Tim Exile: Accessing his core memories

Warp Records recent signing Tim Exile is pushing the boundaries of electro-pop with the release of his latest album Listening Tree_. Tim’s debut on Warp marks a giant leap in musical direction and a distinct progression from the intense experimental electronica he’s been known for up until now.

Between 1999 and 2004 Tim released a as string of impressive 12”s on labels including Moving Shadow, Beta Recordings, Renegade Hardware and Frequency, and the last couple of years have seen him move away from jungle with two tweaked out albums on Planet Mu entitled Pro Agonist and Tim Exile’s Nuisance Gabbaret Lounge. But with its wide appeal, Listening Tree is attracting both hipster indie kids and those with esoteric tastes. Baroque in ambience, the album draws parallels to the dark synthesised pop tones of early 80s Britain provided by artists like Depeche Mode and Cabaret Voltaire.

“It’s funny cause when I was writing it, I didn’t think of the 80’s,” explains Tim. “And then I played it to someone and they said ‘gee it sounds really 80s’ and I was like ‘does it?’ I had absolutely no idea. I didn’t think I was obsessed with the 80s at all but maybe I am, because the sounds in there are a throw back to that time.”

We’ve undoubtedly been saturated with 80’s nostalgia over the last few years, both in the music and fashion scenes and I was curious to discover why so many artists are preoccupied with a decade many of us were born in. “Things come in these kind of cycles,” says Tim. “You make your formative memories when you’re between the ages of 7 and 14. You develop your core childhood memories and anything that’s going on around you, on radio and the TV will always have this influence. These things become part of your core sense of identity because you’re growing and learning so quickly at that time. Then skip forward 20 years or so, when all these people are now getting past that first rung in new jobs. Like ad consultants, or working in music industry, and they start bringing these value judgements back.”

Feeding today’s culture with the culture that we grew up with is nothing new. Take the 90s, when we relived the 70s nostalgia with all things disco, punk and in between. Tim says he’s the classic example of this retro cycle. “Because I had no intention of making the album sound 80s. But then for some reason, everyone said that’s exactly what it sounds like. That must be because of the sounds I grew up with and what I heard on the radio.”

Listening Tree has taken Tim back to more than just his childhood memories. Back in the 80s he used to sing in a choir and Tim can be heard singing on one of his albums for the first time. “I really wanted to get back into it,” he says.” It was quite a challenge because I was recording the vocals in my flat in Berlin with my neighbours and I was a bit self-conscious. It’s not the ideal situation to be recording vocals in! But I learnt a lot because I was singing in a different voice to the one I used to sing in as a kid. I guess I quite like challenges.”

Tim says he’s enjoying his new musical path and it looks like Listening Tree is just the beginning. “I’m already planning my next album but I want to do something that’s more that just an album. A bit of programming and a bit of digital stuff so we’ll see where it goes.”

Tim Exile’s Listening Tree is out now through Warp/Inertia.