Tristan Arp Landon Speers Square.jpg

photography : Landon Speers


1.Who are you?

My name is Tristan Arp. I grew up outside Detroit before moving to New York when I was 18.

2.What do you do?

I explore and create a variety of worlds with different projects, but as Tristan Arp I focus on playful, ambiguous, dance music that incites the futuristic and the freaky. I also a run a small record label of love with my best friend Brandon Sanchez called Human Pitch, which celebrates unclassifiable music from around world.

3.Where do you often create?

I work in my head all the time and I love creating with just my laptop in all kinds of spaces: parks, planes, studios, remote nature when I’m lucky. I do share a studio space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with some of my favorite people. We started a collaborative project in Indonesia that I’m really psyched to share next year. We’ve built a cozy studio space here in New York in a really simple and inexpensive way.


I used to be unreasonably comfortable with being broke in order to work on my practice, musical and otherwise for ten or more hours a day. But now I have a day job curating and creating sounds and samples, and another running things in the US for the Norwegian label Smalltown Supersound. This forces me to work efficiently whenever I have the time in the evenings, early mornings and weekends, and to my pleasant surprise I think I’m working better than ever in these finite windows.

5.Why do you play music?

I make music because there’s loads I’d like to hear but I can’t, because it doesn’t exist yet. I make the music I’d like to listen to and while I’m comfortable with no one in the world enjoying it but me, I do like bringing joy and something positive to the lives of others in however small a way. Even just by bringing joy to myself through my practice, that’s my way of trying to be a good human being.

6.When did you start making music?

I started making music when my brother’s friend left behind a four-track TASCAM recorder at our house. I was twelve or so and had played guitar for a couple years but got into finding and learning all the instruments and effect boxes I could to make unusual sounds and experiment with recording. Discovering techno in Detroit circa 2006 kinda ushered in the realm of computer music and Ableton version 3 or whatever it was at the time became something of a best friend when I was teenager.

7.Which track defines you the most?

I think “Plexi” is my track that defines me most and I suppose that’s why it’s also the title of the EP. It’s asymmetrical, fun, and a bit off the rails. A few friends have told me it’s a kinky track haha. I’m quite pleased this comes through! I’m a very silly person. I used to make very serious music that was much more serious than I really am and I’m happy Plexi made its way out of me.

8.How would you describe your music?

Batu, who was such a lovely person to meet this year, kindly described my music as “tech house gone wrong,” and I’m inclined to adopt this description.

9.Any track of the moment?

De Leon has a completely gorgeous record on a new label I find really exciting, Mana Records. Think “A2” does it for me most with these swerving, elastic rhythms that seem to have no beginning or end.

10.What influences your work?

Different projects of mine explore different (and sometimes more specific) influences but Plexi is influenced by intuition, psychology, sexuality, and play.

11.What’s your academic background? Are you an autodidact?

I went to public school in Michigan and went to NYU on loans and scholarships. It’s a debt I’m yet to pay off but in many ways it was the utopia and the ticket to to New York I bargained for. I studied writing/production from a studio context, pop music, experimental music, the music industry itself, history and criticism… That said, I was autodidactic before I went to music school––I taught myself instruments, theory, recording technique in the makeshift basement studio I worked hard to build––and remain one when it comes to visual art and design.

12.Favorite designer?

Josef Albers.

13.Favorite book?

Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein

14.Favorite classic movie?

Princess Mononoke.

15.Favorite music label?


16.Your dream collaboration?

Burnt Friedman

17.Are you analog or digital? Which softwares/tools/instruments do you use/play?

I’m both digital and analog. Ableton/laptop are my strongest instruments and I’m a massive advocate for the power of digital/working with very little and not getting distracted by the allure of expensive hardware. That being said I always incorporated my voice, guitar pedals, and found-sounds before I could afford my Moog Sub 37, which I cherish. Unusual mallet instruments like the rindik, a bamboo instrument I brought back from Indonesia earlier this year are my favorite lately, and I make virtual instruments out of sampling them, which represents a perfect analog-digital workflow to me.

18.Describe your creative process?

I sit and imagine the kind of music I’d like to hear and then I go about making it. I improvise around the things in my head because they’re relatively abstract to begin with, and I arrive at patterns and loops on my Push or Moog. I always begin in Ableton’s clip view and arrange things in rows so that I can improvise a sequence and wind up with a track, or something close to it, in one go.

19.When are you most prolific?

When I do the least thinking/work intuitively.

20.Any favorite record stores?

2 Bridges Music Arts

21.What’s your life philosophy? (Optimistic/pessimistic)

I’m an optimist.

22.Do you have a healthy lifestyle?

I don’t always succeed but I work hard at maintaining a healthy lifestyle because I’ve been prone to poor mental health in the past. Everyone thinks of eating well, exercise, meditation etc, but keeping a regular biological clock, staying connected with others, and not placing your work above everything else in the grand scheme of existence are a few things the creative life can really work against and are fundamental to one’s health. It’s tough to negotiate and some people are lucky and never seem to have to. Or maybe it catches up with them too eventually. Anyways, I’ve said farewell to the creative all-nighters and various unsustainable tendencies and I’m having a lot of fun. Of course I stay out late dancing with friends at least one night a week because that’s important for my happiness too.   

23.How do you manage your time effectively?

Out of necessity!

24.Any secret skills?

I speak German.

25.Any future plans?

A secret invention some years down the line, dancefloor experiments, non-dancefloor experiments, collaboration with loved ones, and a trip to Vietnam and back to Indonesia this Winter.

26.What’s your motto in life?

All things should be done with play.

27.Any “mot de la fin?”

A little less four on the floor and a little more fun, k?


And New Yorkers, let’s remember: we don’t need to take cues from anywhere! This city has special DNA and is at its best when it’s very much doing its own twisted, idiosyncratic thing. It’s been popular to take cues from Berlin and Detroit––those cities and their sounds are as near and dear to my heart as anyone’s––but I’m really excited about the forward-reaching sounds from a wave of new dance labels here like Incienso and Anno. This year’s Sustain Release left me feeling so good about the New York community and the range of new directions. There’s room for everyone and everything here, but this is a funky city, famous for new sounds and I want to support that cause in particular.


New premiere of ‘Instinct’ >

Tristan Arp SC >

IG: @tristan.arp