Interview Series: Henrietta Tiefenthaler

Meet Henrietta Tiefenthaler, or Henri by her artist name. The London-born, Los Angeles-raised woman has managed to mark her territory in a variety of creative fields. Actress, New York Times bestseller author, DJ, rising fashion icon – Henri embodies the modern woman. But, let’s narrow it down to her current reigning creative endeavor – music. Spinning sets that range from pop and rock to electronic dance, Tiefenthaler keeps heart beats racing and bodies bustling, leaving her audience captivated. Her latest single “It’s Like This, It’s Like That” has been burning its way through summertime dance floors and she recently created a mix exclusively for Live FAST Mag. Without anymore ado, allow us to introduce you to Henri.

Ballerina - Clear - © Jacqueline Sobiszewski

© Jacqueline Sobiszewski

Q&A

LF: Hi Henri! Can you give our readers an introduction to you, your music, and your creative eye?

HT: Ahh, that’s such an all-encompassing question but I’ll give it a go. I’m a DJ, singer, songwriter and producer. I just released my first solo single “It’s Like This, It’s Like That” and before that I sang on an electronica track for Raik, a producer/DJ from Hamburg, called “Hold Me.”

My music is a cross between pop, deep house, tech house, and nu-disco. I find it really hard to stick to one genre, but my style is distinctive enough to permeate all of those and still be my own. I love including a psychedelic touch, probably a leftover from my raving to psy-trance days.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the coolest female DJs play Techno: Nina Kravitz, Ellen Allien, and Anja Schneider… Maya Jane Coles is an exception with her more deep house aesthetic, and I really respect what she’s been doing. I want to be able to bridge pop music and the club music that I love, so that it’s still got integrity but is playful and has catchy hooks and melodies.

H (1 of 1) - © Jacqueline Sobiszewski

© Jacqueline Sobiszewski

LF: I’m aware you published a New York Times bestseller at the young age of 21. Can you tell me a bit more about that book and how you became connected to the writing world in your early 20s?

HT: When I was 16 I moved to LA for the summer to go to the Lee Strasberg acting school with my best friend Kim. When I look back I’m not really sure how our parents were comfortable letting two teenage girls loose alone in LA, but we had the time of our lives and I fell in love with the city. I went back a few years later and interned for a book and audiobook publishing company and then when I finished university my boss, Michael Viner, sponsored me to move to the States. The first project I worked on was a legal book called Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, a collection of essays I compiled with Larry King from CNN. Michael loved it so much, I eventually ended up running the company. As it was such a small enterprise, I had to produce, direct and even narrate the audiobooks, as well as edit, proofread and – begrudgingly – write the books we published. The Anna Nicole Smith biography was the most bizarre experience, probably of my entire life.

I was editing the book, which Anna Nicole’s sister had written with a ghost writer, and while I was proofing it I noticed entire pages had been plagiarized from public legal documents on the Internet. I alerted Michael to this problem, and he said, “Well you should write it then!” We were already running way behind schedule so I rushed to the finish, and I think it was two days after I delivered the book that Anna Nicole Smith died, completely out of the blue, and the aftermath turned into a media phenomenon. It coincided with the Scooter Libby trial but even that got overshadowed on the news by this tragic death of a Playboy model. The whole thing was very suspect. In any case, I had to rewrite the entire book in the past tense in two weeks, and a month later I was touring the US as an expert on Anna Nicole’s death. It became a NYT bestseller, purely because of the timing. Well, clearly not because it was a literary masterpiece.

HENRI CARAVAN 3 - © Jacqueline Sobiszewski

© Jacqueline Sobiszewski

LF: How did the transition to music come about?

HT: I’ve always loved music, but didn’t know how to actually make it without being able to play an instrument really well. My boyfriend bought me a Tascam digital 8-track; and so, I started to sing all the instrumental parts (apart from the drums, which I played on my bongos). It was all very amateur but also really inspiring – and then I met my bandmate, Jen Turner, who is a genius musician and gave me a lot of confidence. At the time, I was really obsessed with Krautrock and hosted a Krautrock-themed DJ night where I only spun bands like Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! Tangerine Dream, The Fall, Joy Division… Mike from Here We Go Magic brought Jen along because he knew she loves Krautrock as much as I do and a few months later we decided to start a Krautrock band called Thrillionaire. I’ve been getting more and more inspired by electronic music though and in the last year or so have been focusing on that.

LF: Creatively speaking, how does your artistic process vary when you are making music as opposed to when you are writing?

HT: I found writing books, for the most part, very frustrating. It would take me hours to transcribe succinctly what I was thinking into just a few sentences. I would write pages and pages of rambling notes and then edit them down, instead of honing in from the beginning, which would have been much more efficient. I started off as an editor, which I really enjoyed. I guess it’s always easier to have perspective when you’re judging other people’s work. Writing books is also extremely solitary, whereas making and writing music can be a lot more collaborative and, for me, rewarding.

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© Jacqueline Sobiszewski

LF: Speaking of collaborating… I am aware you have a psychedelic Krautrock band called Thrillionaire. How does creating with others rate against working on your solo stuff?

HT: Working on electronic music is a lot more liberating than being in a band because, even though I travel a lot, I can carry on working on the road. I tend to record a lot of my vocals in hotel rooms. Also, as I only have to answer to myself, things move a lot faster and I can have more creative control to change direction when I want and also to work with other producers and musicians. Being in a band is a collaboration, and I find it hard to finish anything without Jen, or the other band members, being in the room. What they say: being in a band is like being in a relationship, is spot on. You have to keep writing and performing together even when you’re not feeling it or in the middle of an argument, although, having said that, Jen’s really easy going.

LF: You grew up in London – how has this affected you in terms of artistic development?

HT: I don’t think growing up in London has affected me any differently than living in the US, except I do feel a strong affinity to the English culture and people, and most of my favorite bands are English. My parents are Austrian/German and my half sister’s father is Australian so I feel quite international, which has really helped in terms of artistic development because I love including sounds and influences from lots of countries and musical styles. My next track features a Bulgarian choir and another one I’m working on has Mongolian throat singers.

HENRI HELMET CLOSE UP © Jacqueline Sobiszewski

© Jacqueline Sobiszewski

LF: How do you describe your work ethic?

HT: It’s weird to call making music work as I would be doing it regardless of whether I’m making money or not, but I think because so many people want to be musicians, and making music is so much more accessible to people these days, you have to work that much harder to break through. Being a musician, there isn’t much distinction between weekdays and weekends and I love being able to work my own hours. But in the end, I probably work more hours than most because if I’m not making music, I’m DJing or performing or rehearsing or filming a new music video, organizing a photoshoot, or writing press releases, etc. etc. I do pretty much everything myself and I just started my own music label, Monstertooth Records, to release “It’s Like This, It’s Like That…” so it’s non-stop really.

LF: One piece of solid dating advice for our dudes out there?

HT: Every girl should be made to feel like a princess.

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© Jacqueline Sobiszewski

LF: What gets you off – literally or figuratively?

HT: Learning new things and feeling like I’m advancing. Life is full of opportunities just waiting for us to act on them. I really want to learn to play the piano this year and improve my knowledge of music theory. I’m really attracted to intelligence. My father’s like a walking encyclopedia so it must stem from that.

LF: How fast do you live?

HT: Probably too fast. I’m in London at the moment, living in Soho, right in the middle of all the action and lots of temptations. Whenever I’m here I end up going out way too much and drinking obscene amounts, living up to the cliché. I like to work hard and play hard which means there’s very little time to relax, but even when I’m on holiday I can’t sit still for longer than 10 minutes, so clearly I get a kick out of it. I was in Tulum, Mexico, at the beginning of the year for a romantic weekend getaway and instead ended up partying through the weekend at Damian Lazarus’ festival Day Zero, followed by the after party!

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© Jacqueline Sobiszewski

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