Diver, Tobias Preisig’s solo record, feels like a descent into the Mariana Trench. A guided meditation. With every song things get deeper, the presence of light decreases and the pressure rises. As a listener, with every consecutive song you feel more at home in this space, as you learn to adapt to an alien world full of strange glowing shapes and a seemingly infinite darkness. And then, finally, the release comes. You no longer feel like a stranger here, you realise that somehow you can breathe under water now.
Tobias Preisig is violin player, our regular readers might know him as one-half of Egopusher, whom we’ve covered in the past. He also works with Colin Stetson’s Sorrow project and is credited with a collaboration with Cinematic Orchestra. On Diver, what you hear is the man finding and exploring the core of his sound. The phrasing is repetitive, sparse – extended by a cavernous reverb. The synths – subs and the drones – he also plays those, using an organ foot-pedal to trigger hardware. Most of the material found on this record was developed live, in front of an audience, which explains how visceral and direct it is. The final versions of the songs were recorded at his studio and polished up by producer Jan Wagner. Overall, the record is pretty raw, like a soundtrack to a cult underground film that was made with a humble budget, yet a lot of heart. The record was released by Quiet Love Records.
We spoke with Tobias to get more insight on the man and his creative process.
Did you have the record title before you started working on this material?
No, this came while I was writing the album. I watched a documentary on apnoea diving and I was very surprised that what these fearless divers were talking about corresponded directly with my own feelings and thoughts while working on this music. It’s all about leaving your comfort zone, letting go, allowing yourself to descend into new territories and being able to receive something. I’m scared of diving and losing my breath, but through my music I can have the same experience of weightlessness as the divers in this documentary.
How do you write? I’m specifically thinking about what it takes to achieve this level of tension.
The writing process is very long and time consuming. I’m testing the material at my live shows. I eliminate what doesn’t work and keep only what feels absolutely effortless and triggers joy and a sense of fulfilment in me. In the studio, I went through the same process, but this time with producer Jan Wagner. This brought the music into an extremely focused clarity. I see this album very much like poetry. At the beginning you have all these years of experience, these emotions that you went through, a lot of ideas and thoughts, but in the end you need to transport all of this in just a few tracks.
Did you have the intention to work with Jan Wagner before you wrote these songs or did he come in once you were already at the studio?
I was very frustrated to not have been able to find people to collaborate with me on this and, obviously, I was not able to finish this record by myself. My partner from Egopusher, Alessandro (Giannelli), advised me to show the mixes to Jan Wagner, he felt that Jan would be a perfect match for this project. I did it and the following day, after we met, we were already in the studio recording everything all over again. Jan felt that there is way more to achieve with this material and that it needs a constant flow. The essence of this music is very emotional and cannot be achieved through diligence. Therefore, I just needed to wait for the right moment.
Looking at your output and the type of collaborations that you’ve had along the way it looks as if you always knew that you were going to work within the framework of electronic music, was that the case?
Not really. I played a lot of acoustic Jazz along the way, but my violin was never loud enough in relation to the drums, so in the end I was forced to amplify it. As a result I discovered the richness of electronic sounds. I don’t really differentiate between my super old, wooden violin and the latest laptop and plugins anymore. I use all of them as my instruments and they all melt into each other.
Do you know of any other violin players that took to electronica? On occasion, I hear string arrangements on electronica tracks, but they are usually secondary elements.
There is a great violinist, Sarah Neufeld, she’s from Arcade Fire. She has two wonderful albums out. We both use similar tools, but our sounds are very different. It’s all about personality. But you are right, there are not a lot of violinists playing as soloists and sometimes I also wonder why this could be? Maybe this album will bring new attention to the violin and inspire others?
Do you have a goal, even if it’s just a vanishing point, as to where you want your solo music to go?
I have this personal mantra that I want it to be more and more precise, more focused, more consistent and lighter. I will continue on this path and stay committed to exploring simplicity!