Like many contemporary DJs and producers, Gregor Tresher grew up listening to 80s Synth-pop and came of age at the height of Techno clubs in Frankfurt, Germany. In true DIY fashion, Gregor taught himself how to DJ, which led to purchasing a computer where he began to learn to produce the music he loved. His DJ career started in Frankfurt’s 90s club scene. Today, Gregor Tresher is a world-renowned DJ and producer. His music productions have a distinct sound, his penchant for melody. No matter how many times you’ve heard a Gregor track, you will always find something new in them. His melodies are stories, layers of emotions with shifting bass frequencies, and peak hour dancefloor beats.
In 2005, Gregor Tresher cemented his place in electronic music with tracks like Still, Neon, and A Thousand Nights, which became Beatports best selling Techno track in 2008. Gregor has remixed Depeche Mode, Laurent Garnier, Moby, and Sven Väth, among others. He has released music on labels like Drumcode, Ovum, Intacto, Moon Harbour, and Cocoon Recordings. In 2009, Gregor launched his record label, Break New Soil. This year Break New Soil celebrates its 13th anniversary and you can expect releases from Harvey Mckay, Rico Puestel, Extrawelt, DJ Hell, and many more.
His relationship with Cocoon Recordings boss and Techno pioneer Sven Väth has come full circle, from fan to producer. Frequenting the legendary club Omen as a teenager, Gregor would listen to Sven Väth, who was the resident DJ and part club owner. As part of the Cocoon family, Gregor has been featured on Väth’s In the Mix compilation series, released countless singles and EPs, to producing Sven Väth’s first album in 20 years, aptly titled Catharsis, released last February.
In a delightful conversation with The DJ Cookbook, Gregor told us about his favorite Synth-pop bands and the album he listens to regularly. His grandmother’s secret to slicing knödels. His go-to restaurants in Frankfurt and why Frankfurt is not a clubbing hot spot.
Q: Hi Gregor, thank you so much for talking to us!
A: Happy to do it!
Q: It’s almost lunchtime, what are you having for lunch?
A: Probably a quick pasta, I love basic Italian pasta dishes, like Aglio e Olio, or an easy tomato sauce.
Q: When you’re home do you plan your meals for the week?
A: Not really. I’d love to be more organized when it comes to planning meals in advance, but the truth is I more or less come up with what we’re going to eat every day and then go shopping for ingredients for every single meal, or use stuff in the pantry.
Q: What is a favorite family recipe? A recipe from your mother or grandmother? What made it special?
A: That would be Knödel, a pretty basic dumpling that my grandmother cooked. The dumplings are made with flour, milk, eggs, and stale bread cubes, which are then formed into a big loaf. They are then boiled, sliced, and served. I remember watching my grandmother cut the slices with sewing thread. They’re perfect for soaking up lots of gravy and my grandmother made them as a side to roast pork.
Q: Was music an important part of your family life?
A: I suppose it was in a way. However, I think my music socializing wasn’t influenced a lot by our early family life.
Q: Do you have a guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
A: Absolutely, I would say that unhealthy stuff like convenience food is one of my guilty pleasures. Also, I do like a sprinkle of MSG in Asian recipes. And I couldn’t say that I steer clear of the occasional visits to fast-food chain restaurants.
Q: There’s more to Frankfurt than Frankfurter sausages, can you tell us about other food Frankfurt is known for?
A: We have quite a few traditional restaurants serving local specialties and I would recommend checking out a dish called Frankfurter Grüne Sosse (Frankfurt's Green Sauce), which is a sauce made of seven different herbs, yogurt, and sour cream. It is served cold with two hard-boiled eggs and cooked potatoes. Also, Frankfurt has great international restaurants, as there is no shortage of fresh produce because of Frankfurt airport.
Q: What are some favorite food spots in Frankfurt that you visit frequently?
A: There are two fantastic Japanese restaurants in town, the quality of the fish doesn’t match but comes close to eating in Japan. My favorite Japanese restaurants are Masa and Nihonryori Ken. A great modern Greek restaurant is Omonia, then we have Vaivai, an Italian-inspired Steakhouse with a great bar. For late-night drinks, there is The Parlour, located near the stock exchange.
Q: Do you enjoy cooking?
A: I love it! Over the past two years, I spent more weekends at home than in the past twenty years, so I cooked a lot. For example, on Sunday mornings, I often like to slow-cook a stew for hours on end!
Q: Do you have a vegetable garden? If yes, what do you grow?
A: I don’t! Living in the center of Frankfurt makes it hard to have a garden, and to be honest I don’t have a green thumb, my garden skills are terrible!
Q: Did becoming a father change your outlook on life? How do you manage touring and family life?
A: Well I guess there is no way that parenthood won’t change a lot in your life, in a good way that is. I wouldn’t say it changed a lot in terms of my profession as a musician/touring DJ though. Before the pandemic, I would usually fly out on a Friday afternoon, do gigs on Friday and Saturday night and return home Sunday night. Therefore I spent a lot of time with my family during the week. I take care of my daughter in the mornings and then go to the studio in the afternoon.
Q: Does your daughter have a favorite Gregor dish?
A: Her favorite is my Spaghetti Bolognese. I often make a big batch of sauce and then freeze portions. She likes the classic recipe, but I often make two different batches, one with meat, and one with a meat substitute, that I like better. I think vegan minced meat substitutes have improved so much over the past years that you don’t need meat in recipes like this anymore.
Q: As a touring DJ you get to experience fine dining and local foods and then there’s the not-so-great airport/airline food. In your opinion, which country do you associate with delicious food, and which airline or airport you rather not eat at or fly out of?
A: My favorite countries in terms of food would be Italy and Japan. I try to avoid airline and airport food as much as possible. I was a vegetarian for 4 years, it was really good for me but due to touring and being on the road, I started eating meat again because in other countries sometimes you don’t have the right options available, that was like 10 years ago and the only option would be a salad or sides from the main course. Today that is no longer a problem and I’m trying to get back to eating less meat again and at some point become a vegetarian again. Nowadays meat substitutes taste good.
Q: Did you start any new hobbies during the pandemic?
A: Funny enough I cooked the most I ever had! I spent a lot of time cooking! I tried a lot of new recipes and other cuisines. I am trying to perfect my egg-fried rice recipe! Going to the Asian food store and buying ingredients that I never used before.
Q: What are your thoughts on the pandemic?
A: In the beginning, everything went full stop. I didn’t think it would be so devastating. When the pandemic started in February 2020, I thought this might be over in a few weeks or months. I was wrong! The first year was very hard for everyone in this business. I make most of my money touring, so my income dropped. There is still some money to be made by releasing music, but it is not enough to make a living. I also love touring so much. Touring has been the center of my world for the past 20 to 15 years. I used to hate traveling, but once I got back on an airplane, I realized how much I loved to travel. Then after the first year, the opportunity to produce Sven Väth’s album was a silver lining. In general, it has been a shit show! The government treated the electronic music community in the worst possible way. It felt like what we did was not important, especially for club owners and promoters.
Q: Do you think the electronic music community needs a union given what the pandemic has taught us?
A: Union is a big word. For example, people in Berlin have the Berlin Club Commission. The electronic music community is very competitive, especially the musicians. I don’t think people will stand together, but it would be nice if someone picked the idea up and had some sort of lobbyist or a spokesperson to represent us.
Q: In the 80s and 90s Frankfurt and later Berlin were the birthplaces of electronic music in Germany. How come Frankfurt is no longer on the club map?
A: In the early 90s, there was Frankfurt and Berlin. They were kind of equal. They were the two epicenters of electronic music in Germany. Frankfurt had great clubs throughout the 90s and early 2000s, then they closed, and Berlin became the go-to place for electronic music. Nowadays, Frankfurt has very few clubs. The clubs are good, but not what they used to be in the 90s. Everybody knows about Berghain, but Frankfurt doesn’t have the equivalent anymore. We had historic clubs like Omen, Dorian Gray, and XS. These were legendary clubs but not having them is why Frankfurt is no longer on the club map.
Q: Is the lack of clubs in Frankfurt due to investors?
A: One of the reasons is that Frankfurt does not have a lot of club tourism. Frankfurt doesn’t have thousands of people coming for a weekend wanting to go clubbing. Tourists are the reason why all these clubs are in business. I find it ridiculous when people complain about tourists because they are the ones that run this business operation. Don’t get me wrong, we have some good nights, and there are clubs just not as legendary as they used to be.
Q: What attracted you the most about electronic music? The sounds, the culture, the technology?
A: I don’t remember it as a single precise moment. I remember pivotal moments that formed that decision, like falling in love with Synth-pop in the late eighties as a child. My first visit to a real Techno club in ‘92. My first steps in the studio and learning to produce the music I loved so much.
Q: Did you go to school for music?
A: I did as a child.
Q: Do you play any instruments?
A: As a kid, my parents forced me to take music lessons. I took cello lessons for ten years. I also learned to play the cornet and drums. I was never really good at it. I did learn a thing or two in terms of basic musical understanding, but I never enjoyed it.
Q: Did becoming a producer happen organically for you?
A: It was more of a conscious decision. I wanted to learn how to make this music that I loved. I bought a computer, taught myself how to use the software, extended my gear collection, and figured out how it all works.
Q: This year, your label Break New Soil Recordings will celebrate its 13th anniversary, in human years it is no longer a child but not yet an adult. Do you remember what you were listening to when you were 13 years old?
A: That’s a great question because by coincidence my favorite album of all time was released when I was exactly 13 years old, Disintegration by The Cure. Since Break New Soil is turning 13 years old maybe we’ll release our best music this year?!
Q: Any new releases to celebrate Break New Soil’s coming of age?
A: We have a great year of music lined up, with new music by Extrawelt, DJ Hell, Alexander Kowalski, Harvey McKay, Rico Puestel, Funk D`Void, and Petar Dundov, plus many more.
Q: You have remixed the likes of Depeche Mode, Laurent Garnier, and Moby. Is there an artist outside of the electronic music scene that you would like to work with?
A: Robert Smith from The Cure. When I was a kid, my first love was Depeche Mode. I was an eight-year-old with Depeche Mode posters in my room. It was amazing getting to meet the guys and remixing them. But in 1989, when I heard The Cure’s Disintegration, it became my favorite album of all time. That album is just perfect, the songs, the arrangements, the production, the vibe, the atmosphere, you know, I listen to it at least once a month.
Q: What are your favorite tracks from Disintegration?
A: Plainsong, the opener, and Disintegration are my favorite tracks. I have all their DVDs. The Cure is so good live, they’re amazing. Robert Smith still sings exactly the same, his voice has not changed. I can go on talking about The Cure, I’m a crazy The Cure fan!
Q: Depeche Mode with or without Alan Wilder?
A: I like all their albums. I try not to get mixed up in this debate, Martin Gore wrote all the songs, and Alan Wilder produced all the sounds on those records. My favorite Depeche Mode record now is Songs of Faith and Devotion. When I was a kid, Construction Time Again was my favorite album. I'm not the guy saying that their new stuff is different. The music has to be different! I heard those albums when I was a teenager. You romanticize this music because it has memories of your younger self attached to it. I still get goosebumps talking about the first time I watched Depeche Mode: 101. There are so many good scenes in that concert documentary.
Q: 2021 was a very busy year for you. You collaborated with Pig & Dan and released the single Challenger and the album Soulcatcher on Truesoul, and Übermod with long-time collaborator Petar Dundov. Then you co-produced Sven Väth’s Catharsis. Can you tell us about working with Pig & Dan, Sven Väth, and Petar Dundov?
A: The album with Pig & Dan was a long-distance production, meaning we sent projects back and forth. I had never done this before, especially for a big project like an album. It was exciting, and we are happy with the result. We released Challenger as a single and Soulcatcher for the moment is only available to stream because we will be releasing NFTs with this album later this year.
With Sven, we produced the first track remotely. After that, we sat down in the studio together and made all the music. It was a fantastic experience. We felt a creative rush, often looking at each other and saying: “What the hell is happening?!”. Roughly thirty years after being influenced by Sven’s DJing, it felt like coming full circle to work on his first original music in twenty years together. I’m so happy about it. It was very surreal and amazing at the same time.
Petar Dundov and I are working on a new album. We plan on releasing it this summer on Break New Soil. Petar and I have a long working relationship. I call him the professor because he is so good at this music thing, he’s so creative. I have not collaborated with many other people throughout my career. I've done it from time to time, and I was never that satisfied. We have produced ten releases together, and from day one, I’ve learned so much from him. I think that everything we do together we couldn’t possibly do on our own, and that's what counts.
Q: Do you think the pandemic influenced these productions?
A: Well, I think we wouldn’t have found the time to work on it, so maybe that was the one single good thing about the pandemic.
Q: When you’re in the studio do you switch between analog and digital hardware? What is the perfect balance for you?
A: I use single pieces of analog hardware for writing or sound design, but I am not a purist: In my opinion, what counts is the final product, not the way you got there.
Q: Which piece of hardware is your most prized possession?
A: A Roland System-100 and a Minimoog, that was built the year I was born, 1976.
Q: Can you tell us how a typical day in the studio is for you?
A: That depends on if I’m in a creative mood or not. For many years, I got kind of depressed when I didn’t get any results or felt I had writer’s block. Over time I learned that any time spent in the studio is a good thing, even if I didn’t get any results. The inspiration comes and goes, but you have to be in the studio when it happens.
Q: Do you spend a lot of time sitting down or do you get up and dance once you find a groove? Is dancing a good sign for you?
A: Oh absolutely! To be honest, with most of the tracks that later turned out to be quite successful, I had the urge to get up from my chair and dance! It’s the perfect way for me to judge if the music I’m working on might be something...
Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?
A: Travelling, other people's music and personal moods, good or bad.
Q: What do you eat in the studio to get your energy going?
A: I have this routine where I go out for lunch to have a break, often I go for some sushi or a banh mi. Most of the time I work alone, so it’s nice to see other people now and then.
Q: If you weren’t making music what would you be doing?
A: I have absolutely no idea at all!
Q: Gregor, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
A: Thank you, that was fun!