In 2006, Anders Trentemøller established himself as one of the greatest electronic musicians in Europe with The Last Resort, his ground-breaking debut. Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, the multi-instrumentalist producer has been successful on the international scene with his remixes and original work, whose sonic formula is rich, complex and hauntingly beautiful. At the same time, Trentemøller doesn’t get caught up in the stereotype of the brooding Scandinavian artist, as his obscure appetite for remix materials spans the gamut of America’s last four decades in rock and pop music, making his collective sound the ultimate mixtape. His forthcoming album Into the Great Wide Yonder, is a layered soundscape as existentially profound as its title alludes to, dominating the interplay between dark industrial production, melody-rich shadows, and estrangement from reality.
You’re quite the master of contradiction. Some of your work is very dark, industrial, and dubby, but other tunes are very mellow and chill. How do you reconcile these different creative forces in your music?
For me, this has always been a challenge, but music is the best way to work with those connections and moods. To make something beautiful, you need to put something in that surfaces the second time you listen to it. If you sense something more spooky, or if you recognize spooky layers lying underneath, that is something that has always inspired me. It’s hard to just make a happy-go-lucky sound and concentrate on one layer, so it’s always a challenge to mix moods and styles, but it’s something I need to do.
Are there criteria for what you choose to remix?
For the last two years I have only said yes to a small amount of remix requests, because I was pretty sure I didn’t want to end up like a remix artist only, so generally, I was only saying yes to artists who have something special about them. But the most important thing I look for is uniqueness either in the melody or the vocals.
Tell me about the music video for the single, “Sycamore Feeling.” The music is very haunting, and the video carries that through. How did it come to be?
It was made by a Danish video artist named Jesper Just, who has been doing some amazing work in and out of Denmark. I saw his work and was very inspired by the way he creates a Hollywood look but then he mixes the whole gender issue and it’s really interesting. Actually, the way he works with visuals reminded me of David Lynch, that kind of strangeness. He doesn’t normally make music videos, so I just gave him free reign to do whatever he wanted.
Does that visual style reflect your music in any way?
What I like about Lynch is the many layers in his movies, the multiple stories that are going on at the same time. That is what I’m trying to put into my music. Hopefully people will go back to the album and hear that, find small details that weren’t so noticeable on the first listen. When I listen to albums myself, I like discovering new things in the music you didn’t hear upon the first listen, like multiple stories.
Do you find a difference between electronic artists from the States opposed to European ones?
There’s a more clear difference between musicians from Scandinavia because there’s something of a dark, blue, melancholic vibe. If you listen to artists like Sigur Rós, they have this melancholic hue to them. It goes back to folk music, from 200 or 300 years ago. You can hear that special, melancholic vibe, which is actually really beautiful, more than sad, and it still has a dark vibe. It’s in our blood, in our veins, to make music in these tones. You can really feel the dramatic, Nordic nature of their music and the big open places there. Music creates like nothing else can.
What’s your biggest challenge as an electronic musician?
You have to kill your darlings and don’t complicate things too much. You can do so much with a computer and I work a lot on my own. It’s a very lonely process, and finding the right place to stop is very hard to find.
If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be?
If there was a superpower that could transform the music in your head out to a CD right away that would be fun, but maybe a bit boring (laughter). But I would like constant, creative flow.