Tekkla is a producer- and DJ-duo from Stockholm, Sweden, consisting of Vincent Borgström and Tobias Cramby. Together, they have been creating music for ten years. Highly influenced by the Swedish music scene, their sound usually lies between minimal and deep house. They’ve just released their latest EP “Waste Away” as a part of The Outlaw Ocean Music Project. All productions are based on the stories told in the bestselling book “The Outlaw Ocean” by Ian Urbina, that is raising awareness on the injustices and corruption happening concerning our oceans. During Tekkla’s time in Melbourne, I got to chat with them about their new release, their production process and the Swedish night life.
LNJ: Congratulations on your newest EP-release “Waste Away”! The music that you’ve created for The Outlaw Ocean Music Project sounds quite different to your usual dreamy house tracks. Could you tell us more about the project and take us back to the production process and how it all came together?
Thank you! Ian Urbina, the writer of The Outlaw Ocean and the creator of the project reached out to us. He told us about his visions and ideas, and asked us if we wanted to be a part of this innovative collaboration. The whole idea behind the project was to invite artists from all over the world to create music out of real sounds, recorded during Ian’s reporting at sea. To meld journalism with music and reach out to a different audience in an innovative way.
Once we agreed on taking on the project, we read some of the stories in his book. One chapter that really got our attention was Waste Away, where Ian describes how big cruise liners systematically dump large amounts of waste right in the ocean in order to save money. With this in mind, we both agreed on making something that stayed true to the storytelling – and the gravity of the topic – yet we wanted to remain relevant to our original sound as well. We got access to a specific sound archive full of recordings made during Ian’s reporting at sea. Once we found our material, we started to experiment with sounds and soon the basics of the first track Arctic Sunrise started to shape up and the rest fell into place pretty quickly. In the end, we landed somewhere in between what can be interpreted as a soundtrack, and electronic music. It’s not really supposed to be dance music but rather an illustration of the book. Therefore the EP ended up being slightly darker and a bit more melancholic than our previous releases.
LNJ: Do you think this project may have a lasting influence on your sound and production process? And has it changed your way of approaching new projects?
It’s always inspiring to work in different ways, as it opens up new perspectives of how you can use your creativity to achieve your goals and visions. This time we played around a lot with different pads, rhythms and percussions which eventually helped us find some fresh sounds and work methods that might come in handy in future projects as well. Usually, we use pads mainly in the background to layer the sound, but in Waste Away we let the pads play a bigger and more central role in the production. Also the beat in Arctic Sunrise is more leaning towards break beat, rather than the classic 4/4 house beat. This is something that we’ve experimented with before but never used in our official music. Working towards a set deadline was probably a good thing as well, as it forced us to be more efficient throughout the whole process.
LNJ: Could you tell us more about your general production process? How do you work together as a duo when making music? And do you have a certain vision in mind when starting something new?
Usually, we work simultaneously in different areas. We compensate each other very well. While Tobias puts together the beat and organises the shape of the sound, Vincent hammers the keyboard to get something going, whether it’s a bassline, a chord progression – or just some rhythm with a weird sound – It’s always this “back-n-forth-situation” that stimulates the creative process and puts our minds into a certain state of flow. It’s almost like a digital jam-session, where playing around with different sounds and ideas is the key to find something interesting and inspiring. We share thoughts and ideas of what direction we’re leaning towards, what sounds to add, how we should arrange the track and roughly what we’re looking for in the end. But most times, we don’t really have a vision before having an idea that feels concrete and worth developing. That way we leave the door open for creativity to flow free, before setting some boundaries.
LNJ: What does your setup look like? Do you prefer working with hardware or software or both?
Our setup is very simple and consists mainly of softwares, mostly because that’s how we started out in the beginning when we had no money to spend on analog hardware. Up to this day, we’ve collected a big sound bank that has been very useful throughout the years. Maybe we are also a bit lazy, haha. It’s convenient to have everything in the same place digitally, not having to connect too many physical objects that take up space. We use a midi-keyboard mainly for recording melodies but also to control sounds the way we want.
LNJ: Your main focus seems to lie on producing these days. Does DJing still influence your production process in any way?
Generally speaking, we’ve always been more drawn to producing rather than playing live. However, electronic music goes hand in hand with DJing, and it’s always a special feeling to play your own music in front of a crowd. Seeing how people react to your music live is probably the best and most direct feedback you can get.
We tend to build our tracks so that they can be mixed rather smoothly in a set, almost always with an intro and outro. Our experience from DJing is that you don’t want too much to happen too fast. One minute of a groove or a chord progression is usually perceived differently on a dance floor compared to when you listen by yourself in the studio. While it may sound too long or repetitive in the studio, it might work perfectly on a dancefloor. That’s something we always have in mind during our production process.
LNJ: Growing up in Sweden, how has its music scene influenced your work and what are your biggest musical inspirations to this day? Can you take us back in time to when you got into the electronic music scene and making music yourself?
Back in 2010, when we first started making music together, we were barely sixteen years old and the electronic music industry was starting to rise. In Sweden, our main influence came from artists like Eric Prydz, Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello. Even though their sound has changed a lot throughout the years, their earlier stuff had a big influential impact on the music we made back in the day. Since then, we’ve grown older and the scene has changed as well. Once the EDM-scene started to take over too much, we got lost for a bit. So we spent a lot of time just exploring new artists and subgenres and experimented a lot in our productions with different sounds and styles, until we eventually found our way back to the music we first fell in love with. There’s plenty of artists that have been more or less influential in our productions throughout the years. Names like Maceo Plex, Jimpster and Todd Terje are definitely worth mentioning, since they have been a consistent influence. In terms of Swedish artists DJ Seinfeld, Axel Boman and HNNY surely stand out.
LNJ: LateNightJams is all about exploring local music scenes around the world. Can you tell us a bit about the scene and nightlife in Sweden, especially Stockholm? How do you think it differentiates from other scenes in Europe, like Berlin?
Stockholm is generally very inspired by the techno-scene in Berlin, with a couple of industrial venues and lots of underground clubs and raves playing dark bunker techno. It’s a bit of a trend. But at the same time, there seems to be somewhat of a movement circling the genre of more colorful and playful house, mainly led by the Swedish DJ collective Studio Barnhus – who seem to have managed to draw the attention of people beyond the house-sphere. When they host events and play at clubs they seem to introduce a lot of new people to the scene – people that barely listen to house or even electronic music for that matter. That’s pretty cool and inspiring!
The sad thing about Sweden when it comes to nightlife is that it’s a very strict and regulated country, which makes it hard for club owners to create something special. It’s not like in Berlin, where you can keep on partying for three nights straight if you’re up for it. In Stockholm, the vast majority of clubs close at 3 am, while a few stay open until 5 am during the weekends. If you want to stay up later you need to get to a rave or an after party to keep on vibing. But if you ever visit Sweden and Stockholm, you should definitely consider going in the summer, as there’s a lot more going on at that time a year.
LNJ: Any recommendations for going out in Stockholm?
Trädgården is a pretty cool place and one of the most popular clubs in Stockholm. They offer a great variety of good music including everything from house and techno, to hip hop and jazz. During the summer it’s open both indoors and outdoors, which leaves you with a lot of space to just hang around with your friends – and several dance floors to choose from. During the winter-period of the year, the same place goes under the name Under Bron, but the outdoor section is then closed.
Slakthuset is another place located in an industrial area in Johanneshov in Stockholm. During summer they open up their terrace on the roof. There’s a dancefloor with a great sound system. The inside resembles a bit of Berlin with its rough and industrial interior. Even though they play all kinds of music, they’re mostly famous for hosting DJs such as Berghain residents Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock. In the same industrial area there is also a place called Kvarteret, which is another pretty cool and creative venue definitely worth visiting. They’ve hosted artists like Kerri Chandler, Peggy Gou and Jeff Mills to name a few.
LNJ: And finally, what are your future plans, ideas and visions for Tekkla? Can you give us some insight into upcoming projects?
As usual, we are working on several projects at the same time, among them there’s a funky house track that we plan to release together with another track as an EP – so we’re currently in the works of producing a second track to pair it with. Overall we haven’t really set any specific goals or plans for the future yet, but once the whole covid-19 situation with the virus gets better, it would be nice to start doing more gigs!
LNJ: All the best for you and your future projects! And thank you so much for taking the time to speak to LateNightJams.