We get emotional with Axel Thesleff
Suitably fitting and reflective of our music consumption today, Axel Thesleff creates his own sound which is impossible to pigeonhole. With his productions he explores and encompasses the full spectrum of bass music ranging from bass-heavy bangers to relaxed and deep tracks and has done so across the globe to adorning fans who are captivated by his full instrumentalist live show paired with hypnotic light shows and headbanging at arms reach.
Axel is a true musician and an incredibly humble one at that which shines through this nice and concise interview on everything Axel Thesleff.
Thanks for speaking with us today Axel… how’s the new decade been treating you so far?
Thanks for having me! It’s been very good, it feels like a new beginning! I’ve been laying a lot of the groundwork for the upcoming year and beyond with my team, setting goals and expectations, all that good stuff.
You seem to produce a really wide range of music. Is that because you like too many different styles to work within just one genre, or you get bored easily and need to keep things interesting?
I think it’s both. I grew up listening to and playing a lot of different types of music, prog, blues, jazz, classical, and almost every type of electronic music. In the beginning I thought about creating many aliases for different styles but I then decided to go with just my own name. It’s just a person, who creates whatever style inspires him. I also think nowadays people are very diverse in their tastes and people who are into electronic music don’t just like one sub genre, they listen to a variety of different styles. So why not combine many styles under one name? It is also true that I would get bored quickly if I only made music with one specific style or sub genre.
How many instruments do you play, and did you get any formal training with these or are you entirely self-taught?
My main instrument is definitely the keyboard, I started taking piano lessons at the age of 9. I’ve since tried out many instruments like guitar, drums and now the mallet instrument. I haven’t got any formal training with them but I can play them well enough for my needs at the moment.
Do you think that as part of a ‘live’ show it’s important to actually play live instruments as an electronic performer? What are the risks and rewards of doing so?
It’s a tricky question. One thing I’m sure of is that I hate the attitude that some people have to downplay and minimize what other people do and claim that their way is the real thing while some other people are somehow lesser than. I think it’s all just ego talk. Let people do whatever they feel like doing, we’re all just enjoying life in our own ways here, it’s just music! What I like to do is play with instruments as much as possible during the show because that’s what my background is, it’s not really DJing although I love to DJ as well. But when I’m playing a live show I want to eliminate every action that has no self expression in it, like triggering something at the right time, pressing buttons to change the sound I’m playing or making sure the volume is consistent etc. When all of the technical aspects are automated I can just focus on playing the instruments themselves and coming up with variations on the spot, that’s where the value of the live show is for me. There is of course the risk of making mistakes and not playing as perfectly as the computer and that of course happens, but it’s ok! It’s what makes me a human being. It also creates a feeling of danger because anything can happen in the moment and I think that’s exciting for the audience as well because it connects everyone to the presence. It also makes every show unique. But there are as many ways of performing electronic music live as there are electronic performers out there and I think it’s a really cool thing.
"Lots of crazy things happened during the tour which was fittingly called "the grand bizarre tour" most of which I'm not sure I want to share here."
How do you plan to further develop your live show?
The live show is in constant development and I love to see it getting better every year. The show is getting custom 3D animated interactive live visuals this year which is super cool! I’ve also thought about adding a new instrument to the arsenal at some point, maybe a MIDI wind instrument would be pretty cool, we’ll see. I’d also love to have more people on stage with me, like other musicians or dancers or something else performative.
You made your US debut last year touring with Beats Antique… how was that experience? Any crazy stories you can share with us?
Yeah, it was amazing and I’m forever grateful that they took me on the ride. We traveled on a tour bus across the US for three weeks. It’s amazing how if you put a group of people in a tightly shared space like that for a period of time it creates this strong feeling of a tribe which I believe is very natural to us humans. Lots of crazy things happened during the tour which was fittingly called “the grand bizarre tour” most of which I’m not sure I want to share here. But what was pretty crazy was that the tour coincided with the polar vortex last winter and it was crazy cold, below -30 in the midwest! It created surprising situations like having to change the route in Montana due to an avalanche. It was much colder than in Finland which was strange.
Tell us about your relationship with T.S Eliot… how has he inspired some of the music you produce?
I don’t have any special relationship with T.S Eliot but I love combining spoken word and music, I think it creates a very rich experience, the words create depth for the music and vice versa. T.S Eliot was a master at his craft and his words created worlds that I find very inspiring.
Soundcloud played a big part in getting your music heard when you first started producing… do you think that artists have an easier time of getting exposure now that they did say 20 or 30 years ago?
I didn’t make music that long time ago so I don’t have the best insight, I’m only 28, but I think it’s definitely easier to release music commercially nowadays in the digital era than in the era of physical discs. But it’s also increasingly more difficult to get your stuff heard because there’s so much noise. Social media is playing a bigger role all the time, as well as streaming platforms. I think it’s a very exciting time to be an indie artist and I look forward to the future!
"I like to be in a constant state of change and not even know myself what kind of songs I'm going to create a few years from now."
Tell us about your latest single Find My Way… is there something in the title that suggests you’re still trying to discover your path or sounds?
Not really, I’m not trying to find a sound that would stay permanent, I like to be in a constant state of change and not even know myself what kind of songs I’m going to create a few years from now. That’s what keeps things interesting for me. The song Find My Way is more about my life in a broader sense. The song is more about breaking free of negative emotions and fears that are keeping you down and holding you back. It’s about taking control of your life story.
We hear there’s a music video incoming… anything you can tell us about it?
It’s a video we call a “Studio Live”. It’s an ongoing series where I play the song in a live setting and record the audio on the spot for the video. This time it was shot on an outdoor ice rink here in Helsinki with a synchronized figure skating team, it was really interesting! I’m very happy how it turned out. The video is out this Friday (March 6) on my YouTube channel!
Looking beyond Find My Way, what other projects do you have coming up this year?
I’ve got other singles coming out this year alongside studio lives and music videos. Can’t share anything specific yet but I’m stoked about what’s coming this year!
You’ve now been involved publicly in the industry for over a decade… do you still have the same passion and enthusiasm for music as you did 10 years ago?
No, it’s bigger. I’ve always been super passionate about music but I guess the more I do it, the more I love it. Of course doing it professionally comes with it’s own grinds but when I’m producing music, I know I’m where I belong.
Do you think the electronic music industry is in good shape right now? What changes would you like to see happening over the next few years?
It could be better, but it’s not as bad as it could be. I think there’s a bigger demand for alternative music know in the age of streaming where people can choose more freely what to listen to. People are getting introduced to a bigger number of styles now than ever before. However, I would like to see the amount of what artists get paid per stream go up. Right now your music has to go more or less viral in order to live off the streams. But the good news is that people are going to shows more and more and there’s lots of opportunities in that front.
Finally, what’s one record you’ve discovered this year that we should all be listening to?
I really enjoyed the new album from Daktyl called ”Unreality”, it just came out at the same time as Find My Way, you should check it out! Thanks for the great questions!
Nikki has worked in various positions in the Music industry for over ten years including Artist Management, Booking Agency and Record Label Management. She runs Synchronicity, Spentshell, UKBM and Manages Flowdan.
“Bass does something to me. I absolutely immersed myself in Drum & Bass during my teens and early twenties, and when Dubstep came along I was thrown into that love once again, not just the music, but the whole community surrounding it.
Working in the industry has been a dream for me, and being involved in such a vibrant scene means that I constantly come across incredibly talented individuals who I just want to shout about and that’s what I use the UKBM platform for, to promote talent whether known or new.”