Pioneers of sound & play
Teenage Engineering, the innovative Swedish tech and synth creatives are setting up a live-act at the upcoming IKEA FESTIVAL in Milan. Their performances will be an exploration of sound, light, live composition and crowd interaction. So naturally, we had to find out more about them and what they’ll be mixing up for the show.
In a garage space in the more alternative city-district of Södermalm, Stockholm, lies the creative hub of Teenage Engineering. From this tech cave, they design and manufacture some of the most exciting and playful synthesisers and electronics out on the market today.
Their products range from pocket operators – street named synth calculators, to the acclaimed OP-1 portable synthesiser – a retro-inspired recording device described as a mobile studio, and now even 70s redesigned cubic speakers or their digitally compatible Polaroid camera.
We love the products that we make and are perfectionists when it comes to the small details – to circuit boards to graphics and even the smaller things you may never notice.
We spoke with Tobias von Hofsten, one of the product experts, who’s been working with Teenage Engineering for about five years. With a long history and career within music production, Tobias has a good ear for quality sound and the technical intricacies that are needed to produce it. “We love the products that we make and are perfectionists when it comes to the small details – to circuit boards to graphics and even the smaller things you may never notice.”
Of course with hard work comes a lot of play, and that’s exactly what Teenage Engineering thrives on. Their live act, Teenage Engineering Sound System, is a chance for them to put all of their products to the test and to have some fun. “In the live show, we mostly play using just Teenage Engineering products. We like to experiment and come up with fun ways of creating interactive and visually interesting performances”
It’s not just about them composing and playing electronic music live either, but much to the contrary. They want people to take part.
“We’re not such crowd pleasers, but on the other hand we like to play in the middle of a venue and not be high up on a stage. We want people up-close and personal so they can watch the whole music making process, rather than us bragging about our products and showing off, we let them speak for themselves.”
So to breach the gap with the audience they’ve made an electronica workshop, where various pocket operators will be laid out to test and play with. Tobias and others will also be on deck to help out making synthesized beats.
For a lot of people it’s their first ever experience in creating electronic music on a modern synthesizer. If they’re not smiling when they come they will be when they leave.
Getting to share his passion for producing music and opening people’s minds to the possibilities is not something he takes for granted. “For a lot of people it’s their first ever experience in creating electronic music on a modern synthesizer.” He promises “if they’re not smiling when they come they will be when they leave.”
Being as they’re playing at an IKEA Festival, they took the liberty to bring in some IKEA products into their performance as well. “We’re going to sequence IKEA lamps so that they blink in sync with the beats we make” Tobias said.
It won’t be the only collaboration in their performance either. They’ve also invited one of Teenage Engineering’s most popular supporters and endorsers – a Japanese music producer that goes by the name Steeezo – whose Instagram feed is filled with thumping funky tracks made on his crazy collection of OP-1’s and Pocket Operators.
“We’re big fans of his so we decided to invite him over to perform with us. It will be his first ever time outside of Japan so we’re super excited for him.”
Looking to the future, Tobias says that they’re only just getting started. “We’re throwing around hundreds of ideas every week, some of which we make into amazing prototypes that may not even end up in production. But we’re dedicated to pushing the envelope of tech product development and innovation.”
“We want to keep doing stuff that no one else is doing.”
Tobias von Hofsten is an established music producer who was nominated for a Swedish Grammy award in 2002 for his album produced with Josefin Karlsson. The album, titled We Are Puss, was recorded using only internal Game Boy sounds. He started working with Teenage Engineering in 2011.
Teenage Engineering is a Swedish electronics company founded in 2007. The company designs and manufactures pocket synthesisers and composers, speakers and most recently an instant polaroid-style camera. It was established by four Swedish guys; David Möllerstedt, head of audio, Jens Rudberg, programmer and developer, David Eriksson, head of hardware, and Jesper Kouthoofd, developer. They currently employ around 35 people from their garage space.