Monday 23 January 2012

K&A with Chris Tenz

And so we come to the end of, what I shall forever affectionately dub, my 'Two-Post Tour Of Canada'.  As with the first post of my virtual tour, this time 'round, the artist in question, the incredibly-talented Chris Tenz (him what is above), also has strong Scottish ties.  At the tail-end of 2011, Chris released his brilliant album Frozen Arms through the Edinburgh label mini50 Records, and even popped over to launch it.  While he was here, he took time out to record this stunning wee gem.   

Anyway, a few words from me about Frozen Arms before I hand the floor over to Mr. Tenz...  It's good.  Very good actually!  The cold, dark connotations of the titles aside, it's difficult to escape the all-encompassing winteriness of this album, be it from the atmospheric soundscapes created by a delicate blend of guitars, piano and synths which give an unerring sense of isolation, or the icy distant lo-fi hisses and occasional tape crackles.  All of which add up to something incredibly impressive indeed.   There's no escaping that it's an unashamedly forlorn affair, full of "loss, regret and impending death" but throughout, you'll be hanging on Chris' every hushed vocal, you'll be taken in every time things drift off, more often than not in fact, into minutes of some of the most serene instrumentals you're likely to hear.  It's not quite tenz out of tenz mind you, but it's not too far off it!

Probably best I just get on with the interview now.  Take it away Chris...

Kowalskiy:  Who is Chris Tenz?
Chris:  I will admit, that is a difficult question to answer! A strange, coffee addicted man from Calgary, Canada, I suppose.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe your music?
Chris:  I have found that describing it is rather difficult. I tend to avoid trying lately, and rather allow people to hear it as they like. I love the idea of music that sort of soundtracks itself, songs with their own "score", if you will... so I have tried to accomplish that effect. Whether or not I have done so successfully, I am not entirely certain.

Kowalskiy:  Your debut album Frozen Arms came out at the end of 2011. There's a definite cold, dark, wintery theme going on if you ask me.  What can you tell us about it?
Chris:  Most of the songs were written and produced throughout the autumn/winter of 2010/2011. Winter inspires me very heavily, and all of the fictional "stories" of the album also take place in late autumn or through the winter. So a cold, winter mood was intentional, but I am sure it was partially influenced by when it was made.

Kowalskiy:  Correct me if I'm wrong, but you wrote, performed, produced and mastered the album all on your lonesome. BUT! If you had the chance to collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who'd it be and why?
Chris:  Yes, the album was a solo effort indeed. It is an interesting time you should raise this question, actually, as I am (nervously) working on rounding up a few of my favorite artists to contribute to an album concept I'm slowly working at. As for narrowing this down to one person, however, that is difficult to do! I recently saw a Max Richter concert in Lisbon, Portugal. Like a babbling fool, when I bought an album from him, I told him it would be amazing to collaborate. I doubt that would ever be a reality, but he would certainly be up there on the list!

Kowalskiy:  You're signed up to Edinburgh's mini50 Records. You're all the way over in Canada, they're over here... so how'd it all come about?
Chris:  It's actually by large coincidence, as I recall. Fraser from Small Town Boredom and Caught in the Wake Forever somehow found an old net-label release of mine, and shared it with Euan (McMeeken from mini50). I think it was through that which he eventually discovered the former ambient duo that I was a part of, Language of Landscape. On his blog, he wrote some kind words about one of our releases, and we contacted him to thank him for writing about us. He proceeded to ask us to join mini50, and expressed an interest in my solo works. He's been immensely supportive since. I think I got those details right. Anyways, I was always quite drawn to Edinburgh, so it somehow felt right to release music out of the city.

Kowalskiy:  So, does that mean there are plans afoot to visit Scotland at any point soon?
Chris:  I just returned from a short visit back in October/November, actually. My plan is (fingers crossed!) to return for the duration winter, next year. To finally visit was quite amazing, as I always felt an unexplained connection with the area.

Kowalskiy:  What Scottish bands are making waves over in Canada? How 'bout you, any Scots on your iPod?
Chris:  As for bands that are making an impact over here, I can't really say. I don't tend to keep up with "current" things very well. I do know there's loads of talent there, so it would not surprise me to know that there's lots finding it's way to Canadian ears. As for myself, yes, definitely some Scots gracing my headphones frequently. Last Days has always been one of my favorite solo artists. He has operated out of Edinburgh over the past few years. Aforementioned Small Town Boredom has also been in my ears for many repeated listens. Euan from mini50 is a moany bastard, but he has made some absolutely stunning music over the years as well (K:  The Kays Lavelle, his solo stuff, and more recently, Graveyard Tapes). Also, since visiting, a few kind people there have put me on to some other lovely artists. I look forward to exploring the scene more extensively when I return. I think there is a lot to be discovered!

Kowalskiy:  What else can we expect from Chris Tenz in 2012?
Chris:  I committed myself to slowing down and patiently exploring ideas this year, as I want to avoid the temptation to rush anything creatively. I am working on a couple of projects, but I cannot say when they will be ready yet. Maybe this year, perhaps later. I suppose they are simply "sketches", at this point. Otherwise, my music will be appearing in a couple of feature films this year, as well as a couple of short films. Later last year, I produced an album for Nicolas Field, an absurdly good artist here in Calgary. I think that is to also make an appearance sometime in the next few months.

Kowalskiy:  Last one, any New Year resolutions?
Chris:  No "resolutions", exactly, but over the past few months I've committed myself to really stripping down any ideas I have of what creativity means to me personally. It is a bit difficult to explain, but I really want to produce sounds without any preconceptions or self-doubt/criticism to confuse the process. I don't know what the end result will be, and have no expectations for it, and somehow, in itself, I find that to be quite refreshing. I want it to all be as genuine and honest as possible. Whether or not it is any good. Whether or not it ever gets heard.

Cheers Chris!  You can get your copy of Frozen Arms over here.  Can't stress enough how great the album is.  Plus, 'tis a bargain!

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