by Jack Urwin
“I’ve been drinking a lot of wine,” Tanner Ross tells me from the departures lounge at Munich airport. He’s on his way back to Majorca where he’s spent most of the summer working with Wolf + Lamb, the label Nicolas Jaar was picked up by more than four years ago. “Drinking a lot of wine, eating chorizo and working like a mad-man in the studio. In Majorca we don’t have internet or television, so the only thing to do is swim and make music day and night.”
Now based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tanner grew up in New Jersey, a state whose music scene has for years spouted, mostly, disillusioned, Springsteen-inspired punk bands. While perhaps Titus Andronicus and The Gaslight Anthem aren’t the influences an electronic artist of this calibre would cite, the suggestion isn’t entirely unwarranted. “I was really into punk rock at the time,” he says. “But the music scene in Philadelphia – which is only a 45 minute drive away – influenced me much more via The Roots, King Britt, Vikter Duplaix and Josh Wink. I’ve been into electronic music since I was 13, and over time I have gone through so many phases that I pretty much covered it all minus Gabber and Happy Hardcore. Over a very long time my love for production has evolved through listening to a lot of music. My mom played the accordion and piano sometimes, but mostly just listened to a lot of music on a daily basis when I was young, and still does to this day. She even likes Cee-Lo!”
A graduate of the prestigious Berklee College (the Oxbridge or Ivy League of music), Tanner dismisses the suggestion its impressive list of alumni is solely the result of an admissions process in which only the already talented are accepted. “I think it’s important to be a skilled musician to get into Berklee; they only want to spend their time teaching students who are very serious about their work. The professors there are really amazing, and insanely talented at what they do. People like Stephen Croes, Dr. Richard Boulanger and Tom Rhea, who was close friends and worked with [synthesiser pioneer] Bob Moog, are there to make sure that you don’t buy into the bullshit in this world. I learned a lot of important life lessons from these people and I am extremely grateful that I met them.”
It’s clear Tanner’s time at college didn’t go to waste. His Straight To The Moon EP put out on Wolf + Lamb offshoot Double Standard last month is a stunning example of his production abilities; intelligent yet wholly unpretentious, a dark electro-pop record that makes incredible use of his labelmates and is frustratingly difficult for a lazy music journalist (hello!) to classify or pigeonhole. “Eli from Soul Clap calls me the ‘Prince of E-funk’, which as my interpretation goes is G-funk deep house.” It’s a description Tanner seems fairly content with, a self-confessed fan of “west coast G-funk”, and one which seems entirely appropriate given his music’s clear references to early 90s hip-hop. “Other than that I listen to a lot of soul and pop music honestly.”
When Wolf + Lamb was featured in an a Guardian article earlier this year, the label was described as a family (‘no contracts, no business bullshit’). Tanner’s words echo this, and indeed, such is the frequency of inter-label collaboration that it’s pretty hard to dispute this take on the company. “I love working with Soul Clap, Pillowtalk, Slow Hands, Voices Of Black, Deniz Kurtel and I can see this working relationship lasting a very long time. It’s been the greatest experience of my life. I consider everyone a family member and I truly believe that is how a successful label stays around.”
But with so much of his career based on teaming up with other talent, I’m curious to know: who is Tanner Ross’s dream collaboration, dead or alive? Without a second of hesitation, he replies: “Snoop Dogg”.
And, let’s be honest, you probably would too.
You can listen to the Straight To Moon EP and Tanner’s collaboration with labelmate Deniz Kurtel below.