Unpacking the history of Andreas Tilliander’s immense career is unsnarling the complexity of an artistic identity that has known no bounds. From his eponymous work to his better known Mokira moniker and eventually TM404, there appears to be a limitless horizon to invention in Tilliander’s creative drive. A Swedish native, he’s featured on the country’s big three labels, namely Kontra-Musik, Börft and Skudge as well as Raster-Noton and his own Repeatle records.
A diversely talented figure who is able to move from hard-hitting stripped back Techno to dubby acid records, Tilliander’s work is defined by a brooding atmosphere and an ingenuity that stretches across his monikers. His 2000 album as Mokira, Cliphop on Raster Noton became an instant success and later defined the sound of Mille Plateaux’s glitchy Hip-Hop sound that was eventually branded the “click & cuts” genre.
In recent years his TM404 moniker has garnered the most attention as a sound that carries on the traditions of Techno and House’s origins for its ingenuity and resourcefulness. Exclusively using Roland’s x0x series of machines, Tilliander expedites the legacy of those machines’ influence through TM404 to the present, where he uses them in the same ideology of the founding fathers of Techno and House. He finds new musical dimensions for these 35-year old machines that has created some of the most innovative recordings in recent years, chief amongst them 2016’s Acidub.
Although a DJ too, Tilliander can be found most often playing in the live context, modulating between some of the recorded material while feeding off the impulses of a dance floor. His intricate knowledge of the machines and the primacy of the club floor fuel an explosive performance hinging on elements of Acid, Techno and Dub.
Although for a while, Tilliander “was always in Norway, it has been awhile” since he’s been back and with an upcoming show at Prins Thomas’ Rett i Fletta night we jumped at the opportunity to ask Tilliander a few questions about his machines, the live show and dancing, and called him up on the spur of the moment…
I recently saw you in Tokyo at a Kontra Musik night where you were billed as TM404. Prins Thomas has billed this show as a TM404/Andreas Tilliander performance, but those are quite different projects. What can we actually expect in terms of the performance?
I have no idea really. (Laughs) TM404 started as a project concerned with 80’s and 70’s Roland gear as you well know, and most of the music I put out under that moniker is kind of slow music. It’s rather closer to 100BPM that 125 BPM. The TM404 project was never been anything else other than me having fun in the studio and I had no plans to perform those songs live, but then I got a request to perform at Berghain… I did that show and I played really really slow music, but it still sounded great.
Since then I’ve always been booked to play clubs, like at Unit in Tokyo, where I played a Techno set and I’ve played several times at Tresor, so lately it’s difficult for me to say what is Andreas Tilliander and what is TM404. Especially live, because the records still use the same 80’s 70’s Roland machines, but when I do it live I tend to do it more club music. But on Saturday you won’t be hearing anything around 100BPM at least.
When I saw you in Tokyo you did appear to have some newer equipment on stage.
When I played in Berghain the first time I only brought the Roland stuff, and I’ve done that a few times since too, but when I play as TM404 today newer equipment like the Electron Octatrack is super important to me. That way I am able to bring a lot stems from jams in the studio along with me and then use the TB303 over it live. I have to say it’s live but it’s not as live as it used to be, but then again I guess it’s still more live than most electronic “live” shows out there.
Why do you particularly prefer a live show over a DJ set?
So far I’ve not done any DJ sets as TM404. Sometimes I do get asked to do DJ sets as Andreas Tilliander, but even then I tend to bring my drums and synths along too, because I have no intention to become a DJ. I was always more interested in making music, but I love the DJ culture and although I consider myself a part of it, I don’t consider myself a DJ. When I do get asked to DJ however I tend to do it on the Octatrack, with a couple 303’s and 606’s, doing some lead lines and beats over the top.
There are currently a lot of electronic music producers/DJs packing their records away and taking to the stage in live shows like these.
Yes, I have noticed that a lot of DJs play a lot more experimental music as well, which I really enjoy. Even at Ibiza today you can hear DJs like DVS1 and Marcel Dettmann playing really strange music. DJs like Rødhad are also incorporating effects pedals and hardware into their DJ sets, adding their own elements.
Do you think it might be because the idea of a DJ has become more stilted and perhaps the live show offers more of dynamism that wasn’t there before, especially in Techno?
I’m not really sure. The most important part is the dance floor. I know the old Detroit guys used to say: “the only time we noticed the DJ was when the music stopped”. Apart from that they didn’t care who played in the DJ booth and that’s a great point of view in my opinion when it comes to club music; the DJ isn’t really important. First and foremost it’s the music that counts. I’ve seen pictures of me playing as TM404 and there’s always this circle of,mainly guys standing around me to gawk at what I’m doing.
Would you be one of those guys if the situation were reversed?
Yes, I’m one of those guys that go to clubs to listen to music. I do dance, but in Stockholm for some reason I never dance. If someone I appreciate comes to town I go, but I’m usually standing in the back, listening. If I go to Tresor I might dance, but I sometimes get the impression in Stockholm that people are watching each other rather than getting into the music and dancing.
I get the feeling in Stockholm, from the other artists I’ve interviewed and going there myself, that it might be a kind of a pretentiousness there when it comes to the dance floor.
Yes there is. I often quote the singer from Bob Hund when it comes to that, and he once said that “Stockholm is the only place in the world where the audience is more nervous than the band on stage.” (laughs)
From my point of view it looks like the 303 and the 606 is the integral essence to your live show, and my experience is that those machines are particularly famed for the intuitiveness. Is that why you prefer those machines, to retain that DJ-dancefloor dynamic?
Absolutely, and it’s also the ability to change a lot of stuff while dancing, because when I’m on stage I have to dance and enjoy the music. If I had to bring a laptop and a mouse I’d have to stop dancing. When I use the machines I’m able to do that, tweak the sounds and patterns on the fly. One night can be completely different from the next.
About two years ago an American programmer updated the OS for the 303 and recently I’ve installed this new software on the 303, which is pretty incredible considering the 303 is about 35 years old. For the first time ever, you can actually program the 303 while it’s running, so now I can program melodies while performing. Three years ago this was impossible.
That’s amazing, and especially considering that particular instrument was initially intended as a guitarist’s practise tool and repurposed by the dance community. I was just about to ask you too whether you think that all possibilities have been already explored, but clearly it has not.
No I don’t think so. The 303 is probably the most important instrument for me. There’s very little you can do, but it won’t sound the same every time, because it’s all about the person programming it.
I saw a video of you using a whole bunch of 303’s on their own and it really put into perspective the endless possibilities of that instrument.
For your live show do you start off with the recorded works and modify it for the stage?
I know there is at least one or two from my previous TM404 record that I tend to live. I also did this collaborative work with Echologist from New York recently and I try to do my version of those tracks when I play live, which is a proper Techno 12”. So on Saturday there will be no music at 100 BPM… it will be Techno.
That’s a relief and it’s a long overdue visit, so we’re looking forward to it.
The last time I was in Norway, I played at Echo festival in Bergen, but it’s been a long time I played in Oslo. I was playing with Familjen and we were really popular in Norway because of Tellé Records, so we would come to Norway four times a year, but I haven’t been there for many years, so I’m really looking forward to coming back.