Scrolling through Tristan Arp’s Instagram feed you are fed with warm, colourful imagery from his paintings to record sleeves to the environments he finds himself in. It’s a cluster of inspiration and an insight into his creative mind. This vibrancy seeps into his productions as he often looks to natural elements and creatures, shapeshifting them into sounds with a focus on polyrhythmic design. Once described as ‘tech house gone wrong’ by Batu, Tristan’s sonic landscape is playful and positive with words like wiggly and slinky coming to mind. Under the Tristan Arp moniker, he has primarily released on the Human Pitch label he co-founded alongside Brandon Sanchez who have released the likes of MinaeMinae, DADRAS, Landon Speers and Lee Evans as well as hosting a monthly radio show on The Lot.
Now he makes his debut on Bristol-based label Banoffee Pies Records with a three-track EP ‘Slip’. Premiering the title track below, we speak to Tristan about his fascination with polyrhythmic drum patterns, his approach to production and using the nature around him as inspiration and instruments.
Having grown up in Detroit, what inspired your move to New York at the age of 18?
I moved to New York City when I was 17 to experiment with new sounds, new friendships, work on myself and build a new life.
What would you say are the key lessons you’ve learned from living in Detroit and New York?
Growing up in a blue collar family in a suburb of Detroit I learned to say hi to my neighbors and create my own reality. In New York I learned to hustle, be more social, and overcome poverty.
Have you always been a creative person? Could you tell us about your earliest memory linked to creativity?
A Tascam 4-track tape recorder.
Who have been some integral figures in your life that have helped shape you as an artist and person?
Brandon Sanchez is my best friend and partner in running Human Pitch. We had the really beautiful experience of living together and figuring out life together in New York and he’s on the most positive forces in my life. One of my other besties Sarah Faitell is a painter, sculptor, doctor, yoga teacher, horse whisper, and always impresses me with her strength to do and give so much. Some other heroes: Josef Albers, Delia Derbyshire, David Lynch, Trish Keenan, Shunryū Suzuki, George Clinton, and Bill Paskins, the owner of the record shop in Rochester, Michigan where I bought my first CDs.
Can you tell me about how you approach composing music when you’re writing Tristan Arp material compared to your Asa Tone project?
With Asa Tone I like to play the role of sound capturer––when Melati and Kaazi are improvising alongside me I try to capture and loop their best moments, which feels much more live compared to solo work. When I’m working alone a lot of times I start by listening to what’s in my head or imagining something I haven’t heard before but would like to hear and try to capture that.
What would you say kickstarted your fascination with polyrhythmic drum patterns?
I think there was a variety of coinciding events when I teenager. It was pretty peculiar in retrospect how obsessed I was with Parliament/Funkadelic as a white kid from the suburbs, granted they’re from Detroit and Funk is a big deal there. I rinsed their whole discography and am thankful to have absorbed that rhythmic DNA. Then there was Talking Heads, and going to see the Congolese group Konono No. 1 perform in Detroit, and discovering techno at Detroit’s Movement festival and falling in love with it but wishing it’s rhythms could be more varied and unpredictable.
Are you more informed by relationships or research?
When I was younger, definitely research, but today, relationships.
You’ve previously mentioned you’re interested in biomimicry as a creative approach – are there any specific plants or animals that you tried to mimic on your next EP ‘Slip’? Did you use any plants as instruments on this release? I’m aware Bamboo is a material you often like to use.
It’s true, I think it’s really interesting to use nature and wildlife as models for creation and sound design. On all the tracks on this record though, I was thinking of giving voices to more imaginary creatures. “Slip” for example a snaking, shapeshifter while “Swept Thru” is more of a wild beast.
Do you think working in nature adds anything to your productions? If so what?
Any environment that introduces a fresh sense of wonder will breathe life into all kinds of work.
Could you talk us through three of the best environments you’ve found yourself in and how they inspired you?
I came to Mexico City in January to spend more time in a city that made a really strong impression on me after visiting for the first time and I’ve been here since, getting a lot of inspiration from new relationships and landscapes. I made Temporary Music with Melati and Kaazi from Asa Tone in an open-air treehouse of an Airbnb in Indonesia and I’ll always be grateful to Melati for introducing me to her home country––I certainly wouldn’t have wound up making music there if it weren’t for her.
How did your relationship begin with the UK label Banoffee Pies and did you produce this EP specifically with the label in mind?
I met Ell from Banoffee in a really lovely and organic way, just sharing my appreciation for a new release of his, to which he wrote back and we got to talking. I didn’t produce the record specifically with Banoffee in mind but I really welcomed Ell’s perspective in bringing the record to finish.
And what motivated the launch of your own label Human Pitch alongside Brandon Sanchez?
I think it was mainly the friendship itself and our shared love of music. We started throwing parties together in New York and it felt good for me to be doing something outside myself and helping realize exciting and undiscovered visions.
There’s a lot of positivity linked to your output whether that’s you talking about bringing joy to people’s lives through music or the vibrancy of your art – do you have any routines or rituals in place that help keep you in a positive mindset?
I like to live playfully and keep a sense of wonder.
And could you share with us something positive that’s happened to you recently?
Living with a new friend who feels like an old friend.
‘Slip’ by Tristan Arp will be released via Banoffee Pies Records on the 24th April – pre-order here.