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Q&A: TENSNAKE

Snake's alive!

Marco Niemerski, aka Tensnake, first came to the attention of the electronic music world in 2010 thanks to the runaway success of his summertime anthem, ‘Coma Cat’. The Hamburg native has been in high demand ever since, with his reputation soaring further thanks to an electrifying live show and a slew of heavyweight releases on esteemed German imprint, Permanent Vacation.


Niemerski looks set to enjoy his busiest summer in Ibiza to date this year. He’s preparing to unleash his new live set in numerous island venues, with everywhere from Pacha to Space primed for the Tensnake experience. DJ Mag Ibiza caught up with the multifaceted, charismatic German ahead of the debut of his new live show at Ibiza's IMS, to talk live acts, pop music, and the minimal era...

Did you understand the significance of Ibiza, music-wise, before you came here?

“I did, because I came here first when I was 18 and Space was still open air — and it had a special magic about it. Manumission was still going back then, so yeah, I pretty much always knew how important it is to the music scene.”

Is there one place you're looking forward to playing this year?

“Well, Ushuaia was amazing last year so hopefully I'll be back there soon. I'm really excited to play with Solomun at +1 and with Guy Gerber at Pacha, as both of them look like they'll be really interesting parties. I'll also be at Space for We Love... I really love that party as they were the first ones to book me, and there'll be Defected at Bomba too. I think this year it's going to be really interesting in Ibiza, as a lot of residencies have changed location. It's like a whole new ball-game here this season.”


How was the music scene in Hamburg when you were growing up?

“I only went to one club, Front. It was a gay club, but it was the only club where acid house and house music were happening. Boris Dlugosch was the resident there, so it was hugely influential to me. I socialised there a lot, but that was it really — house-wise, there wasn't too much else going on. There was a huge techno scene in the late ‘90s in Hamburg, but I always preferred house music.”

A lot of your music is quite 'pop' influenced. Did you ever feel lost during the minimal era at all?

“When I started, definitely, because minimal was still huge then — especially in Ibiza. But by that stage it was kind of the end of minimal, and nu-disco suddenly became big, so I was fortunate in that regard too. I think by the end of that stage people wanted to listen to more uplifting music, so I like to think I've played my part! But I think the great thing about where the scene is at now is that there's enough room for all the genres.”

We've been hearing rumours recently about a debut album. Can you elaborate at all?

“Actually, I've just finished it! It's very musical and there's a lot more ‘songs’ on it compared to what I usually put out. I'm still talking to labels and I'm not sure when it will be out, but it will definitely mark a change in direction for me. There's lots of vocals on it too, and I worked with Nile Rodgers who plays guitar on two tracks. I also worked with Jamie Lidell on the album, and Stuart Price and I made a track on it too. But it's a bit of a wild ride, there's a sort of R&B sound to parts of it and some downtempo pop and house in other parts.”

How did you hook up with Nile Rodgers?

“Actually, it was all very organic. With Nile, I just mailed him on Facebook. He replied about 10 minutes later, which was sort of amazing, and not what I'd expected at all! It was funny, because he told me he'd already got in touch with Felix Da Housecat's manager about working with me. So it was a nice little accident, and he was super-cool when I met him. I had dinner with him at the WMC, and he's such a humble, easy-going sort of guy. I was pretty excited about meeting him — I had to down some red wine, as I was a bit nervous beforehand!”

Will there be a new live set to go with the album?

“Yeah, I'll be setting up a proper live show to go with it, with singers, dancers and musicians on stage. Before this, I was playing with a laptop on Ableton and with a MIDI controller, and it was literally a case of firing the loops and playing the tracks and so on, so for me, musically, it's a really exciting time. It could be good, it could be bad... but we'll find out soon!”

Did you ever get bored of playing a similar live set all the time, then?

“Yeah, because when I started playing out I was only playing my own music. I had this one massive track, but I was never really a DJ, and suddenly I was being offered all these gigs that I wasn't going to turn down! I'd only released around four 12''s when I started touring, which meant I was forever making edits of the tracks to keep them interesting.”

I know you did a mix for Defected a few years back. Did the experience make you want to start DJing at all?

“Well, what I've been doing the past while is kind of like a DJ set. It's not as open or prepared, but the loops I mix up in different ways. I loved doing the mix for Defected as it allowed me to showcase my tastes, but I'm not sure I'll ever become a DJ as there are so many great DJs out there already.

I've been on the road for three or four years now, and I'm looking forward to getting back into the studio and maybe producing for a few other artists too. But I always like to surprise my audience when I play live, so watch out for me this summer!”

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