Challenging the Purists – Trentemøller Interview

Trentemøller

Trentemøller

Gigwise, April 2008

The sweat is still fresh on the walls when Anders Trentemøller sits down for a chat after an astonishing show at the London Forum.  Looking down at the now empty stage from our place on the balcony, a scene where earlier his live band had literally ripped up the dance music rule book and partied with 1,000 indie and electro kids, the Danish musician is modest about the furore he has just caused. “There was a good energy tonight. This is our last day on a big tour around the world, so I think we really gave it that bit extra.”

The truth is that tonight’s set confirmed Trentemøller as one of the most exciting and compelling live artists in electronic music. Anders already has the dance world sewn up. The Last Resort’, his acclaimed debut album from 2006, is a masterpiece of minimal techno, lush ambient and filthy electronica.  Last year he not only issued ‘the Trentemøller Chronicles’, a collection of rare tracks and prized remixes of The Knife, Robyn, Moby and Royksopp, but in ‘Moan‘, a slice of oozing minimalism and Massive Attack-style melancholy, gave us one of the finest ever dance tracks. Preferring the raw, organic experience of a gig and avoiding relying on a simple laptop, Anders had always played his material live. But then last year he finally fulfilled his vision of recreating the depth and texture of ‘the Last Resort’ on stage.

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“At the beginning I was quite afraid of bringing it on the road,” he explains. “It was an album I did all on my own and I thought how should I do it live? Just do a lot of laptop and sampler and stuff? But that would be too boring. There was always this kind of rock attitude in the music, so I thought why not play it more live?” Drawing on his musical background of playing in rock bands, Anders recruited two good friends onto bass and drums (that they were famed Danish singer-songwriter Mikael Simpson and renowned fashion designer Henrik Vibskov speaks volumes about the respect Trentemøller carries in his native country).

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“I wanted to have this energy that is in the music and to somehow for it be there also live. I wanted it to be organic, in a way, and warm, and still have this space for making errors and maybe the drums and guitar do something different each night.  It is cool for me not having it too strict because then I would get bored of playing the same set again and again.”

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The result is startling. Trentemøller live takes all that is suggested in his records – the dark brooding analogue and gothic ambience – and heightens it. So the dirty analogue bass of ‘Vamp‘ and ‘Evil Dub‘ is even more bone-crunching filthy, while the minimal soundscapes becomes even richer, bringing in influences of the Cure and Portishead. For a cutting edge designer Vibskov plays some mean drums, perfectly rolling over the minimal beats that Anders releases from the banks of electronics. Simpson meanwhile, is all Peter Hook-cool, doing what all good bassists should do: keeping the bass low, and the sound lower.

Not surprisingly, his decision to give a rock-injection to the live set-up has raised a few eyebrows in the dance world. Anders speaks of the band’s second ever gig, at last year’s Glastonbury Festival. A well-received headline slot in the dance field, complete with baying fans anticipating the gig with shouts of “Trente! Trente!”, he was criticised by some because “we had drums and guitar and we didn’t play much techno.”

The criticism from the genre fascists who simply can’t see his vision and would prefer everyone boxed into their own little musical worlds is nothing new for Anders. Fortunately he’s dedicated and passionate enough to ignore it. “In the beginning there was a lot of DJs saying ‘what is this? This is not techno,'” he explains. “There was a lot of people writing me on MySpace dissing me and saying ‘why are you doing this rock thing?’ and ‘this is not pure techno’. And rock people wrote to me saying ‘what is this? This is not rock!’ There will always be people who don’t get it, who just listen to one type of music all their life.”

Interestingly he tells a story of one his musical inspirations, the new wave punk/electronic band Suicide, who also had a big affect on Primal Scream. “They were beaten up several times because other punks thought it was totally unacceptable that they used electronic instruments.” Punks playing at electro? I ask the electro kid playing with punk if he’s had any similar bother from techno purists. “No, no, no, thankfully!”

It was probably not surprising that the electronic producer who grew up listening to the Smiths and Mazzy Star would one day return to some of these influences for his music. When asked about other artists he rates he doesn’t answer with acclaimed artists from his field like Michael Mayer or Gui Boratto, preferring instead to talk about innovative rock and indie artists using new production methods to blend electronics with their sound. He constantly references Thom Yorke and praises his solo album, ‘Eraser’. “I would love to hear that album live because it really brings together the good singer-songwriting and his voice. The melodies are so unique and then he brings electronic atmospheres and the whole electronic universe together and that melts together just perfect. I think Thom Yorke is doing one of the best jobs using both the rock and electronic world and mixing it together.”

Having already provided acclaimed remixes for Moby and Pet Shop Boys – Neil Tennant is at the Forum tonight for the gig – the newest Trentemøller mix is a song featuring Thom Yorke, Modeselektor’s ‘White Flash’. “It will be out in three weeks I think,” says Anders enthusiastically. “It was a big thing for me doing this remix so I’ve been spending all my time on that.” This should then be followed by a Trentemøller mix of Roxy Music. “Bryan Ferry is going to sing on the next album, which is quite fun. I think it was his management that wrote to me that Bryan wanted me to remix an old Roxy Music track and if I did it for free he wanted to sing on my next album, so I said yeah, that’s a cool deal!”

Anders will also feature on the forthcoming, highly anticipated, Lulu Rouge album, ‘Bless You’. And then there’s the first Trentemøller film score round the corner. Having already drawn upon the drowsy moods of David Lynch and Vangelis’s Bladerunner score in tracks such as ‘the Very Last Resort’,  Anders provides the music for taut, political thriller ‘What No One Knows’, the new film by Dogma member Søren Kragh-Jacobsen.

One collaboration still alludes him though. Anders has been trying to track down his hero, Mazzy Star’s illusive chanteuse Hope Sandoval. The thought of her dessert blues vocals and Trentemøller’s rich production is captivating. Anders believes his new record will be out in a year, so if you have her number you’ll find Anders Trentemøller in Copenhagen taking the next wave of dance music forward, annoying the purists wherever he can.

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