I received a notification on my iPhone regarding the next “A Club Called Rhonda,” event via Facebook. As if that wasn’t good enough, the header read “Tensnake.” It wasn’t long before I received messages in every form regarding the event from friends. It was a week prior already and partygoers were already planning ride situations, many of those who couldn’t attend were proclaiming their jealousy. Twitters and Facebook pages were littered with Tensnake tunes. It seemed that those who were fortunate enough to find out about the party also knew that this wasn’t going to be any ordinary show.
After that experience, I spent all my pocket money buying records—from 1992-1998 I bought every record that came into our local shop.
Tensnake is quite mysterious around this part of the world, but his talents haven’t gone unnoticed. It wasn’t long before A-Trak was charting Tensnake’s “Coma Cat,” which continued to circulate in clubs across the globe. Shortly after the track became everyone’s favorite on Soundcloud, UK’s Defected Records took notice and put out a remix EP, including a #1 Beatport chart topping remix by Round Table Knights followed by an extremely well received remix by Mark Knight. All of his releases there-after were consistently praised; his style paid homage to disco, funk, early 90’s house and even garage. They were emotional, fun, and deep to the tee; while still being able to make you dance your ass off. We aren’t the only ones to take notice of the Tensnake talent; he recently performed at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami as a headliner.
At A Club Called Rhonda’s last party I was finally able to finally see Tensnake perform. After witnessing a line that scaled the entire block, we knew we were in for a treat. We were lead up inside to the second floor of Los Globos. Club attendance quickly soared and things started to get sweaty, and it wasn’t long until the main attraction arrived.
After a night of merrymaking, I got the chance to sit down with Marco Niemerski aka Tensnake following his Rhonda performance.
Lets start with how you became Tensnake. How did you come up with that name? What was the scene like in your hometown?
I grew up in the suburbs of Hamburg where there was nothing to do except listen to music. So the radio was the most exciting thing around me. My older brother was into all the old boogie stuff like D*Train, Shalamar, Aurra etc. I was maybe ten—there it is again! But later I listened to everything. When I was 16, I would drive my Vespa while listening to stuff like The Who and The Specials, the UK sound.
I am always looking out for new music, new sounds and new ideas.
But then I came back to electronic music. Funnily enough, I’m not really a part of the scene in Hamburg. But I was an avid music fan of the scene growing up. There was a legendary early house club called Front that was pretty popular and we went there a lot. This was around 1992. I was totally shocked by something so new—one track I remember being into was Ce Ce Rogers’ “No Love Lost.” Boris Dlugosch was the resident and when he played, he was double tracking and I wanted to do that too! So after that experience, I spent all my pocket money buying records—from 1992-1998 I bought every record that came into our local shop. From there, making music was a natural progression.
How did you start getting into production, was it something that developed organically or something that you intended on doing for a while? Were you involved in other music projects prior to Tensnake?
My first instrument was a drum machine. I got it when I was maybe 16 or 17. I was just playing around with it for a while until I realized that I wanted to add some music. Well, it was while working at a music promotion company called Public Propaganda—who coincidentally promoted pretty much every big dance record in Germany around 2000—that Marco started producing initially. He bought a Yamaha SY85 and a Roland Juno 106 and was just 24 at the time. It was the first step towards something and I tried to recreate the sound I liked—that’s how it always starts.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to focus entirely on it?
I’d always made music but I was never satisfied with the results. Ever the perfectionist, I made music as a mere hobby for several summer seasons. Many years later—six years ago—I started the Mirau label with two friends. The first record “Around The House” was a part of “The Restless” EP, the third Mirau release. I did it in one night and it felt like a lucky strike. After “Coma Cat” became a hit, I took on management in London and haven’t looked back. The single has already been a serious international hit around the world. It’s crossed over into so many worlds and it gives you a good feeling.
Did you have any idea that “Coma Cat” could have taken you this far? Did you feel any pressure when licensing your most popular track to date to a major label like Defected? Were you worried at first?
I honestly wasn’t too worried, I also had a lot of remix offers and was very happy with the results: Azari & III, Goldfrapp, Friendly Fires and then Tensnake Live plus “Something About You” last summer. It’s been a long and amazing ride, and a lot of touring: America, Australia, Asia and across Europe. I'm looking forward to the shows in London, Brighton and Edinburgh that are ahead also.
Your music tends to have a certain sound, but you consistently go in many musical directions, for example your Mark E remix of “Call Me” and Little Dragon’s “Ritual Union” have a much faster pace, while you’re track “Need Your Loving” is slower and groovier, what makes you decide what direction your planning on going?
I don’t plan, but equally I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I was never “nu-disco” and I think my mixes for Little Dragon and Mark E show that. I am always looking out for new music, new sounds and new ideas.
When working on remixes, do you try to work with only certain song you like, or do you just go for whatever? Do you prefer to make original tracks instead?
Most of the music I’ve remixed has been from artists I admire and songs I like, that’s really the best way, that and knowing that you have an idea of where to take the track. Now the point is saying no—we get offered about five remixes a week and the task is to focus on my album!
What does your studio look like? Could you give us a peak inside?
It’s a new studio! Just finished. A peak? You’re welcome to come see it next time you’re in Hamburg!
Were you making tracks before performing as a DJ? Did you have any interest in DJ performance or did that become essential later on? How do you prepare your live set vs. a DJ set?
Most of the time I perform live with an Akai APC40. I am planning to DJ more in the future but for festivals and big club shows, it’s all about the live show.
I was never a fan of the tag or the name. Good music is good music.
And are there any specific tracks or artists that have influenced you from the past? What tracks could you never leave home without?
I always play “Coma Cat.” I always play “Something About You.” And at the moment the remix of Friendly Fires sounds so good in a live environment and I can’t live without that! And my Radiohead remix. But there will be new music and new surprises in the set this summer. Come along and see!
What do you think about the “nu-disco” tag that the media seems to throw on your music among many others? Do you look forward to these genre tags fading away?
I was never a fan of the tag or the name. Good music is good music. Miami was also a good place for this, Soul Clap, Solomun, Tiger and Woods and Brodinski all delivered outstanding sets while I was there.
What current artists do you feel are really making an impact on the music scene right now or just rub you the right way?
With the Beatport charts reflecting a much deeper and groovier sound, what do you think this says about the current dance music community?
I’d say it’s a worldwide community with an acute, active listenership and faster (file!) sharing than ever. If it’s deeper, that’s obviously good. I heard some quite bad music in Miami on the radio. I hope it’s not catching!
Out of all your releases to date, do you have a favorite for any particular reason?
"Around The House" has a new lease of life thanks to DJ T’s edit. My edit of Radiohead (with added pads and FX), always sounds good (but is not coming out!) and my new single “Goddess Of The Night” will be finished by the time you read this. We premiered that with Jeremy Glenn on the first night in Miami at Gavanna’s.
How was your first LA performance? What do you think of Los Angeles? You’ve also played quite a bit of US shows, what do you think of the US scene?
So many questions! LA was great, have been a couple of times already, this one was particularly good as it was a cool crowd in Silverlake for A Club Called Rhonda and I got to play with Oliver $ and Jesse Rose. It was a real music crowd, made me realize again that all the travel is totally worth it. But after New York, Miami and LA, I was ready for a couple of days at home to decompress!
What is your ideal party? No holds barred. And you’ve performed at large mega festivals and intimate settings, which do you prefer?
It depends. I really enjoyed Melt festival last summer, that was a big crowd and I had extra visuals and a few surprise edits that I made for that show. Glastonbury before Soul Clap was fun, except for the mud, which was not so fun. But I enjoyed saying goodbye to the mud and driving back to London in the middle of the night minus all the traffic! For the clubs I prefer a more intimate vibe, like Rhonda.
Is there anything else for us to look forward to that you would like to share?
Yes, my new single “Goddess Of The Night” with Jeremy Glenn is coming soon, look out for that as well as my album which I hope to have finished by the end of the summer, but won't come out before early next year. I’m also playing the opening of We Love at Space, Ibiza on Sunday June 10th if you’re up for some Balearic fun and games.
Thanks Tensnake for your words. And we here at Magnetic hope you all get the opportunity to check him out.