TTS: When people ask me to describe my music, I usually call it noise-pop or noise-rock because the noise element is a big part of the sound. Effects are how I make a simple song more dynamic. I don’t really care for the term ‘shoegaze.’ If you’ve ever seen a Tennis System show you’d know we are far from a standstill band.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
TTS: Right now, I’m extremely inspired by art. My press photos are in front of Ai Weiwei, Dan Flavin, and Joseph Kosuth pieces. I’m also very interested in Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Henry Darger, Egon Schiele and Marcel Dzama. When I want to work on new music, I listen to hip-hop. I find when listening to rock music, I’m prone to emulate what I’ve heard, and I don’t want to sound like anything else.
CH.89: What made you want to start The Tennis System?
TTS: I come from a very musical family. Not a day went by where we weren’t listening to music. I always wanted to produce something that would bring that kind of joy about in others. It is also my escape. My living journal. It’s how I express my feelings. I can be extremely awkward when it comes to expressing myself verbally. So, I do it in the form of lyrics with a backing track. Each album is a journal. Each song an entry.
CH.89: How did the name The Tennis System come about?
TTS: I was listening to Lilys’ ‘Better Can’t Make Your Life Better’ a lot. I absolutely loved the track ‘The Tennis System and its Stars.’ The song veers from very high to low, with so many layers. The way it builds, and then drops, is so beautifully done. The way all of the layers just worked so beautifully. That is what I wanted my music to be — layers of beautiful sounds building on each other. So I asked Lilys’ Kurt Heasley, if he’d mind me using the Tennis System name and got his blessings.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new album?
TTS: I don’t ever really “start a new album.” I write several songs at a time. Some work with each other and some don’t. Once I’ve got enough for an album, I hit the studio with whichever line-up I’m playing with at the time. When I write a song, I usually start creating a foundation on guitar and build on it, like architecture. Once I feel I have a solid foundation or structure of a song, I start building the layers, lead guitar, bass, keys or any other atmospheric sounds, and a beat with Logic drums. The last thing I do are lyrics and vocal melody. I write a lot of thoughts and notes that I may use for lyrics to songs. Sometimes I have pent up emotions or thoughts that come to fruition while I’m writing a song. The next full-length focuses a lot on my move from D.C. to California and the loss that it brought on. It’s the first album I’ve done where there has been a focal point.
CH.89: What would you want people/ the listener to take from your music?
TTS: I want the listener to be filled with happiness. I know that sounds cheesy, but whenever I listen to music, it brings me back to a happy time in my life. I want my music to do the same. I want someone to be excited to listen to one of my songs. As soon as a song comes on, I want the listener to have an adrenaline rush.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
TTS: My life, at the moment, is a bit of a mess. Which usually tends to inspire me to be more creative. I’ve not been very creative, musically, since the recording of the new record. Sometimes you need to separate yourself from your work and then revisit it. If you keep at it for too long, you’ll burn yourself out. So, I tend to focus on other arts. Many people know me as a musician, but I’m also a photographer, stylist, mixologist, and I like to cook. So, when I start to become burned out of one thing, I focus on another. This way I’m always creating quality as opposed to quantity.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
TTS: I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to just sit at my recording station and crank out a demo just because I am bored. Occasionally, that demo comes to fruition, and a beautiful song is built. That is one hell of a feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes when you have a plan, there is too much pressure and the end product isn’t always as true as when it’s impulsive.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist?
TTS: Never compromise your art.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of high importance?
TTS: I put a lot of time and effort into buying and creating my look. Sometimes it’s challenging because I want to be portrayed a certain way, but I love fashion so much, that I want to wear everything and not be categorized. I often mix trends. Sometimes I get clowned for what I’m wearing, and then a year later I’ll see those same people who clowned me rocking what I was wearing a year ago. It seems that if people make fun of what you’re wearing, you’re on the right track. I have done all the buying and styling for my own online vintage clothing store in ASOS Marketplace called “TeenageLust”, and I, like Kanye, often toy with the idea of doing my own line. Maybe start small and build into something bigger. Having been all over the country, I’ve found that some of the best thrift shopping is here in L.A. I try not to look like everyone else. I keep up with what’s dope on the runways.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
TTS: Finances. Unfortunately, I put out way more than I get back. If I were to have saved every penny spent on my art over the past 10 years, I’d easily have close to $100,000, if not more. I think many musicians trying to make it live paycheck to paycheck, and it cuts into our creative time.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
TTS: I love the endless boundaries. I can do whatever I want. I can express my feelings, my thoughts, my views and no one can tell me how. It’s my art, it’s my opinion, and it’s me who calls the shots. It’s my masterpiece, it’s my perception of perfect. No one can change that. No one can tell you what is art. You get to decide.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artists that inspire you in any way?
TTS: Jean-Michel Basquiat is a huge inspiration to me. After watching “The Radiant Child,” my whole outlook on art changed. To see someone push the envelope as he did on so many levels and still not feel accepted as the amazing talent he was because of his race. He said, “If you wanna talk about influence, man, then you’ve got to realize that influence is not influence. It’s simply someone’s idea going through my new mind.” This quote inspires me, creatively, daily. I take all the art I see, music I hear, emotion I live and create something of my own. I’ve begun a series of tattoos (a sleeve) on my right arm of art that has made an indelible impression on me. So far I’ve got a Keith Haring, Basquiat, and Schiele.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
TTS: Technology has helped and hurt us. It has helped because now you can create for less. Anyone can access music they couldn’t before. At the same time, because these things are so easily accessible now, people don’t have very much respect or regard for it. There will never be another Beatles. Things come and go in a matter of days. Technology changes so rapidly it has made music a vapid thing.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
TTS: I do. I’m very luck to have this outlet. I’ve done the 9-5 and it’s not for me. In fact, I commend those who do it. It’s so I can continue to create. Too many creative people get caught up in the world and forget their passion. Sure, I live paycheck to paycheck, but in those few moments I get to create or perform. I feel on top of the world. I feel like NOTHING can stop me. Do you think the people who show up day to day with no outlet get that sitting at their desk?
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
TTS: I do love to travel. I don’t do enough of it, but I’ve been lucky enough to tour this country twice. I’ve been to some amazing cities I probably would have never been to if not for Tennis System. There’s just something about New York City that is indescribable. Whenever I go there, I have this burst of energy. I never want to sleep. I want to hit the museums during the day, walk the streets, people watch, eat amazing food, go to bars, buy clothes, drink a beer, go to a rooftop with friends and take it in. I fvcking love New York. D.C. is my home. I will forever love that city, but not because I spent a lot of my life there or have some very special people in that city. I love the architecture and the monuments. Not to mention how easy it is to maneuver that city. You can bike, walk, or meter anywhere you want. There’s a lot of history and character in DC that can be taken for granted when you live there. I used to love getting a bottle of wine and riding my bike down to the national monuments and taking that city in. I swear that is one of the most refreshing things ever. There are no distractions, just you and those historical places. I’ve only left the USA three times. The first was to Italy. Go big or go home I suppose. I spent an entire month there. Being Italian, I wanted to make sure I did it right. I took two semesters of Italian and learned the language so that I could communicate while I was there. I went all over that country and really took it in. The Italian culture is a beautiful thing. There is a lot of love, a lot of eating, and a strong focus on enjoying life, as you only get one. Of all the cities I visited, Florence was my favorite. The art was amazing. I saw the Michelangelo’s ‘David.’ The bridges are indescribably beautiful as are the buildings and Duomo. Truly unreal. Then there are people on the streets doing amazing paintings and drawings. The food is cheap, plentiful, and delicious. The people were extremely friendly and really made me feel at home.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
TTS: I’m not much of a reader. Recently, I read ‘Cat’s Cradle’ by Kurt Vonnegut and really liked it.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your music?
TTS: I’d love to be able to tour the world. I want to make those connections and be a world-touring act. I want to play in the UK, Europe, and Asia. I want to see the world through my music.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
TTS: Being an artist, to me, means creating from your heart. It means doing what you love no matter what. It means losing and gaining to keep the passion going. It means never giving up or losing focus on what you believe.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your music?
TTS: My music is not like anything else. Sure, you can guess some bands that influence me, but you can’t put me in a bracket. You can’t quite generalize my music.
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