Canadian music producer Tor recently stopped to play a set The Canopy Club in Urbana, IL on Wednesday, January 16th. This was Tor’s first stop on tour with Emancipator, who helped with the release of his new album, Drum Therapy back in December via Loci Records. We got a chance to catch up with Tor prior to his show and discuss his recent work, performing live, and more. Check out the full interview below.

UPC: To start, your hip-hop mash-up of Sufjan Stevens Illinoize was a big hit. When producing this album, did you get to work with Sufjan himself, or did you decide to do this on your own?

Tor: No, I just did it all on my own. I guess I had heard mash-up stuff before and thought it was a good idea. I liked his style and at this point I hadn’t put much out, so I thought it would be a good way to get a lot of people to know who I am. They know who he is and all the rappers on the album, so they’d be interested to hear it.

UPC: The style of music on you new album Drum Therapy is very unique and melodic. How did you get into this style of music?

Tor: Well, I was huge fan of that style of music, even back in the 90s with people like DJ Shadow, early Bonobo stuff. I knew that I wanted to make something that sounded like that for a long time. I had the idea for that sound, but I just did the hip-hop thing first as a warm up.

UPC: For this album, you used 60s Italian film scores, Turkish psych records, Celtic folk hymns, exotic eastern instruments, and deep southern gospel. Where do you find such samples?

Tor: Well thats the thing, making the sound that I wanted was the sound of these samples. I really liked the aesthetic of the old recordings. It sounds almost not clean, and it is kind of interesting. It just takes time. You need to sit down and listen to a lot of old stuff. I have gone through so much stuff, and its hard to find something thats going to work. I need to go through so many before I pick which ones go well together. It comes through elements that are isolated; like you can’t just take a chunk out of a song with drums going and everything. You have those moments where you might just have a cello going.

UPC: I have read that you also play many of the non-sampled parts yourself. Which instruments do you use to add the texture to your songs?

Tor: The parts that I play are through the keyboard, and then the keyboard controls the sample in the computer. The sample is live instruments, so you get a cello while playing the keyboard. And they are sampled and detailed so that the way you change to the next note, it will actually sync up and sound live. Even though I use the keyboard, it is actually a recording of the violin or cells in the computer. There is also bass, strings, and all sorts of unique instruments. Guitars, and things that are more complex are difficult because they have a lot of chords happening at the same time, but there is a lot of instruments you can get: horns, symphonies, pianos, electric piano, harps, everything.


UPC: Online, it said that you had been planning on making this album for 10 years. What has recently allowed you to finally put out the album you were hoping to make for so long?

Tor: I wasn’t ready until now. I actually had the name “Drum Therapy” since the year 2000. I always knew I was going to make the album someday but I wasn’t ready. I needed to get everything together; I wasn’t at the level I wanted it to sound like.

UPC: How did you come in contact with Emancipator to put out this album via his new record label Loci Records?

Tor: I actually just e-mailed him about two years ago now. I e-mailed him out of the blue. I asked him if I could do a remix of one of his songs, and told him about Illinoize, and stuff like that and it turned out that he really liked it. So, I e-mailed and told him I really liked his style, and our art styles would go really well together, that was what I wanted to do for my album later on. It turned out he ended up doing that entire remixes album that I got my remix on, and after that I asked him to check out some demos when I was making the album.

UPC: And he just said “I love it, and I would like to put your record out on my new record label?”

Tor: Basically. I finished the album and I was looking to put it out in the Spring. It was ready to go and I had announced it and everything, and he wrote back and said he was starting up a record label and was interested in putting it out.

UPC: How does it feel to be the first album release on his record label?

Tor: It’s incredible. I was so stoked! Yeah it meant delaying the album, and it was delayed for a while to get more organized for the record label. It was like eight months or something like that. I had some people write violent e-mails about it, but it was totally worth it because its gotten to a lot more people since he is so established. Basically people who would be into his stuff would be into my stuff too.

UPC: Lets talk about your shows. Is there anything special you do to prepare yourself before a show?

Tor: Well, a shot of tequila. (laughing) I have only done like five shows and they have all been really different. My friends went to a DJ night in a tiny club, and then I got booked for a few festivals in the summer, a few around D.C. and Canada. The last one I did was a basement party and that was about thirty or forty people. I don’t know what its going to feel like on stage in front of a thousand people. Some of these venues on this tour will have more than a thousand people.

UPC: During your shows, how much does the mood/vibe of the crowd dictate what songs you play or how your performance goes?

Tor: I have done five shows and every one has been ridiculously different. The last one I did people were dancing like crazy, and that didn’t happen at most of the other ones. Some of them were in a pub, and people aren’t really dancing around a pub. It’s totally effected it for sure. My level of nervousness has been really different for all of them.

UPC: Do you pick specific songs based on the crowd?

Tor: That actually inspired me to do a completely new song which I wrote last month. I’m going to play it on the tour. I made a new song for people to dance to.

UPC: Where is the craziest place you have ever performed?

Tor: Well, What The Festival was probably the craziest place. It was very big there. I remember there was a guy dressed as a red devil and apparently painted from head to toe in red with horns and a tail. People are always going nuts at a festival, it’s anything goes there. It was hilarious, and great to see some people really into it and others just chillin’ out.

UPC: Does seeing something like that at a show distract you? Or, does it just kind of make you laugh and move on?

Tor: I am constantly manipulating stuff with my MIDI controllers, so in my first show I don’t think I even looked up at all.

UPC: Have you ever had an issue to deal with while performing that the audience didn’t know about?

Tor: No, that hasn’t happened yet, and I hope thats not a problem I run into. (laughing) So far the set up has been rock solid, and nothing has crashed or anything like that. I don’t know what I would do with an issue like that.

UPC: What kind of stuff can we expect from Tor in the future?

Tor: I haven’t worked on much since I finished Drum Therapy. After this tour I would like to get back at it. I really like doing remixes for people, so I will put it out some more remixes. I also signed with Autonomous Music, which is a booking agency, so it means we are going to get more festivals next summer. In the meantime I want to do some new stuff that may not be on an album, like some singles.

UPC: Thank you for sitting down with me, I really appreciate your time. Good luck tonight!

Tor: Your welcome, and thank you for the interview.

Special thanks to Tor for giving UPC the opportunity to sit down and speak with him! Be sure to listen to his album Drum Therapy below.