Getting to know: Tommy Four Seven & parrish smith

Tommy Four Seven just released his second album 'Veer' on the 5th of April. To celebrate this, he will visit WAS. for his album tour this Friday (26th of April). On the bill as well are parrish smith & Talismann. We sat down with Tommy to ask him about his long-expected new album. Another thing we were most curious about is how two artists with a different background work so well together on a line-up. This is why we also sat down with parrish smith. We asked both Tommy and Parrish about their common grounds and differences, for example when it comes to their creative process and musical styles. And why is it that this line-up works according to them?

Tommy, let’s start with congratulating you on your new album!

T47: Thank you!

In another interview, you spoke about your previous album Primate, and said that you really restrained yourself of using "generic sounds" like claps. What is the concept behind your new album?

T47: There was no pre defining concept, though I wanted to write an album which felt complete for a listening experience. Also, I wanted to include tracks which could be played outside of this context and used in a club environment. As the album began to take shape, there was a loose sci-fi feel, which references issues we are facing today, such as existential threats and artificial intelligence. 

What does the album title mean?

T47: The word 'veer' means to change direction suddenly. I like how the word has many connotations. Veer is connected to the loose narrative of the album, for which I give clues via the track names. It's also is a statement that as human beings, change is urgently needed if we are to survive on this planet. 

What was the process you undertook when creating this album?

T47: In terms of production, I worked mainly in my home studio in Berlin. I use Logic Pro and I was working a lot on my laptop when on the road, in order to utilize the time, I had available to meet my own deadline. A lot of the sound design effects were produced through my modular system and a few other cool toys, cutting up multiple takes into one final movement. I think this approach really brought the album to life, keeps things interesting and adds a lot of detail for the listener. I recognize much of this detail will be lost in a club environment, so I tried to mix the album with this in mind.

Parrish smith; you’ve released music on the labels Dekmantel, L.I.E.S. and Knekelhuis; could you tell us a bit about your creative process and the creation of your EP’s?

PS: My creative process with the Knekelhuis and L.I.E.S. EP’s were created in a different way. When I started to make music, I only wanted to learn how to make music with hardware only recorded live to cassette or a digital recorder. This always started with some experiments which would evolve into a whole new track. I felt I needed to learn for a couple of years to fully master the machines before I wanted to start working with any DAW. The Knekelhuis (Virgin of the World) and LIES (Esplendor) EP's are all live takes that show my progression and the adventure of different types of aesthetics. It’s not perfect or well mixed it just showed my taste and how far I was in production. I think it felt honest without being a copy of someone else.

The Dekmantel EP (Sex Suicide Speed Metal) showed my first stage in finding and creating my very own sound palette. From this, it doesn’t matter for me if I make faster or slower tempo music because it comes all from the same core. A part of this process is sampling. I find myself at night, carefully searching for sounds in my record collection, VHS or cassettes. I sample this to my MPC and will save it for a later moment. This is also a way to create a sound library. Which I now have and catalog myself.

You (PS) have a very distinct musical style, how would you describe it?

PS: I would describe it as hypnotic, tense, without prejudices and without looking into any particular genres. It’s important for me to show progressiveness in my music, to share my vision and to place art and craft before persona.

If we do look at genres, we can hear a lot of different ones (Post-punk, R&B for example), could you tell us more about who influenced your taste for music?

PS: Mostly at my family home, it was and still is an eclectic mash-up of music. When I grew up my dad listened to Iron Maiden, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse and Jimi Hendrix. My mother would come in with 90’s Pop and Bollywood music. My older sisters were fond of UK Garage, 2-Step, Dancehall and the old R&B.  So, I was used to having the patience to listen to all kinds of music. Only when I grew older, I found my own way in music and then I’m speaking more of experimental and left field electronics. I guess I was looking for a heavier sound, having something I can understand and could change in my own perspective.

You’ve both released albums as a duo. Tommy Four Seven with These Hidden Hands and Parrish smith with Volition Immanent. Do you approach making music in a duo the same as when doing it alone?

T47: I approach writing in the same way, though the process is different because we often swap a lot of ideas through rendered stems. Therefore, we are essentially remixing each other's work until we get to a point we are happy with. Once the general basis of an idea is done, we’ll often meet to finalize the arrangement and mixdown. Right now we are working on a third album, so watch this space!

PS: I also approach it the same way as ever. Open minded, diving into new sounds and explore different areas without losing your own touch. With Mark Knekelhuis I have an extra perspective to look into and we can complement each other in the process which makes it much faster than when I work alone. Furthermore, there is no difference as a duo, you should know each other’s capabilities which we can profit off and use in our craft.

What is it that you can do with the collab, that you can’t do as an individual?  In other words, in what way do the 2 acts differ from each other and what makes them similar?

T47: Alain is a multi-instrumentalist and has a passion for listening to somewhat obscure music. Alain often approaches the writing process in a different way to how I normally would. With THH, there really are no rules or limits and we have no pressure to confine our music to a particular sound. Theoretically, we could release a Grindcore album if we really wanted to! Clearly, we work best when we find a sound we both enjoy. Normally, this ends up being some kind of blend of primarily electronic-based, experimental Techno, IDM, Electronica and Drum and Bass. However, if you listen to Vicarious Memories closely, you can also hear moments of Drone Metal, eastern influences, Post-Rock, 80s EBM, early Electronic and even a dash of opera. With my solo stuff as Tommy Four Seven, the main influence is almost always Techno.

PS: The core of production is Parrish smith, a sound palette that can reach different places and aesthetics. Volition Immanent takes subjects that are honest and are present. Our views about how we live in this current system, how we feel about that and what could happen if we make certain choices. Mark is not afraid to show insecurities or negative aspects of subjects in the lyrics as this is poetic humane. Parrish smith is my story of channeling my inner feelings, I mostly talk about my own personal issues, how I project it and how my perspective always changes by time. We all share the same emotions, the only thing different is our stories. A similarity between the Volition Immanent and later Parrish smith tracks may be their song structures on the technical side.

On the 26th of April, you will be both playing at WAS. and will be joined by Talismann. You all have a somewhat different style of music. What still makes this line-up work in your opinion?

T47: We may have different shades of styles musically but there is certainly some degree of common ground in the overall direction of our sounds, which complement each other. And I think we are not afraid to experiment.

PS: They are both crafted into their own sound. It sounds very moving, and rhythmic well thought about. I think our different taste in music will push us fast forward the entire night. The similarities could be the grittiness and sometimes the tone of the atmosphere. Production and sound wise I don’t see any similarities between us. We all have a different take on electronics which is really a wide spectrum, so there is enough space to create refreshing music.

In a previous interview, you (T47) were talking about ‘taking things forward’ when it comes to Techno, and Parrish smith was just talking about the progressiveness in his music. Do you guys think everyone from the WAS. line-up on the 26th has that in common? 

T47: Most definitely, Talismann and Parrish smith have their own identity and take on techno. It's hard to determine what actually constitutes progression in the genre in any objective way. It's the pursuit of new territory which is the most important factor.

PS: As Tommy Four Seven once mentioned: ‘music goes in circles’. I try to show progress by being honest with myself. Making your own world or sound palette and having no fear to reinvent this.  Taking risks can be fortunate when the idea and vision is dedicated enough. It won’t always work but putting in the effort to broaden this imaginary boundary, will always take things forward.

What are your expectations for the night in WAS.?

PS: No expectations, just electric and energetic behavior.


Catch Tommy Four Seven & parrish smith playing at WAS. this Friday together with Talismann. 

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24.04.2019 - Words by Merel de Heus, Tommy Four Seven & parrish smith