Germany’s TENSNAKE is one of the most exciting house and disco music producers to have emerged from the past few years. His track ‘Coma Cat’ appeared on over 15 compilations the year it was released and also made its way into sets of many of the world’s high profile DJs.
Before his appearance at Terminal Projekt, which will be a part of Vivid Sydney, Tony Kingston caught up with Marco Niemerski, who is better known to the majority of people as TENSNAKE, for a Skype interview session.
Your Australian tour is coming up in June and you’re playing a special live set for Vivid at Sydney Harbour’s Overseas Passenger Terminal. What was your reaction when you found out you were playing in such an amazing location?
I have to admit, the first time I heard about it I wasn’t even aware it was going to be there so I wasn’t that excited. Later when I found out, I thought it would be one of the best places I’ve played so far.
On top of it all, there’s the amazing video mapping. I saw some pictures from last year so I’m very excited about this, especially because I’m going to present some of my new album tracks for the first time to the public. It’s going to be a great place and occasion for doing that. Also, I’m bringing a singer, she’s actually from Australia and she’s on half of the songs on my album so I think it’s going to be very special for her to perform in this location as well.
How’d you both meet?
It’s funny, we have a friend and he’s a producer as well in Berlin. He released on Boys Noize Records and I was looking for a singer. I heard about her and he suggested her, then we met in Hamburg and she came over. She has really good energy and we work really well together. At first I just wanted to do one song and it turned out that she’s on fifty percent of the album!
Had you heard anything about the Vivid festival before you were booked to play this particular gig?
Not too much I have to say, I had to do my homework after I had heard about it. Like I said before, I’m very impressed by the setup and it looks very promising, the whole scenery and creative ideas behind the whole thing.
Over two nights at Terminal Projekt, other artists including dOP, Jimmy Edgar, The Revenge, HNQO and Sepalcure will also be playing. Is there anyone you’re excited to see?
Yes! I’m definitely really excited to see Jimmy Edgar! It’s funny, we’re kind of chasing each other but I’ve never heard him play. Also, you will like dOP because they are doing a really good live show too. I’ve seen them a couple of times now and I think Australian people will love their show.
Apart from the projections at Terminal Projekt, do you plan on checking out any of the other beautiful light displays during your stay in Sydney?
I will definitely do that, yeah! I think it will be the fourth time I’ve come back to Australia. The last time, when I did the Parklife festival tour, I got to see a couple of places and it’s very beautiful to be there. It’s so diverse. You can have really good food but the nature is also amazing. I hope I will get the chance to not only spend some time in the nightlife but also to go and do some sightseeing and stuff like that. The plan is, if I have some time after the festival I want to go to Tasmania.
Are you going to play a show there?
No, I’m not playing. I really want to go there and see the nature and everything. I saw a couple of pictures and for me it’s literally the other side of the world. It’s really exciting. I also want to see some devils. (Laughs).
How’d the Parklife tour go for you last year? Do you have any memories you’d like to share with us?
I think it was very exciting because you’re travelling with all of the other artists the whole time. Literally the whole plane is full of those silly artists, tour managers and staff. It’s like a big school trip. I really enjoyed that I have to say. You make friends with a couple of bands, it’s just really nice and it has a really good vibe. I remember I spent a lot of time with the band Little Dragon and I haven’t seen them since. Maybe next year! (Laughs).
You’re also a bit of an international favourite at Future Classic’s Adult Disco parties. What do you most like about playing at these club nights?
I think the Future Classic guys have really good taste and they are also running this fantastic label. They booked me really early, they were actually the first people to ever book me in Australia. I think they have a really good crowd who know music and every time I’ve played there it has been a really, really good night. I hope I’m going to see the guys.
Your new album is scheduled to be released later this year. Can you give us any hints on what we can expect from it?
You’re going to hear a little bit of it in Australia and I’m going to do three, maybe four tracks live. It’s definitely a step forward I’d say in terms of having a whole pop album. It’s full of vocals and there’s more song structure. There’s also some really nice collaborations on it, there’s Nile Rodgers on it and I worked on a track with Jamie Lidell. I’m really excited about that!
That sounds amazing. How’d you hook up with Nile Rodgers for it?
That was really funny actually. I sent him a message on Facebook and I didn’t expect him to write back. I thought there was going to be some PR agency behind it who’s doing all that work but the man is very humble and he answers all of the questions himself. Literally 10 minutes later, I got a reply and funnily he said he was trying to reach out through a mutual friend, the manager of Felix da Housecat, so that was the beginning! I sent him over some demos for the album and he liked it so we did a recording session and he ended up on two tracks. He’s definitely a legend and one of my heroes.
It seems like he has been pretty busy lately with the whole Daft Punk collaboration as well.
Absolutely. I think they were the first who worked with him. I think he’s just very curious and very open and just likes to work with young people to maybe pass on his knowledge and experience. He’s such a nice guy! I was lucky enough to have dinner with him in Miami just a couple of weeks ago and he has a lot of good stories to tell.
If Daft Punk were the first, does that mean you’re the second to have worked with him like that?
I don’t know actually! I just heard that he has worked with a couple of people. I also read that he worked with Avicii but I haven’t heard anything yet so I don’t know when that will come up. It’s going to be interesting to hear what they did. I would say that while Daft Punk went for the Chic era, I tried to do something that was a bit later in the mid 80s when he produced all of the amazing pop artists. What we did together is also disco but it’s a bit more 80’s pop I’d say.
Along with Terminal Projekt in Sydney, you’re also playing at a new festival called FOR in June, which is being held on an island in Croatia. Do you feel privileged to be able to play at such interesting locations?
Absolutely! It’s the first time so I’m very excited and honoured to be there. I just saw the line up, it’s going to be amazing! I played at The Garden Festival in Croatia a couple of years ago and the whole place is so beautiful. There are so many little islands and the water and everything. It’s definitely a magical place and the right place to have a festival. People will love it there.
I watched a video of you at Social Club in Paris last month and you played an awesome alternative version of ‘Coma Cat’. Even though it is quite an old track now, you seemed to make it sound really fresh. Will we get to hear the same version in Sydney?
Yes, thank you. I’m trying to do that. I stopped playing the original and to keep me excited I’ve started blending in the remix by Round Table Knights, which I think also came out in 2010. I’ve been playing the original for many years now and you have to keep it a little bit exciting for yourself to be motivated. I think a little twist in a track is always good.
I’ve noticed that during your shows you always have a big grin on your face. Do you think it’s important to show your passion and excitement on stage as a performer?
Well, I only show it if I’m really excited and I’m enjoying myself. I can feel the energy coming from the people and I think if the people don’t enjoy it then I don’t enjoy it. I try and give my energy to the people who paid money to get into the club or the festival to have a good time. I’m not playing a trumpet, piano, drums or whatever. I’m just standing there behind a laptop which is not the most exciting thing in the world so all I can do is try to connect with the people.
That seemed to be a really good night because after your set you were still really into it and when DJ Falcon came on you hung around for a bit.
Absolutely! Actually, I had the worst hangover ever the next day so it was definitely a huge party! Also, Falcon and Alan Braxe are heroes of mine and have been in the scene for so many years. I felt very privileged, especially when Falcon dropped ‘Get Lucky’ in Paris. It was pretty special I have to say.
On your Facebook page I see you constantly recommending new music to people by posting what you have ‘on repeat’. Who are some of your favourite dance music producers at the moment?
There are quite a few! I have been liking what has been coming out on DFA again lately. I thought for a while it wasn’t super exciting but I think the last releases were really good. I’m also very much into the Disclosure guys of course. I think they are doing very good quality club music. I just played with Dusky in Italy in Rome last week and they were really, really good. I think in general, in terms of house music I’d say there are some very exciting producers from the UK at the moment. I also love Feel My Bicep, they are great guys.
Terminal Projekt @ Vivid Sydney (Overseas Passenger Terminal)
Saturday June 8
dOP (live), Jimmy Edgar, Sepalcure (live), Simon Caldwell, Morgan and Astral DJs
Sunday June 9
Tensnake (live), HNQO, The Revenge, CO-OP DJs and Sam Roberts
Words by Tony Kingston