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INTERVIEW: San Francisco-based producer Tsutro

Hi Jacob, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’ve been well, thanks for having me.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single?

“Angkor” was one of the tracks that initiated the whole Tsutro project.  It’s really a big blend of independent musical ideas.  Traditional Cambodian folk instruments, minimalist electronic elements, Cleveland blues rock harmonies (Welshly Arms), and some more pop elements.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

A recent trip to Cambodia was definitely influential to this track.  The contrast of the traditional bands on the street corner with the bars and clubs half a block away blaring American pop music definitely left an imprint on my process.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

There are some ideas in the works, but no set release.

The single comes off your new self-titled album – why naming the record after your moniker?

I think that as the first release under the name Tsutro, this new project has it’s identity completely wrapped up in this one album.  So it just made sense to go the “self-titled’ route.

How was the recording and writing process?

The process of writing this song started with a loop of some traditional Cambodian music, this parted ended up being more of a background texture in the end, but I still see it as the foundation of the song.   Next came the beat, I wanted something minimal that would also make you want to move with it.  I’m a big fan of textures layered within a track, and “Angkor” has a lot of those going on (percussion, muted-delayed electric guitar, synthetic chimey arpeggios).  The vocal samples from Welshly Arms and the manipulated vocal lead we the last additions to the song.

As a project, each song followed a similar approach, although often the order would change.  Sometimes the vocals were the first element and the song was built around those, sometimes the song was almost complete and then the vocals were added.

What was it like to work with Dale Becker and how did that relationship develop?

Dale Becker has mastered albums for my publisher Position Music for a while now, it was great to have his ears and experience add to the finished album.

You are blending different genres on this record – does one tends to shine out the most depending on the lyrical theme or do you try to balance them together?

I went on a song by song basis and really tried to just follow what I was hearing for that particular moment.  I really like hearing individual notes and combinations, rather that more blended chords.  This preference definitely led to the using of mallet based instruments as the primary harmonic backbone.  I find that they give the chordal information I want, but at the same time they leave more space between the notes as well as some fun rhythmic possibilities.

Why did you choose to somewhat recycle old songs on this material?

I think part of my decision to recycle old material for some of the Tsutro songs has to do with me seeing new potential in old ideas.  It’s fun to take something that exists already and give it new life and meaning.  Also, having produced and recorded the old material helps as well.  Easy access haha.

Any plans to hit the road?

As of now, Tsutro will stay strictly a recording project. I could see that changing though if the right opportunity presents itself.

What else is happening next in Tsutro’s world?

The album drops 3/3/17, so that is exciting!  (I also may be a few tracks into its follow up…)

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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