Combining his vision with friends like Detox Unit, Jade Cicada, and Mickman, Tenorless captivates audiences with hypnotic visual production. After being mesmerized at the recent Resonant Language Denver headline show, we wanted to get a deep dive into the creator’s process. Lucky for us, we were able to sit down with Tenorless and dive into the inspiration behind his digital experiences.
Building off the basics
Khalila (Electric Hawk): Let’s start from the beginning! When did you start digitally creating?
Tenorless: Early middle school was when my family first purchased a Mac and I was able to create art on a computer. Back then, I spent most of my days behind a screen, making everything from beats in GarageBand to weird stop-motion movies. I continued doing music production and video editing throughout high school and majored in New Media through UNC Asheville. During college, I DJ’d and VJ’d everywhere I could in my free time until it slowly morphed into what the Tenorless project is today.
K: What software have you experimented with and which one (s) do you prefer using?
Tenorless: TouchDesigner is my most used, and far by, favorite software when it comes to making art. To me, making visuals with it feels closer to the flow of a video synthesizer than timeline-based programs like After Effects. It’s possibly the most versatile piece of software I’ve ever found and you can do just about anything with it if you know the ins and outs.
I’ve incorporated Notch into my workflow these past few years as well, which works similarly to TouchDesigner, but is more specialized to use in cases like live music. I gravitate heavily toward real-time software, especially if I’m performing with it. As a guitarist from an early age, it’s important to me that my relationship with my computer feels like that of a playable instrument.
Roots of digital inspiration
K: Who have been some of your greatest inspirations along your digital art journey?
Tenorless: My #1 inspiration would be my grandfather. He was a professional comic strip artist and taught me how to paint when I was still in diapers. His work ethic and dedication in creating art every day is something I have looked up to my whole life. I wouldn’t have become an artist without him.
As a lover of art history and all forms of artistic expression, I’m usually the most inspired by those outside of modern digital art. Hayao Miyazaki, Mark Rothko, Virgil Abloh, and Akiyoshi Kitaoka are some of the first names that come to mind. Also studying the Bauhaus movement as a whole has ingrained many invaluable design principles into my mind.
That being said, the visual performance community surrounding bass music is absolutely flourishing right now. I’m constantly watching videos on YouTube of live VJ sets and taking notes. It’s an honor to work alongside so many talented artists. The pace at which we’re collectively evolving this medium is beyond exciting.
Close friends are something that shouldn’t be taken for granted in the chaotic world of the live music industry, and these relationships make every aspect of the shows more genuine.Tenorless
K: Who are your favorite musicians that you’ve worked with?
Tenorless: Teebs at Tipper and Friends NOLA 2020 was a very special set for me. I’ve been a massive fan since high school and his music holds so many core memories from different periods of my life. Being able to perform with him in a historic theater like Saenger was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
That being said, I really love working with my friends; I’d say they’re my favorite. Being able to create with Jade Cicada, Detox Unit, Mickman, Resonant Language, all people I hold close to my heart, is a blessing. Close friends are something that shouldn’t be taken for granted in the chaotic world of the live music industry, and these relationships make every aspect of the shows more genuine.
K: This might be a tough one to answer but, is there a favorite or memorable set that’s stuck with you?
Tenorless: That’s a REALLY hard question, there are so many that are memorable for a plethora of reasons. If I had to choose, Resonance 2021 with Detox Unit is probably my favorite so far. For me, it’s not just the set itself that was special. It was the whole adventure leading up to it, the night after, the people I shared it with…every single aspect. From sunrise to sunrise, that day was one of the best days of my life.
K: We have to ask…What kind of music do you usually listen to in your free time?
Tenorless: Electronic music obviously, I’m a massive Techno/IDM head and usually have some kind of mix playing when I work. Oldies, Jazz, and Rap are all staples in my daily life as well. I’m always exploring new genres to challenge my musical boundaries. For example, I’ve been digging Y2K-era Eurodance lately. It can be admittedly cheesy, but it’s really fun to dance to and helps me not take myself too seriously. I also have a big thing for old music, like anything older than 20 years. If a record can age well and still connect with newer generations, it’s more impressive to me than the most modern, jaw-dropping sounds of today.
Advice for new creators
K: As someone who inspires new creators, what piece of advice would you give those just diving into the digital realm?
Tenorless: Don’t be afraid of being a copycat. When you first learn an instrument, you learn how to play other people’s songs before you can write your own. That applies to more than just music in my opinion. Going through my older projects, there are so many files named ‘singer_rip-off,’ ‘datagrama_esq,’ ‘fractaled_visiony,’ etc. In the beginning, I saw myself as a budget version of my favorite VJ’s. But after years of hard work, I finally feel the experiences I create are unique and stand on their own. Imposter syndrome isn’t a bad thing, it’s part of the process of finding your voice.
K: To close things up, are there any upcoming sets you’re excited about and willing to share?
Tenorless: Nothing I can discuss at the current moment. But, I have some really exciting projects lined up for 2023 that I can’t wait to talk about.
If you’re looking for new music, keep up with our weekly Spotify Playlist, Fresh Hunts. Whether it’s something new from your favorite artists, some old school, or underground—we just want you to hear it.