"In Copenhagen I’m Mostly Playing for Free Beers"
His American breakout moment came earlier this year when he tore up the 2011 Coachella festival, in a high-intensity electronic set backed by a full live rock band and a visual show that had breathless bloggers and reviewers proclaiming it the festival’s high point. But in Europe Anders Trentemøller has been a figure to contend with on the club scene for quite some time.
Some know him for deep, hard house remixes of the likes of Royksopp’s What Else Is There or his takes on Franz Ferdinand, Moby, Modeselektor and more—sometimes spare and fidgety, sometimes opulent and intense—that have made him one of the continent’s prime remixers. Some know him for his own moody, sparse 2006 album The Last Resort.
Many had their minds blown—whether the 50,000 people in the crowd or many more who’ve watched the video online—by the ultra-high energy and lavish staging, complete with ghostly choreographed armies, wild curtains and glowing parasols, of his “Silver Surfer Ghost Rider Go!” at the 2009 Roskilde festival in his native Denmark.
WATCH “SILVER SURFER GHOST RIDER GO!”
In Copenhagen, where Trentemøller has been a mover and shaker on the local music scene for well over a decade, he’s also known as a rock and roll guy who played in a bunch of bands before “going electronic,” and still likes to relax spinning a casual rock set at one of his favorite local bars.
With his latest album, last year’s Into the Great White Yonder, Trentemøller has cemented his place at a fertile crossroads of rock and club music. It even found a place in the fervid imagination of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, who used “Shades of Marble” in both the trailer and film for his latest, The Skin I Live In.
But Trentemøller’s also got a brand-new collection, Reworked/Remixed, of not only remixes he’s made but also versions of his original songs remixed by others. And despite a crazy worldwide tour schedule in the past couple of years, he’s also made time to try his hand at producing, starting with Copenhagen protegées Darkness Falls.
So who is Trentemøller, anyway? In a long telephone conversation a couple of weeks ago, MTV Iggy’s Siddhartha Mitter discovered an open and thoughtful musician, refreshing himself in the quiet comfort of his Copenhagen base, recovering from his travels and taking a breather before launching into his next album project.
You’ve just ended a huge tour in the United States. Although it seems you’re constantly on tour somewhere.
Yeah, I think we’ve been playing pretty much for the last year and a half. Europe, Australia, back to the States… I must admit I’m a bit exhausted now. But now I’m only going to play two gigs in Copenhagen and then just work on my new album.
You’ve been doing your thing with a lot of success in Europe for some time. But it feels like you are having one of those breakthrough moments in the US right now. The blogs were buzzing about your set at Coachella in particular. Was that set as special for you as it was for the crowd?
It did feel special. For me Coachella has always stood for something special. Many of my favorite bands played there. We were really looking forward to it. We had played San Francisco the night before, and we partied pretty hard after the show, and so at Coachella we got on stage with pretty heavy hangovers. And that was actually good for us, it made us more down to earth, it made us just play our music and not think too much about having 20,000 people waiting for us.
But on the same tour you also played some small clubs. It is weird to go back and forth between intimate rooms and huge festival venues? Do you change your show?
It’s very different. But I like both. When you’re playing in front of a big audience you maybe show off a little more. And maybe you concentrate on the music more in smaller venues—maybe. You do get a much more intimate feeling, you can see the crowd in their eyes, it’s much more personal. But then there’s this massive energy you get from a crowd of 20,000. It gives a fantastic energy to the band. But here in Denmark I sometimes DJ a rock set for a hundred people…
That must feel like family.
Exactly. It’s my way of relaxing. Here in Copenhagen I’m mostly playing for free beers. It’s fun, my friends are there. It’s always important to remember where you came from.
Do you think Americans tend to want something different from their electronic music experience than Europeans do?
I’m maybe not the right one to ask about that, because I feel my connection to electronic music is not very up-to-date! But I remember when I deejayed a few years ago, and I was in the States, it was fun to see that some of the sound from Berlin, this minimal thing, was just arriving, late. In that way, Europe was ahead.
But then you have Detroit, Chicago house, which was a big influence in Germany. So it goes both ways.
In your own work, one is struck by the variety—the different levels of energy, the minimalism and then big maximalist sounds, almost both at the same time.
That’s just how I do music. I’m a big music lover, I listen to classical music, jazz, indie rock… so it’s about trying to define music from my own heart and not one specific style. I think my record label in the beginning found it a little frustrating. But it’s more important that I challenge myself with the music I write.
You’ve been criticized sometimes for seeming to try to do to much, to be all things to all people. Do you ever feel like you’re pulled in too many directions?
I can definitely see that sometimes. But it comes out of this love for so much different music.
So you get bored easily?
Yes and no. I get bored musically when I feel I’m repeating myself. It’s important not to get bored with your own ideas. It should be a playful thing. If I don’t get a kick of adrenaline from a new melody, a new bass line, then it’s no fun for me.