Johannes Auvinen, better known as Tin Man, will release a new album called Perfume this March on Salon Records.
Auvinen has always been an idiosyncratic producer. Rather than putting out a 12-inch every few months, he prefers to release one mini-album per year, and almost always with a plain cover sporting text in sans-serif. Though mostly gloomy, lyric-driven and not ideal for club use, his music is heavily influenced by acid house, thanks to a few clubbing experiences Auvinens had back in mid-'90s Berlin. "I fell in love with it so much that I could listen to acid house in the morning for breakfast," he says, "drinking my coffee listening to some mental acid tunes." Though often pushed into the background, the 303 still features on many of Auvinen's tracks, especially on his recent Nonneo EP.
Perfume will be the Vienna-based artist's second album in less than 12 months, following last year's Scared LP. Conceptually, the record muses on the theatricality of nights spent out in clubs. "I see clubs as theaters for sure," Auvinen explains in an interview with RA. "You put your costume on, you are involved in some kind of story every night, whether it be meeting your friends or dancing or maybe a tragedy happens there; you lose your scarf in a wardrobe, or fall in love, or have some kind of realization, something like that." The album will be preceded by a single called Devotion, featuring remixes by Antislash and Tobias Freund (as Tobias.)
Have a look at the video below to hear the album's title track:
Your bio says that you were part of the art world in Los Angeles. Can you tell me more about that?
I was an art student at UCLA. That was actually the reason I moved to LA; I went to study there with a few artists that I liked. That was my original career plan. The stuff I was doing was pretty mixed, but it mostly centered around conceptual art. It was more about the professors: I wanted to study with Paul McCarthy and Baldessari.
Were you already into music when you moved to LA or was it something that came later?
It really started when I moved to LA and I got into college. I really started collecting records like crazy because there were still these great record shops in LA, you know like, warehouse-style record shops where you could go to these weekend sales where you could buy everything for 50 cents. I would go there and buy 80 records every weekend or something like that and, at that time, I would instantly go to the electronic section and try to find electronic music stuff, which had a lot of new age things and a lot of German progressive rock and stuff like that.
Tell me about when you first started making music instead of listening to it.
Well, I think the first records—the ambient stuff and the acid stuff—it was and still is, like, being a music dilettante, just being a huge fan of certain possibilities with this music. It was wanting to be like, "Hey this music's amazing and I want to do something with that." I guess in the same way it works a lot in techno or house music, like someone goes to a club and have some crazy experience there and be like, "Ah, I want to do that tomorrow, what do I have to do? I'll go get some synths—I'll start collecting some synths and try and make something."
Did you have that experience out in LA?
There were those nights for me definitely in Berlin. I was visiting Berlin when the summer was starting in '96 or '97. It was a mix, it was acid house or something, like I knew some acid-house songs but when I started getting into the records and finding all this stuff, then I was really freaked out. I fell in love with it so much that I could listen to acid house in the morning for breakfast, drinking my coffee listening to some mental acid tunes. And then also being in the club on E or something and experiencing that too, then it just pushed me over. I was like, "Yeah I have to make this music, it's so great."
How did you come up with the name originally?
Well "Tin Man" is, in a way, sort of like Frankenstein's monster. The way I see it is a character who's made up of leftover bits and pieces. It's quite Dada-esque also. The ambition of Tin Man is to become more human, to find a heart. That's a lovely metaphor for making music—taking bits and pieces and putting them together and also always be tied back to the human condition and the condition of having a heart.
With the first record, it seems like even though you've synthesized it, when it came out it feels like a product, like you had a distinct aesthetic in mind before it came out.
I knew that it would be a limited, kind of special thing that I wouldn't produce very many, so I wanted it to look special also. I think the design of the [record] was actually informed by some faceless '90s techno packaging, it was a bit more anonymous—one color, maybe with a name, maybe without a name. I appreciate that style, trying to keep it as simple as possible so that's a little bit mysterious maybe or it's not so much about an image.
Tell me about Perfume came to be.
Perfume came to be basically just because I met the label boss and he still has this label which is a house label with some more jazzy, some French sample-house touch. He asked me if I would be interested in doing something and a lot of the music I've been writing in the last year or so is a little bit more musically ambitious, like more time sitting at a keyboard and thinking about chord changes and progressions and stuff, thinking more about the harmony, like different kinds of classical singer/songwriter traditions. I had some material that I thought was on the edge of being connected to house music, to pop, and some other R&B things. So I thought this was an opportunity to present this mix style.
Who, singer/songwriter wise, were you listening to at the time of the album?
In terms of writing, a lot of Prefab Sprout. It also came back again to Chicago House music, because a lot of those songs are very well composed like Frankie Knuckles—they somehow still have their roots in R&B and disco.
The new record seems very song-driven. A number of songs have a lot of different parts. Is that something you're growing more comfortable with over time? Making songs that change over time in a very discrete way?
I think there are different attitudes to making stuff. I think a lot of my work is more in this loop logic of house and techno and drifting slightly out of that towards hip-hop, like climbing this loop and talking about cognitions over time. So this record is totally different, it's like a songwriting style where it's like, "Oh yeah, here's another part, and here's another part, and now it goes somewhere else again." At the moment that's kind of fun for me to do and I'm interested in the possibilities that it offers—the storytelling, the musical pleasure to go five different directions in the same song—it's really fun. I do still appreciate the loop logic and I'm actually going to do another acid album for Absurd in the summertime and that will be going back to this loop space, this group space of techno and house and staying in it.
Can you talk about the title a bit?
When I met Jon, the label head, he had really nice perfume on, something a friend gave to him, a boutique, very sweet perfume. The whole idea tied back to that subject of the album, this edge of the club/nightlife experience—like going out at night, getting dressed up, putting on perfume or something and going to a club and meeting people and circumstances like that.
A1 Burnt Sugar
A2 Love sick
B1 Good Stuff
B2 Lost in LA
C1 Electric Blue
C2 Invisible Man
D2 Rockers Ravers