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No Boundaries

May 03, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Speaking in a cheerful lilt worlds away from his darker-than-thou stage presence, Anders Trentemøller is desperately trying to make himself understood against a tin-can quality, transatlantic phone connection. Unflappable, even in a state of pre-coffee, post-tour jet lag, the Danish musician/producer seems altogether pleased to discuss his David Lynch-worthy sophomore release Into the Great Wide Yonder, the divide between the dancefloor and the cinema, and add his two cents on that mysterious quality American journalists love to call “Scandinavian Melancholy.”

Laura Studarus: Are you in Copenhagen right now?

Anders Trentemøller: Yes I am. I just got back one day ago actually. It’s really difficult to go to the states from Denmark because of the big time difference. I have to make coffee.

When I saw your set at SXSW, I was a bit surprised to find out you were a musician in addition to being a DJ. Is this a common misconception?

My background is in writing and playing music. But I think because the first album of music I released [2006’s The Last Resort] was a bit more clubby, a lot of people felt I was a DJ. Still, when I go out and play everything, people are still a little surprised that I’m not DJ, that I’m actually playing instruments.

Did you grow up playing instruments?

I started with piano and drums when I was five years old. Music has always been a very big part of my life. It has always been my passion. I can remember when I was 10 years old I was writing my first music because we had this school play. I wrote music for that special play, and that was the first time that I found out that it was something that I was really good at. From then on I was really into music and hoping that one day I could be a musician or do something with music. So yeah, it has always meant a lot.

When I describe your music to people, I tend to use the word “cinematic.” Are you a film fan?

I am. Many people ask me this, and of course I like soundtrack-based music. Maybe because I don’t sing very well, most of my music is instrumental music—and that gives people a lot of space to create their own pictures and own vibes. I think that’s what’s very beautiful about instrumental music—that it really has cinematic qualities. It also makes it more global, that there aren’t lyrics to dictate how to feel about this and that track. Music has no boundaries, especially without lyrics. That has also been a very big part of my sound. With my latest album Into the Great Wide Yonder I also worked with a vocalist. That’s a new area for me—to try to work with a vocalist. It’s a new sound to add to my music.

It’s interesting how you’ve taken a genre that in a lot of people’s minds is associated with the dance/club world and taken it in a completely different direction.

Yeah! For me it was quite a natural development from the first album to my latest album. I missed something about playing instruments. That is where I came from. The first album was much more pure and electronic sounding, even though I also used bass and guitars and some drums. This album I worked much more with the whole ensemble to create and develop things and to try and incorporate that into my sound. There’s still an electronic feel, but it became much more organic and warm in the sound. I think some electronic music seems to be a bit too soft for my taste. And a bit too repeating of itself. There are certain things you can do with electronic music and some things that you just don’t do. I like to make music that I love and want to listen to. So I try to mix things into one specific sound. It’s not something that I really planned, but it was something that just happened on this album.

So with that mix in place, how would you describe the emotional content of Into the Great Wide Yonder?

It’s quite hard to describe your own music, I think! But looking back I think this album ended up sounding quite dramatic, in a way. It was just something that happened. It’s really got this epic sound. I wanted to explore how to put more layers into the music. What I really love when I listen to the album is the fact that I can go back four or six times and experience new details and new things in the music.

Do you feel like the emotions of your music could have been expressed through a different musical style?

I think the main emotion or theme is melancholy. And maybe it’s quite melodic in a way. It’s quite similar to other acts from Scandinavia—from Fever Ray to Sigur Rós. They all have melancholic vibes. It’s something in our shared lives and backgrounds—maybe because it’s shitty weather and always rains. I don’t know! I think this melancholic vibe is very fundamental to me. If I could achieve that vibe through other sounds—well, it’s not so much about sounds, it’s about how we put the chords together and develop them. Yeah, it’s basically melancholy. I could have made an acoustic album, but somehow it ended up quite full in its sound! Very epic sounding.

It’s interesting that you mention the idea of “Scandinavian Melancholy.” I think it’s something that gets talked about, but never completely defined.

If you’re listening to pop music from Sweden or Denmark or Norway, there’s this same vibe of longing, it’s a little bit more dark. It’s basically something that lives in our blood, especially in Denmark and Sweden. We’ve tried to find our own sound, and maybe that’s what people can hear now. It’s can be very interesting, especially in Denmark where there are artists trying to sound like Nirvana or Blur! People now are trying to find their own sound, which makes [melancholy] more personal in a way.

With all the musical shape-shifting that you do, how do you hope that your musical project will one day be remembered?

It’s a big question. For me I hope that people will remember my music! I always try to challenge myself in not doing the same album twice; otherwise I’d get very bored. I’m always trying to make music from the heart and see where the music takes me. It’s always been a little bit hard for me to get the music out, because [people] like to put things in boxes. I was electronic, but in the new album there are indie rock elements. People have to figure out what kind of music it is. For me music is a good way to describe how I feel. Often music is just therapy for me!



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As everybody, I firstly thought, that Trentemøller is a DJ and then I was very surprised. He’s very extraordinary person with interesting biography.