There is something innately interesting about the new project from German producers Marlon Hoffstedt & HRRSN. As individuals they both have enjoyed considerable success in the house realm, Marlon thanks to his anthem Shake That (as well as the infectious Keep A Dalla) and HRRSN thanks to a succesion of stellar features and a number of his own delicate productions. However together the pair form something altogether more potent and far reaching as Tender Games, the sort of garage/house crossover act that rarely make an appearance these days among the throngs of house artistes but who undoubtedly posses the potential to morph into the kind of festival act the world loves to see. Their debut LP ‘Tender Games’ recieved rave reviews on this very blog as well as around the world and is the kind of statement piece of work we have been craving these past few months.
Recently I caught up with both Marlon and HRRSN (real name Ulrich Harrison) to find out what makes these guys tick, and just how they managed to put together one of the standout albums of 2014.
We started by discussing the album project itself, for WWD we were surprised that the house orientated pair would produce such a diverse album (it ranges from house to garage and even to blues) but it quickly became evident that the boys have been heavily influenced by the UK scene ‘SBTRKT, UK bass artists’ Marlon alludes. ‘We decided to start this new tender games project, a new project and a new name because we wanted to produce something different’. and that is how it has emerged, the album is fresh, it sounds unique, repeat listening is a must. Marlon lays the garage influence at the feet of his co collaborator claiming that he was ‘born and raised in Berlin and I grew up with house music so for me it was sure I would be a house DJ’. His friend HRRSN it appears provided most of the basis for their new sound ‘his roots are more in pop, rnb, singer songwriter kind of stuff’ attributing all the main influences to him. It’s a good thing then that the too have paired so successfully as the influences of HRSSN make it an altogether more accessible album, one that has the potential to move beyond dance circles.
The multiple influences shine through in the diversity of the album, tracks like In Her Bed (a blues venture featuring Miss Nat Nat) and A Millionen Times are so markedly difference although it seems like everything is perfectly tied together by the underlying influences of the two protagonists. It’s clear the project has no limitations, no roof on their ambitions, Marlon mentions the fact that “we want to do everything, we don’t want to set limits’.
As we discussed the accessible nature of the music and their plans for Tender games our talk inevitably led to the prospect of a live show. “Actually we already had three shows” with Ulrich singing, playing guitar and piano and Marlon mixing all the beats in Ableton with controllers and effects. ‘In the near future we want to do something of a concert thing’, Marlon informs me, a thought which will appeal to almost anyone who has heard even a smidgeon of the LP. The live show will surely take Tender Games to the next level, an opportunity for the talented Hoffstaft and the breathtaking vocals of HRRSN to wow massive crowds the world over. HRRSN sings on the majority of the album “if there isn’t a feature, I’m singing’ alongide a traunch of vocal talent including Meggy, Forrest and Irishman Stee Downes.
The pair also tell me of their recent Suol label showcase at legendary Watergate where label mates Chopstick & Jon Jon warmed things up before Tender Games let loose to a capacity crowd. The guys offer a full experience, bringing things up from 100bpm all the way to peak time madness. How fast does it get? I enquire with Marlon “we start at 100 bpm then go to 105, 110, it the middle we are at 127, then comes a break and our last track, at the end, we play City Lights which is like 104 bpm. “We also produced a little bonus track for the end of our sets which is like a cover, our own interpretation of Curtis Mayfields – Pusher Man” (Something WWD would love a listen to!). It’s clear the duo have managed to find a way to incorporate the various different aspects of the album into one cohesive set, something that bodes well for the future.
It’s clear Tender Games have a big place in their heart for their Suol family who have given the plenty of opportunities such as the recent showcase. A collective encompassing the likes of Till Von Sein, Meggy, label bosses Chopstick & Johnjon, Fritz Kalkbrenner and Daniel Bortz it provides a creative outlet unlike anything else for the pair. “We have a really good crew around us, the label, the booking agency is Four Artists, we have a good crew who keep us free from all the other work so we can focus on djing, playing live and producing”. It seems like the label is the perfect launchpad for the duo, small enough to maintain their artistic integrity but large enough to give them a potent platform. They also seem to have hit the nail on the head in terms of promotion for the album which has already done well in Germany and now seems to be spreading farther afield “We have no national radio stations, its just regional stations but I think we received really good support from them, we had many radio plays for the first single In A Mess, we like in the end 200/250 in the last month – sometimes more than 100 a week all over Germany”. Allied to that it’s also received staunch support from Monsier Pete Tong and Ms Annie Mac something that shows the Tender Games sound is a far reaching one and an indication that the influences of HRRSN in particular have paid off.
So it would appear that bright things lie on the horizon for one of the most impressive double acts we’ve come across in a while. With a set focus on their craft and a tight knit crew to help the along WWD is certain this is just the beginning of a long journey for the Berlin based pair. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of checking our their LP – Tender Games, we highly recommend that you do. Then all that remains is to wait it out till the pair arrive at a festival near you.