Interview with TSTI!

TSTI is a bedroom artist who goes by the name of S. Smith, and produces wonderful electronica straight from the convenience of his own home. Mostly featuring an analogue approach to music, with loads of fascination for the 80’s and a lot of influences gathered from that particular decade. He describes his own music as “dark, hazy synthetic pop“, but generally indulges in whatever genre he seems to set his steps upon. Up until now, he’s released some demos, an earlier EP and has since the 12th of November released his latest addition to the family, an album which is titled “evaluations“. Since I reviewed his album earlier, I decided to step things up and ask him some questions about his music and everything in between. Make sure you read this piece and listen to his latest album which can be found at the bottom of this shorter interview.

You’ve currently released your latest album “evaluations” and I read somewhere that it took you ten months before it was completely done. What would you say have been the most fun with the creative process and what’s the hardest thing about it?

– Yes, I started this album right in the beginning of 2012 and finished writing, recording, mixing right around September. When I started, I had no idea it was going to be a full length, have a theme, or anything. I wanted to let the process happen organically. The most fun of the process is to hear the final product. I’m not a traditional song writer, I like to experiment until my experiments show me what a final product could look like, then I go from there. So some songs take a while for me and some are very fast. But it’s been a pleasure to do this on my own time and not stress about it. The hardest thing about it, I’d say is probably mixing, for many reasons. I’m not a professional so I can only do what I can do. I also don’t think a song is ever completed so when do you call it a day with it? Lastly, for me the mixing is a pretty long and pissed off process. I get very frustrated that I’m still working on a song I’ve already finished writing and recording. I want to move onto other things!

What do you think is the difference between your latest album and your earliest one? In what way have you made progress since then and what do you like about the both of them?

– The biggest difference is the first EP sucks, haha. The first EP was basically me being semi-happy with some songs. I didn’t really focus on the bigger picture on the EP, so they are almost like demo’s. The album is much more focused in all aspects, song writing, recoding, and behind one cohesive but dynamic product. Even though I put it together myself, I really wanted the new album to sound like a “real album.”

Don’t you think the task of being a musician can be overwhelming at times, I mean, you spend a lot of time creating your own music in your own room?

– It all depends on what kind of musician you are. For me, I don’t get too overwhelmed. I write pieces in my room during my spare time. I love having the option of running in and recording a melody I heard in my head real quick and then afterwards going on with my day. The most overwhelming process for me is trying to get down all my ideas before I loose them. I’m sure other musicians get overwhelmed about deadlines, “making it”, money, etc. I’m not worried about any of that. I just enjoy creating things.

I wonder what kind of reactions you’ve received on your latest album evaluations from different sources and how have people received your new album in general?

– So far… the people that have heard it and have responded to it, have been really positive about it. I’m sure some people heard it and didn’t like it as well, they just didn’t tell me. But overall and so far, I’m excited about the response.

There’s also an interesting aspect when it comes to your aesthetics, they seem to be bound to the traditional but also the minimalistic. Where have you sought out inspiration from for your covers and the general aesthetic nerve you have?

– For the cover of the album, I wanted to create something that was bold but minimal. I really enjoy early 80’s goth album covers and old 4AD albums and album art. I wanted to pretend the art was created during that time and not get overly fancy with it.

Do you have any favorite albums from the past that might’ve influenced you a little bit more than anything else from now or do you channel your influences from old to new, since you’re focused on the 80’s?

– Oh, so many good oldies! A few that instantly come to mind are Depeche Mode’s “Black Celebration” Sister of Mercy’s “First Last and Always” and John Foxx’s “Metamatic”. I’m not sure I’m trying to “channel” them, but they where highly influential albums for me.

When it comes to the limited CD, how was the creative process in the making of it and what did you want your listeners to receive when you thought of making one?

– Well, both CD’s are limited. The first EP is called the “Black Envelope EP” it’s a hand made, hand painted and constructed package. The CD and art comes in a Black Envelope and each has a painted number. I wanted to treat this like an invitation to bigger things coming. For the new album “Evaluations”, I had professionally printed and hand numbered the sleeves. I made a limited run of these, but there might be some exciting news in the near future on more options. I wanted the listener to feel like they had solid album in their hands with this one.

Have you got any favorite blogs that you follow on a regular basis for finding new bands and artists or just for the general content of the blog themselves when it comes to music?

– Not really, I have a ton of them bookmarked that I enjoy but when I’m looking for new music I tend to go to hype machine, search a few artist and let the domino effect of finding blogs, talking about these artist, and checking out the other artists they are mentioning as well. I also use Soundcloud and Instagram to find a ton of really great and unsigned artists.

Since you’re mainly working with analogue equipment, what would you say is the benefit with it and what kind of gear do you have currently?

– The benefit is to a 100% the sound, the emotion it can create and endless possibilities you have with analog equipment, you can totally get lost in creating 1 sound for hours, how would that not be fun? I’m not into clicking and dragging to create sounds, no offense to any readers but it’s just not for me. Currently, I’m using a Moog Voyager, Roland SH-101, Roland Juno106, Roland TR-909 and then a Roland MC-909, which I mostly use as a master clock to sync everything. Throughout my songs you may hear other synths and live instruments though. I’m constantly trading and dabbling with other peoples stuff.

You’ve also got a lot of D.I.Y in you since you release the albums by yourself but have you ever thought of getting signed to a label for releases on vinyl? What have you got planned for the future and will we be seeing anything new next year or are you having any show in the next couple of months?

– Yes and Yes, more news in the near future.

What have you got planned for the future and will we be seeing anything new next year or are you having any show in the next couple of months?

– In the near future may be the question you just asked before. But in the meantime, I’m already 3 songs into the next release. It’s got a theme, a name and I’m really excited about it.

Thank you for letting me ask these questions and thank you for your participation!

– No, thank you! And thank you for taking the time to pay attention to my creations. It’s much appreciated.

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