Interview with Thomas Trenker on his long-form "stranded in a state of stillness"
Listening to Thomas Trenker of Austira's long form song stranded in a state of stillness brings you to a place internally exactly as the title states; A place of void and quiet. Different from his past works, which were more piano driven, stranded takes up a more soft-drone approach with it's slow yet melodic progression. However, even though the track is almost 20 minutes, you will find that it seems as if no time has passed while you were listening.
Merigold Independent: stranded in a state of stillness is a one song album with a runtime of about 20 minutes. Was it a challenge composing such a lengthy piece, or do you prefer to work in longer form?
Thomas Trenker: It was challenging to keep the sound within the track progressing, but at the same time avoiding getting lost into something completely else. Lengthy pieces have different requirements of course, which I was not very used to before, but it was a very interesting experience and I really liked working on it. As this was my first attempt in making a complete track in that style and length it is too early for me to say if I’d prefer it over shorter tracks, or making lengthy tracks in general. The responses so far are very positive and I’m happy how it turned out.
MI: Your previous album tales of emptiness was very piano driven, whereas stranded in a state of stillness took on a much more drone/ambient quality. Were there things that caused you to take this direction or were you just experimenting with different styles?
TT: When I was writing the album tales of emptiness I experimented a lot with different kinds of layers and textures to expand the sound a bit, but didn’t want to drift too far away from the style of my earlier works (my previous EPs that are compiled into endings & beginnings.) I came across some sounds that I found pretty nice for using in a future release, but didn’t fit on the rest of the material I was actually working on. I kept the ideas in mind to flesh them out later on. As tales of emptiness was released, I began working further on those ideas, but without the boundaries to have them fit among other songs. stranded in a state of stillness is one of the results, others were realized with the changes EP and further pieces might appear in the (near) future. I didn’t exactly expect to write such lengthy piece from the start, but when I began the recordings, it made sense for me to expand it. I don‘t limit myself to create a short piece, or develop a lengthy piece just for the sake of it. It grew from an improvisation into its final shape relatively smoothly. I also didn’t do much post-production, because I was very satisfied with the initial results. Nevertheless, the whole outcome of stranded in a state of stillness wasn’t clear from the start, as there were also some piano parts intended to be put on top, but they‘d have distracted from the textures I wanted to introduce in this piece. They’ve fallen out without compromise. I‘ll definitely pick up the ambient/drone style again when the material I’m working on will go with it.
MI: Living in Austria, known for it's natural beauty, do you find that the landscapes around you inspire your music?
TT: The surroundings influence the whole writing process for sure. As I’m currently not living in a major city in Austria there’s a good amount of variation of landscapes and moods around. But much more than that, the happenings in my life inspire me for writing music.
MI: This year, you seem to have released quite a few other albums so far. Have you spent this year solely focusing on music?
TT: Indeed, 2014 was musically a very busy year for me, in an all positive way! First, I have worked on tales of emptiness for some time – in the end of 2012 the track 'invisible‘ was the first step in writing new material for my first full album. Due to circumstances that affected many areas of my life, the writing process was slowed down - tales of emptiness reflects that time. With 2013 being a relatively quiet year for me (only the invisible EP, which was released on new-year’s day) I spent time recovering and began writing music again. Things fell quite into place from that point on and in the end I had more material at hand than I’d have use for on just one release. One of the few advantages of being an independent musician is that I can schedule the releases myself. So I thought to release them in time so I can move on to other (new) things. I want to share my finished works as soon as possible anyway. Second: the b-sides & rarities collection isn’t entirely new, as it contains the invisible EP with unused tracks mostly from the endings & beginnings era and some new stuff that I thought I could share with interested people. Some tracks are a bit obscure in comparison with my other works, but they give some insights into things I try out, even if some ideas are just a blind alley. Counting in the changes EP, and stranded in a state of stillness, that makes a bunch of releases for just that year that I’m happy to be able to share.
MI: It seems you started writing and recording music in 2011. What impassioned you to start creating music?
TT: I went through tough times and thought a good way to deal with that is to start my own project, as music is my passion. I had no idea what it takes to realize that as I was of the view back then you’d need a major company to make decent recordings possible. It was a talented electronic musician from Germany, called Splitter and especially his album Grenzenlos is what convinced me that one person alone can achieve great things in music without being dependent on a major label. I began building my own home studio and started from scratch without much knowledge of how these things work on the technical/engineering side. It’s still a process of learning-by-doing.
MI: Is the song stranded in a state of stillness about anything or event in particular? Was there an inspiration behind it?
TT: It’s about self-condemnation that can interfere with your life entirely and put it on hold until the moment you begin to realize…
MI: Who are some of you favorite musicians and composers? How have these specific artists affected your compositions?
TT: Pink Floyd (mid- and later-era) and Steven Wilson with his works in Porcupine Tree have (re-)defined my “view” on music the most, I think. Also Mogwai, Splitter and many other artists in different genres have great influence on me. It’s not about complexity in music, but emotions, atmosphere, melody and melancholy that catch me.
MI: What are your musical plans for the future?
TT: I’m undecided yet where the journey will head. The further the writing process progresses, the more clear it will become. There’s also lots of material left that I filed under the working title "Fragments". Maybe I’ll compile a release of these first before I go on with entirely new material – nothing’s set yet, really. Improving on my mixing and production skills is also on my list, as well as further strings/orchestral mixes for other tracks. Collaborations with other artists would be interesting as well.
You can listen and purchase Thomas Trenker's album on Bandcamp.