[Interview] Tribal Vibes and Good Times with Tim Green
In roughly 45 minutes Tim Green is about to begin a set at Alley Cat, but right now we’re sitting in my car in the secret parking lot of the club talking music, his upcoming album with Cocoon and the importance of Fabric. Green is only playing two shows in North America – Thursday, November 10 at Alley Cat, in Atlanta and Friday, November 11 at Don’t Sit on the Furniture in Miami. After that, he’s heading back to Europe with gigs every weekend until December 18.
Green broke into the electronic music scene in 2006. Growing up he dreamt of becoming a professional guitar player looking up to musicians like Paul McCartney and Jeff Buckley. Although he wanted to go into Rock 'n' Roll or Blues, he didn’t really think making a living in that industry was possible, then in college one of his friends introduced him to electronic music and opened his eyes to a new world.
He remembers reacting to his best friend showing him “One More Time” by Daft Punk: “I have no idea what this is, and I love it, and I need to make this.” After being transfixed by the music, he began playing around with sounds. Initially, he didn’t have the confidence to send out demos of house or drum and bass music, but when he sent out his techno demo he struck gold.
Not many artists can say that their first demo catapulted them into success, but Green thinks that because he was so new to techno he had a fresh and original sound that really attracted people. He chuckles while explaining that sometimes he’ll look back at those first tracks and wonder what he was doing.
Clearly, he wasn’t as lost as he thought he was because early in his career Sven Väth reached out. Green says that it was like a “five-way conversation” because someone at Cocoon reached out to someone at Dirtybird who reached out to someone else who eventually reached out to him. But when the two artists finally got in contact they gave birth to “Lone Time” and never looked back.
Green describes working with Cocoon as “pretty much perfect.” “They’ve never asked me to change a thing. Some labels…which I appreciate, and it’s not a problem, have comments like ‘I think you should probably change this, that track should go in this direction,’ but with Cocoon, we just really matched,” he explains describing their symbiotic relationship. Recently he played with Väth at Amnesia and said that it was intensely amazing.
Amidst back-to-back gigs, Green has also been working on a full-length album to be released through Cocoon. The process has been grueling because he’s tough on himself: “I set really high standards for everything and really huge goals. I had this concept which is basically a running thread through my music,” he explains.
Green wants to take listeners on a journey beginning with ambient music, followed by light house that builds into “melodic, deep very orchestral sounding tracks,” then the album closes with minimal techno. As of now, he feels like he’s 90% done with the album, but there’s a lot more that’s going to be fine-tuned before it’s release next year.
As we talk about upcoming projects, Green expresses his excitement to be playing at Panorama Bar in two weeks, a major landmark for any DJ in electronic music. The club is the more playful and bouncy little brother of Berghain - club goers go upstairs to Panorama when they need a break from the heavy techno booming downstairs.
From Berghain, we jump into discussing Fabric, which he lovingly calls his “mothership.” The legendary club had it's license removed due to two drug-related deaths in September and has been closed since. “We’re all really concerned about how easily it was shut down, and the possibility that this could happen to any venue in the future,” Green says. A petition to save the club has received over 150,000 signatures. On November 28 Fabric will be heading to Highbury Magistrates Court to fight its closure. The importance of Fabric goes beyond just being a cool place to party. Green says, "[music] is all based on sharing it with other people and enjoying it, having an experience, it’s an institution and we need it.”
After wrapping up our interview, we walk over to Alley Cat, and I jokingly tell him how much I’m looking forward to escaping the election tonight. By the time we get in, it’s about a quarter past midnight, and Elio Stereo of I’M A HOUSE GANGSTER is setting the stage for Green with an enjoyable set in the dark attic. Tocayo of Q/Q had warmed up the room before Elio Stereo from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and a small crowd has already begun to form despite it being a Thursday night.
True to his comment about aiming to take listeners on a journey, Green played a set that made me forget what country I was in. He started around 12:30 a.m. with a funky beat that he paired with a sample from Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.”
With one hand on the CDJs and the other holding onto his Jack and Coke, Green flawlessly mixed sounds and genres. As his set became more tribal, I felt my body loosen. The beat of the drums hit every tense part of my body, and all of the bullshit going on in the world ceased to matter. Escape.
At one point someone tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I “by chance knew the name of the DJ.” A lot of people in that room hadn’t necessarily come to see Tim Green play, they came because Alley Cat was providing a service – for $10 you got to enter a safe space where you could dance and drink away all of the issues that plagued America.
Later in the night the vibe went from Mayan Warrior to jazzy trumpets and flutes. The last track he played sounded so different than anything I’ve heard before that after he finished playing, I had to ask him to explain it to me. Green said that it was like progressive house in the sense that it was progressive because it was trying to accomplish something new, but it wasn’t progressive because it didn’t sound like any other progressive house. I nodded my head as if I understood what he meant, but ultimately gave up trying to comprehend what I had heard. Green had played about three hours of beautifully eclectic music and the small crowd happily devoured it.
We talked about his set for a little bit while Tocayo hopped back on the boards. I asked him what’s changed from the first time he played in Atlanta to this last time, and he responded point blank: “I’m different.” I left Alley Cat around 3:45 a.m. feeling high from the afterglow of a fantastic set. No politics, just really good music.