Although his career in DJing and music production had an early onset, taking off before it was even legal for him to play in clubs, Tim Engelhardt had a particularly astounding 2017 which segued into the new year without any signs of winding down. The young German, raised and based in Cologne, has not only proved his mettle last year, by signing productions on some of electronic music’s most respected labels, Innervisions, Diynamic, Bedrock and of course, his second home, Poker Flat, but the positive reception of his DJ and live sets have also packed clubs and venues and dazzled party goers worldwide. Torture the Artist caught up with Tim on a typical Wednesday afternoon (although not so ordinary now, faced with a few hands full of questions) to talk about his daily routine, the development of his career and how he balances his busy work schedule. The No More Words co-producer also elaborates on his emotive track titles and shares some of his most memorable moments as an artist and simply as someone who lives and breathes music pretty much all his life, maybe even beyond time.
Torture the Artist: Hello Tim, can you tell us a little bit about where you are sitting at the moment? Knowing you will be hit with a couple of hard questions, where did you decide to set yourself physically and mentally?
Torture the Artist: What’s a typical day in the life of Tim Engelhardt off-tour? Do you follow a rigorous schedule and/or routine?
Tim Engelhardt: The first things I do in the morning is have breakfast and then do some exercise to help kick start my day. Afterwards, it’s usually studio time until lunch, and then I take care of all the business tasks that need doing. So I can later decide to either meet friends or make more music. Generally, I don’t follow a strict routine for most of the day, I just stick to the rule of creating for at least half an hour daily. Keeps me inventive and I always find new sounds to use.
Torture the Artist: Stories tell us you are a Cologne native, born and raised. Now, it’s your turn to tell us stories back. Pick a non-electronic music track that would generally characterizes Cologne to an outsider. Next, pick another track that personifies Cologne as you know it.
Tim Engelhardt: Well, there are many tracks that link to Cologne in my memory, but if I had to choose only one, it would be BAP – Verdammt lang her.
Tim Engelhardt: If I had to disregard my own ‘Best Night in Cologne’, I would choose Studio 1 ‘Grün 1‘, one of the tracks that Wolfgang Voigt, the founder of Kompakt, did in the 90s. Even though it was made before I was even born, it resonates with me and captures the essence of Cologne really well. Another essential Cologne classic for me is Jürgen Paape ‘So Weit Wie Noch Nie‘.
Torture the Artist: How much has Cologne impacted your music, and furthermore, your approach to producing music?
Tim Engelhardt: Honestly, not too much. I’m writing the music that sounds like me, and I’m kind of protective about this sound which I’ve developed over the last couple of years. Not to say I’m not influenced by certain things, but I will only adapt it to my music after questioning it and verifying that it’s in tune with the integrity of my sound.
What can we make of the potential that technology and science are opening for us, in, say 100 or even 200 years?
Torture the Artist: Beyond time, do you often think about travelling through time, and if so which era would you like to visit and at what age would you prefer to be entering it?
Tim Engelhardt: I do, especially when I’m on planes and physically can’t move too much. I would want to check out the origins of human culture, but then again, it’s been traced back already.
If I had the chance to travel through time, I would be more interested in the future. What can we make of the potential that technology and science are opening for us, in, say 100 or even 200 years? What resources will be used to generate electricity? What are we going to do about the increasing climate changes, the pollution? What cars will we drive? Will we actually drive cars anymore? I think that’s so interesting to think about… and I guess 25 is a good age for time-travel, you’re fit and your mind is at its peak.
Torture the Artist: Your track titles seem to carry quite some meaning – implying depth, some pondering, even a bit of romanticism. What is your process when conceptualizing a track – do you think of the title first then go with the theme or do you let it play out and then come up with the name?
Tim Engelhardt: They do indeed. It can go both ways really. When I was producing my album, I had most of the names in my head even before writing the tracks. And the names, in fact, evoked ideas for the music I was about to write. It can be the other way around too, sometimes I’m playing around with a melody, it reminds me of something and then a fitting name comes to my head.
Torture the Artist: Would you consider yourself emotionally sensitive?
Tim Engelhardt: Yes! It can be a good and bad thing, anyway, it’s helping me create music a lot.
It’s like surfing on clouds and discovering the sky by yourself.
Torture the Artist: Do you often get lost in your tracks? If you were to choose to spend a weekend in one, which would it be?
Tim Engelhardt: It would definitely be ‘Endless‘, from my album. In my imagination, it’s like surfing on clouds and discovering the sky by yourself. I have no idea why, but this image instantly comes to my head when I hear the track. Clouds are probably my most favourite thing on earth, so I would certainly enjoy spending a weekend jumping from one to another, without a worry about anything.
Torture the Artist: It’s no secret that you are rather young and started your career very early on. Describe a time when your age has worked to your utmost advantage, as well as an instance when it felt like a setback.
Tim Engelhardt: Right now, I think is the time when it’s an advantage for me. When I tell people my age they are usually very surprised and/or can’t believe it.
It’s unusual to be as deeply involved in the music like I am now. I just found that passion very early and didn’t let go of it since. When I think to 3 years back, I wasn’t legally allowed to play in clubs, which felt like a setback. There were a lot of complications because of it and sometimes my father had to even accompany me to make it happen.
Youth is all about fun and finding yourself, they say. I have to admit I missed out on a lot of friendships or seemingly important events because my priority then was music.
Torture the Artist: With the rapid rise of your career as a producer, would you say you’ve missed out on a part of your youth which you wish you could get back?
Tim Engelhardt: Youth is all about fun and finding yourself, they say. I have to admit I missed out on a lot of friendships or seemingly important events because my priority then was music, and still is. I just had the feeling I was onto something, so I kept going, which eventually led me to have really good moments with the music I created.
I found a lot of friends which share the same passion and that I actually have a connection with on an intellectual level. I feel like I have not only found myself, but also found a community I can work within and shape with the music I create.
It might not have been the typical youth and some things which are crucial to other people my age, are not important to me or I haven’t done yet, but I am fine with that.
This kind of metaphysical connection is unmatched.
Torture the Artist: Here is a series of moments, let’s hear the truth. How did you feel: during your first time playing at a club – when and where? When you first heard your track played by a DJ you admire – who and where?
Tim Engelhardt: First time playing in a club was at Odonien, Cologne, only four years ago. I was very nervous and kind of insecure because I was playing live, all of my own music, most of which I had never shown to people before. While I was playing, I got so many smiles and it made me realize that what I am doing is of importance. Also that all the moments and feelings I have been through and inspired me to write this music, triggered a strong emotional response in the audience too. I think this kind of metaphysical connection is unmatched and it’s the reason why I do this, basically.
First time I heard someone else play my music out was roughly three years ago when Robert Babicz was testing a lot of my music. We performed at the same festival in Germany and he played the remix I made for his track ‘Black Lion‘. It’s a really awesome, but at the same time a strange feeling to hear your music in a different surrounding. When you’re listening to the same piece of music, let’s say, about 200-500 times in the same room, you start to associate it with that room. And it feels a bit confusing to hear it somewhere else, as that image of your room pops up in your head.
Torture the Artist: When was the last time you blushed upon hearing something you had produced come through the loudspeakers or the radio?
Tim Engelhardt: I guess that was last month in India. I had just played a show in Hyderabad, the final leg of my tour there, and we had a small afterparty in a villa somewhere. They were playing music from my album ‘Moments Of Truth‘, then I realized I’m 8000 km away from home and people are appreciating what I’ve created. That’s a great feeling.
Torture the Artist: Who are the most influential people in your life, not just as an artist, but on an individual level as well.
Tim Engelhardt: As an artist, I pull inspiration from various sources, but as I said before, I’m not as easily influenced, especially by other people. It’s more like everything that I hear, see or read goes through my personal filter and either I find a way to use it for my art or personal development, or it gets thrown away very quickly.
I think it’s time for the scene to abandon the black clothes and show some color.
Torture the Artist: We’ve seen you playing sets across the globe with some bold outfits, what do you like to wear when you are out clubbing? Is there just one Tim Engelhardt, or do you like to peruse an alter ego once in a while?
Tim Engelhardt: No alter egos, I just wear what I like, which could be anything from a designer brand to very functional, some would say ‘boring’ clothes. I try to make a statement with what I’m wearing on stage, indeed. I think it’s time for the scene to abandon the black clothes and show some colour.
Torture the Artist: If you had not been an electronic music producer/DJ, what would you have thought of pursuing? Do you think you would feel as fulfilled as you do now?
Tim Engelhardt: I think either graphic design, architecture or maybe even fashion could be very interesting and I could imagine myself being very content with working in those fields because there’s space for creativity. I never liked the idea of doing an ordinary job, I guess it’s just not for me.
Torture the Artist: Which track(s) have you listened to more than five times in the past week, not work related?
Tim Engelhardt: I listened to Nils Frahm ‘All Melody‘ in full length several times this week, as I haven’t had the motivation and drive to dive into his work before and lots of people were recommending this particular album. They were right, it’s a stunning album which left me very inspired. Also, James Blake’s ‘If The Car Besides You Moves Ahead‘ and his ‘Vincent‘ cover I have been listening to more than ten times in the last week.
Torture the Artist: Let’s talk about your music a little bit, and it’s totally okay for you to love it. Name three of your favourite productions and 3 of your favourite remixes?
Tim Engelhardt: It’s really tough to choose three favourites but I guess it would have to be ‘When The Distance Disappears‘, ‘Reality‘ and ‘Solitude‘, as I think they display my approach to music, but also my personality in a quite an intriguing way.
Regarding remixes, definitely the one I did for Darlyn Vlys’ ‘Colours‘ and also my remix B for Compuphonic’s ‘Sunset‘. The other favourite is a remix I did for Clarian’s ‘Television Days’ which is yet to be released. It’s a little slower than my previous work and dives into new territories I want to explore in the coming years. Watch out for this one!
Torture the Artist: With your success as a DJ and live act, you have travelled quite far and wide. Which city has made the greatest impression on you, which would you like to revisit and which do you feel needs to get to know you better?
Tim Engelhardt: Very tough question! My favourite places so far were Beirut, Melbourne, San Francisco and New York. I’ve been to some places like Washington D.C, Istanbul, Houston which I haven’t really seen much of, so I have to go again and explore more!
How could you even think of home when your head is flooded with all that new information?
Torture the Artist: Do you typically get homesick when travelling? How do you appease those on-the-road blues when they arise?
Tim Engelhardt: No, so far, I have never felt homesick, to be honest. It’s such a rush exploring new cities, meeting new people, playing your music in a completely new environment for the first time, and getting instant reactions. How could you even think of home when your head is flooded with all that new information? Even if you’re in a city for the 3rd time or 10th time, there’s always something you haven’t checked out yet or something that might have changed.
Torture the Artist: Do you have any bad habits you’re not necessarily proud of? And do you struggle to stave them off while touring?
Tim Engelhardt: Luckily, just one. I still smoke cigarettes when I play in clubs, somehow, I can’t get rid of it. I abandoned them during the week and it feels great. Even when people offer me one I have the willpower to say no, which is amazing. But the club atmosphere and smoking go hand in hand for me, so I still can’t resist it.
Torture the Artist: You are well-connected to your music, and noticeably, to your equipment. Have you ever gone out on a date or a night out and found yourself so distracted that you had to leave to go back in the studio and finish it off with music? What’s the greatest excuse you have used to skip out of an engagement?
Tim Engelhardt: It happened very rarely with dates I have to say, maybe one or two times when I wasn’t present in the moment and was thinking about my music instead.
I did have a couple of situations where I planned to go clubbing somewhere but ended up in my studio instead. I don’t use excuses though. I just tell people I feel like making music now rather than clubbing, and my close friends accept this most of the times as they know I’m addicted to creating.
Torture the Artist: You’ve collaborated with many producers throughout your career, across many different labels too. Are there any particular artists you connect with on a deeper level? Who was the last collaborator you had talked to on the phone and for how long?
Tim Engelhardt: I enjoy working with other people a lot, even though I haven’t found that deeper connection just yet. I guess it’s still to come. The last one I talked to was Constantijn Lange for about one and a half hours, as we’re preparing something for this year.
In the past, I made this mistake of planning too much ahead, but it turned out none of my plans worked out.
Torture the Artist: Your career has been steady and your artistry seems to work with the current climate of the electronic music field. Do you have plans to one day do something completely out of left field, and if so how far along will you wait?
Tim Engelhardt: I seriously don’t think you can plan anything creative until it’s done. I’m working on something new which is completely leftfield, but who knows if I’m ever going to finish it or if I actually release it.
In the past, I made this mistake of planning too much ahead, but it turned out none of my plans worked out. I mean, I’m where I want to be for now, and I have released music on labels I love, but the road here was completely different to how I thought it would be. And I realized the story I had in my mind had already been written by someone else, so you have to write your own.
Torture the Artist: What has been the most pivotal year in your career so far? Which is a decision you could keep on revisiting and never feel any sense of regret? Which year would you revamp if given the chance?
Tim Engelhardt: Last year was a really important one for me personally. I made good connections all over the world, travelled to many places, got lots of inspiration and released on labels like Innervisions, Diynamic, Cityfox, Poker Flat and Bedrock. This all happened because my focus on music is 100% these days and I think the decision to put all my energy and creativity into music was the right one. I would never do it differently.
Torture the Artist: Music has been a crucial part of your life for, what seems like a lifetime, is there one thing you would have given it all up for?
Tim Engelhardt: Honestly, I couldn’t think of any reason to answer this question with ‘yes’ without lying.
But when you come back to it, you might find that one sound that you loved so much and spent hours tweaking and it doesn’t do much for the song.
Torture the Artist: How do you salvage yourself from a producer’s block? Do you have a surefire trick to get some artistic inspiration?
Tim Engelhardt: There are many ways to do it, I think. From my personal experience, writer’s block always comes in pair with some kind of tunnel vision. So, it’s important to expose yourself to new influences. Reading a book, listening to music I don’t know yet, or going to a place I haven’t been to yet helps me almost every time.
Another thing which works for me is leaving my current projects for a while and instead, reopen old projects. I’m far more distanced from an idea I sketched out four weeks ago or maybe even three years ago and it’s, therefore, easier to keep the bigger picture in mind.
When you’re just writing a song, it can be a real sensation in your head, moments, or feelings inside you that inspire you to write it in a particular way. But when you come back to it, you might find that one sound that you loved so much and spent hours tweaking and it doesn’t do much for the song. You delete it, come up with something else and finish the track within a few hours. There’s still time to work on that current project afterwards, and you will probably come back to it with a completely new mindset.
Torture the Artist: If you were to have a conversation with the Tim Engelhardt of 2011 with his first, brand new production, what would you tell him?
Tim Engelhardt: I would tell him to let it sink for a month and listen to it again, to ask more questions, and to be more open to other styles that might be interesting and give a new perspective.
Tim Engelhardt & BOg’s EP ‘Alma‘ is released March 16th, 2018 on Poker Flat.