Tensnake‘s L.A. represents a modern approach to album creation, its production process spanning years, genres and continents, resulting in a diverse collection of tracks that cover a lot of ground.
A four year work in progress, bringing everything together was a unique challenge for Tensnake as he traveled on tour and moved from Los Angeles to Germany while trying to create a cohesive album that wouldn’t fall subject to any stylistic limitations. While the concept for L.A. was very loose (“songs I made while I lived in L.A.“) there is no doubt that the city’s influence made an impact in uniting the tracks into one collective story. The ’80s vibe of Los Angeles sets the underlying rhythm of the release, igniting Tensnake’s long-standing passion for pop music, especially from the decade he calls “the golden era of songwriting”. Interested in challenging himself by pursuing the production of electronic pop, L.A. fulfills his desire to continue pushing forward while giving a nod to the music that was the driving force in his past. And now with its upcoming release, Tensnake is poised to move forward to wherever the music takes him next.
How are you feeling now that the official release of L.A. is almost here? What are you most excited about when it comes to sharing the final result of this album?
The most interesting and exciting part is releasing the music itself, to have it finally out there and to see reactions from the fans and how the music does in general. I started working on the demos and original ideas for the album in 2016, so I worked on it for four years.
What is also exciting about having the album out is that the next phase starts, which is creating new music and writing the next album. The long build up to the release itself is finally over and I can dip my toe into new water and work on more music.
How did the idea for L.A. first begin? Was there something specific which inspired the idea to create an album in this particular musical direction and inspiration?
The idea of calling the album L.A. came together very naturally. I would say first it was more a collection of songs that were not necessarily connected, but during the creative process it became obvious that Los Angeles, which was my home for a couple of years, had a very huge influence on the music itself. While my DJ sets are by nature more focused on club music, L.A. is focused on my love for electronic pop music.
What do you think are the keys to transmitting the essence of a place and time through music?
Again, I would say this comes very naturally just by living in one place and absorbing the city itself and its vibe. It totally has an impact on the music. Everything around you influences you, whether it’s the people, the architecture, the food, and even the traffic. For me, Los Angeles has a very nostalgic feel to it. When I came to the city for the first time, I instantly felt like being in a movie from the ’80s. While I do consider my music modern, I think there’s always a little nostalgic feel to it as well. So the city definitely had a huge impact on the creative process of my album.
Was there anything that was particularly challenging for you in the creation of L.A.?
Not in particular for this album, but in general I always feel it’s quite difficult to squeeze all the different music or genres I like into one coherent album that makes sense while you are listening to it. But thanks to streaming, the way we listen to music has changed.
While I do like an album that does feel complete, it’s not as necessary anymore as it used to be. You can have all sorts of different genres on one album. It is more important for me to express myself as an artist rather than worrying too much about how it is received.
That’s interesting to think about — that in this era of streaming music it’s not necessary to have every track in an album fit within the same genre. How did you decide which tracks to include? Are there tracks you worked on during the production of L.A. that didn’t “make the cut”?
Oh absolutely. A lot of tracks did not make it on the album. I usually go with my gut feeling as well as asking some friends I trust with their taste.
For this album the musical concept was very loose: songs I made while I lived in LA. For this reason I’d say the music is much more diverse than on my first album. The funny thing is, my first single (“Automatic”) from L.A. which came out in January this year was originally a track I made for my first album Glow back in 2012 I think. So initially it did not make it on the first album, but made it on the second one.
I never delete tracks or scribbles I worked on. If I lose them it is usually because I was being lazy and did not make a back up and then the computer crashes.
Do you have any favorite stories or moments during the production process of the album? And/or a track that has an extra special meaning to you?
The creative process of this album felt way more chaotic than my last album, and this is probably because I moved around quite a lot during the production process within Los Angeles, and then back to Germany. You can feel it in parts of the recordings. Creating the album in between touring and putting everything together, it was very much a more different process than in the past. But at the same time, it’s also very liberating to just do what you feel is right and to work with different writers and singers on one body of work. So, in one way it was hard to bring it all together, on the other hand it was a very fun process.
How does diversifying your style and working on different genres provide value to you as an artist?
First of all it provides value to me as a creative human being and a producer. I need to be entertained and inspired while working on new music. For the brand of an artist I think it makes more sense to ride a similar style for a while. Some of my fellow artist friends go for the same concept for every remix for example. Every element is the same, even the sounds are almost the same. I think it is smart to do that, because most people don’t like surprises once they decided they like your sound, but I could not do that. Very early in my career I went for Italo (Sally Shapiro), RnB (Little Dragon), Indie Pop (The Embassy) or 2Step (Mark E) and so on. I think that confused many people, because they did not know what to expect next.
So to answer your question, I think diversity is important over the lifetime of an artist, but not so much in a short period of time. But then again, I just do what I like and don’t follow a certain strategy. So thanks to everyone who follows & supports my career to this day.
How important do you think it is to have a “signature sound” that translates regardless of genre? What would you say makes a track definitely “Tensnake”? Do you think this is something which develops naturally over time and experience, or is there something more to it?
I think it is very important to have some sort of signature sound, especially if you are not a singer (which could help hold the sound “together” over the length of an album). In my case I would say it is the chord selection as well as some drum programming that is defining my sound. And also that I am trying to go for some timeless sound that could still sound fresh in a couple of years. But like I mentioned earlier, I try not to repeat myself too much.
What would you say is the biggest difference when it comes to your creative or technical process now than when you first began writing music?
The biggest difference is that nowadays I consciously work on pop songs. When I started producing, I was way more influenced by club music. Back then, the early Tensnake music you could easily play in a club. I would say most songs on the new album might not necessarily work well in a club environment.
And of course because I have been doing this for quite a while now, you do get more confident and efficient with the process of producing and writing. Everything from what should stay in the music, and what parts should be left out, and the overall craft of putting the music together, becomes way easier than it used to be when you’ve been doing it for years.
For me, Los Angeles has a very nostalgic feel to it. When I came to the city for the first time, I instantly felt like being in a movie from the ’80s.
What brought your interest more towards making pop music rather than creating for the club? Was that a conscious choice or a natural evolution?
I love house music, but to be honest, it has not changed much in the last 20 years. Personally I find pop productions much more challenging as a producer and mixing engineer, because you are competing with the best people in the business. On a creative level, adding vocals brings another layer to the song and makes a song or track much more complete. I am not saying instrumental music cannot deliver that, I think I probably listen to instrumental music much more than to full vocal songs, but in general it is more fun and yes, like I said, more challenging to work with.
Plus I am a kid of the ’80s and I grew up with a lot of radio pop and still to this day I believe it was the golden area of songwriting. Nowadays, hooks just need to be as repetitive as possible, the arrangement became way less important than the production itself. So I think this is where my love for pop originally comes from.
What is something that has remained consistent for you as a musician throughout your career?
I would say two things remained consistent. The excitement of starting a new track or song, and the pain of finishing it. Every producer or musician knows this very well, and I think it will probably never change. But I am still amazed about how much joy I get from being in the studio, locking the doors, disconnecting from the world, and creating new music. I think it is a great thing on which to be able to focus your energy.
What are some of the qualities or aspects of a track that are most important to you when it comes to the music you produce?
The first and most important thing is that I do need to like what I’m doing or what I’m working on. I’m not the greatest when it comes to making music for commercial reasons, or not for myself and my own career. You’re not able to express your creativity as much when you’re not making music for yourself first and foremost. I’m very grateful to be able to make the music I want to make. Apart from that I am very open, I do love many different genres. I am also trying to not sound like any trend that is happening out there, I would like to be able to listen to my music in 10 years and think, “This did age quite well!”
Do you like to take breaks between projects or are you ready to start on the next right away?
I don’t necessarily need a break between music projects, but I need a break when I come back from touring. I need some days to get in the right headspace and to get creative. Traveling can sometimes be very exhausting, especially if you play all night and jump on the plane early next morning, it’s not necessarily good for your well-being. I think it’s important to have a clear head in order to be creative.
Do you have a set goal and/or general idea of where you’d like to take your music next?
I think I might come up with a new moniker to release some music which does not fit the Tensnake world at all. I could also imagine working on a live show, which now became a little less relevant due to the pandemic of course. Then I will start working on a new Gemini Rising album very soon (channeling the 80s kid again) and I will also probably start working on a new Tensnake album soon as well as doing some remixes here and there.
TENSNAKE’S L.A. album is out now from True Romance & Armada.