15.10.2017 | Words by: Abel Vlaanderen
upsammy, real name Thessa Torsing, is in a good place right now. She just debuted on Nous’Klaer’s excellent ‘Paerels’ compilation, and she plays Het Muzieklokaal for the second time on Sunday 22nd October. Her music is slamming, dreamy and highly original – qualities that come across in both her DJ-sets and her productions. As a DJ, upsammy can steer a dancefloor to collective euphoria, whilst simultaneously making individual punters look inward and dance with their eyes closed. A rare gift indeed.
I met up with Thessa during a mix-session with friends, for an evening filled with beautiful records, discussions about the Dutch government and gin-fanta. In-between questions she would jump in the mix, pull off an otherworldly transition, and join the (very informal) interview again.
Q: Can you tell us about your first experiences with electronic music? How did you get into this?
A: My dad had loads of electronic mix CD’s, like Tiësto's Forbidden Paradise, so I listened to those when I was growing up. Another major influence was MTV Lounge Vol. 3, with artists like Moby and The Future Sound Of London. From there I started to discover things, and I went to my first rave when I was 16.
Q: Do you still listen to music from those early years?
A: Yes, definitely. For example Moby – Another Woman, or ‘Papua New Guinea’ by The Future Sound Of London.
Q: When did you start producing and DJ-ing?
A: That was actually during that time, when I started going to raves that were organised by friends. I began DJ-ing there even though I didn’t know how to do it properly. I also played in a few bands, but I realised that I wanted to be in control of all the instruments, so that’s why I started producing. The first songs I produced were actually ambient songs that I made with my guitar, drenching them in reverb and recording them through my laptop speakers. My desire to be in control also feeds into my DJ-ing, because I was that kid who would always pick the music at parties.
Q: I think we can say that you’re currently successful with both DJ-ing and producing, so I was wondering if you try to keep them separated, or if they influence each other?
A: Well, sometimes you realise that a track won’t sell massively if it isn’t built for the club. But I try not to occupy myself with these things too much, because right now I just want to make stuff that sounds good, my records don’t have to contain DJ-tools necessarily. There’s this out-of-sync hi-hat on ‘A Picture Of U’ for example, which makes it difficult to mix, but also very interesting. [However, later on, when she played a track by Anton Zap, Thessa remarks that she would like to make more tracky records someday.]
The production process draws very much from my own emotions, so the club does influence that. But the club is not the only factor: my music would be very hollow if it was.
Q: Do you have certain goals when you’re DJ-ing, a DJ-philosophy of some kind?
A: I want to introduce a certain sense of space to the club, that people are reminded of specific places or memories when they listen to my music. I also want to achieve some sort of communal experience, where we’re all in it together. This sounds cliché, but it’s really the best when there’s this connection between the DJ and the audience. Finally, I want to touch people in a way, make them look inward whilst still being part of that community. It’s great to see different individuals react very differently to certain weird noises.
Q: This ties nicely into my next question: what is one of the most memorable DJ-experiences you’ve enjoyed so far?
A: I played BAR in Rotterdam three weeks ago, for the Nous’Klaer Nacht. I could play anything I wanted and people would still dance their asses off – there really was a match.
Q: What music would you play in a DJ-set if you could play anything you wanted?
A: To be honest, I think I can play everything I want, if the time is right. There are some songs that are very dear to me, that I only play when the vibe is really special, so I don’t waste them. But I obviously enjoy more popular stuff as well, like Grimes. And I would love to play a psychedelic rock set someday, but I don’t think there’s a lot of demand on the dancefloor for that right now.
Q: You’re playing Het Muzieklokaal on the morning of Sunday, 22nd October, just before Vancouver native LNS. What track sums up that time and place the best, in your opinion?
A: I think Het Muzieklokaal is more intimate than the basement, and the first hazy daylight will stream in when I start. I really like the windows there, they’re very interesting. A track that will definitely suit this atmosphere is ‘Pass This On’, by The Knife.
Q: Okay, cool! Finally: what’s next for upsammy? Do you’ve got exciting things coming up?
A: I’m playing lots of gigs in the coming weeks, and there’s a solo EP coming out on Nous’Klaer soonish. I don’t know exactly when, but I just received the masters and I’m super excited for it!
upsammy is playing Het Weekend during ADE in De School on Sunday morning in Het Muzieklokaal from 08:00 until 11:00.