Interview: Peter van Hoesen on “Life Performance”

Thanks for chatting with us today. Now, you’ve had a massive career. A career which we couldn’t even begin to address in this short interview. So instead, let’s mostly focus on your upcoming album for Tresor, entitled “Life Performance.” The name is a reference to the fact that this album is a recording of an improved live performance you did at at the Tresor club in July, 2013 for a Time To Express label night. Going into it knowing that you were recording an album, did it affect the way you played to the Tresor attendees? In other words, did you have to balance between playing to that audience, and playing to at-home listeners?

It seems to me that I did not think about the whole project in this way, this dual perception of live situation and home listening. My aim was to play the best possible live set, to present the new material, to work it into something coherent. This coherence relates to the people who were there as well as the people who buy the album. I hope the whole thing comes off as coherent in both regards. There was not a great deal of philosophy involved. I wanted to do a live album because I felt like it. That’s all I can say.

Did the audience know you were recording the set for an album? If so, do you think this generated some extra energy in the room?

No, the audience was not aware of it. But I could not have wished for a better crowd that night, the vibe was amazing. It really helped me to get the best of this situation.

In a similar vein, I’m curious to hear if the actual sound system present at Tresor affected the way you played that night. In my memory, it’s a very bass-heavy system in a concrete, low-ceilinged space. The sound is thunderous, to say the least. Do you think your perception of the sound in that space influenced the final product?

Definitely, I usually play a bit harder in Tresor. The environment invites you to do just that. If I compare the final recording with the recordings of the rehearsals I think the album is definitely a bit rougher. That’s the Tresor influence right there.

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So, let’s talk about the one obvious question that people are always hesitant to ask. You were improvising live and turning it into an album that thousands of people will listen to – what if you messed up? Was that a thought that you had going into the performance, and if so, how did you address the possibility?

That was a very real possibility, and I tried addressing this as much as possible by preparing and rehearsing. Marco Freivogel – who took care of the live recording – and myself tested the setup extensively beforehand. So technically everything was planned ahead as much as possible. I did lose a machine halfway through the set, it drifted out of sync, but in the end that was not so much of a problem. The other thing is, if I would have played a mediocre set I would not have released this. We were well aware of this, it was part of the situation. Obviously the label and myself were all very happy that it turned out OK. I think the rehearsals really made the difference.

One thing I think about when albums are recorded live is how the mood of the artist and the audience on that particular night leave an imprint on the album. As opposed to a traditional album, recorded over many days or months, the live album really captures a moment in time. When you think back to that night back in July when you recorded the album, what are some of the memories or images that are conjured? What do you hope this album can communicate about that night at Tresor?

The physical intensity that a good solid hour of live techno can provide to a dancefloor, combined with a slight psychedelic touch. That’s what it’s about for me.

Let’s talk about the time after the performance. What sort of processing or editing was done to the recording afterwards? I’d assume some basic mastering like EQ’ing and compression, but what else?

A lof of EQ’ing and compression, indeed. I spent a couple of days with the stems in the studio, making sure the balance was right. There are no overdubs or anything. Stefan Betke mastered the recording, and I think he contributed a great deal in making sure it sounds as good as it can get.

Obviously, the tracks on the album all flow into one another. But this can affect DJ playability later on when it is released. Since DJs make up a huge portion of the market, do you worry that this could affect album sales? Are there any plans to release extended mixes of any tracks from the album?

Yes, there will be a seperate 12″ with three tracks, studio versions of the live takes. I received the masters last week, so it should be out fairly soon on Tresor.

Will there be an album tour? If so, do you think you will try to replicate tracks from the album during future live performances, or begin with a relatively clean slate each time?

Some loops and patterns will definitely be re-used. I’ve already played a couple of live shows since the Tresor date, and those shows were different from the album. I’ve also changed the machine setup a bit, so it’s definitely mutating. That’s the idea behind it, to keep it fresh and interesting.

Let’s end with the same question we always do. Which up-and-coming artists and labels are you excited about right now?

I’m very happy there’s a new Autechre release out this month, that’s always good news. As for upcoming artists, I don’t really know, there are so many people out there making fresh and interesting music that I don’t really feel it’s up to me to say who’s hot and who’s not.