DJ Tennis is a man of many talents. He is a DJ, producer, label owner, chef, former promoter, tour manager and trained computer programmer. At 46, the man has seen it all, but still has the hunger of his 18-year-old counterparts. He released a brand new DJ-Kicks compilation today that features 31 studiously selected tracks over 2 CDs. We caught up with Tennis to discuss the new compilation, life after Djing (hint it is coming sooner than you think), some of his homemade recipes he recommends for a romantic date and much more.
The DJ-Kicks compilation was not an easy feat to put together for the former promoter who gets his name from the club he used to work at. The first CD is a collection of songs that have influenced him over the years. These are slower, more ambient tracks that got him into electronic music.
The second CD is what he is liking now – what the dancefloor wants to hear. It is more upbeat with a mix of house, techno and disco scattered together over an hour. It is closer to what you would normally hear from Tennis during a DJ set, though there are occasions when he might play songs that reflect what he mixes in the first CD.
Speaking to Tennis on Wednesday, he goes into more detail about the CDs, how he chose the songs and reveals there were a lot of tracks he couldn’t select because of label and other business reasons. Stream the compilation and pick up a copy here.
MM: Before we get started, who do you have winning Wimbledon?
DJ Tennis: I am a big fan of Federer, but he is old now.
MM: Since we are here talking about the DJ-Kicks compilation, how did you pick the songs in the mix?
Tennis: First, instead of doing a compilation that just includes music of the moment, I wanted to dig into my past. So the music that got me into electronic music. I grew up with indie, punk rock, post-punk and hardcore. I also used to tour manage some bands, selling records and merch. The first artists that got really interested in electronic music were people like Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, all the people from Schematic. This was my approach to electronic music – brain-dance I would say. I was going to raves in Italy and listening to this music.
The first titles that came to mind were all this kind of music because instead of focusing on the music that is trendy or new that I like to play now, I focused on the music that helped me grow.
MM: Were there songs on there that you wanted to include, but couldn’t?
Tennis: Yes, a lot. Laurie Anderson “O Superman.” Godspeed You! Black Emperor “Dead Flag Blues,” Belle & Sebastian, Gary Newman and “Crying Dub” from Grace Jones. There is a lot because I wanted to start more indie but unfortunately the indie rock bands have their songs signed to major labels or in the case of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, they don’t want to have affiliation with any compilations. The major labels don’t allow you to do compilations because of territory policy and stuff like that. That was a failed attempt and my first approach. I realized I could only go through the underground labels.
MM: How did you pick some of the songs to do Tennis edits of?
Tennis: I did the version of some of the songs by Pole or Frank Bretschneider because they are the versions I actually play. DJ-Kicks asked the artists if I could work on the songs and they said yes, so I was very happy.
MM: How would you compare the compilation to a DJ Tennis set?
Tennis: The first CD is very ambient and IDM. It is very different from what I normally do live, but sometimes I do sets like that when I have the right space and the right context and the right people. When it isn’t a dancefloor situation. The second CD is closer to what I do live. It is a mix of disco, house and techno. That is pretty much what I do.
MM: What is your favorite DJ-Kicks compilation?
Tennis: I like the Erlend Øye one from Kings of Convenience. From the recent ones, I the Moodymann one.
MM: What is the main difference between what you did as a tour manager and your TM now?
Tennis: When I was a tour manager, I was tour-managing bands. It was a more complex thing. It can be 4,5 sometimes 9 people driving from one place to another. That is drastically different from me, even if I don’t normally use a tour manager. If I had a tour manager, I fly five, six times a week and make sure the equipment has arrived. DJs want a tour manager now because they are tired and they travel a lot and they need somebody to makes easier.
In the old school sense of tour managing, it was selling t-shirts, driving sometimes and go do the payment deal. Nowadays nobody pays in cash, but back then you had to count the money while the band was sleeping. Sometimes you had to do the sound because the sound engineer wasn’t good or in case the band didn’t have a sound engineer.
MM: As a label owner, what is one thing you know now that you wish you back when you started it?
Tennis: I started the label with no experience. I got the experience by asking for help from friends. One person that helped me a lot at the time was Jon Berry at Kompakt. He introduced me the electronic music label world. I learned a lot about timing -- the fact that you have to have good timing when you release your records. Another thing that is important for me is that you can’t release the same music one after the each. But I never did that because I have been a bit slow, lazy and picky.
One other thing that is very important is to not focus on one genre. That can pigeonhole the label. Experience taught me that being eclectic you might give up some tracks that are strong on the Beatport charts, but in the long term that doesn’t pay. So it is important to keep quality and longevity of the label as much as you can.
MM: You have done a lot of things in music and outside of music. Do you see yourself being and DJ and producer for the rest of your career or do you see other avenues you wish to pursue.
Tennis: Well, I am 46, so being a DJ for the rest of my career – no. I don’t give myself a limit, but I think in 10 ten years I will probably be tired of it, or even earlier. I definitely want to focus on producing because what I learned being an electronic music producer and DJ is to produce music better. I learned a lot in the past six, seven years. I didn’t have much experience producing dancefloor music, but I had experience producing soundtracks and different kinds of music.
What I want to do is keep on being a producer. Maybe produce bands and other projects. Some of my reference points are James Murphy or Phillippe Zdar from Cassius. They are DJs, they have a band, but they are also very good producers for other people.
MM: You are chef. What is the signature DJ Tennis dish to cook on a romantic date?
DJ Tennis: Cooking for other people is already a great gesture and romantic on its own. I have some signature dishes that use to impress my guests. One is a watermelon jelly. It is with pure watermelon juice that you squeeze, chocolate chips, cinnamon and jasmine flowers.
Another thing is my signature pesto pasta, which is hand cut fresh basil, pine nuts, roasted almonds, potatoes, pecorino cheese and green beans. It is something that people really like; it is very simple, very Italian, but also very tasty. Not people know how real, fresh pesto tastes. Everybody is impressed by it. The canned pesto is bad. I really like to do a slow cooked lamb shank. I do a sort of tapas with it.