German music producer Tim Bernhardt, alongside his friend and lead performer, Den Ishu, continue to gain momentum under the name Satin Jackets. Armed with silky funk and smooth disco, the duo is expected to bring a dazzling live show to the Mezzanine on May 28, just following the release of their first full-length debut album, Panorama Pacifico.
The new record dropped on April 8, and features a string of cameos from diverse, international vocalists. Satin Jackets spent the last year dividing their time between the studio, recording their new album, and taking their eponymous live show across North America and Europe. For their live shows, Den wears a geometric mask and operates almost anonymously as a solo touring act, while Tim functions as the invisible producer working his magic behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.
We spoke to Tim about the formation of Satin Jackets, their approach on the new record, and his admiration for vinyl.
How did the duo originally form and how did you decide on the name Satin Jackets?
Well, I started the project by myself about five years ago. I actually wanted it to be a producers’ project, but realized quickly it’s not possible these days. The gig inquiries kept coming in, so I decided to team up with my old friend Den. He’s a great performer and likes the touring lifestyle. That’s when we started becoming a duo, about two years ago.
So the name, [laughs] it was just a bit of a silly name. It’s a retro thing. Satin Jackets has the image of wearing something fancy or glamorous when you go out. We had a laugh. It wasn’t a big master plan. When the project started, it was just a funny idea.
What inspired you to pursue music professionally?
A friend of mine [from Germany talked me into it]. It was just a ‘right time, right place’ kind of thing. We clicked and we’ve known each other from before. It was basically a no-brainer.
What makes 105 to 115 beats per minute so ideal, and do you see your music continuing to exist in this space?
Well, before Satin Jackets, I did a lot of deep house. I kind of felt, especially after being on the floor myself, the music was a bit fast for dancing. With slower speeds, you have more space in between the beats for a groove. That’s much more fun when producing to add in all the elements that make things sound groovy and funky. That’s probably also why when the disco and nu-disco music came into play, that speed was favored. It was the original disco tempo. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but most disco tunes happen around that speed. That’s where grooves unfold their magic best. Anything slower turns quickly into hip-hop and/or R&B.
What has been your favorite show so far this year?
I’m not the right person to ask this, since I’m the producer [behind the scenes]. That would be a question to ask Den. I received a few emails that said the Mexico show went really well…there was a show in Sacramento a few days ago that looked like it did quite well too. So, I don’t know which one was the favorite…probably Mexico City, as that was the homecoming. The first Satin Jackets live show ever was in Mexico City. We have a really great fan base out there.
What was the most challenging part about creating your full-length debut album?
I think putting all the songs together—I wanted an album to be an actual album and not just a collection of songs from the past, randomly thrown together. Something where you can listen all the way through, have it be interesting, and for the listeners to really experience different aspects of the music. The challenge was maintaining the Satin Jackets vibe, while also digging a bit deeper. Most of the tracks have vocalists too, so organizing all that took some time and effort as well.
How did Den obtain his mask he wears during performances?
He made it himself. He presented the idea [to me] and it was great. I liked it immediately. Music is the star, not the face. You experience it at the booth when people look at you in this way as Mr. Satin Jackets. It’s a different relationship. It’s a different attitude.
Do you collect vinyl records and do you ever incorporate vinyl into your production process?
Making music is not connected to vinyl, but I’ve been involved with releasing vinyl. I run a small vinyl-only label called Pole Jam Vinyl, with a UK-based friend. It’s only for the love of the format and we only release music that we both dig. We don’t care about the rest, but so far we have sold out every release.