Name: Mikael Nordgren aka Tiger Stripes k
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Recent release: Tiger Stripes' Nocturnes EP is out via Drumcode.
If you enjoyed this interview with Tiger Stripes and would like to find out more, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter. He also has an artist page on the drumcode website.
If these thoughts by Mikael piqued your interest, you can continue reading with some of our other 15 Questions interviews with artist from the drumcode roster:
[Read our Gregor Tresher interview]
[Read our Dustin Zahn interview]
[Read our Ramiro Lopez interview]
[Read our Wehbba interview]
[Read our Enrico Sangiuliano interview]
[Read our Pig & Dan interview]
[Read our Marco Faraone interview]
[read our Josh Wink interview]
[Read our Victor Ruiz interview]
[Read our Lilly Palmer interview]
[Read our Kaiserdisco interview]
[Read our Rachel Palmer interview]
[Read our Moby interview]
[Read our Kevin Saunderson interview]
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
For me the impulse to create music comes from sound and never from something visual. But often arrives from hearing sounds and soundtracks when watching movie and TV series.
When I’m not working in the studio I’m more or less always searching for inspiration. I’m in a constant hunt for a good song idea. I seldom listen to music just for fun. It sounds really sad. (laughs) But I often have fun while searching for inspiration. And when I find it, it’s the greatest feeling.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
All of my best work started with an idea of what I wanted to make before I actually started working. I don’t just start with a kick drum, then a hi hat etc and see where it takes me. I collect inspiration and sounds until I know exactly what I want to do with them.
With my new two tracker Nocturnes, the idea was to combine really soft melancholic parts with tough uplifting techno to make the music dynamic. I was trying to do my techno the way Nirvana did their grunge rock in the 90s.
So it’s much planning, but I also like a bit of chance when I create music. When making a melody or some chords I often play around with a pitch, pressing it on and off to make up a progression I would not have thought of making myself.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
I work, trying different song ideas until I feel sure I have a song strong enough to be the A side of my next single.
By then, I often have 5-10 short demo loops of song ideas that includes a main groove and a break of some kind. I then start taking the best parts of these demos and merge them together, making them full-grown tracks so to speak.
I never finish a track that I’m not feeling excited about.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
From the moment I have started working on a track, I can’t wait to finish it. In a way it might be a bit like being pregnant. I’m happy to have it in my studio, but I also just want it over and done with and then to be able to show it to the world.
The first part, when trying out and getting the song idea together is super exciting. Then for me, the harder and slower part arrives when arranging the track. It’s not until after that, when polishing the mix, I really start to enjoy working again.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Every time I produce a piece of music, it strikes me how easy it is to destroy the whole song with a single bad sound or a cheesy melody. That’s why it so hard to make great music. Every sound, chord and melody must be right.
So that’s why I often get stuck half way making a track and this is where I go back to the other tracks I’m working with simultaneously and see if they have the element that I’m looking for to be able to move forward in my work.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
It’s only recently that I’ve learned to let my music rest a little and then listen again before I send it to the record label, and most often that is Adam Beyer’s Drumcode label.
I still often send them too quickly, but often the songs are ready enough for Adam to play them out as a DJ and then make the decision if he wants them or not. Most often he wants them and then I keep on polishing the details until the very day the deadline arrives. Sometimes Adam has ideas of what I can improve in the arrangement of the track. But he keeps the feedback very subtle and lets me do my own thing with his suggestions.
For example he thought my last single ”Rocket” could need a less musical and more minimal part and it worked out really well. The experience he has DJ-ing to big crowds, for so many years definitely makes me listen to his thoughts and it has helped me grow as a producer I think.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
This is just as important as the songwriting part for me.
The way I mix my music is such a big part of ”my sound”. I love my delays, reverbs and compressors and I’m mixing every sound as I go along working making sure I get the sound just right before I start working the next element. It inspires me to move ahead with the track.
I master most of my music, but I don’t mind if someone else is doing it, if they can do it better than me. And that still happen ones in a while! But not for long I hope, as I am getting deeper into it and really enjoy mastering not just my own, but also other people’s music.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Yes, for me the emptiness arrives when I have finished a track and don’t have an idea for the next one. This lasts for a day or two and then I’m back at it again. Music making is like a never-ending loop!
The release day on the other hand is what I’ve been waiting for. It is super cool because that is when you get to know if people appreciate what I’ve created. When feedback starts coming in from social media and when the tracks start climbing the charts it’s so exciting every time!
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Making music is a part of me and also my day job, so the happiness and pride of making a strong track also comes with a feeling of security. A feeling that I will be able to keep making a living out of my music.
Making a great curry and seeing my children eat it also gives me great pleasure, but only for a second. A great Tiger Stripes track is what puts the curry on the kitchen table.