Dutch producer, DJ and De School resident Thessa Torsing’s productions are proof that less is more; that you can find beauty in simple, small intricacies and the use of space.
Under the guise of upsammy, Thessa’s sonic output spread like wildfire in 2018. Equal parts hypnotic and meditative, her releases on Whities, now known as AD 93, Nous’klaer Audio and Die Orakel offered us a window into her style and influences, touching on elements of IDM, ambient, breaks and electro.
Following the release of her first full length album Zoom on Dekmantel this week, she takes us on a tour of her home studio and shares her production approach and processes.
What’s your musical education?
I’ve had violin lessons as a child and took up guitar on my own.
What was your first ever set-up, when you started making music?
I started out in a band, so it was a guitar and my computer with Logic on it.
What was the first serious piece of kit you bought?
It was an Analog Rytm MKII.
Thanks for taking some photos around your studio. Could you give us a little walk through the main components?
I don’t have a lot of gear as I mostly work in the box. So the center of it all is my Universal audio Apollo x6 audio interface and that’s recording the little bits of modular I have, the Analog Rythm and a mic for vocals or other things I’d like to record. I also have a midi keyboard and an APC 20 to play melodies or percussion. And I have a soundcraft MTK Signature 12 mixer that I only use for live-sets. I really like having the Apollo because I can run a lot of high quality VST’s on it, without using my computers CPU and also for the many inputs, so I can record a lot of stuff at the same time with an analog emulated preamp of my liking. The center of my modular set up is a Pittsburgh Modular SV-1, I bought this to get started since it has a lot of modules pre routed already. And then I have some effects to hook it up too, like a Plankton Jellyfish and a Make-Noise Erbe-Verb (my favorite). I also have some Befaco DIY modules like a Kickall, very nice to make kicks and an Even VCO. In addition to all that gear I have an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar and a bass guitar that I mostly use for a side project. Finally my Zoom recorder is important to make recordings outside!
My record collection and DJ set-up is also part of my studio of course.
Where is it located and do you share with anyone else?
My studio is located at home in Amsterdam, I don’t really share it with anyone.
What’s been your method for creating this studio? Has it been a gradual accumulation or a bulk purchase? Any key inspirations in pulling it together?
I did not really apply a method, it all very gradually grew into this. It’s not a lot of stuff and I really like that, I makes me more creative in a way, just to work with what I have. I guess the most important reason for me to have the gear that I have is that it helps my to change my method of producing music from time to time. I can either start with twisting knobs, not looking at my computer at all, or I can start with a field recording on my computer. Whatever works!
Are you always seeking to experiment and develop your studio, by changing or adding equipment? If so, what warrants a change?
Not so much actually, especially not now. I would still like to keep it as simple as possible, but that might also because of the limited space I have. I always try to prevent myself from buying a new piece of gear as a means to get inspiration again, but sometimes it does do the trick, I cannot deny it. If something makes my work flow flow better it’s usually a good change.
If money were no object what would you add?
I would go all out with soundproofing, or even get a studio outside of my house. Get a super high quality midi-keyboard with heavy keys.
You must have a most treasured bit of equipment. If you had to keep just one piece, what would it be?
That would be the audio interface (and laptop of course).
Before you head to the studio, is there anything you do to prepare or get in the right headspace?
I would drink some coffee, and I would avoid afternoons/midday. I work best in the mornings or after dinner. Don’t read emails or things that in anyway prevent me from getting into a flow or connect me too much with the outside world.
What’s your creative approach when you’re in the studio? Do you go in with a concept in mind or is it usually an impulsive exercise?
It’s more of a meditative exercise I would say, unless I’ve come up with some kind of idea or lyric beforehand. It the idea changes along the way I usually just go with the flow. The work tells you how to do it, so to speak.
Are you someone to labour over a track until every crease is ironed out, or do you prefer a raw, instinctive approach without dwelling too much on something?
It depends, with me usually the best tracks roll out at once and I don’t change anything anymore, except for the mix. But sometimes I change something after listening to the track again after some time. For example, one track on my album called Twisted Like A Flame, where the melody was played with a guitar I later on changed it to a synth.
You are set to release your debut album Zoom on Dekmantel this week, can you talk us through the process behind the album?
It started out with a couple of tracks I already had laying around and together with some sort of research through photography I began to create a pallet of moods and textures to fit with those tracks. With my Zoom recorder I recorded some field recordings and percussive sounds, connecting the music to the visual ideas. I wanted to look for contrasts sound wise, make it sound organic yet digital. Using soft melodies but more bright and icy percussion for example. The act of ‘zooming in’ was a way of working throughout the whole process: looking for details in sound and researching my surroundings closely to find those sounds and moods.
What was the most important bit of kit you used on the album?
I mostly worked in my computer, so I’d say my laptop. But also the Analog Rytm MK II and my Zoom recorder.
Where do you go or what do you do when you have writers block? Anything to reset the mental hardware?
I like to go for long walks or runs, talk to friends or drive somewhere. Sometimes doing something in another discipline helps, like drawing or writing a poem, taking pictures.
What inspires you outside the world of music?
My surroundings, art, movies, books, talks with certain people, spirituality.
What else is on the horizon this year that’s getting you excited?
Working on new music, running my first marathon distance and hopefully clubs opening again!
Zoom is out now via Dekmantel.