m sitting in the studio for 12 or 14 months and I’m pretty shy about playing the music that I write, even for my girlfriend or friends. So it’s very nice for me to meet up with the band and try to tell them my vision for the music and also hear their feedback. I’m trying to make Trentemoller live have a band feeling. That is why some of the songs we play live sound quite different then they do on the album. It’s boring to me to hear bands when they play exactly the same as you can hear on the album. We always try to take the music somewhere different for the live stage. 

With all this focus on the band, do you ever miss doing more club-oriented events or deejaying? 
For me, my heart really lies in playing my own music live. Playing as a DJ is quite fun, but it’s also about playing other people’s music along with my own and I don’t feel there’s the same openness and space for also doing stuff that is not dance oriented. I really love when we are playing a concert that there is something you can dance to and also go the other way and be much more demanding for the listener. Being a DJ is much more about making the dancefloor work and that is fun but it’s much more giving for me to play my own music with my friends. Doing that live gives me much more than standing alone with my CDs. 

What about producing? Your most recent release Lost Reworks gave you the opportunity to put on the dance music hat and do more of your techno style stuff. 
For me, doing the reworks EP gave me the opportunity to see where some of my songs could go in a more clubby way. That is always fun and interesting if a song is strong enough to take it in an entirely new direction than it was originally intended. It was fun for me to remix my own stuff, but it was also great to hear some of my heroes doing their versions of my music. That was the whole point of this EP, to see if these songs could have a whole new life from the album. 

Were you able to hand pick the artists that remixed your work? 
Yes, definitely. They are all people I know. For example, this Swedish singer Jenny Wilson, she was asking me if she could do a cover of one of my songs to use live for her own show. That was the start for me to think about how other artists could remix my stuff. Typical of me, I couldn’t resist the chance to work with my own stuff as well.


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