Getting to know DJ Hamburger

When I first met DJ Hamburger he was eating a slice pizza.

A regular at Jæger, Olav Friisberg is a sound engineer a documentary filmmaker, a DJ and an essential part of the Mutual Intentions crew, where he’s been documenting the rise of the DJ collective and label from behind the camera and performing as a DJ since 2013.

The second time I met DJ Hamburger he was behind the mixing console, working as a sound engineer.

In recent months, Olav has become an integral thread in the fabric of Jæger from the mixing console to the DJ booth. His Jæger mix brought a funky quality to the Nu-Disco genre, while stepping at a reserved pace. As a DJ  he is able to toe a very distinct line between digging for unlikely music without sacrificing the atmosphere of the party.

A reserved and jovial character, with a sincere musical appreciation that can go from John Petrucci to Breakbot, I’ve come to find a kindred spirit in Olav, and when I found out that he and I will share the booth this upcoming Wednesday for Untzdag, I wanted to get to know Olav and DJ Hamburger a little better.

 

I meet him on one of the first sunny days in Oslo this year. He has his computer with him and is trying to sort out a “messy” hard drive ahead of a gig at Kulturhuset but thinks better of it.

What are you playing tonight?

I’m gonna play like French House, Disco mix.

Similar to the stuff you played for your Jæger mix?

More poppy though. With a lot of vocals, cheerful and happy House stuff.

Like the Kitsune type of thing?

Yes exactly, like the Ed Banger kind of stuff.

Is that kind of stuff that got you into DJing?

I think so. I remember buying everything from Ed banger records. That was maybe the start for me and DJing – that and playing in the camp at Roskilde festival, where we built this stereo on wheels that we could travel between the camps with. I made these mixes for it that played a minute of each song, like a power hour.

That’s very much an ed Banger type of thing, playing one minute of each track. I remember hearing Mr. Ozio doing that at Melt in 2008. He would play a snippet of each track in a very Hip Hop kind of way, flicking the crossfader from end to the next. Going from White Tripes to Flat Beat.

Yes that was that time they mixed things like master of puppets into a kind of stadium electronic track.

Yeah the summer of Nu Rave. I remember a lot of people wearing colourful, fluorescent clothes and going to festivals. What happened to all those acts after that summer, acts like digitalism?

Yeah, it lasted for a few years. I remember expecting breakbot to play that style of music in his set and being disappointed when I saw him in Madrid and he was playing harder Tech House. I mean, where was the funky thing he was known for?

For me one of the DJs out of that era that stayed the test of time, is Joakim. I remember seeing him a couple of times after that whole scene moved on, and his sets incorporated elements of Disco and House in that funky way, without sounding stilted or out of touch with the contemporary landscape. It was a time of Tech-House and that minimal thing and his sets were just refreshing.

How have your tastes evolved since; what are you listening today?

I’m not into labels that much, I don’t remember the names. I have a very messy approach to sorting music, because I’m always preparing for a new gig. I don’t go back to my playlists from my other gigs so it becomes a messy archive.

But, I’m buying a lot from Lobster Theremin and Rhythm Section and I think I’m definitely going to get the next Jex Opolis when it comes out on Monday. He has a label called Good Timing.

Olav packs his computer away. The pristine cover is a mesh of colourful stickers, hinting in no subtle way to his affiliation with the Mutual Intentions crew.

Mutual Intentions have been a singular and determined presence in Oslo since 2013 and from their releases and parties they’ve breathed new life into everything from Hip Hop and Soul to Deep House in the city.

Olav’s induction into the crew came via John (Jawn) Rice who had worked with Olav as a graphic designer on a couple of film festivals when he had been at university in Lillehammer. It had cemented a friendship that led to an introduction to Fredfades and laid the foundations for the start of Mutual Intentions.

 

Were you all friends before you started playing music together?

Everybody was friends before Mutual Intentions. I started documenting and filming stuff. In the beginning if you want to get more involved, you can get more involved with it, and do more stuff. To release music there is a plan.

Are you working on music at the moment?

Yes.

What does it sound like?

Disco, House, bass. I like to play bass and I play guitars and I have a synth that I bought from John to pay his rent.

I do other stuff, so I focus more on DJing. When I make music one song can take a month.

Does it start with bass?

Yes and drums.

I never get finished with anything, so I don’t care about it and I just put it out there and give to friends. Because I don’t like to sit there and tweak and produce.

But you always have Fred and John at your disposal for that type of thing I imagine?

They are on a whole different level I think.

 

Olav is no musical novice. He had a focussed musical education at college. Although his main instrument was the electric guitar, he eventually moved over to bass in a class that had ten electric guitarist for every bassist. Playing guitar and bass for bands going from teenager to adolescent, he eventually gave up on the band dynamic to avoid the “hassle”.

“I think that’s hard within any group” he suggests “everybody has their own view of how it’s going to be.”

So when did clubbing and club music happen for you?

Clubbing started a bit late for me. I never started with going out that much. I started playing in a café in Lillehammer, while studying documentary film there. I was quite late checking into the club scene in Oslo. The first time I went to Jæger was like 2012 and I went to Villa once or twice before then.

I was more of a concert or festival person. I started working as a volunteer at festivals when I was 16. I was going from festival to festival doing different kinds of jobs. Slottsfjell was a cool clubbing experience when Slagsmalsklubben played.

They were a chiptune group?

Yes, 16 bit kind of sound.

I remember I had this kind of idea that I would go around in slippers everywhere that year for the festivals. Of course I lost a few slippers. At Roskilde it was like the worst rainstorm ever and I put a plastic bag around my slippers, that was my solution. (laughs)

It was the stupidest thing to do, walking around with crushed glass everywhere, but still festivals were a good way to experience new music.

Yes and it recontextualizes music styles too. When I was younger I would go to a lot of festivals to listen rock bands essentially, but then also encounter a lot of electronic music which then would lead down a path to the club tent and eventually the club.

Yes, from rock to rave.

What sort of music were you listening to as a youngster growing up.

When I was ten years old there was a trance period. When you’re a kid you don’t care so much, it’s just about; ‘this is on the radio so I’m going to listen to it.’

My dad was a fan of Marcus Miller and he loved Frank Zappa, he kind of looked like Frank Zappa too. I liked the music, the humour, and the attitude he had. There’s this experimental thing. I haven’t listened that much to him, but I remember we had this school project where we had to listen to Peaches and Regalia, where the rhythm isn’t 4/4 but 7/4 or something. It’s fun to listen to and interesting play.

It’s odd that people aren’t that experimental with music today and so open to different elements. It feels that everybody is trying to fit into a particular slot.

Yes, you occupy a certain position. I think people like to put people more into categories.

You think that would have changed more in the other direction today with things like the internet making all this music available, but it hasn’t at all. Maybe it was better when everything as Rock or Techno.

For me it depends on the day. Like Saturday I’m going to play R&B hits at Oslo Velo, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve been watching (MC) Kaman playing on Saturdays at Jæger. That vibe is such a nostalgic trip and it’s just as fascinating as playing Techno or something else. I really respect that, but then again I would also be bored after two or three gigs.

I really like when people put different stuff together, like ND Baumecker playing Missy Elliot, my party people before a really heavy Berlin Techno track. It can work.

You get surprised in a way. In the end you’re there for the party. It’s about; they’re going out, they want to have fun and they want to listen to the songs they know.

Olav does play a lot for someone engaged in a career like his and he’s gigs are quite diverse, often odd. One of his most recent experiences was playing Techno and House for an arts seminar just outside of Lillehammer. “I DJ’d during the meeting”, says Olav with a guffaw. It was one of “weirder” experiences for him as a DJ, but he adapted regardless.

His sets can go from this gig at Kulturhuset to playing Jæger in the courtyard where he will play House and Disco as the counterpoint to Hunee downstairs. As a DJ he likes to keep it open and “surprising”, adapting to his audience even if it leads to a DJ feau pax. “I don’t feel like mixing two songs in a different key into each other would destroy the mix”.

There’s a sense of lightheartedness that ties his music together and is very much in line with the personality behind the music. From his chosen DJ moniker to his sets, there’s a sense that Olav never takes himself to seriously and it comes through in conversation and his selections.

Lets wrap this up because we’ve talked a lot. Tell me something no-one else would know about you.

(Laughs). Is that your standard question… Nobody knows that I like pizza that much. I was actually going to ask you if you wanted to get pizza instead of a coffee. Yeah nobody knows why I’m called DJ Hamburger: I was meeting up with a friend and I called them up to order a burger for me, and then she and her friend started calling me Olav Hamburger, and it just stuck.  

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