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Tomas Barfod: Salton Sea

The Danish producer (formerly part of WhoMadeWho) talks about his enchanting new album, his move to LA and why he will never run a label again

Sharing its name with the idyllic wasteland of the Californian lakebed, Tomas Barfod's (aka Tomboy and formerly of Danish group WhoMadeWho and Tartelet Records) LP ‘Salton Sea’ engages multiple moods, and juxtaposes the desolate yet peaceful characteristics of the lakebed with dark rhythms and contrasting delicate pop melodies. The tracks flow from the LP’s first single, “Broken Glass” to the airy melodies of “November Skies” and "Nighthawke" featuring vocals from Sweden’s Nina Kinert and New York film composer Lydia Ainsworth.

I think had some kind of musical crisis some years ago, even though my career especially with Tomboy and WhoMadeWho was great. I wasn't inspired, didn't like the 'tour life' and didn't see myself as a DJ in the future...

Alongside an exclusive premiere of the Suzanne Kraft remix of his new track 'Came To Party', Barfod talks to us about his musical evolution since WhoMadeWho to the inspiration of his latest work.

Dazed Digital: Your new solo album is quite eclectic, but so is a lot of your previous work… what did Salton Sea allow you to do that your previous endeavours didn't?
Tomas Barfod: You said it yourself, I have done a lot of different stuff, from ambient techno on Kompakt with Jatoma, to J-pop productions, but what was so special on this album was that it was for the label Friends of Friends in LA - which comes out of the more bass & electronica scene, and working with them gave me inspiration to focus less on the dancefloor and more creating soundscapes etc. But besides that I would say that Salton Sea is very much in line with or inspired by what I have done in the last years...

DD: Why did you use the title ‘Salton Sea’ and what does the location mean to you?
Tomas Barfod: I collected pictures from the internet for many years, most of them of abandoned places or places with stuff that humans built that was now being left to decompose. I had pictures from the Plane Cementary in Mojave Desert, ships being cut up at Alang Beach in India or abandoned luxury hotels eastern Europe. The vibe that these pictures had was a big inspiration for my album, so when I moved to LA and Leeor from the label told me about Salton Sea, everything made sense. Salton Sea was this lake with resorts and RV camps back in the 60s, but at some point the lake got polluted and on the beaches there are still dead fish lying all over, so now most buildings have been abandoned.

DD: How has moving away from CPH to LA changed your mental state when approaching making music, if it has?
Tomas Barfod: I moved to LA to get new inspiration, so it's hard to say if moving changed me or if I wanted to change and LA was just excuse to do new things, but anyway the city is very inspiring, it's filled with all the cliches you see in movies and TV shows and I think that was great to witness in real life but LA also has this other side: 80,000 homeless people camping Downtown every night, sweet and hard-working Mexicans, real Californian hippies etc and I really liked the diversity. But most importantly, I went there with an open mind and didn't want to say no to anything.

DD: You've used quite a few vocalists in your album, who are they and what was it about their voices that appealed to you in particular for your tracks?
Tomas Barfod: Jeppe Kjellberg is my good friend & band partner from WhoMadeWho - all of us work closely together so both the guys helped me on the album but only Jeppe sang... Nina Kinert from Sweden who also did two songs - I've actually never met her in real life, but she is an amazing singer & songwriter. I like that her voice has this fragile and innocent kind of sound. Lydia Ainsworth is from NYC and her I also met over the internet, I think she wrote me a message through Soundcloud - she's a very creative and borderline-crazy composer, she does a lot of stuff where she samples and edits her voice, however for me she did this sweet, but dark vocal... I actually started with a full acapella that I did the production around, and not the other way round as I usually work.

DD: Having left Tartelet, do you sometimes still have the desire to run a label of your own or do you prefer to focus on making music now?
Tomas Barfod: I cut down on a lot of stuff lately, I think had some kind of musical crisis some years ago, even though my career especially with Tomboy and WhoMadeWho was great. I wasn't inspired, didn't like the 'tour life' and didn't see myself as a DJ in the future, so I started doing a lot of different projects, I was working as a consultant for Carlsberg, I started Tartelet with Fredski and was head of bookings for Distortion Festival. I even had a year where I hardly made any music. I don't know what happened, but at some point I found my love for music again, realized that if I wanted to do this I should do it right and not split my time on a lot of projects that in the end didn't give me anything. Running a label was one those things, the business is hard and at the end of the day it didn't really give me anything creatively, it just made my life more complicated and cost a lot of money. I can say with great certainty that I will never run a label again.