Roland Tings likes his Roland things, like any good house producer should. He's been loving them for a while but the world didn't hear much about it until his Milky Way EP on 100% Silk in 2012. Since then he's released on Modular's Club Mod imprint and—as of right now—Prins Thomas's Internasjonal. Getting tapped by the king of cosmic disco (though I get the sense Thomas wouldn't enjoy being called that) is no small thing, so I wanted to talk to the producer about the release and, oh golly, just a bunch of stuff.
In what's going to be a huge bummer for bedroom producers everywhere, getting released on Internasjonal wasn't a fantasy-novel trial of challenges. Kind of the opposite in fact. Michael Kucyk of Noise in My Head sent out a bunch of demos on Roland's behalf "to, like, everybody. I saw the list of people and it was like, the list of people, and Thomas was the only person who replied. And he was like 'I love them all, let's do an album'".
The Who U Love EP is a preview of that upcoming album. Three tracks of house music that you want to situate in the past but you can't because you're hearing them from the future. The title track is house music that jacks like snapping bones while it breathes clouds of thick, electric air. That jacking sound is something he's associated with but it's a hard word to pin down, even for Tings: "James Holden was talking about this Berlin tech house sound as the 'shaved balls' sound, you know what I mean? Just super smooth Berlin tech house kind of always has that silly bass sound and that one hi-hat that goes non-stop forever. I know a lot of people who are into that sound think that my music is too jerky and I think a lot of that jacking, rhythmic feel is some kind of awkwardness, some kind of awkward, mushy jerkiness".
Maybe the appeal of that kind of disjunction is a product of from coming at club music from the outside. "Everyone has their own way of participating in the culture and mine was, like, listening to podcasts at work and working on music at home, but I never necessarily felt this need to go and be part of a scene or anything like that".
So working with the sonic signatures of house—the staticky crack of a 909 snare, the punch of its kick—became a way to understand, not imitate, the music. "I think what you hear with these classic sounds in the records is me coming from outside looking at this language of house music and trying to learn that language and use things in a way makes sense for me… all of the stuff that's come out or is coming out feels like learning how to talk, you know?
Playing live was always the goal. Rapid recognition and a musical life led in a bedroom rather than a club created some disassociation. "I feel like when I started playing live that was the first time I'd really been going to nightclubs. Like, I hadn't even played in Australia. I played one live show in Australia before I was playing overseas. So it's like my first real nightclub experiences were me playing in Japan and Spain and all of these strange places."
Places you'd usually go to attend to your head, not your feet. "In Portugal the original venue for the show got cancelled, got canned somehow, and I ended up playing in a hair salon in the outskirts of a town called Braga which is outside of Porto. So it's like Lisbon, Porto is the second biggest city and then Braga is this town like an hour and a half out of Porto. It's this guy's tenth anniversary of his hair salon styling business and I played live in between the hair baths."
Being just as much of a live musician as a recording one is still kind of a rarity in dance music. Which doesn't mean he still doesn't struggle its familiar problems. Not wanting to be "the spacebar guy", finding a balance between just hitting play and making "things more improvised. There's always this fine line, you want to be able to deliver something reliable for people. Even down to technicalities, you want something that is going to work… you don't want to turn up with a 35-year-old drum machine and have it be out of sync for your entire set".
If his enveloping live sets and simplicity-through-complexity recordings are the sound of him just trying to work something out then I'm never trying to do anything again. The rascal is characteristically humble about the process. "Some people are just stupid enough to not give up when they realise how shit they are. You realise how shit you are and either you go 'all right, this sounds terrible, that's the end of that, let's move on to something that I'm actually capable of doing' or 'I'm going to waste my fucking life and sit in my bedroom for 12 hours a day for five years working out how to make it better'."
Keep wasting that life Roland Tings. Sounds pretty good.
Kane Daniel breathes in your stink and exhales it in the form of beautiful Twitter poetry here