16-10-2013 | 10.51
Tom Trago is busy these days. On October 21 his third album ‘The Light Fantastic’ will be released on Rush Hour. His agenda is packed, during ADE he will perform live, later an extensive tour will follow. During this interview all that doesn’t show though. We meet at the Lloyd Hotel where Tom has a photo shoot with Gerd Janson, who passes on his resident of the month-status to Tom. Afterwards the two have a chat with Olaf (of Trouw) about conspiracy theories. When Gerd leaves for the airport, Tom and I order a salad and talk for nearly an hour. I’m most curious about why he decided to produce his album in a house in the Dutch countryside, the Veluwe.
"I went to there to get away from the life I live here for a while. Some music makes a lot of sense in clubs and dark holes and I wanted to know if that would still be the case in nature. Whether I would still feel the same need to make certain music. That was the challenge. Also, I wanted to work on something for a limited period of time and make an album with that material, instead of endlessly adding new tracks to the selection. And finally I wanted a reason to switch off my phone for a month."
What was a day like there?
"The first thing I do after waking up is listening to the tracks I made the day before. I’m always curious if they are as good as I thought they were. Because my ears are still fresh in the morning, I can feel the impact of the music really well. Other than that I went hiking or did yoga, sometimes I went to the sauna, and then I just went inside to make music. Often, friends would stay over and cook or go hiking. The friends that came by always had their own things to do, one friend was writing a book for example, so there was a real working atmosphere. In the end, I stayed there for one and a half months because I liked it so much. The last week I spent completely on my own. Without anyone’s influence. Although influences aren’t bad at all, it’s good to be totally alone sometimes.
I cancelled all my bookings, except for one. I jumped in the car, drove to the airport, flew there and back, and went back to the Veluwe. This way of living really appeals to me. Living in the countryside, going to the airport in the weekend, then suddenly you’re playing in some large city. When you’re back you’re surrounded by peace and serene nature again. I always knew I would enjoy that, but it was only after these one and a half months that I really knew: this will be the future."
What kind of music did you listen to there?
"At first I thought, I’ll only listen to Ambient or quiet, beautiful songs. But that wasn’t true at all. Some tracks kept their value or became even stronger in such a weird environment. I noticed that loopy stuff attracted my attention more. But there certainly were tracks that didn’t work in that setting. I had a list with fifty tracks that I thought were really good and I ditched half the tracks on that list. But the other half stayed. I used those tracks as a starting point: why is this track so good? I listened to it a few times and then I just started. The result was completely different from the original, but it came from that idea."
"On that list was a broad selection: Morgan Geist, Jeff Mills, sample-based stuff by Soundstream. But the biggest guide was the warmer Drexciya sound and The Other People Place [one half of Drexciya]. That’s the best stuff. I didn’t spend all my time making that kind of music but it’s what I felt most strongly about after such a time of isolation. That music is lonely and at the same time warm and soulful. With The Other People Place you can almost hear his pain, that’s such a beautiful way of expressing emotions in electronic music. Hopefully I will reach that level someday. You wonder if you have to feel that fucked up, that depressed. It almost seems like it. Too bad! (laughs)
Too bad that really unhappy musicians often rise to really crazy levels. But I think both is possible. You just have to work a little harder. Or put yourself in certain situations where you stop giving a fuck, emotionally, and just do exactly what you want. That’s difficult for everybody, to forget everything around you and let go while you make music. To let go of the context it will be placed in and of the section it will be filed under. Of which friends will like it and which won’t, of which clubs are going to book you and which won’t. You have to let go of all those thoughts in order to make good music. But I think that’s difficult. The house in the woods was a step in that direction."
It’s striking that you recorded a club album in nature.
"That’s because I had decided to make a club record. During the last two years I played in clubs a lot and I wanted to play tracks of my own. But I made lots of other stuff that didn’t make it on the album, that’s for different projects. My last album taught me that, while it’s good to have a lots of inspiration and to make many different things, you need to learn how to structure your output. In order to show people a certain side. That’s why I defined this album quite clearly. But for the new album I got different ideas again."
You will go on a tour and perform live. How is that going to be?
"A lot of live shows are boring to watch. That’s why, together with Meeus van Dis (of Trouw), we’ll add a visual experience to the music. We built an installation that we will take on tour with us, there are three versions, depending on the size of the stage."
"I’m really happy with this tour. Almost all of the clubs I would like to play at are on the list. More or less all the clubs that matter in Europe, XOYO, Panorama Bar, etc. That has always been my dream when I was a child. A tour with a t-shirt, with all the dates and people that come to see you. Without it necessarily being linked to nightlife. That’s still a dream I want to realize. I enjoy playing at night a lot. But I also think it’s cool to have a concert at 10 pm, and when it’s finished, people are leaving again. That way people actually are dedicated to be there for the moment, for you. Because with nightlife, 50% of the people come to the club to drug themselves and have a good time, and there is nothing wrong with that. But it takes the focus off the music a little. And that’s ok. But a tour like that just seems fantastic to me."
Catch Tom Trago live at Trouw this Friday during ADE or coming soon to a club near you!