Since establishing a name for himself with 2010’s Coma Cat, Tensnake, aka Marco Niemerski, has become one of dance music’s most sought-after producers and remixers, lending his magic to artists such as Dua Lipa, Lana Del Rey, London Grammar, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Little Dragon, and Goldfrapp over the years.
He’s just remixed the new single from DRAMA, Don’t Hold Back, which was released at the end of June on Palm Recs, calling on a myriad of musical styles in the process (“When making this remix, my influences ranged from Italo Disco to 90’s trance,” he commented recently), which is very much in keeping with the genre-bending template the German producer has cultivated over the years. You can buy/stream it here.
Last year’s album, L.A., was Tensnake’s second long-player, and in keeping with the times was a somewhat reflective work, again demonstrating the True Romance label head’s versatility as a producer.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi Marco, thanks for talking to us. It’s looking like we may finally be able to put the pandemic behind us soon – how has the past year and a half been for you, personally?
Like for many of us, it has been a wild rollercoaster ride, including many ups and downs. Luckily I was able to squeeze in a lot of music production work in the last 12 months. Financially, this made up for the lack of live touring possibilities.
On an emotional level, I felt quite ok after the first shock, when I realised that we will be in this for a little longer. The lockdown – especially in winter – felt really monotonous and I really missed seeing my friends and family in person. So when everyone was vaccinated I gave everyone the biggest hug.
In hindsight, there were also many positive things, I felt more creative, I looked after myself a lot more, managed to get into a workout routine at home and read many books. It’s not easy to live healthy while you are on the road, heading from gig to gig across the world. So, ultimately, I have to say I don’t think I would want to go back to the old routine really.
You’ve just put out a remix of Drama’s Don’t Hold Back. What are Na’el Shehade and Via Rosa like to work with?
I have been a big fan for years now and also tried to get in touch for a collaboration on my last album, L.A., but unfortunately we could not make it happen in time.
That made me even happier when they asked me if I would be up for a remix. Unfortunately we have not met in person yet. I was going to tour the US in autumn and was hoping to meet them. But I decided to postpone the tour, so hopefully will met them over here in Europe soon.
You have remixed a wide variety of artists over the years, from London Grammar, to Foals, to Lana Del Rey, to Little Dragon. Do you tend to be selective with the artists you choose to remix, and what to you constitutes the ‘art’ of remixing?
I am not selective when it comes to the artist, but definitely selective about the song I am supposed to remix. If I feel I can’t turn it into something that works for me or improve a few things, I won’t do the remix job.
Over the past year, has it been difficult for you to put together dancefloor-oriented music, when the clubs have all been closed?
I am doing this for too many years now to forget how it works within 15 months. It definitely helps to stay creative when you have played a couple of amazing club gigs.
But my music is not entirely limited to the electronic club world, so I did not find it difficult to find inspiration for the remixes I did in the last months.
Last year saw the release of your second album, L.A, which was released during lockdown – which obviously wasn’t part of the plan when you recorded it. Did the fact that the album wasn’t as club focused as your previous work mean that it actually suited the times?
Indeed. I have to say I was very lucky with the timing, and also the fact that I was leaning more towards pop music on the album definitely helped to cut through the tonnes of music that was released during the pandemic.
It’s been said that the album is somewhat autobiographical – a diary of your time living in Los Angeles. In what ways did did the city inspire you? Judging by the mood of the album, there were both highs and lows?
There were definitely ups and downs. I lived in Los Angeles for a couple of years and it was not so easy to get settled while I was also touring. LA is an incredible city in many ways; it’s like a big playground, but it can also be incredibly lonely and tough.
I also had a breakup during my time in LA, which happened during the final production phase of the album. That experience definitely had some effect on certain songs on the album. Ultimately, I decided to move back to Europe and the timing could not have been better.
One of the standout tracks on L.A. was your take on the Pointer Sister’s Automatic, originally released in 1984. Was that track, or period of music, particularly influential on you?
Absolutely. I grew up in the late 80s and was heavily influenced by the record collection of my older brother. It was full of disco and funk, mostly from the US. That sound was very popular in Germany around that time and they also played it on the radio a lot.
When it comes to songwriting, I think the 80s were the best period in time for pop music. Nowadays, a song mostly consists of a hook and a lot of sound design. I don’t mind that, but if you listen to some outstanding songs from the 80s, or even the 60s or 70s, the songwriting is really magical sometimes.
There haven’t been too many releases on True Romance over the past couple of years – are you looking to reposition the label?
There is only a small team working on True Romance and at the moment we are looking at six to eight releases per year. This amount allows us to look after every release and do proper promotion work.
Maybe in future we will expand, but at the moment I don’t have any plans. Brand wise, I don’t think it needs repositioning. We have always been releasing a mix between indie disco and house and will continue to do so.
It’s just over a decade since you broke through with Coma Cat. How would you say your production style has changed in the years since?
I’d say my production skills have got a lot better since I made Coma Cat. I am learning every day and especially the last 12 months I was able to spend a lot of time in the studio. Music production, writing and mixing is a never-ending process and my goal is to get a little better every day.
What sort of dance music scene will emerge once the coronavirus pandemic has fully subsided? Is there anything that you think will have changed, or that you would like to have changed?
Honestly, I don’t think anything will change or be different. Maybe I am too cynical, but you can already see the same names on the lineups and some of them didn’t even stop during the infection peak time.
Ideally, the pandemic will lead to stronger local scenes, also supporting local DJs much more.
[You can buy/stream Tensnake’s remix of Drama’s Don’t Hold Back here]