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…