Marcus, after the excellent “Ladies Of Too Slow To Disco Vol. 2” earlier this year, now follows “The Sunset Manifesto”, the second part of the Neo series. What is the concept behind the new album? What criteria did you use to select the songs?
It is the same concept as the other compilations with that old Westcoast sound: to compile my favorite music for everybody to listen. For some time now, I find it really interesting and exciting to see, how some modern electronic producers between pop and disco took that smooth Westcoast AOR sound and made it their own, and transported it into the NOW! The compilation has a modern sound, but all musicians have a clear LOVE for the music of the Californian music of the late 70s and early 80s.
With Kraak & Smaak, Poolside, Roosevelt, Luxxury and Yuksek, among others, artists are represented who have had a firm place in the TSTD cosmos for a long time, but listeners can also expect numerous new discoveries and hidden treasures. Tell us a little bit about the artists on the album.
Like always, I tried to do a mix between the well-known acts like Poolside, K&S Yuksek etc. and the more obscure discoveries that I found along the way in recent months. The main idea was to get every act to think about an exclusive track for the compilation. It made me really happy that it actually in the end worked with all 16 tracks. There are even a few tracks actually especially written for the compilation with that TSTD sound in mind: Knight One, James Alexander Bright, Private Agenda.
Turbotito is with “Heart and Soul” one of the great discoveries of the “The Sunset Manifesto”. How did you become aware of him?
I follow his music for quite some time now (fun fact, I bought his first album with his band Ludox in 1995 in a Shibuya record shop). Obviously as half of Poolside, the L.A. duo that kinda invented that smooth modern Sunset Disco / Daytime Disco sound. But also as a solo artist, and through the releases of his awesome label TITO RECORDS. What I love especially about his sound and music is the fact that he tries to make electronic music, that isn’t as mathematic, constructed and strict as most other acts do. His beats and instruments are hand played, not produced by a machine, include mistakes, that I really love. It breathless!
Another highlight is the London band PREP, whose “Love Breaks Down” Rod Temperton would have liked very much. You’ve known PREP for many years, does the band represent a new British pop movement?
Ha, ha, if you ask them they would say a definite: NO! I don’t see a pop movement like this in Britain either, more in California and France, and even Germany… But PREP are an absolute sensation of a pop band, with their own sound, even though their music is rooted so much in a certain past. As you know, I am not so much interested in new music that tries to copy that AOR music of the past, I am more interested in modern musicians being inspired by it and then making it contemporary, their own. It is really hard to copy that full, rich sound of Delusion de Grandeur nowadays, I think only Young Gun Silver Fox can pull it off in an inspiring way.
Be honest, do you have any personal favorite tracks on “The Sunset Manifesto”?
Obviously I love all tracks equally, but I have to say, the biggest surprise is “Is It True” by Swedish musician Glamour Hammer. It is such a free, always changing piece of music, so rich in fantasy, surprising in so many ways (wait till the rapper comes along mid song) it is hard to believe. Mind-blowing!
You have called the music on this compilation as “parallel pop”. What characterizes a typical parallel pop song?
It is a clearly, distinctive modern song, but it has deep roots in a “parallel universe” of the past, that was used as an inspiration: here, the late 70s and early 80s Westcoast!
Nostalgia is in vogue in contemporary music – whether in current pop or dance music. It is often less about the artists’ and listeners’ self-experienced past in the 90s or 2000s, but rather the recourse to elements of the pop culture of the 70s and 80s. To what do you attribute this general enthusiasm for the past?
I think that is not a new thing. Music was always about combining the NOW with the past. If it is done well (now or in the past), it can be mind-blowing and hugely commercial, like f.e. “Groove Is In The Heart” by Deee-Lite. It is only the kind of influences that musicians and DJs catch floating around in the atmosphere that change. You can find that Westcoast sound in a lot of productions now, but it already appeared in the first two albums of Phoenix, “Discovery” by Daft Punk, and the Norwegian Tellé label in the late 90s… (the list is endless). It has been with us all the time, but there is definitely more attention on it nowadays.
“The Sunset Manifesto” brings club music to the listeners’ homes, but clubs remain closed in the face of the global pandemic. What role can dance music play in times of social distancing?
Oh, well, I had the idea for the compilation in late 2019, and the concept was to actually compile the perfect record to be played in the late evening/afternoon on rooftops/beach bars, small rooms of clubs and sophisticated bars all around the world. It was supposed to make people in public dance, smile and enjoy themselves as a group…. Well, it didn’t turn out this way. I still think that the album is also perfect to be played at home, when you have your friends (ah, shit… your friend…) over and cook, or whatever you do when you want to relax. You can also dance very carefully at home to the records. So in my humble opinion, the music on the compilation can help people get through lockdowns, stressful times and all that shit we are going through.
The right blend, the order of the tracks, is important to convey a build-up of tension and moods within a compilation. How do you go about it? Would you compare the mix with your DJ sets?
Yes, all my compilations are in the end a DJ-set, but a DJ-set how I do it, with ups and downs, not a plateau of endless bangers! It should always be a journey.
After “En France”, “The Sunset Manifesto” is the second volume of the TSTD spin-off “Neo”, which focuses on modern, contemporary dance music. How has the Neo concept been received by the TSTD community?
Don’t tell anyone (LOL), but I don’t really care. I have to do what my heart tells me! I think you can like TSTD in many different ways, and that’s why there are many different kinds of people into it. It is a very open community, and it is changing, which it should. I don’t want TSTD to become a retro-label. There are so many different ways to consume TSTD: there are some people only listening to the compilations at home, then there are many, who come to the parties to dance to the TSTD sound, who don’t buy the records, and there are the people that love our TSTD NEO modern sound. I love and welcome every one of them. If people don’t like the fact, that NEO means modern music, then they shouldn’t buy the record. I always believe in people! Most – I guess – are open to discover unheard music, new or old. And I just last week finished licensing a new compilation of late70s/early 80s music… So, never leave the party too early….
“The Sunset Manifesto” is released again as a lavish double album. In times of Spotify lists and streaming, the classic LP seems to be a luxury item. How important is this physical format to you?
It is the last thing that makes sense. CDs and Downloads are DEAD! Which makes it even harder than before to actually earn money with this kind of art. But I always want the TSTD compilation to be very special and unique, so making a very special vinyl release out of it is not only obvious, but a lot of fun (for my creativity… not for my pocket…).
What are your plans for TSTD in the coming year?
We just finished licensing a new compilation, planned for Record Store Day 2021 (if there is a RSD, if there are still record shops, if……ah, well). To me this new one is very close to the original TSTD Westcoast compilations, but it is another new idea, that I had floating around in my head for a long time. Started working on it a long time ago, and really happy it came together. Hoping that more people will find this interesting…. And there will be more TSTD EDITS coming on vinyl, next 10 Inch is on the way, with two new, unreleased absolute Westcoast Disco Slow-Gems by LUXXURY.
A last Christmas related question: Which albums are spinning on Marcus Liesenfeld’s record player during the Christmas season?
I am not a big fan of Christmas…. even more not a fan at all of Christmas music… But I can recommend one album: The Bird And The Bees just released a fun Christmas themed mini album called “Put Up The Lights”.
Marcus, thank you very much for the interview!
Thank you, Thomas!
Photo: Thomas Neukum