York - breathing the island life
Riding the musical wave and keeping up with the tide for the past 20 years, producer Torsten Stenzel still stands at the top of the dance scene. Reviving his Planet Love Records and bringing his York project back to life has now resulted in a brand new album. Dedicated to his life on bounty island Antigua, he presents ‘Islanders’. An album that shows he still holds the formula to timeless, breath-taking music, bringing out a full-colour reflection of what the lush, diverse York sound is all about. We hooked up with the mastermind and asked him all about his impressive career, wide musical vision and of course, the island life...
Hey Torsten! How are you and where can we find you today?
York:”Hi, thanks - I am fine. At the moment I am in Los Angeles and Antigua (West Indies) on and off…”
People are often intrigued to hear you’re living on an island as beautiful but far away as Antigua. What’s it like living there? Does the place give you all the inspiration you need?
York:”Living on an Island is different of course, I’ve been living on islands for 16 years already. The island-life isn’t for everybody, because it can be very isolated too. But I think if you compose music it’s amazing, because you get so inspired. You see a huge sky and at the horizon the ocean, I mean there is a reason why so many famous musicians live on islands…Eric Clapton lives in Antigua too, Joss Stone wrote her last entire Album in Barbados, Mike Oldfield lives at the Bahamas….”
The island life seems to be the main theme in your life. You even named your new album after it! What’s the concept behind ‘Islanders’?
York:”The concept behind the album is that I wrote and produced the entire album on islands. Nowhere else. Even my partners like Mike Oldfield live on islands, all the rest was recorded in Antigua, some ideas I started in Ibiza at my old studio. So there was absolutely no other choice than to call the album ‘Islanders’. There is a lot of Sun & Sea in this album. On the track ‘Halfmoon Bay’ I even went down to the beach and recorded the waves, haha…”
It’s the first York album in 7 years, but we’re absolutely sure you haven’t been sitting still in the meantime. What have you been up to since the release of ‘Peace’?
York:”I know if you don’t really do some research you will think, oh my – this guy is lazy ! No I wasn’t actually. I worked on different projects of different genres. I love music. It is not limited to EDM or Chill & Lounge. For example, I wrote 8 songs for Tarja Turunen (ex-singer from Nightwish) who are more dark symphonic rock. She performs them with a whole orchestra. Our last album ‘My Winterstorm’ made 6 times Platinum and sold over 300.000 copies. In 2007 I composed my first soundtrack for an action movie with the CSI Actor Gary Dourdan and I made another independent movie. This is all part of my musical journey, but since I signed with Armada – it is all going back to the roots. Where I came from…”
It’s hard to keep track under how many monikers you’ve been working. What is the essence of the music you release under the York alias?
York:”Yes, I produced about 15 DJ’s with 5 aliases. Back in the days I wanted to hide my name because I produced so much that I wanted the DJ’s to listen to my track without any prejudice. The essence of York is, I would say, no matter if it is a club-track or a chill-track: somewhere in that track you will find a guitar! This is how we started and this is the signature.”
You’ve been producing for several big names in music industry and touched many different genres. How do you make sure that you’re able to do your own thing, without it losing the identity of the artist you’re producing for?
York:”Well, York is my own thing. I love every single track. When you produce a DJ you have to make more compromises, with York I don’t have to do that. I am picky with sounds etc. Some DJ’s are already happy after 5 Minutes with a lead sound and I could spend hours finding a different one…Many DJ’s today don’t have an identity, I think that’s a pity. They play what others play and I am encouraging everyone to find his own sound. Those who did it are on the top.”
The ‘Islanders’ album is really deep, filled with chill-out, sun-drenched beats and warm prog, house and trance. Does that represent the sound that you love today, or is it simply what belongs to York?
York:”It belongs to York. This is York ! I think York will always be a project that you can listen at home too – not just when you are out partying…that’s my goal.”
You’ve collaborated with quite some names on the album, from Mike Oldfield and JPL to The Thrillseekers and Steve Brian. How did you end up working with these names?
York:”The Thrillseekers: they produced my Trance anthem of the last decade. Steve has my deepest respect. He is still around doing his thing and I think that’s great ! He is a Veteran in Trance like me. Mike Oldfield is my Godfather, he inspired me all my life with his music, since my early childhood. When I met him the first time I was more than happy. It was the same when I met Chris Rea in 2001 when I played Top of The Pops at the BBC Studios together. Its almost surreal – you listen to someone’s music all your life and suddenly you shake his hands…same story when I met Moby and he drew one of his funny figures for me…how I work together with them: I just ask if they would like to do some tracks together and many times it works out fine!”
Last year, Planet Love joined the Armada Music group. What has the collaboration brought you so far?
York:”Like I said before, I am very happy to join Armada and when I met Maykel the first time last year in New York I felt a great energy, very positive. I am working with a team of professionals and I love it. I have to say working with Armada is one of my most positive experiences in terms of record companies in the past years. I have the feeling the big major labels are still under shock under their poor sales and like an elephant changes take forever. Joining an independent label like Armada is ways more fun because you get your emails answered within hours and not weeks! I think we will see many more great releases on Armada. We also will work on my back-catalogue and re-release and remix more classics of my label.”
You bought Planet Love Records in 1995. How do you look back upon the musical journey it’s been through ever since?
York:”I had my first release in 1989. That’s a long time. I was 18…it was a crazy journey, I lived life to the fullest and really enjoyed being part of the early childhood of Electronic Dance Music. When I listen back to for example our old ‘Paragliders’ records or DJ Taucher productions I find so many elements in tracks from today. Its great when you listen to a new track and think: wow I used that sound 20 years ago…now everybody starts to scream in the club when they hear it. I am very thankful to be still around, no I would say I am happy to be back and have my focus on the club music. Its also a pleasure to see how many young talents are around and I am keeping my eyes and ears open to find them!”
What’s the plan of singles going to be? Which one’s the next?
York:”I definitely want to release a couple of singles out of the album. It’s going to be great to see what the other DJ’s and producers are able to do with the samples…I love it when they take my stuff and do their own thing. As potential singles I hear definitely: ‘Daydream’ (The Thrillseekers Mix), ‘Injection’, ‘In The Thunder’, ‘If Only I’, ‘Paperheart’, ‘Lost In A Circle’, etc.
For those that would love to see you DJ or play live, where can they find you in the next coming months?
York:”I don’t play that much, something I wanna change ! But I will play at the 13th in West Hollywood at the Factory with Roger Shah and Alex Gaudino. After that there will be one more gig in Los Angeles and then on the 1th of December I will play in Antigua at the Abracadabra Club for the opening.”
Get ‘Islanders’ on iTunes now!