A distant memory circles back now. It’s a whisper from the not-so-distant past rather than a memory; a break-beat arrangement with imposing sub-bass swells surging through Jæger’s basement and three young individuals that through the course of a day and night have left an impressionable mark on Oslo. The boys from Regelbau, No Hands and Help Recordings are winding down their set in Jæger’s basement at the end of a visit that saw them close out the Skranglejazz summer and as the last resonants of a new unreleased track from DJ Sports fades out they cement a vision of the future; a future that operates outside of predetermined, where everything is possible and the results are exciting.
Manmade Deejay, DJ Sports and Central are this vision incarnate, a group of individuals that graced our booth for one evening in September and inspired as the incipient generation of electronic music. They are also Mathias Okholm, Milán – and Natal Zaks respectively, members of the defunkt Regelbau collective and the people behind the Regalbau, No Hands and Help Recording imprints from Denmark.
At the centre these labels and the community that sprung out of the unlikely city of Århus are brothers Milán- and Natal Zaks, who as DJ Sports and Central have started to leave notable impressions on labels like Dekmantel, Firecracker and Gravity Graffiti. Ranging from a Balearic kind of House to a more alternative electronica through their Palta (Natal) & Ti (Milán) aliases, they’ve set a tone for a new generation of producers and DJs and have created the closest we’ve come the see in a scene for a long time.
Theirs is not a stylistic scene, but rather something in direct conflict with categorically defined music varietals. They urge for a more open reception of their music and where everything might go, they certainly do not go everywhere. Central, Manmade Deejay and DJ Sports’s set was diverse, dynamic and incredibly eclectic, incorporating House, Dub, Breakbeats and even Techno at various times from an informed approach. Going back to back through the night, each DJ instinctively knew where to go from the next, calling on the innate musical relationship they created through the Regelbau collective.
It puts into perspective a lot of what I and Natal Zaks talked about in a Q&A session earlier that day, before they closed out Skranglejazz for the season…
Tell me about Århus, the town in Denmark that you’re from. How would you describe it?
It’s a quiet city, living at a slow pace. It’s not that big with the ocean, the forest and the city all quite close together. One thing that really sums it up for me is that it is a very friendly city, and not only because a lot of my friends are there. There are a lot of people around that I know that make music and the environment is very relaxed.
What’s so conducive of the environment to spawn so much musical talent in recent years?
It’s just our home and that’s where we make music. Our scene is very small and it’s basically just made up of our friends. I don’t think the city plays a particular role, but rather just the friendly environment we’ve all created around the music.
There’s a lot of support between styles. One of the best-known places for hosting concerts and shows is called TAPE. That venue specifically circulates around live music, and although they mainly focus on live music, they are friends of ours and they welcome our music too.
There’s also this Golem initiative that focuses on creating some communication between the labels in the city. It is sleeping now, but we used to meet up intermittently to discuss different projects we were involved in and then we split the costs of a tape publication machine. It increased the contact between different styles. We also have a Golem store that archives and collects most releases from the scenes.
How many labels are involved there?
Regelbau, Help Recordings and No Hands are the labels I run with my friends and apart from that there’s Partners that’s run by Matias Gulvad and he does these collab releases. I had one collab with Soft Armour and Milán (DJ Sports) had a split with C.K, and the idea is that people just make music together or remix each other. We also have Brystet who has released everything from black metal to pop-rock and some of my stuff as Palta and Central. There are many small tape labels, but very few of them release on records.
These are all mainly cassette labels?
Yes, and I don’t really know of any labels that focus on club music, besides Regelbau, Help and No Hands.
And with so many labels collaborating, I suspect there’s a lot of cross pollination going between genres and styles.
Yes, we’ve just released a free jazz record for example on a new label we started called Saino. It’s something that I started because I wanted to focus on acoustic music, and do the distribution through Safe; so exploiting the same machinery, but for different kinds of music. Daniel Summer is the artist behind the first release, and he did this duet record where he just travelled the around and improvised with other musicians.
That’s quite a departure from the other three labels you do. Regelbau, No Hands and Help seem a little more consolidated, but what are the main differences between these three labels?
The essential difference between No Hands, Regelbau and Help is that Help is run by my me and my brother. So we decide everything that comes out there. We don’t really think of it as a style difference, but it is different and time will also show it is different. It’s not a conceptual difference but a difference in the music that is released on the label.
And am I right in saying that No Hands is a bit more of an experimental outlet for the dance floor?
Yes, it’s a label where everything is welcome. For me No Hands is quite defined, Help is quite defined, and Regelbau is everything that doesn’t quite fit in either of those.
Tell me more about Regelbau.
My brother and I, Mathias (Manmade Deejay) and CK were part of a collective as Regelbau, but the collective doesn’t exist anymore.
Why did you disband?
Because we were eleven guys and that was just too many. Some of us were very interested in running the labels, while others were more interested in doing events. Eventually we decided to focus on the label.
It’s interesting how many collectives have similarly disbanded in recent years into different factions and/or individuals, and while a label might remain the collective pursuit is portioned off.
It’s sort of a supporting structure that you create with a collective, where you influence each other a lot and figure out how you work together. You spread out the work through a bunch of people and then you find out what you are most interested in. And I can only speak for myself, but I’m definitely more interested in making music and releasing it.
Than DJing too?
Yes, and putting parties together and being in a collective.
You have all these different projects, from DJ Central to Palta and all the other collaborations. Where does the bridge lie between all these different projects?
Well, the bridge is me. Essentially everything I make will be connected to me in some sense. I find the difficult part is not the labelling part, but when the label influences what you do. I don’t find that a very attractive position to be in as a producer and a musician. Limiting oneself at the beginning will have you thinking in a certain confined direction and bring up a lot of uncertainties. I start working by eliminating any concepts or ideas, and just focus on what comes out. Everything I make doesn’t have a name until I release it. If I end up doing new wave music for example it’s not unuseable, I just need to find another way to make it into a record.
What eventually separates a Central record from a Palta one?
Central is obviously more dance floor orientated than the others. I just completed my electronic composition studies after six years and a lot of my academic work was non-club music and it really opened my eyes to music outside of the club. So one leg has always been in club music and one in experimental music. Palta therefore was an outlet for the stuff that I find more interesting. It wasn’t that I didn’t find Central to be any less interesting, but it is more entertaining.
It serves a function as well.
It serves a function and it is also often a good way for me to start working by eliminating any concepts or ideas, and just focus on what comes out. Is it the work with the drum machine or is it a work without grid.
Is that how you define the origins of each project, in- and outside of the grid?
No because there is Palta stuff start that starts with a drum machine. It’s not the role of the music to fit the name, it’s the name that must accommodate the music. The first record I did as Central was a Techno record. It was very dark and acid. It was on Nord records, and that doesn’t make Central a Techno project.
You mentioned earlier that you don’t make music specifically for labels and yet those releases on Dekmantel really sound like they belong on that label. How did that come about?
It was just them that picked up on it. I had a lot of unfinished stuff lying around as Central, so I sent them many tracks. They decided what they liked and then we ended up with something that I had thought of as an album, but we split it into two EPs.
I was actually going to ask you about that too, since it sounded like the second EP was maybe a result of the success of the first one.
For me those kind of thoughts are a little bit dangerous, because when you start planning too much on what the music is going to be like before you’ve made it, that’s where I feel you begin to fail. I think it’s good to have this sense of freedom. For some it might be nice to think of songs as the numbered tracks on a record, but that doesn’t necessarily work for me.
Since those Dekmantel releases it seems that you’ve focussed most of your energy on releasing on your own labels. Will there be future releases on other labels again?
My brother and I will be releasing an EP on a newer Glasgow label soon. We started expanding to other labels together. Milán did his solo album on Firecracker, then we did this Palta & Ti release and we have a record coming out on Gravity Graffiti right now too. So I am releasing on other labels, but I want to focus more on our own labels.
Do you ever feel any pressure to when working with other labels, that stilt that freedom you were talking about earlier?
Not really. Both Gravity Graffiti and the glasgow guys were very open minded. I actually find myself to be less worried because it’s a new chapter and I can more or less do what I want. And the records that Milán and I did for these labels are very much a step in a new direction. They are showcasing what we are interested in but couldn’t really find a home for on our own labels.
Can you tell us a little more about this new direction?
The releases are very different and I’d say very un-preoccupied music. A lot of it is based on improvisation.
Will these be released under new pseudonyms?
It’s under under the Palta & Ti moniker. Ti is Milán’s more experimental side, the counterpart to my Palta alias.
So your experimental side is coming to the fore more. Do you see yourself completely leaving the dance floor at some point?
No. Also I think the process of making dance music is such a happy, carefree state of mind. It feels really good, so I wouldn’t stop because of some pre-occupation with it being cool.
You mention that the dance floor is a really feel-good kind of environment, so would you say the Palta project is more of a conscious musical effort?
Actually I’d say it’s exactly the opposite. It started for me, when I was studying, that I wanted to make music that I couldn’t remember doing. It was my third year, and I was making music when I was extremely tired or trying to do music extremely fast. I was working with the sketches in a way that there’s no time to regret anything and you just keep pushing forward. All and all I can some it up as a project that wants to be first-thought-best-thought.
Do you usually know when you are working on a Palta track compared to a central track.
Yes, It’s not like I’m going to deny that when I’m working on it, it can’t have a name. There also other projects that haven’t been released yet, and will be out soon too.
More music under new aliases… Where do you find the time for all of this?
I don’t do much else. I don’t work on stuff for a long time. When it becomes heavy on me, then it’s not worth it. Often I just let go of stuff when it’s a hassle. I wouldn’t release anything I wasn’t happy with in the end.