“Everything was done with four hands, and that’s very rare” says Slow Hands of his last release alongside Tanner Ross. It’s less and less rare now, though, because the pair have officially teamed up and are working not only on an album together, but so too a live show. Their sound is an organic mixture of sax, horns, pianos and guitars, with influences as diverse as r&b, soft rock, pop, hip hop, soul and jazz, that is some of the most musically rich and instrumentally dense as any in the whole of electronic music.
That’s no real surprise given Slow Hands’ formal schooling, but we are promised the forthcoming album “is really just a collection of different sounds”, so who knows what to expect? We caught up with the pair to get the lowdown ahead of the live premier at SXSW.
How has your year been so far? What’s kept you busy?
Our year has been great so far. Two crew love shows down and many more to go including South By Southwest and WMC coming up. Working on a lot of music, and trying to tie up this album and collective live show (premiering at SXSW [ssshhhhhh]!)
What brought you together in the studio? How did it first happen? Who approached who, when did you have your first kiss?
We did some remixes and collaborations over good ol’ skype n’ yousendit for about a year, but All The Same was the first piece that we worked on in physical presence of one another.
Working together was just natural, as we are both on W+L/DS, and come from a similar musical background.
ATS was made in the back patio studio when living in Mallorca this past summer. There was a lot of booze consumed over the course of a couple days, and in the end, after a brief swim and some bocci, it was decided complete. (w/ the ammount of booze consumed, there may have been kissing, but we hope not!)
And what does each of your bring – are you similar or is it a case of opposites attract?
We very similar in certain ways, and not in others. I think we both take the idea of music, and theory, very seriously, but, in coming from some pretty intense music schooling, decided to pursue careers in this industry with a bit of humour.
Tanner comes from a bit more of an R&B hip hop place, and me more of an Indy/Classic Rock place. So he is definitely more the synth and horn player, and me more the piano and guitar guy. But we definitely find a lot of inspiration in what each of us bring to the table. Some days we are on to some Toro y Moi and Willis Earl Beal, the next day its Queen and MF Doom, the next day it’s Coltrane and Jamie Lidell, Timbaland/Timberlake, old Trojan Records stuff… the list goes on.
And when did you decide to do an album together – what made you think it would work?
We decided to do an album after we surprisingly sketched out about 8 tracks in a week in Mallorca. It just seemed the right direction to go. We’re not sure if it will work, ha!
Was there a plan for it from the start? Did you know how you wanted it to sound – what’s the thinking behind it, basically?
The idea behind the album was/is really just a collection of different sounds. We both come from a commercial music background, making music for the NY Times, National Geographic, laundry detergent adds, video games, etc.. Most often when creating music for those companies, they request a specific sound, references usually being “reggae”, or “make it sound like LCD Soundsystem”. So we thought it would be fun to make a collection of our own different styles. Pop, reggae, blues, anthem rock, but with a Tanner Ross & Slow Hands twist.
What can you tell us about how it will sound or what its been influenced by? Will it be like the recent single ‘All The Same’ in any way?
Slightly answered above. Definitely not all like All The Same in musical stylings, but hopefully equal in quality. We are very pleased with how All The Same and the reggae version (album version) turned out.
The sound of that track was very organic – is that one of your aims or is it just the way it happens? Do you record with real instruments at all?
Surprisingly, that is probably the least organic thing we have done together. The only actual recorded element in that track is the vocal. We definitely record real instruments; Slow Hands guitar, Tanner sax, and we both play a bit of keys. The awesome thing about that track was that there wasn’t a single element done individually, the drums, the vocal, the keys, the sound design. Everything was done with four hands, which is really rare and cool.
Why do you guys like to go slooow – where does that love of slower stuff come from, what do you think can be achieved at this tempo that cant at others?
Tempo is overanalysed by the electronic music community, it has little to no effect on the energy or emotion of music. It changes the feel and groove, but that’s about it, to us anyway. We have tracks at 90 bpm that we DJ that sound like trance anthems compared to some of the tracks we have at 120 bpm. If you DJ with a DJM 800 (and it’s crafty effects), thinking about tempo is pretty obsolete.
Who does what when you’re producing – do you have set roles or is it more organic than that?
Slow Hands plays guitar, Tanner Ross plays sax . . . that’s the only designated roll, as Slow Hands can’t play sax, and Tanner Ross can’t play guitar.
Will you being touring together, or maybe do a live show at all?
It’s in the works!!! You’ll have to come to SXSW and Crew Love at WMC (March 21st at The Electric Pickle) to find out!
What else you got coming up/are you excited about?
Lots of stuff forthcoming on W+L/DS & Soul Clap Records, remixes, originals, and more. Tanner is doing also publishing a leaflet of poetry he has been writing in his spare time since middle school, and Slow Hands will be teaching summer arts & crafts courses at Harvard to female celebrities on how to convert battery operated erotic toys into MIDI controllers.