“Running a label together could be something that we’d both really enjoy,” begins German producer Tim Engelhardt, as he introduces LIFEFORMS, his new label venture in collaboration with French producer and AI specialist Dr. Nicolas Pinto. This step feels like a natural evolution for Tim, an artist who embarked on his music career at a remarkably young age. His debut album with Pokerflat, created when he was just 17, showcased a character that’s absolutely single-minded, determined, and focused.
Alongside Dr. Pinto, known for his role in the GenAI NFT launch of Innervisions’ 100th release, LIFEFORMS is set to be a melting pot of technology and human creativity. This collaboration, embodying a blend of passion for music and technological mastery, aims to place artists at the forefront, ensuring that their craft remains the soul of the label’s output. “We are very positive about AI’s good intentions,” Tim asserts. The label’s first release, ‘Wide Awake EP,’ features German singer-songwriter Jyll, showcasing the diverse talent LIFEFORMS aims to highlight.
While we, at C-Heads Magazine, are certainly positive about AI’s good ideas, we hold a profound appreciation for those who understand their authentic craft and practice it with passion. In a world that often rushes, we believe in “always putting man before machine,” giving the artistic process the time and respect it deserves. This stance, though, doesn’t diminish our curiosity about how technology can enhance the world of music. In fact, we are eager to see how their approach manifests in reality, as, in the end, the true measure of music lies in its ability to arouse emotions.
In our interview, we explore the intricacies of LIFEFORMS, technological innovations, the collaborative dynamics between Tim and Dr. Pinto, and the creative process behind ‘Wide Awake EP’.
photography by Annabelle Lingenhöle
Tim and Nicolas, how did the two of you initially meet and how did the idea to create a label together first start?
TIM: Nico and I met online during the pandemic, while I was in the process of reformatting my work and figuring out how it can be sustained during that time. We quickly connected on music, tech and other concepts, found shared interest in many things and exchanged ideas until we at some point decided to make some of these ideas into a reality, not knowing the form of the project that we’d create. It became clearer and clearer to us that running a label together could be something that we’d both really enjoy and a great way to support artists and add value to the scene.
NICO: My connection with Tim began during the challenges of the pandemic when I decided to re-immerse myself in music production after more than a decade away from it, seeking guidance to enhance my mixes.
At the same time, Tim, unable to tour, launched a Patreon campaign where he generously shared his knowledge with those who booked time with him, which I did. It was a serendipitous match; I was not only a fan of his music but also eager to hone my track crafting skills.
Our collaboration expanded beyond just music creation. We became friends.
Tim’s enthusiasm for technology, AI and Blockchain in particular was palpable, and given my deep involvement in these trends, I began sharing more about how they could intersect with the music industry.
Tim had always dreamed of launching a music label, and our discussions naturally gravitated towards this idea. Since I love building things and empowering others, I saw an opportunity to contribute.
The inspiration behind the label´s name LIFEFORMS?
TIM: The name LIFEFORMS is a testament to the diverse facets of our creative work. It provides an umbrella to present all sorts of exciting both music and technology-related projects in the future.
NICO: Tim actually came up with the name “LIFEFORMS” from the early beginning, and it immediately resonated with me. While technology plays an important role in our electronic music, we are committed to keeping it lively, soulful, and deeply connected to the human element. We wanted a name that reflects the idea that humans are at the core of the artistic journey. “LIFE” aptly symbolizes our goal – a natural, evolving process that, while occasionally faltering, remains deeply rooted and organic. “LIFEFORMS” embodies something organic, something hard to put into words but very much alive. It’s a name that can take on various FORMS, just as music and art can. Just as all life forms thrive in harmony with their surroundings, we eagerly integrate with our modern tech environment and robustly empower ourselves with the resources it provides.
“The name LIFEFORMS is a testament to the diverse facets of our creative work. It provides an umbrella to present all sorts of exciting both music and technology-related projects in the future.” Tim Engelhardt
With your label you are also aiming to empower artists through innovative technologies, such as AI, blockchain etc. What benefits do you think an artist can get out of those in order to make better music? And have you also faced critical comments about your intentions? After all, AI always brings out quite the opposite feelings and points of view amongst people.
TIM: As an artist, one critical skill is to stay constantly inspired, while also not exposing yourself to too much noise and therefore, clouding and distorting your vision as an artist.
I personally think that with the help of AI, it is becoming so much easier to see how certain ideas may sound or work in your song, get inspired by random bits or ideas, quickly try out things, and move faster in the process of writing a song in general.
These days, I’m spending less time on editing notes in the piano roll, but rather using an AI tool to generate a few clips of MIDI, process them and move on. I love allowing some serendipity into my productions that way.
We haven’t received many negative comments, but a general concern seems to be that the handwriting of the artist will be watered down or that AI generated elements will make it sound “generic.”
This may be the case if you take elements as they are generated, but once you start getting inspired by them, editing them to your liking and then eventually discover something that you wouldn’t have come up with otherwise – that’s what’s been happening for me in the studio personally and it’s that space we’re looking to explore.
On the blockchain side, there are so many ways to use it as an artist, for example to build and foster actual relationships with your fans and be able to connect with them more closely. It’s also a great avenue of collaborating with artists in other fields and exploring more experimental collaborations, which we’re planning to do as well.
NICO: We believe technology, AI or blockchain , is a tool, just like any other one created to empower humans.
Critics worry that AI might exploit artists and that blockchain is primarily for soul-less speculation. However, these technologies are what we make of them. If used with good intentions, they can empower and help us rise. We must guide these technologies responsibly to ensure their positive impact. Like any other tools, it can be misused and exploited, as we’ve all seen with AI being leveraged mostly to capture and monetize attention in unscrupulous ways. Transparency and guide-rails are key, and fortunately decentralization technologies provide appealing solutions for this. These technologies have the immense potential to uplift artists, and it’s crucial that we harness that potential for good.
“While technology plays an important role in our electronic music, we are committed to keeping it lively, soulful, and deeply connected to the human element. We wanted a name that reflects the idea that humans are at the core of the artistic journey.” Dr. Nicolas Pinto
The original vision set forth by the pioneering scientists who developed those technologies aimed to empower individuals. Particularly those less privileged. Artists, like scientists, create immense value but capture very little of it. We wish to collaborate with technology, build tools, to empower artists, and help them capture the value they create more thoroughly as well connect directly with their audience, eliminating friction from third parties.
AI, or as I like to call it, “IA” (Intelligence Augmentation), can multiply an artist’s capabilities. Steve Jobs said that the computer was the bicycle for the mind. To paraphrase a dear friend of mine, AI can clearly be the rocket ship for the mind. AI can simplify and streamline the production process. Sometimes certain tasks are tedious and time-consuming, and we want to remove those obstacles to keep artists in their creative flow. Whether an artist excels in composition, sound design, production, instrumentation, performance, arrangement or other aspects, AI can bridge the gap where they may not be as inspired at that moment. AI can also assist artists in the final polishing, mixing, and mastering of their tracks to a professional level without incurring hefty costs. It levels the playing field and allows artists to compete with high-budget productions.
Blockchain is about removing intermediaries between artists and their audiences. Artists should capture the value they create. Blockchain brings transparency to that value chain. Using digital scarcity via NFTs, artists can offer access to exclusive content, as a gateway to more personal connections and valuable experiences. Artists, especially emerging ones, often struggle to make ends meet. Blockchain could facilitate smoother and more timely payments, and possibly provide more financial stability.
Tim, you were the youngest person to be signed for Poker Flat Recordings and worked with other big labels too. Are you a bit afraid of competing with them, especially considering that you have probably made a lot of friends within that circle too?
TIM: Our goal is to establish LIFEFORMS’ own identity and have a strong presence in our scene, releasing quality music and supporting great artists that we love. We’re not trying to replicate anyone that’s already out there. We’re very thankful that some of the labels I’ve worked with, actually provided us with great insights and helped us out when we started forming the label.
Why did you choose the “Wide Awake EP feat. Jyll” as the first release on your new label?
TIM: It was very clear from the start, that “Wide Awake” as a song in itself, but also the title would fit perfectly and that it was going to be our first release. I’ve been working on this song for close to 2 years now and always wanted to do something special with it. Over the years, I’ve been getting so many messages about this track, that eventually we decided to launch our new label with it, and it feels like a perfect match.
NICO: I love the song.
This release showcases Tim’s multifaceted talent, which might surprise his audience, aligning with LIFEFORMS’ vision of defying categorization.
“Wide Awake”, the EP, like LIFEFORMS can be seen through different prisms. From the battling through tough times like a pandemic, to the burgeoning of this new label project.
“Wide Awake”, the music, has an engaging melody and a powerful rhythm, it really captures the energy and spirit of this venture together.
“Wide Awake”, the lyrics, a relatable need to free ourselves. A call for liberation. A yearning for release and survival.
“Wide Awake”, the title, reflects us fully alert ready to dive in.
Everything feels right about it.
“I personally think that with the help of AI, it is becoming so much easier to see how certain ideas may sound or work in your song, and move faster in the process of writing a song in general.” Tim Engelhardt
Tim, sometimes you work for some years on a track, was that the same with this EP?
TIM: The original version of Wide Awake took me nearly 2 years to complete after temporarily abandoning the project a few times. It sounded completely different when I started the song, had none of its Indie character and none of the instrumentation that is present now, but it already had that amazing performance from Jyll on it, which inspired me to go back to this song countless times and eventually finish it.
Tim, to me listening to it has something soothing. In what mood where you when you wrote it?
TIM: I can definitely relate, the song certainly has a soothing nature. Most of the emotion came from the vocal performance of Jyll, that I had on my hard disk and that I wrote the final instrumental for afterwards. The vocal really dictated the emotion of the song for me and it all started from there.
Tim, working with Jyll was…
TIM: A breeze to be honest, in 2021, I sent her a quite rough 2 minute demo with a completely different instrumentation and feel and she sent me the takes we now hear on Wide Awake. We actually tried re-recording the vocal and improving it, but as it happens so often, the first take was the best out of all and we decided to run with it. I’m really happy to see that Jyll has released many amazing songs since we started this one together and that we are finally releasing “Wide Awake”.
Tim, being introverted, is it difficult for your with the profession that you chose? After all being an artist does require a lot of interaction and outgoing…
TIM: I feel like it’s getting easier day by day! With each interaction, it’s becoming easier and I think changing your perspective here is something really valuable to do, if you’re an introvert like myself. Everytime I start a conversation, I’m going into it with a positive attitude, no expectations and most importantly an open ear, also to potentially offer solutions to problems that may arise. It is key to understand that interaction and connecting with other people is a must, not a choice, so it’s important to train that muscle.
“It is key to understand that interaction and connecting with other people is a must, not a choice.” Tim Engelhardt
What musicians/music that existed before you were born inspire you?
TIM: Mike Oldfield!
NICO: Jean-Michel Jarre
Where do you both currently live and could you imagine to live anywhere else?
TIM: I’m currently close to Cologne, Germany. I could very well see myself living abroad sometime soon.
NICO: I’m currently living in Silicon Valley, which is basically Disneyland for geeks like me, so it’s quite hard to live elsewhere…
One of your favorite non-electronic song?
TIM: Lambert – Finally
NICO: Always hard to select just one, but I’d say “Rakim & DJ Premier – Waiting For The World To End”
The most important thing in life is…
TIM: …to stay creative and open to new ideas.
NICO: … to lower bias while minimizing variance.