Keeping it groovy with Magda

Magda has been a formidable force on the international DJ circuit for about as long as she’s been a DJ. Her varied musical background and her nomadic origins have made a favourite amongst a variety of audiences with her instinctive flair for the dance floor underpinning her sets. In recent years she’s cut down on her touring commitments to focus more on production and leisurely pursuits, but yet you’ll still find her playing at least three times a week across the globe in clubs like Fabric, Spybar and OHM, just to name a few recent.

Born in Poland, raised in Detroit, and now living in Berlin, Magda has had an extensive DJing career that spans the origins and various different phases of the all-encompassing musical movement called Techno. Growing up in Detroit in the nineties, Magda experienced various different phases of the genre, but it would be in its minimal form, spearheaded by the likes of Robert Hood and Richie Hawtin’s Plastikman alias that Magda would find her musical niche as a DJ.

A chance meeting with Hawtin installed her in what would become the M_nus family and gave her her first residency. Playing around the states and eventually moving to New York, Magda cut her teeth on the US circuit. She made the ultimate move to Berlin after she played a Perlon party at the predecessor to Berghain, Ostgut. That night ended with her playing back to back with Ricardo Villalobos and sold Magda on Berlin for life.

Refining her style in the booth further after the move, she also set off on a reserved, but significant career as a producer, releasing her debut on M_nus in 2005 followed by her now legendary mix compilation “She’s a Dancing Machine” on the same label. Magda has been a label boss alongside Marc Houle and Troy pierce for Items & Things, a resident at some of the most impressive addresses in the world and has staked her rightful claim as a monolith in the booth today.

In recent years, her more reserved touring schedule has given her the opportunity to focus more on production and since 2016 she has been working exclusively with TB Arthur on their new electro outfit, Blotter Trax. It’s a project she is very passionate about and ten minutes before I call her up for our interview she sends me the latest release, which will be out via Frustrated Funk on the eve of her set at Jaeger.

The third release in two years from Blotter Trax is “completely different than the last” explains Magda over an email before I ring her up. Between the familiar electro/Detroit beat constructions and the minimalist approach to production, a processed bass guitar looms large. It’s an unusual feature in a track of this kind where much of the focus lies on the rhythm section, and breathes fresh life into the stale tropes that earmark much of Techno and Electro today. With those tracks making a fresh impression, I call up Magda who answers with an amiable hello before we delve into an extensive and all-encompassing Q&A covering Blotter Trax, her formidable years in Detroit and her truly inspiring career as a DJ.

Magda plays Frædag tonight.

We’ve just received the latest Blotter Trax. It’s very different from what anybody else is making at the moment in terms of Electro. How did those tracks come together?

We have been experimenting and growing since the beginning. It’s been about three years and it’s evolved into this release which I feel really captures both of our past influences well, especially Post Punk and early Electro. We have been working with a vocalist and we used a live bassist for this record because we wanted to make these tracks feel more like songs.

We spent a lot of time on sound design making sure everything sounds warm, rich, and as fat as possible and that each sound has its space

I was actually curious about the bass guitar, because I could hear that it was a live bass, but wasn’t sure if it was a sample.  It adds a very distinct sound to the track.

We really like to sculpt our own sounds from the analogue gear we have, or incorporate other musicians. We gave the bassist an idea and he recorded a session with his own pedals and processing units, therefore you have this incredible sound. We then took it, edited it and processed it further.

 

The other part of the appeal of Blotter Trax is the electronic elements, which is also very interesting, because it’s not the usual Roland X0X sounds that you get on a record, but something more futuristic. How do you arrive at these sounds?

Well, you’d be surprised but we use a lot of processed guitar. We’re both influenced by bands like the Flying Lizards and the downtown New York sound from the eighties. To this day those records sound futuristic. We wanted to see what we can do with processing real instruments, so that’s where many of these wonky sounds come from.

How did you guys find each other and what made you want to start making music together?

I was obsessing over some TB Arthur records for a while and I was talking to my friend BMG (Ectomorph) and I said; “god, this TB Arthur stuff, have you heard it?” And he was like; “he’s a friend of mine, you guys should meet.”

We hit it off right away and decided to go to the studio to see what happens. We started to jam and in a week we had three recordings done. I’ve never recorded in this way, all analogue, jam session, recorded straight to tape. That was our first release and if you listen to it, its very different from the way we sound now.  

Blotter Trax 2.0 also sounded much more improvised than this latest release on Frustrated Funk.

Those were straight up jam sessions between the three of us; BMG, myself and TB Arthur. It was recorded over a period of a week and we probably cut five tapes, and used three of those for the record. I took those recordings and basically edited them down into tracks that made sense.

And I believe there’s a live show?

Yes. We have played about 8 times so far. Our first shows were fully analogue and improvised. I was on an old Roland synth which definitely has a mind of its own and TB Arthur was on the modular so we always had to do 2 hour soundchecks to sculpt all the sounds correctly for each venue. I feel like we’ve gone through different stages of experimentation and thrown ourselves out of our comfort zones to do these unpredictable sets, but also are now able to do more structured sets like the one at Fabric where we only had one hour and there wasn’t much room for much random experimentation.

Through what you’ve been telling me, it seems like there’s a constant evolution in your work, even just across the three records you’ve released together.

Absolutely and that’s what keeps it fun and exciting at the end of the day.

I want to ask you more about that editing process and the post-productiophase of making a Blotter Trax record; do you think your experience as DJ helps that aspect of the process?

I think my DJ experience helps me 100% in the way I edit.

I find there’s some relationship to the way these Blotter Trax records sound and your sets, in the way you accentuate a few simple elements in a minimalist way to arrive at a very big sound.

Exactly, that’s always something I have geared towards. We tend to start with many parts and end up reducing things quite a lot so each sound has its space and power instead of getting lost.

That’s why it was really difficult to edit those tapes because they were all 30 minutes long. (laughs) And it actually took me some time to get it right. At first I was like; “how do I do this” because the whole performance shifts and morphs and I wanted to make sure not to cut interesting movements and changes, but also keep the dynamics that would make the track interesting.

Working with TB Arthur and people like BMG, do you think It’s changed the way you make music?

Absolutely. I realise I really enjoy collaborating way more than making stuff on my own. I like the shared experience and exchange of knowledge. TB Arthur has a different approach to recording than me in some ways because he comes from an indie background so when we edit stuff, he’ll notice things I wouldn’t or vice versa. We learn from each other.

Are you producing more than what you’ve done in the past?

More than ever.

It seems that you are also finding more enjoyment out of it, more than you have in the past.

Yes, there was always a lot of touring and it became difficult to engage in the studio in a way I wanted. Now I really enjoy being home more and having time to record and living a more balanced life.

You mentioned early Electro as some of your influences in the beginning, and I certainly detect elements of Model 500 in there. You spent most of your formative years in Detroit. How much does that time still influence the music you make today?

If it had not been for me growing up in Detroit and having that exposure I would not be here right now. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to listen to not just one movement, but several at the same time. The scene was small, but you would go from an Underground Resistance party to a gay funk and soul loft party, to a new wave electro party and so on. That’s why from the start I wanted to mix different sounds in my sets.

How did you end up living in Detroit?

We emigrated from Poland to escape communist rule. My parents had a really tough time finding work in their industry; my mother is a graphic designer and my father is an engineer and that’s how we ended up moving to Detroit so my dad could work for the auto industry.

Do you think the history of the place had an affect in the way the music sounded?

Absolutely. I think there’s a lot of soul that’s captured when things are uncomfortable or scary and a lot of emotion comes out. Detroit has such a rich but difficult history and that definitely comes through the music.

I was watching a clip with you from ADE a while back, where you mentioned that it all started for you after going to Canada and experiencing some parties there. Obviously the Richie Hawtin and M_nus connection started there but was there a thriving scene there?

I don’t remember saying that. (laughs) Maybe the Plastikman parties, those were insane. I’ve never seen anything like that. They would cover entire warehouses with material. They had plastic tunnels that would lead to different rooms and it was pitch black inside except for a strobe. The music really sounded undefinable and from the future. That was properly mind-blowing.

Is that how you met Richie Hawtin and got onto the label, and started touring with him?

Actually we met through friends at a loft party. We really got along and he gave me a residency at his little bar in Canada, which had a capacity of 80. It was a really good way for me to practice and get into DJing a lot more. I started working for him, digitalising his vinyl when the whole MP3 technology started. That was an incredible job, just to have the exposure to all the promos being sent from all over the world. That’s how I discovered all the German minimal labels and a lot of stuff that changed my life.

And then you moved to Berlin shortly after that?

Actually, I lived in New York for a while, and once I came to Berlin to play a Perlon party, I was sold. I realised, ok there are no rules here, everyone is easy-going and it’s definitely more chill than New York. It just felt like the right time.

Did you feel that you had to adapt your sets for European audiences?

It was a trip, because I realised a lot of tracks that worked in Detroit didn’t work in Europe.

Why was that?

I was playing a lot of broken, glitchy stuff and in europe they preferred steadier types of tracks back then.

It was a great learning experience, to adapt to various places. I’m very thankful for that and for Richie taking me on tour and throwing me completely out of my comfort zone.

I wanted to quit a hundred times, because it was so stressful to try and play in front of people who seemed so confused (laughs). I remember having to play everything on plus eight and the hardest records I could find, and still they seemed so mellow compared to what everybody was playing at the time.

It seems like it’s back again.

Oh, it’s back.

Do you find yourself having to adapt yet again or can you keep doing what you’ve been doing?

It’s not that I have to adapt again. I think it happens naturally. When you go out to listen to other DJs or listen to the records that come out, you get the vibe of what is going on. I think it’s reflective of the turmoil that’s going on in the world. You hear music that is edgier, faster and dirtier. I like that energy, and I like playing faster at the moment.

You would consider yourself a DJ first and foremost?

Yes, definitely.

I distinctly remember listening to Magda mix CDs at a time when they were still these significant artistic statements. I think it was “She’s a dancing Machine” that was particularly prominent around that time and really put a lot of focus on the DJ as the artist. It seems that it’s something of a lost art today in the age of soundcloud and mixcloud with a kind of immediacy replacing the artistic reward.

Times have changed with streaming. Everything has become extremely accessible. Back then to make a mix, you would be asked by the label to do it and they would physically produce a disc and make the artwork so it was like a little album.Now everything is uploaded in one minute, and it’s a completely different mindset, not that one is better or worse, it’s just a different time.

 

Do you feel that it’s the same in the booth today, that you have to give people that immediacy?

Actually it’s funny you say that, I think it’s the opposite for me. In the past, I used to layer four tracks and mix that way and now I’m focusing more on the track selection, mixing more patiently and the edits I do.

I like searching for all kinds of tracks to work into my sets. That’s a whole process in itself and its fun to dig deep and into the past as well.

There must be some underlying sound to your set however. What do you look for in a track that sort of underpins all your choices?

I can’t say. I just look for something unique. I want something different, whether it’s Electro or Techno, or House. Something definitely with a sexy vibe. I like stuff between genres.

In Berlin where you’re playing these mammoth long sets, you can obviously take your time through a set. If you’re coming to Oslo now, you’ll notice it’s very different because of our short opening times. Is this something that your conscious of when you’re playing a new place?

I try to consider each set independently. It depends on what the venue is like and what the capacity is. I never plan a set. I usually have some folders with different genres of music and then just go with the flow.

Regarding the shorter sets, I’m really used to them, because that’s how I grew up in Detroit. All the clubs used to close at 2:00 and people didn’t really go out until midnight so it was two hours, full on.

Like every DJ out there today you have an agent that takes care of your bookings, but do you have the final say where you’ll play?

Absolutely, I think it is super important to have that relationship with the booker, where you share a similar vision and you make sure you play the right parties. For example a lot of times, people still associate me with how I played 15 years ago, and I’ve changed a lot since then.

Do you find that you can be very selective today and don’t have to take any set that gets offered to you?

Yes definitely

And I suppose you enjoy it more if you’re playing less.

Absolutely, I just have more time and I’m more relaxed and can really engage and be more creative and also build more relationships with new people and connect with old friends. In the past when there was a lot of touring it was just one big ball of chaos all the time. For me staying connected to myself and the people around me these days is very important.

And when you do want to disconnect at home and you don’t want to connect with the clubbing world, what sort of music do you listen to?

Which is every Monday! (laughs) I listen to everything, but I don’t listen to Techno. I was just listening to Shabazz Palaces. I love stuff like that and other more chill music at home.

For the people that might have seen you the last time you were here in Oslo, how would you describe your set has changed since then?

I’m playing a lot more Electro and playing faster for the most part but still keeping it groovy.

 

The Cut with Filter Musikk

Music sales figures for 2018 are in! According to the RIAA, sales of physical records (in the US) went up 14% last year while cassettes increased by a whopping 19%. It also says that sales of streaming services went up by 44%, but if the rest of that industry’s counting is anything like the Carters at Tidal, who seemed to be enlisting the help of their infant daughter Blue Ivy in the process – 5, 7, 20, 100, 200 000, 3 000 000 – the veracity of those claims are questionable at best.

The tangible evidence we can take from this however is that vinyl sales have seen yet another increase, which means it must be time for another Cut with Filter Musikk and it’s two-for-one deal this week on our first edition of the series out of Roland Lifjell’s hallowed hollow in downtown Oslo.

Thanks to a myopic moment on our part, the start of 2019 still remains something of a blur and although the records have already started arriving at Filter this year, we somehow passed over an entire box two weeks ago. So we are making up for that today with an extended cut with Filter Musikk.

Roland Lifjell has been tucked away in his little corner as usual and in a tug of war between the boxes of records and space for movement he’s starting to lose the battle. It’s only after navigating a maze of plastic and cardboard that we find Roland huddled over a stack of the latest arrivals, admiring his own reflection from their shiny untouched plastic sheaths.

After unpacking two boxes over the course of last two weeks, Roland has sent us the best of these for the Cut with Filter musikk. These records, selected from an already meticulously curated collection of latest arrivals, are the musical pieces that you can touch, see, hear and acquire.

There’s no hype here, with months of inane clickbait directed through social media threads and constant previews of halfarsed loops that are printed up in limited numbers only to disappear on the shelves of the distributor before they are even released. No, these are the records that are here and now, the music that matters, this is the cut with Filter Musikk.

Ansome, Umwelt – Rave Or Die 11 (Rave Or Die) 10″

O, it’s like that is it Roland? We’re just going to launch ourselves into the deep end with some no, holds barred, growling Techno? Umwelt’s Rave or Die imprint makes no concessions when it comes to club music. There is no posturing or attempt to cajole the listener with some innocuous looping twaddle. The music on Rave or Die and in extension anything with the Umwelt moniker stamped across the record is music that shouts at its listeners, foaming at the mouth like a rabid animal with vitriol intent.

Ansome and Umwelt accompany each other on this florescent 10”, providing two mammoth Techno cuts that are too big to be contained on its dinky format. Two blistering percussive arrangements twist and writhe in their constraints as they wrestle free from conformity. Ansome and Umwelt find some synchronicity between their tracks with jack-hammer beats puncturing unnerving atmospheres with all the grace of a two-ton truck.

In light of Umwelt’s ferocious kick-per-beat “Affre”s, Ansome’s “Vakuum” is almost tame – I said almost. Both producers are in a class of their own however, applying noise and distortion with the most delicate of touches that produce awe-ínspiring results.

Rave or Die 11 is not breaking any moulds and it ventures very little in terms of the sound Umwelt has cultivated since its inception, but what it does, it does incredibly well and few very prominent labels and artists brandishing the Techno badge could come close to the intensity that real Techno artists like these put forward.

Posthuman – The Snake Bites Twice (Craigie Knowes) 12″

The UK acid outfit Posthuman set their sites on Electro for the precocious Glasgow label, Craigie Knows on The Snake Bites twice. The barely-new label, which has already garnered a reputation for its bold dancefloor cuts across 18 releases over two years, turns to the east-London stalwarts, Richard Bevan and Joshu Doherty for their latest release.

With a glance in their rear-view mirror, Posthuman continue to honour the roots of club music in their sound, with infectious melodies, kinetic beats, acid bass-lines and progressive arrangements balancing their sound. On The Snake Bites Twice they don’t mess with perfection, and their modernised take on Acid, Electro and Detroit Techno fwavers little from previous releases. They bulk up the tried and tested sounds of Roland’s x0x range, but dust off the cobwebs and bring it up to date, where it completely does away with those DIY associations of yore.

Stripping back the elements to their essential parts like on “Polywater Acid” they favour a minimalist modernist take, leaving tracks like that enough room to breathe through modern scooping sound systems like the Funktion One. Where “Steal the Show” does indeed steal the show with its Electro breakbeat and engaging melodic phrases, there’s a little bit of everything and something for everybody across this release.

From “Cobra Structure’s” lysergic movements beyond the known galaxy to “Down to Jakk’s” monstrous jacking rhythm section the record goes from accessible dance floor workouts on the A-side to stripped back DJ tools on the b-sides with the TB-303 almost always front and centre in the arrangements as Posthuman’s defining character.

Birds Ov Paradise – Part 1: Bayou (Hypnus) 12″

The alluring, hypnotic sounds of Hypnus have been providing a deep alternative to the boisterous sounds of Techno since 2014, with an ambient treatment of experimental electronic sounds that drift along at tempered tempos as they swirl around, slow chugging beat arrangements. BLNDR, Luigi Tozzi and Feral have all contributed to the Swedish label, solidifying the sound of the label in those artist’s exploratory views of electronic music.

Birds ov Paradise (David Sabel) joined the roster with a three part release which saw the light of day last year and now finally arrives in Oslo. The Göteberg artist finds a natural synergy with the label directly on the first part, Bayou. Rich textures cascade over the tempered rhythm section, where they float light as air across the audio spectrum. Bass lines whispering from the depths of the arrangements ride waves of steady four-four kicks as electronic organisms swarm around their brief appearance only to dissipate back into the ether in glowing reflections of their existence.

Across four tracks Birds ov Paradise creates a mystical sonic narrative that runs through the short LP. You can almost that touch the foggy humidity of the Bayou on this release, setting the scene for the rest of the series that will venture further onto the Savannah and the Plateau. We look forward to the journey.

Mall Grab – How The Dogs Chill, Vol. 1 (Looking For Trouble) 12″

“It’s straight up party music,” reads on eager Discogs commentator on this, the latest record from hip-house / lo-fi (whatever you want to label it) producer and DJ Mall Grab. Wait, since he’s been doing this kind of music since the beginning, does this make him a Hip-House veteran? As confusing as that sounds, Mall Grab is one of the originators of the resurgence of House in this current epoch of dance music. Originally defined by distorting hats and cymbals and a quirky moniker, I think it’s safe if we just call it House music today.

How the Dogs Chill Vol.1 (I expect there will never be a volume 2) is the debut of a label that takes its name from the EPs third track, “Looking for trouble”, suggesting this might be a MG imprint. It’s got that nineties throwback, self-deprecating aesthetic that we’ve encountered across releases from similar acts like Ross from Friends and DJ Seinfeld that re-affirms this.

With an all-encompassing musical palette, Mall Grab channels everything from Jungle to Hip Hop through his work and How the Dogs Chill wavers little from his sonic dexterity. From the deep House,Trance inflection of “Liverpool street in the rain”, to the broken beat of “Get impetuous”, there’s no singular genre or style to pigeonhole his music.

There is an infectious attraction to his musical creations however and we would have to agree with that eager Discogs user; How the Dogs Chill Vol.1 is  straight up party music.

Versalife – Nova Prospekt (TRUST) 12″

At the forefront of this current wave of Electro is Versalife. The Dutch producer has been making expressive electronica within the canon of Electro for the best part of a decade, but where others have favoured the DIY palette of the genres roots he’s opted for a more progressive approach to the genre. Skipping beats coaxed from a modern interpretation of the tried and trusted sounds of the Roland x0x series, travel through the alien electronic textures, skipping through the cosmos at hyperspeed as it boldly takes us into the future of the Electro genre.

Versalife returns to TRUST for Nova Prospekt, a label that has embodied this new age in Electro and electronic music, immortalising the sound for the next generation as they step into the future. Nova Prospekt is a more familiar approach from Versalife after the concept-driven Soul of the Automaton series, which saw the producer relay a cognitive narrative through three records.

Nova Prospekt is by no means any different in sonic identity, but a simpler arrangement and less-varying progression through the tracks has a more defined dance floor characater in its execution. Versalife’s futurist approach, while honouring the legacy of the likes of Drexciya, uses familiar tropes, re-imagined like an auteur looking towards some science fiction future.

“Exosuit” and its charming bleeping motive; “2A Spacts” and it’s slinky bass line; and the title track’s bouncing toms-as-bass-lines all sound immediately familiar, but as Versalife interprets these in his own unique way and frames these elements in his distinctive alien soundscapes, it retrofits these elements for the next phase of this music.

Ekman, Ola Bergman – Code Two (Propaganda Moscow) 12

From one end of Electro to the other with Propaganda Moscow, where dark atmospheres and body-slamming beats replace the lush adventurous melodies and arrangements of Versalife. Ekman and Ola Bergman, bring it back to a primal level where music is a physical relationship between man and machine and the results are raw expressive moments trapped in a moment.

There are two sides to Ekman; the traditional Electro artist stripped down to its fundamental parts in pursuit of function above form like we heard on his debut LP Primus Motors, and then there’s this Ekman; the bold experimentalist ready to assault the senses with some abrasive sonic deluge aimed at the status quo. He usually reserves this latter part for releases on Trilogy Tapes, but on this occasion, that part of the artist has kicked a hole in the partition that divides these respective sides of his artistic personality. Murky synths cloud the percussive sections where they disappear behind the erratic synth formations screaming at you from sordid depth.

Luckily Ola Bergman is there on the flip as the sage counterpoint to Ekman’s schizophrenic sounds. Bergman however retains that mystique and allure clouding the entire release with drums and stabbing synths appearing out of leaden atmospheres. A more traditional take on the darker side of Electro, Bergman plays on that familiar dichotomy in electro, between melody and function and staccato and legato, but he strips it back to its most corporeal dimensions with two tracks aimed specifically at the DJ and the dance floor.

Free Falling with Karolinski

There’s a tense quiet, the faint sounds of a synthesiser feeding back on itself, and suddenly; a magnificent wave of sound rolls out of Jæger’s 21 inch Funktion One bass cabinets. An all-consuming focus resolves into big undulating boulders of sound lapping up against bodies pressing closer to the stage. Karolinski (Karoline Hegreness) is making her live debut in Oslo and there are no expectations, but the energy is electric as the soundsystem trembles through the opening bars of her set. In the front there is a dedicated group in Jæger’s basement, they’ve come exclusively to see the budding artist and she has pulled them close to the front, forming a tight but free circle around the stage.

Karolinski has only just released her debut record, an LP called “Abnormal Soundscape”, but already she’s cultivated a keen following in Norway. Although she has been a DJ in the Bergen scene for many years, “Abnormal Soundscape” has been her first foray into production, and it’s clear that there is an inherent understanding of the club environment when she takes to the stage. A track from the album, “Oh Lordy” spills out from the speakers and the warm surging bass washes over the audience while crystalline noise, resonating back onto itself cascades from the upper frequencies.

“You have more things to do on stage… and it’s super intuitive.”

If pressed, “Oh Lordy” is her favourite track from the album she tells me before her set. “I made that in Australia in a beach House last summer”. It’s the “latest track” from the album and Karoline’s gesturing shapes from behind her podium of machines is her enjoyment manifested through movement. “Do you find the live show more exciting that the DJ set” I ask her. ”Of course,” she says eagerly; “You have more things to do on stage… and it’s super intuitive.”

She’s excited for the night ahead and says she will be incorporating some vocals in the preceding set. For this particularly live show at Jæger she has “started bringing in House music and vocals”  to give her audience something a little “different” from the album. The album which has enjoyed a very promising critical reception in Norway only came out in December, but already she’s cultivated a significant following.

Since releasing “Abnormal Soundscape” on her own label  FJORDFJELLOGDALER (FFDR) the requests to perform have started trickling in. Olle Abstract specifically asked for Karolinski when he played in Bergen recently and while she was still preparing for her live set at Jæger she jumped in head first to make her debut as a live artist. “I was already stressing about the one at Jæger which was a month and a half away,” she explains but “it went pretty well.”

She took a lot away from that first gig, and observing her on stage at Jæger it seems like she is well versed at the job at hand. Even when the power abruptly shuts down during her set at Jæger, she handles it like a pro and jumps right back into her set with grace and determination like nothing has happened. Her live set exceeds 130 beats per minute, a severe departure from the “pretty chill set” she played in Bergen only a few weeks back, she tells me. The dub influences on her work, with those deep rolling waves of bass and extended delays, undercuts the tempos of the 4-4 kicks punching their way through the miasmatic textures. Tracks from the album contort into new improvised pieces, pieces that might be the first sketches of  a new track. A vocal dissipates into endless echoes and elements of House and Techno find a common ground in the live setting, including an homage to Crystal Waters at the end of her set.

Karoline is also a skydiver and skydiving instructor, and there’s always been a tactile connection between “flying” and music for the artist. Titles like “I wanna dance in the sky” and the video for her first single “ Basic Frequency” parlay this into a literal correlation, but it all harks back to her childhood. Her parents, skydivers and computer programmers created an environment where electronic music and skydiving became symbiotic experiences. She had Napster when it was still an unknown entity, and she would “download a lot trance” but with specific themes. Titles like “castles in the sky” and “dreaming of flying all the time” she remembers specifically today. Tracks like these and specifically Trance, sparked an early interest in electronic music, but it wasn’t exactly an isolated experience for Karoline. “When I heard the complexity of the synthesiser,” she explains “I connected it with my mum and dad was doing when they were flying.” Both music and skydiving became two very important aspects in her life.

“Naturally I got into electronic music after listening to a lot of  Trance,” she says but through the years the associations with flying have moved from Trance to Dub Techno. “ It’s about the long dub chords, the reverbs, the delay and the space that you can create,” and that’s the parallel she draws between music and skydiving today. “When I fly,” she says, “I just hear a drone” and it doesn’t take much on the listeners part to find these striking parallels too. Through “Abnormal Soundscape” there’s an emphasis on space as simple repetitive phrases repeat on themselves, orbiting around a simple refrain from synthesiser.

Inspired by “early 2000 Echospace, Deepchord and Maurizio,” Karoline started making electronic music in 2013. She set out in search of the fundamentals via YouTube, but found the process “really confusing.” She realised that; “if I really want to learn this I have to go to school.” She enrolled in an Ableton course at Point Blank in London, which applied her with the basic tools to start making music, and a platform for her to hone her eventual sound. “Skydiving was still a really big thing” in her life at that point and she managed to travel the world with it, but she made sure that everywhere she went she could bring her portable studio with her.

“I could finally get my shit together and just focus on being here with the music.”

When she moved back to Norway, she came back with a singular vision: to finish the recorded material, release a record and start a label. She found a makeshift studio on the outskirts of Bergen, and sequestered in her new home, began to compartmentalize what she’d made through her travels. She set herself the task of going through “hundreds of finished projects” in an effort to create a “soundscape” from a “few selected tunes” that would eventually become the album. “When I got home to the studio,” she explains “I could finally get my shit together and just focus on being here with the music.” That was the start of everything for Karoline with everything circling back to the first track on the album, “flight simulator”

“Flight simulator is the first track I ever made,” says Karoline. It was inspired by Tiësto’s “Flight 643” and Karoline’s “favourite game” from where the track takes its name. “I’ve always wanted to use a speech from a flight,” she says about the song’s origins and found a “fucked-up version of the speech” from the game to form the basis of the track, the vocal gliding up and down the looping arrangement. The speech and the subject matter adds a very eerie quality to the track that Karoline found “super strange and surreal,” but at the same time adds something literal to the abstract soundscape she creates through synthesisers.

There’s often this literal quality li to Karolinski’s music, which Karoline doesn’t try to subvert through her tracks titles. “Toget fra Oslo heim til Bergen” for instance was a track created on the train home from Oslo to Bergen exactly as the title suggests but there’s also something tactile about that trip in the music. She looked out of the window during her journey and interpreting the lights flashing past the window as sounds, she found the defining crux of that song.

“Abnormal Soundscape” is the result of some 10 years worth of music distilled into the album in this way with personal experiences defining the sound of the album. Why did it take her so long to release music? “I wasn’t ready,” she says and elaborates; “before, I was still travelling around and make music wherever I was. Now I want to have it as a career.” And what about skydiving? “I really love it and it’s a big passion in my life. But so is music and music is a bigger part of my life at the moment.”

Karoline paved her own way to success, establishing her own label, and even though she had the entire Bergen scene at her disposal, she feels that her experience with music was a “super  isolated” one. She had known the “music dudes” in Bergen all her life through Djing and specifically mentions Christian Tilt as an abettance, but when it comes to her music and the label she “really wanted to understand” the intricacies of running her own label and being an independent artist. FJORDFJELLOGDALER had to be her “own platform” and Karoline “was never interested” in working with other labels.

In the future she hopes the label will become a similar platform for other artists and if offered, she might start working with other labels too. Meanwhile she’s got a “couple of EPs with both House music and more trancy stuff” on the way and some more Techno in pipeline. With more gigs starting to line up, she’ll be developing her live show concurrently as a very comprehensive package. Our conversation dwindles down as soundcheck is prioritised, but before we part ways until later the evening, and she heads off to the stage, I ask her what her set might be like. “The one tonight”, she says… “is not going to  be chill.”

We’ve got some catching up to do with Cassy

*All photos by Kenny Rodriguez

Cassy (Catherine Britton) has always considered herself a DJ first and foremost. Even though she might have first made  her mark in electronic music through her voice, providing vocals for other producers she insists; “I see myself way more as a DJ than a singer.” A prominent DJ figure today, Cassy travels the world on the back of her skills behind a set of decks and regularly plays two to four times a week from intimate venues like Jæger’s basement to vast cavernous club spaces like Berghain’s Säule.

She is able to go from the immediate intensity of festival crowd at peak time, to the subtle intricacies of a seven-hour set in Berlin. “That’s my job,” she told us in no uncertain terms in the past on this blog. “For me it’s a given, if people pay me to play in the club, and I should pay attention to the crowd.“ She talks from extensive experience as a past Panorama Bar, Trouw, DC-10 and Rex Club resident.

As a recording artist her career has moved perpendicular with her career as a DJ, culminating in her debut LP in 2016, Donna. She’s released records for the likes of AUS music, Perlon and Bass Culture records, and she’s collaborated with some of the most prominent electronic music artists out there. In 2017 she set up her own label, Kwench Records to collaborate with artists like Art Alfie, Demuir and Pete Moss as well as establishing a platform for new artists.

It was since our last encounter with Cassy on this blog, that she’s launched her label and released her debut LP and although she’s been a regular feature in the booth at Jæger, we’ve missed some opportunities to ask her about these developments and others in her career, her music and club culture. We were not going to miss another opportunity however, and with her next set at Jæger looming, we shot over some questions to Cassy, and she happily indulged us. So excuse us, we have some catching up to do….

Cassy plays Frædag with G-Ha & Olasnkii this Friday.

Hello Cassy and happy new year. Do you ever make new year’s resolutions?

I don’t need to make them in the new year as I make resolutions all the time, every week!

I was just looking over your touring schedule for 2018, and you played every week, most often twice a week (that I can see from RA) and all over the world. What do you do in between to recharge?

I try to sleep as much as possible, work out and eat well. I have also gotten back into meditation again more recently.

It’s been a while since we spoke and there have been so many highlights. The release of your album Donna was one of them. Looking back on it now two years down the line, what did the debut LP affirm and how has your personal relationship with the music evolve after you got some distance from it?

It was the first step into a direction I wanted to take, and it was a very good start. My relationship with the music differs. Sometimes I feel like I can’t listen to it anymore, and sometimes I really love it!

The electronic music album is becoming something of a lost art-form, especially in this era of musical consumption. How would you approach a second LP today differently from the last?

With a more relaxed attitude. Worry less about it being an album and trying to make it fit into what an album should be, and see it more as presenting the music that I have made.

With your record label imprint Kwench Records, the first releases were collaborations. What do you get out of the collaborative experience that is different from working solo?

When you collaborate the end result is something you have no idea of, unless you work together a lot of course, but for me that is not usually the case. It’s exciting and you can learn from each other.

“One thing I have learned in my life and my career is to not look into the past, look to the future and build something.”

The last few releases on the label were solo records from other artists. Was this an intentional shift? Will you continue to collaborate with other artists going forward?

The label is a journey, and it takes time to figure out what the best route is. It’s hard to have a vision of something that lasts forever so you have to allow for adjustments. At first, I had a strong vision, but quickly figured out that that vision was not completely possible, and so I am allowing the process of letting it grow more organically, but still having one eye on the road. One thing I have learned in my life and my career is to not look into the past, look to the future and build something.

Ivaylo featured on a compilation for the label, and I believe he’ll be bringing out an EP on Kwench in the new year. What established this relationship between our resident and your label and what can you tell us about this new EP?

The relationship developed by meeting Oslo every single time I am there, and talking about music and life, and feeling a strong connection.

2018 was the year of #metoo. Have you personally experienced a change in the industry since?

No comment. It’s better this way.

For an artist and DJ like you who came up through the ranks of a predominantly chauvinist industry, were you constantly aware of the challenges and how did you approach, and ultimately curb them?

It was extremely challenging from the get-go. Personally, I think having to deal with egomaniac, greedy, and power tripping personalities is worse, and both men and women can behave like that. I didn’t need to be aware these types of personalities, they were just in my face. When people act out of fear and are very short sighted this creates problems, so you just have to do your best to deal with things in your own way where possible, and stay in your power!

You’re an honorary resident by now at Jæger and you must know the crowd pretty well. How does your set adapt to the crowd here?

I feel at home at the club. It’s so easy to adapt there because it’s such a relaxed and open atmosphere.

What is in store for Cassy the recording artist and the Kwench label in 2019?

Now I have had the label for just over a year it’s given me a chance to think about the direction, and so I will be putting more energy into its identity in 2019. I am also working on my own music to broaden my horizons and release on other labels this year.

And lastly can you give us sneak peek into your record bag, and pick out three of your current favourites

Cinthie ‘Together’

Niles Cooper ‘House Gospel’ (Black Loops remix)

Eddie Amador and Dany Cohiba ‘Crazy’ Julian Chaptal remix

Always looking forward with Teebee

Teebee discusses the origins and future of Drum & Bass in an extensive interview that traces the lineage of the genre through his own career. 

The general consensus around here is that Techno is the music of the future. We’ve adopted it as our mantra for some time, and I’ve written about the subject at length, but perhaps I and we’ve been getting it all wrong, and it’s Drum and Bass that is in fact the music of the future.

Did Drum and Bass actually supplant Techno at some point as the most innovative music in the electronic music canon? A half an hour on the phone with Torgeir Byrknes (Teebee) points to a resounding “yes”. A theme that echoes through our conversation talks of looking ahead, negating nostalgia and embracing cultural development. It’s about progression, it’s about living in the future, adapting to your surroundings and about assuming everything that has come before you is irrelevant. “You’ve got to step up if you want to be a part of this,” explains Torgeir in no uncertain terms towards the end of our conversation, “because time waits for no-one.”

It’s a very existentialist perspective for an artist of Torgeir’s calibre. As Teebee he’s been a genre figurehead for as long as it’s existed. He’s released records on prominent Drum and Bass labels like Moving Shadow and Photek Productions as well as establishing his own significant contribution to the industry in the form of Subtitles. He’s also one half of Calyx and Teebee, who have been a major contributor to Andy C’s RAM records and one of the biggest crossover successes in Drum and Bass. And he’s played to audiences in the tens of thousands as a DJ, but at the heart of all of this is a humble and an almost altruistic ideology that informs his work across all these projects. For Torgeir it’s all about “the art and love of culture rather than for the financial aspects and billing on a poster” and the older he gets the “more important that becomes.”

 

 

At the centre of this culture is the idea of progression for the 40-something artist and DJ, and like every other aspect of your social structure, it needs to be nurtured and it needs to constantly evolve and adapt with its surroundings. This means “you can either change with the times or die” and in Drum and Bass this sentiment is what keeps the genre moving forward in Torgeir’s opinion before he adds “but we still remember where we’ve come from.”

Drum and Bass’ legacy is intertwined with the legacy of Rave culture in the UK and Europe. It gestated in the broken beats of early nineties Techno, and as that genre moved into stoic, minimalists 4-4 kicks, Drum and Bass grasped at the shredded beats of proto-acts like Prodigy and LTJ Bukem to make its own intense impression on the world. By the late nineties it was an international phenomenon with people like Goldie, Photek and Andy C becoming household names and dedicated scenes coming up in places as remote as South Africa and Australia, all before the incremental rise of the Internet. Teebee was an integral part of this movement by then, but for him and his peers the music and scene has its roots much further back than that, back in the ninety-eighties when as a youth living in Bergen, Norway Hip Hop came to Scandinavia.

“I have a lot to be thankful for,” he says about growing up in Bergen “because ultimately that’s where I discovered everything that lead to me doing music for life.” Torgeir’s story is a familiar story in the Norwegian electronic music scene of that generation. Breakdancing and records like Beat Street sparked an early interest in music, which for Torgeir came at the age of five. “I have never been as impressed with anything in my life,” he says about the “acrobatics of breakdancing.” Breakdancing led to music and Torgeir started buying records with his own money as soon he was able. It was a “really exciting time for us,” he says “because it genuinely felt new and history proved later that it was.” The music was “real and raw” and Torgeir still looks back at those informative years as the building blocks for what he would eventually do in his own music.  

Drum & Bass at Jæger with Teebee during Romjulfestivalen

The music led to DJing through the local youth centre, and when the UK rave scene broke, Torgeir’s “fascination with broken-beats” turned him onto the new emerging sounds coming out of the UK, especially “those first Prodigy records on XL recordings.” It was “like hip-hop but flipped,” he reminisces about the sound that would eventually come to dominate his interest as Hip Hop’s golden era started coming to a close in the mid-nineties.

One of the most significant moments in Torgeir’s career came during the ninth grade after he and some friends peeled off from the rest of the class do some shopping in the white label section of a neighbourhood record store. “I found a record that just blew… me… a-way” he says dissecting the last few syllables like a chopped amen break. He brought the record home, but the white label yielded no information about the artist or the label behind this record. It weighed on him and he started calling up record shops in the UK – much to the “extreme dismay” of his parents – playing this record down the phone to anybody that would listen. “All I wanted was to hear more of this kind of music,” he says and encouraged by a youthful exuberance and a musical hunger he eventually found the title and artist behind this record. It was LTJ Bukem’s “Demon Theme” and that record sealed Torgeir’s fate and a lifelong obsession with this music and its culture.

 

 

His career in production came from necessity, rather than want, when as a youth in 1993 his record collection was still rather small. When tasked to do a DJ set, four records simply wouldn’t cut it to provide music for a whole set. “I thought, I can moan about there not being enough records to play or I can try do something about it,” he remembers of that fateful experience. He asked his dad to “front” him some money for a computer studio and what “started off as just a curiosity, turned into a massive love affair” by the time Torgeir came of age.

As Teebee, Torgeir has since released three albums, not including his collaborative albums, and countless EP’s in a career that spans twenty-odd years today. And as Drum and Bass evolved, growing through the height of its popularity in the late ninety nineties and early 2000’s and then falling out of favour with audiences that turned to genres like Dubstep, Torgeir remained steadfast. There’s an interview from around that time with Torgeir online where, posed with the question of making Dubstep, he simply smirks by way of dismissal, and says; “we don’t like dubstep, it’s a waste of time”. It is clear from talking to him and by the work he has done that Torgeir and Teebee is a lifer when it comes to Drum n Bass.

He was there for the best moments of the genre at the hype, when divergent scenes had started cropping up the world over, but he says “it’s nothing on the hype of today” stretching out the first syllable of “nothing” like the sub-bass drawl on his classic Sade-sampling track, Lifeless. “Back then the thought of going to Siberia to play to 10 000 people or Korea to play to 20 000 people” would be completely unheard of. At the height of its popularity, the people behind it were “kind of misunderstood, which made it a bit of a political statement” according to Torgeir. They were largely outcasts of society, who “bonded over something really exciting” that popular culture could never quite grasp at that time. Torgeir looks back fondly on those early years, especially the Sunday Sessions at the Blue Note in London, which he would later name a track after. He and his Norwegian peers would regularly fly over to London for the Sunday Sessions as soon as they came of age. “That’s how I spent all my money” exclaims Torgeir. “The beautiful thing about the Sunday Sessions,” was that “they started so early, so we could catch the first few hours before we had to catch the last plane back.” It was at these nights that Torgeir would get his demos in the form of ADAT tapes (this was before CD burners) “into the hands of people like Grooverider.”

“I’m so glad I was a part of it,” he says about the melting point of the scene “because you really had to go out of your way to be part of something you truly love.” He “doubts future generations are going to see anything similar” but almost in the same breath he says “it wasn’t all better before,” catching himself before he falls into some nostalgia. Drum and Bass is a technologically driven genre, and if you don’t evolve with the technology you’d “be left behind“ according to Torgeir. “My strength as a producer and an artist,” he says “is that I’m always looking forward.”

 

 

That was at the root of Drum and Bass’ ultimate demise, during a period in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s according to Torgeir; people weren’t looking forward anymore. “My main problem with how culture develops is that art imitates art,” says Torgeir of this period. “So all the new producers that grew up listening to my stuff, they’re going to make music inspired by the genre and in a sense it will be mainly watered down, because we drew our influences from elsewhere.” He believes that the scene has gotten back to those early ideals of Drum n Bass again and that’s why it’s currently enjoying such a big resurgence, bigger yet than it was even during the height of its popularity. “People have stopped looking at what everybody else is doing” he suggests, and from the young bedroom producers to the established old guard like Teebee it’s breathed new life into the genre again.

Torgeir has had to constantly evolve with the scene and the culture to still remain relevant and in that vein he is wrapping up that part of his legacy today with a couple of Archive releases, records and tracks that were previously unavailable, and re-mastering his first two albums, “Blacksciencelabs” and “Through the eyes of the Scorpion”. These records still stand as barometers of the genre and even though Torgeir is always looking towards the future, we have to take a moment to reflect on them too.

“With Black Science I had an idea of what I wanted to achieve and I went for it”, he says. “I was young, hungry and arrogant. I was brimming with confidence and the record reflects that. That record is unapologetic, it’s raw and it’s me.” It’s the record that catapulted his career, getting DJ offers all around the world on the merit of that record, which in turn left him with a dilemma when it became time to record his next LP, “Through the eyes of the scorpion.” It was “a difficult record to complete” for Torgeir, because he was “torn by what my heart was telling  me to do and what the club reaction told me to do” and to “find a happy compromise wasn’t easy.” Between those two records that raw, unapologetic premise ties the two records together, but on “Through the eyes of the Scorpion” there’s a polished, cinematic narrative that very much reflects that era of hyper-modern production through the progress of computer recording technology of the time it’s recorded in. “You want to something to work on a head and body level,” says Torgeir about his music, “that’s the main challenge of writing music for me.”

And how has his music evolved since? “The ultimate change is  that music sounds better,” he says. “You can take something that was made in 1995 and make it identical. If you took the same record today and made it to the best of your abilities, it would sound a million times better.”

After these releases he is looking forward to making some new music as Teebee, but he is currently committed to a contract as Calyx and Teebee with RAM Records, before he can work on any new music of his own. “I signed an exclusive three-album deal” he says and vows “never to do that again” after they complete this album together. It’s “been a tremendous stress” on Torgeir who refers to Larry Cons (Calyx) as a brother but believes: “Who I am is not the sum of the parts that is me and Larry.” They are currently finalising the album, which is just not quite there yet in their opinion. They “keep going back to it because it doesn’t feel like a record yet,” he says. “An album has to tell a story, it can’t just be a collecting of singles. You want to showcase what you can do, but you also want to showcase your progression.”

Progression, there it is again, that word that dots our conversation throughout. This ideology haunts Torgeir’s entire musical purpose, from making records to DJing. In the context of a DJ set, he hardly plays anything from his back catalogue because his role he believes is to play “the most cutting edge, groundbreaking music around” for audiences. He might play some of the more recent releases that still “hold up” from his point of view, but he “won’t even go near” his older tracks. He keeps echoing the altruist approach that brought him into the scene and in that spirit he is also raising his Subtitles label from the dead. He’s got “big plans” for the label in the new year when he is out of his record contract and it’s all intrinsically tied to the ethos that runs through his entire musical career; it’s about doing it “more for the culture and the progression of that culture. “

 

Album of the week: Kuuk – Live fra Blitz

“Er du klarer for Kuuk!” Screams Mira Berggrav Refsum from the stage during a live performance at Blitz in Oslo, and ironically now, that she and Ragna Solbergnes have called time on Kuuk, Norway finally is ready for Kuuk. The recording, taken in 2016, is their last artistic impression on the world and closes a chapter on one of the most exciting groups ever to come out of Norway.

From their stage personas, to the videos and the extent from which their poured themselves into their art, Kuuk will be sorely missed, and it’s doubtful that we will see the likes of a band like them for some time to come.

Conceived during an after party in 2013 – of course they were – Kuuk took the stage and Norway by storm without a single song in their repertoire. By 2014 they released their first single, “Htg” and by the time the video hit You Tube and every Norwegian social media channel, Kuuk was on everybody’s lips. It remained a side-project however for the two Oslo rappers, who called on a group of local musicians and producers like Sahrish Abbas to get their special brand of nachspiel Hip Hop to the recorded format with singles like “Hor,” “10000 High Fives” and “Klitthopp” making a sever impression on the local scene and beyond.

 

 

While they’ve always denied any political message in their music, in a recent interview with Blitz, Mira does suggest “whether we wanted it or not, KUUK is political.” They inadvertently became Gay icons, even though everybody in the band is heterosexual and it’s hard to ignore their gender in an age when Hip Hop is still dominated by homophobic chauvinists. A political message is especially hard to avoid in an age when everything is scrutinised under a microscope by social media’s amateur critics, but it shouldn’t diminish the impact that their music made (even for non-Norwegian natives).

Dark, impetuous beats grind against coarse bottom-heavy bass movements with Mira and Ragna’s dichotomous vocals going punch for punch through their music. And while their singles, EPs and videos made for titillating entertainment, their energy on stage was unmatched, so it seems only appropriate that they call end to the project with this document of their prowess on stage. 

This record perfectly captures that brutal intensity they have on stage. Although unfortunately we are denied their striking visual appearance through the audio recording, the low quality recording and the raw and impetuous performance puts you right there in the moment at Blitz with Kuuk. It’s a shame it had to come to an end, because now more than ever, Norway, no the world… needs Kuuk.

From fresh disco to techno with Adolpho & Franky

Hailing out of Lausanne in Switzerland, Adolpho & Franky are the residents and the might behind the region’s clubbing institution, Folklor. A dominant force in electronic music in the western region of Switzerland, they’re unique individual experiences and visions in music have come together in a unique DJ-collaboration that regularly sees them playing abroad at places like Watergate in Berlin and Sankeys in Ibiza.

The Swiss-German duo are composed of Ramon (Vintage.Franky) and Fab (Flashfab) two DJs from different generations, who came together seven years ago to combine forces across musical genres, styles and generations. Although they’ve dabbled in production they’re proclivity remains in the booth as facilitators for the party.

They’ll be heading out to Jæger this Sunday as part of Folklor takeover at Det Gode Selskab and with the event looming we wanted to find out more about them and Folklor and sent them some questions via email.

Hey Ramon and Fab. How did you guys meet and what brought you together, musically?

Vintage Franky : Back in 2011 I was looking for new talent for my first club called “La Ruche”. Fab was playing as a duo called Das Hutwerk. The two sounded super fresh and I offered them a gig. The first meeting was a bit weird, I felt Flash Fab was big-headed but the second meeting, we both realized that the two of us would be a great story of love and music. Laughs.

Were you DJs before you started playing together?

Flashfab: I started playing in 2008

Vintage.Franky: I started playing in 1991 when I was about to be 17 years but before I was a breakdancer.

What do each of you bring to the duo and where do you think your tastes and styles cross over?

We do indeed have a age difference of 14 years on paper but in our musical approach, we are quite similar. Apart from the experience behind the wheels of steel, nothing really differs. We are both very hungry for music and we both have a decent musical knowledge across all styles. Also we consume a lot of parties and clubbing experiences and we look forward the future and the evolution of music with a great appetite.

Tell us a bit about your club, the FOLKLOR?

To be quick, the Folklor is a club that bears his name, all the music and electronic folklores are welcome. We wanted to make a club that revolves around artists of all kinds, we have carefully studied the interior architecture to make the place as pleasant as possible to the public, we offer quality drinks behind our bars a very normal prices for the Swiss market but the most important point is our SOUNDSYSTEM which was built around the club.

Is there a very close knit community in Lausanne for this kind of music and who are some of the DJs, artists, clubs and record stores that we should know about there?

Regarding the united scene, it is true that one of our primary goals is to unite as many people as possible around our cause. When we see potential within an artist we approach him and ask him to join the family. When we speak of predispositions we are not talking only about pure talent, because for us the behavior of the artist is an integral part of the values ​​we want to put forward as well. We believe that bringing together all kinds of strengths allows us to benefit from each other’s synergy. We are very happy with our work now .

I spoke to Kūn and they told me there was quite a healthy scene in the region around the nineties. What are your personal experiences of DJ culture in the region?

Vintage.Franky: I think I’m the only one who can answer that question because my colleague was still wearing diapers at that time;))). Yes, the early 90s were really crazy in the area. The first Raves started at the Montreux Casino with the Dancefloor Syndroma parties, monsters like Tony Humphries were invited, I was personally very much in electronic music from the beginning. On the clubbing side we had the MAD in Lausanne with residents like Laurent Garnier and guests of the brand all weekends “Sven Vaeth, Carl Cox etc.etc. It was in 90ies . I still have a lot of shivers running through my body when I think about it.

You play abroad a lot too. Can you make any distinction between the styles of DJing at home that’s different from what the audiences expect abroad?

It really depends on where we play but actually we do not prepare our sets in the same way depending on the country or club that we visit. We can already tell you that we never play twice the same set even in our club. We are always studying the place where we are going to perform to find the best points of attachment with the public, it is very important to us.

The sets I’ve heard online are mostly of electronic nature, but span quite the depth of electronic music. What do you look for in music in your sets?

It is indeed important for us that the full spectrum is well covered by most of our selections, it is key to give emotion to our sets and the musical colors are always at the center of the spectrum. The rhythm, the swing and the groove are wonderful but without the color that the melody offers something is lost in our opinion. Then concerning our style I would say that if we were to compare ourselves to a doctor we would be a generalist and you know what, everybody goes see a generalist!

Besides your 2014 release Electronik Bomb, you’ve made your mark as DJs. What is it about DJing you prefer over production, and are there any plans to make a follow up?

We did neglect our studio time to open a restaurant and a beautiful club, Of course this took us a lot of time. We still managed to keep our gigs steady. We went back to work in the studio this summer and we have 4 beautiful tracks coming out soon on very good labels and next we are organizing to start our Foklor label by the beginning of the year.

Lastly what are you packing in your record bag for your stint at Jæger?

In our Dj Bag, we planned a melting pot of bombs ranging from “fresh disco to techno ” that always carry a positive good mood. We are really looking forward to seeing you with our friends KUN. It’s going to be a goooood one!

 

An unlikely pair with Kūn

No other European country encourages music quite like Switzerland. It’s embedded in their educational infrastructure. Every student is obliged to take up a musical instrument early in their education and their tuition is accommodated at every level from novice to classically trained musician. “You can skip sports if you make music,” says Cyril Pulver over a telephone call and that echoes through the entire musical landscape in the small central European country.  “Switzerland is the country that has the most musical festivals per capita,” says Koris (real name: Vu Vuong Dinh). “That is a fact,” he says by way of emphasising his point in only the slightest hint of a French accent.

Koris and Cyril are collectively known as Kūn. For the past 4 years they’ve played together as part of the Attitude Nocturn crew with a residency at the renowned Lausanne club, Folklor. Koris and Cyril are of asian descent, but grew up in the western region of Switzerland where they’ve enjoyed a “rave and clubbing scene that was one of the highlights in Europe” throughout the nineties, at least from Koris’ perspective. Even though the “music changed and the people changed, clubbing is still strong” and it’s from this legacy that Kūn came to be. “We’re blessed,” continues Koris because for “the amount of people living here and the lineup we get, Switzerland has a strong scene.”

It’s from this scene that Kūn came to be, but their creation is an unlikely story, with the two halves of the duo coming from two very different generations. “I think it’s a vast mistake, we should not be hanging together at all,” says Cyril. “I think Koris should be spending his Friday nights drinking prosecco with his friends, and I should be spending my friday nights partying with my university friends.”

Koris is Cyril’s senior by a whole generation, but the pair have bridged an unlikely gap through music. Cyril had been “doing music” with his brother, before the the latter had “abandoned” the former for Japan. “He felt bad and he hooked me up with Koris to make music together,” explains Cyril of the unlikely pairing. “We hooked up and decided to give it a go and here we are four years later” continues Koris, finishing the other’s sentence like they do when they occupy the booth together. The reason the pair seem to understand each other is that from Cyril’s perspective he is something of a “classist”, an old soul and the pair find a unique bond exactly through their dissimilarities where Koris believes they compliment each other.

“We come from different musical backgrounds,” explains Koris. Cyril, a classically trained musician had “made music his entire life” and Koris can barely decipher sheet music, but brings an intuition that only experience can bring. Koris has had quite a luminous career as a DJ. Coming of age in the nineties through that thriving Swiss scene, Koris “started djing in 1996” and took it up professionally between 2000-2007 “as a trance DJ.” At the height of his career he was playing 150 gigs a year and there are videos dotted around the Internet of Koris entertaining large audiences from his DJ pulpit in places like San Francisco.

“I have an extensive career as a DJ,” he reiterates and believes “the combination of the classically trained musician” in Cyril “and the more instinctive side of how to approach DJing and make music” from his perspective” make for “very complimentary” attributes in Kūn. “It elevates both of us.”

Koris the sager of the two describes it as such: “If we put ourselves in the shoes of the dancers, they want to discover music, they don’t want instant gratification… That’s what we crave too.”  He feels they are “very blessed” with their residency at Folklor, playing for a crowd on a regular basis that they have this symbiotic bond with through music. “It’s what we are” he says about the Lausanne club that currently stands at the centre of the French-speaking region’s nightlife. In a country where people “spend a lot of money on music” according to Cyril, there’s a healthy scene at Folklor that allows the local residents to play alongside visiting international dignitaries on a weekly basis.

For the moment Cyril and Koris are quite content in being DJs in the scene, but there is long-term plan to add producer to their credits. Their approach in this regard  is “a bit more conservative” according to Cyril. Instead of rushing into something, they are biding their time in an attempt to “develop” their “own thing”. It’s “something that takes a long time,” says Cyril and even though his musical training has plied the group with all the tools necessary to make music, Cyril believes they are “still learning.” While they’ve road tested their tracks in sets according to Koris they “don’t feel ready to publish them just yet.” They don’t want to get in a situation where they “spam the market with tracks.”

Their individual musical traits and experiences echo through their music. Through their first residency at D! Club they favoured a “more straightforward or immediate sound,” says Cyril. It was a result of the sets they played in the vacuous space of the club where they would naturally “make music for big rooms.” Today he believes that they honed their craft more in-line with the sounds of Folklor, where Cyril’s penchant for “classical harmonies” find a more intuitive bond with the purpose of the club floor. ”There is always some kind of harmony that’s a bit more pop, rather than abstract Techno sounds,” he explains of their latent sound.  

For the moment Kūn will remain a DJ duo, a multi-generational, intercontinental, multi-skilled DJ duo, who presents the best of what all these words can offer through their selections. They’ll be arriving in Oslo later this week to showcase their proclivity , sharing the booth with their Norwegian affiliates Det Gode Selskab, which Koris says is “a natural relationship and friendship between people who like music.” It’s their second visit to Norway in as many years and Koris and Cyril are keen to return to propagate that nuanced partnership they have through music.

 

*Kūn play Det Gode Selskab this Sunday.

 

Just Listen with Philipp Boss

“You can go 300 meters” outside your door in Frankfurt and you’ve “met three DJs already” says Frankfurt native, DJ and producer Philipp Boss. Walk further down the street to your local record store, which for Philipp is GOSU, and your met with a whole community of artists and DJs like Philipp. “Every time I go to GOSU I meet a lot of artists,” he says in a broad German accent with a tone of youthful exuberance. “We show each other our music and we support each other” and “this is what I like about Frankfurt.”

Philipp Boss is still young at 24 and the brief glimpse I get of him over a video call, before it crashes, shows a stocky man with the visage of a teenager that belies his actual age by some years. Originally from a “small town next to Frankfurt” he calls Frankfurt AM Main home today, a city with an incredible legacy in electronic music and home to some of the most revered artists and DJs in the world today. Think Gerd Janson, Roman Flüggel, Sven Väth, Cocoon, Running Back and Robert Johnson, all in an area with a population of less than 800 000. The term Techno might even have been coined there by TALLA 2XLC back in the 1980’s, long before Virgin used it to describe a new emerging sound in Detroit and that legacy echoes through the entire scene today.

It’s in that environment that Philipp Boss emerges, as the latest descendent in a long line of artists and producers perpetuating the lineage of electronic music in the city, but ironically, it wouldn’t be drum machines and synthesisers that would first indulge Philipp’s creativity, but rather guitars and improvised music. Philipp first picked up the guitar as an adolescent and by the age of 12 he started his first band. “We played together for seven years,” says Philipp, jamming all manner of music and playing indie concerts around town, with his “greatest inspiration during this time” would be the act of improvisation with his friends.

At 13 he bought his first synthesiser, and trying to incorporate it in the band he “got more curious” about the instrument. Soon he was asking himself questions like “what else can I do with a synthesiser.” His intrigue broadened to drum machines when his dad, a local Jazz musician, bought the device to practise along to. Philipp started incorporating the drum machine with his exploration of the synthesiser in what he calls “mostly experiments” as the rudimentary entry into electronic music that’s every producer’s right to passage today. “This was my beginning with production,” he says with a determined smile.

Those first tentative steps towards a career in electronic music would remain dormant however, as Philipp continued to play in his band through his teens and it would re-emerge again much later as he came of age and started going to clubs. Philipp couldn’t have asked for a better musical education than that which Frankfurt’s clubbing community offered. “The first house party I ever went to Oskar Offermann was playing,” says Philipp in a tone that downplays the significance of hearing a respected DJ like Offerman in your backyard. It would be a epochal event for Philipp, one that would prove pivotal to the career of the budding producer. It would be the first time that Philipp would experience “a DJ with two turntables making the whole room dance” and he found it absolutely “inspiring.”

He visited his first record store, the now defunct Freebase records – previously “an institution in Frankfurt” – and started buying and collecting records. He found a community of DJs and and “cool artists” at Freebase, which would later encourage him to start making music professionally. His entry into electronic music would be largely “inspired by the club culture in Frankfurt,” and through the encouragement of the community he would establish a career as a producer and DJ that went from debut to three EPs and an LP in little less than a year.

“I started making music on my computer,” he says in a matter-of-fact way but it would marred by inconclusive results at first. “I really had a problem finishing tracks,” he says.  He continued to collect and play records, honing his skill and when it got to a point where he believed it was a good enough, he didn’t go the traditional route of trying to find a compatible label to release this music on, but rather go his own way. In the true DIY spirit of this music and its culture, Philipp Boss started his own label, “Einfach Horen” (just listen in German) and by “basically learning by doing,” the label’s first release emerged.  

Calling on that close-knit community, Einfach Horen came into the world through a compilation CD of tracks collected from close friends, artists like Chris Geschwindner. “This is the thing about Frankfurt,” explains Philipp, “we are a very small city with so many good producers and DJs” and it was “only logical” for Philipp to start his own label out of this environment. A vinyl release soon followed the digital release in 2017 and by 2018 Philipp found an artistic stride, releasing two EPs and an LP in close succession, establishing the young artist as a rising future star of the scene and the DJ circuit.

Philipp’s first two solo EPs, “Motor Myths” and “Code North” presented a transient electronic music artist to the world. Over three tracks “Code North” traverses Garage, Electro and House without any reservations and at the core of this is a very simple ideology for Philipp. “The first time I went to the studio, I was like, ‘ok I want to do a Garage track’, because I never did a garage track before,” he says about the origins of “Sahallo”. The title track follows in much the same way as a “heavy electro” track “inspired by Drexciya.” He likes “to explore new ways of making music, new beat structures new harmonies” he says about his eclecticism in the studio. “I don’t like making stuff that bores me” and for him the whole idea of creativity is to push all the “influences I collect during my everyday life into my music.”

And what ties these tracks together? “I really like funky melodies and music that doesn’t take itself too seriously,”explains Philipp. “For me it’s about having a party, not about making super sophisticated future sounds. I really want to make people dance – this is my main motivation.”

On “Motor Myths” which is a little more confined to the House delineation, we find more of those “funky melodies” Philipp talks about, but there’s also a soulful depth that evaporates at the fringes of the funky bass-lines and syncopated hi-hats. “Soul and groove” is an important aspect to Philipp’s music and there’s always a considered effort from the artist “to put some emotion” into his music. “I don’t like functional tracks, It misses something for me.” Philipp’s music is hardly devoid of function either, and it is there if the body is willing to submit to the ear. Melodies drips like cotton candy from Philipp’s percussive arrangements and there is always an element of Funk to the way he puts these pieces together.

It’s something that he carries over to his DJ sets too. “I try to select music that connects with people on an emotional level.” When asked how he would describe his DJ sets in one word  “that word would be party.” He says there is definitely some correlation to his recorded music and his DJ sets, where function plays second fiddle to some kind of human depth, and in as the most elaborate execution of this ideology he released his debut LP, Boss on La Peña back in February this year.

The origins of the LP starts with Philipp booking Robin Scholz for a label night. Scholz introduced Philipp to the head of La Peña Arno Völker (aka Einzelkind) and the pair found a kindred spirit in each other. They hit it off immediately and became friends, and Völker encouraged the younger peer to finish some of those early tracks he had been working on. The album became a “collection of the best tracks” from that period when Philipp started discovering his sound. They were some of the “first club tracks” he had made, Völker “really liked” them and a year later they were released as a LP on La Peña.

Like the EP’s there are really “many sounds” to the record, and it seems Philipp went deeper still for the purpose of the long player format. From the electro funk of  “Angels GF” to the synthetic House of “Palais Orsay” and back again to Bossa Nova grooves of “Vivid Description” the album pieces together a varied kaleidoscopic sound picture of electronic club music with Philipp’s distinctive groovy, soulful touch at the centre of it.

Following the LP, came “Motor Myths” and “Code North” and in the space of a year it has taken Philipp from DIY label owner and bedroom producer to established artist that will see him release more music via “some London labels” in the near future as he rightly stakes his place in the Frankfurt DJ community and club scene.

In his immediate future he is “looking forward to visiting the beautiful city” of Oslo. He’s already seen the video footage of the rotating mixer at Jæger and he’s keen to jump on there to do what he does best… to expedite a party.

 

*Philipp Boss joins Det Gode Selskab this Sunday at Jæger.

No Agenda with Marius Circus

Marius Circus’ rendition of Lindstrøm’s “I feel space” didn’t merely pay a homage to a Norwegian dance floor classic, It proved to be a worthy contemporary fix on of the finest examples of Norwegian electronic music ever created. Marius’ bold analogue bass-line and lysergic interpretation of the original wasn’t merely a cover but a rendition worthy of its own plaudits. “It’s hard to touch the original” says Marius Circus when I ask him about his version over a cup coffee, but he’s “glad people like it.”

In early 2018 Marius (Øvrebø-Engemoen) Circus aired a video on social media of him taking on the “stone cold club classic,” and it proved to be so successful even Linsdstrøm couldn’t deny its appeal. When Hans Peder Lindstrøm “asked to get the stems for his live show” Marius “figured I should do something with this” and with Lindstrøm’s approval Marius released his versions via his newly founded In the Garden imprint, first as a digital release and later this autumn as a 12” vinyl version.

What merely “started as an experiment to recreate Hans-Peter’s complex chord progressions,” something Marius was merely doing for fun, suddenly had a live of its own after the video aired. Marius believes that “the original still stands the test of time,” and his version is only a “different take”, something of “an acid version” of the original, but there are unique merits to his adaptation that go toe to toe with the Lindstrøm classic. It didn’t merely update “I Feel Space”, but between the acid expressions, the sweltering bass and the original enigmatic chord progressions the idea of space resonates through the track more than ever. Shimmering murmurs, purr as they skim the surface across grainy synthesisers like an asteroid skipping its way across the milky way.

Marius recorded it as a live performance and in one take managed to capture it all for the future release. Andrew Weatherall came on board with a jack-booted remix, stomping through Marius’ version with a heavy-footed percussive onslaught. Weatherall’s “Love from outer Space” affiliate, Sean Johnston facilitated the remix, as Marius’ first and only “pick to do this.” Weatherall obliged and did two versions of it with the second exclusively available as a download from the vinyl version only. Together with the Marius Circus interpretation it was a second wind for “I Feel Space” that dusted off the cobwebs without underestimating the power of its origins.

“I Feel Space” came during a prolific time for the DJ turned producer. After a lengthy hiatus where Marius had three kids, moved out to the suburbs and practically stopped DJing, he says that he is now making “probably a hundred tracks a year” and he keeps the best of those for his young “In the Garden” label.

Marius’ career starts back in the early naughties as a DJ, where he was prominent figure in the Oslo scene. He “started buying more records at the turn of the millenium” and then “gradually started Djing” while making “friends with people from the Oslo scene like Prins Thomas and (Todd) Terje.” At some point he realised that  “if I ever was going to be recognised as DJ I had to start making music.” His first effort was a remix for Magnus international followed by an EP in 2011 on Full Pupp which was the one and only EP he released on a label before going on his lengthy hiatus.

As time moved on the “whole making music thing became more important” to Marius, but it would be a slow start for the budding producer, who only started making music in his late twenties and who was “only serious about it some time after that.” He was by his own account “extremely slow in the studio” and it would take some time before he honed his craft to a point where is “a lot faster” today. “My studio process had more or less become a live process at some point,” he says by way of explaining his newfound productivity.

This new era of creativity it became paramount to the creation of “In the Garden” to “have some sort of outlet for my own music that have complete control over” explains Marius. “Tired of waiting for other people’s agendas,” Marius brought the label into the world as an exclusive vehicle for his releases. Launched in 2016 officially, “In the Garde”n sports six releases today, with a seventh primed for later this December. “Polaris” originally released digitally earlier this year, will get a vinyl release with an Ewan Pearson remix in addition.

“Polaris” features a synthesised bass line that falls on the ear like silk, while electronic textures create a wispy firmament, gently enveloping the foundation of the track. With a steady 4 to the floor beat, it’s a track born from the dance floor, but easily lives beyond its functional design. Like the intrepid Norwegian space cadets that came before him Marius Circus looks to the stars for his inspiration with space-aged synths from vintage catalogues and Disco rhythms informing his work.

It remains grounded however through “In the Garden”, which he claims is “a lot of work,” even if it’s solely for Marius’ music, but it allows him the freedom to be subjective in his own way.  “At least it’s my stuff and it’s stuff I like,” he says, “there aren’t any agendas here.“ He relies on an immediacy to judge his own music, which also part of the reason he is working a lot faster in the studio today. “It doesn’t really bring anything good to work on the same piece of music for months and months,” he suggests. “You can’t objectively judge it because you heard it a thousand times before.“

He might still find it “hard to judge what other people are going to enjoy,” but having the outlet for his music is possibly more honest than posturing to a trend or other people’s tastes for Marius. “I’m in a position where I don’t need this to make money,“ says Marius which suggests that that the music like “Polaris” and “I Feel Space”, the stuff that makes it onto the label has no hidden agenda. In the Garden is a very personal label and one can sense that from the music. There’s an intimacy to the records that feel like you’re right there in the garden with Marius as he plays and in many ways you are when he’s doing his studio streaming sessions.

Although he still DJs on the rare occasion, Marius reflects that he’s “not too interested” in that aspect of electronic music any longer. He prefers playing live today the where the “risk is higher” and because “going out on limb is fun.” From his pedestal of drum machines, synthesisers and sequencers Marius re-imagines the recorded material for the “slimmed-down” live version as well as playing previously unreleased tracks.

He’ll often spend his early mornings, getting up at 5am to craft new tracks before heading off to work where his 9-5 is occupied working with notable Norwegian artists like Lindstrøm at Gram Art. As we sip at the last of our coffees I wonder if that has any affect on his creativity, working with these established artists day in and day out. He reflects for a short moment but dismisses it outright, what he does as Marius Circus lives on in its own, a one-man show all onto himself.

 

*Marius Circus will play Badabing this Saturday with Vinny Villbass and you can check out more of his music here.

Ni kjappe med Zweizz

Vi tok en prat med mannen bak Zweizz. Sist gang han tok over scenen i kjellern på Jaeger under klubb Øya, så skapte det buzz innen samtidsmusikk klikken i byen og vi hadde fått en nytenning av denne  artisten bevæpned med en “Vuvuzela.” Zweizz spiller en bråkete og larmende type ulyd som lages ved hjelp av hovedsakelig elektroniske duppeditter. Bak navnet Zweizz finner vi Svein Egil Hatlevik, som har bakgrunn fra black metal-band som Dødheimsgard, Fleurety og Umoral.

Hvorfor heter prosjektet ditt Zweizz? Hva er opprinnelsen til det navnet?

Det er tatt fra et spøkelse om hjemsøker området Kåterudmåsan i Enebakk kommune. Skrivemåten er omdiskutert, siden spøkelser ikke alltid kommuniserer skriftlig (jeg kjenner altså ikke til den egentlig korrekte stavemåten). Så jeg tok meg friheten til å bruke hele tre stykk “z” for å stave dette navnet. Jeg tenkte som så at med en så urimelig stavemåte ville jeg kunne ha navnet i fred som Google-søketerm og så videre. Men slik gikk det ikke, så det er en fyr i Indonesia som tok brukernavnet “Zweizz” på Instagram før meg. Så det er kanskje mulig at jeg burde legge til flere z-er på lengre sikt.

Kan du kort beskrive musikkprosessen?

Ja, nei, dette er jo mye improvisasjon, så det er kanskje rimelig å svare at jeg skrur på strømmen og setter i gang. Men det er også en del mentale forberedelser, noen ganger er det en del anger etterpå. Sånn overordnet sett handler det en del om å rette oppmerksomheten mot vibrasjoner som en grunnleggende forutsetning for all lyd og musikk.

Ren energi er det jeg husker fra sist gang. Litt sånn Iggy & Stooges energi. Hva er det mest intressante response du fått ifra din performance?

Har vært gjennom både buing, latter, applaus og at folk har forlatt lokalet. Sliter å komme på noe som stikker seg ut som det mest interessante. Om det er noen som misliker det jeg gjør, så tror jeg de holder det mye for seg selv. En gang er jeg blitt spurt om jeg har en Pornhub-konto, men det har jeg jo ikke – heldigvis eller dessverre.

Hvordan takler du ett stort lydsystem som Jaeger der folk får en fysisk relasjon til det du gjør på scenen?

Den fysiske reaksjonen er mye av poenget, så det er vanskeligere å håndtere et mindre lydsystem. Da har man færre virkemidler å spille på. Av hensyn til folkehelsa er det nok lurt å si hver gang man har sjansen at det er anbefalt med ørepropper.

Sist gang du spilte på Jaeger tok du med mange interessante blås og perkussive instrument? Blir det noe annerledes denne gang?

Har ikke helt bestemt meg for hva jeg skal gjøre og hvordan. Jeg kan i hvert fall garantere vuvuzela.

Hvilke forbilder har du innen elektronisk musikk?

Det er ganske mange! Det kan være Aphex Twin, Igorrr eller Venetian Snares, for eksempel, men det kan også være Whitehouse eller Femnesz eller for den saks skyld Arne Nordheim eller Edvard Artemiev. Det spørs om det er mulig å kjenne igjen noe av dette i en opptreden jeg gjør, men heldigvis kan man ha forbilder uten å leve opp til noe av det de representerer.

Hvordan stemmer du ditt instrument er det noe forskjell på hva for mikrofoner du bruker er det noe spesielle teknikker fra for eksempel å spille et annet perkussive instrument?

Om man skal ha med seg en dass på scenen, er det en stor fordel at den er grundig rengjort. Kvalifiserer det til stemming? Ellers er nok det viktigste å gjøre mest mulig ut av de virkemidlene man har til rådighet, og akkurat den tankegangen har nok overskygget hvordan jeg tenker om hva slags utstyr som er det best egnede. Jeg synes ofte det er morsommere å ikke ha kontroll over utstyret enn det er å ha en presis forståelse av hva man holder på med.

Hvordan kan man få høre på din musikk når man ikke kan oppleve det live? Har du noen soundcloud eller sted man får kjøpt musikken din?

Jeg har endt opp med å praktisere et skarpt skille mellom det jeg gjør under opptredener og det jeg lager av innspilt materiale. Det jeg har laget av musikk som er gitt ut på plate høres derfor ganske annerledes ut enn det som skjer i konsertsammenheng. Når det er sagt, vil jeg gjerne anbefale et album jeg lagde med en som het Joey Hopkins. Han døde dessverre i 2008, så det blir ikke noe mer av dette samarbeidet. Fans av Oslo-legenden Filip Roshauw vil også kunne høre en del gitar- og basspill fra ham på denne plata.

Ni kjappe med Silje Huleboer

Hva Silje Huleboer har med seg i sekken på Sprekken kommer vi kjappt til å finne ut. Vi sendte over ni kjappe spørsmål til denne musikalske formskifter.

Vi tok en prat med Silje Huleboer innfor konserten på Den Gyldne Sprekk 4.desember.

Hvordan går det?

Hei. Det går bra. Har akkurat hatt eksamen i grunnleggende elektrofag. Det gikk ikke så bra, men tror ikke jeg stryker.

Så hyggelig at du kommer å gjør en konsert på Jaeger.

Det syns jeg og!

Du har gjort spilt alt ifra blackmetal noisekonserter til folkmusikkkonserter… Hvordan vil du beskrive det du skal fremføre på Jaeger på Sprekken?

Jeg har vel aldri spilt hverken black metal eller folkemusikkkonserter. Men jeg har varmet opp for Atilla og soloprosjektet hans som baserer seg på loopet vokal. Det gjør mitt soloprosjekt og. Så det var vel i grunnen linken der. Da spilte jeg sammen med Oslos koseligste støymusiker Sten Ove Toft som tilførte ytterligere elementer av støy i tillegg til de jeg lager selv.

Påvirkningen av folkemusikk kommer fra hjembygda. Jeg har egentlig aldri spilt/sunget en konsert med folkemusikk i tradisjonell forstand, men har brukt stev og folketoner som utgangspunkt for noen av arbeidene. Men jeg kveder en del på nach og i bryllup.

Jeg har ikke helt bestemt meg for hva jeg skal gjøre i Sprekken enda. Jeg har et påbegynt popsangerinne-prosjekt hvor jeg tar utgangspunkt i en liten del av en låt, et refreng kanskje, og lager en vokal loop over det i lavere tempo. Så fletter jeg inn fraseringer og litt deilig ad-libing og bygger det opp til et metningspunkt som kanskje går over i støy. Det er et slags hyllestprosjekt til mine favoritt popsangerinner som Mariah Carey, Whitney, Brandy med flere.

Hvem kommer å joine deg denne aften?

Sten Ove Toft blir med meg denne kvelden og det blir tredje gangen vi spiller sammen. Han er støyartist og har spilt i band som bl.a. Ryfylke og Waffelpung samt spilt med etablerte band som ALTAAR, Serena-Maneesh, The Low Frequency In Stereo og The Megaphonic Thrift. Live kan Sten Ove Toft tilby et lydinferno uten sidestykke. Så han blir med meg å glitcher litt i sprekken.

Anthony Barrat blir også med meg. Han har bygget noen pedaler som jeg bruker og så er han flink med det visuelle. Han skal ordne projiseringer av mine gamle filmarbeider og kanskje noe fra sitt eget materiale. Han laget for eksempel den siste videoen til Moon Relay:

Hvilke er dine influenser for dette nye prosjektet? Hvilke forbilder har du innen elektronisk musikk? Tar dere en pause ifra prosjektet som du hadde med Ole?

Selve soloprosjektet er jo ikke så veldig nytt. Har holdt på så smått siden 2013. Men jeg kan jo trekke frem de mest åpenbare musikalske infuenserene og referansene i forhold til prosjektet. Den artisten som fikk meg til å begynne med looping og disse vokale lydlandskapene, eller hva men enn skal kalle det, var Noveller. Hun er en amerikansk støy/alternativ musiker med gitar som instrument. Hun gjør mye av det samme som meg, bare med gitar. Eller riktigere sagt, jeg gjør mye av det samme som henne, bare med vokal. William Basinski er nærliggende å trekke frem, Oneothrix Point Never sitt prosjekt Memory Vague og vokalt kan jeg trekke frem Elisabeth Fraser, Trish….. og Whitney, Brandy og MIMI da :)

Jeg og Ole tar ikke pause. Vi har en plate klar som kommer ut på nyåret. Vi skal spille en del konserter i desember og vi er i gang med enda en plate! Mye å glede seg til.

Liker du blackmetal eller popmusikk publikum bedre?

De er jo fine gjenger begge to. Opplever begge typer publikum som lyttende og interesserte.

Når kommer det ut noe opptak i fra dette spennende prosjektet?

Jeg har hatt en innspillingsplan for sologreiene mine lenge. Men jeg utsetter det lett fordi jeg må gå for egen maskin og noen ganger er det litt vanskelig å prioritere eget prosjekt. Og så har jeg begynt på skole. Men det skal komme noe i 2018. Det blir en fullengder med to ganger 20 min i første omgang.

Hvordan kan man få høre på din musikk når man ikke kan oppleve det live? Har du noen soundcloud eller sted man får kjøpt den nye musikken?

Jeg har en soundcloud, men det er egentlig ganske skissebaserte ting. Men ganske fint å høre på alikevel. Akkurat det som ligger der er støyfritt :)

https://soundcloud.com/siljehogevold

 

Download Future Prophecies – Black Dragon (Engage remix)

In 2005 the Norwegian drum&bass act Future Prophecies released their seminal album “Warlords Rising” which would turn out to be one of the most influential releases in dnb history. The duo made a name for themselves with a brutal and fierce yet melodic approach to the genre, characterized by angry breakbeats, buzzing synths and menacing bass-lines.
They haven’t performed together for over a decade but during “Romjulsfestivalen 2018” on
the 30th of Dec they will officially reunite at Jæger for what is set to be one of the biggest dnb events in Norwegian history. Tony Anthem and Richard Animashaun will be joined by dnb and jungle royalty Teebee and Psychofreud 
for a massive all-star lineup the likes of which has never been seen on the Norwegian scene.
To celebrate this unique event Dub Monkey Records and Jæger are teaming up to give away a previously unreleased track by Future Prophecies. You can get the download here.

“Black Dragon” is a juggernaut from the debut album and we are happy to present this remix made by St. Petersburg resident neurofunk-legend Engage (Dmitry Nekrasov) (Mainframe Recs, Icarus Audio, Ammunition Recs). We sat down with the  man himself to ask some questions and get some answers.

Hi Dima and thanks for taking the time. What are your earliest memories of Future Prophecies?

Hi! Thanks for having me here. My first memories are from tunes on the radio of course but one of the biggestinspirations for me as a future dnb producer was seeing them live at The World Of Drum’n’Bass 2006 in St.Petersburg. “Miniamba” and “Dreadlock” with that electronic flute – ugh! That was truly amazing performance!
 
What kind of relationship do you have with the original track?
I heard the original track at a party with Kemal here in St. Petersburg back in the day and was in love from the first second of the tune because of this dark atmosphere and that scary girl’s voice. I can remember those goosebumps.
How was the process of remixing it?
For me it’s interesting to start with making pretty similar samples from scratch. With that you can learn something new and reach back through the years to get in touch with that old beloved sound. It started with meeting Kalle from Dub Monkey at a party in St. Petersburg where I said that it might be fantastic to remix Black Dragon some time. After that it wasn’t a question anymore, I got the samples and that’s it. To be honest I didn’t use a lot of them because as I said previously I like to re-create.
Why do you think that FP have such a special place in Russia?
When you are talking about Russia you can say that the biggest love Russians have is for the hardest sub-genres of dnb. That’s why Future Prophecies are so popular over here.
Any local talent that you want to big up?
Lots of respect to my old dnb friends – DJ Bes and his project Gydra, Teddy Killerz, Receptor and other guys from our Neuropunk crew.
Find out more about Engage here.
* Text by Karl Magnus Blindheim

Limitation is Liberation with Bendik Baksaas

*Photo by Signe Fuglesteg Luksengard

Bendik Baksaas + Frederik Høyer are about to embark on a “new phase” of their career together, Bendik told me over a private message. It’s been two years on since they released “Grønland Kaller”, an LP that framed Fredrik Høyer’s lyrical arias in Bendik Baksaas musical balladry coaxing lifeless machines into sentience through improvisation.

The album, which started out as a vocalist plus accompaniment arrangement turned musical group when they found an artistic bridge across their respective disciplines. Their studio collaboration turned performance and while they continued to pursue their solo creative endeavours they began finding an individual voice as an artistic duo.

Fredrik Høyer is a poet whose treatment of words take on a lyrical nature as he combines it with elements of improvisation, hip hop and literature. Bendik Baksaas and Høyer first started working together on a remix LP of Høyer’s book and album “Grønlandssūtraen” and the collaboration turned into its own fully fledged project as the pair started performing,and working on new original material together.

They’ve returned recently to the recorded format in “Ode til alt Ute”, the first single from an impressive forthcoming “maximalist double LP” featuring 26 tracks, 9 poets and 222 minutes of music. This is the next phase for Bendik Baksaas + Frederik Høyer, directing the sound of the group towards the impulses of the dance floor.

They’ve followed it last week with the double single “Fortellinga / Fake blodmåner og England”; two tracks that play on the dichotomy of the dancefloor going from the intense narrative of a night out through the language of minimal Techno before dissipating into serene ambience of “Fake blodmåner og England.” These are the latest pieces to make it out from the forthcoming LP, which is currently in the process of being mixed by Joar Renolen (formerly Foreground Set).

“Without him I would be doomed,” says Bendik Baksaas “having the scope of work in mind.“ Bendik Baksaas + Frederik Høyer will be presenting some of these new pieces as well as some unheard material at LYD with Olle Abstract this coming Saturday and even with so much on his plate, he still managed to make some time for us for a Q&A session.

Bendik Baksaas’ career gestated in the world of improvised Jazz, but he quickly moved on to electronic music genres like House, Techno and Ambient, incorporating elements of improvisation in his music. He finds an organic pulse within the stark rhythms of machines channeling his musical experiences through music computers.

When I contact Bendik, he’s just performed with Jo David in an ambient concert for Monument, that went from abstract sounds to an imposing 4/4 kick. Bendik’s musical history, his work with Fredrik and his live performances are intriguing, bordering on something of an enigma and in the ensuing Q&A he grants us unique access into his creative processes as a solo artist and with Fredrik.

*Bendik Baksaas + Fredrik Høyer plays LYD with Olle Abstract.

In your message, you told me that your closing out a chapter of your collaboration together, and embarking on a new one as Bendik Baksaas + Fredrik Høyer. Can you tell me what this new chapter is all about?

The new chapter is about bringing spoken word to the dancefloor. I’ve noticed how vocal samples in club tracks have a very distinct appeal. Our ears are fine tuned to the frequencies of the human voice. In a musical context in a club this usually goes into the extreme in both ends. The sudden appearance of a voice will either take the emotion and intensity to the next level, or (in many cases) it kills the set by demystifying everything that was sexy about the instrumental soundscape.

30 months ago, when I first heard the sound of Fredriks voice, his attitude and his deeply sincere lyrics, I started dreaming about being on a dark dancefloor, inducing myself in his stories and the melody of his voice, while always having a steady techno groove to lean on. An anchor in every beat of the bass drum, while being led through doors to the worlds that emerge in his poems.

And that’s the new chapter. Inviting the club crowd to a dance of body and soul.

So the people that know you for your last album, Grønland kaller, what can they expect that’s different from that album going into the future?

Grønland kaller was my remix album of Fredriks book and album called Grønlandssūtraen. So he already recorded all the poems before I started making the music. It was a fun process and turned out great in my opinion, but now we work tight as a team and our output is a dialogue, rather than my take on his poems.

There’s an album primed for 2019, “Til Alt Ute” with 26 tracks and 9 poets on there. What else do we need to know about the album?

It will be the grandest masterpiece in the history of Norwegian music-literature. I believe that for all future it will be a point of reference to anyone who’s interested in how it was to be a young person in Norway in the years 2017 – 2019. That’s the reason for the large amount of guest poets. Through idiolects, sociolects and dialects we represent the reality as we live it. Right here, right now. With attention to detail and appreciation of the ephemeral.

The first single “Ode til alt Ute” suggests that you might be moving towards a more dance floor orientated sound and you just confirmed that in the first question. But is that the case for the rest of the LP too?

Yes. We are finishing up the album these days and it will clock in around 222 minutes. We describe saturday night, from the “plastic bag hour”, where you see hundreds of people in the streets running around with their beer in plastic bags that they just managed to buy before six, to the stories at the vorspiel, the intensity of the dancefloor and the big speakers, to the events at the nachspiel and the doglike retreat home in the morning.

Musically I accompany the poems with either techno/minimal house grooves OR what we call “rhythmic ambient”. In rhythmic ambient I use short samples of traditional instruments and field recordings arranged in a manner of techno. Short repetitions, light footed beat, modal harmony, absence of melody. The B-side of our new single is a good example. It’s called Fake blodmåner og England. The track is strictly built up of samples from folk musician Helga Myhr playing hardanger fiddle.

And the next single from the album, “Fortellinga” just came out. What is “the story” (pun intended) behind that track?

The character in the story tells the tale of how he was down and out after a hard break-up. He has some financial problems due to his gambling habit and he aims to stay at home to watch tennis and football games saturday night. An unlikely goal by West Ham at overtime sends his future month salary down the drain and at the same moment a friend shows up at his door with a weed vape. Reluctantly he joins his friend to the club, while dancing they start vaping at the floor and suddenly life starts to feel good again. But that’s until the whole team from work shows up at the same club, he’s tripping on the small talks and without good judgement his observing that everyone from work is trying out his vape, in the belief it’s nicotine with taste. As you can imagine, a lot of things happen further following this misunderstanding.

It’s all about the precise observations of the moment, the phrasing and timing of Fredrik’s depictions, the distraction as an essence of human nature. The poem sits well with the music, because I composed the track first, and Fredrik used every turn and build of my arrangement as a formula of the rhythm and structure of the poem. The track is in house tempo with a a lot of melodic elements. I rarely do that now anymore, but it really works well. Especially after our wizard Joar Renolen put his warm mixing hands on the entire production.

Your musical roots run very deep within the Jazz scene and going through your discography, you’ve touched on various styles, genres and sounds throughout your career. How do you think your music has evolved to this point today?

Love of improvisation is with me still. I make music by improvising hour long jams on the Octatrack sampler in combination with other machines. I cut out small parts that moves me and let them find their context. I first create music, then find out on what record or in which musical collaboration it can fit in.

A turning point in my life was around three years ago when minimal house suddenly was all around me. The realization that fewer musical elements means bigger impact per element blew my mind at the time, and is a cornerstone in my way of listening and enjoying music now. This goes for club music and ambient and acoustic music. My life mantra is limitation is liberation.

Last year I stumbled upon the old traditional music of Hallingdal, which inspires me in my creation of dance music as well as ambient. My last album Seine sviv (Jazzland) is a testament to that. The similarities between techno and norwegian folk music is many. The grooves go in 2 or 3. The music is loop based. The human touch and personal style is valued. The harmony is modal, the melodies use microtonality. The music is made for having a function, to make people dance or fall asleep peacefully.

My music evolved to this point because of other people’s music I heard and loved. I am inspired by the pure and characteristic techno of +plattform. I am inspired by the elegant sound design and emotional intensity of ambient producers Tortusa and Joar Renolen.

 

When and how did you and Fredrik meet and what made you want to start working together?

We met at his release gig for Grønlandssūtraen in august ‘16. As he remembers it I was saying something like “Why aren’t we in the studio working together right now?” I was artistically in love with him after hearing his poem Kampen park at a nachspiel earlier in the summer. The best books are the books that read you, is a saying, and the precision of how that poem described my thoughts and life was stunning.

We hooked up in my studio at Påfuglen (thoughts and prayers), and immediately felt connected. We’ve been working together ever since, doing a lot of gigs and traveling together.

What were some of the ideas that informed your work together?

In that first meeting in my studio the idea of a club record with poems on beat was born. It’s not rap, it’s not singing or vocal samples either. It’s spoken word, poems for regular people, and the music is there to bring you up on your feet with your head high.

How do you and Fredrik work together through the creative process and how much input do you have on each other’s role within the group?

We are both confident in our own field, so our collaboration is much about defining the context of our work. We are both playful in our practice, an idea is never bad before it has gotten a chance. Sometimes I make a track and Fredrik writes a poem to fit with it, and sometimes it’s the opposite way. We send music and poems between each other all the time, our process is fluid and light, I trust the process and I trust his esthetic taste. Bendik Baksaas + Fredrik Høyer is a band. I grew up playing in heavy metal bands in Horten. The brotherhood and united force from the teen years is important to how I live my life as a musician today.

I recently saw you perform at the monument evening last week with Jo David. It quickly went from ambient to hard Techno. How will that differ when you’re playing with Fredrik on Saturday?

The gig with Jo David was completely improvised. It’s fun because it is risky and it makes me feel alive. The beauty of the moment is celebrated whenever something I enjoy happens. Here and now.

Fredrik and I also improvise in our sets, but on Jæger we want to just do a parade of our favourite club tracks. We will start the set with a remixed version of Ode til alt ute and build upwards from there. On a gig like that I need to make it playful and still be able to make fast changes and go to safe cues that we both agree on. I will bring my sampler, but will mainly use three cdjs plus delay and reverb machines to have a creative and playful way of performing in a classic DJ manner.

A view from the other side with Ben Sims

Where do you start a story on Ben Sims? A veteran of the Techno scene, he’s been working as a producer, DJ and label owner on the extended Techno circuit for nearly as long as the genre has existed. He’s been a stalwart facilitator for Techno and House since the nineties, an unwavering presence in the booth, both physically and metaphysically.

Do we start a story of Ben Sims at the beginning, back at the moment of conception where a young Hip Hop enthusiast turned from making mixtapes in the bedroom to the new exciting sounds of House and Techno’s golden era? Or do we turn the clock back to the late nineties where Ben Sims went from a DJ to producer releasing his first records through his own labels, Theory and Hardgroove and later for the likes of Tresor and Drumcode?

We could start at either of those barbs on his extended, intertwining musical timeline but his most significant contribution to has been in the attitude and ideology he pursues as an artist , DJ and label owner. His debut and only LP, smoke and Mirrors on Drumcode; his perpetual determination for a hard-edged sound even during the epoch of minimal Techno or Tech-House; and his refined sense in the booth as a DJ all comes from a core belief what Techno is and he is absolutely resolute in his singular pursuit.

Whether he’s harnessing all that experience in his unique style as a DJ, piecing together fragments from the diverse corners of electronic music in sound collage only he could see or making bold dance floor cuts as an artist through his various aliases like Ron Bacardi, Ben Sims has remained steadfast in his ideological view of Techno.

Without any hyperbolic implication, Ben Sims is a giant amongst men in the world of Techno. He’s always pursued a singular vision of Techno and as it moves in and out vogue, he wavers little from the path of the golden era of Detroit, only updating elements of his sound and tracks in his booth with the natural passage of time. “I’m usually older than the promoter and the person that owns the fucking building,” he muses in a gravelly working-man’s southern-English accent when we call him up for an interview, and yet he still packs a room and leaves an indelible mark whenever he is in the booth.

Ever the restless figure, in recent years, he’s established a new event series turned label in Machine; brought back the label Symbolism; established his NTS Run it Red show, which  has been going strong now for 45 episodes; and started a new project with Truncate as ASSAILANTS, all while still releasing music as Ben Sims on labels like Deeply Rooted and DJing week in and week out. 

It’s a very productive time for Ben Sims. After releasing their first single as ASSAILANTS this year, he and Truncate are  “working on a follow up EP which is 60% done.” It’s a project Sims says “happened quite naturally” after the pair had been friends for a few years and played together and remixed each other’s records. ”It’s not something we’ve placed any pressure on or stuck to any kind of plan,” he says “It’s just something we enjoyed working on together.” They released their first single via the new label Obscurity is Infinite this year and hope to release the next some time in the spring of next year, but while he is currently enjoying working as an artist, he’s also returned to the role of label owner through his dormant Symbolism imprint after taking a hiatus from the record industry.

Although Sims closed the chapter on his Theory label some four years back, he did “miss running” the label. “It’s great to put a bit of focus back into a record label again,” he says and releasing artists that he’s “really excited about.” With a few releases primed for this year, he chose Symbolism because it “had always felt unfinished,” a “victim of distribution companies going bust.” He couldn’t just leave it like that and wanted to “bring Symbolism to a better kind of conclusion,” but today it has taken on a life of its own and it looks like it’s here to stay.

Running labels “feels like an important part of it” to Ben Sims, and he has his fair share of experience at that level, but it’s particularly as a DJ where he’s etched his name into the electronic music legend.

It’s in that spirit that he and Kirk Degiorgio established Machine. “It was his idea,” says Sims about the concept. “He was very passionate about music as well and we have similar backgrounds.” In 2011 they were both getting really “excited about modern Techno,” and started hosting “low key parties, with a focus on only playing new and unreleased Techno.” The event grew and traveled, as they got more “ambitious” with their guestlist. “Somewhere in there we did three releases with music from us that we just tested out at the parties,” but Sims insists it was never intended to be a label, but merely an extension of the club night.

It makes sense that the next release on Machine will be a 50-track compilation and Ben Sims mix titled, “Tribology”. It frames the context of the club night, and in Sims’ opinion “it helps put (Machine) into the consciousness of those who haven’t heard it before.”

It makes sense to pick up Ben’s story here at this moment, because over the last twenty years, he’s deviated little from the same purpose that informs a club night like Machine, his ASSAILANTS project and the rebirth of Symbolism. That’s the context to which he returns to Jæger this week, and it’s with that looming in the background that we called him up for a Q&A session to talk about DJing, for a view from the other side.

*Ben Sims plays Frædag x Filter Musikk this Friday.

The last time you were here you were here as Ron Bacardi. What are your memories of that night?

I was playing outside in the terrace and it was kind of a light-hearted vibe with people drinking and chatting. It suited the music I was playing. It was nice to have the balance of doing something different now and again.

Listening to your Run it Red NTS podcast as Ben Sims, it’s very eclectic and there are often elements of House in there. Why do you feel you need to split your aliases in that way?

There are some places and crowds that are open-minded, and want to hear DJs mix it up and incorporate different genres and styles. But I’ve found over the years, unless I’m specific about what I’m going to do, people get a bit disappointed and they expect to hear peak-time Ben Sims all of the time. I guess that’s more implied in places I’ve been going a long time, like Spain and Holland and I understand that. Having a different name for it does allow me to be a little bit self-indulgent, and as Ron Bacardi I can play House and I can play Disco, and go off in tangents. I like my Techno sets to be littered with different styles, but having another name allows me to go further than I ever could before as an extension of a Techno set.

Do you think it has only happened more recently as Techno has become a little more restrictive from the nineties when House and Techno were a bit more fluid?

No, not necessarily. I come from a very mixed musical background and earlier I could play a lot more different styles in a set, but that’s because I wasn’t on at peak time. You get more room to experiment and I used to try and push it as far as I could, and when you slide into headline clubs, it is difficult to play House for an hour or play some Disco tracks. The times I did try something different and it was billed as something like a Ben Sims Acid House set, a Disco set, or even a Drum n Bass set – I’ve done a few of those – there will always be some people that would be disappointed because it had my name on the flyer and they weren’t getting what they wanted.

Do you think your releases on staunch Techno labels like Tresor and your own Theory label, might play a hand in that you feel you have to abide to that sound, and give your fans that kind of experience?

There will always be an element of that. I always want to represent what I’m into, what my vision of Techno is. That hasn’t really changed a lot since I started making it and playing on the circuit. I have a certain idea of what Techno is and my favourite sounds or groups within it and the core of that hasn’t changed at all.

Could you describe that sound?

It’s energy, but not just because it’s fast. It’s some kind of drive or groove to it. I always used to refer to the sound as hardgroove. It’s still got to be funky, and have a raw element. A lot of it tends to sound like it was done on a bedroom setup – not over-produced. I like a different styles, but usually it’s quite stripped back and rhythmic. It’s stuff that locks you in a groove and you can get lost in it. It can’t be disposable and not just hard for the sake of it. It needs to have some sort of funk or groove.

Harking back to that original Detroit sound?

Yes, that’s still where my inspiration and excitement for Techno comes from, the first wave of Detroit stuff. It’s not necessarily the music I make, but that’s still what inspires me, and as Techno has changed and different countries and cities have become the focal point of the scene, I haven’t really changed. As this generation is looking to the sound of Berlin, I’m not really doing that, because Techno is Detroit.

It’s exactly because of Berlin that it’s enjoying another wave of popularity at the moment, but as a veteran that’s seen it go through various phases of popularity, do you feel that you have to adapt to the surroundings at all?

There’ll be be new sounds or fads that would come along that would interest me, and I’ll incorporate new stuff, but I won’t just jump on it because that’s what people are excited about. It has to interest me. And I think the reason, I’ve been doing this for twenty-odd years is that people appreciate it and that might also be why some people don’t like what I do, because I stick to the same sound. I play the stuff that I like within Techno, and as long as I’m playing the stuff that I like it’s hopefully contagious.

Just looking at the tracklists for Run it Red I know that you go through a lot of tracks during the course of a mix, but it’s not just about playing one track after the other it seems, but rather piecing together little musical vignettes to create this massive mix. What is your thought process when it comes to putting those tracks together for the sake of the radio show and this upcoming Tribology mix for Machine?

I’ve only realised this recently, but I think I attack it like a puzzle that needs to be solved. There’s an element of me trying to squeeze in as much possible, to incorporate as much as I can. It’s similar to the way I do club set where I’ll just put in the best bits of things. I’ll have a definite starting point and end point and just piece it together form there.

With the Tribology mix, it was just going to be a compilation, and me mixing it was a bit of an afterthought. It was about getting the artists involved that I play regularly and guests that have played at the Machine parties to contribute tracks. It was a compilation to support the tour and something physical for the parties we were doing. Then I thought it would be nice if I mixed it, and then from that point it needed to turn from a 10-15 track compilation to enough tracks to do a mix that was worthwhile doing. That was going to be 30-35 tracks and then it just spiralled and it became 50.

Yes, I very rarely play one track on its own, and that’s how I attack putting the music together. That’s the challenge for me, to get as much together and for it to make sense and for it to flow.

Does that mean there’s a lot of planning that goes into something like that Tribology mix?

As I was approaching artists that were going to be involved, unconsciously I was already planning some order. When they started sending tracks over some were like “o, well, here’s five choose one” and I was like “actually I could use all of it.” I was solving the puzzle of putting it together as I was compiling it. Like a DJ set, I always knew where the start was going to be, where I want to be half-way through it and what possible ending there could be, although you don’t always get there.

 

You mentioned some similarities to your club sets, but how does mixtape or your radio show differ from a club set, do you miss that physical energy of a club in those kind of sets?

I do tend to feed off of the feedback from people. If I’m going in a direction that’s progressively harder or intense, that’s different according to the crowd. I don’t always do that with mixes or podcasts, because it’s not always appropriate. I do approach them in a certain way however as in the way I mix is the way I mix. To a certain extent it doesn’t really matter if someone is in the room or not. I do tend switch off from the surroundings a little bit, and sometimes I’d realise; “fuck I hadn’t looked up for ten minutes,” because I’m so focussed to piecing it together that I forget that I’m doing it for someone else.

Is it focus from being busy with your hands or focussing on the music?

I think it’s the latter. It’s my escapism and my way of relaxing and the only thing that’s important is the next record your mixing. In the end it’s a simple life and does get you away from the stresses of the world. You can really get lost in it and I do get off on that.

You must find yourself playing to younger and younger audiences, and just from my own perspective it feels to me that there’s more of an immediacy to this next generation’s needs. Do you feel you need to adapt to that immediacy and intensity of youth in your sets today?

I’m not on the dance floor anymore, but I used to be a lot through my late teens and early twenties, which is the crowd I’m playing for now, and I guess I just kind of remember that. It’s helpful to remember what it is like to be on the dance floor and all pumped up. It’s something that I’ve never forgotten, and sometimes I might approach my set by going in a little bit heavy at the start, just to grab their attention and then back off a little bit later. Whereas if I went with my plan it would be to just ease them in. It’s a bit tactical. To some extent I do miss it, otherwise I wouldn’t be out there doing it for other people.

I guess that’s what keeps the music pushing forward, not just the new music, but a new interest in the music.

Yes. if I were to play to a room of people my age, just scratching their chins that wouldn’t be much fun. You need the injection of new life. Unless you get involved in the scene or step the other side of the booth, clubbing has a shelf life and people drop off.

Where do you see Techno going next if you could gaze into your crystal ball with all your experience?

(Laughs) It feels like it’s dropping off in popularity and that’s ok with me. It doesn’t always help when it’s at its peak of popularity, it does water things down a little bit. That doesn’t mean there isn’t more work out there for a short period of time, but that’s not really promoting longevity, it becomes fashion.

I do prefer it when it’s not in that peak moment, because the crowd is there for the right reasons and the people that are making it are doing it because that’s what they are passionate about, and it feels that period is what we’re slipping into now.

After minimal Techno and Tech House was so massive, and Techno was the underdog, it kind of swapped around and I think that’s going to go away again. I’m not really too sure to what, I thought it might be Trance but that doesn’t seem to be happening. I’d be interested to see where it goes, but I doubt I will be following it.

And one last question Ben, before I ‘ll let you go: what are your expectations of the set at Jæger for this weekend?

It’s a great space. It’s been a couple of years ago that I played there and I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s great playing somewhere for the first time, but I do like to go back armed with the knowledge of what it’s like and what kind of things work and what don’t and feel a bit more comfortable with  the setup. I’m just really looking forward to it.

Let it Simmer with the Hubbabubbaklubb

Between the burbling of the pots and pans on cooking shows playing in the background of various hubbabubbaklubb recording sessions, there’s one phrase that stuck with the band like a mantra. “It’s something that OP (Ollis Hergum) used to say, and that’s let it simmer” explains Morten Skjæveland,  when he and Ollis Hegrum sit down for an interview on frosty evening in October. Let it simmer has since become a “hubba” saying. “We work until it’s done,” Ollis told an impatient Morten time and time again  “and if it’s only in ten years time, so be it”. It would be, and even though “it was almost ten years,” in the autumn of 2018 hubbabubbaklubb’s debut LP, drømmen drømmerne drømmer finally arrived into the world.

Like a mature cheese, an aged wine or a braised roast, if you let things simmer long enough, it gives it time to bring those intricate complexities in their fabric to the surface and that has been the ethos that has been the foundation of the hubbabubbaklubb philosophy. “We’ve been talking about this album for so long” says Morten. “You can like it or dislike it, but you have to acknowledge that there are layers there.” drømmen drømmerne drømmer has never been about waiting until “it’s perfect”  continues Morten but “more like: let’s see what else shows up.”

Some five years on since they released their first single “Mopedbart” everything that could have been accomplished on a debut LP has been for hubbabubbaklub and as we delve further into the dense haluccianary fabric of hubbabubbaklubb, further than any time we’ve done before, layer upon layer is peeled back till we’re at the big bang moment of it all, where a group of close friends get together for some impromptu art sessions, a band emerges and an album is born.

A time immemorial

The origins of the hubbabubbaklubb are as elusive as their music, but Ollis insists “hubbabubbaklubb as we now know it, didn’t happen until Mopedbart, what happened before then doesn’t really matter.” Mopedbart, which was released in 2012 via Australian record label Death Strobe Records, was the first release that featured the name hubbabubbaklubb, made up at that time of Morten Skjæveland, Ollis Hegrum (Olefonken), Jonas Wasa (Joystick Jay), Pål Rokseth (Gundelach) and André Bratten.

Are you Oslo’s first supergroup?

“Maybe” says Ollis with an expressive burst of laughter, “doing your own stuff, is healthy. ”

All accomplished individual artists, it was on Mopedbart where they all first clicked as a band. Originally, a fast-paced track the only thing that was carried over to its final version was the lyric “Høyfart med Mopedbart,” a lyric that had been knocking about since Ollis’ school days when he and Andre first started making music together. The track was initially recorded on a whim, when the gang went to Pål’s house to pick up some equipment for a recording session.

“We discovered he was home alone,“ says Ollis. “So we were like shouldn’t we just be here instead.” Pål’s “old house in farm country” set the perfect tone for Mopedbart. They were going for a “1979 disco vibe” from the start and the setting “helped with that vibe”. Between “drinking and having fun” André, Pål, Ollis, Jonas and Morten recorded some music.

The result was Mopedbart and an “even older” track called Lille Svøte Svanse which channeled that 1979 Disco vibe into a contemporary stepper with Morten’s abstract nostalgia coursing through the lyrics.  On the other side of the record, a funky synth bass and a bouncing beat hops over a the crystal clear, harmonic arrangement of Mopedbart and Morten’s caricature of devil-may-care James Dean cliché on a scooter set an evocative and infectious tone through that song.

Jonas sealed the deal with Andy Webb over at Death Strobe Records after releasing a couple of Disco edits on the sister label, Disco Delicious. Mopedbart became a local and international sensation with Bill Brewster picking up the release early for his DJ History blog and with the track receiving the top honours in the furtive 50 in 2013 selected by the DJ History readers.

The plot thickens

Was Mopedbart ever intended to be an album track?

“I didn’t even think it was going to be a single”, says Ollis hastily. After Mopedbart, and emboldened by the success of the track, they considered ; “next easter let’s do the same, but this time it would be more planned.”

They went back to Pål’s house for the first jamming sessions, and the first track that emerged was an early version of Tommer Lommer which Ollis says “sounds way different to what it sounds like now” on the album. Rumour also has it that a really rough, early version of Et Annet Sted also emerged during this session, but this has been validated. But back to the story. Feeling “more pressured” to deliver a follow up to Mopedbart, and with every member having their own commitments, impromptu jam sessions at Pål’s house wouldn’t suffice. They started taking “hubba vacations: A long weekender where we come together cook some nice food, and do a hubba weekend“ on various retreats to mountain- and seaside cabins around Scandinavia.

This is how the album “came together over the years”, and you can hear echoes of it in the lyrics for Fjellet. “På vei opp till høye fjellet,” sings Morten. “Stjerner lyser opp i mørket. Alene under himmelhvelvet.” Those lyrics came to Morten “in the car on the way up” to his mountain cabin and the mood is perceptible in the quietude of the softly strumming guitar and Morten’s lonesome vocal.

Everything would fall into place when Pål found the band a disused sound room in a film studio called filmparken på Jar. “That’s where we made the bulk of the album,” explains Ollis. It was a space they could call their own, a place where they could just hang out and “see what happens” as Morten puts it.

“We really took our time with it” remembers Ollis and as much as it was a space for hubbabubbaklubb, it was also a place where they could collaborate with other artists, who in turn would make their own invisible imprints on the eventual record.

With the money they “earned  from various concerts” they bought a “big mixer” and they were on track to record the rest of an album, but then suddenly, and without warning, they found themselves on the curb, and their hopes dashed at finishing the album.

A slim chance

“We were thrown out of the studio because there was too much drinking and stuff,” recounts Ollis and without the studio, the band were left with a portion of an album and nowhere to record the rest. “That’s really important to understand;” says Morten “it wasn’t a given that this album would see the light of day, there was a 50/50 chance that it was going to manifest itself.”

Ollis recalls when that moment came that they had to leave Jar, “that was the point we thought hubbabubba was dead.”

“That set a damper and it was not the ideal way to go our separate ways.” The band retreated into their individual projects and the album was shelved, but the work they’d done for the album, simmered nonetheless and in Ollis words they thought; “it would be a shame if this didn’t see the light of day”.He turned to the rest band with a proposal: “I told the boys I would like to finish the album but I’m not going to do it for free.” He would take the mixer in payment and it became the “dangling carrot” that he required to finish the album.

The original demo recordings were just that, demos and they were “pretty far off”. Opening up old projects, Ollis had found that some much needed maintenance was required. Pieces of inane conversations coming in and out of recordings where they had forgotten microphones in the room and similar amateur moments, had set him a big task to get the LP done. It required Ollis and the band to “record a lot of stuff”. Pål’s brother, Ole Rokseth was inducted into the band to play bass when André Bratten was committed to his solo project and even the Rokseth patriarch, Stein literally lent a helping hand with some hand percussion. People like Jonas Raabe would be brought into the recording process too and the album turned into something of a family affair for the band.

Over time the tracks matured as pieces came in and arrangements were finalised, but it was a mammoth task taking the original sketches and turning it into the album. “I did my masters degree back… I can’t remember when…” says Morten “and I always said to OP, the album was his master’s degree, but then I handed that shit in and he was still working on the album.” The “life project” finally came together after the best part of a decade.

Morten had floated the title “drømmen drommerne drømmer “at some point early during this process as a shortened version of an Eden Ahbez lyric on the song Full Moon. “It ends with the line dream the dream that dreamers dream. I felt it was really strong and it was really funny to say the same word over and over again.” It’s a song they would come back to a lot during the whole process but only Morten and Ollis knew the title at first. “I was afraid that people would get tired of it,” explains Morten, but yet it still lends an infectious rhythm to the start of the LP that carries through to the music and the artwork.

Unpacking the layers

By the time you reached Den Hvite By, some 9 tracks in an entire world has opened up to the listener. From the familiar singles Tommer Lommer, Mopedbart and Eddie Suzanne, hubbabubbaklubb transport you through the kodak moments of the bands career laid out like the collage on the inner sleeves of the record.

Den Hvite By’s afrocentric qualities mimic Fela Kuti, shoehorning Jonas’ love for the Western African music in to a space-aged Norwegian dialect. “We almost ended up in another world, not afrobeat anymore,”  remembers Morten of the recording process and one of the “most magical” moments of the hubbabubbaklubb history.

One of the many snapshots through the career of the hubbabubbaklubb, Den Hvite By forms part of an immense tapestry of music that constitutes drømmen drømmerne drømmer. There’s an undeniable connection to the songs, and whether it creates part of a larger narrative is up to the listener, but it is there to be explored, suggests Morten.

Morten often makes references to the title, especially in the songs Konkylie and Fjellet, but the tracks live beyond the album, as lyrics float around in a dreamscape, untethered to any tangible reality.

There’s a charming nostalgia to hubbabubbaklubb from the music to lyrics but especially the lyrics. Morten has a way of sculpting stories that seem to arrive like an intangible memory, emphasised by his wispy alto bordering on falsetto. His words and voice fall like a shared memory projected from cathode television screen.

In hubbabubbaklub there’s a purpose to all this. “Early on when I started writing lyrics I realised I had to drop all modern references”, says Morten, and that has also helped solidify some kind of symbioses between the lyrics and the music. “When they (the band) dig up old synthesisers and sounds from the past, it’s my duty to humbly mirror that with the choice of words.”

And does the music reflect the lyrics?

“Definitely,” says Ollis and cites Fjellet as an example.

The acoustic guitar track is the furthest they step back from synthesisers and electronic instruments, with a folksy John Denver kind of song about getting back in to nature. It might have been inspired by that epoch in music but it’s not stuck in that era.

Ollis tells me that hubbabubbaklubb would have a track like that and Den Hvite by “lying around for two or three years”, and would often go back to change it, letting it simmer to evolve and grow with the band where at some point it’s reached the best version of itself. “Hopefully that’s the benefit of talking such a long time,” says Ollis “not getting stuck in an era.”  

There are influences too, but besides the obvious references to Yellow Submarine, Fela Kuti and  Eden Ahbez, Ollis is not willing to divulge anymore of them. Perhaps it would evoke a memory of a listener, but they don’t think it’s the band’s place to imply anything concrete, always getting back to the dream and dreamer.  

In a recent interview they were asked who are the dreamers and what are those dreams, and it’s something they’ve been mulling over by the time we get to our interview. It’s “a very vivid picture of younger times and easier times, which for me at least that are what dreams are in a way” says Ollis. For Morten “the dreamers could be young, adventurous people” too striving for that imperceptible perfect version of itself, but ultimately he proffers; “you tell me?”

All the trappings of a timeless classic

So what happens next, how do you follow it up?  

“At this point it’s just really nice to see people enjoying it and liking it. Hopefully there will be a couple of vacations,” says Ollis like the weight of the world has just been lifted off his shoulders. Morten is just hoping to ”enjoy this caramel, because it’s been such a long time coming. We are childhood friends and it’s a friendship manifesting itself into this physical thing.”

“That’s the type of guys we were,” continues Morten.” while the other guys came together and watched football, we came together, and we drew. We sat at Wasa’s house and made paintings. Just playing around, with no intention of it becoming a big piece, just the fun of it.” And that philosophy has coursed through the very fibre of hubbabubbaklubb since the beginning and is now physically imprinted on vinyl as drømmen drømmerne drømmer.

Ollis is surprised that he is still able to listen to the album now that it’s out. Usually when he finishes a record “it’s everybody else’s” when it’s done, but on this occasion he keeps coming back to it; that’s until Mopedbart comes on.

“I skip that one” he says and Morten winces at the thought of it. There was some serious discussion in the band about whether that song was going to make it on the album. Morten will at least listen to it, because he likes “to hear (the album) from start to finish with all the transitions”, but it’s a track that divides opinion within the band. in a recent Q&A session with Jonas Wasa he said “I’m so tired of that fucking  song,” and Ollis feels he has to defend it. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t like the song” says Ollis, “It’s just form a different era.” It’s still the band’s biggest hit and whenever they play it in a set or live Ollis still finds it “crazy” that “everyone sings along.”

For the listener at least it frames the album perfectly, it’s the glue that holds it all together at the conceptual genesis of it all, forming an integral part of the hubbabubbaklubb narrative that traces a red line through the entire album.    

It’s not merely an album of Mopedbart in various other forms but rather an intense and enveloping experience from start to finish that transports you the that ineffable dream that hubbabubbaklubb have succeeded in creating on this album. All that’s left to do in hubbabubbaklubb’s opinion is to “put on some headphones, lean back and dream that dream.”

 

*drømmen drømmerne drømmer is out now and you can pick up a copy at Filter Musikk. 

*Olefonken is back this Friday in is usual residency slot at Frædag invites Âme and Morten will be back at Jæger for Skranglejazz x Frædag presents Gerd Janson and Prins Thomas on the 30th on November.  

Having it all with Ra-Shidi

Olivia Ra-Shidi has gone from learning to mix to playing a stage at Insomnia festival in less than eighteen months. A precocious talent, the young Ra-Shidi has an innate musical ability, fusing organic contrapuntal rhythms with vintage synthesisers in exotic mixes forged from chimerical musical landscapes.

She’s a resident and a booker for Circa and Storgate Camping (Oslo Camping’s northern counterpart) in Tromsø. Between booking these venues and playing, Ra-Shidi has become a dominant force in the arctic city as one of the next generation of DJs breaking through from Norway’s first electronic music city, where Bjørn Torske, Mental Overdrive, Biosphere and Rune Lindbæk first staked their claim.  

Under the sage guidance of her mentor Charlotte Bendiks, Ra-Shidi has joined the ranks of these legendary figures and bears the torch of their legacy for contemporary audiences.    

She has cultivated a unique sound as a DJ, going from the “minimal Techno” of her early sets to the more eclectic sets we hear from her today. It’s a sound she says that she “started figuring out” after playing Oslo a couple times. Noticing “a huge difference between the audiences in Tromsø” and those of Oslo, Ra-Shidi has adapted her music accordingly with that inherent, acute sense of a DJ it takes some people years to refine.

She’s made phenomenal strides as a DJ in mere months, and very rarely takes a break from music. “You don’t have a day off in a life where you love what you do”, she tells me over a telephone call on the Monday after her Insomnia appearance. It’s her day off, but she’s put some time aside for us to field some questions about her musical history and the scene in Tromsø ahead of her next appearance at Jæger as part of the Oslo world line-up.

How was Insomnia?

I was part of the line-up through a program called ‘Cloud Exit’. DJ and producers from northern Norway could send in mixes or productions of their own, and there would be an external jury, choosing the four people to be part of the lineup. I was one of those four and it was interesting. You also get a mentor and get to be promoted through Insomnia and their festival partners. It is a very huge opportunity for up-and-coming artists.

Who are some of the festival partners?

Sónar, Barcelona and Mutek. They are part of the Shape Platform. They have a lot of huge festivals as well as small underground festivals.

I imagine Insomnia would be a bigger crowd from what you’ve been used to playing up until now?

Yes, but it’s also a safer crowd, because I’m from Tromsø. I’ve gone to Insomnia every single year since I started clubbing. I was a bit nervous because I was standing on an actual stage, but the crowd was people I’d met every single year at Insomnia, so I just felt really safe and it felt like I was home.

Photo by Mats Gangvik

Ra-Shidi grew up to the music of “Mental Overdrive and Bjørn Torske”, dancing to the music her older sisters would bring home. A mere child at the time, she wouldn’t quite grasp the significance of these early musical experiences until later. As she grew older, “she would finally understand these artists are from Tromsø and that they would play” in the city quite often. She would go out to places like Verdensteatret to hear these “local and international heroes” play and dance with abandonment to their electronic sounds.

As a student of classical music and various instruments through after-school activities, Ra-Shidi found a release in electronic music that had eluded her in the classical dialect. “There were so many rules to it,” she explains, “and with electronic music you could not care about the rules and do your own thing.” When she danced to electronic she ”really felt like the true me came out.”  

While some of her friends had already started DJing at that point, Ra-Shidi had remained quite impervious to a career as a DJ at first, because “I always felt it was much more difficult than it actually is.” After a few impromptu mixing sessions at house parties she was encouraged to explore DJing further and when friends noticed her impeccable musical tastes and proffered; “why don’t you play Olivia, you listen to stuff we haven’t heard before.”

With the resources of Tvibit (a local training platform for burgeoning musicians, producers and DJs, replete with studios and DJ equipment) at her disposal Ra-Shidi nurtured her own talents and found something in DJing she hadn’t really experienced with her various after school musical activities. “DJing ended up being the creative outlet that I’ve been longing for quite some time.”

Do you think the classical music training helped in terms of picking it up a bit quicker than your peers?

Definitely. From playing different classical instruments where you also counted till eight or sixteen, you already new all the rules behind music. Also the electronic music community in Tromsø is a close knit community because it’s such a small city so getting help was never hard.

What sort of music were you playing when you started?

I have not been playing for such a long time, so I can’t really say that my taste in music or style has changed very drastically. In the beginning, any genre of music as long as it has ethnic rhythms, very African and latin American vibes.

Yes I picked that up from Jæger mix too, the complex, interlacing rhythms, but also very electronic at the same time.   

Exactly. From the beginning I was not (loyal) to a genre or anything. As long as I could dance to it or feel something when I heard it, I would download it. I also mixed a lot of genres and in the beginning there was a lot of minimal tech, but that eventually ended. Now, the one thing all my tracks have in common is that they are very percussive. I like tracks that are more organic.

Is that the same thing that you played at this recent Insomnia set?

Since I started the evening, I tried to keep it more upbeat, but yeah, it was definitely the same thing. It was very percussive and you had a lot of mystic and occult tracks, with some dark sounds, but then I would also try to contrast it with some more synth heavy old-school house track. I’ve always been the kind of person that enjoys irony, doing things for the sake of it, because it kind of doesn’t fit together. I like showing people the contrast and that you don’t always need that pure dark Berghain techno set if you don’t want. Break the rules and do whatever you want.

I have so many influences so I’ve never been able to decide on what type of electronic music I generally enjoy that I want to play. Maybe I’m just being a little egotistic and I just want to do it all and have it all.

I think that is very much a Norwegian thing, DJs tend to dig deeper and from a more diverse palette than anything I’ve experienced before elsewhere.

Definitely, and also just from hearing the different sets from different people like Charlotte Bendiks, who is also my mentor for the Clouds Exit program. So many of these people would show us the diversity within the electronic music genre.

 

The Clouds exit program is very much in the tradition of Tromsø and elevating its own. Built on a “close-knit” clubbing community where it is like “having a huge house party with our friends every time you go to Circa” according to Ra-Shidi. There’s a very DIY community-based tradition in clubbing culture there, based on the idea of dugnadsånden; the communal spirit of coming together to achieve something without the need for compensation.

The thing in itself is its own reward and in that spirit the clubbing community also come together.” We know we’ve got to do things ourselves,” explains Ra-Shidi. People and club concepts like Houseboden for example exist because of this DIY infrastructure and that’s why “if you’re out clubbing in Tromsø, you see a lot of people have a certain ownership to the night” according to Ra-Shidi, “because they’ve made it happen themselves.”

The idea of dugnadsånden is also how Ra-Shidi had her start as a DJ. “I just went up to the manager at Circa and asked if I could play there, and he just said, ‘yeah sure’.” Unfortunately, Circa is coming to an end in two months, and Ra-Shidi is hoping Storgata Camping will carry the beacon for the clubbing community, with more reserved bookings but with a bigger impact to attract the larger audience to fill the dance floor.

In Tromsø, club concepts like Houseboden have started to bring in more international acts and it seems that there’s certainly more of this on the horizon as this generation of club enthusiasts takes it in their own hands. There’s a lot of pride in the the “history of Norwegian Techno and House started in Tromsø” says Ra-Shidi even with this new generation and “especially after Northern Disco lights came out.”

That’s interesting, did that make an impact even in Tromsø?

It reached out to a broader audience in the city. I think a lot of people also started listening to the older tracks and started checking out things like Beatservice records who had the Prima Norsk series. It kind of opened their eyes to Norwegian producers I guess. As for the environment in itself that didn’t change much.

In an email exchange earlier you explained that you’re moving towards production, and especially considering your background as a musician, I imagine this is something that you would like to explore. So what’s happening with respects to making music?

So far, not much. I only started playing 18 months ago. It’s gone really fast, and it didn’t really give me a chance to think about what was going to be my next step. I’ve had a lot of good conversation with Charlotte when I asked her to be my official mentor and she said; “just start playing around with and get familiar with it.” So far I’m just playing around, getting familiar with it. I don’t have any goal like putting out an EP in the next few years. I feel like something, but it’s  really hard for me to translate it in a software.

For the moment Ra-shidi is happy biding her time as a DJ, but she will almost definitely add producer in the near future to her credentials. She’s a rising star, not only in Tromsø, but in the rest of Norway too, and one to certainly look out for in the future.

House music stole my heart with Da Capo

South Africa is a House nation. For as long as House music has been around,  the southern African nation, has adopted the genre in its own unique sonic aesthetic and contributed its fair share to the further development of House music through artists like Black Coffee and Culoe de Song.

Nicodimas Sekheta Mogashoa (aka Da Capo) is the next in a long line of DJs and producers to take the sounds of House and present them in a very unique afro-centric dialect, incorporating elements from regional musical flavours like Kwaito in their sounds.

Originally from Polokwane, a city a stone’s throw away from the epicentre of House music, Johannesburg, Da Capo’s career starts in the bedroom as a self-taught producer. While Hip Hop lured a young Mogashoa over to computer music, it would through House music that he would make his mark in music. He had found an early affinity for the genre, and combining it with the rhythms of regional sounds with a deep soulful vision.

Under the sage guidance of Black Coffee and Canadian House veteran and DNH Records proprietor Nick Holder, Da Capo developed his own sonic signature in the genre. Holder provided the platform for his first record, Deeper Side, on the back of which he and long-time collaborator Punk Mbedzi launched two very successful careers and the label, Surreal Sounds.

From those first bass-heavy dub House tracks like Deep Side to the more organic sounds of his Ki Lo Fe, Da Capo’s sound is diverse and he is able to adapt to a wide range of styles. An adept remixer his remixes like Freshly Ground’s Nomthandazo, had won him many plaudits early on his career, and he caught the ear of established House artists like Louie Vega, who became early fans of his prodigious music talent.

In 2014 he released his debut LP, collaborating yet again with Punk for a compilation of tracks featuring the two label partners and mixed by Dj Swizz. Shortly after Da Capo signed to Black Coffee’s label, Soulistic music, following in the shadow of his idol to carve out his own unique imprint on the parchment of South African House music history.

We caught up with Mogashoa before his visit at Jæger as part of the Oslo World music festival.

Hello Da Capo and thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I’m curious about where your interest in House music started. Can you tell us a bit about earliest House memories and what got you started on the path of a career as a House music DJ and producer?

It all started on a high school trip where one of my friends was requested to play a mix on the bus and I heard this song Franky Boisy & Kwame – Everybody wants to rule the world. It blew my mind away that’s where I started collecting mp3s and house compilations, I was more of a hip hop producer fan and producer, but then since… well I didn’t see my vision as a rapper or producer, I fell in love with house then I started producing it. It literally stole my heart.

I know that Khasi Mp3 and the taxis were influential in bringing House music to the mainstream in South Africa, but where were you getting your music from and where did you go to listen and eventually play House music?

I grew up in that society where taxis played a huge role but I wasn’t inspired by that, my inspiration comes from a couple of friends I used to study with at high school who would talk about exclusive deep house music everyday on free periods and we would share music on Bluetooth. I wasn’t really much of a party goer because I was young at the time, I only enjoyed my space by making music alone in my room until there came a point where I had to deejay which came after years later.

You grew up in Polokwane which is quite a small town in SA standards. How do you think that affected your music as opposed to the people coming through in a bigger city like Johannesburg?

I lived in an era where the internet was very useful, so for music to reach the masses it wasn’t much of a struggle, I had fans and played in Polokwane already before I played in Johannesburg but the market is more bigger in Johannesburg because it’s the centre of all cities, for every artist to sustain their career it is the city to be.

Do you still live in Polokwane and what’s the music like coming out of that region at the moment?

I actually moved to Johannesburg haha. I think a lot of us moved there because that’s where the demand and opportunity is. And the music is quite different in Polokwane because there are new artists that have emerged and which have a different sound to what we have been making years back.

From what I’ve read about you, Black Coffee had an instrumental role in your musical education. How did you meet him and how did he help and influence you in the beginning?

Black Coffee played a huge role in a lot of upcoming musicians including me, his music had a whole dynamic shift in the Afro scene. I was inspired by the sounds to polish my production. We officially met at a gig years earlier before I joined his stable Soulistic music and from there we started sharing ideas in terms of production and deejaying as well.

 

I know Nick Holder has also played a fundamental part in your career. What were the origins of that relationship and how did he help motivate your career further?

Nick Holder is the first ever artist to recognize Da Capo, we met on social media at that time he requested we send him my music. He only heard my music the day we sent it to him then 3 days later he released my EP under his label dnh music, he pushed my music to the international market and the local market too, that’s were people recognized my artistry.

Your music has this obvious connection to South Africa, and I specifically pick up rhythms from Kwaito in a track like Kelaya. But there’s also this European and US influences ebbing through it. How much did music from outside of SA influence you?

House music that dominated in the times when I feel in love with it was international house music. It was on every compilation and to this day I recommend some of the selections as classic music, it totally played a huge role in my music career.

I grew up in South Africa and I often go back, and I’m always surprised how little people value music from the country. The DJs I know there can’t really play stuff from home. What’s your experience with playing homegrown music there?

In my experience I think they do value music from here, it’s just that there’s a variety of markets, different sub genre and people tend to like different type of music and each of them have different followers and they all appreciated it.

I was watching your Ibiza HQ mix and there you’re able to play that kind of thing. I find European audiences are more open to that sound. Do you adapt your set playing in Europe as opposed to South Africa?

To be honest it’s very hard to adapt. Europe, it’s a very open market and SA is not so open, but you have to have followers and places that admire your craft, that’s when you can jam to whatever you like.

What are some of your favourite places to play back home?

Kitcheners bar (Braamfontein), Republic of 94 (Braamfontein), 033 lifestyle (Pietermaritzburg), Black coffee Block Party ( Newtown), Spring fiesta (Boksburg).

You‘re also part of the label, Surreal Sounds with Katlego Swizz. Can you tell us a bit more about the origins of the label and some of the ideas behind it?

Surreal sounds was a label formally formed by myself and Punk Mbedzi then we included acts such as Katlego Swizz to run management and at a later stage we decided to do a joint venture with Soul Candi records, until there came a point we parted ways and we all ventured in new careers and visions.

 

Is there anything on the Da Capo music front that you’re eager to share with us?

I’m currently working on the Indigo Child part 2 and unleashing a beast within Da Capo which is Aqautone dropping an EP early 2019.

 

If you build it they will come – DELLA interviews Homero Espinosa

The last time DELLA and Homero Espinosa got together, it was on the House scorcher “Burning Hot”. On the track a syncopated beat skips over a low-slung bass hook like it’s a bed of hot coals, perfectly poised for the dance floor where DELLA’s salacious vocal pulses through the arrangement. An upbeat key arrangement skims just above the surface, before floating off into the distance on some euphoric trajectory, looking back with a reverend nod to the deeper elements at its core.

Released in early 2018, Burning Hot was the first time DELLA and Homero Espinosa worked together, but their West Coast connection and deep appreciation and respect for the origins of House music forged a track out of the foundation of House music that went on to climb the Traxsource charts.

Homero Espinosa’s story begins at the height of House music on the West Coast, San Francisco to be precise. Like DELLA, his education starts on the other side of the booth, on the dance floor during the emergence of the budding warehouse rave scene in the Bay Area. From the dance floor to the booth he cut his teeth at ground zero during the nineties, taking up DJing and eventually production as he evolved with the scene.

Together with Chris Lum, David Harness, Ivan Ruiz, Cubase Dan, Allen Craig and Sergio Ferdanz, Espinosa established the label Moulton Music with a close-knit community at its core, picking up releases from local peers like Fred Everything and Mark Farina. It’s the label that brings most of Espinosa’s own music to the world and together with his music on labels like Strictly Rhythm it established a career as one of the most respected producers and DJs in the Bay Area.

If he’s not working on his own music or running Moulton Music, he’s collaborating with the likes of Mark Farina or Allen Craig as Yerba Buena Discos. He’s found an audience in Europe too with tracks on mixes for Fabric and Ministry of sound mix compilations, and now makes regular trips to the continent, bringing a little history of West Coast House music with him wherever he goes.

On his next visit to Europe for ADE, DELLA’s Drivhus added Oslo as another stop on the itinerary. But before the pair would be reunited again, this time in the DJ booth, DELLA sent Espinosa an email to find out a little more about his music and career and it went:

“Hi Homero, I am super stoked that you will be joining me soon behind the decks in our little gem of a club, Jæger. Like I mentioned earlier in my mail, I do an interview between myself and my guests for our Jæger blog. I am looking forward to now learning more about you musically. ;)”

Homero Espinosa obliged and somewhere over the pacific on his way to Amsterdam, he responded in kind with details about the origins of his career in music, Moulton Music and a little taste of what his set might sound like at Jæger this weekend.

Della: I am beyond excited to be joining you behind the decks at the next Della’s Drivhus. You have been both a great inspiration and support for me as an artist, would you mind to tell us now a little bit about your journey? When and how did you start getting involved in House music? Who is Homero Espinosa as an artist?

Homero Espinosa: Hi DellaFirst off, I’m super excited to come out and play some music with you and thank you for making it happen . I was very fortunate to be part of the late 90’s rave scene in San Francisco. I grew up listening to DJs like Mark Farina, DJ Sneak, David Harness, and Doc Martin to name a few. After a couple of years of going to raves I was inspired to pick up a set of decks and learn the craft. We were pretty spoiled back in the day with all the amazing records stores, from Primal Records in Berkeley (my second home) to Tweekin Records in the City, I was surrounded by amazing artists, sharing their love of music with me. Shortly after, I started hosting my own events, small undergrounds, around the San Francisco Bay Area. I didn’t start getting into production until around 2006 and one of the very first songs I wrote, Can You Feel Me?, Mark Farina licensed for his Ministry of Sound Sessions mix comp. It was off to the races from there!

 

Homero Espinosa

D: You are based in the Bay Area, California (San Francisco / Oakland), this area is known for its own unique influence and sound in House music. Can you give us a short history lesson on the legendary San Francisco House scene and why the Bay Area has emerged such deep/soulful vibes in dance music and continues to do so?

HE: As I mentioned earlier, the San Francisco rave was MASSIVE in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Every weekend there was at least one, sometimes, 2, or 3 huge raves with over 20k in attendance and all the clubs were packed to the gills. We had the European influence with such crews as Wicked and also the roots of the San Francisco LBTQ communities with disco and soulful house with David Harness. Mark Farina also had his weekly event, Mushroom Jazz, which was all down-tempo instrumental hip-hop and jazz. So much amazing music every night of the week!

D: Not only are you a producer / DJ, you are the cofounder of Moulton Music. A label that sends each release to the top of the House charts and is one of the strongest players in House music today. How did becoming a label owner stem out of the seed of your House music experience? What do you find is the most rewarding, and what challenges you from running your own label? To those up-n-coming djs, would you advise starting a label to help gain success in their career?

HE: I have to give it up to Chris Lum. I was renting a studio at the legendary Moulton Studios compound in San Francisco. I became close friends with Chris and it was there that we decided to launch Moulton Music along with David Harness, Ivan Ruiz, Cubase Dan, Allen Craig and Sergio Ferdanz. I’m very lucky to be surrounded with such talented artists that give me so much amazing music to put out. For the up and coming artist and labels, consistency is the key. We release a record every 2 weeks and we’re usually 3 months out. I also made it a point to build connections with the people that sell our music. Traxsource has been instrumental in our success and that all started with me reaching out to the folks running the site and building a relationship. I know everyone who touches our music and I make it a point to know more about them. This business is all about relationships.

D: Is this going to be your 1st time playing in Oslo? What do you recognize as differences from the US House scene vs. Europe?

HE: Yes, I am looking forward to it! The US scene has more soul because of our culture and the connection to rhythm and blues and is reflected in what the audience wants to hear. Every time I play in Europe I have to play a little harder, a little faster, but I still stay true to my roots.

D: You and I had the opportunity to work together in the Moulton studios last year (what a brilliant experience it was!) and you have collaborated with many talented artists, including house legends such as Mark Farina. As a producer and label owner, what motivates you to collaborate with different artists? And/or how do you select producers/remixers for the label? Is there a logistical method you use or is it all straight from the heart?

HE: The Moulton vibe is all chill and no drama and we tend to gravitate to towards artist who are the same. Of course, you have to make dope ass music, but leave the drama at home!

D: Your experience in House music runs deep back to the good ’Old School’ days of the 90’s rave scene. In 2018, it seems everyone is a DJ and the competition is thick, what do you think gives a DJ their longevity? What advice can you give those who are just starting out?

HE: I sometimes hear artists complain about the politics of the scene and yes, it can be challenging, but how I got around that was doing my own thing. I didn’t rely on people booking me for gigs. I made my own gigs, at the beginning it was hard to get folks to go out, but over time people started coming. When you look at all the big DJs, they all have their own nights and that’s how they build their following. Dirtybird is a perfect example, those cats started out throwing free parties in a park in San Francisco and look at them now. If you build it, they will come….

D: Moulton Music has released major players such as Tony Humphries, Mark Farina, Mr. V., Fred Everything, Luke Solomon, Doc Martin, and Dj Spen. Can I ask, what other artist that inspire would you want to welcome to the Moulton family? And please tell us about Moulton’s upcoming releases and your plans for 2019.

HE: Everyone on the label has a personal connection with one of the core artist on the label. David Harness and Chris Lum brought us DJ Spen, Tony Humphries, and Mr. V. DJ spen remixed the very first Moulton release. ‘Big Tool –DJ Spen Jungle Boogie mix.’ Fred Everything had a suite at Moulton Studios and he would always give me tips for mixing when I was starting out. He was one of the early remixers we hired and his remix was what put us on the map, ‘Love Say (Fred Everything Remix).’

2019 we’re really going to continue doing what we do on the label and have some special albums to announce at the beginning of the year. We’ve also started hosting our own Moulton Music events and they have been a lot of fun. We’re going to package that up and take on the road.

D: I have been inside your DJ room with wall to wall vinyl, your library holds tracks that are the definition of the House movement (it’s a soul thing). Can you please give us a selection of 3 tracks that might even school the deepest of Househeads?

HE: I can actually give you more than 3. I just did this interview for Beatport called Monitor where they ask artist to put together the sounds that make up the sounds of their city.

D: Thanks Homero for taking the time to chat with us. This edition of Della’s Drivhus is surely going to be ’Burnin, burnin HOT!’ I can’t wait! – DELLA

 

From the Soul with Mono Junk

Google, Imatra Finland. The screen projects a mural of picturesque views, snow-capped furs, bavarian-style castles, billowing rivers in autumn and scenic forest landscapes. Like something from a Grimm Brothers fairy tale, there’s something incredibly surreal and yet completely tangible about the Finnish hamlet from the computer screen. It’s the kind of place you’d associate with acoustic music about ancient folklore while rosy cheeked women step through ritual dances in unflattering bulky dresses. It’s not the place you’d associate with Techno, but one particular individual in Imatra’s small 30 000 population has changed that forever. Kimmo Rapatti (Mono Junk, Melody Boy 2000) is from Imatra.

He’s recently made the move back to the town where he was born and raised after a short stint in Berlin and twenty years in the Finnish city of Turku. “You get real winters in Imatra”, he says during a moment of silence during soundcheck at Kafe Hærverk where he is due to play live later that evening. He talks of Imatra and its relative size, the surrounding forest and natural splendour of the region in a matter-of-fact tone. “Do you find inspiration in your surroundings?“ I ask him when we sit down for an interview after the soundcheck. “Yeah, you could say that,” he says like the thought had only just occurred to him and then falls back into a contemplative silence.

Kimmo’s fifty years has only accentuated and honed his pragmatic Finnish demeanour. He talks in austere, succinct sentences between gulps of beer and often falls into a quiet thoughtful daze like he’s trying to conjure a particular memory, but comes up short. Whenever he returns to the questions, he answers in monosyllabic, short bursts, constructed in sentences from some metaphysical process and delivered in his heavy accent.

Kimmo has been making music as Mono Junk since the ninety nineties. In 1990 he released his first record, and two years later he established Dum records with the same solitary attitude to making music. He’s been an enduring figure, not only in Finland, but everywhere in the furtive margins of Techno and Electro for the past thirty years and has continually staked his claim throughout his career. A very reserved output, mostly on Dum records, Mono Junk’s music, much like the man behind the music, make succinct impressions on record collections, with a singular musical voice that has remained largely unchanged. With a penchant for melodic themes and robotic precision, Mono Junk’s music continues to make intense imprints on the electronic music landscape for labels like Forbidden Planet and Skudge.

Kimmo’s journey on this path begins back in Imatra, in the ninety eighties. He had “been a fan” of synth pop from a young age, citing groups like “Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode and Howard Jones” as early luminaries, but he never thought for a moment “there was anything special in that (style) of music”. There had been no early inclination or sign that Kimmo would eventually turn to a career in music, but that all changed during the second summer of love in the late ninety eighties when the UK Rave scene bursts forth and electronic dance music from Chicago and Detroit found its way into the rest of Europe, even to small hamlets on the southeast of Finland.

There were a “small group of guys who started to make Techno, influenced of Chicago and Detroit Techno” in Imatra according to Kimmo. In an interview with Digital Tsunami, he distinctly remembers “that I heard Rhythim Is Rhythim’s Nude Photo and Phuture’s Acid tracks when they were brand new”  through a local DJ acquaintance. Although the UK Rave scene had made its presence felt in Finland as soon as it arrived and the music from Chicago and Detroit had already started proliferating the airwaves, there was one significant issue with Imatra; There was no place to hear the music. Warehouse party culture had taken up in parts of Finland, but they were still 400km away, and although there were “a few DJ gigs at local bars” available to a burgeoning DJ like Kimmo, “you couldn’t really play underground stuff.”

In 1990 Kimmo made the move to Helsinki. It was in the Finnish capital that he “got to know Finnish scratch DJ” and “DMC scratch champion, DJ Kari Kaivola” and the two struck up a friendship. Kimmo and Kari hat met at a DMC scratch championship in 1989, and when he moved to Helsinki the older and more established Kari took Kimmo under his wing, giving him access to his studio, to start making his own records.

“I didn’t know anything” Kimmo says with the advantage of hindsight. It was inconsequential however, because it was the “time of sampling” and armed with handful of records he made his first bold steps into production with Kari. “Maybe we can make something out of this”, he remembers telling Kari as he handed over the records and by 1990 Kimmo had made his first record as B-Rock. “My Mind is goin’” was released on Kari’s Dancebeat Records and it was a collage of off-beat samples, synth lines and a repetitive vocal hook brought together in an unmistakably Electro fashion. “I think I’m both the Electro and Techno godfather of Finland”, says Kimmo with a gratifying smile.

Considering this was most likely the first Electro record ever produced in Finland where acts like Morphology, Mesak and Freestyle Man continue to pursue this style of music today, there’s a lot of salient logic to this bold claim. It would be through Techno however where Kimmo Rapatti would etch his name in the annals of electronic music as Mono Junk. After releasing his first record in 1990, he got his first synthesiser, “a Roland JX 3P”, and started making what he considered his “own music” as Mono Junk shortly after. As Mono Junk he released his first record in 1992 and simultaneously established Dum Records as an offshoot of Kari Kaivola’s Dancebeat records.

The ninety nineties to many like Kimmo is still the pinnacle era of Techno, where it was first constructed as the obelisk in electronic music it was today. The genre was far less austere and functional during that period, with serene synthesisers assuaging the robotic rhythms of drum machines for hedonistic delights. Mono Junk’s music is probably the best European example of that time. Whether it’s “a generational thing” for Kimmo or just a result of the fact that he started making and listening to that music during that period, it still remains the best decade for Techno in his opinion. There were “so many good records in the nineties” he recalls today and he was responsible for a fair few of them. Tracks from Mono Junk’s discography during that period, reveal an unconformity in approach to electronic music and Techno that sounds like no other artist from that era and a fair few of them have become outright Techno classics.

Listening to “Another Acid” from 1993, a lysergic acid-loop plays like the sequential patter of rain drops on a zinc roof for 32 bars before any semblance of percussion presents itself. For his live show at Hærverk, he takes the essence of that track and channels it into an extemporised diatribe on the machine, completely doing away with the essential percussive arrangement on this occasion. The bass-line warbles on like an irrational computer stuck in time, before Kimmo eventually moves onto the next track in his live show. His music has remained fairly constant throughout his career, only developing in soundscape as technology evolved, but retaining the core essence of his musical identity that’s been there since the ninety nineties.

There’s always a sincere melodic essence to any Mono Junk track which you can trace from those first Dum records (even the Dancebeat record) to the present and records like his most Forbidden Planet releases. It stems from from being “a big fan of arpeggio”, he tells me. “Most of my melodies are out of some arpeggio.” This is the crucial ingredient to any Mono Junk track he insists, and he won’t even consider working further on a track if this “first part is not perfect.” For Kimmo every track “needs to have some melody, bass-line or some perfect loop” for him to proceed with the arrangement of it, and this has been a significant factor in why he favours a reserved output.

It’s only when he knows “it’s good” that he’ll even consider putting out a track. He keeps the best of these for his own label Dum Records and sends the rest to others for release. It’s perhaps part of the reason his music has always divided opinion. Mono Junk’s music is very secure in itself, hardly making concessions to outside influences and always standing very much on its own within the the Techno denomination. It’s very bold music for discernible tastes.

Throughout his career, Kimmo would often leave Mono Junk on the back burner while he pursued projects like Melody Boy 2000 and New York City Survivors with Irwin Berg, but even after a long hiatus he would always return to Mono Junk. There was a period in the last decade where he believed he would completely leave Techno behind according to his interview with Digital Tsunami, but that all changed in 2014 when he released new music via Forbidden Planet and the “passion” returned. FP004 and FP008 contain some of Mono Junk’s best works with tracks like “With You”, “Prince of the Night” and “Channel B RMX” dotted throughout those two releases. These records came just at the right time, when Techno had become straight jacketed into very restrictive, unforgiving moulds. Mono Junk showed there could still be some more accessible, soulful aspect to this music that lives beyond the dominating kick and brooding atmosphere.

Today Kimmo still “feels like I’m in the nineties and a little bit out of the scene, even though I have played in recent years,” but things like trend and scenes have never really affected Kimmo’s music. His music always seems to live beyond time and the only thing that ever keeps him motivated is: “I just wanted to make good records.” I ask Kimmo where he finds his inspiration and his voice, buried deep from somewhere beyond his diaphragm, says “from my soul.”

The impression I get from Kimmo through our brief conversation is that of an old soul. He was twenty two when he first started making music, an age that already “felt old” in a very youthful movement. Almost thirty years on from that moment he might have aged somewhat physically, but his music hasn’t. He still makes Techno and Electro with the same essential proclivity for music that transcends borders, scenes and trends that have outlasted the artists, producers and DJs that pivot around their surroundings. In his stubborn and arduous pursuit to make music from his soul with an apprehension for anything less than perfection he has established a lasting musical legacy that continues to make a significant impression on music.

 

*Special thanks to Kafé Hærverk and Jokke for facilitating this interview. 

A radical shift with Hugo LX

In recent years the name Hugo LX has been spoken in some reverational terms. Although the French producer and DJ – real name, Hugo Lascoux – had been making music for a long time under various aliases, he had found his niche in the world when he adopted the LX suffix and and channelled his musical experience into a House music project.

Although built on the foundation of House, it’s House with flavours of Jazz, Hip Hop and ambient music coalescing around the producer’s extensive musical experiences from Paris to Kyoto. Following a career that started when he was seventeen, collaborating with established figures like Large Professor or Diamond D, crafting jazz and funk infused grooves with a classic trademark SP1200 sound, Hugo took a sabbatical from music to work as an architect and moved to Japan by 2011 with a lifetime experience behind him.

It was there where he was inspired by the local music scene with Ambient, Jazz and eastern Hip Hop inspiring him to approach music again, this time as a solo artist, as Hugo LX. 2016 followed and it was a very productive year for the artist as he released four EPs and an album. He followed it up in  2017 with “Akegata”, an LP that installed him as a sincere and enduring artist with a special penchant for the long player format. Dense melodic vignettes float like oil on water, reflecting textures like rainbows that bounce over skipping beats.

There’s a serenity to his music as Hugo LX, smoothing over the polyrhythmic beats that bulge under the billowing surface of the synthesised and sampled textures. In 2018 Hugo LX found his way on Motor City Drum Ensemble MCDE records, introducing the French artist to entirely new audience. “Power”  from that release as it combines a strict four to the floor beat arrangement with brass horns and skittish extemporised melodies.

I sense a predilection for the dance floor on that track and release which Hugo dismisses as he reflects on it through an email exchange, before his upcoming appearance in our booth with Fredfades and Mutual Intentions. Through our Q&A session we find an amiable figure and a sincere music enthusiast with a beguiling personality. We talk radical musical shifts, eclectic musical influences and future works with Hugo LX. 

For most people your career is still in its infancy, but it actually goes back a while. Can you tell us a bit about your early music and how you moved over to Hugo LX?

It started with tapes! I used to tape everything I could; Saturday night radio shows, samples here and there, anything, really!

I still have boxes full of tapes in my storage room, I treasure them as it’s how I started. Then, I had the chance to be mentored a bit, by both DJ’s and Producers I would meet when going to the big city… I mean Paris. At the time I lived in a very remote town and access to music wasn’t so easy. Remember, it’s 2001, internet wasn’t that friendly yet!

It was not that easy to get records neither. So every time I could find a Pete Rock album, a Theo Parrish single, a MAW remix – Any piece of wax, CD, Cassette – It was a real joy. I was twelve or thirteen, filled with excitement for all that great music. That era, this excitement, that’s what I’m currently trying to retrieve and reflect through my upcoming album.And when I look back at it, it’s a dream came true, and a real blessing thaI i’m now meeting, sharing decks or even collaborating with some of the greats that I was listening to back then.

It was Jazz and Hip Hop in which you made your mark as a producer (even though you’d been listening to House music from a young age). When and how did House music make its way back  into your music?

I actually started producing house and hip hop at the same time, it would make no difference to me. It still doesn’t, I approach them with the same energy. I just focused on the hiphop side of it, as the early to mid 2000s were really inspiring, the indy labels, all these producers, our favorite MC’s touring heavily in Europe at that time.

Here, House music was turning into something I didn’t really feel, either too minimal or cheesy. Fortunately American producers held down the fort and never ceased producing gems. But in Europe, the art started fading a bit, then a lot. Then, around 2012 or 2013, while I was still mostly in Japan, I started hanging out again in those house parties.

I remembered one especially; DJ Spinna was playing at Air in Tokyo, and the music he was playing that night was exactly where I wanted to go, soundwise. A blend of electronic, dance, hiphop. That energy was something else! We spent a week there, searching for records and talking like music nerds, that definitely sparked something that would materialise a year or two after.And it’s funny, we finally ended up crafting some music together this year, it’s out soon.

I also have to credit local hero and house master Nick V for constantly pushing me to return to my house and broken beat roots. Salute to you uncle Nick!

You obviously channel a lot of Jazz and Hip Hop in your production. How does that usually happen?

It’s definitely a production thing. I grew up with this hip hop and jazz polyrhythmic patterns. It just stuck. And huge part of my collection is actually jazz and brazilian music. I always wanted to replicate those soundscapes a bit, paste them into some dance music.

Genres are just about separating groups of people, and records on shop shelves! Also, I could say that many of my favorite producers such as Spinna, Ge-Ology, Waajeed, Karizma, King Britt. They would incorporate this hiphop feeling, that swing, into their dance productions. As I definitely studied them, I sure felt inspired!

 

You’re not the first French producer that we’ve heard doing similar things. Is there something to the scene in France that particularly inspires this in your opinion?

I can’t really answer that as i hardly belong to that scene, my timing was different. When house started being trendy again here, I just wasn’t here. And when I was, my energy was focused on producing ambient stuff. Also, I’d like to mention I grew up being surrounded by elders. I would definitely identify with someone like Dj Deep, who’s 20 years my elder. I would see him and many other stars at the fantastic and now defunct 12inch shop circa 2002/2003. I would just stay there all afternoon and observe.

Cats today grew up in a different time span. We are the same age, but they might have a different process, different tools, different energy, and probably different visions of music. It just took me a long time to adapt, but I ended up meeting brilliant guys like Theo from La Mamie’s crew, Seiji Ono, Midori who owns the great Menace label. We connected through the energy of music, and similar sensibilities.

You’ve also lived in Japan where I’ve learnt that you were influenced by the Jazz and ambient music there. What was it about the Jazz there that you liked?

I spent quite some time there. Still do when I get time. I was privileged to land in the Kansai area, in Kyoto precisely. There was a tremendous ambient/electronica scene there, Rei Harakami (RIP), Chihei Hatakeyama, Susumu Yokota, many others every weekend performing at Urbanguild. I also digged crates, basements and thrift shops heavily there. Found a lot of gems, nobody was interested in at the time, and now it’s a big trendy market.

Japanese Jazz had a bunch of great innovators, Hino, Otsuka, Kikuchi. The whole urban soul/city pop too. That influenced my production and sense of texture. My deejaying too. Dj’s were playing jazz like we do house or techno. That was mind blowing. Production was on another level, many of my friends were crafting wonders, and also, J-Hiphop was prominent!

So I would go to clubs to listen Muro, DJ Jin, DJ Nori or the Okino Brothers grace the decks. That changed my life, really.

It’s said that you made a “radical shift” in your production style at that time. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

I found more freedom to be myself through music. The first year of your career, you are most often a copycat. Japan offered me a different take on music and on life too!

2016 was a big year for you. You released an album and 4 EPs in that same year. What happened during that year to encourage this flurry of releases?

I nearly stopped music in 2013 because my then project was shelved. I encountered a lot of huge disappointments and downfalls. With labels, fellow musicians, with myself maybe too! Music can isolate, truly, especially when demos get rejected and phone doesn’t ring anymore! I felt behind the wave of what was happening.

So I re-started it all. Opened a new folder and called it “LX Tracks”. Produced at least one track per day since. All that material finally started fleeing out of its container, naturally, hence the bunch of release in 2016.

I have to appreciate many great people came to give encouragement, support, and sometimes even offered deals. That’s how I connected Chez Damier, Patrice Scott, Kai Alce, and so many of those Djs I was, and still am a fan of. So maybe, I might still be behind the wave but at least  I now enjoy what I do, tenfold!

You followed it up in 2017 with Akegata, another LP and I’ve read reviews and pieces that really admire your skill when it comes to longer format. Between LPs and EPs how do you approach those differently and do you feel more adept at one over the other?

I approach singles or EPs the same way. It’s all storytelling, in various lengths and formats. But I might still write a narrative and craft interludes for a three track EP! As for Akegata, it was a five year process, I’m usually quick to produce but this one took forever to complete.

 

Your  MCDE records release, Desiderata is one of the most talked about releases of this year. How did that one came together and how is it that it found itself on that label?

Don’t know how it resonated through people yet, but I’m happy Ii made it. I was a bit frustrated not releasing any new works in 2017. We had some material ready since the previous year, but the label was idle and we finally scrapped the original EP, entirely! I still have these tracks though, might get them out one day. It was great to do it anyway, was happy to work with Danilo and Pablo, they are fine music connoisseurs!

Listening to the track Power, with that steady kick, it sounds like perhaps that this record is a bit more focussed on the dance floor than your previous EPs. Did you change your approach a little for Desiderata and how much influence did the label have on the way it sounded in the end?

Funny you say this, I thought that EP was more of listening piece, but I’m happy people play it here and there! I produced some that music using parts from very old sessions and trying to get them working together. Phone Games was a slow hip hop beat at first for instance. Power was a jam I did in a vocal room in London, messing with percussions and kalimbas. I have clear visions, but I don’t like to overthink music, though

There’s also some very esoteric Jazz samples on that track. How much does records and sampling play a role in your music?

It’s actually some live horn playing by Kansas City very own, Hermon Mehari.
But yes samples… It is a huge part of my world. Tape machines, and then samplers, are the first instruments I’ve learned. It is my stomping ground, and it renders a texture you just can’t duplicate in any other ways!

What do you usually look for in a record when you’re digging for a sample?

Warms vibes, strong or soothing energy, tight productions… sometimes all at once!

 

Is it the same when you’re looking for music to play in a DJ set, especially a club set like the one coming up at Jæger?

Totally, I try to get every sound colours altogether. There’s so much to play. As a DJ, I only adjust nuances!

I’ve been listening to your Worldwide FM mix, which is a radio mix, and most likely very different from the type of thing you’ll be doing in our booth. How would you describe your DJ sets in three words to bring this Q&A session to an end?

Open, Colourful, Spiritual (hopefully!)

Premiere: Ivaylo – Trendy Jose (JT Donaldson Remix)

An exclusive listen to JT Donaldson’s Remix of Trendy Jose for Ivaylo’s upcoming America EP.

Bogota Records boss, Ivaylo returns to his own imprint after moonlighting on Cassy’s Kwench and Cymawax. America comes between a series of new releases with the Bulgarian/Norwegian producer, who is currently riding a new wave of creativity. It’s been a very productive year for the producer in the studio and it coincides with some changes in the way he approaches music. “The fundamental change would be the whole way how I structure a track now,” he told us via email, “evolving with strong focus on percussions and bass.”

When Ivaylo is not in the booth, he is escorting Jæger’s guest DJs around and with a birds-eye view of the dance floor every weekend, he’s adapted his music for the a  “new generation of people” who have grown up with this music. “For me all together (music, people, feelings, lifestyle even politics) is a stream of growing and changeable feelings, flow – you simply have to follow, be a part of it.”

The deepness, he’s always talked about continues to ebb through Ivaylo’s productions and it’s still an integral  part of this latest America release, but it follows a natural evolution in his work where Ivaylo has found a particular space “between sounds” on these recent pieces. “It gives me the freedom and creativity of involving more energy in my productions, in the form of percussive dynamic (programming drums) and still be able to combine my love for deepness.”

America comes with some tongue in cheek commentary on the state of American politics as two tracks “Jack’s Confusion” and “Trendy Jose” offer two views from either side of the… wall. “Jose is a Mexican and he likes it trendy”, says Ivaylo while “Jack is the American (obviously confused, nowadays)” in a very abstract summation of the “American” continent. Ivaylo left Jack untouched, but offered “Trendy Jose” to JT Donaldson for the remix treatment, with the Texan delivering”a warm and charming” deep dance floor cut for the EP that we’re streaming exclusively today.

Ivaylo and Donaldson share a long history with each other. The pair met “in the club” when the American DJ came over for a set to Bulgaria and a club called COMICS where Ivaylo was a resident and programmer. “JT was one of the first guys we brought from US, as well as one of the people who most touched Bulgarian clubbers and music lovers.” They’ve remained friends since, with long conversations abut their shared passion and together with Johnny Fiasco, JT Donaldson has been an ardent supporter of the Bogota Records label from the start. “The rest is history,” says Ivaylo and America is the latest chapter in that history.

America is out tomorrow via all major outlets on vinyl and on the 9th of November on digital formats. It’s one in a “bunch” of releases coming out soon that has seen Ivaylo working in the studio “full-time” this past year. “Some on a Norwegian label and a few for others,” he mentions without going into much detail. You can read an in-depth interview with Ivaylo here and we’ll continue to keep you posted on these future releases.

Mr. G – The story of a sound man

In 2012 Mr. G had become the darling of the House scene and quite by accident. Although the DJ and producer had been working within House music and Techno since the mid-eighties in 2012 it was like the world sat up and listened for the first time.

It was around the start of Boiler Room and he was one of the show’s first guests. “I’m really old fashioned, so I run everything past my missus” recalls Colin McBean (Mr G) in a n interview with Skiddle. “Benji B asked me to come down and play, and I had no idea what it was.” Colin played a live set, which unbeknownst to him was being broadcast live over the internet. “I missed the concept completely, until I saw this computer screen two, three hours later, and they told me it was all the people logged in.”

By the end of the hour-long show, the name Mr. G  had been imprinted on the minds of a whole new generation of dancers and music enthusiasts thanks to the streaming platform. It was a “life changing” experience for the veteran, and soon afterwards he released a “Retrospective” via REKIDS, consolidating a career of thirty years for this next generation of club-goer. As well as introducing them to the idiosyncratic sound of Mr. G it also provided the launch pad for the next phase of what had already been an illustrious and passionate career up to that point.

Colin McBean’s life had been intertwined with music from a young age. Born to Jamaican parents in the UK Midlands, his earliest memories of music are of his dad’s collection of tapes, recorded from old gramophone recordings. He remembers “Studio One, reggae and all sorts of bits” from those tapes in an interview with Hyponik. From there he would start to amass his own collection, starting with pieces like Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Clair’.

“I ended up on this road that whenever I had money, I’d go and buy records, or if my folks took me back to Jamaica to see family, I’d go to Kingston and stand at the back of some record shop and buy 7″s.” Later he would realise he had a particular penchant for the sound of “analogue bass” in his buying habits. “Whether it’s Burning Spear, Bob Marley, Studio One, or King Tubby, that bass and analog is in our heritage,” he told XLR8R.

While coming of age in Derby, Colin got a job working in a record store in his hometown to furnish and indulge the habit. Regular trips to London to the Record and Tape exchange  encouraged the young Colin further and digging became second nature to him. “I’d spend the whole day in there searching out George Duke, Father’s Children, 24 Carat Black, all for fifty pence. We’d go there with twenty quid and come back with bags and bags of records.”

There was another aspect of Colin’s early musical development that would play a significant role too and something that, like the analogue bass, relates to his Jamaican heritage. Regular trips to Jamaica and the “really robust Jamaican community in Derby” embedded sound-system culture in a young impressionable Colin McBean. “I’ve been going to the island since I was about eight”, McBean told XLR8R. “When I go to where my parents are from, every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday there’s a sound system.”

It clearly had an early impact on young Colin, and around the same time he started buying and collecting records, he had begun to nurture this side of his musical personality too. At an age when he was barely as tall as a speaker in your average sound system, Colin was carting them around as a box boy, a type of volunteer junior apprentice for sound systems. “It was a case of if you behave yourself, you can sit round the back, watch what’s going on and look after the system”, Colin told Hyponik. Taking what he learnt from his predecessors he too would dabble in sound systems, building his own “little system” in his living room whenever his parents were out, laying a foundation in sound that would remain with Colin his entire life. “Then as time went on it got to the point where it was my turn to have a go.”

Sound System, records and his Jamaican heritage had laid out the foundation for a nascent career as DJ and producer for Colin McBean, but it wasn’t a career that a small town like Derby could ever realistically accommodate. Although by that age he had been making regular train trips to London, he would always have to come back to Derby and play for a scene that wasn’t exactly nurturing the digger in him. “Because you can’t play your amazing rare disco gem to your local people,” he told XLR8R. “They’re not ready for that.”

A move to London beckoned and by the early eighties Colin had established himself in Kentish Town close to where Keith Franklin (Bang The Party) had a community-based studio. Colin and Keith met and connected instantly over a shared “passion” for much of the same music. The encounter came at time when Colin came to the realisation that: “I like records, maybe I should see if I can make something.” Keith and Colin decided that they would make music together and the pair roped in Cisco Ferreira and formed KCC (as in Keith, Cisco and Colin).  

KCC released their first single, “State of Mind” via Hi Note, a rough trade subsidiary in 1990. A monosyllabic synthesised organ looms over an excessive percussive workout on the title track, executed with the youthful exuberance of early acid House. Various 303 phrases lick the surface  of the track while a vocal sample preaches about a new state of mind lifted from the liturgy of the burgeoning UK rave scene from the time. The sound is indicative of its time, but there was something about KCC that set them apart from the peers early on.

While most were playing established clubs or congregating on the fringes of London’s M25 as the first strands of Rave culture streaked forth into the UK, KCC recontextualised it all through the world of sound system culture. Keith had been adamant that KCC will play carnival right from the outset and to that end they eventually teamed up with the Rocking Crew sound system. It was another one of those “life changing” moments for Colin according to Hyponik. “We went in there not knowing what to expect, and by halfway into the second day police were begging us to stop, every single crossroad was blocked. We were playing house, soul, funk, disco all on this reggae system, it was momentous.”

From there they set up Melange club as a permanent installation of that Carnival experience, with regular guests like LTJ Bukem, Richie Hawtin, Derrick May, and  Kevin Saunderson coming over to play for a meager £30 – £50 to make history together. “I remember Derrick or Kevin left their records in the club, which I still have,” says Colin.

Eventually KCC disbanded with Keith Franklin bearing the torch as a solo artist while Colin and Cisco Ferreira went on to establish the Advent. The Advent saw Colin and Cisco abandon the stilted sounds of Acid House to pursue the more primal sounds of Techno and Electro with a determined fervour. They would come back to House later however as G.Flame and Mr.G but throughout the mid- to late nineties, The Advent found Colin and Cisco in the grips of a sonic assault with fast -paced percussion and Herculean industrial textures distinguishing their sound.

In the late nineties Colin left Cisco Ferreira to pursue the Advent alone, while he went on to establish his own solo career. The pair didn’t part on the best of terms according to his hyponik interview, “(b)ut everything happens for a reason and me going back and grabbing that MPC was the result of not wanting to leave without something.” He spent the next two years then learning the intricacies and pitfalls of the MPC (drum machine) and then everything changed in yet another life-affirming moment; when he got his first remix assignment  for Virgin and brought Mr. G into the world.

Armed with little more than MPC, he’s able to channel all the various aspects of his musical life experience through Mr.G. Built on the foundations of House, but with disparate influences informing the music, Mr. G has over 60 EPs and 6 albums to his name today.

Using is label Phoenix G as his exclusive vehicle for music, Colin releases everything he creates as Mr. G. ”I’m a music guy, I live to make music, and hear music”, he told XLR8R when asked about his excessive output. Making music is “a way of life” , coursing through his very being and a big part of that being is “a sound man” he told Red Bull Music Academy. Colin distills everything from that sound system experience down into his music with records that were made for those kind of systems. “Everything I do sonically in the studio is not about radio or not even hi-fi. It’s about some big, bass-heavy system – it’ll talk to you.”

His music talks to you from some incredible hidden depth and you feel the entire history of the man pulse through records like a “Night on the town” and the more introspective, “Personal Momentz”. There’s always a concept or theme to his LPs, the result of being “a child from the seventies” and growing up with albums from that era. His singles are more in the moment, crafted and released in quick succession whenever he feels the creative urges at their most intense. Five pages on Discogs barely contain his output that can be found on labels like REKIDS, Bass Culture and Monique Musique, but mostly on his own imprint Phoenix G. It’s a prolific output for a veteran of the scene who is already in the third phase of his career.

He’s been playing live as Mr. G since the start of the project and with little more than an MPC and a mixer he’s astounded audiences all over the world. There’s always a deep-rooted investment in the musical cultures that constitutes him and it’s best experienced through a “big, bass-heavy” sound system. 

Today Colin McBean has an extensive and varied musical career behind him and it’s all born from the simplest of ideas:  “All I wanted was to make music and release records”, he once told Meoko. “It’s just steely determination. You have to believe in yourself – and trust me.”

 

*Mr.G plays Frædag invites Mr. G

A determined and singular vision with Reeko

Juan Rico (Reeko) is a determined figure with a singular vision. His musical output, born within a conceptual framework and pursued with agonizing precision, has been making a severe impression in the larger cannon of Techno for the last two decades.

Emerging as a DJ in 1997 and a producer in 2002 with his debut EP on Emergence records, Reeko has morphed into other titles like Architectural and Humano,established the formidable Techno imprint Mental Disorder, and helped set a benchmark for electronic music that has become the gold standard for DJs and producers working within the canon today.

Reeko’s sound grew out of themes of horror, darkness and psychology as elemental pigments he would pour over a stark, blank canvas and manipulate and shape it into the stoic mould of Techno. Where darkness prevails and melancholy clouds the firmament in a milky hue, Reeko’s music resides.

Percussive formations slogging out a hefty thump with a draconian discipline create an impenetrable and purposeful metre as if a straight jacket is trying to contain the thunderous baselines. Splintering at the edges of the martial rhythm are pieces of noise and untraceable reverberations that are unable to escape the dense gravity at the centre of Reeko’s music.

Reeko harnesses the power for the singular pursuit of the body and through countless EPs and three albums for esteemed labels like Avian, Pole Recordings, Planet Rhythm, and of course his own Mental Disorder he has established Reeko and his various aliases as a tour de force in Techno.

We caught up with the producer via email to find out more about his illustrious career and where it all started.

When did a career in electronic music manifest itself as a viable option for you and what led to your introduction to this particular style of music?

Since I was quite young I’ve been interested in electronic music, the art of mixing vinyls and everything around it. It was the eighties then and the music that reached me were megamixes and compilations of rather commercial electronic music, untill one day when I entered a vinyl music store in Oviedo, a small city in the North of Spain. This store specialized in techno and house and this is where I was acquainted with records like Energy Flash by Joey Beltram and similar things. From then on I started to mix vinyls, I was 14 years old more or less and my life started to evolve around mixing, making music, buying records…  that’s when I was sure I was going to work with this professionally in one way or another. It’s something you just know is going to happen, although you don’t know the details.

I know that Reeko is steeped in some conceptual framework built on aspects of horror, darkness and psychological themes, but can you tell us a little about the origins of the project that lead to your first record and a career as a DJ?

This is the whole concept which my label Mental Disorder is based on. The general project origins are from this epoch and also from earlier years when my brother and I fanatically watched horror movies. Certain films like ’The Texas chainsaw massacre (the one from 1974 obviously) then had a large impact on me. I saw this film when I was 17 and it hit me with such force that I knew then what would be the concept which inspired me most to develop my project.

How has the initial concept adapted and changed since that first emergence record?

Well, through the years you change of course, when you experience new things and it’s possible that the initial concept has diminished somewhat, mostly because  the sources of inspiration based on this theme become exhausted, but one does find new roads/ways that will also trigger my curiosity. Also the things you experience in real life are more intense so that you don’t have to resort to films or fiction as often as before.

Hard, dark and sinister are aptly used to describe your music, but how do these abstract themes affect your creative process?

That, of course, is a good question, to base your music on a concept is something that has always marveled me about many musicians and something I’ve always wanted to do with my music. This has both good and bad sides. From my point of view very conceptual music succeeds in getting a more loyal public. They follow you, they understand you, they identify with you.. etc and this is very gratifying, The downside of making very conceptual music is that besides reaching out to fewer people – since everybody does not want such an ’exclusive’ music – the moment arrives when you have to escape from this sound because if not your creativity could be seriously affected. Also it makes you slow down in the process since you only want to choose to edit very select things. But this is the price you have to pay according to my experience.

The textural layers beyond the kick and main melodic line are the aspects of your music that I find most intriguing and possibly the source of the sinister dimension to a Reeko production and it’s something that’s always been there. Who or what was an early influence that might have affected this dimension to your music?

When I seriously started to make music in the year 2000, I was very strongly influenced by the Birmingham sound, but something that undoubtedly characterised my music were the textures and the atmosphere that influenced me from watching so many horror movies. I’ve always loved the soundtracks and they have always had a great impact on my music.

With so much emphasis on  these elements today in Techno I find that it is becoming more trite and very often used as a gimmick. As an artist that has been doing this style of Techno long before it became popular, how do you avoid these associations?

I know what you are referring to, and yes, I have thought the same these last few years, but I still think that my last records are free from this. Now I’m looking for a sound that’s cruder, dryer and mordant (biting),.. not so round and atmospheric. At least in my project as Reeko. I think it’s a way of saying: Hey! We have to start abandoning this kind of sound  and find new roads. This kind of music is exhausted.

You’ve been releasing records consistently for the last 15 years as Reeko, what keeps you motivated and what are some of your current inspirations in music and beyond?

I still seek a lot of inspiration from films, obviously, and as we talked about earlier not always based on horror and madness but on themes that I have experienced and that awaken in me some kind of disquiet. The motivation is directly fed by inspiration, to find new roads, some work and some don’t, but they keep you alive and give you the urge to explore. We all know that electronic music has reached the top when it comes to new styles. Now there are fusions of earlier styles with some modern touches, that’s how it is, but we have to search for new ways even if we don’t invent anything.

There’s also your Architectural moniker, in which you shows the more romantic side of your personality, but where does DJing fit into the spectrum?

If with Djing you mean the dj set it fits perfectly, it’s an essential part of the creative process since especially for the extended sets you can get your inspiration in a dj set instead of in a track.

If you’re DJing as Reeko is the intention to relay some of those themes mentioned earlier through the set?

Yes and no, as I answered earlier, it depends on the set. In the all-night or extended sets I do like to emphasize the conceptual side, I try to make everything have a concrete form to make people immerse themselves in some kind of a history from the beginning. For me this has always been important both in my studio and on the dj set.

In that context you are very susceptible to external influences outside of your control, like the lighting to the audience. How much are you able to adapt through your set to react to these things outside controls, and is it something you wish you could eliminate entirely for the sake of pure artistic expression?

I didn’t know that if I were so susceptible towards this. In any case, I wouldn’t eliminate lightening all together, I think that is a mistake. Lights play a very important role when you create a set, that’s why I  think the question is not to eliminate them but not to abuse of them and more important and something I don’t like at all is when a club uses a loop program all night. That could really ruin the atmosphere you try to create. I like the kind of lighting atmosphere they make in places like Bassiani or Berghain, I think they take a lot of care and obtain very special aesthetics.

So if you were to prepare an audience and a space for a Reeko set what would you insist upon to give it the full affect it desires?

The ideal for me is to have poor light in the dj booth, just enough to be able to see the mixer, I don’t have to be in the centre of the attention and on the other side a subtle play of lights and never the loop kind, so as to create a subdued atmosphere, but without putting us in complete darkness which wouldn’t  create a good atmosphere either.

In any case, I am aware of that not every club  is prepared for this.

 

The third time’s a charm – Introducing Third Attempt

“I needed a fresh start, after my two first aliases” says Torje Fagertun Spilde over a saturated telephone line. Third Attempt, besides being his chosen artistic moniker, is also quite literally Torje’s third attempt at “making a name” for the young Norwegian artist. There’s something final in the name, a certain inevitability, symbolised by the number three that doesn’t quite seem appropriate for a 21-year-old producer at what is essentially the start of his recording career.

What is his third attempt is our introduction to the artist. After a few independent releases in 2017, Torje signed to Vidar Hanssen’s Beatservice records with “Shoreline” in beginning of 2018, and immediately followed it up with “Serve Chilled.” A precocious start it marked Torje’s indubitable graduation from independent bedroom producer to signed recording artist with Beatservice validating the efforts of what had been established through those initial releases and bringing the artist’s music to a larger audience.

Benevolent chords cascading over syncopated beats and rumbling bass-lines plunging deep under the foundations of House, anchored the sound of Third Attempt while buoyant melodies and airy textures floating above the surface focussed on a contrast between space and intimacy in his music. As Third Attempt there’s a closeness at the centre of Torje’s music where the rhythm and bass reside, punctuating the wooly exterior of the empirical arrangements that have borrowed from the abstract idea of space in what has become a signifier of the “Norwegian sound”.

 

“Serve Chilled” and “Shoreline” asserted the sound what Torje has cultured as Third Attempt at a point where it can pivot into other musical spheres as he attested in the self-released album of 2017, “Dreams in Common”. That album might be a world away from the sounds we heard on the Beatservice records but it still orbits around the same critical mass.”There are always similarities in the sound” says Torje ”especially in the tempo and the mood of the tracks.”

Third attempt has consolidated something for Torje that hadn’t been there in his previous two aliases, a “goal” that he felt he couldn’t accomplish through the“really commercial” projects he first envisioned for himself. He’s not willing to go into any detail about his previous excursions as an artist and refrains from naming them outright, turning all his focus, both in our conversation and his music to Third Attempt. Placing those early aliases firmly behind him in the vault of forgotten memories, Third Attempt is the “fresh start” he needed to develop what has been latent in him from the beginning, when he first encountered electronic music as an pre-adolescent teen growing up in Asker, just outside of Oslo.  

Although Torje had “played a few instruments” through his childhood, including “the trumpet and the drums”, he remembers little of his tutelage today. Instead he considers the moment of his musical conformation much later in his life, placing the moment of artistic conception in the midst of some sanctimonious origins. It was during middle school, through his local youth club “in a church, believe it or not” that Torje would make his introduction to electronic music. He was “hooked” when he was first introduced to the idea of “repetitive beats,” and much like anybody his age poured his entire being into the prospect of making them. Through the youth club he “connected with a group of friends that were kind of more into experimental stuff,” spurring the youngster on to go further and deeper into the world of electronic music and especially House music.

Spending his “nights on you tube looking at sets, tweaking knobs and looking up tutorials” Torje delved “deeper and deeper into rabbit hole from there.” He downloaded a copy of Fruityloops studio (a production suite software) and “started experimenting” with sound, which eventually laid the groundwork for a career in production. “It was so much fun,” he recalls, “and it still surprises me that it’s the same amount fun, it never gets old.”

 

What started out as a leisurely pursuit turned earnest when Torje sequestered himself in his father’s forest home for a period. “That’s when I started taking this thing really seriously because there was nothing else to do.” With the closest town an hour away, Torje’s focus could turn exclusively to music and he made those  tentative steps towards a career as a recording artist, releasing music independently under those first musical aliases. Today he doesn’t put much weight on those early pieces, dismissing them as little more than moments of “fun” for the sake of the amusement of friends.

It was only over the last two years that things took a more professional turn starting with the release of the mini album “Dreams of Colour”, and it coincides with a move to Tromsø. This is one of the significant moments in Torje’s musical career, because what he found in Tromsø was not only a new artistic name but also a tight-knit musical community that accepted the 19-year old Torje with open arms. “Everybody knows everybody up here” when it comes to music says Torje and “if there is a new guy / (girl) in town everybody knows about him her.” Torje found a “conscious type of scene” in Tromsø, one that would certainly have eluded him in Asker that has undoubtedly inspired his incredible output. 

Falling in with a group of kindred spirits in Tromsø, people like the DJ and promoter, Houseboden, Torje established Third Attempt amongst a new generation of electronic music artists from the university town. There’s “a lot of enthusiasm around House and Techno” in Tromsø at the moment and Torje found himself “in the middle of a small movement” that would eventually lead to introduction to Vidar Hanssen of Beatservice Records. Hanssen saw Torje making his live debut as Third Attempt in 2017 and “really enjoyed it.” “We kept in touch after that” recounts Torje “and the rest is history.”

In the mere two years Torje’s been in Tromsø, Third Attempt has gone from vitualy non-existent to being signed to one of the biggest record labels in Norway. “It’s happened much faster up here than I would have imagined,” says Torje  about his rapid succession, which I find is some part due to his incredible productivity. As we talk is already working on a new album, not two months on from his last EP. “I’ve got two tracks ready for that,” he claims as he expounds on some of his desires for the album, which include a narrative, “a story from a to b”. In some ways it will be very similar to “Dreams in Common”, an album that “doesn’t necessarily have to be four on the floor” with a downtempo and ambient component to the Third Attempt sound.

 

It’s a direction Torje is “very keen” for Third Attempt to explore concurrently with the “club stuff”. Although his first “love” will always be House, Torje wants to “produce everything”, channeling influences like Floating Points through the project. Torje erupts with enthusiasm when we come to this subject. “It’s for home listening, it’s for club listening,” validates Torje. “He has such wide spectre of music, and I really respect him for that.” As well as Floating Points, Torje suggests he’s also been influenced by previous collaborators, Øystein Bolstad and Runther who he worked with on “Open Spaces” (on Shoreline) and “Fjelheisen” respectively.

He found it “quite special” working with Bolstad, a “real musician” who brought flavours of Jazz and Soul to the track “Open Spaces” with his remarkable key work. “When you put me in a room with a musician I’m easily influenced by the other musician,” Torje has noticed. “You really can’t be selfish, you have to go with the flow and feel the other’s ideas.” It was his first experiences working with other musicians and while he’s eager to do “more of that”, if pushed he’d still prefer to work alone. “That’s when I feel I have the most creative freedom,” he claims ”but there’s good sides to everything.”   

It’s quite different from the way Torje’s chosen to present his music to an audience. Opting for the live experience, Third Attempt favours the stage to the booth, Torje solely at the controls manipulating the sound of his own, original material. “I felt that I needed to challenge myself and do something different” are his reasons for choosing the live context over a DJ set. “I can easily play it safe and go that (DJ) route, but something inside me told me to try and just go with my own music.”

The results speak for themselves; Torje’s  introduction to Vidar, two EPs in and an LP in the works, the live show and Torje’s third attempt is on a course to a flourishing career in music. His trajectory has been plotted with gigs coming through almost every weekend, including his next show at Jæger for Charlotte Bendik’s IRONI. I ask him to describe his live set for the unwitting and he proffers “groovy” as the “first word that comes to mind”. “Groovy and atmospheric”, he continues in a description that I find easily transfers to his recorded works.

In his Third Attempt Torje Fagertun Spilde has found something that simply clicks, and from the EPs the album to his future works, at a mere 21 years of age he’s already found an artistic  voice that eludes most artists their entire career. For an artist at what is essentially the start of a career, it’s significant. He’s a precocious talent and the third time is indeed the charm that will certainly establish this artist as a future talent.

 

*Third Attempt appears this Saturday for IRONI with Charlotte Bendiks.

Exploring different fields with Psyk as Maan

Manual Anós is Psyk. He is also Maan. He is a DJ and a producer, and the man behind the highly successful Non Series Techno label. Hailing from Madrid, Spain, Anós has trod a very individual path through the landscape of Techno over the last decade, walking amongst the giants of the genre like Luke Slater and Len Faki as it rose to  newfound popularity.

His proving ground would be on Len Faki’s label, Figure with his first physical release “Throes” garnering the attention of DJs and enthusiasts for its very direct and cogent take on the genre. Sobering metallic stabs at a keyboard, punctuating militant kicks and puncturing nocturnal atmospheres introduced the world to the sounds of Psyk, making a efficacious entry into the world of electronic music.

Anós first stepped into this arena as Psyk, and then as Maan. Where Psyk plundered Maan sauntered and flowed, with a deeper, dub-like take on Techno strewn with influences of House. While Maan helped establish Anós’ Non Series label, Psyk was moonlighting on Mote-Evolver, Drumcode, CLR and Tresor, establishing the moniker in the highest echelons of this electronic music stratosphere.

Through the decade Psyk’s sound would evolve with the artist, but still refrained from pandering to trends. With the help of Luke Slater and Mote Evolver the sounds of Psyk would eventually find its form as the entrancing machine music we know him for today. Records like “Arcade” and “Silent Witness” are prime examples of the Psyk sound today, which carries through right into the present and the most recent release, “Voiceprint” on Non series.

While Psyk has certainly enjoyed an illustrious career, Maan has retreated to the shadows, and only comes out in the guise of a DJ set when the situation calls for it, like the upcoming Triangle Showcase at Jæger this weekend. We caught up with him via email to talk about this set, evolutions and early influences.

What struck me about your history is that you have this very defined Techno alias in Psyk, but behind it all there is a very universal approach to music with everything from IDM to Hip Hop in your record collection. What inspired this approach growing up?

I’ve always listened to a lot of different music genres. My father used to listen to a lot of Jazz, Blues, Rock and he had a huge record collection.  

When I was young I was basically listening to just 90s Hip Hop so I grew up with that. Then at the age of 15 I started listening to electronic music and until now, I’ve been discovering lot of different styles, genres and artists.  

What else were your parents listening to and was there any radio stations, record stores or clubs in Madrid that made a specific impact on how you as you started DJ and producing?

As I told you before, my father has always been a big music lover. My mother always liked more the traditional spanish music. Radios… I don’t think so… Radio stations were never that supportive of electronic music here in Spain´to be honest, at least that I recall… I used to go to “One” club, Danzoo and Fabrik the most I guess when I started partying young.

The first release that brought to the attention of everybody was Throes on Len Faki’s Figure. What did Throes cement for you that stayed with you as Psyk?

It was a moment when Techno was changing with this “Berghain Hype”. I was playing a lot that kind of stuff by then and I always try to make music I enjoy at the moment.

The idea of Psyk was (and still is) something mental, hypnotic and minimalistic.

A few years after that you premiered your Maan alias for the first time, and in those early Maan records, like Trow I find a lot of similarity with the Psyk stuff from the same time like Distane. How did you draw a line of distinction between them at first?

Yes. Actually, Maan came out after my releases of Track 3 on Enemy and Distane on Mote-Evolver. I felt that that kind of sound was a bit groovier and different than the approach I wanted to reach with the Psyk releases, so I decided to create a different pseudonym for this kind of techno.

 

Have they evolved on their own since for you?

Psyk def. yes. There is still people asking me why I don’t make more bangers like Arcade, Eclipse, Distane, Lowdown… I mean, for me it doesn’t make sense to stick in the same place for years without any sort of evolution. You have to grow up as an artist, even when people don’t like your actual stuff as much as the previous ones.

There are a lot of producers these days that prefer to grow up as a marketing brand or as social media models rather than as an artist, and I think that is totally killing our scene, or at least the one I used to like.

I think of techno as an art of expression and as a hedonist and freedom movement, and I always try to explore my limits, redefine my music and improve my sound every year…

I found that there was a distinct evolution in your work around the time of Arcade and Eclipse, where those stabbing chords of previous records like Distane made room for more melodic and atmospheric elements. What encouraged your evolutions as Psyk in your opinion?

As I answered previously, I do what I feel or what I like at the moment. Of course, there is a big impact on the equipment I am using right now and the equipment I was using by then (which was basically all software). For the last 5 years I’ve produced everything with hardware synths, or modular and that of course changes your workflow and creativity.

How much influence did the label Mote Evolver and Luke Slater have on you as an artist?

Luke has been one of my biggest influences since I discovered techno and electronic music… Releasing on Mote-Evolver at that time (the label was big by then) was the biggest push in my career. Not just because of the 2 strong Eps we put out, but with the combination between the music, the artist and the label altogether. Luke has always supported my music and I will be always grateful with him for that.

 

There is also Non Series of course, your label that’s featured a lot of Psyk and Maan’s music in and continues to do so with “Voiceprint”. What are you able to do on there that you can’t really do on other labels?

Well, the difference is basically the freedom that you can have. I’ve always had in mind to create a label to push artists I really liked, but nowadays I want more space on my label to put out my own stuff. I can have my vision of techno there more than anywhere.

While you keep releasing music as Psyk, Maan has remained somewhat reserved in its output. The alias is still going, obviously but where is it at the moment in terms of production?

There is nothing planned yet. The last tracks were released on DVS1´s Mistress label last year, but not an EP in the last 4/5 years. I don’t feel inspired at the moment to make that kind of music, but I am sure in the future I will take the project back and do new stuff with it.

Like Head High (Shed) and Ron Bacardi (Ben Sims), Maan is you, an artist associated with Techno making and playing House music. Why is there this desire as a Techno to also make and play House music from your perspective?

Well, I always liked house music, and me as a DJ and as a producer I need to explore different fields while playing or creating music.

Much like Shed’s Head High alias your productions as Maan tip the scales from House into Techno quite easily. How do you parlay that into a DJ set, especially a 4hr set like this upcoming one at Jæger?

Actually Maan is not 100% house, it has some house vibes inside for sure, but its a point between House and Techno as you mentioned.

To be honest, in my previous Maan sets I’ve always started playing very groovy or deep and ended playing Techno. I guess I feel more comfortable on that field while playing…

For this 4 hours set at Jaeger I will try to cover lot of fields, always between House and Deep Techno. I am really excited to see what is coming up!

 

Profile: Kenny Larkin

Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Jeff Mills and Eddie Fowlkes. These were the pioneers of Techno. They were the keys that unlocked the door to this machine music and the people that etched the term Techno into the music history books. If it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t have been Techno. But equally important were the generation that followed them, the second wave of Techno artists out of Detroit, the likes of Carl Craig, Richie Hawtin, Stacey Pullen and Robert Hood. Techno could have easily come and gone with the first generation of artists, and it was this second generation that kept the momentum going and if it wasn’t for them, Techno could have easily just been a flash in the pan, a one-hit wonder. It was this wave of artists that nurtured and fostered what had been born before them and supplanted its legacy forever.

Among this next generation was Kenny Larkin, a producer and DJ that together with the likes of Richie Hawtin firmly put Detroit on the map and took what was essentially a DIY music and made it one of the most revered and respected music genres today.

Mike Banks (Underground Resistance) once said of Detroit; “You’ve got three choices if you want to get out – you got sport and athletics, you’ve got the plant if they’re selling some cars and then you got the army”. Kenny Larkin chose the latter, and after serving in the air force for a couple of years he came back to Detroit in 1986 to find Techno had exploded on the scene. Already a fan of the sounds of Chicago House, Larkin “started going to the clubs” where he “heard the new sound and met Richie Hawtin in a club he was spinning at in downtown Detroit”, he recalls in a DMC world article.

After I met Richie”, he continues “we would sometimes drive around Detroit and listen to the radio and there was a mix show, which was incredible. Every week this DJ would have a new mix. It blew my mind…that DJ was Derrick May. I think that’s when I started getting into the art of DJing, on a more feeling level.” Although by his own accounts his first furore as a DJ “sucked” (interestingly, his first gig was with Carl Craig who also apparently wasn’t great) , he persevered. With Hawtin goading him on and with the May as a mentor, Kenny Larkin found a calling in Techno as a bonafide artist.

In 1990, through Hawtin’s Plus 8 label, he would make his debut as a recording artist with “We Shall Overcome”. Sampling the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Kenny Larkin’s debut was a raw, boisterous track that sounded like Larkin was still finding his feet and getting to grips with the machines.

Splashy hi-hats dominate the foreground with irreverent snares snapping through the chaos. An incoherent synth takes inconclusive stabs at a melody poised as a hook, with a few wispy layers of synths ricocheting between the clattering array of percussion. “Integration” followed in the same year on Plus 8 and much like “We Shall Overcome”, sonically this was still Kenny Larkin finding his artistic voice.

It was and it specifically sounded like the work of a novice and it was the Richie Hawtin’s remixes that were the better tracks on these releases. Still, in less than a couple of years Kenny Larkin had gone from the air force to a recording artist and in another two years the tables would turn again and the world sat up and listened. Ironically Kenny Larkin would opt for a pseudonym to present his unique artistic voice to the world.  

As Dark Comedy, Kenny Larkin released two EPs in 1992 that would ultimately frame the sound of any Kenny Larkin record to come. “Without a Sound” and “War of the Worlds” came out as a whitelabel and although it was initially used to establish Kenny Larkin’s Art of Dance label, it was almost simultaneously picked up by Derrick May’s Transmat label as “Corbomite Maneuver”, and this release would go on to define the Kenny Larkin sound. It contained the more refined versions of those tracks as mixes and two unreleased tracks in the form of “Before” and “Siren”. Comparing these releases to the first two EPs, Kenny Larkin’s production technique has matured with a nascent musical ability flowering along with it.

Jacking percussion still dominated Larkin’s music – possibly those early Chicago influences refusing to let go – but there was a new texturally rich dimension to these tracks too, nd this is even discernible between the whitelabel and the Transmat release, suggestíng perhaps that Derrick May might have had an ultimate hand in shaping Larkin’s sound. The addition of a reverb on the claps, those vast swathes of harmony and melody brought to the fore, and just the way they all combine through the mix on the Transmat release would not only mark the next and ultimate phase in Larkin’s productions, but also the next phase in Techno.

By 1994 the next generation of artists had brought forth a sound of Techno that to this day still marks the most significant eras in electronic music, next only to their predecessors. While nothing could be taken away from its originators it was the second generation that not only held the torch, but installed it as a serious musical movement, a true artform all on to its own. Mastering their craft in the studio, producers like Larkin had fostered the genre from its amateur roots to a very technically and musically acute musical genre. His debut album, “Azimuth” still remains a pivotal moment in this corner of music history as a testament of the more cerebral direction the genre would take in the nineties.

As an album it’s simply remarkable, and today it even lives beyond the Techno parameters. It’s a classic electronic music album, playing on themes of space and the future, as this music was wont to do, and he was able to combine the necessities of the dance floor with a need for the cognizant. Larkin had provided a new soulful dimension to Techno, getting the listener closer to the music. “I’m clearly one of those guys that feel music inside of me”, Larkin told Carl Craig in an interview once and on “Azimuth” there’s this palpable introspective layer to the Larkin’s music. For the first time there was a depth to this very two-dimensional music, something this second wave of producers were able to express more accurately as they became very adept at the tools of the studio.

“Metaphors” followed “Azimuth” in much the same vein with Kenny Larkin etching his name deeper into the electronic music history books, carving out not only his own unique sound, but assisted in the development of the next phase of this Detroit electronic music. Throughout the mid to late nineties he released  EPs for the likes of R&S, Distance and KMS and continued to motivate the genre through his Art of Dance label with an ever expanding discography channeling the infinite boundaries of Larkin’s artistic voice through his other aliases, Dark Comedy and Pod.

It all came to an abrupt halt though in 2000, when Kenny Larkin’s musical output ceased and although he never gave his reasons it might have had something to do with his the other aspect of Kenny Larkin’s creative personality. In the late nineties, Kenny Larkin turned his efforts to becoming a stand up comedian, moved to LA and by 2002 he had announced his official retirement from music. Between the comedy and his music it was two sides to the same coin, coming from the same creative core, which was always going to land up on its end.

After a brief hiatus Kenny Larkin returned to music with “The Narcissist” on Peacefrog records in 2004. The album harked back to a time before Techno sitting somewhere between Prince and Jean Michel Jarre. “For whatever reason, I started listening to older, funkier stuff,” he told Jonty Skruff in 2004. He combined the likes of James Brown and John Lee Hooker with his contemporary playlist on his iPod and it inspired a new take on electronic music. “Then the light went on in my head,” he said “and I thought, maybe I can be true to the music I grew up with, and add a new electronic flavour to it. I wanted to do something different that will totally differentiate this sound from what everybody else is expecting me to do.“

The result was “The Narcissist”, an album that seems to poke as much fun at itself than it does offer a serious musical rebirth for Kenny Larkin. Luckily for the Kenny Larkin fans it was short-lived sojourn and Rush Hour would soon steer Larkin back onto the straight and narrow, re-issuing some of the older tracks from Larkin’s Art of Dance label, and getting Larkin back to the sound of he cultivated during the early and mid nineties. By the the time the highly anticipated and critically acclaimed, “Keys Strings and Tambourines” came out in 2008 Kenny Larkin had re-ignited the fuse that cemented his legacy in the realm of Techno.  

“Keys Strings and Tambourines” was the album that would turn a whole new generation of music enthusiasts and fans onto the sound of Kenny Larkin and although totally overhauled it was a sound that harked back to the nineties. Fusing elements of Jazz, soul and Blues with electronic music, he ventured into totally new territory again, dragging Techno out of its stale resting place and back into limelight, aided in no meagre terms by the likes of Villalobos’ organic sounds and rhythms. The title track contrasted the stark electronic palette of Techno with the organic flow of sampled pieces as large strokes across the audio spectrum. Like the opening scene of 2001, there was something in the very basic hand percussion and the acid stabs of a synthesiser that both looked back and to the future again, encapsulating yet again the unique sound of a Kenny Larkin record.

“Keys Strings and Tambourines”  hold so many cues to Larkin’s earlier music and yet it was still a new phase to his artistic voice. For whatever reason, the conditions had just become right again for Kenny Larkin to make music and like a true artist he’s left it merely at that. That was ten years ago, and who knows if we’ll get another piece of music from the producer. He continues to DJ regularly, but as of yet there is still no news on any new material, but when and indeed, if he ever returns to production, it’s sure to make yet another significant impact.

Beyond the hype with DJ Seinfeld

In 2015 a new electronic musical subgenre was spawned onto this world. Springing to life through an online DJ and producer community, a new style of House music emerged, and unbeknownst to the protagonists of its origin, it would soon spread like wildfire through the music media. It was House that harked back to the earliest form of this music, embracing the DIY attitude of styles like Nu-Groove and Garage with modern technological approach to production.

A sample-based, dance floor focussed music like its forebears, it was hastily and somewhat inaccurately dubbed Lo-Fi House by the media looking for a catch-all term for music by artists like Mall Grab, Ross from Friends, DJ Boring and DJ Seinfeld, who were making House music with subtle references to the early 1990’s with distorted hats and a particularly melodic, accessible take on the genre while sporting humourous aliases. It was never their intention nor their desire to conflate the House music genre even further, merely pay homage to it, but bringing the music to whole new generation of partygoers and music enthusiasts they set in motion something not even they as its creators could curb or stifle.

It was an unstoppable force that quickly made it into everyday vocabulary as it became a unexplained and self-perpetuating Youtube curiosity. But even as the journalists and media moved on to the next thing and Lo-Fi House was embedded into the electronic music lexicon through everything  from Spotify playlists to hashtags, it quickly emerged that the artists and DJs that were tagged with the term were so much more than the aphorism they were affiliated with.

DJ Seinfeld (real name Armand Jakobsson) was one of these artists, and as the term Lo-Fi was usurped by a newer trends, he remained a formidable force within the greater realm of House music. As a producer his music combined the functionality of modern dance floors with the intimacy of early House music. Softening the edges of the gritty percussion with luxurious, harmonic pads, DJ Seinfeld broke out with “Season 1” for  and in the two years since, he’s made an LP for Lobster Theremin and Media Fury’s Lobster Fury imprint and four other EPs for a host of other labels, including E-Beamz and Endotherm.

At 26 Jakobsson is a precocious talent and a bottomless pit of creativity which shows no signs of dissipating. He also makes classic House as Rimbaudian and Drum n Bass as one half of Birds of Sweden, showing he is so much more than the lo-fi badge he’s been saddled with. Most recently he was inducted in the DJ Kicks hall of fame with a mix of all-exclusive material that has brought his talents as a DJ to the attention of the wider world, on equal footing with his production prowess.

He comes to Jæger as part of his DJ Kicks tour, only a little way away from his Malmö origins and we had the opportunity to call him up to ask about his roots, the Lo-Fi anomaly and what his mix might sound like as he makes his way to Jæger. We find him in a Polish hotel where he is getting ready or his set later that night.

*DJ Seinfeld plays Frædag x Svømmebasseng this Friday.

You’re two weeks into this tour, how’s it been so far?

It’s been great. So far the shows have been fun and it’s exceeded my expectations. Nothing but great times.

It comes off the back of your DJ-kicks release and it’s a tour based on that release. Why did you decide to tour this mix and not an album?

Most tours are not exactly like when rock stars go on tour, it’s more like you need something to frame or give a theme to a series of shows. Something major like the DJ kicks thing was quite appropriate way to follow as far as a tour goes.

I think you are the first DJ to tour a DJ kicks in my memory and it just makes complete sense to tour as a DJ off a mix rather than an LP.

Exactly. We wanted to do it, because it was such a big thing for me critically to do it, whatever we could do to go that extra step, and make it as big a deal as possible, we wanted to do that.

 

How does the mix reflect the sounds that you are playing in your sets?

There are a fair amount of breaks, breakbeat-based House and Techno in these sets. There’s an Australian wave of sound coming through right now, which I can hear coming through in Canada too. It’s a new take on the sound of House and breakbeat Techno, and I’m very often inclined to avoid four to floor House and Techno to keep it interesting for the crowd and myself. I really try not use the word eclectic, but it has some different flavours of House and Techno in there. That’s what I’m really about nowadays.

Would you say you stepped on from the DJ mix in terms of your DJ sets?

I’m always changing and for the last year I found myself getting bored with the music I was associated playing. When you do DJ quite often, you have to keep yourself interested.

Do you think DJing so much lately will have an affect on your music going forward, because a lot of your music is very album based and can be appreciated away form the dance floor?

It probably will. Part of the DJ job is trying to find new music, and I’m always looking and digging for new music so and I’ve come across stuff that I probably would not have heard of if it wasn’t for that drive to find some music to surprise people.

The club itself has never been a focus in my productions. I’ve made House and Techno tracks that maybe stay on the dance floor, but in my mind I’ll be dancing a room and not really thinking about dancing in a club. At some point it would be an interesting experiment to make something that I know will go down well in a club. For whatever reason I really haven’t consciously made those tracks.

Do you think that’s generational thing?

I’m not entirely sure. I did go out a lot when I was 17 to my early twenties, and I feel like that phase was interesting and really inspiring. After that for about two years I didn’t feel any need or desire to go to a club. And it was during those two years that I matured a lot as a producer.    

The music you were associated with was quickly coined as Lo-Fi. Do you feel it was an accurate representation of the music you were making?

It didn’t really set out to make it. When I first came across the word lo-fi I was kind of drawn into it, because it was an internet community of people drawn to music that was made in the eighties and nineties, which in my mind doesn’t have the same connotations as it does today, where lo-fi has become a catch-all term for a silly DJ name and a disco edit with some distorted hi hats.

There’s still some good music coming out of it, but it’s not something I actively pursued or tried to make. I was making “lo-fi” music for quite some time, but the coincidental nature of me calling it DJ seinfeld for bit, gave journalists some ideas to put this together and try and make sense of it.

 

There was an interesting article that came out a while back on Thump that talked about the significance of Lo Fi on the Youtube algorithm. Is this something that you were aware of?

I read the article at the time, and I was so tired of reading articles on it. As far as I remember, I agreed to what the article said. It’s difficult for me to argue any differently, because it went in detail about how the Youtube algorithm was set up and it made a good case for it.

It was something that was very external to what I was doing though; I had very little control over who posted what on Youtube. People downloaded my tracks and ripped them from soundcloud and put it up on You Tube themselves, so I had no control over that, apart from the rare occasion where I would send my music to friends to make videos. But none of those tracks became part of a larger Youtube algorithm.

You’ve also got a couple other projects, Rimaudian and Birds of Sweden, which is a classic House project and a drum n bass group respectively. Are you still involved with those projects?

In my mind I am, but I’ve not been able to make any music for the last couple of months. It’s just been to hectic to make something cohesive, which is a common theme among DJs. I’m not entirely sure what way I will take those aliases, I’m not entirely sure what their sound will be, but hopefully at some point I will have a better idea.

There was a Rimbaudian track on the DJ Kicks compilation. Is it correct that most of those tracks were exclusive for the DJ Kicks mix?

Yes.

That’s pretty unique.

It was a conscious decision, partly because I feel like DJ Kicks is usually big stars asking other quite famous people for music. I wanted to take the opportunity to ask people who were up and coming and who have a lot of potential, and giving them that platform to show their music on was quite good.

I wanted to ask  you about Malmö and from what I know is that there is quite a big digging community down there, especially centered around Disco. Did you ever experience any of that that when you were growing up there?

Part of it maybe. I was more into Techno and House than Disco. There were a couple of clubs in the city when I was still living there, but the city was still developing a scene. There was a big Techno scene in Malmö and it was run by Kontra-Musik, and they would be bring the most interesting acts that would come to Malmö. There was a slightly older generation of ravers that would introduce the younger generation to that kind of music. I really enjoyed that time a lot, because it was bohemian and a very inclusive atmosphere.

You moved around a lot. Where are you now?

I’ve just moved back to Malmö, but I was Edinburgh for three years and in Barcelona for two.

Do you feel yourself being inspired differently back home than in Barcelona?

I think every city offers a different inspiration and I think your experiences are going to be different in every city. In Malmö it’s more about this comfort mixed with a lot of nostalgia and memories of what it was like living there before. It’s a very small city, and there’s not a lot of things happening there, but I don’t feel myself getting bored by it. There’s some inspiration to be found at some point.

You said that you are currently finding very little time for production. When this tour is over, do you see yourself getting stuck into a new album or EP?

I’m working on an EP, but it’s just going slower. After this tour the travelling is still going to be continuing. My next break is hopefully something I will be taking next April.

Wow that’s still some time away.

Yeah it is, but I figured while I’m still young and healthy and I do enjoy doing it, it’s not just pure exhaustion all the time. It is a huge privilege to do it, and knowing that motivates me all the time to keep doing it. Of course everyone has a limit, and for now I’m not at that limit. Trying to balance it with a healthy lifestyle, that would be the most important  thing for me right now. If I manage to do that till March I’ll be ok.

 

Chicago roots and NY style chords with JT Donaldson

JT Donaldson has been a consistent force in House music in the USA for the past twenty years. Hailing from Dallas, he’s a veteran and a contemporary at the same time and has made significant contributions to the genre through his music, productions and DJing. He’s lived and worked  between Chicago, New York, San Francisco and LA, cutting his teeth in the cities and the scenes through which House music developed through the early and mid-nineties.

Learning his trade amongst the legends of Chicago, he moved from DJing to production with his first record coming via Green Velvet/Cajmere’s Cajual records. In New York he “hustled” through the ranks while in San Francisco and LA he fell in with the West Coast crowd, who were busy cultivating a distinct House scene on the pacific coast.

Tip-Toeing his way through the four corners of the USA through the late 90’s and the early 2000’s, he established lasting friendships with some of House music’s elite and recorded records for the likes of LowDown Music, OM Records and Nightshift Recordings, releases that merely speckle his extensive biography.

Today JT Donaldson embodies the legacy of House music, funnelling elements of Soul, Funk and Jazz through his productions in a deeper interpretation of the genre. He’s remained a steadfast DJ and regularly plays all over the states and on occasion makes a furore into Europe, spreading the gospel of House music wherever he goes.

He’s recently moved back to Dallas where he’s established a new label in the form of New Math, a “passion project” through which Donaldson releases music and artists that show “some varied influences and musical inspirations outside of the house music sound I’ve been known to release personally”, he told the Dallas Observer.

Between credits like producer, label owner and DJ, he’s also an adept remixer and in recent years he’s contributed in that regard to Oslo’s Bogota records. Built on the friendship with label boss, Ivaylo JT Donaldson is an adopted son of Bogota Records today. He will be playing alongside Ivaylo in the upcoming Bogota Records showcase this week, and leading up to the event we reached out to the Texan for a Q&A session and he obliged with more than just some answers.

An exclusive promo-mix, recorded at Mark Farina’s no-less, followed a Q&A which we are very excited to share here today.

Hello James, and thanks for agreeing to this interview. What was it like, musically growing up in Dallas?

Dallas was an interesting city to grow up in musically. When I was only a child we had an iconic 80s nightclub called Starck, named after it’s famous designer Phillipé Starck. Grace Jones performed there, ecstasy wasn’t yet illegal and you could imagine the groundwork it created for the Dallas nightlife and club culture. A decade or so later I had a job at the largest record store in the southwest United States “Bill’s Records” at the age of 17, where I learned about house music, its producers, labels, distributors, sales people and label owners. I jumped in head first.

Were there places in the city you could listen to that kind of music when you were getting into DJing?

We had a crew of people called the Hazy Daze collectif and they through illegal and permitted parties, bring in DJs from Chicago, UK and beyond. Everyone from Roy Davis Jr, Spencer Kincy, Derrick Carter, Pal Joey, Sandy Rivera, Diz, Heather, Paul Johnson… etc etc. Some of these guys first gig outside of their hometown was in Dallas. I also played a few years at Club One in Deep Ellum, opening up Saturday nights for DJ Red Eye and played various raves in and around Dallas, Houston and Shreveport, Louisiana which is only a short drive.

What was your first contact with a set of decks and what was that moment of epiphany like for you, the moment when you realised you wanted to do this for living?

I had put together a DJ set-up from my dad’s turntable which we had in the living room and hardly ever used since CDs were the wave back then, and a pawn shop belt drive turntable that had pitch control. They were not the easiest things to learn on by any means. I messed around with those for about a year and when Christmas rolled around my mom gifted me a brand new set of 1200s. Thats was life changing. I was probably 15/16 years old. She gave me a gift and inside she had printed out a homemade “coupon” from J&R music world in NYC. I don’t think at that point she was confident in spending that kind of money when kids interests changes like the wind. But she left it up to me to decide if that was indeed what I wanted…. and without question. I still remember that smell when opening those boxes.

You’ve lived in Chicago, San Francisco and New York and now you’re back in Dallas. How did your musical experiences differ throughout those cities and what brought you back to Dallas?

Family brought me back to Dallas. My mom, my brother and my little nieces. I had spent about 13 years away from home and it just felt right to come back and be close to them. Each one of my experiences and time spent living in those cities were unique in their own way. I learned and was mentored in Chicago, I partied in San Francisco and Los Angeles and I broadened my networked and hustled in New York.  

How has Dallas’ musical landscape changed since?

As far as house music, it’s nothing like what it was in my opinion. Night and day. Completely new, but still amazing. We have some of the best Jazz musicians and players you’ll ever hear, we still have an underground scene that is bubbling and there are various producers and labels that are making waves out here currently. Dolfin Records, Blixaboy, Convextion, Gavin Guthrie and T.R.U. Recordings, New Math Records, Demarkus Lewis, the list goes on and on…

You’ve been making, playing and spreading the gospel of House music since the 90’s. How have you experienced the genre’s evolution?

To me it’s always kinda been the same. I’m hearing more tracks sample old house records now though, which is kinda new. Seems everything’s up for grabs and nothing’s off limits anymore.

You’ve been very consistent in the sound of your records over the years. Did you have to evolve at all with the genre, and how do you manage to craft such a timeless sound?

Thanks, although some stuff sounds very dated… lol But I’ve always just stuck to what I feel, Chicago roots and NY style chords and all that. I’m constantly being exposed and turned on to new and old music alike, all different genres… so my sound and taste do evolve over time I suppose.

Were you able to achieve the same as a DJ, or do you feel you have to buck more with the trends in that respect?

As a DJ I’ve tried to expand my sets and audience over the years. When I moved to Brooklyn I started a night with DJ Amir, Waajeed and Ge-Ology. Playing alongside those guys, we did everything. Jazz, Funk, Disco, House, Hip Hop, African, Latin…. like all of it. I still do straight forward house sets, but my range was definitely widend during that time. I also do an all 7′ vinyl party in Dallas with DJ Spinderella called Fresh 45s. We’ve hosted DJs like Rich Medina, Supreme, Ge-Ology, Derrick Carter, DJ Scratch, DJ Spinna, Maseo, Eli Goldstein and many others.

It’s interesting that you mention 7 inches. I’ve found there are always traces of Soul, Funk and Jazz in your music, while also retaining the functionality of House. What singular aspect between all these genres informs the underlying sound of your music?

Grooves. It’s all groove based for me. Basslines and keys and how they relate with the drums. I’ve always been drawn to Soul, Jazz, Disco and Funk. Sometimes I’ll sample a loop and replay all the instruments with synths and at the end of the day erase the loop altogether leaving only my interpretation. Doing that I find myself playing keys and scales I wouldn’t normally go to.

How much does DJing influence your songwriting craft?

A tremendous amount. I typically have written songs for DJs to play leaving room to drop acapellas, mix in and out and generally structuring a track for club play.

What are some of the early influences that continue to make an impression on your music today?

Artists like MK, Chez & Ron, and the Detroit and Chicago sound was one of the earliest and long lasting influences of mine.

Tell me a bit about your relationship with Bogota records.

It’s a great house music label that I’ve had an opportunity to do remixes for recently and in the past. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the family.

You also run New Math records and you’ve worked closely with many labels over the years. From your experience, and considering the landscape today with so many labels out there, what should a record label do to stand out from the crowd?

Make your artist happy and be good stewards of the music. Try new and interesting things, take risks and just be yourself. That’s the easiest way to stand out in my opinion.

I believe you’ve put a mix together for this showcase. Can you tell us a bit about it?

I’ve pulled from some of my favorite classic house tunes, ones that have influenced me as a DJ as well as some new music that’s been coming out this year. Artist like Stefan Ringer, Ben Hixon and a few unreleased tunes from myself as well.

How does it reflect what might go down at the Bogota Showcase?

It won’t be the same track-list by any means but there may be a few tunes you’ll hear from the mix at Jeager.

Is there anything you’d like to add before we hear you in our booth in August.

Just that I can’t wait to be back and I hope to see everyone out on the dance floor!

 

6o6 – bbbbbb

In a musical statement that seemed to foreshadow his entire career, Icelandic producer and DJ, Bjarki (Runar Sigurdarson) burst forth on to the scene with “I wanna go Bang” via Nina Kraviz’  Trip label. The track propelled this musical talent on an immediate and decisive trajectory with three unique albums following the single in quick succession via Trip.

Together it established an artist who could move between genres effectively, comfortably weaving his way through elements of Hardcore, IDM, Drum n Bass, Techno and Electro; usually conspiring to make bold, and unforgettable impressions on the dance floor. In two years the name Bjarki would go from the obscure into the public eye with music that often bordered on intimidation, but never palled.

His biggest contribution to music would still be left to come however, and it wouldn’t arrive in the form of his own productions, well at least not all of it. In 2017 he and a childhood friend, “Johnny Chrome Silver” would establish the label bbbbbb, a platform for Icelandic artists that extended the spectrum of eccentricities of Bjarki’s music. Eight EP’s and an LP in, bbbbbb is an extension of Bjarki’s own musical inclinations, and not merely for his Cucumb45 alias.

The genre-bending nature of his music is very familiar through the various artists that have joined the label’s ranks, each adding a unique voice to the enigmatic nature of the label. From the cover-art to the artists and the music, there’s something significant about bbbbbb that in its short existence has established it as a label making and releasing music on its own terms; an isolated and quirky institution on an otherwise pallid landscape.

What follows are 6 tracks from 6 releases from the label’s catalogue, featuring Volruptus, EOD,  X-Static and Bjarki.

X-static – my inspiration (Bjarki’s ‘sweet thing’ version) – my inspiration EP

The first record to make its way out from bbbbbb did so on thunderous terms, re-issuing a track from X-Static to inaugurate the label. “My Inspiration”, initially released in 1992, is a hardcore track that sampled the vocal from UK soul group The Real Thing and pushed it to hedonistic heights through the sound of UK rave culture.

Bjarki contemporised the track with his Sweet Thing version, bringing it into the present, and letting it linger on the ear for just that little bit longer. Like his breakout hit, “I wanna go Bang”, this mix also skirts that intangible line between the accessible and the obstinate.

Cucumb45 – CyXlobblObs5 – Cyclops EP

Can we just take a moment to admire the cover of this EP. Is that an action figure in a…. The bbbbbb aesthetic is what draws you the label, and it’s in perfect harmony with the sound of records like these. Although there’s a little something of everything on this EP, from the atmospheric Techno of “Aqua Elba” to the funky Electro breaks of “B.U.S.Y”, the title track and opener is that bit of crazy that you require on bbbbbb.

Cucumb45 is Bjarki’s IDM alias, the moniker where he really just spreads his wings. “CyXlobblObs5” is incoherent and yet there are appealing, accessible elements to it all, but it all comes together in a tangled mess of a collage, much like the artwork. There are five songs wrapped up in one, schizophrenic as it pursues each fleeting idea to the next.


EOD – Evenhark – Swurlk

The Norwegian artist is the only artist that appears on the label that’s not Icelandic and the first to release an LP, but more on that later. EPs on Aphex Twin’s Rephlex saw EOD establish a sound that conforms to the melodically rich, rhythmically inconsistent sounds of IDM, that really starts to find it’s form on the album EODS and this EP.

“Evenhark” has a melody that lingers and a percussive arrangement that’s incredibly dense in texture, but just seems to float through the track’s progression. There’s clearly some golden thread here that connects to Aphex Twin’s earlier works, but EOD’s sound on Swurlk seems bigger and bolder with a very analogue sound at its core.

Volruptus – Alien Transmission V2 – Homeblast

This is the big one! The acid-electro track from the Icelandic producer is the record that sparked the hysteria, or hysteria adjusent in terms of club dance music.The combination of that bouncing electro beat, the familiar squawk of the 303 and the vocoder work re-iterating the title of the track over and over again, is immediately intoxicating and hits all the right notes for an underground dance floor sensation. Whenever you put this record on in a set, there’s always a slight pause of recognition, before a frenzied skirmish ensues on the floor.

Bjarki – Drab 2 – Geothermal Sheep Vol 1

The obvious hit and the one to mention on this release would be the A-side, but bbbbbb hardly panders to the masses so neither will we here. We could have gone to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and picked the destructive, “2 Mewtwo 5 [GRX230P018] BB-) Aprilgabb2” as our choice but sense prevailed and “Drab 2” finds some sweet middle ground on this release.

Uplifting, trance-inducing synth merely caress the atmosphere , while a busy rhythm section provides the necessary dance-floor counterpoint. Yes, you can dance to it.

EOD – Y’ha-nthlei 

If you’re looking for easy listening, you’ve come to wrong place, but this track on EOD’s debut LP for bbbbbb and the first LP on the label is the closest you’ll ever get. The Norwegian producer shows some restraint, and even though ratcheting snares and incoherent synth chattering remains his sonic dialect, there’s something serene to this track, like watching a satellite burn up in a distant sun. It’s no coincidence that this our album of the week.

 

Regis and Downwards: Sex and Ritual

Karl O’Connor (Regis) has made a significant impact on the dance floors in a very unassuming British way. Ever the nonconformist, O’Connor has made a substantial mark on electronic music history through his various musical aliases, his projects and the labels that he’s spawned. He has driven an undercurrent that continues to course through the contemporary electronic music landscape, defragmenting the established rhetoric with a petulant snarl of disdain for anything resembling orthodoxy in music.

His greatest contribution to music has been marooned on the island of Techno, but for a young and provocative O’Connor, dabbling in music, Techno was merely the scion of some greater musical pursuit that starts in Birmingham and the subversion of musical traditions deconstructed by the punk and post-punk movements in the UK and Europe.

Birmingham is “an industrial village” according to a Quietus piece written by O’ Connor, “it’s provincial England, it’s not London, just get over it and get on with it”. A city born and bred on industry, it’s easy to draw a correlation between Birmingham and Detroit, but for O’Connor these wispy threads are inconsequential. “My influences weren’t necessarily in Birmingham” he told Filip Kalinowski in the 2013.

“I always imagined about being cloned in New York in the 70s in or in the early 80s in Berlin, it’s where my influences lay.” A group that made an early significant impression on a young O’Connor in 1980 was not anything close to Birmingham, but rather D.A.F. Hearing the German group for the first time there was something “primal” and “provocative” to the German group that was just “fucking ace” to a punk kid from Birmingham. “(T)here are no choruses, they are making a whole load of records with no choruses and… I thought it was the biggest fuck you to Anglo-American rock & roll. I thought it was brilliant, it was fantastic. Those mad German bastards. That was pure sex, the music that they made was pure adrenaline, that’s what I wanted…”

D.A.F opened a door that would never be sealed again, and in the early eighties O’Connor as a teenager would completely submerge himself in the independent electronic music labels of the time and specifically Daniel Miller’s Mute and Stevo Pearce’s Some Bizarre. “That covered everything that I needed,” he told Electronic Beats Magazine in 2013.”(G)reat pop music through to what I would class as avant-garde music. Test Dept, Neubauten, Foetus, Fad Gadget, pop like Soft Cell or The The. It was all there. And it was British, that was very important. Plus it was pretty much the birth of independent music—and they got into the charts.”

It all conspired in 1985, when O’Connor, a college student and electronic music enthusiast bought his first synthesiser and set forth on his first steps towards a career in electronic music as Karl and the Curbcrawlers. “We had a synth, shared a pair of PVC trousers, and had a smoke machine” he reminisces in his Quietus soliloquy. It was 1985, but O’Connor was still bound by the constriction of youth obsessions and the likes of Fad Gadget and Soft Cell, and the music reflected that kind of early DIY aesthetic of the generation before as the rest of the world was being seduced by the more polished sounds of Duran Duran and The Human League.

He believes the music he was making then “was extremely dated” and none of it ever amounted to anything beyond a demo recording over a soundcheck session, but what was cemented in that project and Karl O’Connor as an artist has stayed with him ever since. It was about DIY, and not as a trend, but rather a necessity. “If you feel the necessity of it, then, you know. It has to become everything for you. For us, the methods were dictated by economic reasons”. Karl and Curbcrawlers had one synthesiser and no money for a drum machine and that became the essence of the group, and it was that DIY born from necessity that followed Karl O’Connor into the 90’s and into the label Downwards.

“I’m not too sure why anybody starts a label,” he ponders in in Electronic Beats about the origins of Downwards “I think it was purely out of necessity”. Spurred on by his “love of DIY” and the UK independent label ethos, Downwards came into the world. Together with Peter Sutton (Female), O’Connor brought one of the longest running independent Techno labels into the world with a singular idea: “You make it, you release it and all of a sudden you are a label,” he explained in Factmag in 2010. “The Desperate Bicycles were right: ‘It was easy, it was cheap – go and do it.’”

O’Connor and Sutton established Downwards with a fully formed idea and a “single-minded” pursuit for the label. “I wanted to make the label in my own image,” he told EB. Influenced by the labels of his youth, namely Some Bizarre and Mute, Downwards distilled the tradition of the eighties independent label down to a new generation of dance music enthusiasts for which the sounds of Detroit had started moving over to the UK and the summer of love had already transpired. It was 1993 and Downwards was born with the Antonym 7” “Consumer Device” inaugurating the label. Inarticulate vocal chattering and atonal wailing guitars swathe a militantly regular 4/4 kick in a style of music that combines the atmospheres of a post- punk industrialism with the functionality of dance music.

There’s a sinuous connection between O’Connor’s early musical adventures as Karl and the Curbcrawlers and Downwards and although the two are “completely different”, he does consider there is a “golden thread” that runs through them. “It was more about getting ideas out, most of the early stuff sounds like it was pressed on the back of a digestive biscuit, it was lo-fi and charming, but it wasn’t deliberate.” It ran perpendicular to the way the label operated, where production and distribution all came down to O’Connor and Sutton, to the point where no-one even knew who ran the label. “That total artistic freedom was its own reward” he told Factmag.

That freedom might have been its own reward but the ultimate success of Downwards was validated in 1994 when Surgeon came on board and sent Downwards on an upward trajectory as one of the biggest successes early in the label’s biography. “Tony (Child aka Surgeon) is the only bona fide star in the whole thing,” said O’ Connor looking back in his Quietus piece. “He has a fantastic attitude to everything, he puts up with quite a lot, and it was a leap of faith with me and the label.” The Surgeon EP propelled the Downwards label into dance music’s collective consciousness where it and that record remained ever since.

The EP stomps with a timeless European sound of Techno that continues to remain popular today and in many respects have become the de-facto sound of the genre in the contemporary musical landscape. It’s brash and aggressive and for the first time it defined the Downwards label as something intended specifically for the dance floor. There’s still that unwavering DIY aesthetic that first established the label, but considering the period, it’s more punk than ever. It strips the melodic and spacial elements away from Techno into an industrial-esque functional monster, born from that primal instinctiveness of the corporeal and simply explodes into the atmosphere.

It’s this sonic aesthetic that O’Connor permeates further when he eventually steps into his role as Regis when he releases his first EP on Downwards in 1995, “Hablame / Amistad Modelo”. He expounds on the atmosphere and channels everything into brash sonic textures that jackhammer through the progression of the two tracks.

For O’Connor it’s always been about the “immediacy of the moment” and that’s the ideas he transfers, to Regis and Downwards too. “Downwards is how I define myself” he told Filip Kalinowski back in 2013. “I like here and now. These are the things that interest me about music. Sex, ritual, that’s what I’m into. It’s very naturalistic, I’m not doing it because of any reason, it’s a progression of who I am.” Downwards became an extension of that centred around a core group of producers namely Surgeon, Female and Regis. Later Downwards would incorporate acts like Jeff Mills, Tropic of Cancer, OAKE and Samuel Kerridge as that extension of the artistic personality behind the label, in which Downwards would cement, a sound, a visual aesthetic, and a conceptual framework, through which an attitude prevailed.

O’Connor might have supplanted that very same attitude in his other projects, but the thing that remained constant throughout was Downwards. Other fleeting experiences with labels and conceptual projects came in the form of Sandwell District and Jealous God, but 25 years on Downwards and Regis is the only aspects that remain. In 2010 O’Connor told Fact Magazine that it “makes as perfect sense for us to be releasing a Tropic Of Cancer or Dva Damas 10″ in 2010 as it did for us to be backing a Surgeon 12″ in 1994”, suggesting that even though the label’s evolved with time, the sonic aesthetic and the attitude remains unchallenged.

It’s O’Connor and Sutton that remains at the heart of the Downwards appeal with their personal tastes adding that much needed human dimension to the often “faceless” Techno genre. “I loved the immediacy of techno but was also put off by the short shelf life and disposability of some of the music – club fodder, I guess they call it. So I just went about applying my own influences to the sound and overall operation. I imagine the things that seemed obvious and instinctive to us were alien to the way most other people in techno readily presented themselves.” This set Downwards apart from the rest and that’s why 25 years on they and all their artists remain relevant.

Downwards disrupted traditions, styles and trends to make a significant impact in electronic music, and although we can call it Techno it’s always been the odd one out, upsetting the apple cart when we try to clearly define the genre. Downwards lives beyond such nomenclature as a singularity through the years and Regis and Female have certainly left their imprint there. Before paying Unsound in 2013, which had Disruption as its theme, O’Connor told Filip Kalinowski “Interference and disturbance is exactly what I’m into. I like disruption.” And that is certainly what he and Sutton have achieved with Downwards and what he singularly permeates through his music as Regis.

 

*Regis and Samuel Kerridge present 25 years of Downwards this Friday. 

Happy to oblige with DJ Okapi and Afro Synth

I have to tune the car radio manually to get to the place I want to be on Cape Town’s FM bandwidth. The seek button scans over the desired channel even though I’m just a few blocks away from the broadcasting headquarters. Immediately, the old, but familiar hiss of white noise transports me back to my youth and then it pops into life as I get to 89.5. A two-step punchy snare and a syllabic yelping in Zulu greets me on the other side, this sounds more like home.

“You have to listen to Bush Radio” a friend told me the night before, “if you want to hear South African music”. For the past week I’ve been driving around my hometown listening to the ubiquitous sounds of popular music from Europe and USA proliferated by the nationally syndicated stations like 5FM. This has always been the case in South Africa and notwithstanding the community focussed programming from small, inconspicuous stations like Bush Radio, this has remained the broadcasting practise for the most part of my adult life too.

Every time I return to South Africa I’m always astounded and dismayed how very little has changed in that regard, even when in Europe, South African music is being proliferated by DJs and radio everywhere. The sound of GQOM, the band BCUC, a revival of seventies era Fusion, and the newfound interest in the eighties bubblegum sound had all been largely instigated and promoted through European labels and record stores in recent years.

Limited by constricts like the lack of vinyl presses to re-issue music and the fact that most of the original records are harboured in European record collections, it’s obvious why this has happened, but it doesn’t look set to remain this way for much longer. In recent years a DJ, a blog, a label and a record store has come along, all dedicated to changing this, bringing South African music back home and making availeable on the vinyl format again. It all funnels down to one man, Dave Durbach, better known by his DJ alias Okapi, who is tirelessly and selflessly, collecting and re-distributing this music through Afro-Synth, a blog, store and record label dedicated to new and forgotten South African music.

Hailing from Cape Town, where he cut his teeth around the bars and clubs in the small scene around Long Street, playing everything from Hip Hop to Jazz, Dave had always been known as something of a “vinyl junkie” by the locals. At a time when the format was largely forgotten for the more accessible digital formats, Dave would haunt the used record shops in and around Cape Town for obscure records from the eighties. The records largely disregarded as disposable “bubblegum” music by a predominantly white music media, became an obsession for the latent digger in his teens and laid the foundations for what would later become Afro Synth; a blog dedicated to shedding new light on a lost era in South Africa’s rich music history.

Afro Synth garnered attention for its unique and largely untapped source of records from from an apartheid-era South Africa with considered reviews and articles about the artists and the records sound tracking the end of white-minority rule and the first exciting years of post-apartheid South Africa. These were the talented, mostly black artists that remained obscure for the longest time, pressing limited runs of their records on independent labels that were quickly assigned to bargain bins all over SA. He established the blog to highlight these finds and through his words, many South Africans (this writer included) were lead on an extensive journey of discovery through a very niche, and almost forgotten corner of music history.

It immediately caught the attention of an international audience too, in large part due to the enigmatic music at its core, and established Afro Synth as a serious source for diggers with the sounds of Bubblegum, Disco and obscure SA fusion moving way beyond South African borders for the first time, with Okapi’s career as a DJ following close behind.

Through the distributor Rush Hour, he was able to bring that sound to an even bigger audience with a label that has two EPs and two albums under its belt today. Two re-issues from two vastly different eras and sounds, marked the beginning of the label. “Burning Beat” is a slow-burner; a cosmic, Disco track by Roi Music, featuring the vocals of Olive Mashinga, while the second release saw a couple of Kwaito classics from the nineties pressed to vinyl for the first time. The first album on the label came via Ntombi Ndaba, a compilation of a short-lived career, that Afro Synth and Dave are eager to kick-start again in the future while the second album is from a new Cape Town Jazz outfit called Mabuta.

Alongside the label, Dave has also established a shop of the same name in the heart of Johannesburg, and through in-store sessions, his work with Ndaba and Mabuta he’s also cultivating a healthy scene under the Afro-Synth banner. On a recent visit to Cape Town and South Africa, I made Johannesburg a stopover with the central purpose of visiting the Afro Synth store.

Open four days a week, you’ll find Dave in the store whenever he’s not touring as a DJ, playing records and eager to share his musical interests with anybody willing to listen. Music from the label and dedicated African sections take up most of the store, with everything from seventies Progressive Rock from the UK to American Hip Hop dotting the small space. I’m not surprised to hear that it’s these international records that garner the most attention from local audiences, but for the first time in a long time, there’s a dedicated shop and label distributing vinyl of new- and old South African music for South African audiences in South Africa.

As we talk about everything from lost vinyl presses to the next Afro Synth release, it’s clear that Afro-Synth is something very unique and very special in South Africa. It’s providing a newfound interest in this music and even cultivating a scene around it. From the in-store sessions, the releases and his sets, Okapi and Afro Synth are bringing old and new South African records to the fore for foreign-, but more importantly local audiences.

 

Photo by Oscar O’Ryan

Maybe you can start by filling in a blank for me. When you were still playing at Waiting Room in Cape Town, I remember you were playing everything from Reggae, Hip Hop and Jazz. How did you get into the bubblegum thing and how did it lead to the blog?

Dave Durbach: I started collecting South African records around the same time I started Djing. But at that time in Cape Town there was no interest in SA music so I played soul and funk, hip-hop, electro, ‘lounge’, whatever… The SA records started more as a journalistic interest. I wrote an article for the Sunday Independent in 2008 that included the first few reviews that I used for the blog, which I started a few months later in 2008 when I was living in South Korea. It was only after moving to Joburg in 2009 that I was really able to play these records in public. Over the years since then as my collection has grown I’ve been able to play more local music and less international stuff.

People still refer to you as a “vinyl junkie” from your days playing in Cape Town. Did the Afro Synth blog change the diversity of your buying and collecting habits at all?

I don’t think so, I’ve always just been obsessive about digging for local records and getting as many as possible, at least when they were still cheap. Since I started selling a few years ago I don’t buy so much for my personal collection, in fact a lot of my own collection went into the store. Most of what I buy these days is for the shop, not for me.

 

Do you feel that you have to live up to the “bubblegum” sound when you are booked to play, or can you still easily modulate to other genres?

I think promoters in Europe expect me to stick to funky South African music so I’m happy to oblige. I might still include some American or British or other African music but that would maybe only be one or two tracks in a set. Playing in Joburg or in Cape Town I have a lot more freedom to play ‘international’ stuff, but the vibe is usually similar. This is my sound. I think my knowledge and collection of bubblegum for example has come at the expense of other genres, especially contemporary ones.

You mentioned when I was in the shop that you don’t get to play in SA that much these days. What is the scene like in South Africa (Johannesburg) at the moment for DJs like you?

Opportunities are very limited for DJs who don’t play house or hip-hop so I don’t get a lot of gigs in SA. There are other DJs in Joburg also playing old local music but they also struggle to get gigs. Kitcheners is the only venue in Joburg that is open to all of us.

You also mentioned that people don’t buy that kind of stuff in the shop. Why do you think South Africans are so reluctant to appreciate the music from home?

For young South Africans this is generally the music of their parent’s generation, so it’s not seen as cool, even kwaito from the 90s. But I think even back in the day bubblegum was looked down on by ‘serious’ music people, of all races. It was too American, too electronic, too fun. Most South Africans grow up with American music as their reference, not local music. The media is largely to blame, particularly the radio.

 

So when you started picking up the records that you featured on the blog, how and where were you finding the records?

I was still in Cape Town at the time so the first few local records I picked up would’ve come from Revolution Records in Observatory and a place called Vibes in the Atrium in Claremont, which closed down long ago, also Mabu Vinyl, second-hand stores etc.

Have you seen more of these records being picked up as they are finding an audience overseas?

Definitely. A few years ago no one was looking for it so it was super cheap. In recent years there’s obviously been a resurgence in demand for obscure disco from all over the world, particularly from diggers in Europe. The vinyl scene in South Africa is tiny in comparison.

Most of these records came out during apartheid, and were almost lost to music history. Was there ever a political motivation behind the blog?

Yes my main goal has always been to try to preserve this music and the legacy of a generation of musicians who’ve largely been forgotten. I’m also fascinated by its relation to the politics of the time, its role in ultimately defeating apartheid and in doing so promoting some sense of nation-building. The lyrical messages in a lot of songs from that era still carry a lot of weight today, as most of the social problems from that era still persist.

The way you explained it was that the shop, Afro Synth is very much a labour of love for you. Can you tell me a bit more about what inspired you to start and run the shop?

Initially I was wary of trying to sell records or put a monetary value on them. But more people started contacting me, particularly from overseas, looking to buy records. Over time I managed to find more stock, multiple copies of records, often still sealed. I realised that if I didn’t start buying these up, somebody else would. So I started in 2015 selling on Discogs. Then I realised that these old records shouldn’t all be sold overeas to the highest bidder but South Africans also needed to have access to this music – at an affordable price, not in a foreign currency. I started selling at markets around Joburg then opened the shop in Maboneng in September 2016.

And the label is the first of its kind as far as I know; a South African vinyl label exclusively for South African music. Besides Rush Hour coming on as distributor, what laid the foundation for the label?

That’s about it really! Without Rush Hour’s support I wouldn’t be able to put these records out.

So far it’s been mainly about highlighting forgotten releases like the blog did before it. How did you come across these pieces originally and what is it about music that makes you want to share it with more people?

I’m not necessarily breaking this music by being the first to play it, but where there is demand I am in a position to be able to license and release it in a way where the original artists and labels can benefit. For example the first release Burnin Beat I never owned the original, but there was growing demand for it after DJ Harvey and others started playing it. I know the guys who wrote the song so I was able to license it and find the original master tapes. Re-issuing music makes it affordable to people when the original versions become too rare and far too expensive.

The next release will be the first original release for the label, a Jazz album I believe. Can you tell us a bit more about it and how it might be bridge between the past and the future of music in South Africa?

Mabuta is a band of young South African jazz musicians put together by Shane Cooper, a bass player from Cape Town. It’s rooted in South African jazz but at the same time it’s full of synths and electronics. Some songs go into other parts of Africa – Mali, Nigeria and Ethiopia. It’s a very ambitious project that takes South African jazz into new territory. As a label it’s exciting to be part of a new release by contemporary artists, hopefully there will be more to come.

 

Besides the GQOM sound – which I’m glad to see is receiving a great reception in SA too – is there anything we should keep our ears pricked for coming through in the near future from the region?

I’m the wrong person to ask about this, I don’t get out much!

I asked specifically because I noticed that a lot of the GQOM stuff is being picked up by foreign labels, in particular. That’s what I like about Afro Synth; it doesn’t just export the sound it motivates a local scene. Is there a future for more labels like Afro Synth to come through and what do you think is needed to nurture more labels like this?

Plenty of other labels are re-issuing South African music from the 80s – labels from Europe, North America and others from SA. There’s so much amazing music that there is room for everyone to try their luck. At the end of the day it’s down to consumers and whether or not a record can sell. Ideally I’m selling albums to create opportunities for artists to get booked to perform again, that’s what I’m working on now with Ntombi Ndaba.

The story of M’BOOM

In 1970 legendary American percussionist Max Roach called up peer and contemporary Joe Chambers with an idea. Roach planted the seed for a kind of percussion orchestra and although he didn’t have a clear idea of what it would entail musically, he knew that it was something that would be very significant for the future of music. “Damn! What are we going to do? Have six guys on a drums set?”, came Chambers’ immediate response over the telephone. “No, no, no”, said Roach “We’re going to play percussion”.  

Shortly after, Chambers, Fred King Warren Smith, Freddie Waits, Roy Brooks, Omar Clay, Francisco Mora, and Eli Fountain found themselves in a room together with Roach laying out the details for a percussion orchestra project that would eventually be called M’BOOM and also include Ray Mantilla in the final line-up. “Max had that vision”, recalled Waits in an interview with Modern Drummer in 1983. “(W)e all came together…  and sat down and began to work out, verbally at first, what we thought this kind of situation could do.”

Max Roach was purposefully looking for drummers, not just musicians, but composers and arrangers that could “explore the possibilities of percussion in order to develop a knowledge of percussion” as Chambers puts it. It was a school of percussion in the context of a performance group, and percussion in all its various shapes and forms from the standardised drum kit, to mallet, pitched percussion like the xylophone and even the more obscure, readymade instruments like a saw or a tin can.

Max Roach’s initial idea was: “Well, if we put everybody together and form a cooperative group, we’ll have to stay together. We’d have to stay together and we could develop an original personality in percussion, that would come out of our American musical experience. It could have blues and Gospel and whatever idiom you want to name, just as long as it has that attitude of open endedness.”

And it went way beyond American borders and back in time. With Mantilla on board, infusing the pieces with elements of Latin and Afro rhythms and personality, and the textural ambiences of instruments like the marimba evoking the African continent, M’BOOM was more than just a freeform Jazz project.

It wasn’t just a bunch of very good drummers coming together and battling each other in the way of a clambering solo either. The pieces that resulted were composed, finely executed works that refined the primal action of striking a surface into fully formed compositions with great artistic weight. Their grand opus came as the self-titled sophomore album in 1979 via Columbia records and it and the M’BOOM project has remained somewhat inconspicuous in music history, but when electronic music producer, Martyn cited the album as an influence for his first LP on the Ostgut Ton “Voids”, it shed some new, much deserved light on this magnificent record.

The similarities in the way Roach and company treated percussion and arrangement and the way electronic music is structured today is uncanny, and although we can’t accurately assume the two are connected in any way there’s something to M’BOOM and specially that album that will speak to every electronic music enthusiast today.

“Onomatopoeia” sets the tone of the record with cascading bells and percussive rhythms erupting in a cacophonous meleé before it recedes into the compositional form it was destined to pursue. Marimba and Xylophones pound out a melody counterpointed by unpitched percussion sparkling in the resonant frequencies of the arrangement.

Written by Omar Clay, the piece might sound like the result of some improvised jam session through the first 16 bars, but what it is in fact is a controlled and deliberate execution of a composed piece. “Everybody has a specific thing that they’re supposed to fit in someplace in the time that we are reading it,” explained Clay about the writing and performing process for M’BOOM. The only improvisation comes in the way they play and not the structure of each composition and even in the live performance context this is how they would play it.

Martyn cited the “space” on the record as a particular influence, and that is exactly down to the way the pieces were composed. Everybody in their place and time made for a sonic texture that never cluttered the final arrangement. “All the pieces are written in terms of textures, combinations of colors, and rhythmic structure or rhythmic feel—where we place the emphasis”, Clay told Modern Drummer, specifically citing the second track on the album “Twinkle Toes”.

Players like Joe Chambers combined their knowledge of melody from instruments like the piano with their percussive training, finding a melodic dimension to something unpitched like the drum kit. “I had the theory and I had the drumming technique” he explained in all about Jazz. Every member was required to play everything and Chambers’ first role in the group would be the vibraphone, form which he composed songs like “Caravanserai”. It’s rattling percussive onslaught disperses around the mallett instruments pounding out a repetitive motif loop that modulates throughout, but always returns to to lower register repeating four chords. “To me it’s just a piano”, says Chambers of his Vibraphone. “It’s set up like a piano, so I know the theory.”

While some of the instruments encouraged this way of composition, there was some unusual instruments and techniques that also found their way into the ensemble, chief amongst which was the saw. On “Glorious Monster” there is a wailing vibrato echoing in the background, often coming to the fore. It sounds like a broken theremin synthesiser, but in fact it’s a tree saw, which Roy Brooks plays with a mallet while bending the length of the tool. It’s a completely alien sound as you’d expect and creates a very evocative science fiction space theme. “His musical saw is just an expression of something that’s inside him”, explained Fred King “and that’s what he communicates with us. That’s what I mean by it being such a deep experience.”

M’BOOM was a continual learning experience and allowed the players to experiment with their instruments and techniques. One of the most interesting techniques to come out of M’BOOM was the Timpani technique Warren Smith plays on “Epistrophy”. The instrument glides up to its pitch as Smith stretches the skin while playing. “It wasn’t so much a matter of developing it” he told Modern Drummer,  “as it was that Joe Chambers asked me to play it. So I played it.” It’s luring effects are just one of the many ways the album and the project intrigues some thirty years on from its release.

There are elements to M’BOOM hat are very contemporaneous to electronic beat music. The pitched percussion; the short simple stabs at a melody; the repetitive nature of the music; and the textural space in the music. It’s something of a tenuous connection, but M’BOOM definitely needs to get its turn at the history books again today and be appreciated for what it is. It’s lucky that Martyn has turned some attention to the album again and surely it would spark some renewed interest in the album and the project for a whole new generation of musicians and enthusiasts.  

 

* Martyn plays our basement tonight.

Hard to forget with E da Boss

Eric Cooke is a musical polymath. A DJ, record collector, producer, vocalist and club promoter; if it has anything to do with music, Eric Cooke has done it. His musical projects are striking collages of diverse influences from the known musical universe, which he channels through specific titles like E da Boss, Lucid Paradise, The Pendletons and Myron & E.

Originally from New Jersey, Cooke is now based in Oakland, California where he’s established a varied and rich musical career as an artist, DJ and producer. He has been releasing music since 2002, almost exclusively on the vinyl format. Dusty Hip Hop breaks, released largely through his own Slept on Records marked his earliest releases while later through his career he would turn his attention to the evocative sounds of the past, siphoning elements of Soul, Funk and Jazz into the present.

Later he would join forces with 90’s music icon Myron Glasper for Myron & E with singles on Timmion Records before the album “On Broadway” found its way out on Stones Throw records. Lauded for it’s stunning “retro-soul” sound, Myron & E established Cooke as a prominent figure on the Neo-soul community with The Pendletons and Lucid Paradise taking up the baton in various new musical directions for the artist shortly after.

From Myron & E’s soulful R&B to the to the sweater funk he and production partner Trailer Limon (Dan Meisenheimer) produces as Lucid Paradise, Cooke’s music spans a vast chasm in the musical spectrum. There’s always something familiar about his music as cues from music’s history touch on something nostalgic. Like a record collector with that rare B-side that holds the key sample to a popular Hip Hop track, Eric Cooke’s musical projects play on those tenuous threads between the familiar and the unknown.

There is a considered connection between his production and his roots as a DJ with a kind of dusty character to the music that sounds like it came from some forgotten box, tucked away in a corner of a second hand store. His preferred form of communication today is the 7” and he has enshrined his love for the format in a night called 45 sessions in Oakland with Platurn, Enki, Mr. E & Shortkut. Through that night he continues to DJ while his various musical projects continue to find new audiences.

He is on the road currently as Lucid Paradise and the Pendletons and with a stop at Jæger imminent we had the opportunity to send him some questions over email. Somewhere on it’s way to Manchester we find Eric Cooke on train …

*Lucid Paradise and The Pendletons are live this Saturday in our backyard with FredFades and Dirty Hans representing the Mutual Intentions crew.

Your musical output is quite diverse going through your projects.  What inspired this eclectic approach to music growing up?

Like most dj/producers, I got into hip hop in the early 80’s & because that music was sampled based it took me down a long winding road of discovering old records of all genres. Funk, Jazz, Soul, Rock, etc…  After many years of listening to all types of music I 1st started out DJing and then branched out into production after I slowly started to collect drum machines, samplers, effects processors, etc….

You’re playing as The Pendletons and as Lucid Paradise at this upcoming gig at Jæger. Can you tell the folks how these two projects might go differently on the night?

On this tour they go hand in hand. We do a mix of Pendletons & Lucid Paradise tunes all together. As this is our 1st time playing in Europe we had to scale down from a live band to a PA show because the price to bring the whole crew to Europe is just to expensive. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring the full crew next tour.

Both will be live sessions in a club context. How do you adapt/modify the recorded music to the context?

We modify the music quite a bit. We only do half of some songs and add in some unreleased tunes. We just try to keep it upbeat & fast passed to get the crowd interested & dancing!

Vocalist, producer and DJ, you’ve done it all. How are all these different aspects of your career connected, and is there one you prefer over the others?

I think one just lead to the other to be honest. I started as a DJ. Then got into producing & from there I was DJing & producing for hip hop acts. As a DJ I slowly got into being a hype man for mc’s & when I was the DJ for Lateef the Truth Speaker of Quannum Collective he would ask me to sing some of his back up lyrics. Then after a chance meeting with the Timmion Records guys I began singing as an artist. The main thing for me is just to have no fear & to keep trying to push my skill set forward. I’m actually taking acting classes now so who knows….. One day you might see me on TV

I was watching the Pendletons video for Gotta Get Out and the 7” records; the idea of the rent party; and the soulful elements to track all lend a kind of nostalgia to the mood. Is that something you purposefully like to bring through in your music and your DJ sets?

Definitely! I try to play music for everyone when I DJ. I always bring some known & recognisable tunes, ones that really good but have an “across the board” vibe. This tour those tunes have been Best of My Love by The Emotions, The Glow of Love by Change, Street Player by Chicago & more like these. I love to play rare tunes but for me I want to see people having a good time & that happens when you play known tracks. Same goes for making music. After Dan (Meisenheimer) & I have our tracks laid out for a song we try to insert elements from known music that help raise tension and release in music. Same with writing hooks, we try to use phrasing that can get stuck in your mind! We try to make it hard to forget!!

 

You’ve been running a successful vinyl DJ night In Oakland for a while now. Can you tell us about the 45 sessions?

Yes! I’ve been a part of 45 sessions from the start along with Platurn, Enki, Mr. E & Shortkut!  We have always done the party in Oakland, even before the mass exodus of people from SF who moved across the Bay. It’s been a really great party & we’ve hosted some of the top dj’s in the world. Although we don’t do it monthly any longer we just do it quarterly.

I know a lot of people have moved to Oakland, because of the tech industry hiking up all the prices in the city. How do you think it’s affected the music scene there?

The music scene in Oakland is amazing now. It’s better than San Francisco! The bars & clubs downtown Oakland are jumping most nights of the week!

What is it about the 7” format that is just perfect for you?

Oh that’s an easy one. As a dj traveling the world playing vinyl, it’s just easier to carry. That’s the main reason I started carrying around 45’s in the bay area to play. I didn’t have a car & got tired of dragging around a backpack full of 12”s so I just started carrying 45’s all the time. This was years before the hype around 45’s started.

We all know about Amoeba, but what are some of your favourite hidden spots to dig in the Bay Area?

There are a few. Every once in a while you can find a few gems at The Record Man, Ashby Flea Market, or Champion Sound!

Lastly, can you play us out with a track or five?

Here are 5 for the Road!

May My Love Be With You by Phreek

 

 

My Favorite Person by The O’Jays

 

 

Let’s Get Together by Pam Todd & Love Exchange

 

 

Rip It Up by Orange Juice

 

 

Confrontation by Home Grown Syndrome

 

Catching up with Finnebassen

The last time we conversed with Finnebassen on this blog it had followed a flourishing period of creativity from the recording artist. He’d just finished a remix from Gundelach’s critically acclaimed Spiders EP, going to rack up over a million plays on Spotify; then offered a new dimension to the Finnebassen sound with Rotundo that same year; before Sanguine emboldened that sound as it found it’s way out on Polymath the following year.

These releases interspersed Finnebassen’s unrelenting touring schedule that showed little sign of slowing down, and as he came out of that period there followed something of a hiatus for the studio artist.

His touring schedule only intensified however and he added a live performer to his repertoire, making regular appearances at Jæger in that context. A boiler room session in our basement and various DJ commitments around the world has only gone on to cement his prowess as a DJ, studio artist and now live performer.

The recording hiatus was only ever going to be a temporary one and now he’s returned with a remix for Jos and Eli and the rumour mill is turning again with a new EP of original music right around the corner.

We wanted to hear more about this and what else he’d been up to since we last spoke so we caught up with Finnebassen over email before he makes a return to our booth this Frædag.

It has been a while since we had you on the blog. What have been some of the musical highlights for you since?

I’ve had a fair few good gigs around the world since then. On of my favourites was playing in the Amazon jungle with Gregor Tresher for 4000 people. They lit up the forest surrounding us so the atmosphere was incredible.

What’s inspiring you lately in music and beyond?

 I’m listening to all kinds of music at the mmoment. We just had a trip to Morocco to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and a friend showed me a Jan Garbarek track I hadn’t heard before called “Where the Rivers Meet”. Joe Sample with “Night Flight” has been in heavy rotation. “Grandma” and “Game Winner” by Vulfpeck have been played a lot as well. Not to mention Digable Planets with “Nickel Bags”. AND Kaiwata Tsuki with “The Barren Moon”

Also I have been re-watching the “The Wire” from HBO and there is something about that show that just punches me right in the face. It’s probably my 6th time watching it and it really inspires me aesthetically.

 There’s been a bit of a hiatus for you in the studio. What was the reason behind that?

 I could go on and on about this. Making music can be a lot of fun, but it can also be the most difficult thing in the world. Sometimes you have to get away from it. It’s not that I’m not working or thinking about music. But the actual process can be scary and de-motivating if you don’t have clarity and a sound idea. I think a lot when I make music. I’m not one to just go into to the studio and have muck around and just see what happens. It happens from time to time, that that way of working yields good results, but I don’t like not knowing what I’m getting into. So the reason is basically that I have been forming and developing a new workflow that can take me in a new direction.

 But you’re back now with a remix Jos & Eli. How did this come together and what was it about the original that drew you to it?

 I was drawn to the name. It fits my musical style and taste quite well. Not that I don’t enjoy vocals, but as of late I tend to listen to and play more instrumental pieces. I wanted to tell a story with and instrument. Which ended up being my Juno 60. So I spent a lot of time arranging midi and then I did a one take recording. Working this way allows me to manipulate different parameters on the synth in real time while the notes are triggered by midi and I can really express myself with the instrument. Making it sound unique. The middle part is taken from the original but it’s also just Midi, this time triggering my sub 37. This gives totally different feel to the breakdown of the track. Being a guy that started doing mostly sampling I’m pretty excited that I slowly reaching a new realm of music production.

Deep House Amsterdam called it a “truly chilling atmospheric experience”. How would you describe the remix?

 I don’t know I don’t like to describe to others what my music feels or sounds like. But for me it’s melancholic and there is a sense of longing in it. I guess that is a feeling I have had for a while. There has been a big hole in my life and I guess that track describes and fills that gap.

 You’re also currently working on a new EP, the first in a couple of years. Can you tell us one thing about it?

 Yes! It’s basically ideas I’ve had for a while. But have had trouble connecting them. I have a hard time making 3 tracks fit together and I didn’t think they do at all still. But who cares; maybe some chinstroker over at RA. My goal is just to make music that feels right to me. The EP consists of 2 4/4 120+ bpm “Big tracks” and one more stripped down. Its finished and on its way to be mixed. I’d rather not say more than that at this point.

 You’ve been playing live more at Jæger in recent memory. What do you like about playing live that you can’t do through a DJ set?

 It’s a totally different animal altogether. First of all you prepare in a different way. Me and Martin, my live partner, have a very good connection and we read each other very well. Having that connection with another person is a lot of fun and it makes it more valuable because you share the experience with someone. You also have a totally different level of focus. For the 40 minutes you are up there, you are completely absorbed in what you are doing. I guess I have a similar focus when I DJ, but you can’t stand up there with 4500 knobs and try to read the crowd. You have to have some sort of game plan and use it as a guideline for you live set. That is how we do it anyway. And it’s really weird and scary not being able to turn on a dime if your stuff is not working with the crowd. And when you are finished you feel sooooo good, but you are completely drained for energy. Everything is left in the live set. That focus and dedication is what I like about the live sets.

 Your back with a DJ set this Friday though and your sets are always special here (and we assume you find it special too). What makes playing at Jæger so special for you?

Well I see its members and a lot of the staff as family and friends. Ola has been a key figure in my career, both challenging me to do my first live gig and giving me my first residency at a proper club. I have been listening to Geir (G-Ha), Ola (Olanskii), Håkon (Vinny Villbass) and Joachim (DiskJokke) since Footfood was at Skaugum. And I always imagined myself playing with them one day. And wouldn’t you know it!!! It actually happened. And it’s happening again in Friday.

 Give us three words that would sum up your next set at Jæger.

 Primal, musical and driven.

 Lastly, please play us out with a song.

 It has to be Jan Garbarek – Where the Rivers Meet. God knows there will be enough electronic music on Friday.

 

One Culture: The past, present and future of Techno with Freddy K and Silent Servant

The origins of Techno

In the 1990’s a very impressionable pre-adolescent Juan Mendez had his first contact with rave culture and Techno through the LA warehouse party scene. The nascent DJ and producer, that would first breakthrough as Jasper and then later as Silent Servant would get into the burgeoning sound of Techno at these raves through an unlikely route.

 

His brother, a “new wave kid”, exchanged tapes of new music coming in from Europe at the time with a “bunch new wave skateboarder dudes”, and introduced Mendez to the likes of The Cure, The Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen throughout the late 80’s and early nineties. Mendez immediately found an affinity with the sound that would lead to bands like My Bloody Valentine.

“We used to go and see a band and then go, ‘ok where is the afterhours’, let’s go find it”, he tells us in a distinctive West Coast accent over a slice of pizza. “That time downtown LA was a ghost town and they would have parties everywhere.”

Growing up in heart of the nineties, Mendez came of age through on the most exciting times for music and especially electronic music. In Europe the second summer of love had only just happened, bringing Acid House to the world stage and starting a movement in its wake that would eventually lead to Techno. Mendez was particularly susceptible to the sound of Techno, but not immediately. As a budding DJ, making his mark in the Orange County suburbs of LA, playing a mix of “new wave and electro stuff” for critical audiences, his start in music came by way of DJing and he remembers his trial by fire fondly.

“You had to know how to mix otherwise they’d kick you off, because it was all about keeping people dancing.” Uncle Jam’s Army, and the World Class Wreckin Crew had already established themselves in the underground DJ scene in LA opening up a path to greatness for the likes of Dr Dre and the Arabian Prince, but at the same time in empty warehouses around downtown LA “rave was happening too”.

Mendez had cottoned on to the sound at first when an Aphex Twin video appeared amongst the likes of My Bloody Valentine in an alternative music show on MTV called 120 Minutes. “This is weird”, he remembers thinking,“ this is cool” and from Aphex Twin to St Etienne, it opened Mendez up to the world of Acid House. “Then I started getting into that and going to clubs and hearing this sound” and upon making some influential friends in LA he got into the sound of Detroit, in large part due to an R&S compilation called “In Order to Dance 5”.

“It had 69 (Carl Craig), Basic Channel and Kenny Larkin. So I was like whoa, what’s this. I like this! I started going to more parties with a couple of guys that threw parties. That’s where I heard DBX and old Cabinet Records, all the stuff that was on Plus 8-, Submerge- and Telenet distribution. I was like; ‘alright, this is awesome.’”

The parties and the record stores were one piece of the puzzle, but possibly the most vital piece of the jigsaw would be the radio. Radio played an important role in the proliferation of that sound the world over and in LA they “had a really good radio station” which brought the sound across the atlantic to the US in what Mendez describes as an “idealisation of Europe”.

Freddy K tunes in

“At that time radio was also really important”, says Alessio Armeni stressing Mendez’ point. The Italian DJ, aka Freddy K, had been listening intently as Mendez talked about his introduction to Techno, and when it came to radio, it was a chance for him to distill some of his early experiences. Armeni rose to prominence through Italy as a DJ and producer, but ultimately made his mark on the radio in Rome, where he established the show Virus, which ran unopposed for eight years as Italy’s leading radio program for electronic music.

Following a similar path to Mendez as a DJ that started out playing private parties and moving into the club, Armeni went on to establish a fundamental career as a DJ; a facilitator for the scene and the music; a label manager; and head of KEY vinyl records.  

He’s been living in Berlin for the past five years today, but his Italian accent is still prominent. He converses with Mendez in an easy, relaxed manner like they’ve been friends for years. The two have played together a few times since Armeni’s return to to the DJ circuit and effortlessly slip into a congenial report with each other. The Italian DJ is about a head taller than Mendez and a little older at 47, but his athletic physique belies his age, the result of being a competition swimmer in in his youth.

“I was a swimmer so I didn’t have so much time to go to parties, but then I had the radio.” Like Mendez MTV too “was so important at that time” and again like Mendez, Armeni’s induction into the world of electronic music would come through other avenues, from Rock to Hip Hop and “from kraftwerk to shitty pop”.

The radio and MTV might have been his introduction to electronic music but it would the record store that would cultivate it, and one record store in particular played a pivotal role in his musical education. It was called Remix and it was “this small shop in the centre of Rome” which was only about “twenty square meters and super loud”. Armeni would eventually become one of the proprietors of the shop later on, but back at the genesis of  Acid House he “used get the flyers for raves there” and there he would come into contact with DJs like Lory D, Leo Anibaldi and Marco Passarini , seminal characters in Italy’s electronic music history today.

The “first acid house” record Armeni bought he bought from there; “a picture disc with a smile on it, and it was called Acid Party (sic) Fever”, he remembers with a smiling gesture. The radio and the record store would lead to the first Underground Resistance record in Armeni’s collection, and eventually Techno would dominate his tatses.

“It was exactly the definition of a movement”, he explains. “You listened to the radio, you know where you have to go to buy (the records), you know where you have to go to dance, you know what you have to wear if want to be part of a group. I was victim of this… in a good way.”

But what was it that ultimately drew both these DJs from disparate corners of the world to Techno?

Alessio Armeni: “Techno was new, the first Underground Resistance was incredible. It was energetic for me like punk and heavy metal, but different.”

Juan Mendez: “I enjoyed the whole escapism part. Growing up in a Orange County suburb, you want to be other places and this is a way to be other places without having to travel.”

The nineties was a very fertile time for Armeni and Mendez, and both had risen to prominence through the scenes in their respective hometowns: Armeni established Virus radio in Rome, becoming one of the most ardent supporters of the genre and a seminal DJ in the scene; while Mendez, coming through in the warehouse rave scene in LA, adopted his first production alias Jasper.

Taking his rightful place amongst the likes of Lory D, Anebaldi, and Passarani in Italy, Armeni became an “activist” for Techno in Italy. He became a partner at Remix as well as starting his own record store and took on the role of facilitator as label owner of KEY_Vinyl. He also released music throughout the nineties mostly on ACV and KEY with his only LP, Rage of Age being lauded as “the Old Sound of Rome today” by critics.

“Doing the minimal thing”, Mendez and musical cohorts Marcus Miller, Steve Tang and Kit Clayton started Cytrax in the same year as Richie Hawtin’s M_nus, propelling the sound of minimal Techno into the electronic music mainstream.

Both Mendez and Armeni would enjoy careers through one of the most prolific eras of electronic music at this point, with their individual profiles ballooning with the popularity of electronic club music. But then as the new millenium started coming of age, the bubble would burst and both Armeni and Mendez would retreat from the limelight as the music and the landscape became unrecognisable to them.

The end of an era

“Everything became hype and fashion” says Armeni. At the time when digital music arrived it marked the end for a vinyl enthusiasts like Armeni. He became disenchanted by it all. “You (didn’t) have these beautiful things to transmit your tastes (anymore)”. That made Armeni “lose enthusiasm” for the cause he had endorsed so passionately throughout the nineties.

Suddenly he was finding himself standing in a record store for twelve hours a day only to have people come in and say “I have that on digital already”. He stopped playing in Rome and only played around Tuscany and Florence and eventually came to the realisation: “ I have a lot of experience, I should do something with my experience, I can’t die in a record shop.” He completely stopped DJing and shortly after would channel that experience in the label management business K1971, retreating out of the public eye completely and hanging up his headphones… but not forever.

“I had a similar experience” says Mendez, listening to Armeni’s story. Cytrax was doing well and Jasper had found an audience beyond his hometown, but as the new millennium creeped further in and digital music embedded itself as the de-facto format for DJs, Mendez too would feel the pinch as Techno’s expansive vision narrowed to a pinhole.

“It was that era all the distribution companies started filing bankruptcy” and as Mendez’ own label started to “nose-dive” he thought to himself “I’m done with Techno for a while”. “Funnily for me I was in some legal trouble so I couldn’t leave the states. Everything kind of died and I couldn’t go anywhere.”

Marcus Miller moved to New York during that time, and Mendez would visit his old label mate, the two frequenting various basement parties around the city where albels like DFA were staking their claim. Through these bunker jaunts in New York Mendez would hear “proper post-punk” for the first time. “When I heard that for the first time, I was like this is awesome and that’s when I started buying all that stuff.” He brought it all to LA, and while “everyone endured the wave the shittiness” currently consuming Techno, he applied his skills as a DJ to this style of music. “We were playing old records like fad gadget and DAF mixed with House of the Jealous lovers.”

But what had happened to Techno?

M: “There was this weird moment, that if you played at Robert Johnson for instance, you couldn’t play hard Techno there, unless you played in the basement club, and that was considered trashy music, like Trance.”

A: “It was a moment that was very sad for Techno.”

M: “There wasn’t as much diversity. I try to be very careful with that (today). I don’t just play EBM or Techno. What happened at that time with 90’s Techno, I don’t want that to happen again. I think we can re-contextualise everything that went wrong and show it in a different way.”

A new dawn of popularity

In direct response to this lack of diversity, came a new musical direction for Juan Mendez. Friend and contemporary Karl O’Oconnor (British Murder Boys and Regis) had visited Mendez on occasion in LA only to hear records he hadn’t heard for over twenty years being played in the context of a DJ set. Both O’Connor and Mendez “saw the arc and then the crash” happen in Techno and the pair pivoted around the current state of Techno to establish Sandwell District.

Sandwell District was a collective, an artistic group, and a label made up of David Sumner, Juan Mendez, Karl O’Connor and Peter Sutton, amongst others; channelling some of that post-punk spirit and attitude into Techno. Mendez would install his Silent Servant alias into this paradigm too, bringing a little something of that diversity he talked about into the Techno genre again with music that drifted between EBM, House, Acid and Synth wave.

Around the same time in Rome, Armeni was getting increasingly disillusioned with the Techno scene. ”Where I was, the environment was negative”, he explains. The problem for Armeni was that “Rome was always one step ahead, but it didn’t have the organisation of Germany.” There were (and still is)”a lot of good artists” in Rome but “there (was) no scene”. When he talked about music in Rome people didn’t  “understand” him. He thought to himself “I’m not crazy so why should I be in Rome.“ A move to Berlin beckoned and there Armeni would find the “enthusiasm for playing again”. He picked up his headphones again, and a residency at ://about blank’s defunkt gay night Homopatik followed.

It was a time of increased popularity for Techno, which in fact continues to grow today, and saw Mendez’ Silent Servant alias rise to prominence too. He and Karl had gone from Sandwell District to Jealous God throughout this era with James Ruskin in tow, and Mendez rose to underground fame during this period as Techno stepped out from the basement into the light, through superstar DJs like Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann.

Today Mendez spends three weeks at a time in Europe, playing some of the most renowned clubbing institutions on the continent and back home. Armeni’s appearances have also increased as he came back to form and his closing sets at Berghain have become something of a legend, but “it’s not that it (the environment) is better” compared to the height of the genre’s popularity in the nineties. In fact this newfound popularity where everybody has Techno on the tip of their tongue comes with a stern warning from the veteran.

A: “It’s great, but it’s missing the input from somebody that has the knowledge about this. It’s a free interpretation. Underground Resistance is not just the Carhartt jacket you’re wearing, there’s a concept behind it. We grew up with the radio show with somebody with the knowledge to explain what this is and somebody that would filter what you are listening to. That could also be (detrimental), but if you have somebody with the knowledge in the end you have one culture.  Today if you go on to You Tube and type in Techno it could be so random. You have the wrong culture.”

 

J: “We’re still in a middle ground phase and we still haven’t seen the full extent of what it’s like to know everything. There is a beauty to it sometimes when people can come into something without knowing context and be able to contextualise in their own way. We had the nineties and the nineties were weird for a lot of things, and now we’re coming out of that and you can cherry pick the best of the nineties and you can re-contextualise them. I’ll meet these kids and they’ll know Regis, but it will be mixed up with all this other stuff, and that could be good… but I still haven’t seen it happen.”

The future of Techno

Armeni and Mendez’ combined experience stretches the entire history of Techno so far and although they might have approached it from different regions with different results they speak one language. Armeni will often return to the point of culture while he talks, and he is very critical of the effect of  social media and the “superstar DJ” on this culture, where hype and popularity can be bought and proliferated enmasse without even reaching a club dance floor. “If you have a club with good resident DJ, that is culture” he drives home, “not what is written in the magazine” or appears online on your social media feed. This is the essential crux of what’s “missing from the nineties” for Armeni; the vital piece of the puzzle in a social construct of the club environment that motivates a movement.

Armeni is still a “simple DJ” he considers, “the typical example of a consumer of music that became a DJ” and in that he and Mendez share the same mind. “I owe a lot to Kit Clayton and Karl (O’Connor). If it wasn’t for them I could never have understood who I am.” Mendez “enjoys” doing his radio show, Optimistic Decay on NTS at the moment because he “can do old stuff and new stuff, and it always ends in Techno in some way.” Techno not as a singular thread concentrated down to one sound, but rather the vast expanse of the genre leading up to this point today. “If somebody can hear a Waveform Transmission record played way slower, with a new pinkman record there’s some connection between the new and the old, and they can keep it going.”

A: “If you give something, people are open. If you have a point of view, they feel it.”

J: “At the end of the day my ideal endpoint would be to end up somewhere between Andrew Weatherall and John Peel, because for me those are two of the most important people to this whole thing. John Peel could do a Peel session for the Smiths and then do a Peel session for Regis; that happened, that’s in the history books.”

Mendez always carries a few seminal older tracks on USB drive, something he can pitch way down through the modern technology of a CDJ to find some even ground with contemporary electronic music he and Armeni still acquires on vinyl. Armeni carries two bags of records with him everywhere he plays, and it’s mostly comprised of new releases. Mendez never gets “tired of hearing a new record”, but will always find something new in the old record too. In a recent studio session with Mannequin records’ boss Alessandro Adriani he heard Leo Anibaldi’s Muta for the first time; a record Armeni knows all to well as he jumps on the title of the record before Mendez can recall it. “It was kind of a brain dance record”, says Mendez with relish, “it was so sick”.

It is a moment like that that keeps the passion alive for DJs like Mendez and Armeni and even if they might lose some enthusiasm for the genre occasionally, it’s always there and it’s something they’ll continually return to, regardless.

Finally when we run out of time and I have one question left to ask, there’s only one question that remains. What keeps them going, why do they continue to cart records around for the pleasure of other people in the context of a club? The response comes in unison; “the music”.

*Freddy K and Silent Servant played the Triangle Showcase, which returns to Jæger on the 14th of September.

*Regis plays our basement on the 4th of August for a Downwards showcase. 

Filter Musikk: More than just a record store

Around the time I moved to Oslo, I had become very disillusioned by the electronic music landscape and the industry around it. Bombarded by email promos, social media and the music media there had been enough music passing my way to fill a week’s worth of listening in a single day, and most of it made no impression on me at all. It had become a cluttered vacuum of prescribed formulas and media hype that had sucked all the soul and ingenuity out of this music that sparked something in me as a teenager. It had become and irreverent noise, an unbearable homogeneity of consumer music, vacuous and empty at its core.

Record stores pandering to the physical manifestation of the hype, offered little in the way of solace perpetuating the labels and artists that have staked the large majority claim on the independent record industry and its hype machine with albums from mainstream leftfield electronic artists and functional 12 inches from big independent labels clogging up vinyl presses all over the world.

Impersonal exchanges with record store staff using the job as a stepping stone to a career as a “superstar DJ” made for an uninspiring, intimidating atmosphere that didn’t encourage any discovery beyond the superficial, but that all changed when I moved to Oslo and met Roland Lifjell, stepping into Filter Musikk for the first time. 

The proprietor of Filter Musikk,  a DJ, producer and facilitator Lifjell is a renowned figure in Oslo’s electronic music hemisphere. He had his start in 80’s synth electronica, moving to DJing through the Oslo’s Goa trance scene, before becoming one of the leading DJs and producers of Techno in the city, both as a solo act, Audibelle and with longtime production partner Kristian Sinkerud.

Meeting Roland for the first time that intimidation of going into a new record store carried over to this experience, but after a few brief conversations with the soft-spoken, pragmatic and quite funny Norwegian, I’ve felt a welcome I haven’t felt ever before or since. As our relationship grew beyond the customer and shopkeeper dynamic into a friendship, Filter Musikk has become more than just a record store to me.

Very rarely before have I found a record store that spoke so intricately to my own tastes. Although Roland might draw strong associations with the Techno genre in the city through his personal interests, at Filter you can find everything from Afro Beat to Trance in the shelves, always encouraging an expedition in to new, untapped musical worlds. For the first time I wasn’t really finding the records I was looking for and the records made popular by their hype, but I was also finding the records and music from labels and artists unknown to me, that succeeded to make a huge impression in my record collection and my personal tastes.

Falling Etchics, Studio 89 and Delft records were some of the endearing labels I had come across at Filter for the first time, while artists like LNS, Skymax and Volruptus made impressions that continue to intrigue today. At Filter Musikk, I knew I wouldn’t miss out on the best of L.I.E.S, Semantica or Mathematics releases and could always find the latest in new Norwegian music from DJ’s and artists passing through Jæger’s booth. 

But my story isn’t unique and many DJs in the Oslo community share similar stories.

Orjan Sletner (Kompressorkanonen), Ole Martin Magnussen and Jan-Fredrik Bjerk (Jan Mayan) all share similar experiences as three DJs from disparate musical backgrounds. Orjan is an old friend of Roland’s today, coming up into the Oslo DJ world at the same time through the Goa scene. He helped build the shop as it stands today – well demolish the previous interior at least – and continues to frequent the shop for new records on a weekly basis.

Ole Martin Mangunssen is a DJ and collector with his nose in House and Disco. There have been few Fridays I haven’t seen him in the shop in conversation with Roland about anything from music to the daily news.

Jan Fredrik Bjerk is the DJ behind Hjemme Med Dama, a mix series and tape label that offers a platform for Oslo’s unsung DJ heroes, which in the past year has become a prominent feature in the shop, thanks to initiatives like Cassette Store Day.

The four of us gather at Hell’s Kitchen to talk about Filter Musikk, unbeknownst to Roland Lifjell, as he prepares for a summer season at Jæger with a series of Filter Musikk showcases with Jokke Houmb. As Lifjell’s oldest friend and longest customer, we pick up the origins of the Filter Musikk story with Orjan…

Orjan, You probably know the origins of Filter Musikk better than anyone here.  

Orjan: I haven’t gone back to my diary to check the details. I think (Roland) started selling records in Music Mæstro. I’ve known Roland since ‘95, that’s a long time and he’s been selling records for a long time. (In)  the early 2000’s, maybe late nineties, he started selling records at a music shop called Filter, which was run by somebody else at that time. Because they were selling synths and stuff to make electronic music, and Roland sold electronic music on vinyl, they thought it would have a synergy effect, and Roland moved in. Then gradually, he became more involved, and eventually took over the whole business.

Was he selling records before he started DJing.

O: No he was a DJ first and he only started selling records later.

Jan-Frederik: He started DJing with DAT.

Orjan: He started DJing with DAT, because he was playing Psy-Trance back in the day.

Why DAT tapes?

O: I don’t known, but maybe it’s because there was a lot of unreleased music doing the rounds in that scene and DAT was the format.

Ole-Martin: It was possibly a mailing list thing.

Orjan: Could be, but that wasn’t something that sold commercially. I’ve heard stories that they couldn’t play vinyl in Goa, because it was so hot and that’s the reason, but maybe that’s bullshit.

…But for Roland selling records came out of DJIng. I got to know him just before he started working at Mind Travels. He’s been selling records more or less continuously for the last 22 years.

Ole-Martin do you remember the first time you went to Filter.

O-M: Yes, I don’t remember exactly when it was, but it was just after he moved from Opera Stasjon to his current location. If he doesn’t know the person coming into the shop, he’s kind of reserved, and only when you leave the shop will he ask, “do you need some help”. It was one of those moments. That’s classic Roland.

JF: Yeah I was terrified when I came into that shop for the first time.

It can be a bit intimidating. I went in there for the first time, looking for a job, the summer before I moved here.

O-M: Yeah, how did that go?

It was interesting, but I would go back there to buy records and as we started talking more about music, you realise that Roland is very open and easy to speak to.

O-M: Yeah, he probably won’t just give you the benefit of the doubt, and will try you out first.

How about you Jan-Fredrik, what was your first experience like?

JF: It’s kind of the same as when you go to Hardwax or something like that; you don’t particularly get a welcome, but Roland is a surprisingly vwarm, and generous guy. I’ve actually become his neighbour so we’ve become good friends in the last few years.

Something I would like to add: Roland works everyday, Monday to Saturday from 11-ish to 6 or 9-ish and there’s no holiday involved. It’s unbelievable that he’s able to focus on equipment as well as the import thing.

We’ll obviously buy stuff online as well, but why do we keep going back to the record store?

O-M: The service, the conversation.

O: It’s just a nice thing. Going to a record store is where the real knowledge is passed, not to mention the gossip. Sitting at home and buying records from your computer is not a nice experience. Going down there browsing is just better.

One thing I’d like to stress is that a shop can be as legendary as anything but if people don’t go there and support it, it’s not going to survive. That happens all the time. If the local grocery closes because the rent increases and nobody goes shopping there anymore, then everybody goes: “oh it’s a shame!”. Why weren’t you going there before it closed – support your local dealer.

I always find something at Filter that I don’t know about, but then immediately obsess over. I will go in every Friday or Saturday and there would be at least one, more likely three records that I didn’t know about, but I would instantly connect with.

O: That’s the thing, sometimes when you go to a record store like Filter where the selection is not so big, and it’s more curated it’s actually more rewarding than going to a shop that has everything.

JF: What do you think about the selections at Filter?

O: He used Next Stop distribution for ages, and they used to be really really good. In the nineties they had everything and they kept going into the naughties, but then they phased out the vinyl bit, because there’s no real money in vinyl anymore; it kind of survives on enthusiasm. At the end all they could offer was Prodigy and Roland had to change the supplier.

He started using wordandsound, Hardwax and Triple vision, and then in the last six seven eight years the shop went from being good to extraordinary. It’s the best shop this city has had bar none.

The good thing about it is that I’ve gone back to an old school way of record shopping. I just go down there and Roland will ask: “should I pick something out for you”. He usually brings me a huge pile, and I’ve never heard of the label, never heard of the producer, but I’ll end up buying it. So I don’t pay as much attention to what’s going on.

JF: Everytime I get there on a Friday, I have to find the pile that is new, because it’s usually on the floor…

O-M: …under his desk or something.

JF: It’s like he doesn’t want to sell them.

O-M: But if you know Roland, you’ll just ask, “where are the new records”, and he’ll tell you.

JF: It has a kind of High Fidelity (the movie) vibe to it.

Most people think of Roland as this Techno guy, but you can go to Filter and find everything, from UK breakbeat to House music.

OM: Yeah I’m a House and Disco guy, and Roland has something for everyone I guess.

Do you always find something?

O-M: It depends what I’m looking for, but usually I’ll find something. I think his newsletter is great and he has a great selection, and there’s something for everyone, and it will vary from month to month, but I’m quite satisfied. I don’t need to order something online.

JF: And you can order from him. When I see something from Decks or Hardwax that’s nearly sold out, he’ll order it for me.

He’s done that for me many times.

JF: It costs so much with the shipping these days, that I’d rather get it from him.

Jan Frederik as you’re the only one here that is also a supplier as Hjemme Med Dama, maybe you can tell us a bit of that side too. How did you get your tapes into the store?

JF: I guess I was a bit intimidated in the beginning, because here I come the newcomer with the rubbish name; but he was like: “oh tapes, back in the days…” And then he also wanted to sell his own tapes. Suddenly we had a connection and that’s surprising, because you tend to think of Roland as this main man, DJ and how can a newcomer just come in and sell his stuff. But he likes distributing these other things close to home, like from Stavanger and Sex Tags.

O-M: It’s your fault he has cassettes at all. (Laughs)

JF: I also thought; ‘you should have more stuff going on the shop,’ so I started doing that type of thing since it’s the only shop here that’s into electronic music. But the shop is not the best designed store…

O-M: It’s a tight space.

JF: … Then I just pitched the idea of doing these events and release parties for HMD and then there’s been releases from other labels.

OM: There was a Mental Overdrive show there too, and that was really good.

Why do you think vinyl still appealsin this digital world?

O: It’s the only format that’s good for digging.

O-M: And the details of the artwork. It’s easy to drown in a library of digital files.

O: It’s a bit awkward for me talking about the resurgence of vinyl.

O-M: It’s never gone away.

O: For me it’s never gone away and for me it’s the opposite. When vinyl was dead in other genres, It was very much alive and kicking in hip hop and dance music. In the nineties even if it was relatively unsuccessful album or EP it would still sell 1500 copies easy.

O-M: I actually have a compilation at home, that says limited edition, 5000. That’s crazy by today’s standards.

O: Now today you won’t even dare to 500. No, let’s do 300 and if it’s successful the price goes through the roof.

JF: Like that recent Traumprinz release as DJ Healer. Stuff like that, that they know is gonna sell well, they’ll just do it for the publicity.

I’ve heard of labels pressing 50 copies of a record recently.

O: Yeah it’s getting ridiculous. For me, there’s not really been a resurgence of vinyl in dance music. There might be more good stuff coming out on vinyl now than say ten years ago, but it is nothing compared to the nineties.

Roland Lifjell’s ears must have been burning, because he walks in on us talking about him. His reluctant smile beams as he approaches: “So this is where you all are?” It’s a another blistering afternoon in the city, and the conversation unravels as the thirsts are quenched. Thinking back on it, all these people sitting around the table, I’ve all come to know through Roland and Filter Musikk, and they like the store have become an extension of my professional life into my personal life. Filter Musikk is a hang-out, it’s work, it’s a leisurely pursuit and it’s a community. It reinvigorated my musical passions at a time of feeling disillusioned and today it’s become an integral part of my life. Filter Musikk is more than just a record-store.

* The first Filter Musikk Showcase sees Boris join Jokke in our basement next Friday.

A space of their own with KSMISK

While living in Amsterdam Trulz Kvam and Robin Crafoord started the working on their debut album Mechanized World; an album that launched a career as Trulz & Robin which spans a lifetime today. They were young, eager and enthusiastic and when they weren’t working on music they were savouring it at one of their favourite haunts in that city, Westergas. A converted gas tank that became an underground Techno club, Westergas was the De School or Shelter of its day with every serious Techno DJ passing through its booth. One particularly memory of the place remains particularly vivid to the duo.

It was a Techno night with Jeff Mills Luke Slater and Surgeon on the bill. When the batton was passed to Surgeon a particular mood filled the tank at Westergas. It started with loud “drone” remembers Truls, who suddebly stands up out of his chair as if the immensity of the moment is just to much to contain. “The walls were vibrating and then suddenly…” Truls trails off into a guttural explosive noise. “He blew Luke Slater and Jeff Mills away!”

They went home the next morning and immediately started work on what would become “Hypnojam”, the first single from their debut album, released in 2001 to great critical acclaim. The experience at Westergas left at an indelible mark on the start of their career as Trulz & Robin, but it has remained committed to their shared memory as they worked through three albums and an extensive collection of EPs over the last twenty years. In 2017, while working on the debut album, Mikrometeorittene under their newly formed KSMISK alias, they would invoke Westergas again as the title of the penultimate track on the album; one of two tracks that don’t perpetuate the geological theme of the album.

“Westergas” is a fast-paced Techno tremor, rumbling in the subterranean belly of clubland, with staccato synths bouncing out of rabbit holes from distant dimensions. The track rips through the centre of a psychedelic maelstrøm of sounds down to some incandescent wonderland. It’s a moment of incredible release as elements swirl around a calm drone, sucking the entire track down a lucid black hole before erupting again into a 4-4 kick and an explosive melee of synthesisers and noise.

Their experience/s in Westergas in some way provided the premise for the way this record would sound, neatly contained within that track. “Yes, that and Blitz”, says Robin, pointing to another track title on the album. The ultimate objective of Truls and Robin’s KSMISK project is a very specific club environment with Robin picturing “a big warehouse setting” or “a big dark hall” when he invokes the sound of KSMISK. “The KSMISK sound”, says Truls, “we always knew what we wanted that to be” and with their debut album Robin believes they’ve “nailed it”. Truls gestures at the sound and the feeling of KSMISK where words fail him. “You’re almost scared”, he says using the Surgeon set at westergas by way of analogy again, “because things are opening up.”

For the last year and half  their focus has been primarily on the KSMISK project with two EPs, a single on a PLOINK compilation and now the album, consolidating the sound of the project. There’s a sense of trepidation to the KSMISK sound, which Truls and Robin have channeled  through five club tracks and four ambient album vignettes on Mikromitteorittene.

I meet Truls and Robin in their studio along the Akerselva, Oslo where most of Mikrometeorittene was finalised before it was sent to Thomas Urv at PLOINK. Robin puts on a brand new pressing of the record while we talk. “It’s probably the best mastering we’ve ever had on a record”, he claims. At some point through my questions I lose focus and drift off, compelled towards the sounds of “Marinate”, the choppy vocals of Maria Isabel calling to mind an amalgamation of  90’s rave music that’s very specific but also incredible intangible in that moment. A collective nostalgia seeps in through the contemporary Techno aesthetic, but Truls insist it was a completely “unconscious” reference to a time past.

Robin met Truls after moving to Oslo from Gothenburg in the mid nineties while the latter was working at Music Maestro (a long-gone record store with its own stories to tell) and found a kindred spirit in Truls. They bonded over a shared love of all things House and Techno, and started DJing together, hosting parties like those at the aforementioned Blitz on the side. They were one of the few DJs playing Techno in a city dominated by House and DJing would eventually lead to producing, something Robin had already started experimenting with back in Sweden. Two weeks from the time Robin landed in Oslo, he moved in with Truls and the pair turned their living room into a studio. Three albums later and a host of EPs as Trulz and Robin, the pair have been exploring the vast boundaries of electronic music, from the retrofitted Techno of Mechanized World, to the Electro/House-funk of Kaosmatisk and the deep, melodic electronica of Dance Music Therapy.

It has come to a point today where booking Truls and Robin could accommodate any and all of these disparate musical styles and that’s informed a major part of the decision to create the KSMISK alias. “We had a lot of different styles so it was nice to do something that was more pure”, explains Truls. “This project made us realise we can separate it more”, adds Robin “and get it more structured, and that’s been a good process for us.” With their electro-leaning Robomatic project and KSMISK, joining the Trulz & Robin franchise, they divide their efforts across three monikers, cultivating a distinct sound for each.

Mikrometeorittene’s closest descendant is Mechanized World, but offering a much more contemporary approach to the Techno genre. I wonder if it is down to an evolution in their work, but Truls suggests not. “I feel in a way we go in a circle” and redefining the parameters between the projects has allowed them more freedom to explore these more purest forms of their cavernous electronic music interests. KSMISK is a “different vibe in general” according to Robin who also believes they should’ve separated these different sounds “years ago”.

After a short introduction via “Lonsdaleite”, “Silicate” sets the pace of the album in a progressive arrangement over a hefty 9 minutes long. It continually builds tension as static repetitive parts only modulate in textures before subsiding into the deep rolling waves of bass and kick. There’s a distinct progressive form that never quite resolves, leaving the listener on a frayed edge of anxiety as it rolls past every phase of the track with little relief coming from the white noise and feedback as it disperses into the ether. The rhythm is incessant and unrelenting and like a piece of psychedelia or dub it remains a constant in amongst the ephemeral atmosphere that cloud the track.

I’m not surprised to find that all tracks were conceived as a live jam, while listening to “Silicate”. There’s an organic process underpinning the progression of the track, with the slightest of human touches etching out the arrangement in a very controlled and reserved way, and I find it’s very much down to the way Truls and Robin work together. “Even if I’m sitting with something at home I’m always recording”, says Truls. From these live jam sessions at home and the studio “a lot of sketches” appea ed,which they finalised by “colouring the sound” explains Robin. The effects are a record that speaks to the body without overtaxing the cognitive. “I don’t like to be in the head”, explains Truls about their working process. “Once you start thinking about what you are going to do, I feel it never works.”

Truls and Robin came through in the world of analogue equipment and dat recorders, where if something is deleted it stays deleted or when something is recorded it can be recalled and reworked at any time. Their workflow has remained consistent even through the digital era with the live aspects of their work defining the Trulz & Robin sound through the years. They’ve never lost sight of that approach they say, and in KSMISK it’s quite prominent both on the record and on stage.

KSMISK is live project rather than a DJ set, but it’s largely been a solo project with only Robin representing the duo as Truls suffers from severe tinnitus. “They are not with me anymore, these ears” says Truls. A car accident, “a long time ago” was the cause for the affliction, but over the years it’s only aggravated its effects. “Weeks afterwards my head is (still) ringing.” He feels it’s “hard on the psyche” when he’s making music or listening to it, envisioning the party before him, but has it affected the music? “Maybe”, he suggests but “that’s hard for me to know.” What he does know is that he “appreciates it much more…  I treasure it when I listen to music now”.

Although he will not be able to make this upcoming Jæger gig for fear of the soundsystem in our basement, he is hopeful that Sommerøya will see him back on stage again. In some devine fate Surgeon will be performing on the same stage and Truls and Robin are eager to share their story of the Westergas experience with him.

Beyond that…. after spending a year and a half on KSMISK they are returning as Trulz and Robin with their fourth studio album and a new bandcamp label. “We have so much more music” says Truls and they are itching to get it out there;  “just do it for ourselves.”

 

*KSMISK perform live this Friday at Frædag x PLOINK.

The future sounds of Manchester with Ruf Dug

The city of Manchester and its border towns have played a significant role in the history of popular music and its cultural impact over the last century. A culturally diverse district with a working man’s ideology embedded deep within its origins, Manchester has contributed its fair share of cultural stepping stones and cultural icons to the world. From musical anomalies like Northern Soul, acid House, the Hacienda, Factory records, New Order, Stone Roses, the Smiths, post-punk and yes, of course Oasis, its prominence on the world music stage cannot be taken lightly. A vivid heritage pulses through the veins of the region with a myriad of outside influences informing a very distinct cultural identity in the city. “It’s very rich and very nuanced and we’ve got a massive cultural vocabulary”, says Simon Mcruff Al-duggleston from his home in the city.

Simon is perhaps better known by his Ruf Dug alias; a producer, radio host DJ and label owner who has been releasing music on Unknown to the Unknown, Klasse Werks and Süd Electronic as well as his own Ruf Kutz imprint and plays regularly for international audiences, especially from his monthly NTS radio show. Born in Manchester, with summers in Ibiza and stints in Australia, Simon’s music and sets favour a similar nomadic pursuit to his lifestyle. His NTS radio show can go anywhere from the Balearic isles to the cyber-soundtracks of video games while as a producer he similarly eschews the borders of music for a fluid approach across genres and styles in pursuit of a fleeting individual flavour. Co-owner of the ‘outlandish’ Hi-Tackle record shop in Manchester and playing sets regularly all over the UK, Simon is championed as the “original tropical cyberpunk” by his peers for his eclectic and eccentric approach to music, an approach he shares with the diverse musical heritage of the city he calls home.

With his proximation to the city and his own diverse musical inclinations as well as his experience, we called Simon up to talk about the future of the Manchester sound – if such a thing even exists. We asked Simon to pick five tracks from the city that has or ultimately will make a large impact on the future of music in Manchester.

 

When the digital bubbling ringtone of Skype cuts out, Simon is on the other end of the call in his home in Manchester. He is currently putting the finishing touches on a record that looks to one of the UK’s more obscure musical anomalies. “The idea was to make a Street Soul record” for the newly launched Rhythm Section label in London says. Utilising the radio show/label’s newly established London studio to record a host of vocalists, from obscure classical artists like Hannah Jones to accidental voices like Bradley Zero from Rhythm Section, Simon went into the recording session trying to seize upon that spirit of the Street Soul era. Using little more than a sampler and a microphone, Simon “wanted to capture that collaborative way of making music” with a “modern” touch and by the time I call him up he believes that has at least “two or three absolute belters just from the raw takes.”  

 

Bó‘vel – Check 4 U

 

Street Soul has played a prominent role in the heritage of Manchester and came about during a time when “there was a lot of racial division and crime” and as such “the music remained very underground” according to Simon. It had persisted to be quite obscure and was almost lost to the world, but with a recent focus on that style of music through labels like Trilogy Tapes, “it’s a sound that is starting to get more popular now.”

“Check 4U is one of the grails” of the Street Soul sound for Simon, and although his intentions were to just get a copy of the record from the artist, a few friendly enquiries to Matt Black, a Street Soul original, lead to an introduction to Bô’vel; a request for a remix; and a re-issue of the record on B with records.

What drew you to the track initially?

It’s a perfect union of quite a few core elements that I love in music. Really beautiful soulful female vocal, but it’s a really minimal electronic production. It’s also got a really heavy reggae soundsystem quality to it, that big 808 sinewave kind of thing.  

Simon “has been into street soul for a while” and has been playing Check 4 U on his NTS show regularly, which always has “an amazing reaction in people”. I’m surprised to find out the track is over twenty years old, and Simon believes that’s because “it’s a really timeless tune” with a very UK sensibility at its core: “That’s what’s so good about street soul music is UK music made by people with a soundsystem mentality that want to make pop tunes.“

Bô’vel’s soulful vocal floats with an arresting grace over the sub-bass wave anchored in the oscillating, looping beat. The singer’s voice progresses through an arrangement that stays largely stationary and lends much from the UK’s soundsystem and dance music cultures.

 

DJ Absolutely Shit – A night at shelley’s Laser Dome

 

Although Simon grew up in the city of the Hacienda, Factory records and Acid House his own relationship to club- and subcultural dance music is far more fractured than that. “Fractured is a good word” he says. While he’sliked electronic music from an early age” it wasn’t the sound of Acid House or Techno that first caught his attention but rather the sound of some fictional future. While songs like Giorgio Moroder and artists like Pet Shop Boys had certainly caught his attention on Top of the Pops, it was the music from TV and video games that would be Simon’s first electronic love.

What was it about TV and video games that caught your attention?

All the big TV shows like Night Rider and Airwolf, had this kind of mega synthy kind of intros. Synthesizers were just spacy, science fiction devices for me.

And how did you eventually get into the club music thing?

My first real exposure to club music as such, would’ve been early 808 state. There were a couple of kids at school that would be into really cool music, and they would give me tapes. Growing up in Manchester, I was aware of the role Manchester was playing in Acid House, but I was a bit too young and too suburban to really access that properly. Because it was electronic music and I was into electronic music through computers and things, I was sort of paying attention to it, but never really engaging with it.

It wasn’t until I was at university, around the age of 21 that would go to my first House music night and heard all this amazing House music – I don’t think it was actually very good when I think about it now, but it blew my mind at the time… And then I started taking ecstasy and then it all fucking happened. (Laughs)

The music Simon had previously dismissed had found a new favour with the burgeoning artist and he started frequenting Techno clubs, and eventually found Theo Parrish and “it was all good.” Another significant factor in Simon’s musical development was also the game Wipe-Out which featured Chemical beats by Chemical brothers. Later, at the relatively mature age of 29 he would buy his first set of decks with all these influences eventually staking a claim in his DJ sets and productions today. “It’s a wiggly line”, he says about these factors, “but it’s still a line you can draw all the way through.”

DJ Absolutely Shit’s a night at Shelly’s Laser dome harks back to that era of broken beats and rave influences of the nineties Simon would’ve been introduced to this music and although a contemporary track, it seems to carry the entire of UK subcultures with it. The Housy gospel vocal and hoover synth stabs and most significantly the broken beat track arrangement has a UK sound ingrained in its DNA.

The artist behind the track is Il Basco, who runs Red Laser Records and is a “Manchester stalwart” in Simon’s opinion. An one-off release under a fleeting alias dreamt up “ at about five in the morning one night” by a mutual friend Lucas, the track was only pressed up in fifty copies for Hi Tackle and sold out immediately, in part due to current “renaissance” hardcore and breakbeat are enjoying at the moment.

 

Finn – Sometimes the going gets a little tough

 

For many producers coming out of Manchester the hardcore genre and broken beat arrangements have given new life to the stoic dance floor genres that have resigned themselves to pre-existing formats and lifeless four-four beats. Everybody from Hessle Audio to Manni Dee are exploring those genres today, scouring the history of UK music for inspiration with their own unique interpretation of current musical tropes, and with the internet at their disposal the variety of influences can be very textured.

For Simon the young artist, producer and DJ known as Finn is such a conduit. One of the producers at NTS in Manchester, where they only broadcast over the weekend on NTS’ second channel, Simon believes Finn’s “sound is a distillation of everything coming through NTS Manchester.” With a very diverse selection of DJs passing through the NTS Manchester studios, “the variety of music you get on a given day is ridiculous, and it’s changing every two hours“ and Finn appears to have channeled this into his own productions according to Simon.

Finn pitches everything up in the recording studio in a process the young Mancunian producer calls “accelerating”. It gives his music a unique character and Simon believes it bares some resemblance to Northern Soul. “If you got into your time machine and went back 30 years to the wigan casino, you might confuse people, but I think people would get it and it would peak.”

You mentioned Northern Soul there, but do you think that Finn has any relationship to that music as a younger artist, born some time after its existence?

Yes, well that’s the next question; does Finn even hear the Northern Soul link in his music? Is aware of it, and is consciously doing it, or have I just missed the mark completely and I’m hearing something that isn’t there at all? I don’t know.

Do you think Finn is one the artists that will define the sound of Manchester for a future generation?

Yes and No. It’s quite shameful, but I think Oasis are probably the closest you’ll come to defining a Manchester sound, if there’s a Manchester sound. Finn is going to be massive and he’s already got over a million plays on Spotify. He’s got everything it takes.

Manchester is in the spotlight at the moment and there are people like iamddb – she’s a commercial R&B artist coming through and she’s my pick for the next absolutely massive Manchester phenomenon, but Finn will also be big.

 

Manchester City FC – Funky City

 

Even though it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cultural roots of anything like a Manchester sound, there’s a strong cultural heritage running through various aspects of cultural life in Manchester and one intrinsical part of that life is football.  

Manchester City had just won the premier league before our conversation, “so you gotta get that in there” says Simon with a snigger. Recorded by Godley & Creme before they became known as cricket-loving band 10cc, this track is a soulful instrumental track recorded in 1972 as part of Manchester City FC single, but confusingly (or happily) doesn’t feature a single footballer on the record.

Although Godley & Creme might not have liked cricket, they certainly loved football, and from Noel Gallagher’s Manchester City FC rivalry guitars to Baddiel and Skinner’s “three lions”, there’s a fascinating connection between football and music throughout that region.

Is there a strong relationship between those two aspects of Mancunian culture for you?

You’re getting a lecture now that you’ve asked that question… In Manchester, the cornerstones of our culture is football, music and clothes and there’s strong historical reasons for that.

We were the first industrialised city in the world. We were the first city to have a working class. The you’ve got education, you’ve got mass congregation, and all the things a city will bring. You’ve got an urban culture and football is one of the things that will come with it, because you can get together in large teams, with significant support around them. Manchester United for instance began as Newton Heath Locomotive, a working man’s railway club.

The first process to become industrialised was the spinning of cotton and that was happening in the hills around Manchester. People would bring their cotton to the city to sell it and that’s where Manchester kind of started. And because you have all this cotton in the city a secondary industry springs up, the garment trade and ever since people have been mad for clothes. Manchester’s got it’s own look and its own trends today.

And the final bit is pop music, because people have a degree of education and there are pianos everywhere, but they’re not interested in opera or classical music, because it doesn’t tell their stories.

A burning question for me has always been, how does a person decide to become a Manchester City fan over a united fan?

I had no choice, my grandad was Manchester City Fan. He grew up in the east of Manchester so he was a city fan his whole life and  when I was born there was choice.

I have a very vivid memory of staying at my grandparents’ house and wearing a red dressing gown. Because I looked good in this red dressing gown I went down stairs and told grandad that I was going to be a united supporter.  I can hear him and I can see him now saying: “you are not”, and that was the end of it.

 

Brenda Beachball Ray – Skip Hop to Bop

 

Simon might be Manchester City fan since birth, but  he spent his summers in Ibiza growing up and you can certainly detect something of that balearic strain through his own music on albums like Island, even though he admits, he never frequented he clubbing district on the Island. It’s something that makes it into his sets too and Brenda Beachball Ray’s Skip Hop to Bop is a very curious example of this kind of track. “It’s so rhythmic and so textured and so delicate at the same time”, says Simon who also mentions that he “play(s) it in club sets a lot”.

Brenda Beachball Ray is an artist born out of the post-punk scene in Manchester, who has  piqued the interest of the balearic scene “because the Aficionado guys put out an EP from her a while ago”. Dancing through the night on the indie label Music from memory  is another “mega” track for Simon who describes Skip hop to Bop as the “one to play when you’ve played like a good solid twenty minutes of Techno.”

Would you play that at the end of the night?

No man in the middle, right in the middle. (Laughs) I DJ’d with Midland at phonox recently all night. He’s got different playlists and they are all sort of mood playlists. One of them is just called ‘and breathe’ and this is what this track is.

Midland says and breathe, but for me it’s like you’re on a rocket ship, and it’s this moment of weightlessness at the top of the curve. It’s like when you take off from Manchester and it’s sunny for a second and then you pop back down again. That’s how it feels for me.

You mentioned you’re fairly acquainted with Brenda B and you often swap emails and besides Godley & Creme you seem to have a personal relationship with all these artists and their music.  Did you pick these tracks because they were close to you?

I wasn’t conscious about it. It’s only now that I’m aware of what I’ve done, I wasn’t aware of it. Except in the case of Finn it’s music first and friendship later.

So what between all these tracks speak to you as  n individual?

It’s the root I took to get to this music. I only got my first turntables at 29, so it took me a long time just to get to the beginning of other people’s DJ journeys. It doesn’t feel that different to me, I could have put together five much wackyer tunes. But at the end of the day, none of these you would be able to say are from Manchester unless you knew of them.

Except the Manchester FC track?

(Laughs) Except the Manchester FC one!

 

 * Ruf Dug joins Øyvind Morken this Wednesday for Untzdag.

Introducing Fredrik Bekkåsen

The first time Fredrik Bekkåssen put on a Techno event on in Oslo, the police were waiting for him. An hour after the undisclosed Bislett opened its doors the authorities rolled in,checking through every little particular of the event to ensure it was all legal and above board. It’s the type of official formality, bordering on harassment that has become commonplace in Oslo. With an inordinate police presence at nearly every Techno event in the city, there appears to be some unsubstantiated agenda against this music and its community currently taking root. Shutting down events for minor, banal infractions like the amount of security people on the door or the cash register system, people like Fredrik take an exorbitant risk when they put a music event together with a Techno profile.

On this particular occasion however Frederic and his brother, Mats Bekkåsen we’re ready for them. “We had everything in order” says Fredrik with a smile, leaving the police no choice but to let the event go ahead.

This is just one example from a Techno scene in Oslo that is currently under scrutiny from authorities and has which has, in the last year seen Redrum and Naboens Techno Kjeller disappear from a very small dedicated scene and many venues completely refrain from adding Techno to their listings. Fredrik Bekkåsen can certainly “feel the pressure” when venues won’t let him rent a space with the usual adage “this music doesn’t fit our profile.” “If people will just give us a chance”, he urges. “All I want is to put events together so I can show what I can do, but it’s not easy. It draws the energy out of what you’re doing when you meet a wall like that.”

Swinging from the hammock at Jæger, there’s a determination and zeal of a young man in Fredrik’s that’s perfectly counterbalanced by a maturity that far exceeds his 26 years. In the last two years he’s become a pronounced presence in Oslo’s electronic music scene appearing regularly at Villa and Jæger, often alongside local Techno stalwarts like Jokke and O/E, and opening for international acts like Dax J last year and Shed this week at Jæger. From DJing his gone into production too with an original release on the Somerøya label in 2017 and a remix of Terje Sæther & Robert Solheim’s Carmen, which came out just last month.

A weighty percussive track stifling under weight of its own atmosphere, Fredrik offers a modern Techno interpretation of Sæthre and Solheim’s psych-disco-tech original. For an artist and a DJ that’s “only been doing this for three years”, and still considers himself “a kid”, the results are staggering and within the context of Oslo’s choking Techno scene it’s even more impressive.

Fredrik’s route to Techno isn’t an obvious one. Growing up in Enebakk, in the rural central outskirts of Oslo, Fredrik grew up in a family of musical enthusiasts. His oldest brother, a stage lighting technician, took a very young Fredrik to his first electronic music concert when Scooter came to Oslo in the early 2000’s. His father, who has “always been into music” without “being a nerd” about it, encouraged Fredrik to pick up the drums at an early age and even though the older Mr. Bekkåsen was “more of a Pink Floyd guy”, he kept an open mind when Fredrik “served him all the hard stuff” and joined a metal band. It was Fredrik’s middle brother, Mats however that would pave the way for Fredrik into the world of Techno when he acquired a soundsystem and rented it out to Void for a Musikfest event last year.

When O/E and Jokke realised Fredrik was a Techno DJ too, they asked him to join them for that event, cementing Fredrik’s name in one of Oslo’s most adroit Techno institutions.

Fredrik didn’t go straight from metal to Techno however, but drumming played an integral role in th DJ prowess he displayed early on. Fredrik’s acute ear for rhythm took to DJing very naturally and as a tram goes by in the background by way of serendipitous illumination, Fredrik explains; “I can hear the tram go by and I can immediately feel the rhythm.” He “always knew what DJing was about” because of his older brothers and when he turned 18 and “started partying” DJing came from Fredrik’s desire “to perform music”. He bought “some cheap decks” and through a period of “listening to commercial, shit music” started DJing.

With every good DJ there’s always that desire to dig deeper, and it didn’t remain a latent desire in Fredrik. Continually going harder and darker, Fredrik eventually “found Techno” and the two became inseparable.

But why Techno? “I think it’s the hardness of it” comes Fredrik’s immediate response. “There’s a simple rawness that doesn’t need to be that complex to drive it.“ He cites Oscar Mulero and polegroup as examples of the kind of sound he likes, and it’s certainly an influence you can hear in Fredrik’s original track “Shroud”. The brooding atmospheres and visceral percussive arrangement sounds incredibly contemporaneous to anything coming out of the European mainland today.

“The sound in my head of I want to make is very hard fast and atmospheric… and not that melodic”, says Fredrik. “That’s the hard thing making easy music sound good and sound design is a huge part of it.” Fredrik bides his time with his musical output, and although he might work on a track every spare moment he has from his home studio, he is very selective of the music he puts out. “I’m never happy”, he says with a wry smile and insist “it needs to come naturally”. He’s looked to Terje Sæther often for inspiration and advice as “the guy that got me into producing”, but even objectively it’s not difficult to discern there is a natural talent or predisposition for this music in Fredrik.

It’s a talent that’s been cultivated by those around him, chief among them, his older brother, Mats and his soundsystem, which has become an integral facilitator to Fredrik’s career. It was the same sound system that got Fredrik into Void’s Musikfest stage and it’s remained a prominent fixture at the events Fredrik hosts like that one in Bislett. It’s “some old huge soundsystem” Mats bought from a man that also rents out bouncy castles, but it makes an impressive statement wherever it goes. Fredrik remembers that Bislett event fondly as just a “wall of speakers” with little more than a meter’s wiggle room between the speakers and the DJ booth.

The system allows Fredrik to put up events when venues turn him down for fear of unwanted attention from the authorities and it’s through events he’s hosted with the soundsystem that he’s played the most. “If I haven’t put out the events myself, I probably would not have played as much” he considers for a moment, but that’s not to suggest this will change very soon.

As Techno’s popularity grows on an international scale, more young producers and DJs like Fredrik are proliferating the genre as a bonafide artistic practise that’s made significant cultural contributions to the surrounding musical environment and surely it would be impossible for Oslo to ignore its global impact much longer. What needs to happen in Oslo according to Fredrik is that “people need to do it professionally” for the dominating sentiment about Techno to change. He suggests things like “not hiring your friend as a bouncer” and to take the time to put together a “good event”.

Fredrik it seems to me is in the perfect position to sway authoritarian opinion. As a young, motivated artist with an amiable personality (who’s held down a day-job since he was 17) he does well to contradict the kind of dogged preconceptions that are embedded today in an archaic, conservative public opinion of Techno in this city. I put it to Fredrik that he is the prime candidate for changing public perceptions and that he should start a Techno label to that effect, but behind a coy smile he says” I don’t think I’m the right person to start it… not yet.”  

For the moment he’s “just having fun with it” and he’s happy for it to “come naturally”  both in the booth and in the studio. He’s really looking forward to opening up for Shed this weekend alongside his “mentor” Jokke, which will be a “little different” to the harder stuff he usually plays. “It’s a challenge”,  he says “but that’s the fun part of it.”

Deliver or Die with Konstantin Sibold

Konstantin Sibold should already to be playing, but I see him jostling for position in the thick of the crowd in Jæger’s courtyard. The crowd is tightly huddled together in the centre of the al fresco dance floor, keeping the brisk temperatures at bay as more and more people spill out of the bar. Konstantin gives up. “It’s too tight in there” he yells over the system. Ever the professional, he’s looking for a sonic reference ahead of his set, something to sway the direction in which his set might go, but on this occasion a visual cue has to suffice. “It looks like a ski-resort” he muses before slipping past the gate to disappear into the booth, where he takes over from Olanskii. Segueing into a ravy Techno track, building on that energy the Frædag resident has been cultivating over the last five tracks, Konstantin’s presence is felt immediately.

I don’t recognise the track, but it could be the unreleased Maceo Plex he was telling me about earlier in the Hotel lobby, where our conversation started at how he prepares for a set. Konstantin is incredibly relaxed and effervescent, a great Interviewee, plying you with more information than needed and just enough to hold your attention. He takes me through a list on his phone, literally made up of “thousands of tracks” that he’s harvested for future and past sets. They are made up of new, unreleased tracks like that Maceo Plex track, to Four Tet’s Buchla, an “old one I want play again”. For Konstantin it’s  an “ongoing process of being into music all the time” and it’s a process that manifested itself early in the German DJ and producer’s life.

As an 11 year-old, Konstantin had a precocious start in music, picking up production quickly through computers in the way, only a pre-adolescent teen could. Production eventually lead to DJing as a natural evolution for a 15 year-old Konstantin, and today it’s the role he feels most comfortable in as an artist. “In the end I think I’m more of a DJ” he tells me while leaning back into his chair. DJing seemed to come naturally to Konstantin and while still a student, at the tender age of 21, he became the youngest resident at Rocker 33, a Stuttgart clubbing institution that provided a platform to prominent careers for the likes of Motor City Drum Ensemble and Moritz von Pein.

Konstantin’s induction was a trial by fire and applied him with the necessary tools that made him the DJ he is today, a “highly adaptable” anomaly in the booth that is able to modulate with his audience, while retaining some artistic identity.

Later that evening after our interview the energy is electric in Jæger’s backyard, peaking at excessive levels, and then suddenly a drop in the bottom end. A wispy melody of some unknown origins builds tension and the whole crowd lurches forward, towards the booth as one. There’s a moment of inextricable pause… it’s nearly silent… and then an exhilarated whoop from the audience as the bass and drums kick back in to the pulse of the dance floor.

Growing up in Stuttgart, Konstantin’s quite familiar with how to appease a zestful crowd. A working class motor city with relatively early closing hours (compared to other places in Germany like Berlin), there’s an “instant energy” that Konstantin had to cater for as DJ. People that arduously labour in the car industry, often six times a week, require that immediacy of escapism that only harder dance genres like Techno can provide. There’s an unspoken expectation where “people in Stuttgart don’t care about genres, they care more about energy levels” and not every DJ or style of music can often accommodate this attitude. “For people like Soulphiction/Jackmate and Danilo (Motor City Drum ensemble) it’s a bit of a different vibe” suggests Konstantin, “because they are people that don’t (cater) to an instant delivery.” DJ’s like these often don’t “feel at home” in Stuttgart, and as in the case of Motor City Drum ensemble left “pretty early” in their career.

Konstantin and Motor City Drum Ensemble both came through the ranks at Rocker 33 at the same time and whereas the latter moved away for a more receptive audience, Konstantin stayed and quickly realised that it’s a matter of “deliver or die” in Stuttgart. Asked to play with the likes of “Adam Beyer, Josh Wink, Michael Mayer and Ellen Allien” during those early years, he had be able to play “everything from A-Z” while maintaining those Stuttgarter energy levels. Back then, as a vinyl DJ, preparation was key. Konstantin had to be able to adapt to a “new musical setting, almost every week” and it plied him with the knowledge and experience to “push boundaries” and to stay “open to every genre” and it’s something that has followed him through his entire career up to the present.

“As an artist I want to stay unpredictable”, he tells me back at the hotel. His ability to find a symbiotic relationship with the dance floor is something embedded in his approach to finding new music. With various playlists at his disposal in the digital format, he has everything from “wedding music like Abba” to “Techno from Dozzy Donato” at his fingertips, allowing the DJ to always “keep it open” for any situation. While walking to Jæger he tells me how during one closing set at Panorama Bar he segued a Helix track – a UK bass track from the Night Slugs label –  into Madonna’s Music. “It’s the best transition I’ve ever made” he enthuses, and it says something about the whole ideology behind the DJ. “For me as an artist it’s better to stay highly adaptable, because that’s my biggest strength.”

Two years after first getting the residency at Rocker 33 and playing with big name DJs, Konstantin and his “best friend” Leif Müller established Common Sense People at the club with that same philosophy. Although they started out booking DJs that fell into specific genres like House, they quickly moved over to booking people like Gerd Janson, Redshape and Roman Flügel and more recently the likes of Avalon Emerson, Johanna Knutson and Helena Hauff; acts that occupy a kind of suspended universe between genres in music. It’s “everything that (isn’t) Techno and (isn’t) House”, explains Konstantin. “We always book the acts that no-one else is booking because (they’re) in between.” Konstantin even suggests there’s a “strictness in openness” to Common Sense People and their audience in Stuttgart “get that”. The Common Sense People audience is perhaps a bit more patient than the rest of Stuttgart suggests Konstantin; a residency where he and Leif can “hold the pace” of an entire night. “When Leif and I play all night-long sets we can keep it low for a certain time and we keep it deep and trippy, because we know it works. “

How does he transfer this philosophy to a night in Oslo and Jaæger where the nights are even shorter? “Like a chameleon I always change to suit the environment.” He’s done his research before coming to Jæger too, figuring it’s “somewhere between Berghain/Panorama Bar and Robert Johnson” and from the first track, Konstantin’s set finds some compromise between those two aspects. Combining Techno’s more energetic rhythm sections, with a very distinguishable melodic approach, the tracks touch on elements of Trance, Rave and Techno, with modern production twists. Melodies reach hedonistic heights with a functional percussive demand, that bear very close resemblance to Konstantin’s own productions.

Exploring elements of “sample house, deep house” early on his music career, he later “went into indie dance stuff”, before finding a sound that perfectly suited his style and his personality. “Over the years, I’ve found my red-line, which is ravy, kind of Techno stuff”, says Konstantin who also describes his music as “retro-modern” and “a bit trancy”. His acclaimed 2016 release on Running Back Mutter sums this up perfectly. A dynamic Techno track with rave and trance influences, it features an arresting melody that sticks with you for sometime. With long stretches of just melodic refrain and a minimalist arrangement, it favours a club context with the DJ firmly in mind.

Konstantin had been working on this sound for a while and you can also hear those elements in his breakthrough 2013  track, Madeleine for Innervisions; the track that spread the name Konstantin Sibold across Europe, where bookings followed, cementing his reputation as a DJ and a producer. Although Konstantin started out in music as a drummer, it has always been melodies that piqued his interest in the role if composer. “My songs are song-based and very melodic” he says to the point where “people say that I make pop music with Techno elements.”

I’m curious if a track like Mutter might have pigeonholed him as a DJ with promoters and venues strictly booking him for this sound. “Maybe a bit” comes his reply ” but I think every artist has that, when they have one big track, that the audience refers to; that’s why I do stuff like the Red Axes remix.” Konstantin’s Afro Remix of Red Axes’, “Sun my Sweet Sun” is a polyrhythmic percussion workout of the original, retaining the melodic nature of his own sound, but opting for a more Tech-House arrangement. While some critics close to Konstantin suggested the remix is too close to a “cheesy Dixon track”, Konstantin feels more confident in his role as a remixer than as a composer. And with over 400 000 views on the label, Permanent Vacation’s You Tube page the success of the track speaks for itself.

I’m not sure if it’s divine providence, happy accident or purposely, but going out of his first track at Jæger, Konstantin plays a Red Axes remix of Tanz Exotique. Every body is moving our in snug courtyard, and Konstantin is beaming in the booth.

Earlier he was telling me about his admiration for the DJ ND_Baumecker, and there’s something in Konstantin’s approach that he shares with the Panorama Bar/Berghain resident; an innate ability to re-contextualise divergent tracks within a singular set. Like Baumecker playing Wham into a maximalist Techno track without missing a beat, Konstantin playing an afrocentric Tech-House track from Red Axes right after the ravy introduction, is highly adaptable, but also very eccentric. He doesn’t pander, but flows with his crowd and on this night in Jæger’s courtyard he keeps the energy high and energetic.

“I didn’t realise he’d play this hard” somebody tells about halfway through his set, but it’s not as hard as it is dynamic and fervent, and on this occasion Konstantin definitely delivers.

 

*Frædag returns this Friday with G-Ha & Olanskii and this week’s guest Andrew Weatherall.

Influences with Soft as Snow

Soft as Snow’s debut album Deep Wave, has an inconspicuous start. A kick-hat-snare beat swings the listener into the album, luring its audience into a false sense of security. A feminine voice strains against the abstract electronic landscape that swirls like a maelstrom through an abject noise, delivering the listener finally to a humid sonic landscape on the other end. By the time the third track on the album “Drip” commences you’re completely entrenched in this new world and the sound of Soft as Snow has coiled itself into a ball under your skin. It’s a mesmerising sonic noise giving away to something primal, something tender and raw, yet refined specifically as such.

Oda Egjar Starheim and Øystein Monsen are Soft as Snow. The electronic-indie music duo from Norway, who reside in Berlin, have been making records together since 2015 and after two EPs on UK label Houdstoooth, they’ve ushered in 2018 with a debut album on the same label. Deep Wave is a concise idiosyncratic body of work that lies on the edges of Noise, DIY and Techno with provocative results. Noisy synths, drum machines and guitars establish a thorny bed of peaks and troughs from which Oda’s entrancing voice lures you towards rocky enclaves.

Oda, a performance/visual artist, musician and vocalist and Øystein, a percussionist and visual artist, started making music together after Øystein was asked to film a performance of Oda screaming through the streets of Oslo for a video piece. Øystein, whose musical background lies in the noise/rock scene in Oslo, started playing music with Oda. They started out playing in o Oda’s installations together, before officially adopting the name Soft as Snow and refining it as its own independent musical project.

Fortified in Oda’s performance art background and Øystein’s sonic cues, Soft as Snow developed a sound that harnessed the immediacy of a live performance with the power of machines. With a couple of tentative steps in the direction of the studio with the two EPs Glass Body and Chrysalis, Deep Wave comes as the most realised adaptation of their sound to the recorded format yet. Although co-produced and partially mixed by Triangle records’ WIFE, Deep Wave has freed the group from the constricting reigns of the controlled studio format, tapping into that primal urgency that they usually communicate through their live shows. 

There’s a richness to their work that clearly has its roots in an array of influences, spanning technique, art and even literature, channeled through the individual personalities and merging through their working methods. Where and how these influences merge is unknown, and with an upcoming show for Den Gyldne Sprekk, the opportunity arose for us to find out. Serendipitously, we find Oda and Øystein at Oslo House in Hackney Wick, London when we call them up. They have a show in Stoke Newington, and they seem relaxed. They appear in a more hi-definition versions of themselves from the album cover with its distorted RGB curves and its from there we start the conversation. 

Let’s start with the cover art. What inspired the cover.

Øystein Monsen: I guess it’s more the technique than an actual influence. It’s made using an old Amiga computer. We had the idea of running all the visuals through it.

And that gave it that distorted effect?

Øystein: Yes and it’s kind of a mix of live video feedback and some key signals messing everything up. It’s the same technique we used for the video (Pink Rushes) too.

 

Who is responsible for the look of it?

Oda Egjar Starheim: We made it together as well as the press photos and the videos. It’s a very slow, old-fashioned technique. It took a very long time, but it’s nice because everything happens live and its unpredictable and that relates to how we make music. It’s all improvised and you just tend to go with what feels right in the moment.

Yes, there’s a performance aspect to everything you do. Oda, does your background in performance art inspire this improvisational approach?

Oda: In terms of making music, how we make the music is very jam-based. It’s not sitting down and having a singer-songwriter moment, it’s the opposite. Perhaps this subconscious way of making a work is something that I’ve always been doing, which followed me into music. When I started making music, it was actually within performance work, so it was about creating sounds within installations. After a while I started using my voice inside these installations, albeit in a very experimental way and that’s how it evolved.

Were there any performance artists you were influenced by at this time?

Oda: Yes, performance-wise I was very inspired by extreme artists, like Marina Abramovic. But visually, I was more influenced by artists like Pipilotti Rist.

You mention visual influences. Is making music a visual thing for you?

Oda: It’s perhaps more about energy and moods. It’s not so much about visuals; it’s more about feeling. For me it’s quite primitive and quite primal.

And is that how you recorded the album, in that primitive, primal way?

Oda: Yes very much. And we also decided to keep a lot of the recordings from the initial jams. So some of the tracks are just jams that we edited down.

Listening to the first EPs and then the album, do I detect a slight evolution in your work? I don’t want to say its tamer, but perhaps more controlled. Would that be an accurate description?

Øystein: Yes, I think we got closer to keeping the music how it was conceived, in a way. We’ve always worked like this, but in the first two EPs, we created the songs and then recorded it and  was more controlled in that way. For the album we didn’t re-record much and just used the initial tracks.

Oda: We re-recorded  some vocals, because we wanted to have more refined lyrics for some of the tracks. Most of the instrumental tracks are from those initial jam sessions. We also mixed half of the tracks ourselves, so we had full control until the end. Sometimes I think the sound can change a lot in production and mixing.

Øystein:  When we worked with an engineer, on some of the tracks, he made it cleaner and took away some of the rawness. We discovered that we wanted to keep that rawness.

Did you go into the album thinking you wanted to get that sound out of it, or was that just the result of the recording process?

Oda: I think with the setup we have it predetermines the sound. We didn’t use any software. We work with analogue instruments and some of them are very lo-fi. It does shape the sound.

Øystein: When we record the vocals, we just play the music live through the PA, so you have that energy (throughout).

Oda: On the previous EP we went into this very fancy studio and recorded the vocals with really good equipment, but we don’t think it made it any better, we think it kind of lost some of the energy. Because I’m used to, and familiar with a certain setup, I sound more like myself, the way I’m supposed to sound. When we start changing the microphone or the compressor, it immediately changes the voice and the way it’s shaped.

I know you prefer a live hardware setup. What was the biggest influence in terms of a machine that might have shaped the outcome of this album?

Oystein: Maybe the (Roland) Handsonic.

Oda: Really? (Laughs) I would’ve thought the little mixer.

Øystein: O yeah, because that’s what made the distortion.

Oda:  We have a separate mixer and it’s just to add distortion.

What’s it called?

Øystein: It’s a Fostex mixer with just jack inputs. I’m not sure what it’s called.

Oda: I think that was very important. Obviously the Juno is very important. But to be honest; live, now we have a different setup, because before we had a 100 kilos of equipment and that is very tiring when you fly. So now we’ve been moving and changing a bit so in the live setup now, we actually include a computer.

Does the live sound differ much from the album?

Øystein: It’s an extension of the album sound, where I think it’s becoming even more raw.

Oda: For instance I play very little guitar on the album, and on the first EPs I played loads of guitar. So live I play a bit more and Øystein focuses more on the live drumming with the Handsonic.

Øystein: I think the Handsonic is really important for our sound, because it uses all these cheesy sounds that can be very interesting when you use the effects on it and we use it a lot on this record.

Øystein, you come from a noise/rock background in terms of drumming, but is there anything outside of music that informs your rhythmic impulses?

Øystein: I’m not sure where it comes from, but my whole approach to music is rhythm, and it’s more about the actual sounds than the melodies.

Is it the same as in Oda’s case, where it becomes this subconscious thing?

Øystein: Yeah, that’s where I get the most energy out of it, in the drumming.

Was there anything that inspired Deep Wave in terms of literature or films?

Oda: We were discussing this a little earlier in fact. In terms of literature, we were both really interested in magical realism. We’re both really big fans of (Haruki) Murakami and Gabriel García Márquez. Obviously in terms of lyrics, it happens on a very unconscious level, and I like that it perhaps fluctuates between something quite recognisable, and sometimes it feels more abstract like a picture or a mantra that’s corresponding to what’s happening in the music, than being the lead in the music.

Murakami is a great example, because he creates these really fantastical worlds, that seem like they stem from something real.

Oda: Yes, you are just kind of led into it, because it feels very close and then he just takes you somewhere. You are easily convinced in a way.

Are you conscious of it when doing it in terms of lyrics?

Oda: Yes, very actually, but is depends because some of the tracks are just kept like they are, like a stream of consciousness and some of the tracks we wanted to have more refined lyrics. So I needed to go into the track again and inhabit it to find more words, but then it’s really important for me to stay in the landscape of the feeling that’s been created. I always try to not be literal and more open in the lyrics.

How much influence does the label have on the ultimate sound of the record beyond just facilitating it?

Øystein: I guess they provided more inspiration in terms of Techno, as a Techno label.

Oda: It’s hard to know actually. The Techno reference was there before we even started working with them. The first EP was already done when they signed us. But we don’t really know, if we’d been working with an indie pop label, we might have sounded very different today.

Øystein: Through the process, they wanted to focus more on the pop side of the records, and take away some of the more noisy, weird elements. We didn’t want that, so it was kind of a long process.

Oda: There’s been a few discussions. (Laughs)

Øystein: We’re kind of the weird act on the label. Now with this album it makes more sense because I feel that we have found a middle ground.

Oda: Our production is more lo-fi than the other artists on the label. Now I feel like we make more sense on the label than we did before. We are more true to our sound and our vision and although they might not have been so sure about it through the process, in the end they totally got it.

So it was more like the label changing around you, than you having to adapt around the label?

Oda: Yes. We’re stubborn Norwegians.

Øystein: Because of the material on the album, it’s really important how we present it, from the track listing and the interludes. When they heard the final version, they really loved it, but in the process there were a lot of discussions.

Oda: But, that’s just the way it is in these relationships. You just want it to be the best you can do, and sometimes there are different opinions about what is best. We consciously make decisions that are technically wrong, like keeping errors that we know might provoke other listeners, but we feel it’s important in how we make music.

 

A queer eye view from the booth

Type in the term “Queer Art” and the first result is almost always in the form of a question. A fairly new development in the lexicon of modern art theory, the term “Queer” was only really introduced to the glossary of terms in the 1980’s – even though it now refers to art made before that time. Out of all the definitions I prefer the succinctness of the Tate’s: “Art of homosexual or lesbian imagery that is based around the issues that evolved out of the gender and identity politics of the 1980s.” It sums it up as art created and/or about LGBTQI socio-political issues. There’s either a visual aesthetic or a conceptual premise tied up with the artist’s identity that sets it apart and obvious examples would include Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe. Today there’s a clear distinction in queer art and for an up-and-coming queer artist like 

Courtesy of Studio Prokopiou

Phillip Prokopiou, the line of separation for his work is obvious and welcomed. A London-based photographer, Prokopiou together with his partner and set designer Panayiotis Pimenides takes portrait photos of prominent figures active in London’s queer community. “Informed by their love of high-camp, kitsch conviction and the sub-cultural landscape of London”, Prokopiou’s work communicates queer identity through highly stylised photographs that offer very little ambiguity around their overtly queer themes.

Supplant the term to music and artists like Arca, Sophie, Kalela, St. Vincent, Peaches, Fever Ray, Mykki Blanco and Cakes Da Killa pop up in your search engine, LGBTQI artists whose music and identity are all linked to a queer cultural scene and history. Lyrics that are “largely about empowerment, same-sex relationships, love, acceptance, freedom, gay pride and the courage to ‘come out’ to the general public”, (Wikipedia) set them apart from other musicians in a very obvious way. There’s a literal interpretation there that can be communicated through lyrics from pop acts like St Vincent and Kelela and for the more avant garde pop artist like Arca and Fever Ray, there’s a performance aspect that often accompanies it. In Fever Ray’s live production for her latest album Plunge, there’s an androgynous quality to the costumes on stage, that like her voice on her records, plays and confronts issues around gender and identity politics. A female backup singer wearing a male muscle suit and Dreijer herself in a formless, padded suit donning the tagline: “I love Spanish Girls” are obvious visual cues that bolster the queer themes in her music and lyrics, which takes one step further on her current tour. In a recent show in Oslo by appointment of the artist, the venue, Sentrum Scene was also obliged to put up signs encouraging a gender neutrality between their facilities, creating an entirely queer environment that went beyond just the performance and the music.

For a pop artist like Fever Ray there’s an obvious queer identity that follows her from the recorded music, the presentation right through to the performance. There is absolutely no ambiguity to the queer aspects of the artist and her music, but how do you communicate the same ideas through music with little or no literal interpretation available, in a gender-neutral context, and a complex artistic identity that’s closer to facilitator than artist, i.e what does queer suggest in the context of a modern club setting and a DJ set?

“I think queerness is to break out of the restrictions”, says Timothy Wang (TWANG). A gay man of Chinese descent, Timothy is a London based DJ and prominent figure on the underground queer scene in the UK capital. Although he “didn’t plan to be queer DJ” he is one, regularly playing queer events around the city. There’s an obvious queer context in which he, as a DJ, finds himself when he plays an event like Kaos or Transister, but as these events place more emphasis on being mixed events and the music being played is often made by straight white men, how is he still able to communicate that queer identity? “I tend to like a sound that is different and weird, even maybe a bit annoying” replies Timmy. “I like to challenge people on the dance floor a bit, to invite people them to think when I play, that’s the attitude. That’s why I love Techno music, it’s very diverse, strange and wonderful!”

Det Gode Selskab and Oslo DJ, Terje Dybdahl (Tod Louie) prefers a more literal interpretation through his selections. “I keep on dropping some diva House or Trulz & Robin’s ‘Gay Boys’. When the floor hears the hard-hitting electro groove and the voice, ‘I see gay boys’, it’s always fun to see people’s reactions. Sometimes they are a bit hesitant at first, but it always puts the floor on fire.” Terje identifies as a queer DJ and aside from running Det Gode Selskab, he also hosts a new queer-orientated night in Oslo with Mange Debauch called Everysome. Everysome is an all inclusive night for “straight, bi, gay, cis, trans, non binary or however you identify” explains Terje and much like like Kaoss and Transister, it is a queer event for a mixed audience. Like Det Gode Selskab, which “definitely has a gay following”, Everysome is essentially a mixed event. “I prefer a mixed atmosphere, rather than a straight or gay atmosphere”, says Terje. “It’s simply more fun and interesting.” But not every DJ agrees with that sentiment entirely.

For Terre Thaemlitz (DJ Sprinkles) the mixed audience poses a problem. In a conversation with Maya Bouldry-Morrison (Octo Octa) on Electronic Beats Terre suggests that these spaces are “‘mixed’ within certain heteronormative parameters” and the atmosphere of these spaces are essentially “very straight”. Thaemlitz feels that “if you are going to be out in these mixed spaces as something other than straight, then you will only be tolerated if you are out within certain heteronormative parameters, like a certain type of accepted gayness or a certain type of accepted transness—usually one that panders to straight audiences, or is comprehensible and morally acceptable to them.”  Although Thaemlitz rose to prominence through Manhattan’s underground queer scene in the nineties, he is more likely to play for predominantly straight, white European audiences today as a high-profile touring DJ. Terre is very critical about the heteronormative aspects of queer culture that can go from gay men adopting a traditional family arrangement to the largely heterosexual audiences she plays for in Europe and often approaches it in his music and his more literal video works like Deproduction.

It seems however that opinion is divided between a high profile DJ like Thaemlitz and the DJs that still work at a local, subcultural level. While a DJ like Thaemlitz is openly opposed to mixed spaces as it heteronormalises the queer aspects of the culture, a younger generation of DJs like Terje Dybdahl and Timothy Wang are embracing and indeed welcoming the mixed orientation of the audiences. As more previously rigidly queer spaces and events like Kaos, overwhelmingly welcome mixed audiences, albeit retaining their queer identity, it appears that a mixed philosophy is becoming the acceptable norm. My first thought was that this might be predicated on a regional aspect since in Europe and the UK this music and its culture was first adopted by a heterosexual audience, but this doesn’t really concur with what US DJ Jason Kendig from Honey Soundsystem told me last year during an interview for Jæger’s blog. He put emphasis on the fact that he and the soundsystem’s “first experiences in dance music were not necessarily in queer spaces”.

In the interview the DJ, label owner and producer laid out his reasons for seeking gender neutral spaces and events as such: “For myself as a teenager, when I was finding myself at raves in Detroit, it was about freedom of anonymity, that I didn’t have to worry about being harassed.” Like Terre Thaemlitz, Honey Soundsystem play for predominantly straight white audiences when they play in Europe. Putting on their own events in San Francisco and Chicago, Honey Soundsystem are able to retain that all important queer context, but when they appear as DJs in a place like Jæger, context is an element they are not able to control so how do they communicate the queer history and ideology through a DJ set to these audiences? “You have to do it through the tracks.”, says Jason. “You have to throw a lot of energy into a track that you feel that’s gonna explain a little bit of the history of where you are coming from.”

Energy is also important to Terje Dybdal. At Det Gode Selskab Terje might often play for an entirely straight audience on a Sunday night in Jæger’s basement and besides the considered selections, Terje believes there’s a certain “energy” he has to bring to the booth when playing for these audiences that set him aside from straight DJ’s he might play with on a night. As a promoter, he can produce queer specific events through Det Gode Selskab, like their upcoming Skeiv Natt, and booking DJs like Eris Drew, a queer DJ from Chicago’s Smart bar to relay the queer aspects of his identity, but when it’s just him and the audience at a normal residency night, there’s something more abstract at play.  

Unlike a gay club with a queer aesthetic or codified as such, a night like Det Gode Selskab or a DJ collective like Honey Soundsystem don’t have that literal language that follows them into the booth. Without a strong visual code, being queer is something they have to bolster through their biographies. The issue arises when these are not always universally obvious and what then, how can you possibility communicate something of your queer identity to an uninformed audience, how do you get through to the fist-pumping bros? There’s only so much people like Honey Soundsystem can do outside of a conceptual context and often what they’re trying to say gets completely lost in translation. Jason believes that “there are some rigid formats to fit into as touring DJs” that won’t allow them to place emphasis on their own queer history and sometimes “it’s just the nature of the beast”.

In Europe especially, where this music has always enjoyed a rather large white heterosexual audience this is a serious problem for some queer DJs. In a recent interview with Channel 4 news Honey Dijon proclaims that “when Frankie Knuckles died the last, great gay black DJ died with him” as if to emphasise the degree to which this music is dominated today by white heterosexual cis men and how its queer roots have become distorted. Dijon, like Thaemlitz is critical about the hetero nature of this music and its culture today. Again it seems that opinion is divided and in the case of Timothy Wang it might even have detrimental effect on him as a DJ to be defined as strictly as such. 

Photo courtesy of Zbigniew Tomasz Kotkiewicz

“I obviously love being associated with queer culture, but I wouldn’t want it be the only reason people come to my gig.” Terje Dybdahl shares this more open sentiment: “House and electronic music does not judge, it’s open and inclusive. It’s about everyone coming together and dancing”. Although Timothy and Terje identify as queer DJs, their approach is not one of isolation within a strictly coded scene or environment, but rather one that can be fluid between environments. Timothy extends this ideology to the music too preferring the Techno genre for its more universal nature than perhaps Disco or House. Techno, a style of music that’s always enjoyed a predominantly hetero male audience and artistic identity, with roots in Black Detroit and recently the music du jour for places like Kaos, offers very little in the way of strict gender codes. “I would never discriminate or favour music because who made them based on their sexual identity”, says Timothy by way of explanation “otherwise I will be just as bad as homophobes”.

Terre Thaemlitz relationship with the music is more complicated than that and she went into particular detail about it in a recent Q&A session on our blog. “Growing up as a queer in the US countryside, I had limited access to different styles of music. So my sense of how certain genres or songs took on queered meanings was grounded in the fact that I was mostly stuck listening to the same shit music cherished by the assholes fagbashing me.” Like Timothy Wang’s musical selections, there’s nothing really distinctly “queer” in the music he would listen to growing up so “it wasn’t about an ‘authentically queer sound’, but rather a ‘queered relationship to mainstream sound’”. Today Terre Theamlitz largely plays his own music in his DJ sets negating this all together and allowing him to communicate something identifiably queer through either a sample or a vocal line. For a DJ like Timothy Wang however who relies largely on playing Techno made by other artists where an overtly queer identity does not always exist, he has to communicate something queer in a similar way to Terre’s early experiences; i.e finding a queered relationship with the sound which in Timothy’s case is finding something to challenge the dance floor with and that all comes down to an attitude.

So what does queer suggest in the modern club setting in a Dj set? It can be something as obvious as tracks selection or the identity of the DJ, or something as abstract as a mood, but what it boils down to is an attitude. Unlike the queer visual- or pop artist that has a broad media palette through which s/he could communicate their queer identity in various literal languages, the DJ is often just limited to one, a very abstract musical language and thus they have to wholly embody the idea of queer, and I’d suggest even more so than an artist. Ask these DJs if they think of themselves as queer, and without hesitation you’ll get a resounding yes. The history of queer culture is intrinsically intertwined in who they are as a person and it’s communicated through everything they do and there’s no ambivalence about it to them. It’s their artistic identity and it doesn’t need context or some literal interpretation to prevail, it’s truly independent of the listener and able to freely engage with people on a universal level or at more personal level for those able, and informed enough to interpret it.

A crow in the garden: The story of Gundelach’s Baltus

On good friday 2018 there’s a lamb grilling in Jæger’s backyard in the annual Skranglejazz ritual. The air temperature is at dismal -2 degree celsius, but the smell is intoxicating and a crowd drifts out on the fragrant fog of the roasting meat where they huddle around the last vestige of heat, the grill. It’s still early, but a few eager heads spasmodically break in and out of some footwork to the music being played by the Skrangle DJ Gustav Julius Viken. This easter tradition at Jæger never fails and this year there’s something quite surreal to the setting. PLO Man is in the mix talking to Magnus International. Finnebassen dons a pair of tongs, flipping over a huge chunk of lamb where Skrangle Jazz DJ Celius is hovering around a salad. There’s a kind of uncanny last supper setting to the entire scene as if it was visualised through the work of Bendik Kaltenborn.

Kai Gundelach is here too just to add to the dreamlike atmosphere, playing some songs alongside Gustav. He looks relaxed and at home in the booth. His debut album “Baltus” has just hit the shelves and he’s playing under his Dunderlach pseudonym for his friends at Skranglejazz. Later Finnebassen will be closing out the event in our courtyard, but for now the Norwegian DJ‘s priority is the lamb and he’s as focussed as he is at the decks. Between complementing Finnebassen on the lamb and another helping, I ask if he’s heard the new Gundelach album. “Yes” he says with a smile, specifically admiring it for its “consistency” between the tracks.

The album has enjoyed a reserved release, with little fanfare on a new independent label called U OK?. It follows Kai’s debut self-titled EP some two years on and although they certainly share an artistic trait, there is something unique about the album, that wasn’t necessarily there on the EP, and I’m eager to find out what that is. I manage to sequester Kai in Jaeger’s office for a few minutes while he’s taking a breather from playing and we get talking.

I was just talking to Finnebassen about your album and he said the album sounded very cohesive. Is that what you were trying to get across?

Yes, I really wanted it to be an album, and not just a collection of songs. I wanted to make a record from start to end through a journey, because nowadays most records are little more than mixtapes or a collection of songs. The album format is not relevant anymore.

Were the tracks made around the same time as the tracks on the EP?

Not all of them. Some songs were from last year, and some were newer versions of the old songs.

And it was recorded as an album, during one session?

I didn’t record everything, because I used some vocal stems from earlier. In some cases I added lyrics to some of the songs and then I had to combine the older stems with the newer stems. It was really hard to get the same tone through my voice.

So it was a bit like a collage. You can’t really pick that up from listening to the album.

Yeah. We’ve been playing “Control” live for a year or two, but I ended up using even older stems, from the first time “Control” surfaced around 2011/12. I used an old pad from that old recording that was muted originally, and a lot of the songs are like that,  a mixture of old and new. It was like going back to your old studio and finding stuff you’ve forgotten about. It was a big puzzle, but it came together quite fast.

 

Although there’s is no particular theme to the record, these songs, like the self-titled  EP before it were all written through a period of personal desolation for Kai and although he is reluctant to call it the theme of the record, depression certainly plays its part in the way these songs sound. Around 2011/2012 Kai felt “super depressed” and it was during this period he would set the tone of the Gundelach sound. Although he is not depressed anymore, that part of his personal life made an indelible mark on his artistic voice and he feels it’s always essential to bring that across, especially when making something as personal as an album. Finding it “hard to make songs that are supposed to feel like that when you are not feeling that way” for the album, Kai would “use older songs to get that feeling across”. The result was “Baltus”, a record in name and mood that captures that feeling of anguish and sullenness, but with a silver lining streaking across the surface.

There’s a melancholic demeanour to the entire record that seeps in through Kai’s voice and touches everything from his guitar to the synthesisers. It borders on sadness, but never morose, with a kind of hopeful optimism underpinning the execution of the songs. The instruments float and skip across the arrangements in a pseudo pop-art eighties optimism, while Kai’s voice anchors the songs to a personal, emotive depth. There’s a sadness to the tracks on “Baltus”, but you’re not always made aware of the source of the sorrow through Kai’s lyrics.

Is depression or the feeling of it something that you try to bring across in your lyrics too, because for me they tend to lie on the edge of the abstract?

Yes, and there are some lyrics that aren’t that abstract either. In “Control” for instance where I sing; “you don’t know what it feels like to be alone”.  I hated the lyrics that I wrote them. I didn’t listen to them for another year, and when I did, they felt more real. And that’s what I wanted from the album; that it’s supposed to feel real, and not like I constructed something that isn’t me.

How does the title relate to that?

Where I grew up in Slependen, we had this crow living outside in a tree in our garden for seven years, which my father, or mother named “Baltus”. I wasn’t thinking that much about “Baltus” when I made the record until I figured the theme (of the record) was depression. I have this thing for crows, because they have been a symbol for death and darkness, and in modern times they’ve become a symbol of depression and melancholy.

Is part of the purpose of writing songs about your own experiences about confronting the societal stigmas of depression?

I’m not dealing with it so much anymore, and in our society, I feel that nowadays everybody talks more about depression. And that’s a good thing, but it has also become some kind of sales trick. Like: you don’t have a record before you have some kind of anxiety about your own person on it. I don’t feel like I did it to show this side of my personality; I did it because I had (harboured) these songs for such a long time, and I knew that if I was going to make an album, I was going to include those songs. And If I’m supposed to sing about my life, I have to include these songs because that used to be a part of my life.

Gundelach’s self-titled last EP might have been more contemporaneous with this period of songwriting for the artist, but it feels more distant to the mood the artist relays on “Baltus”. Although Kai was struggling with the same emotional turmoil he is on the album, the lyrics to the EP offer “vaguer” cues and the general upbeat arrangements very rarely allow that sense of melancholy to creep into the songs compared to “Baltus”. Kai puts this slight disparity between the EP and the album down to a lack of confidence in his writing that has since dissipated. With none of the insecurities of a first release, he was more easily able to go back and revisit earlier lyrics and vocal lines after he had gotten some distance from them.  

After working with Joel Ford (Ford & Lopatin/Tigercity) on the first EP, Kai brought the album home and while long-time collaborator Pål Ulvik Rokseth still made his mark on the record from some earlier demo recording re-purposed, a new host of collaborators joined Kai for the album. “It all happened pretty randomly” says Kai of these collaborations, most significantly Knut Sævik (Mungolian Jetset) facilitating in the producer- and engineer’s chair. Kai had worked with Sævik before when he “wanted to record a better vocal sound” for his early demos and returned to the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer when the album beckoned. Before the recording of the album Sævik had gone through his own personal turmoil and “Baltus” would be his first project after a long hiatus. Kai believes “it was good for (Sævik) to work again” and it might have even helped solidify the theme of the record.

“It just felt natural” says Kai. Øyvind Mathiesen came in later as a “sort of executive producer” and Norwegian songwriter and vocalist Ary was the last piece of the puzzle that breathed life into “Baltus”. Kai and Ary had been making demos for a while together and they’d “always had a really good chemistry when writing music together.“ On the latest single to the album “Past the Building” there’s a harmony not only in register, but also feeling that makes for a sinuous thread between the two vocalists. Ary’s voice acts like a counterweight to the solemnity of Kai’s tenor on the single, while the addition of her vocal on “Games” offers a playful sanguine surprise from the rest of the album.

Games is the more upbeat track on the album, with more of a dance floor appeal. Do I detect that it comes from perhaps a more happier place than the other tracks on the album?

Yes I wrote that with Ary in the studio, and we laid the groundwork for it in a half a day. All those synth tracks come from my Juno 60, and it’s pretty minimal. 

There’s an element of fun to that track, that to me seems to relate to the your working relationship.

Yes, and it’s not new to me, because I’ve done it before. But doing it with the same person several times is a different way of writing music for me.

Did any of the collaborations affect the way you worked?

I think my music definitely evolved. That’s how it is when you work with people. When I write lyrics for instance, I would usually use a couple of days to write three lines, but when I have Ary in the studio with me, I can get an immediate response to those lines, and the process goes a lot quicker.

And I suppose it gives you more confidence when writing music?

Yes I think so.

I noticed on the sleeve notes that you’re playing a lot more of the synths. Was the purpose to step away from the more traditional band construct that you and Pål had on the EP?

Yes, because earlier I had Pål playing synths, and he still does when he can, but he’s super busy as a film-photographer. He didn’t have time to be in the studio, but he’s still on the record from some old takes.

When working with different people and working with co-producers, I’ve always brought a demo that’s 80% finished. This time I just wanted to produce it myself, and I only had Knut helping me as a technician. I really enjoyed that, especially now that it’s out, I have to stand for what I’ve done, because I did it myself.

We’ve come to know you as a live artist over the past couple of years. Has performing the songs off the EP live affected the way the album come together inasmuch as you have the live context in mind when recording the songs?

Yes, and even more so now than the last EP. It is more live friendly I guess and only because I needed to play it live. Earlier I would have a lot of tracks in my projects, but on the album I wanted fewer instruments. It gets more concentrated.

Releasing the record on his management’s label, U OK? Kai was able to retain that all-important creative control on the album, leaving a personal impression on the record that would have been impossible otherwise. With LA indie label, Terrible Records distributing and campaigning for the record stateside “Baltus” is carrying the Gundelach sound on the tip of its wing towards new American audiences. The LP is enjoying more plays in the US than anywhere else at the moment, and Kai couldn’t be happier with this newfound relationship with Terrible Records, a label, he’s had his eye on for some time. “They’re a stamp of approval” for the Norwegian artist, who join people like Blood Orange and Solange on the roster and he hopes to go over there soon to “really make an impact”.  

Kai shifts in the bulky faux-leather chair in the office, his sentences fleeting from one idea to the next while he talks. I forget to check the time, and realise I’ve taken up a fair chunk of his time already. Apologetically,  I release Kai back into the party where he heads purposefully into the DJ booth. He cues Andre Bratten’s “Aegis” and the extended version with its soaring intro takes us into a melodic 4-4 mix from Gundelach. He tells me while he hasn’t been making music since the album was finished in November last year, he has been working on some percussive stuff that might make it out as its own Techno project, “a darker, clubby kind of thing”.

Finnebassen’s lamb has been reduced to a couple of bare bones, and as the tables and chairs clear a bigger path to the dance floor, Gundelach music sets an invigorating pulse that carries us through the evening ahead. Kai seems content, both outwardly and in the music he selects and while he no longer struggles with depression, he doesn’t believe it will change the nature of his songs going forward after “Baltus”. “I don’t like happy-sounding music. What appeals to me is an emotional depth in the music. Even though I’m happy; I’m in a relationship, I have two cats, and my life is kind of nice, I’m still an emotional dude, and I’ll always find something to write about.“

A bit too much – An Interview with Rude Lead

What are you working on at the moment? “A bit too much”, says Christopher Langedahl through a mesh of beard, delivered with hearty chuckle. When we sit down to talk about music and DJing in a café in Grünnerløkka on the first sunny day of 2018, he’s preparing a mixtape, deep into an album and putting the final touches on an upcoming EP, but still finds the time to fit us in for a chat between home and the studio.

The Stew Studio associate, Boogienetter DJ and producer, has been contributing to everything from Hip Hop to modern soul in Oslo for the last decade. His collaborations with Adept ushered a new era for Hip Hop in the city and with their debut EP, simply entitled “The EP” they’ve made a severe impression on the underground scene in 2017.

Adept’s vocals make a unique contribution to Rude Lead’s considered samples and arrangements and there’s very little there that we can draw a reference to. “He has a very particular voice”, explains Christopher. ”His voice register is very hard to fit into a Hip Hop beat, because it’s in the very low-mids, and that’s where a lot of stuff happens in Hip Hop.” Rude Lead made it work however and the result is one of the most unique Hip Hop albums we’ve heard in some time. Adept’s deep vocal lends as much from Reggae as it does and East Coast US sound, and finds an intricate harmony with the rest of the production. To the ear the production appears specifically tailored around the vocal, unlike modern Hip Hop and the beat-for-sale manner it’s produced today.

The production is a culmination of Christopher’s digging-prowess, a proclivity for vintage drum machines and a penchant for “old mixing techniques”. The EP was “mixed at the legendary high-street studios” where people like Earth Wind and Fire and 2pac recorded their stuff through a 1970’s Neve mixing console and adds a definite old-school character to the record.Combining old mixing techniques with modern production cues, Christopher managed an ineffable blend of nostalgia and progression, which has underpinned his work since 2014’s Younes Khalif ‎collaboration, “Sjalusien Dreper Oss”.

Christopher’s musical journey starts much earlier than that in the nineties when making music was far from the slick user-friendly experience it is today and the whole process was completely new and uncharted territory. “When I was seven my father bought me an Amiga computer and the guy he bought it from was heavy into the demo scene”, says Christopher with the cadence of a joke. Christopher got a few 4 and 8 track demos with the machine and after a few head-scratching years, he “finally managed to make some tracks” out of the old, cumbersome equipment. Those first tracks fell somewhere between Trip-Hop and electronica, and as Christopher progressed, House and Techno became the purview in his work when DJing beckoned. Christopher thus became Rude Lead – a humorous take on Lou Reed while also referencing his own musical disposition as “a fan of melody lines and lead synths”.

Behind every good DJ is that urge to dig deeper and further, and in Christopher it manifested into an obsessive-compulsive habit when a couple of Joey Negro compilations came his way. “A lot of the House music I listened to came from these tracks” explains Christopher and what started in House music moved into Disco, Soul and Boogie’s more obscure corners. “When I hear a sample that I know from somewhere I get totally obsessed about finding it“, says Christopher. The DJ turned collector after a digging session in Berlin. Stumbling on the originals of some of his “favourite” House tracks, Christopher started exploring the outlying regions of Disco through his sets. “Felix (Klein) did exactly the same thing at the same time” and the two DJs “hooked up and started playing Soul, Disco and Boogie together.” Driven by his desire to find the original of a sample from a House track, and looking beyond the obvious, Christopher “started spending all (his) money on records” and Disco lead to Boogie and of course  eventually Boogienetter… but first there was Diskotaket.

Christopher had struck a friendship over a shared musical obsession with Dirty Hans and Fredfades when Felix introduced them to each other with: “I got this really good DJ friend and I can’t quite keep up with his record collection so you should definitely do something with him”. Diskotaket was the result, a Oslo music concept that was “primarily into digging for rare disco, boogie and soul stuff”. It was a “club concept that really focused on the rare records” and of course there “was a lot more rare-record wankery going on” says Christopher with a laugh.

On the other end of town another night would adopt a similar approach to Diskotaket, playing rare Boogie and Soul, but with more of a dancefloor appeal. It was called Boogienetter and it had already lured over a couple of DJs from Diskotaket by the Christopher joined this crew in 2015 with Diskotaket’s Fredfades Dirty Hans and Erik Fra Bergen already there. Informed by a similar musical philosophy to Diskotaket, Boogienetter would also be about digging for those rare records but as “everybody has rare records, the focus has to be primarily on the dance floor.“

The digging nature inevitably started informing Christopher’s productions too as Rude Lead, taking some of his favourite snippets from these obscure records to the studio. “I don’t want to find just the hook”, says Christopher of his sampling techniques, “I want to find parts of the song that are under-appreciated and build a tune out of it”. Christopher would first channel this into Hip-Hop about 11-12 years ago with Adept.  “I’m not quite sure what sparked it again”, says Christopher talking about how Hip Hop found its way back into his work after House and Techno. “Maybe it was because I worked briefly at this youth centre and I used to record a lot of those kids, and they were really into Hip Hop.” When a friend introduced him to Adept, they started working together and had found some minor success with a couple of underground hits on the Kingsize community (a Norwegian Hip Hop blog). Falling into a Hip Hop crowd, Christopher helped establish Stew Studio with his brother around six years ago when the Skeez Tv battles were at their height. “People would come round after the battles to record some tracks at the first Stew Studio in Alexander Kielland plass.”

Part collective. part professional studio that’s currently between permanent addresses, Stew Studio became a home for Rude Lead and Ollie Twist, but it wouldn’t be Hip Hop that would bring them to the wider world. A Boogie release from Rude Lead called “Sjalusien Dreper Oss” with vocals from Younes Khalif was the first release from the studio that found its way out of Norway. A rare single run pressing of the record sold out immediately when the lowrider Boogie scene out of California headed up by DJs like Debo got hold of the record. Emails from the US west coast followed like: “hey ese, I like your record,  where can I buy it” and the record became an underground hit in that community, selling out of the limited pressing and struck up highly unlikely relationship between Oslo and the lowrider scene in LA that also saw Debo come to Oslo in 2016 under Diskotaket banner.

There’s the congruous flow between Hip Hop, Soul and Boogie in Christopher’s musical identity as Rude Lead, that although they are channeled in different ways still come from the same place. It’s that drive to find and appreciate those rare underappreciated gems throughout music history that informs everything from his sets at Boogienetter to his productions as Rude Lead. At Boogienetter it’s all about the records and Christopher believes that  “there’s still a lot to be discovered” in that genre, even today. Some of it is just “really underplayed” according to Christopher and you can still find obscure records, especially in the US . “I have a lot of friends that go on digging trips and come up with really great records.” With labels like Super Disco Edits and Cannonball Records still finding rare tapes from the seventies and re-issuing them on vinyl in the present day, there seems to be no end of music available for the genre. Artists and producers like Rude Lead continue to contribute to the genre with new music and at the time of the Interview Rude Lead also has an upcoming release with Jay Nemor and Tom Noble on Russell Paine’s Super Disco edits – “the first new release on the label”.

That record was recorded in the funkis house basement that marked Stew Studio’s second last residence and with the Rude Lead & Adept album also still on the cards, Christopher certainly underplayed how busy he currently is when he said he has a bit too much going on. He talks with excitement about this release and his latest DJ mix of modern soul for Stew Studio while reading out a list of musical commitments coming up in the near future. The next day I get the follow up to the Soul Stew mix series, portending to his upcoming Boogienetter set and like Rude Lead’s music, it’s considered and distinguished take on the genre. The tracks are obscure rarities, with a lot of thought and patience going into the way they segue into each other, and similarly to the man behind the mix, there’s not a hint of pretentiousness to any of it. It sets the scene for the evening ahead and Boogienetter, when we’ll see Christopher Langedahl next as Rude Lead…

Beneath two Moons with Hodge

Out of post-dubstep era in the UK, Jake Martin emerged as an artist and DJ during one of the more fertile periods of UK music. Venturing through the deeper aspects of House with an uniquely UK take on the genre, Martin started producing music with Matthew Lambert as Outboxx in Bristol at the turn of this decade. Deep chords, broken-beat interruptions and R&B vocals informed their work, capturing the zeitgeist of the time that also saw the rise of producers like Julio Bashmore, Seven Davis Jnr, Kowton and Joy Orbison. While releasing records as Outboxx on labels like Idle hands and Future Boogie, Martin also embarked on a solo career as Hodge, with the first few releases congruous with the music Outboxx was producing at the time, but with Martin’s wholly idiosyncratic take.

A few years into his solo career, Martin’s music started to shift as Hodge, moving into darker timbres and favouring the more accessible 4-4 beat arrangements from Techno. Releases on Livity Sound, Hotline Recordings, Berceuse Heroique and Hemlock Recordings followed in this phase, and collaborations with Randomer, Pev and Peder Mannerfelt, installed Hodge in a new progressive era of Techno amongst those artists. His latest EP on Berceuse Heroique, Between two Moons, expounds on previous records yet again, with a melodic, atmospheric take on Techno that works as well over a set of headphones as it does on the dance floor.

As Hodge, Martin’s sets bear resemblance to his production work and while his sets on Rinse FM explore the furthest reaches of electronic music for listening audiences, his club sets cater to the functional demand on the dance floor. It’s unsure how much of his production work informs his sets and just what exactly influences his evolutions as a DJ and producer, but with an upcoming appearance at Karima F’s Affirmative Action during Bypåske we jumped on the opportunity to send some questions to UK DJ and producer.

Hello Jake and Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. Where are you at the moment and what are you listening to / watching / reading?

I’m in Bristol, have been on bancamp mission the last few days mainly listening to music from labels Bedouin, Latency and Offen at the moment. I’ve just starting to read Binti by Nnedi Okorafor – still on the first few pages… the last films I’ve seen in the past week were Lady Bird; I rewatched Persona oh and I watched the new Jumanji haha.

Any of it inspiring you musically at right now?

Yeah, I take a lot of my inspiration from books and films and I’ve heard really good things about this book. it’s won the Hugo and Nebula awards so fingers crossed. I’m into it, I love the concept. Musically I’m definitely influenced from the 3 labels I mentioned – so much good music!

Talking about inspirations, the UK has always had its fair share of disparate electronic scenes influencing its artists. What were some of those early influences that continue to make an impact in your work do you think?

It depends how early you’re talking; for me I guess what resonates the most is the time I first got fully obsessed with UK music. So that would be around 16 going to college and listening to drum n bass and uk garage and then more of the obvious stuff everyone listens to when they first go to college to study – music like Boards of Canada, DJ Shadow, Aphex Twin etc

After that I moved to Bristol at 19 and got heavily into dubstep and then house and techno a few years later. I think realistically it’s all stayed with me and influences how I write for sure. Few tunes off the top of my head to try and be more specific on some influences would probably be Shimon + Andy C – Nightflight, Peverelist – Roll with the Punches and Ratty – Bells Of Dawn

What came first for you – DJing or production and how did the first affect the latter?

I first got some 1210s and a bunch of jungle and drum n bass records when I was around 16, but never really took it too seriously, just mixing with mates in bedrooms. I then started making music years later, and I guess that’s when I started taking things more seriously to an artistic level as such. So hard to say what came first, probably the production in my head anyway. The djing really influences the production – mainly as when I write music part of my thought process is always considering the dance floor and that’s started more after I’ve been playing out a lot.

We first heard of you through Outboxx, your project with Matthew Lambert, but you had already been making music as Hodge by then. How did those two musical projects differ for you?

Well Outboxx came about by a few people coming around my house to see a house mate and one guy ( Matt ) knocked on my door after he heard me making music and came in and played some chords on my keyboard. We ended up jamming and had a first track done before we’d really ever spoke much. We signed it 2 days later and then the Outboxx project was born! Really strange. The projects differed because Outboxx was jamming with new friends, and also with Naomi who sang on some of our stuff, it was just us having fun and making some music.

Around the start of Outboxx and Hodge, the UK certainly had a fertile electronic music scene with a whole host of people coming out of dubstep and moving into Techno, Garage and House. What are your memories of that period and why did you think it was so encouraging?

It was exciting, two worlds colliding. My memories would mainly be around stuff like Skull Disco for example, that was mad. I was obsessed with genres colliding like that – found it fascinating. Now I’m totally bored with trying to name everything as a genre and just focus on music and not trying to catagorise stuff,.I guess everyone, myself included, was just trying to process what was happening in real time so needed tags and buzzwords to get a handle on it. I absolutely loved that era as I was so hungry for new music and there was always something new being released.

Was there something in Bristol during this time that set it apart from the rest of the UK?

For me I’d say yes because I lived here so that immediately sets it apart from the rest of the UK for me personally. I’m sure there were amazing things happening all over it’s just I felt part of the Bristol thing and that’s an amazing feeling. I guess there was just a great community of people making music from here with lots of friends being involved in totally different scenes.

There was an Outboxx track released last year for the Disc Shop Zero tribute, but it sounds like something out of your back catalogue. Is the outboxx project still active?

Not really no, it’s an old track that Rob Smith has remixed. I haven’t actually seen Matt in a while, the project kinda slowed to a halt as my Hodge stuff started to gain momentum. I started playing out every weekend and Matt started a 9-5 job in the week so he was busy in the week and I was busy on the weekend and that basically stopped it! Plus I got super bored of house music so the Hodge stuff was much more exciting to me.

Yes, your music as Hodge dramatically shifted from the deeper kind of House you were making around 2013 to a the more atmospheric Techno your known for today. What was the catalyst for the shift in your sound?

Livity Sound. I saw those guys play live when we did a Boiler Room together (Outboxx and Livit ) and I was like omg what is this, basically drove straight home and got back in the studio. Kinda cool that I now help run the Livity nights in Bristol with Tom and release on the label considering how big of an influence it was to me

 

Did your sound as a DJ shift at the time too?

Yeah totally.

In a RA interview with you from around this time it said that your “biggest influence at the moment is the techno-hungry European crowd”. I can understand how a crowd might influence a set, but how do you channel that energy into the studio?

I just ended up with 4-4 growing on me more and more, to the point where my tunes now often have a 4-4 kick – it just works so quickly. I have to go out of my way to write more broken stuff these days.

I imagine working with another producer too might be one way of distilling that energy into studio and the stuff you’ve been making with Randomer certainly has that effect when listening to it. How does working with another artist like Randomer sway your solo work?

Well Randomer is a production genius haha. He literally is amazing on Ableton – so learning new techniques from him has definitely influenced the way I work. Everyone has different techniques and methods so seeing them in use is exciting, I think working with others you will constantly grow.

I’ve caught a couple of your Rinse shows recently and they’re quite exploratory, something that works well on the radio, but not always in a club. How might a Hodge club-set differ?

Well the club set is aimed at making people dance, radio is just me playing a mixture of music I love!

You played your recent Berceuse Heroique (I still don’t know how to pronounce the label name) track on your last Rinse show. Do you play a lot of your own music out too?

Yeah I try to. When I first was going out to see artists so many would never play their own music and as I was seeing them play as I loved their music I wanted to hear it ! So I try and consider that and play some of my music when I play out. It’s hard though, sometimes I feel my own productions don’t fit in my own sets. Confusing I know.

That last release Beneath Two Moons, seems a little different from the previous releases on Hemlock which were more stoic percussive dance floor workouts. Is there a change of direction there in your work again?

The change isn’t something I’ve planned or plotted. I’m just always writing and those were 4 I wrote in a row. I guess this is the first record you can really hear the 4-4 influence hitting my music. I’ve explored a lot of broken rhythms in my previous 12s so it’s nice to have a new thing (for me) to play with.

Where do you see your future releases taking you and the listener?

I have no idea. I guess I’m making lots more music which is less direct attempts at bangers for the dance floor at the moment, experimenting more!

What track from that EP might be a good indication of what your music will sound like on the night at Jæger?

Beneath Two Moons

And besides Beneath two Moons what other music are looking forward to bringing over and sharing with us?

I’ve got lots of new unreleased tracks I wanna play out, new stuff from Bristol like Livity, Timedance and Wisdom Teeth.

We look forward to hearing them on the night. Thanks Jake and see you in the booth.

A Q&A with Terre Thaemlitz (DJ Sprinkles) – Part 1

“Liberal humanist cultures are recognizing they do not need to demand our heterosexuality. They only require our heteronormativity.” – Terre Thaemlitz Deproductions (2017)

Terre Thaemlitz has been a phenomenal artistic presence in the world since the early 90’s. A DJ; an audio-visual artist; a writer; and a lecturer, Terre Thaemlitz’ biography is extensive and encompassing all manner of art, music and art theory. Thaemlitz has been a prolific artist working within the marginal parameters of the avant-garde across mediums with works that have always “combined a critical look at identity politics – including gender, sexuality, class, linguistics, ethnicity and race – with an ongoing analysis of the socio-economics of commercial media production.”

A fine art student, who became “disillusioned with the exclusionary politics of the visual arts industry”, Thaemlitz appeared as DJ Sprinkles for the first time in 1991 and rose to prominence as a DJ through New York’s “queer” scene. What was already a life-long interest in electronic music at that point had turned into a career when she became a resident at the transexual club Sally’s II. The event that came in its wake was DJ Sprinkles’ Deeperama, which immediately caught the attention of the wider world and can still be found on occasion in Japan, where Thaemlitz  resides today. Thaemlitz quickly cemented a legacy as DJ Sprinkles early on in her career with her idiosyncratic take on dance floor genres, inspired by mood rather than function.

DJing led to production and in 1992 Thaemlitz established Comatonse Recordings as an exclusive vehicle for her musical works and collaborations. Raw as a Straw and Tranquilizer marked Comatonse.000, tracks that would later be picked up Instinct records for Thaemlitz’ debut long-player, Tranquilizer. The records and the label advocated a fusion of deep house with ambient and improvisational jazz that she designated the “fagjazz” sound and would be fostered across her various musical projects for Comatonse. It is a sound that would cultivate mood in the way of a DJ Sprinkles set and forego planned obsolescence through functionalism in favour of music that veered from formulated models. Thaemlitz’ music can go from the beatific solo piano repertoire of her Rubato series to the ambient, wistful textures of Soil and Tranquilizer only to return to her provocative club-arrangements as DJ Sprinkles.

Albums and EPs throughout her various aliases have made a lasting and succinct impression in contemporary electronic music through various aliases. Works like Midtown Blues 120, Lovebomb, and G.R.R.L are some of the more familiar titles, but mark a mere snippet of the highlights of a fertile artistic career that has combined Thaemlitz’ critical analysis of identity politics with music, film and words.

Today, her work continues to explore boundaries between dance floors and lecture halls and while her latest collaboration with Mark Fell as DJ Sprinkles had made a severe impression on the dance floor, her work as Terre Thaemlitz had moved closer to the obscure and the avant-garde of visual and conceptual art. In her latest work Deproduction, she responds directly “to the ways in which dominant LGBTQ agendas are increasingly revolving around themes of family, matrimony, breeding and military service”. An audio-visual work, Deproduction was first displayed at Documenta 14, before it was released as an SD card album on Thaemlitz Comatonse recordings. It’s a significant work at a time when gender as a non-binary construct is being hotly debated all over the world, and questions the issues at hand in a visually exciting and musically progressive work.

*All photos courtesy of Comatonse Recordings

It will be displayed at Oslo at Kunstnernes Hus this month, followed by a DJ set from the artist at Jæger as DJ Sprinkles and allowed us the exclusive and unique opportunity to send some questions to Terre Thaemlitz. Ruby Paloma, an Oslo-based independent artist agent, art dealer and freelance writer provided the questions and in her Q&A with the multimedia artist we get to peer directly into the mind of Terre Thaemlitz with thoughts on the institutional nature of art, her relationship with her work and her new work, Deproduction.

What is the relationship between your music and your other art productions?

Most projects revolve around audio, and are developed for release as “albums” on my Comatonse Recordings label. Video has become an important part of my live performances, as a means to convey more thematic content within the limited time of a concert. They also sometimes get used for video installations in galleries or museums. The texts accompanying albums also sometimes get printed in journals or books. But all of these variations are primarily about economics – just trying to find ways to earn enough money, since record or album sales never amount to much.

Are all your projects conceptually motivated? Could you talk a bit about how you communicate the context of the music projects that are not clearly conceptual?

Yes, I always have a concept. Otherwise, it is just masturbatory nonsense, and the world has enough of that already, being done by people who are far better at masturbating in public than I. My emphasis on themes is a critical rejection of the typical pointlessness of most audio productions that are either just about affect or formalism. “Musicians,” like “artists,” are conditioned to be nothing more than mute idiots who cannot explain our work even if a gun is held to our heads. I really despise the political apathy behind statements like just wanting to make “music for music’s sake,” or “music is universal.” This is homogenizing humanist bullshit that sells records, but at the expense of contextual and cultural specificity.

How can something as abstract as music relay these conceptual ideas, and how would a project like Deproduction work outside of the context of the imagery and the text?

In terms of conveying direct messages, I agree that “music” – and particularly “instrumental music” – is an incredibly limited media. I do approach sound linguistically, and structurally, but it is particularly difficult for instrumental music to avoid falling into poetic vagary. This is why I also add video and text when possible. At the same time, I also use a lot of samples – voices and sounds – which can get points across. For example, the first half of Deproduction is a track that is basically 45 minutes of the sounds of domestic arguments set to melancholic strings and other environmental sounds. I think anyone who sits through it will come away with a good sense of my intent, even without text or video support.

To what extent does craftsmanship play a role in your work? Do you find that craftsmanship is a way to build bridges across artistic practices, i.e., music, art, performance?

Well, I am not a musician. I am not trained with any instruments. Of course, since I have been doing this for over 25 years, I have refined my own ways of doing things, and I cannot claim to be so naive with gear as compared to when I started. But I have always openly insisted and played with the notion that “talent” is simply about emulating culturally accepted sonic signs – not unlike “passability” in the world of transgenderism. I often demonstrate this through piano solos. I cannot play piano, but I know that if I press up a record of me banging on keys it has a 99% chance of being heard as something improvised by someone with training. So my approach to craft is simply one of emulation and signs – much like the other forms of sampling and collage that constitute the bulk of my projects.

You are showing your recent multimedia work Deproduction at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo. The work was produced with support from Documenta 14 and Akademie der Künste der Welt. To my knowledge, you are now exhibiting and working together with art institutions more than you have done in recent years. Could you talk a little bit about your relationship to art institutions, and how this might have changed over the years?

Yes, it was produced with their support, but it specifically means that the curator Pierre Bal-Blanc – who has been really supportive of my projects over the years – knew I was struggling to find time to focus on the “Deproduction” project, so he invited me to premiere it at Documenta as a way of getting me some funds to help me free up time to work on it. Showing work at Documenta 14 seems to have brought a little attention to my video works within a particular art circle, but as with many people who have participated in Documenta over the years, that momentary visibility quickly dissipates. Things fluctuate from year to year, but I am actually doing about the same amount of art related stuff as always. All of these media industries are fickle, so I try to keep actively working with multiple types of venues – night clubs, music festivals, museums, galleries, video festivals, universities… but I find them all unpleasant, I only work with them as a “critic” who tries to openly perform their limitations and problems, and I do my best not to be too dependent upon just one industry. Art is actually the area I despise most, because after more than a century of quite precise and powerful analyses of the corruption behind galleries and museums, everything remains business as usual. It’s incredibly cultic, you have to play a lot of social games, and if you get to that level of gallery representation you must ultimately speculate on your own potential value, etc. It’s ultimately a fucking con game in the service of rich assholes with whom I do not share common values, and our only relationship can be an antagonistic one of employer and employee.

As you might be aware of, Oslo has a significant number of artist-run exhibition and project spaces, which contributes immensely to the identity of the Oslo art scene. Many of these have sprung up in opposition to dominant institutions. In an interview with FACT Magazine in 2014, you reflected on the difference between “activism” and “organizing” when asked about intersectionality and ground-level organizing against dominations.

If you use this distinction between “activism” and “organizing” to reflect on the international art scene, what is your take on artist-run spaces and their contribution/ activism on established institutional and commercial scenes?

Ultra-red and the LA Tenants Union has been doing a lot of vital work around how those spaces function as probes for gentrification and investments. Their attempts to keep galleries out of low income neighborhoods has been met with massive push back from the art world, and government agencies indebted to real estate developers. It’s some pretty difficult stuff for people in the art world to digest, for sure, because it goes against so much mythology about the links between art and community, and the role of artists as kinds of public servants. I do not believe “art” is a vehicle for social organizing. I do see some types of work as offering analyses which can be food for thought, but this is very different from confusing an analysis for an actual act of organizing – a common mistake of those invested in “political art.”

Your project Soulnessless, the longest album in history, which includes both text and video, reflects on what you call a labour crisis in the cultural sector. Entertainment, art and music is often not thought of as labour, but passions, enabling promoters, labels, galleries and art institutions to not pay artists under the credo that artists are doing what they love. In Scandinavian countries, artists and art initiatives are eligible for grants. In Norway, the Norwegian Cultural Fund allocates public money to the free art sector, outside the major, government-supported institutions, and there are government stipends for artists. This, of course, does not mean that the expectation that artists should work for free has been eliminated, but a system for compensation is in place. What is your take on this model for compensating artists and art production?

I was raised in the US, and immigrated to Japan – both of which are cultures with nearly zero federal funding for art and music. So while I understand the logic of feeling entitled to a share of public funds created by one’s tax payments, I also am never surprised when those funds go to the most conservative cultural elements – like classical music halls, or galleries for housing old paintings. Similarly, I never forget futurism’s role as the official art of fascist Italy, or social realism’s role in totalitarian Chinese and Soviet regimes, etc. So both my sense of history and personal experience keeps me from ever being excited by news of countries that fund artists.

I am not really educated enough on your context to respond to your question with precision. However, it does trigger immediate reactions in me. I am sure there are limits to how funds can be used, for what types of content, etc. There is no federally funded culture that is not also entwined with the boundaries of moral acceptability within that culture – what constitutes pornography, what warrants censorship, etc. Within a highly liberal humanist society, those boundaries may appear quite open, but of course they remain nonetheless. If you are telling me that the majority of Scandinavian artists do not experience conflicts of interest between their work and dominant cultural practices, and they easily receive federal funding, then that strikes me as an indicator of conservatism. You know, that brand of conservatism held by liberals who cannot fathom their own conservatism. This is simply the image your statement conjures for me.

But yes, compensation for labor is a right – or so we are told. In reality, capitalism relies on economic imbalance, underpayment and slavery. Art is an industry, so these same problems exist for artists in various forms – only we are supposed to be grateful because we get to “do what we love,” right? As I have said many times, people in creative industries are the poster children for capitalism, precisely because we are thought to epitomize the potential for harmony between one’s desires and one’s means for income. Capitalism needs some labor group to personify this myth. It is us, in creative industries. Our labor is inseparable from this propaganda.

I suppose we could talk about this in a broader context – that of the Nordic Model. Would you say, within your discourse on a cultural labour crisis, that the Nordic Model could go some way to resolve some of the issues you have raised?

Again, I do not know enough to really respond properly, but what little I do know tells me to be skeptical. I know that most Nordic cultures are quite liberal, yet they also revolve around quite conventional and deeply rooted notions of family. Based on what I know of legalities around trans and queer issues, my sense is that most openness around issues of sexuality and gender relates to the potential for reconciliation or acceptance within dominant culture (legal recognition of gender changes, same sex marriage, etc.), and not with things that actually disrupt or refuse heteronormativity. Most mainstream LGBT culture – as something recognizable by straight and gender reconciled people – does not challenge heteronormativity. My personal sense of social and cultural mobility are always tempered by an understanding that the ways in which cultural minor experiences are manifested in dominant cultures are more about exploitation than accomplishment. Like, I can never forget this article I read in a Finnair magazine, talking about the equality and liberation experienced by Finnish women. Airline magazines are always such a cultural barometer for mainstream liberalism. So the photograph selected to visually support these statistics on women’s equality was a smiling female waitress delivering a cup of coffee. I love Finland, actually. If I were to live in Europe, it would be my first choice of places to live. But holy fuck…

Exploring that further, do you find that there is full creative mobility within such a system?

As for mobility, my experience with things similar to the “Nordic Model” have producers creatively bound to two types of income. One is the grant – a lump sum – which makes the most sense for a person like myself who develops projects on my own time, with no direct relation between my hours of labor and payment. Grants make sense for projects that cannot be realized through a salary-based schedule. It sounds great in theory, but in reality I have been doing this for over 25 years, and I have never had one of my grant applications in any country approved. That is a fact. The second type of payment is standardized wage systems, where all participants in a festival or event are paid equally. This is usually a small amount equivalent to one or two days minimum wage, which can only make sense for local people who manage to be active enough to earn a living wage – which I cannot imagine being possible, nor productive. It means working at an industrial rhythm which would certainly not allow for the time required to develop the kinds of projects I produce. And, honestly, within an inescapable capitalist system, is it “fair” for people with totally different amounts of skill and experience to be paid the same? And if so, why must it be the more skilled who accept a lower wage, instead of overpaying the inexperienced? You know, overpaying the inexperienced is an option if we really wanted it to be one! So, again, I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but I feel obligated to present a kind of pragmatic counterpoint to the optimism or potential implied by your questions. I confess, this is also in part a rejection of a subtext of nationalism and Nordic pride that I feel lurks in the background. Sorry, I’m sure you know that I have extreme issues with Pride[TM] in all forms, so this is affecting my responses to your questions, which I feel contain a lot of positivist presumptions.

 

to be continued…

 

Out of Quarantine and in to Dust – Laurel Halo through the albums

I have a distinct memory of hearing Laurel Halo’s Quarantine for the first time. Her un-processed vocals, on the edge of breaking, counteracting the sweet harmonic of a distant obscure electronic accompaniment. It delivered something visceral and provocative to the ear. There was something in her voice that stretched over familiar melodic intervals that was reminiscent of Bjørk, but touched at a depth that even the Icelandic artist hadn’t been able to reach until Vulnicura. While Halo’s vocal certainly enchanted, it was the way they played against the lattice-like textures of the abstract synthesis, that had made Quarantine an album like nothing you’d ever heard before. Parallels can obviously be drawn between the aforementioned Bjørk and the monosyllabic speech patterns of Laurie Anderson, but where artists like those relied on a wholly pop-aesthetic, Laurel Halo’s production and songwriting bared closer resemblance to someone like Shackleton, than anything from a pop vocabulary.

Quarantine made an instant impression on the listener and whether you liked it or loathed it, it was definitely not inadmissible. Critics merely praised it, and accolades for Laurel Halo’s work came in abundance, but public opinion definitely remained divided. “The record’s not meant for everyone”, explained Halo in an interview with the Quietus shortly after the release. “(I)t’s not a pop record in the slightest so I think people expecting that would be disappointed by the vocal tone and production approach.” By the time you get to the second song on the album “Years” you would either be entranced or disenchanted by the beat-less sojourn through Halo’s emotive depths on her debut album. Although Halo’s debut EP, King Felix certainly had ears pricking up everywhere, it would be Quarantine that launched her career, making a vivid statement from the music right through to the artwork, designed by Makota Aira; a colourful and humorous display of Seppuku (ritual Japanese suicide).

Musically tutored in a very traditional, classical sense, and originally from Ann Arbor Michigan, Halo was schooled in electronic music in the neighbouring city Detroit where she still has “fond memories of New Year’s Eve and going to DEMF and other summer music fests” according to a 2012 Self-Titled interview. Born into a creative family, her father, stepmother and mother all visual artists, Halo chose music as her creative outlet. “I’m not sure how it transferred really!” she muses in that self-titled mag interview, but what started as writing songs at the piano, turned into production, while at the same time she picked up DJing through college- and local radio in Michigan. By the time King Felix had reached the world, Laurel Halo had defined a sound in her music. That sound would go from the beatific avant-pop of her first EP, to the emotive drudging through Quarantine, and would eventually end up in the instrumental pseudo-club realm of Chance of Rain.

Chance of Rain as Halo’s sophomore album featured a bold move from the artist as the first recorded EP/LP completely devoid of her vocal. Channeling that raw intimacy of Quarantine into a primal urgency, Laurel Halo’s focus turned to rhythm on Chance of Rain. ”I wanted to try making some textural, rhythmic music that was anchored by a peaceful center,” she explains in a DummyMag interview from 2013. The result was a melancholic music for a David Lynch club scene. Where Quarantine loiters and idles Chance of Rain moves and plunders. Polyrhythmic percussion arrangements lie on the fringes of club music with a warm, nebulous cloud of sound engulfing the entire album. The percussive accents jut out from the smoggy textures, jaggedly piercing the timeline of tracks like the title track and “Ainnome” in a clamouring towards some ineffable movement. “When you’re feeling a rhythm and you’re in a moment, everything else dissolves”, says Halo in that DummyMag interview, but why drop the vocals entirely for the album when they made such an intrinsic impression on the debut?

In an interview with Spin Halo told Philip Sherburne that she “would only sing maybe three songs in a live set that lasted an hour, and the rest was instrumental” and while Quarantine was a studio album, Chance of Rain and the EPs around it, namely Behind the Green Door and In Situ, were Halo approaching music from a live context. “So there is a disjoint between ‘Quarantine’ and ‘Chance of Rain’ in the sense that ‘Quarantine’ is entirely a studio record and then I had to retro-engineer those tracks to figure out how to play live”, she explains in DummyMag,  “so I said to myself going forward you’re going to make music for live first.”

It doesn’t quite explain why there’s a not a a single whisper of a vocal on Halo’s music from that time since she would still sing live, but something she mentioned in a recent Fader interview might give us a clue. “Writing songs is exposing an aspect of your private self”, she told Aimee Cliff in that interview while on the subject of singing. After Quarantine was released, people would often come up to her asking if she’s alright, suggesting that Chance of Rain, In Situ and Behind the Green Door were a direct response to this and found Halo taking a more impersonal, functional route, but retaining the distinct aura of her personality, albeit from a wholly instrumental approach.

What might have felt “disjointed” in style and approach between Quarantine and Chance of Rain was sonically very similar, and something Laurel Halo would consolidate on her third album, Dust. What followed the melodically acute Quarantine and rhythmically obscure Chance of Rain, was an album that combined the best of both worlds in Halo’s lattice production style as a very aesthetically approachable avant-pop record. The return of Halo’s vocals on her recorded music, didn’t find her returning to the emotionally somber atmosphere of her first record, but rather a more buoyant, upbeat disposition laced with traces of sardonic humour in her lyrics. “Well, I’m glad that you are just listening to the lyrics because then we don’t have to talk about the music at all,” taunted Halo in FactMag interview from last year. The somber and then macabre tones of Quarantine and Chance of Rain was replaced by something more sanguine on Dust. “There’s already so much dark music out there that it’s really important to make music right now that offers solace, or positivity, or empathy, or connection,” she told Steph Kretowicz for FactMag.

There’s a definite playfulness to her music on Dust as lyrics like “sometimes I drink too much” swirl past answering message tones and all manner of quirky Delia-Derbyshire-esque sci-fi chirps. It’s an unmistakable Halo record, but expounding on her dense textural framework with a more organic approach than the previous albums as acoustic instruments and field-recordings mesh with synthesisers, drum machines and Halo’s heavily processed vocal. Lyrically it’s still a “vulnerable” record according to Halo in that Fader interview “and there are moments that are personal”. Like Quarantine, Dust is a mixture of personal and impersonal content according to the artist, but after her debut where “people got really hung up on the personal aspects of it”, Halo decided to be a “bit more mysterious or obscure” on Dust. Halo appears more approachable and accessible than ever on Dust in what isn’t entirely an evolution in her music, but rather an extroverted version of what came before it. Halo sounds more comfortable in her sound and her vocal than before and something she tells Aimee Cliff in that Fader interview resonates through the music: “A lot of the personal stuff [on Dust] has to do with how to lose anxiety, and how to lose fear, and how to feel less afraid to be myself.”

Dust marks the third in a very reserved output from Laurel Halo, that has seen an album about every two years. Each album marks its own unique statement on a discography that never rests on preconceptions. The three albums take the Laurel Halo sound into a new direction each time, and even when they appear completely disjointed there’s something embedded of the artist in every one. Out of Quarantine and into Dust her albums have made a significant mark on music in the last 7 years and each album leaves her music open-ended with a question mark as to where she’ll go next.

 

*Laurel Halo joins G-Ha & Olanskii and Peggy Gou for Frædag tomorrow.

A dozen questions for Call Super

Joe Seaton, the man behind the Call Super moniker, has quietly been carving out a name for himself in the modern electronic music lexicon over the last six years. As a producer he commands the album format with great skill and the two examples, Suzi Ecto and Arpo via Houndstooth, are exemplar approaches to the LP in a modern electronic framework. Cascading rhythms vie for space in Seaton’s lattice-like percussive and melodic rhythms as tracks move like a rigid organism across the temporal. There’s a cultivated touch to the production as echoes from a broad cultural palette ring through these works and re-establish themselves as electronic organisms in beatific harmony with their new digital  habitat.

Seaton adopts a similar approach on EPs and singles like Nervous Sex Traffic and Inkjet, but stripping back the layers and rhythms to where they operate with a more functional design and a view from the DJ booth. Atmospheric textures crowd staunch, unwavering repetitive motions, in seductive melodic and harmonic arrangements with heady effects.  

The studio it seems however is an entire world away from the decks for Seaton and Call Super the DJ is as much an anomaly as the producer, and the two seem to operate at vastly different trajectories from the artist at their core. While Call Super’s music can often be solemn, timid and introspective, his sets lend an unexpected vibrancy and buoyancy to the artist. For the most part he has favoured music from the  “windy / motor / big apple cities” with a very distinct approach; similar, but not quite like to the rhythms in his productions.

His sets today are a far cry from the Hard UK Techno and Trance that started it all for a fifteen year old musician living in the UK. Although Seaton had started picking up instruments at an early age, creating little “vignettes” of songs from his piano and guitar, while at the same time exercising his creativity as a visual artist, it would be through electronic music that he would leave his most definable mark. His EP The Present Tense launched the Houndstooth label in 2013 and started a relationship that lasts up to this day with 2017’s Arpo, marking the 80th release from the UK label, and consolidating the sound of Call Super in the process.

Inspired by every thing around him and very honest in his artistic approach, Call Super’s music and DJ sets often don’t relay the extent to which he immerses himself in his work. He’s a candid character however and has laid everything bear in countless interviews, but some questions remained and we sent some of these off to Joe Seaton on a hope and a prayer that he would answer them. He happily obliged and in return we got some insightful, often amusing answers.

 q* Call Super joins G-Ha & Olanskii and Burnt Friedman next week for Frædag in our basement. 

It’s said you’re inspired by things beyond music. What is currently inspiring you?

Raymond Chandler, Peter Hujar, Alice Neel, Ganryu (RIP), Max Roach, mess.

You’ve had prolific recording career compared to most electronic music artists. What’s so conducive about the studio environment for you?

I’m not so prolific. A lot of people today have even fewer ideas than me so I guess they make me look good. You can get a long way on not much it seems.

Your releases centre around the Houndstooth label. How does the label influence or affect your creative approach if at all?

It doesn’t.

The singles like Nervous Sex Traffic and Inkjet clearly have more designs on the dance floor than your albums, Suzi Ecto and Arpo. What are the circumstances that steer you in the direction of a single rather than an album or album track?

I can dance to all of it. I don’t want to make so many albums because it’s crucial an album has something to say about the format otherwise it doesn’t really justify its existence: it’s just a compilation of songs.

Does a premeditated idea usually inform an album?

Maybe a few. A mix of big ones like, um, death, and small ones like maybe confusion is perhaps useful. As well as obviously having some interesting artistic ideas that haven’t been raked over thousands of times before.

What sort of evolution do you think there is between Suzi Ecto and Arpo?

Arpo is a cadmium red, Suzi was closer to blue.

Contrapuntal and syncopated/uneven rhythms are a recurring theme in your music from the albums to the singles. What usually informs the rhythm of a track?

No idea, maybe a need for variance. Sorry, I’m not doing so well at this..

From time to time this approach to rhythm makes it into your DJ sets too, but do you feel there is a direct correlation between your sets and your recorded material other than the person behind them?

I try to keep them pretty separated. I like it that way.

You haven’t taken your material to the stage yet with a live show like so many of your peers. What do you prefer about a DJ set?

I usually don’t find this kind of music so engaging live, and I would rather spend my time making music rather than trying to solve my issues with the live thing. I love playing music in clubs and I love a whole lot of music so DJing makes sense to me.

Some of my personal favourite moments is seeing you and Objekt play back to back. What do you bring out in each other that makes it such a dynamic partnership in the booth?

I guess we play to each other as well as the crowd and maybe people pick up on our love.

This will be your first time playing at Jæger and without knowing too much about the club or the night  how would you usually pack your record bag?

Records, wash bag, socks, underwear, USBs, huge torch, book, phone charger, two small torches, tee shirt, passport and ear plugs. Maybe I’ll bring a hat too, it’s cold outside I guess.

Back to Back with DELLA and Danby Choi

DELLA and Danby Choi are two pieces cut from the same cloth. They might have travelled divergent paths to occupy two sides of the same two-headed coin, but their obsessive love for music all stems from the very same place… the dance floor. DELLA cut her teeth in the US, dancing to the likes of Doc Martin and DVS1 before moving to Oslo, Norway where she rose to prominence as one half No Dial Tone before setting out on her own as the producer and resident DJ we call DELLA today.

Danby Choi’s musical obsessions gestated in an era of UK Bass and Hip Hop in Norway through the sounds of the Kids Love Bass crew, where the next generation of dance floor provocateur were waiting in the wings. Dancing led to DJing for Danby, but it was the word that left its mark on Danby and in recent years he and his magazine, Subjekt have become the cultural voice of a generation of Norwegians that share similar musical obsessions.

On Saturday DELLA and Danby will be in the booth together for DELLA’S DRIVHUS, but before they do we asked them to go back to back in a Q&A…

Who is Danby Choi?

Graduated in journalism last summer and love to write. Both personally and professionally I’ve been engaged in music as a DJ and journalist, with a background in communications at festivals. Now editor-in-chief for Subjekt with s/o Live Drønen, Una Mathiesen Gjerde, Truls Berg-Hansen and other great arts and culture journalists.

Sounds like business.

OK, so … Personally, I’m very transparent. Leaking secret information about myself to just about anyone. I can’t hold myself back on opinions, and really don’t care too much about being liked. I communicate with over 30 people a day (I’ve counted lately) but still feel quite «alone». I Love dogs more than people and I Consume more culture than your aunt. I have great interior taste :) I am just a victim of the present. You would notice all these things about me the first time you meet me and also the last time.

How long have you been DJing?

Quite long now, actually. It’s been six years of playing quite regularly, I’d say. (My first club gig was when I was 18, two years before I was even allowed to be in a club. Throwback to Fugazi!)

I wouldn’t count my first gig: I used to be a dancer and said yes to play a gig at a freestyle hip-hop dance battle in 2009. I had never touched any DJ equipment before then, but just knew that it was going to be easy. It wasn’t, but that’s my take on the most.

And what was the turning point for you to why you started?

I started going out as a 17 year old (look, I’m still alive.) Uh, wait, can I just mention how much easier it was, just then, to get in to places … I mean … It’s a war these days >:( I didn’t even use a fake ID, I just walked confidently in. Anyways, I went to see Kids Love Bass at Blå, (like every time they did anything there) and saw Daniel Gude (DJ Nuhhh back then), Seth Raknes (Seth Skizzo back then) and Skankin’ Earl. They really did some great bookings, club nights and club sets, and inspired me to listen to, and play, UK underground dance music. Genres like grime, funky, bass, garage, etc. Already then I understood that great producers are not necessarily great DJs: I always thought that the Kids Love Bass crew did better than their international bookings.

Hackman used to be my favourite musician around then, he was probably the first producer that I gave a lot of plays to. It’s fast, but easy to play, easy to like. Still genius, I think. Kids Love Bass booked him, and I was like «wow, can you make a living of this». So I tried. Conclusion: No.

Still — Daniel Gude is one of my all time favourite DJs, and six years later from then, Jaeger is a club that has proved so many times for me that good producers are not necessarily good DJs. Dax J is an exception that I can remember, but like … Can I give a shout-out to Oslo veteran DJs like Daniel Gude, Olanskii, G-Ha, Nils Noa, Charlotte Thorstvedt and of course also DJs that I’ve booked, like you, DELLA, Thorgerdur and Tonchius? Boy be travelling worlds and rarely experience better music than in Oslo.

I’m always convinced that resident DJs are best at any club because they are «at home» and don’t think like «Oh, Norwegians, they are vikings, and cold, so I play hard and cold music». Maybe a little of an exaggeration, but also truly felt. I think many DJs coming to Oslo think like that. And also that they often are booked by their hits (even though good bookers should look past that). I would never book Mykki Blanco to a live show because of his songs, but because of his live shows.

Not only are you a DJ but you are a promoter, journalist, and creator of Oslo’s cultural website, Subjekt. How did Subjekt arise?

Bla, bla. I’m a drop-out, I quit high school after just one year. Was studying media and communication at a high school level, and was really bored. I wanted to prove that I could do media and communication without school and made the print magazine Subjekt (playing on «Subjective» as I made all the content and design myself.) 18 and very rebellious :)

It was launched on paper, with support by Fritt Ord, in 2013. The second issue came in 2014, and then we launched online in January 2017 (every issue with support from Fritt Ord) and now we’re celebrating one year online with Red Bull Music, presenting Mykki Blanco, Brenmar (which was an artist I discovered around 2011, at a Kids Love Bass night!) Ah, it all makes sense when you write, I love writing, circles are closing, ah, it all makes sense.

Tell us a bit about the content on Subjekt.

Status for cultural journalism is really bad, and we want to do something about it. We look up to financial journalists and want to have the same take on culture: Interview objects should be afraid (almost) of journalists, but they are all friends in culture. And the interview objects actually edit the journalists. We aren’t afraid to ask stupid questions and represent the people reading, not the interview objects. As soon as journalists are friends with the public people, the world is fucked. The independent medias are people’s strongest tool for democracy, but we take them for granted.

Now, you are fairly young and quite the newcomer in the tough and competitive Oslo DJ circuit (welcome), do you feel intimidated by your age against those who have 20+ years experience behind the turntables?

I’ve been partying for so long now, I actually look at the kids and think the same. I think DJs consider me as a grown-up, or at least I’ve begun to do. But no, I’m fan boy-ing most of you, lol. Really looking up to the great DJs of Oslo, just genuinely. I’m like there dancing four days a week, as you, my mom, my colleagues and my professors have noticed. But in the beginning, like three years ago, I didn’t feel welcome at all. Everyone were so strict. They snitched about my age and got me thrown out of clubs. I feel very welcome now.

With today’s obsession with technology, the birth of the social media PR infused DJ has given quick success to many just starting out. You being of the social media generation, any thoughts?

Yes, I feel offended. Or, I used to feel offended.

I spent 20 hours a week dancing, my whole youth, till I was 16. I actually won the Norwegian Championships (hehe) in the Junior Boys Elite class, participated in International Dance Organization’s European Championships and held weekly classes for young people that are known worldwide as dancers now (not just because of me). But music has always been my whole life. I then started blogging about music, for a magazine called Smug — and then was out clubbing, before I was legal, and am still writing about music, communicating festivals, promoting parties, booking DJs, debating for clubs, etc. No-one ever invited me in to this interest, and no-one taught me to DJ ever. But still they are like «he’s just a good promoter». Lol. Promoting their hate <3 How may anyone in my generation prove a genuine interest in music …

You really are offended.

Hehe. Maybe. I can tell a positive story, though. I chose to continue DJ-ing after playing one of my earlier gigs at Turkish Delight (RIP!!! Oslo’s best bar ever!!!) when Daniel Gude actually came and said I played some great tracks. I remember all the three songs I played in that marathon, it was this , this  and this. It was like all the motivation I needed, in a sentence, by one person.

To answer your question: No-one other than myself put me onto the DJ path, I’ve always been genuinely interested in music. Ask the kids after me!

By the way, I also read the article on Vice or Fader or something, criticising the new generation’s DJs, as they are not only good DJs, they are also graphic designers and good promoters. Which of course wake questions if these DJs steal the focus. «Underground DJs», more like not DJs shared it a lot, and I felt really offended by the critique. I’d rather say these designer-DJs are just especially devoted to club culture. The poster aesthetics around clubs have always been important, and says so much about the club aesthetics and culture, and I really appreciate that. I geeked in Photoshop to make DJ posters, and I learnt promoting to DJ.

But, that said, it shouldn’t be necessary for a good DJ to have these skills, of course, because good DJs really shouldn’t have to be good promoters. In fact it ain’t even true. Best DJs are not graphic designers and good promoters on the side. I accidentally am. (A DJ that design my own posters and hype them in my channels.)

And as a promoter, do likes and Instagram followers have anything to do with decisions on who to book?

No. Or of course, for businesses, as they are designed to earn profits. But I, as a person, would never promote anything that I can’t stand for. Mostly, I do the booking for the things I promote. And the things I book is simply good music. From there I pack it in as something to sell, as the promoter. I really wouldn’t promote anything that is not qualitatively good enough for my own taste. I’m an editor and promote certain values. My job is to pick the best, offer subjective opinions and critique, and to tell people about it, arguing why they should buy it or not. Tell people why they should listen to this, when majority, money and fame says something else.

Who are your greatest influencers in dance music? And do you prefer a certain genre when DJing?

Hard one. I love when clubs or concepts reduce my very wide music taste, just so I can focus on something for a night. To mention names, I love DVS1’s take on techno, Hackman’s take on bass, Alexander Robotnick’s take on production, but am also very influenced by jazz, «world music» (South African jazz, Nigerian jazz, Argentinian tango nuevo, Malian desert blues, Ethiojazz and more), boogie, disco, what not, really …

I actually like to play at clubs or at concepts that reduce my library, so I can focus at — not genres but — a tempo or a feel. I think dynamics is the most important criteria for a good DJ set, but this night with you I’m warming up, and I’m actually happy to go in to do an «opening gig/warm-up set».

Is this your first opening gig at Jaeger? Please let us know how you prepare for your DJ sets.

Yes, it is! I’m so honoured, really.

I’m very systematic and love to place music in genres that I make up myself in my iTunes library. I’ve made so many lists, and my goal is to make them as full as possible. They are not like «boogie» and «techno» but like «rhythmical boogie without vocals». And from all these, I just make out a set that doesn’t quite respect genres (but still a build-up), but it’s easy for me to find them in that order. Besides that, I never prepare for a DJ-set, just evenly through a year complete these lists so it’s easy for me to find the tracks when I’m in the booth and spontaneously find out what I’m going to play.

Give us your top 3 tracks at the moment.

These three beauties:

Christian Morgenstern – Girl Got Rhythm

Maximillion Dunbar – Cassette Arabic

Auto Repeat – Needle Damage (DJ Sneak remix)

Any questions for DELLA?

I actually don’t know too much about you personally, I just booked you to our boat party after I heard one of your sets, which was amaze. Tell us a little?

Who is DELLA? Very good question. As far as a DJ, I have around 15yrs under my belt and 20+ years in rave culture. I started buying my first records at Doc Martin’s infamous Wax Records in Los Angeles (RIP) and have been influenced by the best of the best in House music over the many years of getting down on dance floors. It was especially during the years I lived in the City of Angels though that inspired and taught me the most. I was living in quite the dream (and still do).

In 2005 I moved to Oslo and formed No Dial Tone with Vibeke Bruff. We held crazy parties called Lipstick and eventually moved up the ladder in the international scene with our first major release out on Classic Music Company. We started advancing rather quickly with Defected Records PR team behind us, but paths change and we decided to lay No Dial Tone to rest.

DELLA was born in 2014. Soon after this I became an official resident of Jaeger and have added more releases to my discog on powerhouse labels as Paper Recordings and Moulton Music. I have also shared the DJ booth with, more than I can count, top DJs, and I travel often to play. I especially like playing in USA where the real House-heads live, haha. The devotion to House in USA is not like anywhere else. It is a serious soul thing and peeps know how to GET DOWN!

What was your turning point to be a DJ?

When a friend basically told me to go out, take my credit card, and buy two Technics because she was tired of me talking about all these DJs all the time. “It’s time for YOU to be a DJ.” So, I took her advice and bought 2 Technics and a mixer the following day. The rest is history.

What is a good DJ?

Someone who knows how to get people to dance. Someone who is not stuck in a safety net and pushes themselves. Someone who is NOT in it to feed their own ego, but to spread the knowledge of our music and to unite our tribe in the music we all love. Someone who musically knows how to play a story and free hearts. Listen to Mark Farina, he is the best House DJ there is in my ears (he is the king of Mushroom Jazz, need I say more?).

One of my all time fav mixes from Mark Farina – ‘Seasons’

What would you say if I play those three really hard tracks before your set? :P

Haha, I am all about bringing the energy, but one of the greatest tools to learn as a DJ is how to be a good opener. How to read rooms, how to create vibe for the headliner. It is not easy prepping the floor for someone else to take over, it is a skill that takes practice. I am giving you a shot here boy, so don’t disappoint me! :)

Hehe, I agree, exactly why I asked. I’ve shared these tracks now, so I will play an opening set. Or, well, let’s mention that we’re playing back to back from 2:45 to 3:15!

Yes!

You say house music is a spiritual thing. What values do you put in «spiritual»?

Gratitude, acceptance, light, and love. And of course, non-stop House music.

 

For more on DELLA:

https://soundcloud.com/delladunn

https://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/della-no

https://www.facebook.com/djdella

The language of Pop with Legs 11

Depending on which way you look at it, Legs 11 can be an infamous strip club; a promiscuous cover band; or the mnemonic caricature on a bingo card for the number 11. Ironic, funny and oft notorious, Legs 11 encourages several associations, and in Norway it’s a band, a band who have happily adopted at least two of those associations. “Bingo!” says Sigmund Floyd when I guess the parlour-game origins of the name towards the end of our an interview in their Gamlebyen studio. “We had a different name for one gig but changed it quickly back”, says Torstein Dyrnes. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists (or “zero-instrumentalists” if you prefer the band’s turn-of-phrase) Torstein Dyrnes, Sigmund Floyd, Nils Tveten, and Audun Severin Eftevåg, Legs 11 indulges a wide-arching approach to their music with results that feign traditional musical distinctions. Their music harks back to a time when Techno, House and Pop were one in the same and across six EPs and an album their music can range from the strained guitars of a post-punk anguish to the silky repetitive House beats of today in an idiosyncratic pop format lifted straight from the eighties.

“We just wanted to play catchy synth pop” says Sigmund who had found a kindred spirit in Torstein Dyrnes when the latter was still associated with the Electronica Pop act Tøyen. Torstein would introduce Sigmund to Nils, who floated around various musical project, and during one karaoke session, they simply “cliqued”, and formed the initial line-up of Legs 11 in 2002. “We were part of the same scene”, explains Torstein sitting in their Gamlebyen studio and “people that grew up in the same scene with mutual interests invariably end up doing something together.” Eventually Audun Severin Eftevåg would complete the line-up as the fourth member and Legs 11 would take its final form with each musician bringing his own musical impulses in a project that could only ever exist as Legs 11. “I don’t think any of us could make this music separately”, says Torstein.

Legs 11 officially came together during an era of a punk attitude seeping into electronic music, where the division between vastly different musical genres started to corrode and disappear mostly appropriately and succintly explained in James Murphy’s lyrics from Losing My Edge: “I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables; I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars.” Bands and DJs became indistinguishable with House and Techno merging with Indie Pop / Rock and Legs 11 stepped into this time with their own take on what bands like LCD Soundsystem were doing in New York under the influence of their eighties roots.

Inspired by the sound of New York and transporting the sound of synth-pop to the contemporary, Legs 11 would arrive at a sonic identity driven by melodic hooks, skipping beats and robot pop-infused vocals thriving in the repetitive forms of electronic dance music. “We love to sing” says Sigmund with a sincere smile and it’s the vocals that tie everything together for the band.  Every member contributes his voice on Legs 11 and for the rest of it they tend to “switch it up” according to Sigmund. Each member plays some keyboards and sings on the songs with Torstein taking care of bass, Sigmund guitar, Nils melodica, and Audun saxophone on to top of that, but it all starts with the programming and that’s where Nils is the catalyst. “He’ll program the drums and he’ll bring the ideas” says Sigmund before the rest of the band add their contributions. They consider themselves a “studio band” but even so the songs will usually take shape around a live session. Playing live in the studio “as a tool to develop the song”, it’s during this process that the song will actually take shape and its there that Legs 11 get that “organic feel” to their records.

A studio band with a live disposition, Legs 11 have been performing and recording EPs intermittently since 2002, but it was only in 2017 that they would release their debut album and call in a new productive creative era for Legs 11. “We’ve taken our time” says Sigmund, who adds that they hadn’t been this active since 2007, when Masselys’ Jon Birger ”Jomba” Wormdahl revisited Legs 11’s earlier material for 3 EPs that came out in 2010 in one of the busiet recorded periods for the band. The difference between then and now however is that they “never thought the material was actually good enough”. But something changed around five years ago for Legs 11 and today “it’s more fun than ever” for Nils and his bandmates. They are “more efficient” in the studio today as a band and “much more in control, production-wise” which made for a more unimpeded workflow with the results showing on their 2015 EP, Pessimist. “The first thing we were really happy with, was the Pessimist EP” says Sigmund and the reason according to Torstein is that they “moved into House” during that EP, which felt much “freer” as a band.

It all culminated in the release of Another Wave, a 6-track mini-album with the extended dance floor cut, The Rhythm breaking new ground for the band, as a fully-fledged synth-House track. Evasive 303 Acid stabs emerge out of densely layered synths, clinging to the 4/4 beat while repetitive vocals instruct like an eighties aerobics video. On The Rhythm the band flit somewhere between Brondski Beat, Primal Scream and DJ Haus, re-evaluating the House format in the pop context and taking their skipping Electro roots to a more repetitive House format. It’s a song that’s been almost ten years in the making as Nils became “skilled enough to make House or Techno” over the years, and combining their appreciation for Synth Pop and their experience in contemporary Electronic Dance Music as DJs, they’ve hit on a unique formula in the studio on that track and the rest of the album. Slinky bass lines and provocative synth lines find a symbiotic relationship with the vocals in tightly produced tracks with a wholly organic feel on Another Wave.

As lyrics ponder everything from music and relationships on the dance floor to changing seasons, there’s a new-romantic approach to Legs 11’s lyricism which the band fuse with a very Norwegian sense of  “humour or weirdness” that starts out with “some irony, but ends up sincere” Nils explains. They naturally slip into English as their chosen lyrical form, which Torstein feels is “the language of pop music” and the music they grew up with, which feels far more “natural” to Legs 11 than Norwegian and its contrasting rhythmical structures. The lyrics are always the last part of the puzzle for a Legs 11 track and the most difficult part of the song process for the band. “We really have to squeeze them out” says Sigmund with pained expression and what starts out as phonetic gibberish usually takes shape as a familiar trope or random line they can latch on to and turn into a song.

A trip to a mountain cabin studio often consolidates the writing process for the band, where they ingratiate themselves in the music and tie up the loose ends for the songs to the completed versions. A mixture of old songs, revisited and new songs usually make up a Legs 11 record and for 2018 they already have twenty such songs prepped for a new album. But first there’s the vinyl release for “Another Wave” on Beatservice Records and a host of live gigs, starting with their show at Den Gyldne Sprekk. The band are currently enjoying the journey up the crest of a wave in that regard. “I don’t think we’ve been booked for as many gigs as we have today without working for it” suggests Nils. In the past it was always more “difficult to reach out” for the band, who were closely associated with the small scene around Mir and Grünnerløkka, which today has expanded way beyond its borders. Today as electronic music venues like Jæger and Villa seem to be returning to a time of the Hacienda with bands and DJs sharing the dance floor, there appears a fluid exchange between these two worlds. “I really enjoy playing clubs with DJs”, says Torstein. “We always wanted to be part of that kind of scene and now it’s easier than before.”

As a programmed studio band with a live dimension, Legs 11 and their music are able to occupy both contexts in the present and it’s still the stage where the group really come alive. With an arsenal of instruments, drum machines and synths and their penchant for live vocals they are really able to bring a “little more edge” to the music on stage than they are able to do in the studio, which sets them apart from both their electronic and traditional peers. Legs 11 have followed a natural evolution to this point, where today they are very much in sync with their time and place. They admit they are more comfortable as a band today and the music that we’ve heard over the last few years have held the fruits of their new equanimity. With news of a new album and more shows in 2018 it is clear too that they are only at the cusp of a new wave that looks certain to be frenzied creative period for the group, going forward.

Strictly Underground with Didier Dlb

Can an underground truly still exist in the age of the internet and social media? With everything available at a swipe of a screen, there’s very little left to be discovered and that extends from information, to the clandestine acts of governments all the way to culture and music. What used to be the coveted secret of a few has become common knowledge and what became of Techno, its artists and its DJs was a familiarity and popularity that extends way beyond its origins. Few are still able to honour its underground roots with the likes of Ben Klock and Dixon becoming common household names, but even in Berlin there still exists pockets of a community, the clubs, the artists and DJs that embody that original spirit of the underground movement that started it all.

Tim Brüggemann is such a figure and whether he’s DJing under the alias Didier Dlb; producing as one half of Turmspringer with Robert Gallic; running the label Compute Music; or hosting is legendary 5vor12 nights at Golden Gate, he is one of the few figures that maintain that ideology, an ideology that he he’s carried with him all over the world, with its roots in Berlin where he’s been propagating it since the 1990’s.

At 45 today, Brüggermann is an elder statesman for the scene, but he’s been and remained an immovable figure on the scene. Starting out in the world of Funk, playing all manner of events, he found a calling in Techno in the mid-nineties and established the Didier Dlb moniker. A fortuitous meeting with Robert Gallic set him on the path to production as Turmspringer, while in the early 2000’s he became a significant figure at Golden Gate, establishing his 5vor12 after-parties some 15 years ago, which to this day are spoken of in revered, hushed tones all around the world. He remains a prolific observer of the underground, and is able to travel the world, spreading its gospel through his selections and his sets, wherever those might take him.

He continues to produce, DJ and host events and has cultivated an established  career from his home in Berlin. As Golden Gate’s popularity keeps growing and Didier Dlb and Turmspringer continues finding new audiences, he remains grounded in the scene that started it all, the last exemplar of an ever-diminishing underground. We caught up with the DJ, artist and label boss when he stopped off at Jæger last week for Mandagsklubben for a Q&A session and he shared significant insights in the underground and the industry through his experience. 

Hello Tim, how was your night at Jæger?

It was good, though not many peeps showed up, but we could eventually get them all together.

Was there a track in your set that you felt particularly captured the feeling of the night?

Not particularly, but the people went really well with the Tech House part of my set.

You’re career stretches all the way back to the 1990’s in Düsseldorf, and playing a venue like Jæger on a Monday night must seem an entire world away. How have you seen the scene evolve and what is that integral consistency that’s remained in your opinion?

As I said, it wasn’t as packed as when I played there last about  a year ago, back then I was downstairs and probably represented the Oslo scene at its best.

Is it true that you started out playing funk? How did you arrive at electronic music?

Well without funk there wouldn’t be any good Techno nowadays I believe. I got infected with the Acid House scene right away, went to Berlin in 1995 after a year in New Zealand, and from 1999 I started playing Techno.

You can certainly hear a degree of funk in your production work. What do you think it adds to the music that’s unique to you?

I am a bad musician, everything starts with a sample, that actually dictates the harmony.

What inspired your initial move to Berlin and how do you think it’s affected your career?

The narrow minded scene at Düsseldorf and my stay in Auckland probably. Though I have basically played with all the big boys out there in the biz, I never had a career like theirs. I am making a living from it and can say I strictly stayed underground if such term exists today.

Berlin is the epicentre of electronic music today. As person that’s always been there working in the underground how have you appreciated or regretted the scene’s rising prominence?

I appreciate that the city brought me out to pretty much all the continents besides South America as being a part of the underground scene that everybody wanted to get involved with.

But I regret telling everyone about it , but hey nothing stays the same … I am ready for another City … so please tell me…

Golden Gate has been an immovable presence in Berlin all this time and you’ve played  significant part there both as Didier Dlb and Turmspringer. How would you describe the venue to the uninitiated?  

Well it’s a bit of how it was back then, free without attitude.

There are a few people I know  from Oslo that make Golden Gate the only stop on their trip to Berlin. What do you think is the crux of its appeal, setting it apart from other Berlin clubbing institutions?

The family vibe , our door policy maybe …

Your 5vor12 night there is in its 15th year and is spoken of in revered tones. What is the night all about and what does it usually sound like?

Well I guess it was the start for Golden Gate as a “ Techno Club”. I first tried Friday Nights inviting the local heroes in 2003, but it simply wouldn’t work out that way and I also wanted to present myself to the scene and got tired of paying money on other djs. At the time I was still playing Funk stuff mostly for the film industry, and even weddings. So we started the afterhours simply because nobody did that at the time. A close friend was working at Ostgut and he would promote our parties, without him, I believe Golden Gate would be very different place today. It was the time when Ostgut closed and a lot of party peeps where basically on the streets homeless and made the Golden Gate their new home, a living room of sorts.

Do you have a preference between production and DJing and how do they influence each other in your experience?

Well as a dj you should know the structure of a Techno track but from the finished track to actually putting it out is a long long time; it took me almost 10 years. The track that Robert (Gallic)  and I did on his album for Jazzanova in 2002, was only the guy with the idea, which Robert made into a track. I think they are two very different things; there are a lot good producers that are shit djs and the other way around, I would consider myself in the second group of people.

How does it compare working in the studio alone and with Turmspringer?

Well it’s very different, Turmspringer has two minds, opinions, feelings  towards the result.

Can you tell us a bit about your label Compute Music?

Well Robert started tonkind in 2005 and I joined it for our first releases as Turmspringer but tonkind was his baby from the start and I was into partying too much, getting to know the people just getting involved somehow. Compute was launched in 2015 when I was 42 years old and the reason was all the good producers around me having the same problem; a lot of tracks but no idea how to get it out there. The big labels closed their doors many years ago, it’s a hierarchy you won’t get in to.

For example after our first release on Get Physical we joined the agency for 5 years without a single gig. Promoters just wanted DJ T & M.A.N.D.Y, cause that’s how it works pretty much in all the big cities. I had a funny experience last year on my little Mexico tour. I asked the promoter what kind of music the people of Tulum are into and he proudly replied I shouldn’t be bothered; he is doing parties with Dixon & Solomun. I just thought the easiest way to make a successful party is to book Dixon (if you get him of course ) but basically you just need money. What’s much more difficult is to sell a nobody to the people, particular in parts of the world where there was no underground and Techno directly became mainstream thing.  

The label’s focus is clearly on the dance floor and computer music of course, but what else do you look for in music and artists for the label?

The focus for Compute Music is not just on the dancefloor, nor on any  particular style.

Is there anything your really excited about in the label’s near future you are eager share with us?

Well I am working on my album right now, it is a collection of tracks I did over the past 15 years and it will be a not for the dancefloor at all.

And that’s all the questions we have Didier. Thank you for visiting us and until next time, can you play us out with a song?

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she would meet her connection
At her feet was her footloose man
No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need
I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she was gonna meet her connection
At her feet was her footloose man
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need
But I went down to the demonstration
To get your fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse”

Introducing Joggebukse

In David Byrne’s book “How music Works” the Talking Heads singer outlines the band’s motivation for wearing suits on stage at the start of their career, as a way to counteract the extroversion of the glam period that came to before them, and land major Tom back on solid ground. Wearing suits like everybody else during that period, Talking Heads could engage with their audience at eye level, and draw the eye away from the  band and the ear back to the music.

Transport that idea to 2018 where suits have been replaced by comfort wear like hoodies and tracksuits and we arrive at Joggebukse (Norwegian for track pants) and a trio of established musicians that are looking to redefine the band in the era of the club. Mats Oven, Syver Breiby and Petter Helland-Olsen are Joggebukse; an instrumental live band that bridges the gap between the dance floor and the stage and who are going about music and the industry in a wholly unique way in this era.

Joggebukse is a brand new project, with only a few gigs behind them and before they’ve even released a single bar of music, I meet Mats and Syver in the rehearsal room in the centre of Oslo. Instruments and empty beer cans give the floor an unnatural geography and I manage to kick over a guitar on my way down to a vacant chair facing Mats, before Syver enters the room wearing a luminescent pair of white adidas track pants, the very same pair that were the inspiration for the band’s name. 

Is that what you wear when you play out Syver?

Syver: Yes, I think that was the whole point of the theme. I just want an excuse to wear my “joggebukse” everywhere. I feel like everyone looks down on you if you wear sweatpants everyday, but it’s just a social norm that doesn’t really mean anything; Why can’t I be comfortable everywhere?

Mats: It relates to the whole concept of how we make music and play the gigs too.

Mats, Syver and Petter have been playing together since high school, where they attended a vocational school for music. When Petter left for university to go on to do a master’s degree in classical guitar, Mats and Petter and some kindred spirits went on to form Tuba Tuba. Comprised of a few key players and a host guest musicians, Tuba Tuba took the road and the stage with great force over the course of the last ten years. Tuba Tuba’s sound can be summarised as a kind of indie pop made for DJs. That group consolidated elements of Disco and indie rock in one project that called to mind the quirk pop of Hubbabubbaklubb with a more comprehensive approach to instruments and a determined focus on the dance floor.

Joggebukse came in the wake of Tuba Tuba when the latter couldn’t commit to an unnamed arts festival in early 2017. Faced with a decision, Mats called on Petter to take up the gig, albeit under a different name that Mats and Syver are reluctant to share. The gig was to be little more than an impromptu jam session with Mats and Petter improvising bass and guitar respectively around pre-recorded samples and it immediately found the favour of the captive arthouse audience, encouraging them to explore these themes further, while enlisting the help of Syver and Joggebukse was officially born.

Has Tuba Tuba disbanded?

S: Not exactly, we’re just taking a break.

M: It’s just nice to play something else.

S: We’ve been playing together for ten years so it was cool to take a beat and just do some other things, and perhaps come back as a stronger version of that band.

How does this project differ from Tuba Tuba?

M: In some ways it’s very similar, but Tuba Tuba is also very schizophrenic.

S: It’s a little easier to do things when there are only three people instead of six. It’s easier to make decisions and get songs done. We were pretty democratic in Tuba Tuba.

And that’s not always the most efficient way to work in a band?

S: Yeah, the bureaucracy doesn’t help.

As Joggebukse, Mats Syver and Petter, are re-contextualising the idea of the band. They’ve avoided the traditional band orientated club venues in favour of dance-floor venues like Jæger and Villa, and have started incorporating visuals in their live show in the same way an electronic act or DJ might do in a club setting. For their last gig at the Villa they moved their setup outside of the DJ booth onto the dance floor where they played at eye level with their audience, and that line of distinction between performer and the dance floor disappears. Unlike Tuba Tuba where, they seemed to be disconnected from their audience with the usual security detail or fence between them and their audience, Joggebukse are more at home playing in close approximation to their audience.

S: I like the idea of playing on the floor with people dancing around you.

M: You have to show that you’re playing your instruments.

S: I don’t like watching DJs, I like to watch people play something and that’s not around much in clubs, or even concerts lately. I figured, why don’t we fuse those two things by jamming over a DJ set.

M: We are more compressed and we choose to play at places like the Villa, which makes the biggest difference I guess. The small venues where it’s so much more intimate, you can give something back to the audience.

S: I think that’s where we work best, in a small club with people dancing behind me and in front of me. It was a pretty loose concept, just making beats and doing gigs, and now we’ve consolidated it more like a band.

Syver mentioned a DJ set, but I imagine that is not in the same sense of what the club will understand as a DJ set?

M: Yes, that’s a bit misleading, because we only play original material. It;s our samples that make up a backing track. Syver will create a song, record the various parts, and remove the parts we play for the live show.

Those initial recordings are secreted away on a hard drive somewhere, unavailable to general public for now, but Syver assures me, “they’re coming”. There’s a video in the works that will see the light of day on the 10th of February as Joggebukse make their official debut in the recorded format, but they’re going about the band in a completely unique way. Joggebukse like so many of their peers are in completely uncharted territory. The traditional model for the industry of music can’t be sustained in the age of streaming services and an independent record industry that holds no financial value for the artist. Even releasing a record, be it independent or through a label today is merely for the purpose of getting gigs and people to the gigs, which is the only real viable source of income for a band today.  

Even a band like Tuba Tuba, which at the height of their touring schedule had some critical success as a live group and played over a hundred shows to this date, were in no way a success according to Mats and Syver. The only money they’d ever really made was the 640 kr they got to split at one particular gig and for the most part they were barely covering costs. It puts bands like Joggebukse in a curious position where they really have to be be able to justify the time, effort and money it takes to create a record.

In the age of social media that means a video is probably more effective in that regard than releasing a pristine new album. “It all depends at which stage of your career you are” according to Mats and even with Tuba Tuba they never really thought they were anywhere near that next rung in their career ladder, a band able to sustain a living from just music.

M: We put a lot of work into Tuba Tuba and at the end when you’ve played for ten years and barely broke even, you do get tired.

S:  I don’t feel like people picked up the Tuba Tuba the singles or the albums. It felt like we were almost making music just for ourselves.  

M: I guess there’s not much point on using a lot of energy and money on the physical form at least and probably do it as indie as possible with any of the releases.  

S: I really love the vinyl format, it’s a whole package and you can make a concept out of it, but it seems that there’s really no point anymore. People just want singles, which they chew up without much consideration.

M: In that case it’s cooler to make a video and just release it without much fuss and use that to get other bookings.

For the moment Joggebukse are for all intents and purposes a live band, harking back to an era before soundcloud and spotify, cutting their teeth on the stage rather than the studio. It’s an interesting situation and besides a few short instagram clips, there’s no way of knowing what they actually sound like without seeing them live, putting the audience in a position we’ve not really experienced post-internet.

There’s a degree of anticipation there you can’t really explain in a modern context, as you experience a new band for the first times. With no recorded references to their work, there’s only the band on the night, much like Talking Heads would’ve been discovered, playing at CBGB’s during the start of their career. People can’t get “disappointed by what they haven’t heard” suggests Syver.

But how would you describe your music to the uninitiated?

S: Funky is a keyword. Or Neo soul, something that you can really dance to…

M: …but with cool chords.

S: Sometimes I’ll just make a Hip Hop beat and it ends up being something you can dance to.

What are some of your influences for Joggebukse?

S: I thought of that on the way here and I wrote down Herbie Hancock and Mario Kart.

Mario Kart?

S: Yes the 64 version. There’s some really great tunes there, especially at the loading screen and where you get a star.

M: We actually use the star theme on a song.

S: Yes, I sampled the star theme and we use it in the live show. It’s really cool jam over.

Is the live show about improvising or playing fully composed songs?

S: Both actually. A lot of songs  are the product of a lot of jamming and the songs are the best of the jam sessions.

M: When the beat goes a round a few times  it’s the same thing we always end up jamming. We know the framework and we just jam within those limits.

S: We’ve been jamming for a really long time together so we have a collective memory.  

M: In the future, we want to keep the distinction between the live set and the studio.

Although they never go into much detail, there is almost certainly a record on the horizon for Joggebukse, but without having heard a bar of music from the group as of today it’s still fairy uncertain to what that might sound like. Tuba Tuba  on a Nintendo tip is the closest conclusion I can draw at the moment, and the rest is up to the night and the next show at Jæger.

 

*Joggebukse play Den Gyldne Sprekk next Tuesday with Legs 11. 

 

What’s in Rudolfs Kontainer

Combining elements of Krautrock, Disco and New Wave is a new group out of Oslo called Rudolf’s Kontainer. A soundcloud sensation that also caught the attention of Olle Abstract’s Lyd podcast in January, Rudolf’s Kontainer is the brainchild of Mikal Lillo and consists of Ulf Moen Denneche, Pablo Guerrero and Eivind A. Haugen.

The band dwell in the icy digital world of 80’s pop-rock where vacuous reverbs and delays echo forth from a meleé of guitars and synthesisers while tight percussive arrangements bounce of the dance floor. Toe-tapping beats and ear-worm melodies stay with you long after the fact, and late last year the group put forward some of their best tracks as the debut album, Eclectic Rudolfland.

Eclectic Rudolfland finds its way out into the world through the Oslo-based eclectic label/collective MarsMelons, containing some of the most impressive moments from the band’s already burgeoning catalogue. The album’s debut also marks a new phase in the group’s biography as it takes them out of the studio and onto the stage for the first time.

Rudolfs Kontainer officially release their album via Olle Abstract’s LYD showcase this week at Jæger, and as they prepare for the show we aim to find out a little more about this new group and send over a few questions to frontman and guitarist Mikal Lillo.

Who exactly is Rudolf and what’s in his Kontainer?

Rudolfs Kontainer is the result of making a bunch of demo-recordings in my home in Oslo over a short period, releasing probably the best of them in December 2017 on the Oslo-label MarsMelons. I don’t know who Rudolf is, but I went too the Rudolf Steiner school and the kontainer is where all the songs go….

There’s four of you in the band, I believe. How did you all come together and what was the sole inspiration for starting a band?

There are five in the band now. Rudolfs Kontainers’ bass player Ulf (electronic musician known as Boblebad) and I grew up in Bærum and went to school (Rudolf Steinerskolen) together for a short time in the early 2000s. We exchanged some music last year, and he was so impressed by the quality he decided to contact his friends at MarsMelons.com to release Rudolfs Kontainer there. Me and the drummer Pablo had been jamming on the songs for a while and decided to play with Ulf on bass and try to play the music live, and gathered some people to make that happen (Eivind on synth and Henrik on percussion). Then Olle asked us if we wanted to play at this event.

Your soundcloud account describes the music as Dance-punk, Cold-wave, House, Electro-pop, Disco, Krautrock and  Lo-Fi, but how would you describe it in non-musical terms?

Maybe as happy-go-lucky? My sister thinks its good music for cleaning the house.

What are some of the band’s influences?

Rudolfs Kontainer is influenced by a lot of different music made in the 1980s, such as disco, but also krautrock and electronic club music. Bands like Talking Heads, Kraftwerk and New Order are bands I want to mention.

Olle Abstract tells me that Rudolf’s Kontainer part of an collective out of Gamlebyen. Can you tell us a bit more about that and how it affects your music?

I don’t know anything about the collective out of Gamlebyen…

I must have misunderstood Olle. What could he possibly be talking about?

Olle must have mixed up the music collective Euforisk with MarsMelons. The only connection is that Rudolf’s bass player releases his own music on both labels.

What is MarsMelons and how do Rudolf’s Kontainer figure in there?

MarsMelons Is a label for experimental music from Oslo fornebu. Myself and Ulf sent Eclectic Rudolfland to Morten who runs MarsMelons and he really liked the album, so that’s what happened.

Your upcoming gig at Jæger for Olle Abstract’s LYD is also the official release party for your debut album, Eclectic Rudolfland. Eclectic is certainly an apt description, but what makes it distinct in your opinion?

I want people to have a good time when they listen to Rudolf. I think the music is kind of feel good and the process of making it makes me relax. I myself love a groove beat and a funky guitar.

Why an album and why now?

Because I had about 200 unreleased demos and about time too make an album for fun.

You said “I” there. Can we assume you are the creative force behind the band and how do the rest of the band figure into the writing process?   

That’s right. The rest of the band are my favourite robots, making Rudolf come alive through playing the tunes live for an audience. They are perfect for the jobb! All of us are a bit out of tune; losing shoes all the time.

Out of the 200 tracks, what was it about this selection that works particularly well in the album format?

It’s a mix of the songs that got the most love on soundcloud and me and the guys in the band liked the most! It’s a bit random.

What will the album sound/feel like from the stage?

The music will sound more alive from the stage, more like a “rock” band, arranged differently, but very recognisable. We try to keep the groove and the beat.

 

Rudolfs Kontainer join Olle Abstract and KSMISK for the inaugural LYD showcase at Jæger this Saturday. 

New Norwegian Music and Run DMC with Olle Abstract

In Joddski and Tommy Tee’s music video for “Æ E Old School” from 2016, Olle “ Abstract”  Løstegaard’s cameo doesn’t go unnoticed. Amongst peers like Strangefruit and Hele Fitta, the six-foot something Norwegian DJ is as much a physical presence as a symbolic one. One of the original protagonists in the story of electronic music in Norway, Olle Abstract’s 35-year career as a DJ and radio jock has left a lasting impression on electronic music in the region through a nationally syndicated radio show, countless events and more recently a podcast series. In the video for “Æ E Old School”, Olle appears wearing a leather adidas shell suit like the long, lost member of a RUN DMC cover band, mock-spinning some records alongside Tommy Tee. The garb, the scenario and the the context of the track speak a thousand words, which Olle puts into perspective when we sit down for a coffee at Jæger just before christmas.

Olle is relaxed and his cheeks glow a healthy hue of pink after his daily swimming session. Olle is a formidable presence in any room, both in stature and spirit and his voice easily matches the levels of Ivan Ave’s latest record playing over the mini Funktion One system in Jæger’s café. “Growing up in the eighties I was obviously a big fan of RUN DMC” he says in his burly baritone.

Olle’s start as a DJ is concurrent with the story of electronic music in Norway. Hip Hop and breakdancing laid the foundation to an interest in DJing that he could cultivate as a talent at his local youth club. Where Olle’s story diverges from the similar threads we’ve heard from countless Norwegian DJs is with the influence of “radio music from New York” from the likes of  “WBLS and Kiss FM” which would eventually lead a very young Olle on a path to broadcasting. When tapes from the radio stations in New York started infiltrating Europe in the eighties, Olle too would be on the receiving end. “Everyone wanted sound like WBLS”,  he remembers as he mimics the sound effects of eighties radio programming

Olle would get his first shot at radio when his neighbour offered him their vacant Jazz slot on local radio after the younger Olle sat in for a few sessions. Olle “ended up doing a youth hour on the Friday night instead of the jazz program” when he took the reins and enlisted the help of Tommy Tee as the local Hip Hop expert. They “played the whole spectrum” of early electronic music, a genre that was still in its infancy and still featured few releases. “Everything from Strictly Rhythm to Gabba” made it into their programming as they begged, stole and borrowed records in search of that “raw energy” they were hearing from New York. They modified turntables to play at twice the top speed so they “could play the dubs on Strictly Rhythm at 135BPM” and with the second summer of love knocking on their door, Olle and Tommy Tee were at the right age, at the right time in the eye of the storm of a electronic dance music coming into its own.

It was surely a time of unbridled youthful enthusiasm and the radio show harnessed all the energy and excitement of the time for the pleasure of a captive radio audience. The show came into its own during one of the most innovative times for electronic music and when it came to a point when it could no longer be merely sustained in the margins “NRK called and wanted the show for national radio”. In 1993 Olle took the show to the national broadcaster’s P3 station and between 1993 and 2009, the show featured the latest in electronic dance music to the airwaves. For a while it was the only show on radio that focussed on this type of music and when Olle would eventually leave P3 and NRK it undeniably left a hole in their programming which has never been filled with Olle declaring “there’s not much room for new underground dance music on national radio at the moment”.

“It’s just people and it’s just music and you just try to make them go together.”

It would be with that sentiment that he would lead into the next and latest phase of his broadcasting career with Lyd. Now, in its third year, the podcast series presents new Norwegian music to the world with an emphasis on electronic music and the dance floor, without feeling obligated to any one genre or stylistic trend. “It is important to get the few thousand that listen to my show to hear something different”, says Olle about the driving ideology behind Lyd. Between the submissions and his own diligent research which sees Olle often “just dive into the interwebs and just stay there for a few hours”, Lyd is the only podcast series strictly focussing on new Norwegian music today, without the lumbering persistence of the DJ’s ego in the foreground. Olle’s broadcasting experience really comes to the fore in Lyd as he adopts the role of facilitator and selector, yet all grounded in Olle’s experience as a DJ.

While Olle might be unilaterally known for his work in radio, it’s a career that runs perpendicular to his work as a touring and resident DJ. Between 1990 and 1993, while still working in youth radio and before working with P3 Olle came of age in a time of raves and the counterculture of dance music, playing a significant role in the presence of both in Norway. Favouring the more functional over the engaging, the “raves were about making people dance while radio was playing all the new music” he could possibly get his hands on. Through experience and a fair bit of talent he has developed an innate ability to read a floor and is able to adapt to any context from a large outdoor gathering for the clandestine Techno scene to playing Disco at a christmas party. He is one of the only DJs in my experience that is able to find that untenable middle ground on a Saturday night at Jæger – accommodating the unapologetic commercialism of Nightflight without getting down and dirty with the conformists. “You don’t have to drop a cheesy record to make people dance; it’s enough to drop a cheesy sample of a record” says Olle when I ask him about this unique ability. It doesn’t ever  feel like a compromise however for Olle and he is just as happy playing “Chaka Khan in the right setting, because that’s just good music” as he is digging past the trenches into House and Disco from the States.

When I ask Olle about some of the thought processes that go into DJing, he proffers: “It’s just people and it’s just music and you just try to make them go together”. Experience also has its part to play in my opinion and Olle Abstract has that in droves and besides radio he’s left some lasting impressions in the benchmarks that make up Norway’s musical legacy.

In the late nineties and early 2000’s his largest contribution would come in the form of Skansen. Even an established figure like Olle is very much aware of significance of the period and place in Norway’s musical history. “Those years were really important” he concours. Skansen, an internet cafe turned club, owned by some “freaks and hippies”, could not be further from the imagination when you think back to one of the most significant eras of House music in Norway, but everybody from G-Ha to Bugge Wesseltoft passed through the doors and Olle had a large part to play in those bookings and the ones from further abroad. People like Luke Solomon and Idjut Boys were guests who later became “good friends” and helped shape the sound of Skansen that continues to live on in infamy. With financial aid from clothing cowboys Levis, Olle and Skansen could “have 80 people on the door, spend 12000 kr and still break even”. It meant they could be daring and everything from a Wesseltoft jam session to a Paper Recordings night could find its place in Skansen, laying a foundation for the future producers and DJs in Oslo, that Olle defines as “Skrangle” – sonically informed by Norwegian producers.

Olle suggests this is still informing the next generation of DJs and producers which is making a large contribution to the Lyd podcast. “There’s loads of producers between 19-28 making music with their take on House, which is deep, but more skrangle than it would be if it came for Germany or England for instance. So they’ve definitely been listening to Norwegian music.”

“It took me a while to get comfortable, and it’s not that important, because it’s just people having a good time or not.”

In its next phase of evolution this podcast will be coming to life on the stage with a new series of events at Jæger planned for 2018. Lyd at Jæger will “present, and give a platform to some new and some established acts”. Olle is specifically looking to “present new groovy music that fits in the club environment” for this event’s series with Rudolfs Kontainer and KSMISK billed on the first evening. Olle is very enthused by Rudolfs Kontainer, an Indie-House type of band” out of the “digital collective” Mars Melons. KSMISK will be presenting some new music from the next album on PLOINK, while Olle digs through his vast record collection, finding that bridge between new Norwegian music and the rest of the world. “There’s no problem playing a night of good Norwegian music”, he offers in repose, “but I’m not going to force myself to play just Norwegian music”.

Instead Olle looks to his extensive record collection sprawling from his home to a storage facility where some 25000 records live between a constant influx of new digital music. “I always spend fifteen hours a week looking for new music, this is my job”, but whereas in the past Olle would come home with about 100 records a month, he only buys “30-40 tracks a month” today. Some weeks he might not find any new music, and will go back to his storage unit to exchange one crate for another, because Olle feels; “it’s not like I need new music.” He is quite content playing some old favourites and mixing it in with the new, often overlooked records.

Doc L Junior and DJ Haus are current favourites for Olle Abstract and he specifically likes DJ Haus because “he’s fucking up the rules again”, something that is reminiscent of another Olle Abstract favourite, Basement Jaxx. “ I’m still into the Basement Jaxx. I played ‘rendez vu’ here (Jæger) the other day and people went mad, because nobody’s touching it at the moment.” There’s more of that non-conformist attitude in Olle Abstract as a DJ, which often makes what other DJs perceive as obvious or tawdry far less so than it needs to be. Again he mentions Basement Jaxx as an example and particularly their 888 project. They have an “amazing House-Trance track which nobody picked up on and it’s been my biggest track all year” he says and adds in a sidebar kind of contemplative way: “A lot of DJs play for other DJs, and it’s a good way to get a lot of respect from them… if that’s important.”

And does Olle think it’s important?

“It might be depending where you are in your career.”

Olle is far too experienced and as an established DJ across platforms, I sense that these trivialities don’t much concern him. It takes me back to something Olle mentioned earlier when we were talking about feeding off the crowd.

“It took me a while to get comfortable, and it’s not that important, because it’s just people having a good time or not. Worse case scenario, they leave. If they don’t leave you’ve done a good job, and if they applaud you, you know you’ve done a great job.”

At heart however Olle is still the 11-year old that got into electronic music where it’s always been about “the groove and the vibe” and very little else. Whether he’s donning the leather shell suit, reliving something of the youthful excitement when he first heard RUN DMC or looking for “new kicks” to incorporate in his Lyd podcast or event’s series, regardless of any which way you view it, Olle Abstract’s presence has made a formidable impression on music in Norway and it shows no signs of dissipating just yet.

 

Olle Abstract, KSMISK and Rudolfs Kontainer play te first LYD at Jæger on the 27th of January. 

Resolutions and Aspirations with Moscoman

Moscoman arrived out of the Tel Aviv scene into Berlin five years ago with the dynamic and esoteric sound of the Israeli beach side city as the eastern Mediterranean’s answer to the Balearic call. Clattering between guitars and drum machines in a musical dialect with flavours spanning deep into his cultural roots, Moscoman’s sound has found its way on labels like I’m a Cliché, ESP and Eskimo.

References from New Wave to House dot Moscoman’s releases over the course of an extensive discography across labels. In 2015 he established Disco Halal, a platform for an eclectic group of artists like hometown friends Red Axes and mutual spirited, recondite figures like Yoshinori Hayashi.

As if the challenge of running a label and producing music wasn’t enough, in 2017 he set himself the milestone of releasing 12 releases over 12 months and  established the Treisar label. Nine releases in and three more on the cards in the near future saw Moscoman in an uncanny creative flurry with tracks that expounded on his idiosyncratic sound as an artist.

As a DJ he deconstructs the sound of his productions into the eclectic sources of his influences. In demand and ductile, Moscoman’s record bag stretches far and wide and since his next stop is Hubba Klubb at Jæger we were in the fortunate positions to ask the DJ and producer some questions over email. With new year beckoning us and Treisar coming to its conclusion we ask Moscoman some questions about resolutions and aspirations.

Moscoman joins Hubbabubbaklubb DJs for the first Hubbas Klubb of 2018 this Saturday.

 

First off, happy new year. Are your resolutions still holding strong, or have you, like me, already given up on them?

Actually, I don’t have any yearly resolutions, rather lifetime resolutions and I’m trying my best to keep them! But don’t give up hope.

Where are you at the moment and what are you listening to?

I’m on my sofa listening to upcoming music on Disco Halal, good stuff is coming up!

In 2017 you exclusively released music on your newly established Treisar label, and there’s been nine releases on that label thus far. What were the circumstances around establishing the label for your music?

Treisar actually is just a one off or more likely 12 off project, a record a month which 3 got delayed and will come in the following week. It was a fun project but now it’s over and Treisar will stay on ice till I find another crazy artist that can and wants to release 12 records in a year!

Although you had one cameo on Disco Halal, it appeared to be a label for other artists. What are you able to do on Treisar, that you never imagined you could do on Disco Halal or any other label?

Disco Halal was and still isn’t my personal playground, while Treisar was. I tried to show a work of a lifespan, I made all the decisions myself, which is never easy, but it worked out great.

It’s been quite a creative period for you. What has inspired/encouraged you lately in music to release so much music?

To be honest, I don’t do much other than DJing and sitting in the studio, so I try to make as much as possible from both, and the inspiration usually comes from the fact I really love it and enjoy doing it, thats all, inspired from being inspired.

What does inspire you creatively outside of music?

Japanese food, and books.

 

One of the most captivating releases of last year for us was “Nemesh”, in a large part due to the second B-side “Walls of Jericho”. It’s quite a loaded title, considering your own origins, but was that your intention with that track?

First of all thanks! And yeah I must admit I had the image in my head when I worked on it. I’m intrigued by the history of the region and it’s important for me. It has no political aspect though it’s just an image of a difficult time that was once and has returned sadly.

Part of it’s allure is its haunting textures, which has some effect on the provocation of the title. It’s something that’s been concurrent with your music, since we first heard Misled Loophole. What were some of your early influences that might have affected this musical disposition?

Wow, I feel like my influences is usually from outside of the music world, it’s movies and pictures, and colors and feelings mostly, which subconsciously influences my work I’m guessing.

In a 2016 interview with Radar radio you mentioned that you and your friends Red Axes just “wanted to play guitars” and be “kind of rock & roll” in Tel Aviv. How has this attitude changed if at all, since establishing Treisar?

It didn’t really change I still want to be rock&roll, and most of Treisar music was created before this year so it conquers with my saying, I hope.

Between you and Red Axes, you really compartmentalised a sound of Tel Aviv for an international audience. Is there something to the city for you that influences artists from there?

I feel like the history of Israeli music has a big influence on us, especially stuff like Minimal Compact and Yosi Elephant, and these sorts of post punk sound, plus the regional sound is a very big thing in my sound, meaning the middle east and the mediterranean vibes. Tel Aviv is very different than it use to be, it’s way more new rich and American, but the heart of the artists keeps on banging like in the 80s.

In 2016 you had one of the busiest touring schedules according to your RA mix Q&A. How did  it affected your approach to DJing?

The more you tour, the better you get, so I enjoy it more and more, these days I feel like I produced most of the tracks I play (because I get to play them alot) and I love it.

If you could put the sound of your mixes today in three words, what would they be?

Dashi Broth Bliss

And lastly, can you play us out with a song?

 

Ten years of Macro with Stefan Goldmann

In the ten years of the Macro, the label has pulled at the seams of contemporary electronic music, unravelling preconceptions across genres to become a label of great distinction and perpetual intrigue. Founded by Stefan Goldmann and Finn Johannsen in 2007, the label sprang into existence at the height of  computer music’s dominance and turned the music on its head with honest-to-goodness bands like Elektro Guzzi making their presence felt in Techno and DJ/producer hybrids like KiNK turning that very notion inside out with his extensionalist live shows and productions.

A reserved but sincere output, Macro has ebbed under the surface of the popular consciousness with minimalist and micro Techno and House arrangements that feign the obvious for something concrete and has stayed the course over the last decade.

Regularly making his own impression on the label over the course of the existence of the label is label head Stefan Goldmann. Son to classical composer Friedrich Goldmann and raised between his mother’s native Bulgaria and Berlin, Stefan’s musical influences are a rich tapestry of various European traditions and popular culture references. Stefan’s career in electronic music has its roots in the drum n bass scene in Berlin in the late nineties as a DJ, but would cement itself in the world of Micro House and Minimal Techno by the early 2000’s when he started producing music under his own name for the likes of labels like Perlon, Ovum and most notably Classic.

Not content with the freedom and release schedule afforded to him working with other labels, he and kindred spirit, Finn Jonannsen founded Macro in an effort to take back creative control and leave a unique imprint on electronic music.

Stefan Goldmann is also something of a musical polymath, and from releasing music to writing about  ideas of how we gauge quality in music, he’s an intriguing character in himself. He created the ‘Elektroakustischer Salon’ nights, opening up the club, Berghain to experimental formats in 2006.  Since 2011 he’s contributed regularly with a column in the Berghain flyer as well as authoring the  book, PRESETS – Digital Shortcuts to Sound.  

It’s not often we get a chance to entertain the notion of a Q&A with a multi-faceted individual like Stefan Goldmann, but indulging us here , Stefan shares some of his thoughts on music, Macro and why he thinks being a Berliner is boring through some very in depth and entertaining answers. 

10 years of Macro… that’s quite a feat for any independent label. What do you think has been the quintessential ingredient to the label’s success?

Time on our hands and cash to burn. Just kidding. I guess we were lucky. At some point I was fed up with dealing with other people’s labels. The waiting time until they fit your record into a schedule, the arguments which track should be the A or the B side, the cover design. We had a very vague idea who our other artists could be. From the start our overheads where low. We saw labels that needed to release a record every week or month because they needed the turnover. We never were in this situation since our office has basically always consisted of our laptops and that’s it. Everything else is handled by outside people. We were lucky because our initial setup lasted us ten years without hiccups. We have the same design, mastering and distribution guys, the same lady handling our manufacturing. Then the artists mostly found us, or we stumbled over stuff by total chance. Pretty early on we just went for things not knowing how they would work out in terms of revenue, but where we felt they don’t already have a place out there or already belong to somebody else. I’m not talking necessarily about big musical revolutions, but little ideas and bents and fixes that lead to music that’s not represented by a hundred artists or labels already.

You clearly put a lot of thought and effort into what you do at the label and beyond, through everything from your own music to the events you host and even writing. What universal idea drives you creatively across all these various aspects of your career?

You can have a very interesting time in this. I don’t mean everything is always fun, like accounting or logistics or other chores. It’s more than just the music. I think this culture is so rich with opportunities to go out and meet people and see places, in more than one way, that it’s worth our time and effort. The quality and bandwidth of possible encounters is what really thrills me. If you just DJ or just produce or just press records, you’d miss so much of it. After touring for two months I begin to feel some fatigue, but I can add a week or two to my journey somewhere and just take the time to reflect and write down some texts. Then I can spend four month in the studio working on a project, and then tour again. I’m never tired. It’s a bit like in agriculture. If you sow the same crop on the same filed year after year, your yield goes down because the soil ‘tires’. If you do tomatoes in year one, corn in year two, and nothing in year three, your overall harvest is actually much more effective. Same with music. I don’t really have ‘universal ideas’. I just like doing all that stuff and meeting the people who are connected to all these different things.

It seems to me that when Macro started out there was a wealth of development and progressive attitude to electronic music which has stagnated somewhat as people rely on a formula of a formula and have gone back to utilising the very same thirty-year-old tools they used when this music was created. What effect do you think this had on electronic music and what do you think will encourage the development of music on the label and your own music, moving forward into the future?

Most people have always relied on a formula. Give somebody a 303 and a 909 and there you go. This is exactly what happened. It’s astonishing to what a degree particular machines or software or presets shape genres. People are happy with this. You still have people picking up the guitar and playing their three-chord, twelve bar blues form. Maybe around 2005 was the first time that a lot of people could afford to experiment with more than two or three pieces of gear. While in 1992 you’d either get a sampler and a drum machine, or a DX100 and a 909, in 2005 you could use plugins, buy some multi-effects units, multitimbral synths (synths that can play several sounds at once), AND a sampler. It was an interesting time, but I tend to feel the earlier generation made music that remains more significant and influential than the next generation’s. On average the production quality was better in 2005 than in 1995, but the 90s definitely yielded more influential output than the 00s. I tend to think that due to limited means they ended up delving deeper within one or two machines. Think of Robert Hood and the DX100, or Jeff Mills and what sounds to me like a Jupiter 8, or Plastikman with whatever reverb he was using. Around 2003 stuff began to have a tendency of sounding too cluttered. And some people recognise this, so they want to go back in time. Of course this doesn’t work out neatly.

I recognise how much electronic music is defined by the state of technology. Basically all the novelty there is always has followed what was just becoming available in the form of tools. Too much has been defined through sound design, rather than structure. Personally, I think I’ll be caring much more about altering structure than perfecting sound in the future.

Can an inflexible model for a label be sustained over the course of ten years or do you constantly feel you need to adapt to stay relevant?

Try saying the same thing again and again, and eventually people will tell you to just shut up. If it has been pressed to a record once, that’s basically perfect enough. A second record with the same approach is just for emphasis really.

KiNK (who regularly features on the Macro roster) is a perfect example of an artist that maintains his popularity without adapting to current trends or being a media darling/pariah. How do you explain an artist’s like KiNK’s continued success and do thoughts like these ever inform the artist roster at Macro?

I think he adapts a lot. Change and adaptation is not the problem. What doesn’t work is attaching yourself to a trend that is already established. It’s the mistake I see over and over again, and nobody who is successful has ever done this. For Kink, I guess its 20% talent, 10% luck and 70% sheer, meaningful effort. He spent ten years in a room building his skills in handling machines. Then he spent a few years on the road remodeling his live set three days a week. Others do that a little here and there between handling their Facebook account. At least in the long term, you can’t substitute substance with marketing effort. As for Macro, we do like people who have some level of skill. You might be a total amateur and make something extremely valuable once, as a chance find. But as a label you prefer to work on projects which have the potential to unfold over five or ten or fifty years. I believe it’s a waste of time to chase “the record of the day.”

What exactly do you and Finn look for in music or an artist to make it onto Macro?

Something we haven’t seen or heard elsewhere already. I mean this on a rather modest scale. Seen from far enough we’re all just monkeys flying on a rock through space. It’s mostly just techno. Typically it isn’t within the powers of any individual artist to invent and establish a genre. To invent techno as we know it, it wasn’t enough to be one of those guys in Detroit. You also needed Kraftwerk, Disco and the Roland Corporation and around 500 other factors to come together in time and space. We’re just looking for something within our area of competence which moves us and whose makers show some curiosity to tweak things a little bit here or there. It’s all about some tinkering, really.

There’s a world behind all of this that the reader doesn’t often get to see or hear and it can go from making sure promos lad on the right desks to something as simple as agreeing on a flyer for an event. I found it very interesting when we labelled you as a Bulgarian DJ you found it funny. You also said labelling you as a German DJ on the flyer was boring. Why did you think it was boring?

It has become the most regular thing for a DJ or techno artist to be based in Berlin. It’s almost what you expect to see in a program of any club anywhere in the world. You came up with “BG” for Bulgaria behind my name. It’s funny. I’m half Bulgarian and half German, but I was born in Berlin. Usually people try to put “Berlin” there.

You thought it was a PR move, and maybe at a subconscious level it was. What has been the effect of PR on music over the last decade in your opinion and how does a label like Macro continue to find its space in this world between hype, trend and the institutions that govern these aspects?

There are five million people out there who want to be artists, and an audience that can’t be bothered with caring about more than a handful of these. That’s totally natural. Nobody can evaluate 80 different varieties of melon or cherry jam or orange juice before settling on the variety they’ll like best. Nobody listens to 80, let alone five million, bands before settling on a favorite, or even just on whom to listen to on a night out. So all these musicians need to scream into the marketplace that their melons are tastier than those of the others. Nobody ever could possibly check all the competing claims against each other. So basically our idea has been that it makes no sense whatsoever to try selling melons. Most PR is just futile, as long as it concerns “me too” products. There everybody just cancels each other out. To give you an example of how hype or press don’t matter all that much: we have those two bands, Elektro Guzzi and KUF. They do live band concepts within styles typically associated with electronic gear and DJs. They might not be Depeche Mode, but they get to play consistently and people enjoy seeing them and end up buying their records. I’d say that’s so because they are damn good, but they also hardly have a lot of competition. Effective PR is easy: don’t go where it’s crowded. Go where it’s empty.

You’ve written at length about the influence of media and social interaction on music and in the current landscape it seems that a social engagement is essential to proliferating music. How do you predict this will affect “club” music (for lack of a better phrase) of the future?

Has it really been different? For 99% percent of its history music needed to happen right in front of people who’d just walk away, or worse, if you couldn’t engage them. The recording musician was a brief historic aberration, where you could create something totally detached in a studio and then a record company wouldn’t know how successful it would be unless they released it and watched. You sometimes even needed to buy it without listening to it first, and then could try to get used to it at home. This way a unique array of all sorts of studio ideas came into the world, and they still mostly clutter the $1 bins at thrift shops. On the other hands  certain concepts got a firm hold in music history that wouldn’t have had a chance if they only had to rely on a live audience. That’s, say, 1960 to 2000. That was a unique era. Now we are kind of back in 1840. The recording doesn’t matter all that much again.

If I have to guess, the same two forces that have always shaped music will keep ruling. That is, we like to hear what we already know, and we get bored if we hear it too often. Thus, in all likelihood music will continue to change gradually. Also, we can’t actually repeat the same thing. No imitation is perfect, so change is inevitable. You can hear this with all the people who try to produce like its 1988. It’s just impossible. They get all the original gear, but some element of a circuit has aged and this changes the sound. Or they just can’t help and set the compressor right rather than wrong, as it was done in 1988. And there you go.

What then causes abrupt changes and cultural shifts, rather than the inevitable gradual changes, are new technological means and people’s reaction to them. Like when Willie Kizart’s amp fell down and the speaker membrane was torn, but the studio had already been paid for. That’s when distorted guitar came to be recorded, and 70 years of guitar rock followed. That defect couldn’t have happened if there wasn’t the technology first – the electric guitar, the amp, the studio and the record – and somebody hadn’t put down the money for these. Chance events that get perpetuated, or one phenomenon that affects a lot of people at the same time, like dozens of 808s and 303s washing up in pawn shops – those instances may lead to abrupt changes. Otherwise we just prod along.

I’ve read that you too don’t like categorising music. I find that in recent years most artists or labels feign categorisation like genre. What are the perils in your opinion of labeling music so categorically?

Actually I love to categorise. The conflict is usually when person A says “this is like that”, and person B is convinced it’s like nothing else in this world. Both are looking at the same thing, but see different aspects of it. You can’t expect to tick ten or fifty or a thousand boxes and to have no match with anything else. For something to be fresh or different, sometimes one little aspect shifted is totally sufficient. I love that idea. You can cook a dish you’ve cooked a hundred times and change one ingredient and the whole thing tastes differently. It’s the same with music. You’ll never need to be bored in this life.

On the back of that last question, how will you then explain the sound of Macro to the uninitiated?

That’s what we have initiation rites for.

You seem to occupy this space between the highbrow (your excursions into classical music, writing and experimental music events) and the “lowbrow” (everything from Drum n Bass to Techno). How does one side inform the other in your creative output and Macro and how do you find a balance between these two worlds?

I’d need to rant about this horrible distinction of “high” and “low”, and I think we’ll both have a better time if I don’t.

In your RA exchange from 2011, you mentioned that you had found a hard time to play just one style of music, which was very much the trend back then. Today the landscape has changed and the popular DJs are the ones that can be a bit more eclectic with their selections. How have these paradoxical shifts affected your DJ sets?

I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Do you refer to the “expert digging DJ” variety, where they are expected to line up records in increasing time/cost ratios of finding those records? It may appear eclectic, but it’s also predictable in another way. I believe Finn wrote a piece about this some time ago. I guess the other 98% of DJs keep sticking to their formulas. Of course there are exceptions. Nina Kraviz is ridiculously successful, but she also pulls off incredible mixes between things few other people would dare to play or even know about. There’s no preconceived category for this. That exist too.

Personally, of course I adapt to the people I play to – how else would it be an exchange? – but I basically stick to playing what I’d love to hear at 100 dB, and I keep phasing out the things I did hear often enough. I wouldn’t like to get bored. I don’t like gimmicks and I don’t like stuff that sounds dated. I like music that sounds good now, and maybe sounded well ten years ago and will still do so ten years from now. I believe there is music which transcends the moment.

By now I’m comfortable to play out things very few other people play out. Take Vladimir Dubyshkin. For the last two years, I’ve played that out consistently, and very few other people did. Probably because it’s at 140 bpm, but has this slightly silly feel to it with all those rave elements. It’s too freaky for the hard techno crowd and to fast for the more daring DJs. I just pitch it down to 130 bpm and it sounds even better. It’s strange that many DJs seem to have forgotten there’s pitch adjustment on their decks. They probably check the file on their computer and say, “Nah, too fast.” So I play it and people go nuts over Dubyshkin all the time. It’s pretty great to have stuff at your disposal that stands out glaringly but isn’t all over the place already.

Following on from that, how might your set unfold at Jæger next week?

Who could possibly know the future?

Flex your muscle – nine years of Bicep

In 2017 Bicep’s debut LP is released the history books will read – that phrase still sits somewhat awkwardly on the tongue, considering the Irish duo and their idiosyncratic musical tendencies are already firmly ingrained in House music’s lexicon today. Bicep are a sound all onto their own, and where other similar acts have ventured and fell short Bicep succeeded and thrived. They are known for their blend of big-room House percussion and R&B melodic contrails coming together in effervescent arrangements that push and pull at something primal in your DNA. Their tracks heave, rather than lure, their unsuspecting victims to the dance floor, a culmination of their efforts in the booth as DJs compressed into the 5-10 minutes of a DJ tool. Today they’ve already left a lasting legacy on House music, and yet their debut LP is only released in 2017.

Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson met in school in Belfast and while a friendship was formed on the field playing mini rugby their interests soon shifted to music. Moving into their adolescent years Matt and Andy’s musical education started on the club floor at the age of fifteen with the Belfast club Shine playing a pivotal role to the story of Bicep. It was at Shine they would hear “likes of Underground Resistance, Richie Hawtin, Laurent Garnier, Green Velvet and Dave Clarke on pretty much a weekly basis” and it’s undoubtedly on that floor where the seed to a career in DJing and music was planted.

Growing up in Ireland had especially played an important role in their musical education. “The scene there is much more insular and underground”, explains Matt in a 2012 interview with Scion A/V. “I think the fact that Ireland is so separate makes it more compelling for young people to hunt elsewhere”, elucidates Matt and that perhaps justifies the one aspect of their careers that launched them into public view.

In 2008 Andy and Matt found themselves living in two separate regions in the world and started the Feel my Bicep blog as “kinda like one big long dj mix” according to Andy in a Ransom Note article. With Matt living in Dubai and Andy in London, and unable to DJ together, the blog became a way for the pair to continue collaborating around their shared musical passions – a kind of abstract DJ set. Feel my Bicep was a place where they “could share music with a close group of friends” who had split up, living throughout the UK they explained in that article. It was also “a chance to share much weirder, more left field and obscure tastes”. A mix of old and new music, the blog indulged the boys’ more adventurous side and “was always more about synth music, Italo disco, ambient soundscapes, ’80s electronica, re-edits, soul, funk and older hard-to-find house”, according to an interview in The Quietus than it was about catering to a dance floor. With nothing but a pure love for the music pushing them forward and at a time where the blogosphere was at a peak, Feel My Bicep found a fairly large audience early on and it  brought the DJ duo to the world’s attention even before they’d officially appeared together in the booth.

Working remotely between Dubai and London, Andy and Matt started producing records together at about the same time the Feel My Bicep blog surfaced. “The music wasn’t organic” they explain to the Quietus. “It was produced digitally and generally had no feeling at all.” They regarded that period as a “steep learning curve” and found it a “very tough way to work”; collaborating across time zones and communicating through text rather than creative impulses in each other’s presence. After a few releases they took the step to consolidate the Bicep project and Matt made the move to London, at the time when the city’s music scene was flourishing, especially around House. Amongst the likes of Julio Bashmore, George Fitzgerald and Floating Points, Bicep’s early releases immediately stood on their own for their uninhibited design, where tempos pulse at 125BPM or higher and audacious kicks pounded out concise rhythms. Those first few releases on AUS, Throne of Blood and Feel My Bicep were the purview of House DJs all over Europe and by 2012’s Vision Of Love, hardly a House mix made it onto the internet without a Bicep track featured.

Bicep weren’t an immediate success however, and even though all manner of blogs, DJs and labels were picking the Irish duo up for releases they still had to toil at their craft, putting in 7 days a week for the gratification of the dedicated few. Their releases kept on coming on labels like AUS and KMS and the the Feel My Bicep label grew at the same rate. They were constantly touring, and their DJ sets were synonymous with the sound of their work and the label; unrestrained high-energy affairs that slotted perfectly into peak time hours. The one aspect of Bicep seemed to inform the other, with the dance floor firmly represented in their productions and their productions implying the sound of their sets.

Their blog remained active through their rigorous touring and studio schedule, but Bicep remained an underground treasure, the want of a musical minority, that defied trend-informed movements in the House genre for something determinable and idiosyncratic and that’s what they found in Bicep. It wasn’t however until 2016’s “Just” that the boys started noticing a shift in their career. “(It) was one of those tracks that really changed a lot of things for us and how people viewed us and it’s probably been the most important one in terms of our career so far”, they explain in a Q&A with XLR8R earlier this year.

The half-time beat and the melodic countenance of “Just” wasn’t anything Bicep hadn’t done before, but the memorable uplifting hook and the toe-tapping beat, moved them away from the dance floor and into the living room. With elements acknowledging 90’s downtempo Techno and tempering their music around a more accessible formula, “Just” harked in a new era for Bicep, without departing completely from the distinctive character that had marked Bicep’s initial appeal. It coincided with a new approach in Bicep’s working habits, where they went “from fiddling with samples and editing on a laptop to a fully working hardware studio”, and that contributed a new impulsive, creative workflow too. “Our approach now is to play as much stuff as live as possible and use our hands and try and get feeling into it” they explain to The Quietus at around the same time “Just” was released.

It’s almost as if they only really started working as duo around that time and the results are presumably a more tactile and human execution. “When there is two of you, you need to find a kind of organic feeling where you bounce off one another and create something. Looking back, working from a laptop felt very designed and contrived for us personally.”

This new approach called in the next phase of Bicep, and they cemented it in 2017 with the launch of their debut, self-titled LP. Bicep broke new ground for the duo, channeling their sound from the dance floor to the living room. “It’s very much home listening or for listening on the train, not a club album” they told XLR8R back in July. “It’s certainly more restrained or gentle, but also a lot more dynamic we feel. We’ve spent a lot more time on the little details.” Bicep feature almost no club tracks, and the songs are composed and arranged in a way closer to popular forms. They engage with listener on a different level, doing away with the base corporeal function of the beat and rhythm and focus on melodic and harmonic parts that tap into something visceral and emotive.

Not merely content with playing edits or remixes of these album tracks in DJ sets, like they might have done in the past, Bicep have taken their music to stage for another first for the group, touring a unique live show to accompany the album. Unsurprisingly it’s an ostentatious hardware affair, with Matt and Andy beefing up the album originals for the dance floor, channeling that unbridled energy of a Bicep set into a live show, that’s already left  the critics swooning and the audiences captivated.

From their charismatic DJ sets, their dancefloor filler productions and now their album and accompanying live show, Bicep’s presence in electronic club music is comprehensive. They’ve upturned every stone in the near-decade they’ve been around, and show absolutely no signs of slowing down today. Over the course of the last nine years they’ve established something unique and through the album they’ve introduced an entire new phase to their music that will almost definitely install them in the popular consciousness in the years to come… and to think, it all started with a blog.

 

* Bicep play our basement at Retro. Advance tickets on sale here.

Ten Questions for Kate Miller

Over the course of the last few years the name Kate Miller has been passed around the DJ booth watercooler in hushed tones like a coveted secret. A firm favourite amongst DJs and tastemakers alike, Miller’s sets are far-reaching and noted for their diverse brilliance. Whether she’s playing in the broken beat residue of early House or rising to celestial heights on tribal plains, Miller’s mixes evoke mood and occasion, and moves freely between the basement and the open air, depending on what the situation calls for.

She spends her time between Melbourne and Berlin today, taking on all manner of influences from these two remarkable cities as she evolves through her career. As a youngster she played piano, which formed the backdrop of her musical education, before moving into DJing. While living in Melbourne, Miller found herself in a residency at New Guernica, but with limited possibilities in a small scene, she made the move to Berlin around 2011 and a DJ career beckoned.

Shortly after moving to Berlin, Miller got  her first gig at Golden Gate and from there it didn’t take long before she became a resident for Stattbad. Venues like ://about blank and Ipse followed suit and even in the competitive landscape of Berlin’s DJ world Kate Miller’s star was on the rise. She eventually caught the ear of Oscillate and joined the crew’s ranks, helping call in three years of the Berlin event series at ://about blank recently.  

Her last mix for Oscillate’s podcast series was RA’s mix of the day and she’s been lauded by DJs and media outlets alike  for her uncanny ability to jump across genres over mixes. “Her choice – cold, funky Electro cuts – surprised us a lot more than all the good taste that went into it”,  said Groove Mag of the mix that she did for them while her mix for I.D traversed the world in search of unknown musical curiosities.

Kate Miller is nothing but a musical chameleon and with her featured appearance at Jæger coming at some short notice we were eager to find out more so we asked her ten questions in preparation. 

How did you get involved with Oscillate and how has the event series influenced your career?

My partner and agent, Mato, started Oscillate 3 years ago with his best friend. At the beginning I was just throwing booking suggestions out there and they slowly started coming to me more and more for advice. After Mato’s partner stepped out of the project I slipped into that role. Being able to play at a party that you also organise, in a club so close to home, where we would normally spend our weekends off anyway, feels so comfortable and gives me more freedom to explore new genres and sounds whenever I play there. It’s definitely inspired me to be more daring with my selections and I am so grateful to have a solid base and residency in Berlin. Something which is becoming rather rare these days.

It seems you split your time between Melbourne and Berlin. How do those two cities compare musically for you?

6 years ago when I first left Melbourne, I don’t think it had really found it’s feet yet, which is one of the reasons I initially left. But over the last few years it’s become by far one of the most inspiring, rich and musically diverse cities in the world (in my humble opinion!) There’s a lot more live music, and the club-crowds seem hungrier for new sounds. The sunny weather means things still err on the side of house and disco while Berlin is still very much techno-focussed. That darker energy in Berlin also feeds into a stronger base for the avant-garde with festivals like Atonal and CTM. They’re both incredibly inspiring cities for different reasons. I like the fact that in Berlin you can spend hours in a club and not feel guilty because it’s grey and cold outside anyway. But then Melbourne has fantastic day parties and festivals! They’re like night and day. I love having both of them in my life.

I believe you started playing the piano at a young age, but what was it about electronic club music that first caught your attention?

I still play the piano and I love classical and jazz music very much, but after a couple of teen angst years listening to Radiohead I discovered Ministry of Sound (ha!) and thought to myself ‘I’m allowed to be happy’. It totally changed my outlook on life. I went from a mopey kid to a cheerful little raver overnight. As the song goes: “not everyone understands house music, it’s a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing”.

What were the tracks, the artists or the labels that lead you on a path to a career as a DJ?

That’s a big question! I started DJing 10 years ago. The people who put me on the path to DJing were mostly Australian DJs and artists. Seeing DJ Kiti and hearing HMC and Late Nite Tuff Guy tracks all the time. I used to play almost exclusively house music. I was really into Move D, Moodymann, all of the Chicago and Detroit ‘godfathers’. As well as some other things I’m not so proud of. My taste in music has changed dramatically since then!

What was the catalyst in Melbourne that took you from the dance floor to the booth?

The first DJs who initially inspired me to take up mixing was Otologic. They put on a monthly club night in Melbourne at The Mercat (RIP) called C Grade where they would play b2b with Lewie Day (now known as Tornado Wallace) for up to 12 hours at a time. That sort of thing was unheard of in Melbourne in those days. It was so inspiring to listen to those guys digging through their endless bags of records playing everything from disco, to wave, house, acid, electro, techno and more.

How has that traditional musical education factored into your selections as a DJ, if at all?

It probably set me on a musical path and got my ear tuned in to rhythm and tone early on, but the two are pretty separate, I think. What I learnt technically from playing the piano doesn’t really translate into DJing, I think mixing and beat-matching is pretty technically simple, I don’t muck around much with looping or effects. It’s more about taste and being able to tell a story than anything else for me.

There’s a rumour that you’ll be moving into production soon. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Oh, where did you hear that?!

There was mention of it in your interview with The Commission.

Well I have been playing around at a friend’s studio lately but don’t get your hopes up too soon. I am making progress slowly, but not putting any pressure on it :)

I like music which is both optimistic and melancholic.

Your mixes are quite diverse and are spread across genres from House to Techno. What’s the common denominator through your selections?

It’s really a feeling more than anything. I’m terrible at describing music with words but I think in general I like music which is both optimistic and melancholic. I never want to be a DJ that gets stuck in one genre. I really like all genres of music and I like staying open. I rely on feeling rather than genre to guide me. At the end of the day I don’t think there’s a huge difference between house, techno, electro, as long as you find a common thread and play them together in a way that makes sense and develops into a complete story.

How would you describe your sets to the uninitiated?

Oh that’s a tricky one. Every song is unique and beautiful to me for different reasons. I hope that the way I put them together makes sense and forms a tale, leading the listener to a place they weren’t expecting to end up in, but are happy to be there all the same.

Lastly, can you play us out with a song?

Premiere: Carisma – Con Sombras (Charlotte Bendiks Remix)

Streaming on our blog today is the premiere of a “raw and direct” remix of Carisma’s Con Sombras from Charlotte Bendiks. The remix follows the Buenos Aires outfit’s debut album, “Gratis” on Dengue Dancing with Charlotte’s contribution appearing alongside Theus Mago (Mexico, Correspondant, Kill the DJ), Djs Pareja (Buenos Aires, Cómeme, Turbo), Ana
Helder (Rosario, Cómeme, Mustique) and Rous (Mendoza, Sanfuentes Records). Carolina and Ismael from Carisma “asked some friends and producers from different cities around the world to bring their magic touch to their favourite track. Each
musician from a diverse group of artists, featuring regularly in Carisma’s DJ sets, chose a track from the album, which Carisma split the remixes in a series of 3 EPs”, according to the Argentine duo.

Carisma and Charlotte enjoy a long-standing relationship and have in the past often shared a booth or a stage together, whether playing in Buenos Aires, Tromsø or Berlin. “Charlotte is a good friend of Carisma’s”, says Ismael who also suggests that “somehow these three producers and DJs have musically grown together.”

Charlotte Bendiks takes the full-bodied original of Con Sombras and peels the layers back to the bare bones, revealing a skeletal framework of percussion and the sequenced synth that’s at the bow of the original. Charlotte beefs up the percussion to where it takes centre stage and proffers a perfunctory role morphing the song into a DJ tool, without deadening the central appeal of the original’s abstract vocal or bass synth line. The original Con Sombras appealed to Charlotte for “the raw bass and the weirdo jacking feeling it had.” It offered something she could “understand emotionally” and allowed her to bring something of her own into it. She followed what she likes to call her “Sami Intuition” and the result was this Con Sombras remix we’re streaming today.

* Gratis Remixes is out on Dengue Dancing records on the 8th of December.

An Unlikely Legacy: A brief History of Roland’s TB-303

In Roland Company’s labs in the early part of the 1980’s Mr. Tadao Kikumoto was toiling away under the instruction of the synthesiser manufacturer to find the perfect accompaniment for their new TR-606 drum module —  an electronic drum machine intended as a guitarists practise tool. Needless to say with a drum machine already in the works, Mr. Kikumato’s mind (possibly influenced by the traditional composition of a band during that time) immediately went to bass and with that set about creating the Transistor Bass 303, or TB-303, much to the eventual detriment to guitarists everywhere, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

When the TB-303 was launched alongside the TR-606 it was an immediate flop. Hard to program, and with an incredibly tacky synthetic sound, no respectable guitarist could justify the crude concession over a real bassist. Hell, even a complete bass novice and his untuned instrument would suffice over the plastic module. With that and the short production run between 1981 – 84 that followed, the machine would eventually be resigned to bargain bins the world over, laying dormant until a new type of musician would lay their hands on the inconspicuous, obsolete device….

As Disco turned to all manner of electronic aids to extend their breaks and eventually drop the rest of the track completely, a new type of music would be born. In Chicago, Detroit, and New York in the early 1980’s, drum machines went from being a DJ tool to an instrument, and where they were firming up the beat over Disco records before, they became the quintessential rhythm composer for a new kind of music that would soon be coined, House music. The machines that were previously intended for instructional/rehearsal purposes would be repurposed as compositional tools for the music of the future.

For the first time musical laymen all over America, who before the advent of the drum machine, could only aspire to the career of a DJ, were now composers and producers, thanks to the advent of accessible drum machines, almost exclusively Roland’s TR-808. Although artists like Prince and Kraftwerk had been using drum machines in their records for a while, it wasn’t until Roland’s TR-808 that it had it been so widely accepted as an instrument. Accessible to musical novices and unique for its alien, adjustable sounds, the Roland’s TR-808 changed the musical landscape and with that the whole range of Roland’s x0x machines would follow suit, including the TR-606. But, like every bassist in every band ever, the TB-303 however would not be appreciated at the same rate its time-keeping cousin rose to fame, and even in the electronic music sphere the machine would have to remain content in  bargain bins, biding its time for a new kind of band to realise its true potential. It would take three young Chicago DJs, individually known as Spanky, DJ Pierre and Herb J, and collectively known as Phuture to see that potential, and true to their namesake they called in the future of music with the TB-303 harking their destinty.

In 1985 DJ Pierre had seen the TB-303 being used in its intended purpose, chugging away at a bass-line of some unknown proto-House record, and he admired it for its texture more than anything else. He encouraged his bandmates to purchase the machine and it wasn’t long till DJ Spanky (Earl Smith Jr) eventually picked one up in a second hand shop for less than $100 and invited Pierre over for a session. DJ Pierre takes the story on from here in RBMA’s mag: “I started just tweaking knobs and turning stuff, and Spanky was like, ‘Woah woah woah. Keep doing that, keep doing that.’ So, I kept twisting knobs, and the next thing you know, we were there for like an hour or two, just twisting knobs and programming things. The funny thing is, that first day, we made ‘Acid Tracks’”.

In a single afternoon the group had gone from improvising on a new instrument, to defining a genre, but again not quite, because it would take another year for the track to be released and although Phuture and the TB-303 were instrumental to defining the sound of Acid House, Ron Hardy and Marshall Jefferson still had instrumental roles to play in establishing the genre, and without them we can only but wonder if the track would have garnered the same success in establishing a genre.

Ron Hardy had broken a much faster version, recorded straight from the jam session DJ Pierre had handed to him a week after its creation, way before it had even been picked up a label, and it was he Ron Hardy that coined the name of the track. Before it was even called anything, the Phuture unedited, pre-production original was commonly referred to as Ron Hardy’s Acid track, because it was Ron Hardy that would play the track 3-4 times a night, getting his audiences accustomed to this new unusual sound that before the end of the night would have them all squirming on the dance floor to the gestures of Phuture and the TB-303. House legend, Marshall Jefferson took the track from the dance floor to the studio and his production credit on Acid Tracks is also no mere courtesy. What had been little more than a jam session had been moulded into a realised track through the producer’s midas touch when he slowed it down and gave it its ultimate form.

At the same time a special mention should also go to one Charanjit Singh, an indian musician who in the 1982, actually preceded Acid House by five years when he released ten ragas to a disco beat, incorporating the TB-303 in much the same way Phuture did some years later, but in a wholly different stylistic approach.

In 1987, when it was eventually released, Acid Tracks had completely changed the face of House music and in an instant the TB-303 became the go-to tool for electronic music all over the world. The improvised manner of using the machine, brought a psychedelic nature to the dance floor and added that much needed human dimension to the oft quantised and stoic nature of machine music before. It envisioned a bio-mechanical future and ushered in a new era for music that would install electronic dance music in the popular zeitgeist like never before, and in Europe, especially the UK, it would change the landscape forever. In the UK they adopted the Acid House nomenclature as an all-encompassing signifier of the music that was soundtracking rave culture with a smiley face constituting its countenance and the TB-303 defining its voice.  

Going from sharp, squelching stabs to sludgy bass riffs, the TB-303’s appeal lied in its theretofore unusual sounds. Nothing that came before it nor after has come close to sounding like a TB-303 and the machine became to House music what the Marshall stack was to rock or the Stratovarius was to classical music, a musical icon for for an electronic age. It’s unique circuitry gave its distinct sound and although Mr. Kikumato’s intentions might have been quite different, he had inadvertently created one of the most creatively versatile instruments for the layman, by adding those simple adjustable parameters to his machine.

Things like cut-off frequency, resonance, accent and portamento controls, meant that non-musicians with little knowledge of musical theory could impose his/her own creative impulses through uncomplicated gestures like turning a knob or flicking a switch, gestures that come naturally to anybody, unlike playing an ostinato on a keyboard. As a piece of technology based on little musical prowess, non-musicians had found an even playing field, and with no academic premise swaying their creative impulses, a new kind of ingenuity and innovation swept across popular music. Established forms, harmonic- and melodic practises played a small role in the TB-303’s make-up and ushered in one of the most inventive and fertile moments in music history.

The TB-303 in some vengeful irony had laid absolute waste to the dominance of the lead guitar in popular music and charged on to become one of the most unique and domineering instruments in electronic music and beyond for the last thirty years.

Ubiquitous today in House music, but with few working examples still around due to it’s short and meagre production run, the TB-303’s garnered a mythical status, and continues to encourage, inspire and motivate electronic dance music across the sub-genres. Necessity has given rise to demand and several hardware clones today exist of the machine, with dedicated music enthusiasts dismantling the machine to create accurate, and affordable hardware copies of the original as well as countless software emulations. You can even play a 303 online today if the mood strikes, which is very much consistent with the TB-303’s original appeal.

At any given day in any record store you can pick 5 -10 records featuring the machine and they will all be quite different. From House to Techno to Electro and even Nu-Disco, the TB-303 continues to be re-purposed in innovative new ways. Roland recently has launched a new physical, digital version of the machine and it seems to already be inspiring a new generation of artists as a very affordable option for the next burgeoning musician. More than that the original TB-303 still manages to indulge the curiosities of artists like Andreas Tilliander and KiNK who keep the machine close in their extensive arsenal of equipment.

It’s curious how a guitarist’s tool came to define an entire genre of music  and how it continues to inspire and indulge the creative melé of electronic music. There’s no way Mr.Tadao Kikumoto could have envisioned its success in this repurposed way, and especially not after it’s dismal performance on the market, but never before nor even after has one musical instrument been so integral to the advent of a musical style or genre.

Enlightened: A Q&A with Violet

Radio programmer; label owner; successful recording artist across genres; and a DJ Inês Borges Coutinho must be one of the busiest people working in electronic music today. In 2017 she debuted her new label Naive, with “Togetherness”, a three-track EP under her House and Techno-leaning Violet moniker, but NAIVE001 is only the tip of an iceberg. Her musical career in fact stretches back to her adolescent years where she and her cousin first started making music as A.M.O.R, a Portuguese Hip Hop outfit that went on to find success over the digital airwaves for its extensive sonic range and its exoticism.

At A.M.O.R she honed her production and songwriting craft while nurturing a varied palette of musical influences, with club music always keeping a close proximity to everything she did. Around the same time as working on A.M.O.R’s 2013’ album “InfinityInês developed her admiration for club music into a fully formed project under the Violet moniker.

As Violet, her productions and remixes have found themselves on One Eyed Jacks, Cómeme, Paraíso and Snuff Trax, and more recently her own label, Naive. In recent years, Violet has also taken to the airwaves with her own Rádio Quântica, an independent, online radio station for which she curates shows and hosts regular night for at Lisbon’s Lux Frágil, but it would a more politically motivated project that would bring her to our attention.

In 2014 for international Women’s Day, she released the first in a series of classic club tracks, covered by the artist and a host of international collaborators. Violet’s version of Underground Resistance’s “Transitions” immediately caught the attention of the world, no less UR themselves and the series has been running for three years today with versions of classic’s like “I need a Freak” and “Let there be House”, featuring the likes of Charlotte Bendiks, Debonair and her A.M.O.R bandmates, with all proceeds going to gender equality NGO’s.

Inês Borges Coutinho’s accomplishments are clearly many and it’s hard to imagine one person finding all the time to do all these things let alone find time to indulge some curious questions, yet she still managed to find time for us and our panadantic questions before she comes out for IRONI this weekend.

  • Violet plays IRONI this weekend with Charlotte Bendiks.

I want to start by asking you about your earliest musical experiences, because from your Hip-Hop project A.M.O.R to your production work as Violet and of course your DJ sets there’s a vast array of different sonic elements that I hear when listening to the music.

I started making music more seriously (but still in a playful way) in 2006 as A.M.O.R. – writing lyrics and trying to come up with beats on Fruity Loops and on an MPC2000XL. Before that my only experiences in music making were improvising with a guitar and coming up with vocal melodies – really, really basic stuff.

Besides you (the central figure behind it all) where do all these different aspects find an equal ground in your musical personality?

I guess just the fact that like every human I go through lots of different feelings and am exposed to all these things that influence me: people, places, sounds, experiences, conversations. So perhaps it just boils down to my openness to integrate all of these inputs into my music. I’m not too in love with the idea of staying in a specific lane, sonically or genre-wise.

When you moved on from A.M.O.R, which was largely a group effort as far as I can tell, to Violet, what did you find you were able to express musically that you couldn’t really do as part of A.M.O.R?

A.M.O.R. is a rap and DJ crew more so than a production team, so we kinda explore different angles of music making. I convey different energies in each project, although none of them is really limited in any way.

Why did you move into House / Techno music specifically?

A bunch of reasons. I’ve loved clubbing since I was a teenager, started going out at 13 – in the mid-nineties dance music was super popular in Portugal, we had a couple labels and quite a few successful DJs – DJ Vibe and Luis Leite being the main influences for me personally. So listening to Luis Leite Alcantara-Mar mixtapes and going out was a big part of the early wiring towards

 

Is the A.M.O.R project still active?

It is! We haven’t released new music in a while, but we still DJ together regularly and we run a radio show and a night called Summer Of Love.

I find your Violet project is a very collage-like assemblage of a variety of different musical colours, but what do you look for in sample and how much of a sample informs a track?

When I decide to use a sample, I normally do it because it resonates with my sensibility: it’s either sonically intriguing (or I can see myself making it more so with fx) or makes me feel some type of way. Sometimes I just sample loops from classic drum machines I love for that archetypal referencing that still teaches so much to dance music – especially if done in a subversive way. As to how much a sample informs a track, I guess it depends on the track to be fair – but it mostly informs texture and colour, rather than structure or melody.

I suppose an extension to that question would also be what do you look for in a track in your DJ sets?

That is a very hard question, as my sets are a real collage/patchwork so I can look for many different things at different times. Again, as with the samples I decide to use, I certainly look for emotional impact, sonic interest, sometimes for hardness, sometimes for softness. I love rough synth textures as much as I like dreamy pads, I love techno as much as acid house or jungle or electro or even boogie – so it’s hard to put my finger on it. I guess when I’m looking for music, I let it play and see if it speaks to me.

I’ve read that your work starts with samples and then moves into some improvisation on a 303 clone; processes that are very much instrumental to House music. How much influence do things like genre and instruments have one your music?

It depends. That could definitely be a process for one of my tracks, but it’s always different really – most times I’ll simply use Ableton, other times I’ll use some home recordings of instruments or synths. I don’t really think about genre when I’m making music, although it is true that so far I’ve made mostly house and techno music, influenced by various subgenres. But I’ve also written a few songs, and some chilled electronic stuff. I feel like my music is an immaterial extension of myself so it can be lots of things (just like I can be lots of things).

How much of  a conceptual or initial thought  is there before you even approach your instruments?

It’s quite rare that I approach an instrument with an idea in mind, although it has happened – like having a melody in my head and trying to write it down, or occurring to me that I could experiment with using a specific effect on a specific element. I tend to pick up whatever I’m using and start playing, having fun, experimenting. Many times I start recording right away, jam a little and then trim everything down and work with my favourite bits.

Your International Women’s Day project has been going for three years now. Tell us a bit about what inspired you to start this project?

The main goals were to have fun re-interpreting beautiful male-led classics with women, to raise awareness of how many of us are active and helping create dance music history, also at its core was a collaborative spirit.

 

We’ve just been made aware of a series of gruesome cases of sexual harassment and misogyny in Hollywood. How much of an effect do you believe artistic projects like yours have on  serious gender inequality issues like these?

I try to humbly raise awareness about gender inequality, racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism and other inequalities via not only my music and free DJing/production workshops I’ve been running for girls and LGBTQIA+ folk, but also through the way I program my nights and the radio station – and even through my online presence. My reach is quite limited, but imagine if everyone raised their voice about these issues using however little time and resources they had – I think things would probably change faster and I think some dangerous habits that reinforce the status quo would be dissolved because I believe awareness really does change most people’s behaviours with time. So, as much as I know my contribution is very small, I can’t help but do my bit.

I recently spoke to our resident Karima F about issues of gender inequity plaguing the music industry. She believed that part of the problem was that men tend to institutionalise making music and DJing in a way that this very accessible thing becomes their exclusive domain. As a successful recording artist and DJ, what are your thoughts on this and is it something that you still experience?

I agree with Karima: the status quo is unfortunately still very male-led and the preservation of privilege is very much present – as it is in many other cultural and professional landscapes. We definitely need to make a joint effort as a society to stop reinforcing that imbalanced status quo, starting by educating children in a different way, teaching them about parity, and men need to unlearn the gatekeeper philosophy that has been fed to them by societal expectations so that we can all benefit from the same structures and feel welcome and safe in all of them.

Apart from making music and Djing, you also program shows for Rádio Quântica, host nights at Lúx, create mixes for fashion shows, and this year you’ve also started a new imprint Naive. What’s the singular thing that motivates you across all these projects?

Mostly people and how good they can be – how inspiring it is to work with people you love, admire and believe in. And how together, people really can change this weird world for the better.

Will the label feature any other artists or will it solely be vehicle for your work?

It will feature other artists as well.

What are you currently looking forward to in your own music, DJ mixes, label and Radio show?

I’m just finishing the second naive release, I’m really excited about it. I’m also finishing demos for labels I’m in touch with and will continue to feature guest mixes and new material I’m feeling on the radio shows.

Your sets are quite diverse from what we’ve heard online. How might your set at Jæger differ and be similar to those more eclectic sets we’ve heard online?

I always prepare a different selection for each city/club I perform at, so it’s always different in terms of what I play – but the energy I’m going for can also change in intensity depending on what’s going down in the room and the DJs playing with me. So I think it will be a lovely co-creation between my dear Charlotte, the dancers and I.

I think I’ve asked just about every question there and just have one more request… Can you play us out with a song?

Sure :) Here’s one of my all-time fav songs. Not something I play out very often but definitely a favourite at home to help me get my spirits up. See you soon everyone!

 

Between two worlds with Rudow

It was an informal meeting on a park bench in Kreuzberg that brought Alexander Rishaug’s newest project Rudow to life. Initially pinned as a “lost tape” project and released as an unknown release through Hardwax channels, Rudow is experimental artist, Alexander Rishaug infiltrating the club floor from the inky subterranean where intuition and intrigue dwell. Rudow is Rishaug’s first concerted effort at club music, channeling his extensive experience, as sound artist, musician, producer, remixer and conceptual artist into a singular execution with designs on the DJ booth.

Rudow bucks the trend in Freakout Cult’s discography, with a sonic mire of layers flowing through progressions whose closest relative is Techno. Although a rhythmical output, Rudow’s intentions move away from the genre’s percussive insistency and channels it to a textural dimension closer associated with the drone and ambient genres that Alexander Rishaug is often associated with.

Rishaug’s musical career begins in ‘95 with a series of self-released tapes, bridging the gaps between noise and electronica before releasing his now classic debut, Panorama on Smalltown Supersound. A fleeting figure, Rishaug has indulged all encompassing corners of the electronic music sphere and beyond with music that feigns the obvious and thrives in the obscure without alienating a listener. 2014’s Ma.org Pa.git illustrates this most effectively as a work born out of the harsh tonalities of a church organ and guitar, inspired by Doom and Black Metal, but executed in a most subtle ambient arrangement, bringing out only the tenderest sonorities from those domineering instruments.

In the six tracks that make up the new Rudow release, a bridge exists between these works and Rishaug’s more club-leaning influences, carried over by tracks like “Floating Point” and “Slow / Grow”. “Contrary Motion” and “Manifesting the Unreal” lead us out of these worlds again, but remain tethered to Rishaug’s artistic identity which is ingrained in a kind of textural atmosphere defined by a succinct mood.

Where does Rishaug end and Rudow begin and how did the record end up on Freakout Cult? We attempt to unravel these burning questions and more when we sit down with Alexander over a coffee to find out where the thin red line exists between two worls..

Tell​ ​me​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​about​ ​the​ ​Rudow​ ​project.

It’s​ ​a​ ​parallel​ ​project​ ​to​ ​the​ more experimental​ ​stuff I do.​ ​​ For​ ​me​ ​it’s​ ​been​ ​there​ ​from​ ​the start;​ ​there’s​ ​​always​ ​been​ an interest in ​rhythms​ ​in​ ​my​ ​experimental​ ​music,​ ​but​ ​when​ ​I​ ​had​ ​found​ ​the name​ ​Rudow,​ ​I​ ​realised​ ​that​ ​I wanted it to be its​ ​own​ ​project.​ ​It​ ​has​ ​a​ ​clear framework​ ​and​ ​a​ ​direction,​ ​and​ ​when​ ​I met Fett​ ​Burger ​from​ ​Freakout​ ​Cult​, ​I​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​finish​ ​the​ ​project.

How​ ​did​ ​you​ ​meet​ DJ​ ​Fett​ ​Burger?

I​ ​knew​ ​him​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​from​ ​the​ ​art and Techno scene​ ​in​ ​Norway,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​also​ ​knew​ ​my work,​ ​but​ ​we​ ​weren’t​ ​really​ ​friends.​ ​I was​ ​sitting​ ​on​ ​a​ ​bench​ ​in​ ​Kreuzberg​ ​in​ ​Berlin​ ​and​ ​this​ ​guy​ ​was​ ​locking​ ​his​ ​bike​ ​up,​ ​and​ ​I happened​ ​to​ ​recognize​ ​him.​ ​We​ ​started​ ​talking​ ​about experimental​ ​music​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Berlin​ ​scene vs the Oslo scene​ ​and​ ​after​ ​a​ ​really​ ​nice​ ​chat​ ​we​ ​cemented​ ​the​ ​beginning of​ ​the​ ​release.

You​ ​mentioned​ ​you​ ​found​ ​a​ ​framework​ ​for​ ​the​ ​project,​ ​but​ ​besides​ ​the​ ​rhythmical​ ​aspect what​ ​did​ ​that​ ​entail​ ​for​ ​Rudow?

I​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​have​ ​that​ ​rhythmical​ ​aspect,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​also​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​have​ ​it​ ​a​ ​little​ ​more​ ​open towards textures and ambient spheres.​ ​When​ ​I started​ ​listening​ ​to​ ​club​ ​music​ ​I​ ​was​ ​always​ ​more​ ​interested​ ​in​ ​the​ ​leftfield​ ​electronica​ ​like​ ​Basic Channel,​ ​DeepChord​ ​and​ ​Warp.​ ​That​ ​was​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​the​ ​plan​ ​for​ ​it,​ ​but​ ​then​ ​ ​I​ ​had​ ​no​ ​idea​ ​how ​it​ would​ ​sound​ ​in​ ​the​ ​end.​ ​I​ ​remember​ ​when​ ​I​ ​made​ ​that​ ​first​ bass line on the first ​track​ ​on​ ​the album,​ ​I knew that​ ​​this​​ ​is​ ​the Rudow​ ​sound I was looking for.

One​ ​thing​ ​that​ ​makes​ ​this​ ​release​ ​stick​ ​out​ ​from​ ​any​ ​of​ ​the​ ​other​ ​releases​ ​on​ ​Freakout Cult​ ​is​ ​that​ ​is​ ​very​ ​layered​ ​and​ ​the​ ​textures​ ​are​ ​quite​ ​rich,​ ​which​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​ties​ ​in​ ​with​ ​your more​ ​experimental​ ​stuff.

Yes,​ ​I​ ​guess​ ​that’s​ ​where​ ​my​ ​experience​ ​as​ ​a​ ​composer​ ​comes​ ​into​ ​it.​ ​I​ ​like​ ​to​ ​work​ ​with​ ​details and​ ​layers​ ​and​ ​develop small​ ​changes over time.

So​ ​you’re​ ​background​ ​is​ ​in​ ​composition?

Actually​ ​my​ ​background​ ​is​ ​as​ ​a​ ​visual​ ​artist,​ ​so​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​academically skilled​ ​in​ ​composition,​ ​but​ ​self taught.​ ​I​ ​started​ ​composing/improvising​ ​in​ ​‘95​ ​and​ ​had​ ​my​ ​first​ ​tape​ ​release​ ​in​ ​‘97​ ​called​ ​“Rainy​ ​Days Forever”,​ ​which​ ​was​ ​a​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​lo-fi,​ ​guitar​ ​synth​ ​album.​ ​My​ first​​ ​electronic​ ​music​ ​album​ ​came​ ​out in​ ​2001​ ​on​ ​Smalltown​ ​Supersound,​ ​titled Panorama.

What​ ​was​ ​the​ ​instrument​ ​that​ ​started​ ​it​ ​all​ ​for​ ​you?

I​ ​played​ ​the​ ​flute,​ ​but​ ​in​ ​the​ ​end​ ​I​ ​hadn’t​ ​gotten​ ​any​ ​joy​ ​out​ ​of​ ​it,​ ​because​ ​I​ ​had​ ​to​ ​practise​ ​and do​ ​big​ ​band​ ​rehearsals.​ ​It​ ​wasn’t​ ​quite​ ​as​ ​free​ ​as​ ​I​ ​would’ve​ ​liked​ ​it,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​stopped playing music for a couple of years.​ ​Later​ ​I​ ​started playing​ ​the​ ​guitar​ ​when​ ​a​ ​friend​ ​of​ ​mine​ ​introduced​ ​me​ ​to​ ​classic​ ​guitar.​ ​I​ ​started​ ​playing​ ​around with​ ​interesting​ ​textures​ ​and​ ​melodies​ ​and​ ​that​ ​was​ ​the​ ​way​ ​in to​ ​working​ ​with​ ​transforming and processing sound,​ ​to​ ​use​ ​an​ ​instrument​ ​or​ ​a​ ​field​ ​recording​ ​and​ ​turning​ ​it​ ​into​ ​something else.

Tell​ ​me​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​about​ ​your​ ​early​ ​musical​ ​influences,​ ​away​ ​from​ ​the​ ​club​ ​music​ ​hemisphere.

Before​ ​I​ ​went​ ​to​ ​art​ ​school,​ ​I​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​that​ ​much​ ​of​ ​the​ ​history​ ​of​ ​experimental​ ​electronic music,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​started​ ​digging​ ​a​ ​little​ ​further​ ​into​ ​that​ ​side​ ​of​ ​the​ ​world​ ​with​ ​John Cage,​ ​Pauline​ ​Oliveros, Steve​ ​Reich​, Eliane Radique ​and​ ​Terry​ ​Riley.

One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​reasons​ ​I​ ​went​ ​to​ ​Trondheim​ ​University​ ​was​ ​because​ ​Helge​ ​Sten​ ​(Deathprod)​ ​was​ ​at the​ ​academy.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​this​ ​rumour​ ​that​ ​the​ ​academy​ ​was​ ​focussing​ ​on​ ​new​ ​media and technology.​ ​Today​ all​ ​of the​ ​Norwegian art academies​ ​do​ ​that,​ ​but​ ​at​ ​that​ ​time​ ​Trondheim​ ​was​ ​the​ ​multimedia​ hub.​ ​So​ ​that​ ​was the​ ​reason​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​go​ ​there.

I​ ​had​ ​also​ ​heard​ ​this​ ​Motorspycho​ ​album,​ ​Demon​ ​Box​ ​in​ ​which​ ​Helge​ ​had​ ​quite​ ​a​ ​central​ ​role​ ​as the​ ​producer.​ ​This​ ​was​ ​a​ ​big​ ​influence​ ​in​ ​terms​ ​of​ ​turning​ ​rock​ ​or​ ​popular​ ​music​ ​into​ ​something else,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​took​ ​me​ ​from​ ​listening​ ​to​ punk and​hardcore​ ​to​ ​other,​ ​more​ ​experimental​ ​things.​ ​I​ ​was listening​ ​to​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​metal​ ​stuff​, ​so​ ​in​ ​a​ ​way​ ​I​ ​came​ ​from​ ​metal,​ ​but​ ​moved​ ​into​ ​electronic​ ​music.

Do​ ​you​ ​still​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​metal?

Sometimes,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​go​ ​to​ ​every​ ​metal​ ​show,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​often​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​metal​ ​at​ ​home,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​still enjoy the power of​ ​it.

Do​ ​you​ ​ever​ ​reference​ ​it​ ​in​ ​your​ ​music​ ​in​ ​terms​ ​of​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​recreate​ ​something​ ​from metal​ ​in​ ​an​ ​electronic​ ​landscape?

I​ ​guess​ ​so.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​beginning​ ​I​ ​was​ ​very​ ​influenced​​​ ​by​ ​black​ ​metal and the more emotional/melodic part of the noise genre;​ ​that​ ​dirty​ ​and beautiful distorted​ ​sound.​ ​My last​ ​solo​ ​album​ ​for​ ​instance,​ ​Ma.Org​ ​Pa.Git​ ​​which​ ​I​ ​released​ ​in​ ​2014​ ​was​ based on​ ​church​ ​organ and​ ​electric​ ​guitar.​ For me ​It​ ​has​ ​this​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​connection​ ​between​ ​ambience,​ ​doom​ ​and​ ​folk​ ​music​ and was a tribute to where I had come from.

Getting​ ​back​ ​to​ ​Rudow.​ ​Are​ ​there​ ​any​ ​plans​ ​for​ ​a​ ​live​ ​show​ ​around​ ​the​ ​EP?

Yes​ ​I​ ​hope​ ​so.​ ​I​ ​also​ ​made​ ​some​ ​other​ ​tracks​ ​at​ ​the​ ​same​ ​time​ ​and​ ​I​ ​have​ ​some​ ​ideas​ ​for​ ​a​ ​live show​ ​incorporating​ ​these​ ​pieces.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​ideas​ ​is​ ​to​ ​have​ ​Eivind​ Henjum alias Sprutbass ​from​ ​the Dødpop​ collective to play ​bass and​ ​incorporate​ ​that​ ​with​ ​the​ ​synths.​ ​I​ ​actually​ ​played​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​tracks​ ​when I played at​ ​Sunkissed Live at BLÅ,​ ​so​ ​I think​ ​it​ ​definitely could​ ​work on a dance floor.

I​ ​don’t​ ​actually​ ​call​ ​it​ ​an​ ​EP​ ​by​ ​the​ ​way,​ ​I’m​ ​calling​ ​it​ ​an​ ​album.

Do​ ​you​ ​prefer​ ​it​ ​as​ ​an​ ​album​ ​because​ ​it​ ​consolidates​ ​the​ ​project?

I​ ​guess​ ​so,​ ​it’s​ ​not​ ​just​ ​two​ ​tracks,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​more​ ​like​ ​a​ ​teaser,​ ​I​ ​think​ ​of​ ​it​ ​as​ ​a​ ​fully​ -fledged album, that can stand on its own.

Did​ ​you​ ​sit​ ​down​ ​with​ ​the​ ​idea​ ​to​ ​create​ ​an​ ​album?

It had​ ​a​ ​different​ ​idea​ ​from​ ​the​ ​start,​ ​because​ ​when​ ​I​ ​sent​ ​it​ ​to​ ​Freakout Cult,​ ​it​ ​had​ ​only​ ​four tracks,​ ​so​ ​the​ ​last​ ​tracks​ ​on​ ​either​ ​side​ ​would​ ​not​ ​have​ ​been​ ​there.​ ​I​ ​had​ ​the​ ​idea​ ​to​ ​make one more​ ​rhythmical​ ​track​ ​and​ ​then​ ​an​ ​ambient​ ​texture​ ​track,​ ​but​ ​they​ (Freakout cult) ​wanted​ ​two​ ​more​ ​tracks​ ​that were​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​similar​ ​to​ ​what​ ​I​ ​do​ ​as​ ​an​ ​experimental​ ​artist​, ​to​ ​create​ ​a​ ​bridge​ ​between​ ​those​ ​two worlds.

I’ve​ ​been​ ​listening​ ​to​ ​your​ ​album​ ​shadow​ ​of​ ​events​ ​recently​ ​and​ ​thought​ ​the​ ​Rudow project​ ​might​ ​be​ ​a​ ​complete​ ​departure​ ​but​ ​was​ ​happy​ ​to​ ​find​ ​that​ ​there’s​ ​a​ ​red​ ​thread between​ ​them,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​it​ ​wasn’t​ ​adapting​ ​to​ ​that​ ​Freakout​ ​Cult​ ​sound,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​a​ ​bit more​ ​lo-fi,​ ​more​ ​dancefloor​ ​orientated.

I​ ​guess​ ​it’s​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​different​ ​to​ ​the​ ​other​ ​releases​ ​on​ ​Freakout Cult,​ ​but​ ​since​ ​Dj Fett Burger​ ​is​​ ​into​ ​it​ ​and​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​release​ ​it,​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​find​ ​it​ ​problematic​ ​at​ ​all.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​it’s​ ​great​ ​that​ ​the​ ​label​ ​can​ ​have​ ​that wideness​ ​to​ ​it,​ ​and​ ​it​ ​might​ ​be​ ​that​ ​their​ ​regular​ ​listeners​ ​might​ ​find​ ​this​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​dark,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​think that’s​ ​ok.

I​ ​remember​ ​seeing​ ​the​ ​Sex​ ​Tags​ ​guys​ ​many​ ​years​ ​ago​ ​in​ ​Bergen​ ​and​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​that​ their live set was ​quite​ ​vibrant and​ ​full​ ​of​ ​surprises.​ ​They​ ​can​ ​take​ ​it​ ​to​ ​many​ ​different​ ​directions.​ ​It’s​ ​playful​ ​and​ ​they​ ​don’t​ ​try to​ ​copy​ ​just​ ​one​ ​style​ ​of​ ​music.​ ​They​ ​are​ present,​ ​listening​ ​and​ ​always​ ​pushing what’s possible on the​ ​dance​ ​floor.

Where​ ​do​ ​you​ ​usually​ ​start​ ​off​ ​with​ ​your​ ​music;​ ​is​ ​it​ ​concept​ ​or​ ​an​ ​instrument?

I​ ​use​ ​field​ ​recordings​ ​and​ ​some​ ​analogue​ ​equipment,​ ​and​ ​then​ ​I​ ​process​ ​it​ ​in​ ​the computer,​ ​​ ​the​ ​Rudow​ ​project​ ​starts​ ​off​ ​on​ ​a​ ​Juno 60.

Will​ ​you​ ​be​ ​going​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​experimental​ ​stuff​ ​after​ ​this​ ​Rudow​ ​release?

Yes,​ ​at​ ​the​ ​moment​ ​I’m​ ​actually​ ​working​ ​on​ ​another​ ​project​ ​in​ ​​​”Regjeringskvartalet”​ ​(the​ ​empty parliament​ ​buildings​ ​in​ ​Oslo).​ ​I​ ​had​ ​this​ ​idea​ ​of​ ​recording​ ​the​ ​emptiness​ and current state ​of​ ​the​ ​building.​ ​They want​ ​to​ ​tear​ ​down​ ​the​ ​two​ ​top​ ​floors​ ​and​ build four new ones and ​the​ ​“Y-block”​ ​will most likely be demolished and​ ​I​ ​wanted ​to​ ​record​ ​it​ ​before​ ​it​ ​goes,​ ​but it’s​ ​incredibly​ ​strict.​ ​After​ ​trying​ ​for​ ​half​ ​a​ ​year​ ​to​ ​get​ permission​ ​we​ ​finally​ ​succeeded.​ ​It’s interesting to see how these power structures function.

After recording two nights in ”Høyblokka” I​ ​got​ ​some​ ​really amazing material,​ which ​you​ ​can​ ​almost​ ​use​ ​it​ ​exactly​ ​as​ ​it​ ​is, with just some simple tweaking.​ ​I​ ​see​ ​the​ ​building​ ​as​ ​an​ ​organism,​ ​a​ ​living instrument​ ​and​ ​placed​ ​out microphones​ ​in​​ ​various​ ​pipes, ​cavities and spaces.

Are​ ​you​ ​setting​ ​any​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​building​ ​into​ ​vibration​ ​to​ ​capture​ ​the​ ​results?

No,​ ​and​ ​that’s​ ​why​ ​we​ ​recorded​ ​it​ ​at​ ​night​ ​too.​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​make​ ​sure​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​human interaction​. ​We​ ​went​​ there ​around​ ​three​ ​in​ ​the​ ​morning​ ​to​ ​record, and​ ​I​ ​noticed​ ​when​ ​people​ ​started​ ​arriving​ ​to​ ​work​ ​in​ ​the​ ​morning,​ ​the​ ​strength​ and the intensity ​of​ ​the​ ​sound material died. It​ ​was​ ​supposed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​about​ ​the​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​humanity​ ​and​ ​just​ ​this​ ​empty​ ​building.​ ​Even​ ​silence​ ​is something​ ​when​ ​you​ ​record​ ​it.​ ​I’ve​ ​often​ ​found​ ​that​ ​when​ ​you​ enter​ ​an​ ​empty​ ​space​ ​and​ ​go into​ ​a​ ​deep​ ​listening​ ​mode,​ ​you​ ​often​ ​hear​ ​frequencies​ ​and sound qualities you​ ​wouldn’t​ ​hear​ ​normally.

So​ ​this​ ​is​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​an​ ​album?

Yes, I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​make​ ​an​ ​album​ ​and​ ​a​ ​sound​ ​installation,​ ​but​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​other​ ​ideas​ ​is​ ​to​ ​give​ ​the​ ​raw files​ ​to​ ​the​ ​National​ ​Library​ ​for​ ​their​ ​archives, for future generations.

How​ ​would​ ​the​ ​sound​ ​installation​ ​work?

I​ ​received​ ​URO funding​ ​for​ ​the​ ​project​ ​from​ ​KORO,​ ​who​ ​supports​ ​art​ ​projects​ ​in​ ​public​ ​spaces​ ​and​ ​I was​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​figure​ ​out​ ​how​ ​to​ ​use​ ​it​ ​in​ ​a​ ​public​ ​space,​ ​but​ ​realised​ ​that​ ​because​ ​it​ ​comes​ ​from​ ​a public​ ​space​ ​it​ ​could​ ​be​ ​re-appropriated​ ​in​ ​a​ ​gallery​ ​or​ ​something​ ​similar. Maybe that’s even stronger than to present it there? We’ll see, this is still just a thought process.

Was​ ​there​ ​a​ ​point​ ​where​ ​you​ ​moved​ ​out​ ​of creating​ ​music​ ​for​ ​the​ ​sake​ ​of​ ​music​ ​like​ ​your​ ​2001​ ​smalltown​ ​supersound​ ​album​ ​and moved​ ​into​ ​a​ ​more​ ​conceptual​ ​framework?

I​ ​never​ ​really​ ​moved​ ​out​ ​of​ ​that​ ​phase.​ ​I​ ​believe​ ​I​ ​can​ ​work​ ​in​ ​between​ ​the​ ​two,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​did that,​ ​even​ ​at​ ​that​ ​time.​ ​When​ ​I​ ​released​ ​that​ ​album,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​still​ ​doing​ ​things​ ​in​ ​art​ ​galleries​ ​and theatres,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​guess​ ​when​ ​you​ ​have​ ​a​ ​very broad​ ​interest​ ​in​ ​sound,​ ​people​ ​often​ ​find​ ​it​ ​hard​ ​to understand.​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​a​ ​Techno​ ​artist,​ ​and​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​a​ ​classical​ ​composer​ ​either,​ ​so​ ​that’s​ ​why​ ​when people​ ​ask​, ​I​ ​refer​ ​to​ ​myself​ ​as​ ​a​ ​sound​ ​artist​ ​/​ ​musician,​ ​because​ ​then​ ​I​ ​have the freedom to go​ ​in​ ​between.

 

Machine Music with Andreas Tilliander / TM404

Unpacking the history of Andreas Tilliander’s immense career is unsnarling the complexity of an artistic identity that has known no bounds. From his eponymous work to his better known Mokira moniker and eventually TM404, there appears to be a limitless horizon to invention in Tilliander’s creative drive. A Swedish native, he’s featured on the country’s big three labels, namely Kontra-Musik, Börft and Skudge as well as Raster-Noton and his own Repeatle records.

A diversely talented figure who is able to move from hard-hitting stripped back Techno to dubby acid records,  Tilliander’s work is defined by a brooding atmosphere and an ingenuity that stretches across his monikers. His 2000 album as Mokira, Cliphop on Raster Noton became an instant success and later defined the sound of Mille Plateaux’s glitchy Hip-Hop sound that was eventually branded the “click & cuts” genre.

In recent years his TM404 moniker has garnered the most attention as a sound that carries on the traditions of Techno and House’s origins for its ingenuity and resourcefulness. Exclusively using Roland’s x0x series of machines, Tilliander expedites the legacy of those machines’ influence through TM404 to the present, where he uses them in the same ideology of the founding fathers of Techno and House. He finds new musical dimensions for these 35-year old machines that has created some of the most innovative recordings in recent years, chief amongst them 2016’s Acidub.

Although a DJ too, Tilliander can be found most often playing in the live context, modulating between some of the recorded material while feeding off the impulses of a dance floor. His intricate knowledge of the machines and the primacy of the club floor fuel an explosive performance hinging on elements of Acid, Techno and Dub. 

Although for a while, Tilliander “was always in Norway, it has been awhile” since he’s been back and with an upcoming show at Prins Thomas’ Rett i Fletta night we jumped at the opportunity to ask Tilliander a few questions about his machines, the live show and dancing, and called him up on the spur of the moment…

I recently saw you in Tokyo at a Kontra Musik night where you were billed as TM404. Prins Thomas has billed this show as a TM404/Andreas Tilliander performance, but those are quite different projects. What can we actually expect in terms of the performance?

I have no idea really. (Laughs) TM404 started as a project concerned with 80’s and 70’s Roland gear as you well know, and most of the music I put out under that moniker is kind of slow music. It’s rather closer to 100BPM that 125 BPM. The TM404 project was never been anything else other than me having fun in the studio and I had no plans to perform those songs live, but then I got a request to perform at Berghain… I did that show and I played really really slow music, but it still sounded great.

Since then I’ve always been booked to play clubs, like at Unit in Tokyo, where I played a Techno set and I’ve played several times at Tresor, so lately it’s difficult for me to say what is Andreas Tilliander and what is TM404. Especially live, because the records still use the same 80’s 70’s Roland machines, but when I do it live I tend to do it more club music. But on Saturday you won’t be hearing anything around 100BPM at least.

When I saw you in Tokyo you did appear to have some newer equipment on stage.

When I played in Berghain the first time I only brought the Roland stuff, and I’ve done that a few times since too, but when I play as TM404 today newer equipment like the Electron Octatrack is super important to me. That way I am able to bring a lot stems from jams in the studio along with me and then use the TB303 over it live. I have to say it’s live but it’s not as live as it used to be, but then again I guess it’s still more live than most electronic “live” shows out there.

Why do you particularly prefer a live show over a DJ set?

So far I’ve not done any DJ sets as TM404. Sometimes I do get asked to do DJ sets as Andreas Tilliander, but even then I tend to bring my drums and synths along too, because I have no intention to become a DJ. I was always more interested in making music, but I love the DJ culture and although I consider myself a part of it, I don’t consider myself a DJ. When I do get asked to DJ however I tend to do it on the Octatrack, with a couple 303’s and 606’s, doing some lead lines and beats over the top.

There are currently a lot of electronic music producers/DJs packing their records away and taking to the stage in live shows like these.

Yes, I have noticed that a lot of DJs play a lot more experimental music as well, which I really enjoy. Even at Ibiza today you can hear DJs like DVS1 and Marcel Dettmann playing really strange music. DJs like Rødhad are also incorporating effects pedals and hardware into their DJ sets, adding their own elements.

Do you think it might be because the idea of a DJ has become more stilted and perhaps the live show offers more of dynamism that wasn’t there before, especially in Techno?

I’m not really sure. The most important part is the dance floor. I know the old Detroit guys used to say: “the only time we noticed the DJ was when the music stopped”. Apart from that they didn’t care who played in the DJ booth and that’s a great point of view in my opinion when it comes to club music; the DJ isn’t really important. First and foremost it’s the music that counts. I’ve seen pictures of me playing as TM404 and there’s always this circle of,mainly guys standing around me to gawk at what I’m doing.

Would you be one of those guys if the situation were reversed?

Yes, I’m one of those guys that go to clubs to listen to music. I do dance, but in Stockholm for some reason I never dance. If someone I appreciate comes to town I go, but I’m usually standing in the back, listening. If I go to Tresor I might dance, but I sometimes get the impression in Stockholm that people are watching each other rather than getting into the music and dancing.

I get the feeling in Stockholm, from the other artists I’ve interviewed and going there myself, that it might be a kind of a pretentiousness there when it comes to the dance floor.

Yes there is. I often quote the singer from Bob Hund when it comes to that, and he once said that “Stockholm is the only place in the world where the audience is more nervous than the band on stage.” (laughs)

From my point of view it looks like the 303 and the 606 is the integral essence to your live show, and my experience is that those machines are particularly famed for the intuitiveness. Is that why you prefer those machines, to retain that DJ-dancefloor dynamic?

Absolutely, and it’s also the ability to change a lot of stuff while dancing, because when I’m on stage I have to dance and enjoy the music. If I had to bring a laptop and a mouse I’d have to stop dancing. When I use the machines I’m able to do that, tweak the sounds and patterns on the fly. One night can be completely different from the next.

About two years ago an American programmer updated the OS for the 303 and recently I’ve installed this new software on the 303, which is pretty incredible considering the 303 is about 35 years old. For the first time ever, you can actually program the 303 while it’s running, so now I can program melodies while performing. Three years ago this was impossible.

That’s amazing, and especially considering that particular instrument was initially intended as a guitarist’s practise tool and repurposed by the dance community. I was just about to ask you too whether you think that all possibilities have been already explored, but clearly it has not.

No I don’t think so. The 303 is probably the most important instrument for me. There’s very little you can do, but it won’t sound the same every time, because it’s all about the person programming it.

I saw a video of you using a whole bunch of 303’s on their own and it really put into perspective the endless possibilities of that instrument.

Absolutely.

 

For your live show do you start off with the recorded works and modify it for the stage?

I know there is at least one or two from my previous TM404 record that I tend to live. I also did this collaborative work with Echologist from New York recently and I try to do my version of those tracks when I play live, which is a proper Techno 12”. So on Saturday there will be no music at 100 BPM… it will be Techno.

That’s a relief and it’s a long overdue visit, so we’re looking forward  to it. 

 The last time I was in Norway, I played at Echo festival in Bergen, but it’s been a long time I played in Oslo. I was playing with Familjen and we were really popular in Norway because of Tellé Records, so we would come to Norway four times a year, but I haven’t been there for many years, so I’m really looking forward to coming back.

 

No More music, No More dancing in Iran

In 1979, after a protest that saw not a single act of violence, Iran disposed of a despot shah to move into a new era of democracy and social freedom… or so it seemed. The time of the shah was a time of great inequality and the revolution was thought to bring about social changes to the effect of democracy and a liberal freedom in Iran. It soon became clear however that Iran had merely swapped one dogmatic regime for another, and through the course of ten years the entire fabric of Iranian life would change as theocratic democracy installed itself in the country. “It was big change for us,” says Mr. Amir Zamani who was just coming of age in Iran during this transformation. Mr. Zamani, an older, distinguished gentleman with thick strands of grey hair, wears a serious expression while remembering his youth in Iran, his dark forehead furrowing and extending as some old memory comes back to him from his youth.

“We thought the worse was going and the good was coming” says Mr. Zamani of life just after the revolution. Iran had gone from a monarchy to a Theocratic-republic overnight and what should have been an era of  “more freedom and a democracy” turned in on itself and became an autocracy ruled by sharia law. In the two years succeeding the shah’s departure and the ayatollah’s rise to power, Iran “became very strict about everything from clothing to social behavior” as dictated by Islamic law. Restaurants closed, all alcohol was forbidden, and everybody in the entertainment industry left for places like a LA. A morality police was installed to uphold the strict religious laws imposed by the regime, which prohibited anyone from committing haram, an act or practise that defies Islamic law. “In 1979 we could go to a bar and drink a beer, but after the revolution there was no beer”, says  Mr. Zamani in a simple, yet effective analogy for the extreme change in circumstances that happened almost overnight.

Immediately following the ‘79 revolution, Iran plunged into a costly battle with Iraq to expedite the ayatollah’s vision of an Islamic state across Iran’s borders and over the entire middle east. “We could have stopped the war in the first year”, says Mr. Zamani “but they (the Guardian Council) said no, because they had to go through Iraq to Palestine to Israel” for a bigger stake in the region. It would’ve been considered sacrilege to go against the state during a time of conflict, where the entire nation should be devoted to their country. “The regime used the war to enforce more of the Islamic law” on their people and with that there was “no more music or dancing”.

In 1985 Mr. Zamani remembers having to go to some unsavoury lengths to listen to western music. “Music was not allowed at all in the eight years during the war” so “people had to smuggle in music from the west, reproduce it and sell it”. Mr. Zamani and his peers would have to revert to underground channels to get cassette-reproductions of new records from the likes Dire Straits and Bob Marley. “You had to get it illegally and pay more” if you wanted the latest music from the west and listening to it was a clandestine act, severely punishable by varying and unknown degree, an uncertainty that just ads to the fear. You could get a night in prison or be strung up from a lamp pole, for any number of “lewd” acts. In the eighties Mr. Zamani’s wife was “imprisoned for two days because she wore red shoes and white pants”.

It was a frustrating time for people like Amir Zamani who had been raised on a fairly liberal, although impoverished regime, and who had received nothing but the empty promise of democracy at the end of the revolution. “We didn’t have real freedom”, says Mr. Zamani. For him and many others who refrain from taking part in any organised religion, sharia law was taking away the freedoms they’d known earlier in their lifetime and replaced it with a kind of draconian religious orthodoxy. With their backs to the wall, all that was left to do was to take to the streets and protest. Mr. Zamani is very guarded about his political activities during that time and only confirms that he was “politically active”, but to what degree he won’t quite divulge. For a country operating under sharia law during a time of war, protesting your regime was considered a great treason and you were immediately sent to jail with a much harsher punishment to follow. In 1988 over 30 000 prisoners loyal to the People’s Mujahedin of Iran opposition group and other leftist groups were executed by order of the then ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In 1991 Mr. Zamani, “not able to get a job” and “move freely within the city” for fear of persecution, he left the country with his wife and their one year old son, Nima as political refugees, never to return to Iran…

“Has nothing changed since (Hassan) Rouhani”, says Anoosh from the DJ/production duo Blade&Beard in the critically acclaimed documentary, Raving Iran. Hassan Rouhani is the latest in a line of Iranian presidents that seem to be very little more than a distraction to keep the masses occupied while the religious leaders enact their master plan. In this particular scene of Raving Iran, Anoosh and bandmate Arash are trying to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and are met with something I discern as disbelief by the bureaucratic official. They try to persuade her, by handing her a copy of their new album, which they call a Rock/House album, and this just perplexes her even more. Very little has changed since the Iraq war in Iran and while western audiences have enjoyed a great evolution in electronic music, in Iran they are still struggling to perform and hear electronic music in any way shape or form – even the guitar is considered prohibited. Raving Iran follows the story of Anoosh and Arash as they struggle to produce and play the music we in the west now consider pedestrian. In the documentary Anoosh is arrested at a house party; they put together a “rave” in the desert; and eventually find themselves playing a festival in Switzerland. “We don’t want you to come back” says Arash’ mother over the phone to her son in Switzerland in one of the more poignant scenes in the documentary.

Raving Iran depicts a country where youth culture and music is embraced no differently than anywhere else, but where the risk is far greater than a splitting hangover the next day. “They do everything we do, but they’ll have to do it low-key,” explains Nora Zamani, daughter to Amir Zamani, when I sit down with her and her brother Nima for a conversation a week earlier. Nora was born and raised in Norway and became a political activist in her teens when she joined the NCR-Iran, the current embodiment of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, the very same leftist organisation that held protests in Iran in the eighties and are still focussed on liberating the people of Iran from the theocratic power, albeit from a safe distance in France. Nora has talked at seminars for the group and joined protests around Norway, Germany and Paris all for the sake of the affinity she feels for her homeland and its people. “I feel sorry for the youth of Iran, because they don’t have the same opportunities as we do here” explains Nora about her reasons for taking up the cause on behalf of the Iranian people.

Nora and her brother Nima have never lived in Iran, but both are very aware of the ongoing situation there through their parents’ stories and regular communication with their relatives that still reside there. Although “they don’t have clubs, they’ll throw parties in their basement” says Nora and in Raving Iran it’s exactly at such an informal gathering that Anoosh gets arrested. In the same way Mr. Zamani got his Dire Straits and Bob Marley records, the youth in Iran are getting everything from music to alcohol and even weed through back channels, much of which is smuggled over the borders at great risk by kurdish nomads. The internet provides its own services with access to sites like Beatport and Traxsource available through VPN channels, which keep DJs like Blade&Beard informed about what’s happening musically in the rest of the world.

Through apps like Whatsapp and Instagram Nora and Nima get privileged insights into daily life in Iran and although they might have access to the music and DJs and sound systems, it’s a superficial freedom. “They are living in a bubble” proffers Nima. Nima a gentle-giant of man stands about 2 feet taller than his father, but the resemblance is clear. A doorman at Jæger, it was Nima who un-surreptitiously gave us access to his family and their informed insights into their homeland.

“They’ve accepted the community they live in, and they just want to make the best of it”, elucidates Nora. Girls in the street might be able to wear their hijab towards the back of their head today thanks to large scale corruption from the police, but any sign of the morality police, and they quickly have to cover up for fear of a reprimand, which could mean anything from imprisonment to a public beating. The same reprisals extend to making and listening to music that has not been approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Nima and Nora relay a story of Iranian pop artist, Sasy Mankan who was beaten, stripped, publicly humiliated, and paraded around town on a donkey. His crime? Writing a song containing a lyric roughly translated to “I’m so drunk.”

Sasy Mankan, like so many of his contemporaries now lives in Los Angeles, USA and the closest he gets to Iran, is performing in one of the border countries. Music in Iran is still the preserve of the theocratic leadership, and amounts to little more than two annual public performances as prescribed by the regime according to Mr. Zamani. He is of the opinion however that change is in the air, and the people are “fed up” with the current regime. In 2009 about two million people came out to protest during the election and he hopes it “happens again in 2019”.

It’s hard to clarify whether the underground, cultural activities of the likes of Blade&Beard have any relationship to the possible grievances of the Iranian people today from our remote point of view, but both Mr. Zamani and his son believe it’s taken a severe toll on the people of Iran. “They think their way of life is normal”, according to Nima, but that life is lived in constant fear, where you have to conform to great degree for outward appearances, and the small freedoms you can enjoy, you enjoy illegally and at great peril. Sharia law has become so ingrained in the Iranian psyche today that even if the regime collapses today, Mr. Zamani will hesitate to go back. “Because the mentality of the people has changed” he believes. “They’ve learnt that this is culture, the Islamic culture”, and for Mr. Zamani who “thinks like a Norwegian” today, it’s a step in the wrong direction.

As a departing word, Mr. Zamani shows me a video of a father and his daughter playing a traditional persian song from the time of the shah. They play it behind closed doors in the privacy of their own home, away from the strict gaze of the morality police, and it’s hard to believe that this little innocuous tune, with it’s perfectly innocent phrasing, is illegal and that if anybody in an authoritarial position in Iran saw it, it could have dire consequences for that family.

 

 

  • Nima Zamani can be found most nights keeping us safe at Jæger… even from ourselves.

 

 

A Quiet Noise – A Q&A with Æsthetica

From the densely wooded suburbs just outside of Oslo a deep, dark sound has emerged  with the sonic intensity of armageddon and the wistful sonorities of the birds. Æsthetica are a self-styled doom, post-rock band from Kolbotn whose live shows have mesmerised audiences for its fierce fervour and great big swathes of sound that envelop the listener like a mysterious mist. Combining elements of doom, progressive blues rock, eastern scales and even tubas, Æstethica have cultivated a sound uniquely their own and their first single La Paz has just brought his to the recorded format for the first time.

Theirs is a bold new sound lifted from the petrified footsteps left by rock icons like Black Sabbath, Swans and Godspeed! You black Emperor and shaped by a stark coldness that lies beyond the tundra. Æsthetica’s textures are dense and powerful and without provocation they lure the listener into a calm noise that lies just beyond the superficial. It’s a quiet noise that’s best experienced in the live context, which the young four-piece group dominate with a sonic presence that could make an act like Motörhead appear tame.

They’re bringing this sound to Jæger’s basement for a halloween special of  Den Gyldne Sprekk, so we took the opportunity as pretence to fire some questions at Tobias Huse from the band in an effort to uncover a little more of the Æsthetica, the band and the sound.

Let’s start with introductions. Who make up Æsthetica and who plays what?

We are four teenagers from the outskirts of Oslo, three from the Metal-capital Kolbotn and one from Ski. Tobias Huse plays guitar and sings, Simon Dahl plays lead guitar and does backing vocals, Vetle Rian has the low frequencies covered with bass and tuba. Last, but not least, is Petter Moland, our drummer.

How did you meet and who or what encouraged you to form a band?

I (Tobias) and Simon met in school and started playing together around the age of 13. After several musical projects we wanted to go deeper and darker with our sound, and teamed up with Petter and Vetle, who we knew through our musical studies in Kolbotn.

Listening to the opening of Haze I’m reminded of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. Who were some of your musical influences when you started out?

As for all doom-styled bands Black Sabbath is obviously a huge influence. The late 90s/early 00s doom scene has also been a huge inspiration, primarily the band Electric Wizard. We also draw a lot from Post-Rock bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the later Swans records. The earliest songs we wrote have a clear doom-structure and sound, while the later ones drift more towards Psych and Post-rock.

What inspires you outside of music?

A lot of music seems to be inspired by nature, and the deep, dense forests that surrounds our hometown Kolbotn have definitely been an inspiration in the writing process. Trying to capture the feel of those woods has always been our goal.

Who does the creative process usually begin with in the band and what defines your sonic signature?

The writing process will most of the time start with one riff, or one chord that sets the ground structure for the song, that defines which sonic landscape we are visiting. Most of our songs feature eastern sounding, exotic scales, and untraditional time signatures, such as the opening melody of La Paz, which is in 11/12. Using crescendos, building intensity, volume and speed, is also something a lot of our work include.

The textures in your music are incredibly dense and expansive and sounds like the whole band rushing out at you through the speakers. How do you get to this point in the songwriting process?

When writing the more fuzzed out parts, we tend to think more of the sounds texture than which notes are being played. Asking how does the sound feel, rather than asking how it sounds, or how the melody progresses. The unique distortion sound found in doom-style music (also known as every sound guys nightmare) feels so much more alive and organic than those found in other types of metal. The dense production helps the listener achieve the intended state of mind, to get lost in the fuzz. Once the listener is in, one can build and expand on the sound, and drag the listener through the sonic landscape.

Who is the lyricist and what might influence your lyrics?

All lyrics are written by me, Tobias. During the first year of playing, there were no written lyrics, and the vocals were improvised during every rehearsal and live set. Over time, certain phrases and words stuck and the lyrics were finally written down before we went into the studio december 2016. The lyrical content revolves around nature, occultism, trance like experiences and existential questions.

 

Although there is a recorded version of La Paz, most of your recorded music are live sessions. What is it about the live context that just can’t be relayed through a recording for Æsthetica?

As mentioned earlier, we attempt to let the listener into the storm of sound. The extreme volume and presence necessary for this immersion is hard to recreate in a living room.

What do you bring to the stage that’s unique and sets you apart from other bands?

When possible, we use a projector instead of a traditional logo-backdrop, where we display a distorted and edited clip of a 1950s television show called Desert Life, which was the original title of La Paz. A group of scientist examine animals living in the extreme conditions of the desert. Using this, instead of blinking “disco” lights, calls for a darker atmosphere, and a higher grade of immersion.

Besides La Paz are there any other recordings in the works to be released soon?

In combination with the release of La Paz and the gig at Jæger, we are announcing big news related to our coming studio album (hint: physical release)

Lastly, do you have any final words you’d like to say before you hit the stage at Jæger next week?

Be prepared. Bring enough water.

Bassiani: A Safe Space

The early 1990’s in Europe: Raves were a burgeoning trend consuming suburbs and undisclosed roadside destinations every weekend; Techno and House music had found a vigorous youthful audience; and everywhere artists and DJs were abandoning stoic musical traditions in what was to be one of the sonically richest eras for electronic music in living memory. It’s an ear most of us today are only able to live through archives and the recorded music of the time, but for an entire generation of 20-somethings in Tbilisi in Georgia, the 90’s has only just started. “We kind of skipped the ’90s the first time,” says Zviad Gelbakhiani to Resident Advisor in a feature interview from last year. One of the founders of Bassiani, a club in the Georgian capital, Gelbakhiani might have exaggerating slightly, but as Bassiani has become the name on every avid music fan’s ips over the last few years there’s definitely something to explore further in that statement.

“I’ve read some books on the history of what happened in Berlin when the wall fell, and for me there is a lot of similarity between happened there 20 years ago and what’s happening in Tbilisi now”, says Hector Oaks. Héctor is the Madrid via Berlin DJ and producer famed for his OAKS imprint and as Cadency he is also the newest edition to Bassiani’s resident roster. Héctor Oaks is in a very fortuitous position of an objective view of what’s happening in Tbilisi now. Selling records out of the Record Loft in Berlin and producing uncompromising Techno music, almost exclusively for his OAKS imprint, Héctor is a prominent figure at the current epicentre of this music in Berlin, but even he is taken aback by what Bassiani has achieved in such a short time. “They are doing it at a level that not that many cities in Europe even have” he says in his unmistakeable Spanish accent. Bassiani’s rise to prominence is a story that borders on club fantasy, the story of Tato Getia and Zviad Gelbakhiani who went from throwing parties on a whim and a prayer in 2012 to creating one of the most established clubs in the world in a matter of a few years – and all before they’d turned 25. “In the late 2000’s deep house scene was too repetitive and empty of context in Tbilisi, and clubbing was deeply perceived just as entertainment, thus the scene was stuck”, explains  Tato Geita. The time was ripe for a new club to exist and “people were ready and eager for changes”, and Bassiani was born.  

The visitor enters Bassiani through cavernous concrete subterranean maze of the Dinamo Football arena in Tbilisi before s/he is spat out into an olympic size empty pool that’s been reborn as a dance floor. A setting so perfectly suited for its new function it had to have been kismet that brought Geita and Gelbakhiani to the future venue when the lease on a temporary venue had gotten too expensive. The new premises fitted like a glove, tailored perfectly for their tastes and their booking profile and they quickly became one of the leading lights in Europe’s clubland, and all in spite of the political pressures they face.

In the current political landscape in Georgia where homophobia is rampant and drug policies target the individual rather than the infrastructure with some pretty harsh punishment it’s nothing short of a miracle that Bassiani can and does survive. “Everybody is surprised that the club stay open” and no less Gigi Jikia, who is better known as Bassiani resident and DJ/producer HVL. It’s a “tough and weird” political landscape for Gigi, who is often stopped and searched without any probable cause (other than being a clubgoer) for the suspicion that he might be in the possession of illicit substances. Gigi, who “doesn’t do drugs”, believes the “police is abusing its authority” for profitable gain. A person can face up to eight years in jail and acquire a hefty fine for carrying as little as a milligram of MDMA on them. “The drug users are the only criminals they (the police) are able to catch” according to Gigi who also believes “the police are using more resources on arresting drug users than fighting violence or organised crime” in Tbilisi. They’ll even go as far lie in wait outside Bassiani to “stop you for no reason”, but “somehow the Bassiani guys are managing to keep the out of the club”, which means for Gigi, and other clubgoers in Georgia that Bassiani has become a “safe space”.

Coming into their own in this political landscape Bassiani defies all odds to exist and remain that safe haven, and together with their residents they’ve set a new standard for clubbing, one that even exceeds many of its more established European neighbours. “Five years ago there were only two small clubs and after Bassiani the landscape totally changed, says (Tornike) Kvanchi, the longest serving resident at Bassiani today. Tornike started out working for the label when Bassiani opened and when they established the second Horoom, he became its de facto resident. I’m on a video call with him from a new venue in the heart of Tbilisi when Gigi is about to go on stage with his new ambient project, Masterknot. The nature of the performance as ambient live act and the venue is perhaps an indication of how prevalent attitudes towards clubbing and club music might be changing after Bassiani. Tornike is of the opinion “it’s changed people’s views about music and the party”, which today in Georgia has become a critical component of the social infrastructure of the country. “It’s not just about dancing or hanging out, it’s more of a political thing now”, explains Tornike.

Dogged by a volatile political landscape throughout modern history, Georgia went from being a part of the soviet union to gaining independence; immediately plunging into a civil war; teetering on an edge of war with internal regional disputes; gaining some stability after a Rose Revolution; before engaging in a war with Russia in 2008. Marred by these political unrests since gaining independence in the 90’s, it’s only in recent years that Georgia has enjoyed some stability, but it’s still not without its problems. As is the “case with most post-soviet countries” homophobia is common among “80% of the people” according to Tornike, but it has become an issue Bassiani is facing head on. The gay club night Horoom (from which Bassiani’s second room also takes its name) was established in direct response to homophobia as a club night that would be “open to everyone” regardless of your sexual preference and looked to encourage a liberal attitude to gender.

As an outsider looking in Héctor Oaks is of the opinion that “people there are more oppressed than in the rest of Europe”, but while that might be true, they are certainly not assuming a passive position in regards to the situation. While the Horoom nights unequivocally condemn homophobia, by openly hosting gay events, Bassiani is also involved with White Noise, an organisation that is fighting to get drug legislation changed, with the club itself hosting talks on the subject and encouraging a dialogue amongst its punters. When I asked Hector, Tornike and Gigi, if they’ve noticed a change in the attitudes of people outside of the club I get a resounding yes. “They are doing a great job informing people about this issue” says Gigi and Tornike has seen “some action against homophobia and drug policy taken to the streets” in the years succeeding Bassiani.

Both DJs are very perceptive to the issues that surround club culture as much as the music and Gigi even poses his own questions about the Norwegian clubbing landscape and the problems that mar weekends in Oslo. Encouraging the political motivations of DJs like Gigi and Bassiani is the music of course, as it is with any similar institution, but unlike the apathetic escapism that we see across the rest of Europe’s club culture, in Georgia the two elements have become intrinsically intertwined. Bassiani might be a nightclub like any other, one with a vested interest in these political issues in order to survive and capitalize, but talking to the residents and some of the people behind the scenes, it’s clear that it’s a passion for the music and not business that motivates them. Bassiani didn’t spring into existence out of nothing and they do come off the back of a small but healthy underground scene in Tbilisi, but with Bassiani did come a musical objective that Tbilisi had not really seen before. It was twofold: firstly to bring international club acts to Georgia and secondly to promote and encourage new Georgian artists and DJs. When I talk to Tornike, he had just finished a set opening up for Roman Flügel, and talks of the experience with some reverence. “He is the one and only” says Tornike and I think back to my own experiences of Flügel’s last set in Jæger’s basement. The German DJ’s set was expansive and eclectic, perfectly suited for our cosy basement, and I wonder how the chameleon DJ might have adapted it for the stark brutalist caverns of the Dinamo Arena’s subterranean venue.

“The space is made for that industrial sound” suggests Héctor Oaks when I ask him about his first impressions of the club. Pictures of Bassiani’s main room show barren concrete pillars illuminated by modest white stage lights suspended from the ceiling by chains. It’s the perfect space for the brutal kind European Techno proliferated by the likes of Shed, Innigo Kennedy and Function, but  Bassiani I learn from its residents is far more diverse than the sum of these parts. “Normally I play Horoom”, says Héctor, “and that’s the place where I’m the most free to do whatever I want.” Tornike is of a similar opinion who feels that as Kvanchi he is able to “play raw music” at Horoom, offering a contrast to the functionalism of Bassiani’s main room. “It’s refreshing for the people” he goes on saying and suggests it’s much like what Panorama bar is to Berghain; “House orientated, with some Disco and more soulful music.”

Héctor who often plays 12 hour vinyl sets in Horoom, digs through his extensive collection that can go from Nu-Beat, Electro, Synthpop and EBM to House, showcasing his broad tastes cultivated through the Record Loft. He can’t be sure if it’s him or if the people “just trust the place”, but when Bassiani closes at 10-11 in the morning Horoom carries on “and that’s when the party really starts”. Øyvind Morken, who had just come back from playing a set at Horoom while I’m writing this explains it’s “like a “smaller version of Panorama bar” with a “really enthusiastic crowd”

That enthusiasm is exactly the crucial ingredient to Horoom and Bassiani’s success. Although there might have been “some parties in the early nineties” in Tbilisi according to Gigi, electronic music was “not as big or as popular” as it is today. While that early generation might have “had an impact” on the scene there, Gigi’s generation wasn’t “even aware of it” and it was more likely the “foreign stuff” that introduced he and his peers to electronic music and motivated them. Through the internet they’d been made aware of what was happening outside Georgia and this is where Bassiani became trailblazers, booking internationally acclaimed DJs to the capital to a very receptive audience. ”Before Bassiani, I had only heard a handful of big artists”, says Gigi who enjoys the “huge pleasure” of hearing so many artists every weekend now. “The bottom line is to go for what we love in dance music”, elucidates Tato on the booking policy of the club. “Of course, there are moments we have to take into consideration the characteristics of the scene and the city but the line-up is very essential part of Bassiani and stakes are very high, it must always be equally interesting and fascinating for everybody involved in the culture, based in Tbilisi or any other part of the world.”

That modus operandi also extends to the label, which marks four releases today. Combining music from visiting producers like Varg and Voiski with music from their own homegrown talent, the compilation series showcases the diversity and dynamism of the club in the recorded format. “Our strength lies in the variety” says Tornike, the DJ behind the daily operations of the label. Sticking close to the club’s booking policy, the label’s “motivation is to be different” and refrain from being pigeonholed with “one particular sound”. It’s gone some way in inspiring the musical community around the club too, suggests both Tornike and Gigi and ultimately it has cemented the legacy of Bassiani beyond Georgia too.

“Bassiani’s definitely had an impact on people working within club orientated music”  says Gigi, but crucially “it’s also affecting people outside of club” and on more than one level. What Bassiani is doing as a club is by no means revolutionary and Tresor, Fabric, Panorama Bar and Robert Johnson have set standards that Bassiani have mimicked, but none of them can quite boast to have had so much influence in such a short period and to be so culturally/socially significant.

Whether they’re fighting for their political freedoms or providing the highest level of club entertainment to a few eager dancers, Bassiani’s influence can be felt through the very social structure of Tbilisi, and in that they are innovators even in the shadow of their more established counterparts. Bassiani is effectively the first to actualise the true intentions of a club; a space for escapism through music that can also affect social change beyond its doors. Politics might have no place on the dance floor, but the dance floor and the music can certainly provide a place and language for a conversation to begin and perhaps that is what lies behind the success of Bassiani.

 

* HVL, Kvanchi and Cadency plays Jæger during Oslo World Music Festival

Dance Music: DELLA talks to Tommy Bones

What Chicago and Detroit established in House, New York made its own with a sound that channeled something raw and urgent from the city into the music. The city’s conic traditions, from the aggressive assertiveness of punk / new wave and the grimy reality of Hip Hop, would leave its impression on House too, shaping the genre around the city in one of the most unique interpretations of dance music. Establishments like Limelight, Tunnel and Sound Factory became the purveyors of cool in New York in the 80’s and 90’s through House, here music from the collections of David Morales, Kenny Dope and Todd Terry soundtracked the city’s nocturnal hours.

Following in these DJs’ footsteps was Tommy Bones, but like many of his generation, it didn’t begin in the booth, but rather the floor… where else? From the age of five, Tommy had been a musical obsessive and a dancer and by 16 he was a fledgling DJ, nicknamed Tommy Bones because of his emaciated appearance. Playing the local roller rink when the resident DJ was let go, Tommy honed his craft, spending his days with dusty fingers in record stores and his nights haunting the likes of Sound Factory and Tunnel, listening to the newest sounds coming out of New York.

In ’94 he took his first professional DJ gig in New York during the city’s golden age of House music, combining his early DJ experiences with his love of dancing, to become a leading light in the city’s darkened corners. From DJing, the natural evolution into production came for Tommy when in the early 2000’s he released his first solo productions. He had found early support for his productions through legendary labels like Strictly Rhythm, Real Tone and Defected and records like his Future Classic’s EP brought the DJ and producer to an international audience.

With that distinct New York flavour punctuating his percussive productions, Tommy stayed close to the sound of the city that birthed his musical career, honouring the sound of House as established through recordings artists like Masters at Work and Kerri Chandler. Deep chords travelling lethargically across effervescent jacking beats with a vocal sample waiting along the next bar, follows the legacy of Tommy Bones through his discography. He continues to be a frequent fixture on New York’s nightlife, and while he might be occupying the other side of the booth today, he’s still a dancer at heart, much like Jæger resident DELLA.

The story of Tommy Bones is a story o DELLA knows all to well as an American DJ that’s carved up her fair share of wooden boards in New York and it’s more than just serendipity that she and Tommy Bones should find themselves in Jæger’s booth this weekend together. In a recent visit stateside, DELLA caught up with Tommy Bones for a Q&A session to talk about the dance floor, New York in the nineties and their upcoming gig together.

 DELLA: Hi Tommy, thanks for taking the time to talk with us here at Jaeger. I am really looking forward to bringing your New York House sound to our basement at my upcoming Della’s Drivhus. Please, can you tell us a little about your background as a New Yorker and how you got into DJing?

Tommy Bones: I actually grew up 1 hour outside of NYC in Connecticut. I was a white kid in the suburbs that grew up on New York Radio stations. Stations like WBLS and Kiss FM played Hip Hop & R&B. As a kid in the 80’s and 90’s I was a dancer, so I danced to Hip Hop and later House. The DJing part of it came about when a DJ at a local club was fired and I took his place. I always would watch what he was playing after he was gone I would sneak in the booth and play his records. Later I got turntables and taught myself how to beat match. I had to figure it out some how. I’m pretty much self-taught in that way.

D: New York is a key city in founding House music and has turned producers like Lil’ Louie Vega, Kenny Dope, and David Morales into legends after churning up hit after hit from the reflection of the energy found in this incredible city. It must have been pretty amazing growing up during this time. Limelight, Tunnel, Palladium. Can you tell us some of your personal experiences from an era that changed dance music?

TB: My era was definitely the 90’s. I graduated High School in 94. The first club I went to was the Tunnel with David Morales. Limelight, Tunnel, Palladium were mega clubs with several rooms in each club. These places were huge, they were also places where a lot of tourists would go. They were more popular after I first heard of them. Later I ventured to some of the smaller clubs like Sound Factory Bar. Louie Vega was the resident on Wednesdays. Wednesday nights would be industry nights and Louie would break new records from other New York producers. Sometimes they were on acetate or sometimes reel to reel. People were always wondering what he was going to play next. It is important to point out that there were dancers dancing to House Music at the time, not just doing a two step, but styles like lofting, footwork, voguing and many other styles. This gave the clubs more energy for sure! In the late 90’s you had Club Vinyl which hosted parties like Shelter, Afterlife and Body & Soul. Things were changing from soulful deep house to having a more world-influenced vibe.

D: Let’s talk about NYC currently, is the energy and vibe of House still alive and thriving? Any tips for club-goers on spots to hit up next time they are in The Big Apple?

TB: Yes for sure though more clubs have moved to Brooklyn. You have Output, TBA, House Of Yes, Good Room, Brooklyn Mirage (A 5000 capacity outdoor venue with an indoor club opening this October), Analog, and Black Flamingo. These clubs have opened doors for more diverse crowds that are now listening to dance music.

D: In your biography you mention that you are a dancer and that it was your dance moves that kept you from being harassed as a young skinny white kid. I too share this passion of yours, but I rarely hear or read about DJs expressing their love for the actual movement itself, dance. I mean it is called ‘Dance Music’ after all, yet the actual dancing part is hardly mentioned by those conducting it. How does dance influence you both as a producer and DJ? And, do you feel that those DJs who shake it on the dance floor vs. those standing along the edges or in the DJ booth actually make for better DJs and/or producers?

TB: As far as dancing and DJing it is a part of me from when I grew up. I never really understood why DJ’s would just stand there, though I have heard many rock it either way. I think it is amazing to watch someone having fun and being free with the music. As far as in the studio I produce tracks that make me want to stand up and dance to my own music. If it doesn’t make me dance I’m not doing my job!

D: Since moving from the wooden dance floors of NYC, as both a dancer and DJ, into the production area in the 2000s you have released on quite impressive labels: King Street, Real Tone, Strictly Rhythm and Defected. How did you approach these reputable labels or did it all fall into place through your years of involvement in the scene? Any tips for young House producers on how to get recognized by epic labels such as these?

TB: I had been passing around a few demos of tracks I had been working on. My first project on King Street was a remix given to me through a friend that believed in me. I produced the record with fellow NY producer Louie Balo who taught me how to use Logic. From there I taught myself keys as well as the whole production process. I later solo produced South Africa Deep in 2006 for MKL’s Lion1music label. South Africa deep landed me some licensing deals with Kerri Chandler and Dennis Ferrer compilations. This gave me more confidence in the studio. I’m still learning every day. The best thing for new producers is to learn basic theory and learn how to play keys. This will help you make musical music and shine above the rest.

 

D: Weekly, you host a live DJ podcast on ReelHouseTV called ‘4-4 Studio’s NYC.’ Can you tell us a bit about your show and how you prepare for these broadcasts? Also, does your broadcast only feature you weekly or do you bring guests into the studio with you?

TB: Broadcasting live is amazing! You can reach a whole different audience by going live. It actually is really inspiring and I look forward to it every week. There is an opportunity to reach thousands that you have never reached before. Musically, it takes me up to 6 hours a week researching to find quality music. I can go through thousands of songs in a few hours. It is difficult as there is so much music being released every week. Somehow I pull it all together soulful music all the way to Techno! I have brought in a few guests so far and I’m looking to have more!

D: Recently, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on “vinyl only” club nights or “vinyl only” DJ sets. How do you feel about this debate over format? Do you have a personal preference?

TB: Vinyl only is cool. It does have a sound that is it’s own thing and on a proper system it sounds amazing. I’m not much of an audiophile in that way. I just like to hear music that makes me want to dance no matter what the format is.

D: Since we are on the topic of vinyl, what are your favorite spots for digging in NYC (or worldwide)?

TB: I haven’t been digging in a while. I did stop by A1 in Manhattan recently. I was impressed by their selection so I would definitely make a trip back.

D: Luck was on our side for bringing you up to Oslo because we were able to catch you on our side of the pond while attending ADE. Tell us little about what you have going on at ADE. Is this your first attendance? Would you recommend this journey to be made by those working in the dance music industry?

TB: This is my first time here… I’m out here to help promote some new music I have coming. One is on Kenny Dope’s new Dopewax and friends 6 disc vinyl compilation. I also have 2 Dopewax EP’s set to come out this fall as well as new material on Nervous Records. I would totally recommend ADE. It seems to be more of a place to schedule meetings with people you don’t normally get to see face to face and get some serious business done.

D: Lastly, can you give us 3 selections in the kind of sound we can expect to be hearing from you at this upcoming Della’s Drivhus?

TB: I can tell you this… It will be amazing. I play soulful to deep and all the way to techno NY style. NY Style meaning we like to play it all, genre free!

D: Thanks again Tommy for taking us inside your world of House music. Personally, I cannot wait to get my groove on to the raw cuts you will be delivering this weekend in the basement. My dancing shoes are ready and waiting!

TB: Thank you for having me… I will have my dancing shoes ready as well. Just in case!

 

Here more from Tommy Bones at:
Traxsource: https://www.traxsource.com/artist/1223/tommy-bones
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/djtommybones
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/djtommybonesmusic/

In the Studio with Karl Fraunhofer

There are many faces to Karl Fraunhofer and over the course of the last few years I’ve come to know at least two few of them through the music he produces. “I have a split personality when it comes to music” he says with the white noise of the Akerselva gushing past the window of his loft studio.I consider the sound as a sample, but push past the thought to get on with the subject at hand.

I’m calling on Karl for an interview and a studio tour during a time he has assumed his Dortmund personality and find him in a creative flurry, putting the finishing touches on what will no doubt be a future Techno release. It’s an unmistakable Techno track; repetitive with just a hint  industrialism as melodic instruments find a new purpose as percussive parts.

During the day he can either be found working the counter at Deluxemusic or installing some AV system in one of the many nightlife spots in Oslo. At night he might moonlight as an audio engineer, fixing and modifying synths for those close enough to ask, but on the occasion I meet him he is clearly in a more creative mood as Dortmund, with a Logic project file illuminating his face in the hue of a single ceiling light, dimmed to the horizon of  a void.  

Dortmund is the spasmodic Techno project Karl shares with French producer and Florian Grisard, but for this track he’s assumed the captain’s chair and his flying solo. Karl’s taking “break from the eighties stuff” after releasing Santa Cruz on the UK  Sprechen label, and picking up the Dortmund project where he left off earlier this year on Thomas URV’s Ploink label.

“I haven’t really signed it”, elucidates Karl on the track he’s working on, but it “ is probably about 80% done”. Karl is very much engrossed in the track when I meet him in his studio, as he keeps turning to it, referencing it as we talk. The studio is a comfortable musician’s hovel, neatly arranged to accommodate a small arsenal of synthesisers and an impressive studio console. Everything is at arm’s length from Karl’s position, ready to be pounced on with tremendous ease, including a bottle of vodka, lying idle next to his desk.

“It’s all about the creative process” says Karl, and the impressive array of tools are just that, a set of tools to manipulate and realise his creative will. The equipment around him is enough to make any synth-obsessive salivate, but Karl defers from calling himself a collector.

“There’s a lot of people that have a museum at home and they make like pling-plong music, and they never release stuff. I could probably do that stuff too, but I like to produce and DJ and I like people to hear my music.”

There’s never “really any goal” with the music Karl produces, except perhaps “playing your track in a club and watching people have fun to it.” He feigns the thought of finding a particular context for his tracks, and enjoys hopping from the bouncing eighties House arrangements of Fraunhofer to the more brutalist Techno club tracks of Dortmund, and he does so with the ease of a musical savant. Both worlds however come together in his studio by the river and it’s here, through the machines that we attempt  to form a picture of a producer and artist that’s more than just a sum of his machines.

Yamaha – TX7 – “R”

Let’s start with your first synth…

My first synth? It’s not actually here right now, but it’s a DX7. I have a rack version of it in the studio today, which is  called the TX7-R. The TX 7 is a desktop version of the DX7 and this old Norwegian guy built it into a rack with a steel frame.

 

 

Is that where the music started for you, with the synths?

I started making music  when I was 14/15. I always had a computer at home and it started with FastTracker and cuBasic. My dad is a musician so there was always some audio stuff going on, but it really started when I got my first copy of Fruity Loops, which was my introduction to synths through VSTs.

That’s also when I started listening to the bigger producers, and realised they had real synthesisers, objects you could touch and feel. The first proper synth I bought was actually a moog. I was living in Australia and my friend bought a Little Phatty and a Virus Ti and he didn’t really know how to use it, and because I already new synthesis, through the VSTs I got to borrow it. At the time it was all about Electro and that’s when the bug actually bit.

That was around 2004/5 I guess?

I started doing a little before then, but that was all in the box. I was enrolled in an audio course at the conservatory in Australia and it was when I started  using hardware when a  studio career started.

Tell me a bit more about your Dad.

He is a Jazz musician.

And his instrument of choice?

The trumpet, It’s a mono instrument as well, you know. (Laughs) I do like my mono synths… but then again I like my poly synths as well. As you know I have a split personality; Karl Fraunhofer takes care of the eighties stuff and then there’s the Dortmund Techno project, which is mono again. (Laughs) I’m not into Jazz though.

You have that musical inclination there through, when it comes to the Fraunhofer stuff. The arrangements and the composition of those tracks show a very adept musical ability.

I suppose the eighties stuff does, yes.

What was some of the first music you produced and released?

It’s really awkward, but this is before I started with synthesisers, and I was doing Hard Trance and similar shit… that was back in the day though. My first serious release came when I was 16/17 and it was released on vinyl. It’s so awkward I won’t even mention the label or the track, because that’s not me, it was my twin brother. (Laughs)

Another personality?

I did it because all my friends liked it and it was the cool thing to do at the time. I was always into House music and Techno and I was always trying to persuade them over. Ultimately, I was moving in the wrong circles before I met the guys in Australia who were really into House music, and I was like: “Finally!”

Roland TR- 909

When you started picking up on a sound that you liked, what was the instrument that sealed the deal for you?

It was always the 909. There’s something about the hi-hats and the kick, and I can never get bored with it. You could use it in brutal Techno or in smoother House and it always sounds cool. It’s interesting, because there are these rules about it that if you do Techno you don’t engage the shuffle, but if you do House you engage the shuffle, and it gives the machine an entirely different personality.

Every 909 I’ve tried sounds different, and the one I’ve got was from DJ Geronimo, who used to be the man back in the day and the boss for EMI in Norway. And the way he tells it, is that he got it from Boy George, so there’s a bit of history to it. When I got it, it was completely ruined, it had a birds nest in it and clearly had not been loved for some time, so I had to restore it.

That’s also another part of what you do, you restore these instruments?

Yes, I’ll restore or fix things for friends. Right now, outside on my service table, I just did a Korg Mono/Poly and retrofitted a midi kit for Martin Horntveth from Jaga Jazzist. I don’t always have much time to do that type of thing, because of work and music.

Knowing the inside working of your synthesisers, must put you at an advantage when calling up sounds that you want to use.

Yes, I can kind of smell this is not the right synth, when I’m working on something. And when I don’t get the sound with analogue synths or digital synths, then goddamnit, I’ll turn to the VSTs. Sometimes you just can’t get those fat digital basses, even through a DX7 and you just have to turn to a VST.

Oberheim Matrix 12

For the Fraunhofer, eighties sound, which is the synth you turn to first?

The Oberheim. It’s quite a rare synth. It came in two revisions, the American and the Japanese, and the Japanese version is very shit – it even has fans in it – but this is the American one, and fun fact; Todd Terje also has the American version. The Oberheim is actually like a hard-patched modular, with a matrix you can tap into and change.

When you go to it, is it about using it for its keyboard and arrangements, or is it a specific sound it has?

When you do the eighties stuff it’s all about a brutal chorus and this has that in spades. Other things like sweeps, it does those very well when compared to samples or VSTs, and you get a sound that almost nobody has. It’s a pretty exclusive synth.

Roland TB-303

Where are you most likely to turn in here for the Dortmund project?

It depends, it can start with a bass line on the mono poly, or a sample from the 606. When you work on a Techno track, you work a lot with samples. You can record one sound or you can record a sequence, but you work with it very much on a sample -based workflow. I’m also a big fan of Acid and if I’m not feeling particularly creative, I can just switch on the 303 and it does all the work for me.

And where does Florian Grisard come into the picture, concerning Dortmund?

We used to work together a lot, but the last three years has been me solo all the way. Florian has a wife and a kid and he moved way, but I hope he comes back again. We are still talking and he often helps me out with tips or tricks, but he’s a busy guy too.

What are your thoughts on Techno in its current state, especially in Norway?

There’s a lot of cool people here that play great music, have a great selection and produce a lot of cool Techno. But there are also these guys that are basically Tech-House people, who do that Ibiza sound, and they misinterpret the genre. They call everything Techno, but it’s not really Techno. I’ve even booked to gigs as a Techno DJ where the promoter doesn’t seem to understand what Techno is.

How do you differentiate between Techno and Tech-House?

Tech-House sounds very digital. It’s also more static compared Techno. Even old Techno, which was made in a garage using shitty gear, sounds so much cooler.

Universal Audio Apollo

Much of the appeal of your sound I find is not particularly in the characteristics of the machines you use, but in the way they sound when you’re done with them in the post production process. Where do you start off with that process, and I’m particularly thinking of your last EP, Santa Cruz?

Most of those tracks start with the shittiest machine ever. I’ve got my favourite there, the TR-505. You can pick one up for $100 today, but there’s something about the hi-hat, kick and a snare on that, that just sounds so tight. I run it through the LA 610 and just compress it a bit to add some flavour to it. It just sounds right in the mix, and then I might do some post processing with EQ and layering. I’m a big fan of the universal audio soundcards with the DSP. They’ve saved me a lot of money because I’ve A-B tested them with the analogue stuff from Universal Audio and it sounds 99% the same, so yeah… go digital!  

 

I think that conversation is pretty moot now, because the benchmark for sound is mastering, and that is all digital today.

There’s like super-high-end and then there’s digital and at the end of the day 90% of the music is going to end up in shitty Iphone earbuds anyway. My practise is to use the best of both worlds.

A Korg Guy  

What’s the most recent addition to the studio? I notice that there’s some new looking modular bits.

That’s not actually mine. That’s Tod Louie and Solaris’. I’m really afraid of modular stuff, I’ve played on it and I love it, but I realise I’ll go broke very soon if I start delving into that world.

Yes, and it’s not the big things that add up to that much, it’s the little things, the utility objects you need that take the biggest chunk out of your wallet.

That’s why I like my Korg MS-20. It never disappoints; it’s simple raw and old school.

It’s got a very distinct sound.

Yes, the high-pass-filter defines it.

But getting back to your latest purchase?

I’ve not bought that much lately, because I’m really happy with my current setup, but I guess the last thing I got was the poly 61. I’ve had it for a year now, but I also work in an audio shop, so I get to try a lot of stuff. My next purchase is going to be an Roland/Studio Electronics SE-02.

Do you also keep your eye for new developments, it’s not just about collecting old synths?

I’m not a collector, and I sell anything I don’t use. I sold a lot of stuff in recent years. I’m a Korg guy. I love the Mono/Poly; I love the Poly 6 and the poly 61 hasn’t disappointed at all so far. I’ve also got the ∑, and that’s probably the craziest synth I’ve ever used.

I noticed that immediately when I walked in, and I’ve never seen or heard it.

It has two joysticks and it even has aftertouch, and it’s from ‘78. It’s one of the first performance synths and it has like 20 oscillators. It is the predecessor for the MS-20 and it has the MS-20 oscillator and filter in there. It looks like an organ, and even has a place to rest your sheet music. It’s got CV / gate, but what’s really cool is that it has a ring modulator for all the oscillators. You can do a lot of quirky stuff with it, and it’s probably one of the most underrated synths, because when you try out, it can be a little boring, but when you play around with it a little more it opens up a whole new world.

It sounds like it might be gracing some future projects. But as far as the Fraunhofer/Dortmund projects go, how do you see them evolving in the future?

There’s a lot of stuff going on. Two years ago I signed with Ploink, and I’m still working with Thomas (URV). I hope to release a bit more on there and take it to other labels too. I did a release on Spectrowave in France; I tend to do a lot through the French scene.

Is that Florian’s influence?

Yes. We also did some stuff through Sony in Italy, but I think it’s cooler to do the local underground stuff at the moment. Maybe the big ones will pick me up later… I don’t know, we’ll see. I don’t have any plans set in stone, I like making music and we’ll just see what happens with the rest.  

Great, I’ll let you get back to that then… making music.

 

Reykjavik & Beyond with Viktor Birgiss

Reykjavik has cultivated and inspired some of the most enduring leftfield artists in modern times. There seems to be some imperceptible charge in the creative air of the Icelandic capital producing familiar artists like Bjørk, Sigur Rós, and Bjarki, but so much more too. Even though the city holds the highest concentration of the country’s population, it’s still merely 334 000 strong, but a sizeable portion of that seems to be engaged in some creative endeavour or another. Even foreign visitors can’t escape it’s allure, and we know Damon Albarn and Ben Frost have called the volcanic landmass home at one critical point of their career, unlocking the mysterious charm of the creativity it inspires.

“Maybe it’s just the landscape” ponders Viktor Birgiss, a House producer from the city. “Everything from the weather to the time of year” might have an effect on his creativity he suggests, and somewhere in there the ingredient exists for one of the most creatively rich environments in the world.

In 1988 Viktor Birgiss was born into this environment. In the year succeeding his arrival into the world, Iceland lifted its ban on the selling and distributing of beer. “We’re still beer-drinking amateurs” jokes Viktor, but I suspect with drinking beer also came a more sociable society, one that engaged more with each other in the context of a bar and usually in the presence of music.

It was a dynamic time in the city’s history and when Viktor came of age, it had created a landscape allowing for electronic music to flourish in all its different shapes and forms. In or around 2007 his “interest in DJing and making music” was first piqued when he got a “DJ gig in elementary school” . It had planted a seed in the burgeoning producer and DJ, but it would remain mostly dormant until after Viktor left school and got his first job.

By the time Viktor’s interest was re-emboldened a colleague had implanted the idea “ that if you wanted to get DJ gigs, you had to produce music.” Viktor took that sentiment “all the way”, taught himself Ableton and in no time he was making his own mirthful House edits of popular songs. “I had no musical background, so it was all trial and error stuff”, remembers Viktor, but after a “long journey” he had become incredibly “comfortable in the digital working space”, gaining the respect of his peers in Reykjavik early on his career through this skill.

At the same time, Viktor had found a job at Kaffibarinn, the venue that lives on in infamy as the popular Icelandic haunt owned by Damon Albarn, depending on which rumours you believe. “He might have put some money into it in the beginning”, suggests Viktor, “ but I’m pretty sure he’s not one of the owners today.” By the time Viktor started working there, no trace of Albarn was left, but that was of little concern to Viktor, who had sought out the position merely to “observe other DJs”. Viktor’s clubbing experiences had been ”minimal” leading up to this point and Kaffibarinn was the perfect place to learn from other DJs and like many of them it would also be the launchpad for the incipient DJ’s own career.

Viktor would “annoy the booker” and resident DJ, Alfons X with requests to play, but the only way Alfons would allow that would be with a back to back set, allowing Alfons to take over if needed. It was not needed, and Viktor’s DJ education became a trial by fire with the patient and open-minded crowd at Kaffibarinn playing an integral role in his evolution.

Viktor: “Growing up as a DJ was really healthy at Kaffibarinn because we were playing really long sets, about 6 hours of music. The crowd that came to hear the DJ really trusted the DJ; there were no song requests and that really boosted my DJ self esteem.”

When Viktor had started in music, he had “no direction” and frequently stepped into new genres, but with the his confidence bolstered at Kaffibarinn, he eventually ”found a place in Deep House and House”. Heavily “influenced by old school 90’s House”, Viktor went into a new golden era of House circa 2011 and became one of Iceland’s leading lights in the genre after one of his edits caught the attention of his downtown peers. Intended “as a joke” Viktor’s edit of Bjartmar Guðlaugson’s eighties yacht rock anthem “Týnda Kynslóðin” gained the DJ some popularity as a producer when “every DJ downtown started playing it in the early evening.“

It all “snowballed” for Viktor from there as he got more comfortable playing at Kaffibarinn. His tastes would also broaden and his tolerances relaxed, affecting his sets and his music as he grew into becoming the esteemed producer he is today. Internet radio stations like Breakbeat, Techno, and Party Zone had already some influence on broadening the producer’s tastes, with Party Zone being “probably the biggest influence”. His became more inclusive than a single genre and during this early evolution, he started to solidify his craft as he went from edits to creating original songs.

With House influences and his expertise in digital work space established, Viktor’s sound was soulful and melodic and showcased a more-than-adept craftsmanship for songwriting. “I never end up doing something that’s just going to be a banger for the dance floor”, says Viktor when I ask him about his songwriting process. “I just loop until I find the middle of a track and then I make something around it.” Melodic passages building on the last, bring a depth to the music as it chugs along the tracks laid by the House rhythm sections. A vocal sample is often around and lends that much needed human dimension to Viktor’s music.

Most of his music can be found on he and Jónbjörn Finnbogason’s Lagaffe Tales label, a label that’s been surreptitiously working away in the underground House scene in Iceland since 2012, providing a platform for new talent resembling Viktor’s to come to the fore through a record. I’m surprised though that Viktor doesn’t play his own music out, even during the label’s bi-monthly label night at Kaffibarinn. “I leave that to others”, he says and if he does feel the need to showcase his musical prowess, he prefers the stage. Using a couple of machines, a midi controller and a laptop, he prefers the role of live performer. With improvised sets based on his own productions, Viktor is always looking for “some element that (he) can change in respect to the dance floor”. Improvising on his machines he approaches it much like his DJ sets, working through the dance floor, and letting it dictate the narrative of the night. Each “live set always turn(s) out different” as a result, much like his DJ sets would.

He is most comfortable on home turf and “playing live at Kaffibarinn is always really special” to Viktor. Like his DJ sets there, where he is more “comfortable playing something that is a little obscure”, and “playing longer sets like that  have to jump into Funk and Disco and slower things”,  Kaffibarinn is where Viktor finds he is able to fully realise the vast extent of his influences and his tastes.

A new father, he doesn’t “really have the pulse of the scene” anymore however, devoting his time to family, and although music is still a passion, his reserved gigging schedule makes each gig a special event. He lives in the “outskirts of the capital”, working at a local youth centre, where he has used some of his “musical background” to encourage a new generation of music makers. His soundcloud page is still a hive of activity with many jam sessions and one-off recordings lining the feed as well as DJ sets. He often plays abroad, getting gigs through friends he’s made along the way, friends like Vinny Villbass, who stay in touch and create their own musical scene through the connections they’ve made.

Through mutual friend Simon FKNHNDSM, “a Kaffibarinn legend” and “one of the driving forces behind the place”, Viktor and Vinny struck a friendship based on mutual respect and similar musical personalities, and it’s a friendship that has seen Vinny play Iceland and Viktor play Dattera Til Hagen in the past. “It’s all about networking” in a very honest traditional way for Viktor, away from the impersonal business of agents and bookers.

As House music yet again goes through another phase of evolution, people like Viktor Birgiss are the immovable figures that remain true to the spirit of House music, as a DJ avoiding the  obvious and the hyped; a producer that feigns the functional; and a performer that looks to the audience for his cues. His extensive career might have been propelled through one of House music’s more popular phases, but his approach both in the booth and in the studio, has cemented the reputation of Viktor Birgiss.

 

* Viktor Birgiss will be live in our booth this weekend for Vinny Vilbass’ Badabing residency.

A Conversation with a Stranger, with Harri & Domenic

Harri & Domenic (James Harrigan and Domenic Cappello) are in uncharted territory and hold a position many of the world’s most successful DJs would certainly envy. They are a clubbing institution in their hometown Glasgow and their reputation precedes wherever they go as the residents of Sub Culture – a residency that’s been held every Saturday for the best part of Sub Club’s thirty year existence. They are the residents of arguably the most successful residency in the world, at one of its most successful clubs.

Sub Club’s biography moves perpendicular to House music’s history with its roots in the various precursors to the genre and an attitude rather than a style or trend. In the working class Scottish town Sub Club offered escape from the mundane through the dance floor. Starting out as club night, before moving in permanently into the premises in Jamaica street, Sub Club established itself as the pre-eminent House club in the summer of ‘89, the second summer of love.

A year later, Harri would join the ranks of Sub Club with a new residency called Atlantis., establishing a relationship with the club that lasts up to the present. Domenic joined the fray after playing a few warm up sets at Atlantis, and when Harri would part ways with the rest of the Atlantis crew, he and Domenic would create Subculture, a weekly residency that spans almost the entire existence of the club.

Harri & Domenic, Sub Club and Subculture have defied all odds to exist as long within this trend-informed industry and culture as they have done and they continue to remain on point. They’ve continually inspired and cultivated new talent through their ranks, with names like Optimo (JD Twitch & Jonnie Wilkes), Slam, Jackmaster and Numbers all passing through its ranks. It’s a legacy that endures today with Harri & Domenic and their Subculture residency leading the charge.

Their sets and bookings remain on cue, capturing the spirit of House installed all those years back, not as a genre but rather a mood or an attitude. Their sets wander through styles and eras with the weight of their extensive knowledge pulsing through their selections. They are the closest we get to possibly personify Sub Club and on one morning in September we called them up to ask some questions about it, and their enduring appeal.

You’re celebrating Thirty years of Sub Club this year, and I can’t even think of any bars that have been open that long. What has been the staying power behind the club in your opinion?

Domenic: Harri, you’ve been there long enough. (Laughs)

Harri: I have no idea; it just seems to have passed in a flash for me. It’s slightly surreal, but it’s all about people trying to do something that seems interesting and fun rather than being about making money.

Harri, I know your career started with Atlantis at Sub Club, but what was your introduction to the place before you held a residency there?

Harri: It was the strangest thing. My brother’s friend was a resident DJ at Sub Club in Jamaica street, and asked me to stand in for him one night. He took my phone number and started inviting me back.

Was it always a House club?

Harri: It was always kind of alternative. House music was coming through, with tracks like Colonel Abrams and proto-House records like Jack your Body. We also had James Brown rare groove, Soul and Funk playing there at the time.

 

Domenic, what was your introduction to the club?

Domenic: I did warm-ups with Slam for Atlantis. Harri and I played at an after-party together before and we started talking about music. Harri got me to do the warm-up and Harri and I just always musical cliqued.

What made you clique?

Domenic: What attracted me to Harri was that it was so bad it really sounded good. (Laughs) Seriously though, Harri came from a Reggae background and I was really into blues when I was younger, so we both came from black music, and went through tangents of of black music. We came from a similar place, but just had our own ideas of what we played. It wasn’t like we were playing the same records, but there was a foundation there.

Have you had any effect on the other’s playing through the 30 year evolution of subculture?

Domenic: It probably has subconsciously.

Harri: We join the dots in the middle somewhere.

Domenic: There are some records that overlap, and we usually argue about who’s going to play those records.

House music has gone through so many phases over the course of the thirty years of Sub Club. How do you adapt a residency through these phases?

Harri: You just play the records that you’ve found that week and you just trust those records. We have to make it up as we go along, because we’re there every week, and we have to go record shopping every week.

Domenic: The music is always moving forward, so you’re listening to new music all the time to keep it fresh. You’re looking for something new that’s new and different, but you’re also respectful of the stuff that sounded good in the past.

Do you play a lot of older tracks too?  

Harri: We often drop old tunes, but they are old tunes that would sound relevant, like a new record that reminds you of an old record. I’ve got a son who’s a DJ and he’s of the opinion, I waste my time looking for new music, when my old music is better than most of the new music coming out. I don’t really agree with it.

It seems that perhaps the younger generation isn’t motivated by their own generation as much as it was when you guys were starting your careers.

Harri: I don’t think a lot has changed, personally. Here in Glasgow, we’ve been fairly lucky that every few years a younger generation comes through and changes the landscape. For instance a lot of younger people today play African music. I love African music, but there’s people much younger than me that know a lot more about African music than I do.

Did you ever feel that you had to adapt to younger audiences for subculture?

Domenic: I think we can keep on doing what we’re doing. It’s still the same now as it was back when I was young. There are people that are into underground music, and then there are people that want the more popular stuff. The kids that want the more popular stuff, they read RA and are like: “I like that because I’ve been told to like that”. But then there are still people that will rebel against that and find their own individual tastes and DJs. There are still people that will look for something different and we don’t need to play to a young crowd, they come and find us. The popular thing isn’t always the popular thing young people will hear, you’ll always find that group that will splinter away.

Harri: I agree with Domenic. You’ll always find people that want to pursue their own avenue. I don’t necessarily feel that we have to adapt to other people. I suppose it seems a bit arrogant, but people adapt to us, because we’re looking forward all the time, and not getting stuck in a rut.

Domenic: And not falling for hype or fads. We’re not playing records because they are supposed to be popular, we’re playing records because we like them.

What exactly speaks to you on a record that you like?

Domenic: We both like melody in our tracks. I don’t like records that are just a drum track for 62 bars. I still like songs, music that has a beginning middle and end in terms of a story. It has to move, it has to have a story, and not just be a loop.

Harri: Yes, it has to have a narrative. It kind of takes you somewhere.

This harks back to your early influences listening to blues and reggae, where the music was so much more than just a functional track.

Harri: Yes.

Domenic: I think we still kind of look for that in new music.

Could give me an example of new music that speaks to you in this way?

Domenic: For me at the moment I like a lot of the new Electro, because it’s still sounds futuristic. When we first got into House and Techno it was regarded as futuristic music made by robots, and a lot of that’s been lost. I’m finding a lot of Electro I’m buying is giving me that feeling like it was made twenty years from now. Guys like Convextion/E.R.P, every record he makes has got that story, but it’s still got beats and it still makes you want to dance.

 

Harri: The new Innervisions, Toto Chiavetta stuff I really like. It’s not replicating something old, it’s taking us somewhere else. Sometimes you can get a new record, but it’s little more than a replica of an old style. I like something with a modern twist.

 

We’re hoping some of that stuff makes it into your set when you visit and that brings me to my next question; How do you compare playing a residency to playing abroad?

Domenic: You’ve got to watch crowds more when you play away and the reactions. You build on the information that you get from the floor, but when you’re at home you can just do your own thing and relax. When you’re playing away you’re more conscious, it’s like you are having a conversation with a stranger. You try to find a common ground so you can have a conversation.

Harri: It’s like Domenic says, you just need to be conscious of what’s happening in front of you.

Domenic: It’s funny when you play abroad and you play a track you’ve been playing at home that you’ve tried on the dance floor and people loved it and then you play it abroad and people haven’t heard and they’re looking at you confused. It’s a total different reaction. I know now that that even though something is popular with our crowd, it might not be the same abroad and you have to get used to that.

Subculture also do a lot of bookings. To what end do those booking serve a purpose at the residency?

Domenic: The reason we got guests was that it was something different; somebody we wanted to hear. Our first guest was Stacey Pullen, when he was seventeen – I had his first couple of records. The original idea was to hear somebody we wanted to hear, somebody new to us, but now it’s become something completely different. It’s more like, giving people a break from us. Booking is a whole new ball game today. Barry who does all the bookings asks us every month who want to book, and Harri and I will send a list and Barry will pick four off the list. The people we put on the list are people that we would’ve heard before and you have a similar ethos to what we do, similar but different again.

Do you find it entertaining and informative as DJs to hear these DJs?

Domenic: Yes, we play before them and we’re basically getting paid to hear them play. (Laughs) It’s a win-win situation.

Harri: And quite often you hear somebody play and you think; “that’s quite brilliant, I would’ve never thought to play that.”  

I want to ask you about your tour, because it’s billed as Sub Club XXX. Is there anything that you want to relay in your set that maybe encapsulates the ethos of Sub Club?

Harri: It might be billed as Sub Club XXX, but every set is different. It’s all about the night and what would work there; you can’t make any preconceived plans. Thinking about playing specific tracks because it’s thirty years, just sounds a bit contrived. Over the thirty years we’ve just been playing new music, so why not just do that.

I only have one more question. Out of the thirty years what have been some of your highlights?

Domenic: There’s been so many we always forget these anecdotes. I think we’ve forgotten more good nights than most people have good nights… definitely due to alcohol. (Laughs) There was one night that Harri was DJing the first time Roy Davis Jr DJ’d with us, and Roy was so inspired he wanted to sing. He’s got one of the most soulful voices you’ve ever heard and when he started singing it was a pure off the cuff moment. I talked to him afterword, and he said he didn’t know what came over him. That was one of those moments.

Harri: It’s those spontaneous moments that really stand out. It’s those rare moments when everybody starts reading off the same page and go; “wow this is amazing”. Most of the best stories are often unrepeatable anyway.

Domenic: I think another one that was a classic for me was when we did a string quartet on new year’s eve, way before Jeff Mills and Carl Craig started doing it. I got hold of the guys in the Scottish Orchestra and gave them four tracks and they did an amazing job of transcribing them. We mixed them in live and they played “knights of the jaguar” intro live and when the beat kicked in from the record, the whole club jumped ten feet in the air. It was such a beautiful, soulful moment.

Raw Sole with Mr. Scruff

In 1999 an album hit the shelves that would etch a name in the electronic music history books eternally. The album was called “Keep it Unreal”, an album that became revered for it’s quirky idiosyncrasies, but also for its incredible level of artistry. As musical genres converged and common tropes exorcised from their banality through the course of its narrative, it established a new musical landscape. It would cement it and its creator into the electronic music annals and go some way in traversing that great divide between the accessible and the progressive.

It was an album that certainly caught the zeitgeist of the era where acts like The Avalanches and DJ Shadow were revered for their cut-and-paste diatribe style of music making and like “Since I Left You” or “Entroducing…”, “Keep it Unreal” has stood the test of time.

Keep it Unreal was Andrew Carthy’s second only album as Mr. Scruff, but it solidified the artist’s style and sound as a collage of various musical traditions, channeled through a singular artistic voice. Combining elements of Jazz, House, Hip Hop and just about any sample he could lay his hands on, Carthy harnessed the full potential of electronic music and its various origins to create one of the most endearing albums on the Ninja Tune catalogue. It combined Carthy’s very English pythonic sense of humour with a very considered musical effort, harnessing the eclectic musical approach from his early experiences through the radio.

It was the radio that laid the foundation for a career in DJing and production when Carthy, raised in Manchester, heard the likes of John Peel, Stu Allen and Greg Wilson through stations like Piccadilly, Radio Lancashire & Southside. When a friend played Carthy an uncle’s electro records at a pubescent age, Carthy was hooked and a pair of tape decks would lead to a rudimentary introduction to DJing. With no education other than his favourite jocks on radio, Carthy’s career took him from the bedroom to his first gig in Manchester and almost concurrently his first 12” release.

Carthy’s approach to music has always been a “consistent with different results” he says over a telephone call early one Monday morning while dealing with the admin activities of the week and since making his first mark as a DJ and producer, he’s been on a path all his own. Carving out a career of those early influences and adapting through the different eras, Mr. Scruff’s five albums and countless EP’s are distinct and prominent features in electronic music history.

He carries that individuality through to his incredible DJ sets, and his Keep it Unreal residency in Manchester has been going strong since 1999. He often packs up his show to bring it on the road, and his next stop is Jæger’s where he brings his special brand of humour and expertise to our basement for a night with Mr. Scruff. We were curious to find out more about this and what exactly defines his artistic personality, and in the context of the show looming ever closer, we called the DJ and producer for a Q&A session. As expected from an intellectual talent like Carthy’s, and as we were already quite familiar with his extensive bio, our conversation took us to some very abstract ideas about music as we discussed what restrictions defined his artisic drive and to what end his music and DJ sets operate.

Hello Andy, where are you at the moment and what are you up to?

I’m just getting some exercise after dropping my daughter off at school. I’m spending the day doing admin