• Q&A

Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello Talks Touring, Recording, Dubstep

written by: on September 14, 2011

Shortly after a hypnotic set in Lincoln Hall, Pop ‘stache sat down with The Postal Service mastermind Jimmy Tamborello. As Dntel, Tamborello has released two albums, a slew of 7-inch singles, and most recently, The Soft Alarm Tour EP with friends The One A.M. Radio and Geotic. Listen to him reflect on the early years, touring, and his thoughts on Dubstep below:

Pop ‘stache: What got you into music?

Jimmy Tamborello: I took piano lessons a little bit, but I stopped pretty quick. My dad played music as a hobby. He had a home studio set; a keyboard and a sequencer. So, I just started on that, really. In junior high, my friends and I pretended to have bands. [Laughs] It’s what we did all through high school, too. We had local papers and radio stations that we’d send tapes to.

P ‘s: Did you ever hear back from them?

JT: Yeah! They’d play them and stuff. I think it was probably because they thought it was funny. “Oh, little kids.” We did industrial music back then. Skinny Puppy stuff. Pretty noisy; little kids screaming.

P ‘s: How did that sound evolve into Dntel?

JT: After high school, it started. Probably in ’94, I think? Me and my friend David, who is in Figurine with me, we had an electronic project called Panty House. It was more ambient. When we went off to separate schools, I started off doing my own stuff.

P ‘s: Tell me about the name “Dntel.”

JT: I still don’t know where it came from. I liked Musique, Aphex Twin, all these groups that have weird names. I liked the idea of having a name that didn’t have any other meaning. I don’t really remember how it came about. And I thought a lot about changing it, but I just couldn’t think of anything to change it to.

“I liked the idea of having a name that didn’t have any other meaning. I don’t really remember how it came about.”

P ‘s: What made you decide to go on tour all of a sudden? After Parties is a few years old now.

JT: It wasn’t good timing, strategy-wise, for records. It kind of got brought up between me and Rishi from The One A.M. Radio. We started talking about it. This is when it worked with [Geotic and us], and it just fell into place, you know? It seemed like a good time. It’s a good time for weather and stuff. It was really to see if I still enjoyed doing stuff like touring. Seeing if I could do it.

P ‘s: Have you toured before?

JT: I have, but for The Postal Service, we did a month-long tour in the U.S. That was the only other time that I did a full U.S. tour. Besides that, it’s been two week things. Like, going to Europe, playing some shows for a bit.

P ‘s: Do you find touring demanding?

JT: It’s always been fun. It is a little demanding. It’s hard—drinking every night until late. At home, I don’t really do it very often. That’s the hardest part, probably. And driving a lot is not fun. But, I’ve always lucked out with the people I travel with. I don’t have any nightmares.

P ‘s: And when you’re not doing music, what are you doing?

JT: Watching TV. [Laughs] I watch a lot. On this tour, I’ve been watching “The Shield.” It’s been fun to watch in the car. I’m always watching a lot of shows. I used to watch a lot of reality shows like “Survivor,” but I was watching so much TV that I decided to cut out the reality shows, and just watch some good stuff.

P ‘s: These days, it seems everyone I know is going crazy over dubstep.

JT: I had a moment where I liked everything dubstep for a second—the basic dubstep sound. But, I got sick of it pretty fast. I mean, I like a lot of stuff going on now; what came from dubstep. More melodic stuff that kind of works with those beats, but doesn’t just have the usual bass. Pearson Sound, James Blake—it gets into what I’m doing. The rhythms and stuff. But I don’t think I’d ever do a full-on dubstep type of thing. It’s also just hard, technically. I’ve never been like, hi-fi. I’ve never been very good with the technical part of it, where it sounds big.

P ‘s: Speaking of big, could you tell me a little bit about your visuals?

JT: I wanted to have something; I didn’t want to have it synced up, because I wanted to be able to play different sets, depending on the night, so I didn’t try to have it work exactly. I just wanted something random enough to where parts would match up to songs. It was all stop-motion; construction paper cutouts. Especially since, a lot of this music I can’t do super live. Like, no matter what, a lot of it is going to be prerecorded. So, I feel it’s important to do a lot of pre-production; to do a lot of work beforehand, so you’re still giving a lot to the audience, even if you’re not up there playing every note. It definitely took a few months to get everything together between the music and the visuals. I feel less guilty about how the shows are, now that it’s not just me, standing there (laughs).

P ‘s: I noticed you sharing the stage with members of The One A.M. Radio for a few of your songs. Have you ever thought about expanding Dntel into a full band?

JT: I’ve never really wanted to. I don’t think I would want to do it as a band, because the sounds are as important as the songs, I think. Because if you start doing live drums and stuff, it just changes the sound structure.

“I’d rather just have it sound how I want it to sound. Even if it means there’s not as much to look at.”

P ‘s: Even alone, you seemed pretty focused on stage. Were you mixing the tracks live​?

JT: Yes. This is the first time I started using [Ableton] Live. Before, I would use [Adobe] Logic live, and I would basically have to have the songs lined up in a row. At least now I move things around, do a little improvising. It’s better for me too. It’s all about not feeling guilty for people coming to see you. And I still do, sort of.

Check out Dntel’s latest collaborative EP, The Soft Alarm Tour, with The One A.M. Radio and Geotic here. It’s available for the shockingly affordable price of an e-mail address.