Pre-Mutek Q & A with TM404

Tilliander_by_Daniel_Karlsson

photo by Daniel Karlsson

Andreas Tilliander is a man of many names: Mokira, Tilliander, TM404, and Lowfour to name a few.

Inspired by the studio setting and a wide array of machines including the Roland x0x series which fuels the TM404 project, his musical endeavours all share a common thread: deep reverberating basslines and rhythmic oscillations of the dub persuasion.

In anticipation of his TM404 performance at Mutek this year I asked him some questions over email about his musical projects, inspirations, and his love for the x0x instruments.

What is the motivation behind the TM404 project?

The sole motivation really is just my own amusement. I do realize lots of artists have said that before, but this time it’s true. I was playing a lot in a project called Familjen and we were touring every weekend for some years which meant my income was taken care of. This lead me to explore my studio for my own pleasure. I recorded some tunes nighttime using nothing but those thirty year old somewhat shitty roland boxes and I had no master plan, no schedule, no nothing. I had a few cameras in my studio while recording the tunes and three four years ago I started uploading them on Youtube. I got a lot of great feedback and after a year or so, labels started to contact me about releasing that music. I then chose to go for Kontra-Musik, a label I admire and have worked with a lot before. After the CD/LP was released, people started contacting me regarding live sets. Again, this was really nothing that I’d planned whatsoever. I did my first TM404 set at Berghain, Berlin during the CTM Festival and I had too much fun not to do it again.

TM404 feels like an homage to this series of instruments – have they been important to your musical projects over the years?

Yes, that Roland series has been important to my life since my teens. Both as a listener and a producer. When I was sixteen, I could never afford a real TB-303 so I used stuff that sounded somewhat similar. I had the TR-505, TR-707, TR-727 and a EMU Emax that had samples of the 808 and 909. Then the Swedish company Propellerhead released Rebirth which is the world’s first software emulation of the 303/808/909. I used Rebirth a lot on the computer of my art school where I studied. Some years later, I finally made some money off my music and slowly started buying those fantastic instruments.

What do you think about the nostalgia surrounding these instruments and Roland’s recent attempt to re-release the 808?

For techno there simply isn’t a better kick drum than the TR-909. And most of hip hop today still has that deep evil bass drum of the 808. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia or if it’s just the fact that thirty years ago, Roland managed to come up with the coolest sounds. I’m sure the new Roland Aira series is fun, but why would I replace my instruments for something that really isn’t as good? The 303 emulation looks like an iPad BTW, not inspiring for me in any way. I did however buy a MC-303 twenty years ago when Roland got nostalgic about the x0x series for the first time. I even use the, by everyone but me it seems, really hated MC-303 sometimes and I prefer it any day to the new TB-3. Some day I’ll probably buy a MC-909 too. Shitty digital but good fun!

You release music under different names – Tilliander, Mokira, TM404 to name a few – do these allow you to focus on different musical elements that interest you? What are the common threads between them? 

I guess it would be a wise career move to only go by one name and put 100% focus on that project. However, I’m too interested in exploring musical ideas to just stick to one master plan. It’s always been like that. 15 years ago, Mokira got some attention so I had to start making music with a new moniker. It’s like that even today. My follow up to the TM404 album was a Tilliander techno 12″. If you’d listen back to what I’ve been producing for the past fifteen years, I guess dub is the common thread. Be it ambient, techno, acid – there’s always some gritty echoes and lofi reverbs in my productions. Always with a bassline.

What were some of the things that inspired you to start producing music and what do you find inspiring now?

I was very young when I started making music. At first I played the violin and then some friends and I formed a band. But after a while I noticed that I wanted full control, not only to be one piece in a whole. I had older friends that were already producing music who helped me to buy the ”right” equipment. My first synthesizer was a Roland Juno and the next one a SH-1000. Already when I was about sixteen I had a Korg MS-20, an Emax and more or less a full studio. My instruments and my studio is my main inspiration. I get inspired while tweaking a drum machine or some effects. The only time I get inspired while working on a laptop is if that laptop is in a hotel somewhere and I’m in a country I’ve never been to before. So I guess travelling is a huge inspiration for me too.

How do you translate your music from a studio context into a performance environment?

Most of the music I make is done with hardware instruments. I travel with a lot of gear, but of course I can’t bring everything on the road. The Elektron Octatrack is a great sampler so I can bring sounds and loops from, say the ARP 2600 or the Korg Mono/Poly to my sets. And then I have some boxes to tweak while on stage. The TM404 set is based upon some Roland TB-303’s and they are so small that it’s easy to travel with them.

What do you have planned for your Mutek performance?

I’ll arrive a couple of days in advance so my plan is to get inspired while in Montreal and work out what to play then. Again, hotels and music making is the best. To walk around in a city for hours and return to the machines with a bottle of wine and then just jam. Love it! I’m bringing a new analog drum machine that I’ve never used before so I plan to learn how to master it while I’m in Canada.

What are you listening to these days that you find exciting?

I was in China ten days ago and I haven’t really listened to anything since. I got this bad cold and I can’t hear anything in my right ear at the moment. When I’m hearing OK I listen to a lot of things. I’ve had a long period now of listening to music where percussion is the main ingredient. Lots of old African music for instance. And I try to get my hands on everything that Honest Jon’s and PAN put out.

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