Tanzmuzik: A Conversation With Sam Rosenthal

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In 1985, a 19-year old Florida kid living at home scraped together some money and pressed a twelve-inch record of his bedroom recordings, released under the name Projekt Electronic Amerika. That young man was named Sam Rosenthal, and in just a few years time, he would go from fledgling bedroom musician to the well-known founder of Projekt, a label that helped to define a genre of dark, electronic music, and would soon launch his most successful band, Black Tape for a Blue Girl.

This Fall, Rosenthal–in conjunction with Italian label Mannequin–reissued Tanzmusik, both digitally and physically. To no one’s surprise, the vinyl version quickly sold out. The digital version is available via Projekt, and can be listened to in its entirety below.

Thank you to Mr. Rosenthal for taking the time to dig deep into his psyche and offer his recollections!

TR: When I listen to the record, I feel like I’m listening to a young man discover and explore numerous ideas. What was going through your head as you wrote and recorded music? What were you looking for in terms of sound?

SR: Let me get my time machine and ask the 19 year old me (Laughs). I don’t remember that kind of stuff. I had recorded three cassettes of music at that point. Being the first vinyl, Tanzmusik was a bit like a “best of” from the styles I had worked in. But really, I don’t know what goes through my head when I make music. I just make music, and know when it’s right and when it needs to be fixed to make it right. It’s not really logical. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Tangerine Dream, Peter Baumann, Brian Eno, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, John Foxx, Soft Cell, Kraftwerk. Your typical freaky kid! (Laughs)

TR: As you listen to this, 27 years later, what do you think about it?

SR: Before I remixed the album, I had not listened to it in probably 15 years. In my memories of the album, I thought the ambient songs were the good ones, and the synth-pop ones were the weak link. But now I think I like the synth-pop ones — like “Alone” and “We Return” — more. On the other hand, I really like that sequencer at the beginning of “The Coming Fall.” If my Korg Poly-61 wasn’t dead, I would set up that patch again and write something new around it; I still have all the notes for my synth settings for the songs. Scary. Overall, I am a lot happier with the album than I expected to be. When Alessandro Adriani at Mannequin Records in Italy got in touch with me about releasing it, I was sort of skeptical, and procrastinated a whole bunch. But  when I started actually working on it, I liked it. It’s quite a nice album. Schizophrenic, as you point out. But that’s OK.

TR: On the cover illustration of you, there’s no mouth. Were you planning–or intending–to develop into an instrumental artist? Were you sure of your voice yet?

SR: I was just really bad at drawing mouths. (Laughs) But then it sorta made sense, as the music was instrumental.

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