Be Inspired: A profile on Octave One

We dig through the legacy of one of Detroit’s finest, Octave One as they make their way to Jaeger’s basement for another round of their awe-inspiring live show.

In Detroit, “everything was around us” according to Octave One. The brothers Burden are an indelible addition to the early history of Techno and one of Detroit’s finest exports. Born into the environment that birthed everything from Motown to the Model T automobile, the Burden brothers tap into a vast and extensive history of music and machines that all feed their singular creative output as Octave One. While Lenny and Lawrence are the central figures as the performers of the group, most of the brothers have a hand in some production aspects and running their label 430 West.

Their success is a stark contrast to circumstances into which they were born at a time when Detroit was going through one of its many downturns. “When the car industry declined, it caused a lot of problems in the city,” Lenny and Lawrence told Bridges for Music. People “went from making a lot of money to none” and “had to leave to survive.” That was happening as they grew up and for those that didn’t have the resources to leave there weren’t many options, especially for kids coming of age. For most being born in that environment in the USA there were two options, the military or prison, and for a few lucky ones there was also, sports or music. For the Burden brothers it was the latter and things got noisy real quick… 

“Having all of us in the house playing music could be kinda chaotic at times,” they reminisced in a Musicradar article. Their mum was nothing but supportive, because if it was noisy, she could be content with the knowledge her children were safe. It was ”a form of discipline because she could count on knowing exactly where we were.” The brothers had had a rudimentary musical education from elementary school, and it was emboldened by an eclectic musical taste. “We have a great love for early Old school RnB, Rock, Industrial and even some HipHop,” they told 15 questions;  “… our influences are endless!” 

They weren’t alone in their music adventures during this period., because while they were developing those influences, a whole city seemed to plug into the same wavelength, and Detroit Techno started to emerge. The Burden brothers had already been consuming “tons of Chicago House,” by the time the proto sound of Techno arrived with the likes of Model 500 and Transmat records and the transition was an effortless one. 

Techno was still in its infancy with the first wave of artists to emerge, but the Burden brothers would be there on the cusp of it too, even if it was still early days. “When we started in 1989, our exposure to Detroit techno primarily came from the radio and clubs, but you could have easily escaped it because there wasn’t a lot of it.” From that exposure, they bought “a couple of drum machines and synthesisers” and started making their own music. “It seemed amazing to us that we could make a whole song with just a few pieces of equipment.”

At the centre of their sonic explorations was the Roland TR909 drum machine. “Once we got the 909 I was hooked – that machine’s like a drug” Lawrence told Musicradar. “With the 909 we always say that if we sell that then it’s over.” The drum machine became the centrepiece from which they started to construct their own music, influenced by what they were hearing around them in Detroit. They were embedded in the scene early on, working the lights at the music institute (Derrick May’s joint) amongst other things, but they were not gonna get a free hand out either. Derrick May wouldn’t even give them a DJ set at the place they worked and the cassette tapes they sent for peer review from the labels around them “got rejected quite a few times.” They continued to work at it and the exposure to the new sounds of Techno emanating from places like the music institute undoubtedly only fortified their efforts. 

After a few more cassettes their work finally paid off with a release in 1989 on a forthcoming Transmat compilation and the follow up to the genre-establishing Techno! (The New Dance Sound Of Detroit) compilation, simply called Techno 2 – the next generation. At the time they were still unnamed. “We were put on the spot by Mr. Derrick May when we were asked what was the name of our band,” they recalled in Electronic Beats. “He left the room and we did a very, very quick ‘huddle’ to come up with a name on the fly that we felt best described us, and the name Octave One was born. And it meant and means all of us (Lawrence, Lenny, and Lynell) working in one accord almost as if sharing the same octave.” The track, “I believe” inaugurated Octave One as a fixture in the second wave of Techno coming out of Detroit alongside the likes of Carl Craig and Kevin Saunderson.

Not merely content with that release, the Burden brothers launched their own label right out of the gate, establishing 430 West almost directly after their debut. It was almost unheard of back in the early nineties for an unknown electronic music act to start an independent label. “Apart from Richie Hawtin’s Plus 8 and Carl Craig’s Planet E, not that many people had started their own label back then. We did it out of necessity because Derrick didn’t put out a lot of music on Transmat and we were ready for our next release.” 

430 West came “a time when even a bad record would sell a couple of thousand” and what started as one record soon took on a life of its own. In a couple of releases they established not only a sound for Octave One, but also for their label. Taking those rudimentary Techno archetypes of the generation before them and refining it, they had hit a nerve both in Detroit and Europe. There was, and remains a subtlety there that feigned the brutalist functionalism of the sole drum machine for a richer texture, even going so far as to set up the subsidiary label in the form of Direct Beat for their more functional- exploits and artists like AUX 88.   

Throughout the mid and late nineties they toiled away at both the label and the Octave One project, releasing records that have been coveted by collectors and enthusiasts since they were underground rarities at their time, most of which have only been appreciated with the advantage of hindsight.

Octave One became a touchstone for anybody interested in that early period of Detroit Techno, but this doesn’t mean that struggle has come without success for them. In 2000 they broke new ground with a crossover hit in the form of Black Water. The track sold over a million copies, thanks in part to the soulful vocals of Ann Saunderson, breathing live into the bubbling synthesisers and accentuating the emotive content of the strings.  

Black Water came at a significant time. Not only would it be one of the last examples of physical records selling into those high numbers, but it came at a time when the height of popularity for electronic dance music. As more people flocked to the music, the clubs,  the radio and even MTV, exploited this popularity with big business getting behind the genre for the pay day. As the big-room started selling out, most of the protagonists moved their music and act back toward the underground in this period, while some even abandoned these genres altogether for the likes of Punk and Disco, waiting out the tawdry commercial aspects that took hold.

Octave One took to the former, adopting an “adapt or die” approach during this period. “75% of our monetary gains came from sales, but a few years later it came from touring,” with Octave One becoming a fully formed live group. “I was supposed to play live by myself,” Lenny told Musicradar about the origins of the live set, “ and Lawrence would DJ his set right before I was supposed to hit the stage. I had his mixing console and all of his gear in front of me and was trying to do everything myself when Lawrence jumped on stage.”

Octave One, the live show, was born and soon it would also be immortalised in Techno lore thanks to their inclusion in Jeff Mills’ iconic exhibitionist mix and video series. From that Octave One set on a new trajectory as one of the most sought after live groups in electronic dance music and club culture. Their hardware-heavy set has decimated some of the best club sound systems in the world.

It all “happened organically” and as “the record label started to suffer” in the wake of the internet and everything else, they too started to “slow down being record label guys and concentrate on being performers.” As performers they’ve excelled in their field and there are few live Techno acts that can match the ferocity and experience of Octave One. “The fun part was playing the music” and while their recording efforts took a back-seat to their live performances, they still maintained a regular release schedule. In the last few years they’ve even resurrected and paid homage to a couple of their old aliases in the form Random Noise Generation and Never On Sunday respectively. 

Never On Sunday harks back to the early nineties, but as an album you can’t help being reminded of Black Water, with vocals from Karina Mia all over this thing and emphatic melodies and loud-like textures coming together in accessible, radio-friendly tracks. 

Softening the more functional edges of their live show, the record favours a more varied sound, but retains that elusive soul that remains the core appeal of Detroit Techno to this day.  “Thousands of people still want to experience Detroit techno that was born from the struggle of our lives,” the artists explained in that piece for Electronic Beats, and today more than ever, “from that, inspiration can be born.” Be inspired.

Memories of summer with Of Norway

Of Norway talk about their new album, their working process, some secret aliases and a very special live show that will follow their official release party at Jaeger.

It’s hard to define the appeal of Norwegian electronic music. It’s a melodic contingent; a love of vintage synthesisers and drum-machines; an eclectic musical history; and a brooding melancholy that’s as sweet as it is foreboding. At the best of times it’s only a couple of those things that distinguish Norway’ s artists, but for one group it’s all of those things and that’s why Of Norway live up to their name. 

Their latest album stands testament to that. Smeigedag is no exercise in restraint either as Chris Lynch and and Vegard “lil” Wolf Dyvik tap into their shared history together to construct a forlorn ode to summer. Melodies dissociate in that familiar happy melancholy that doesn’t strain the patience, while progressive rhythms tap into some ancient ritualistic pulse. The racks go from the euphoric House exaltations of “Love” to the moody ambient embrace of “Second coming,” with melody and texture remaining at the forefront of their work. 

It’s instantly familiar, not merely for its Norwegian connotations, but as a consistent thread between this latest and Of Norway’s previous records like “Accretion” and “The Loneliest Man in space.” The latter had been our last contact with the group before the pandemic (even though we learn that they’ve released another record since), and from that album’s electro-leaning affiliations to this latest record, the core of the group’s sonic signature has remained unchanged even as they drift into different musical regions.

After four albums and a host of EPs, Of Norway Chris and Vegrad haven’t evolved the sound as much as they’ve cemented it. They’ve enjoyed a healthy and productive relationship with Connaisseur records, releasing all their albums on that Offenbach-based outlet while releasing EPs and singles for the likes of Darkroom Dubs, Bedrock and Do not sit on the furniture. Oddly for a group called Of Norway, their music has been more successful outside of Norway even though Vegard and Chris have been fixtures in Oslo’s scene through institutions like iconoclastic and Kill your Ego. 

As DJs Chris and Vegard continue to play around town and abroad on occasion, and as artists we’ve come to expect a regular release from Of Norway. Their history with electronic music in the scene goes back to the early 2000’s and there’s more to Of Norway than meets the eye, including a couple of secret aliases. This amongst other things piques our interest around Of Norway, and ahead of the official release of the album, we reach out to the group with some questions.

As the duo prepares for the official release party at Jaeger, we call Vegard and Chris to find they are currently working on a very special live show, and Chris’ phone is buzzing with guestlist requests… 

 

Where are you at the moment?

Chris Lynch: We’re in the studio, working on the live set. We’ve just got booked to play Berghain so we’re a bit nervous. 

O wow. That’s big news. Is this due to Smeigedag and is the live show going to be largely based around the new album?

Chris:  Yes, it is. Andy Baumecker (Berghain resident and booker) really liked the promo that he got and he got in touch with us asking: “do you want to play the album plus other recent things that we made.” 

Vegard “lil” Wolf Dyvik: There might be some older things, but it’s mostly the newer stuff.

Chris: It’s a slightly different sound to our earlier albums. It’s a little more dance floor…

Vegard: Is it?

Chris: Yes it is, if you compare it to the Accretion album. It’s a little more club friendly. 

When you have something like Berghain coming up, do you take that context into consideration when preparing your live set or do you present the songs pretty much as they are from the album?

Vegard: I think we’re pretty true to our album. We don’t change our sound for clubs anywhere. 

Chris: It’s more about the sequencing or the tracks we choose to play. If we play an open air space, you can play the more trancy stuff, or if we play a basement it’s more bass-heavy. If we have 20 tracks in a live set, we’ll only play 6 or 8 of them. 

Vegard: The difference is we are preparing a lot of tracks and we have a system so we can just jump to any track we want. Which means, like a DJ, we don’t have to play our tracks in sequence. We won’t change the way the tracks sound.


And you are able to react to the audience as well, since you have twenty odd songs at your disposal?

Chris: Yes, and you can take the bassline of one track and put it into another song. Like if you were a DJ and you had like a hundred stems that you could just put in wherever. We’re not getting booked to play large stages, we’re still in the small clubs, so it makes sense to play something that fits in there. 

Vegard: Also when we used to take a guitarist/ bass player with us, it was more like a concert and people would just stand and look at us. We want people to have a fun experience dancing, presenting our own music. 

Chris: If there’s too much shit going on people are just standing, and you get a lot of guys scratching their beards. 

Ok, we should probably talk about the reason for this interview; Smeigedag. It’s the first record in a couple of years for you and it seems like there are some disparities with this record and the Loneliest man in Space, which to me was more electro-leaning while this one is more straight…

Chris: Yes it’s more House-y. We don’t really plan stuff, it just happens. 

Vegard: It’s kind of a corona-thing. A lot of the sketches were made during corona.

Chris: We just missed going out. We actually made another album between those two, which was made during covid. It was called the Soft Apocalypse, and it was more dark and ambient. It was a darker record and this one is a lighter record.

Vegard: We made most of it during summer. 

Chris: I remember the label said; “ah you really missed summer,” didn’t you? It really came around quickly, around July.

Of this year? That’s a quick turnover. 

Chris: Yes, I think it started out in May and we were done by the end of June. 

Vegard: We have a very close relationship with Connaisseur. We sent a couple of tracks to Alex (Fitsch) and said; “maybe this could work as an EP.” And he was like; “actually maybe this could work as an album.”

Chris: So we thought; “guess we have to make some more music.”

Vegard: Whenever we make an album, with the exception of Accretion, which took ages, it’s two or three weeks and then we have most of it down. 

Chris: That first album took absolute ages. We didn’t know what we were doing, it was years ago. We were maybe overthinking it. 

Vegard: And now we have hundreds of sketches. Whenever we start a track, we just go through the library.

What is your working process like?

Chris: We get together twice a week religiously. We meet up at 18:00 every Tuesday and Wednesday and work till 21:00-ish. It’s almost like going to soccer practice, but it’s a lot more fun. 

That’s disciplined. At what point do you realise a track is done and when do you recognise that they’ll work together on an album like Smeigedag?

Vegard: Well, we only release albums via Connaisseur. The label helps out with what goes on the album, to be honest. 

Chris: Basically, we have a private folder on soundcloud and stuff everything in there. We do the first selection and then we send it to the label. Connaisseur is more like an old-school label in the way they are involved in everything from the sequence of the tracks to the length of them. New labels don’t invest so much time in it. It suits us well. 

How many songs did you deliver for the label on this occasion?

Chris: This time we actually didn’t deliver enough. We actually had to make another one. 

Vegard: There were a couple of tracks they didn’t want. 

Chris: It started off as an EP with three or four tracks, and they asked to make it an album, and now it’s a mini-album. I still call it an album but the label calls it a mini-album. 

Did you guys have an idea in terms of sound when you were still working on it as an EP, or was it just that it coalesced around a sound because you happened to be working on all the tracks in the same kind of timeframe?

Chris: I think it’s mostly the timeframe. 

Vegard: When we planned it as an EP, we took three of the finished songs, because we thought they might fit together. It was more like we had some tracks that fit together and not that we went for a sound. 

Chris: It’s hard to go for a sound. 

Vegard: We don’t know what we want to do. 

Chris: Sometimes these tracks are in their sixth or seventh version and the starting point is something completely different. 

What ties it all together for you on this album? 

Chris: Euphoric warmth, with a classic Norwegian underlying melancholy which has a dark depressing edge in there.

Vegard: Some of the sketches in there were from when I lost my cat. 

Chris: We have another EP coming out on Bedrock (John Digweed’s label) and they are basically homages to Vegard’s cat. 

Were you influenced by any tangible thing at the time, except the fact that Vegard’s cat died?

Vegard: When I started the sketches I wanted everything to be melancholic and warm. For Christmas one year, I got digitised video tapes from when I was little. 

Chris: Me as well.

Vegard: So on the cover of the album, the two little kids, that’s me and Chris. 

Chris: All the canvas videos on Spotify, all that stuff is from our own home movies from the late 70’s early 80’s. 

Vegard: That kind of inspired me. 

Chris: The fuzziness and graininess of the video and the way the sun bleeds into the photograph.

Vegard: You know, when life was good. (laughs)

Chris: You know The Doors track, Summer is almost gone. Not specifically the track, but the feeling. 

What’s interesting is that when I first listened to the record I immediately had this sense of haziness that you talk about, like an old polaroid captured in sound. But I didn’t have the words to describe it until you just said it now. 

Chris: Yes, we actually managed to find it now while talking to you. It all hangs together, from the video to the press photos and the cover and the sound, it’s quite cohesive. We’ve managed to get hold of some thirty summer postcards from the 70’s and they are going to be in the limited edition vinyl album. 

Vegard:  A summer greeting from us. 

Have you guys known each other for that long?

Chris: We’ve only known  each other since the early 2000’s and we started making music together since 2006. I did a radio show at Radio Tellus back in the days, and Vegard was there playing some times. We were both DJs and knew each other through that. Oslo was quite small and the DJ scene was quite small back then. 

And then you played together at iconoclastic?

Chris: Yes I started playing with Deadswan and then Vegard joined us later, We were a trio for some years. So, we’ve been doing different projects together, but the Of Norway project has almost always been House-based music. 

Vegard: It’s always been quite emotional. 

I was listening to one of our early records, Karpathian Thirst in preparation for this interview, and that Of Norway mood is there from the start. Then again, do you feel your music has evolved?

Chris: Definitely. I can’t really say how, it  just has.

Vegard: I think, we’ve been doing this so long now, and we’ve been through so many different things, that we have so many reference points that we can put this together. 

Chris: Something that’s nice about getting older, is that you can step back and see the big picture. When you’re young and get into something like minimal Techno, then everything is about that and you can’t judge anything else, because you think everything else is shit. Like we like to say in Norway, you’ve got to get out of the duck pond. You get more oversight.

I remember iconoclastic happening around the same time you started Of Norway. It was at the end of the electroclash era, so there was still this melting pot of various genres and styles…

Chris: It was the end of electroclash and the beginning of the blog-house scene. It was very eclectic, so you took stuff from all over the musical map and popped it in there. 

Vegard: It was very energetic and rough.

Chris: And Punky in a way. 

Exactly and when I first heard of Norway it didn’t sound like the offspring of any of that, but something completely different again. 

Chris: That was just one of many things. At that time we both lived as DJs. I played indie music, and I played Drum n Bass at Kill your Ego and Sykemekanico. I also played old-school Hip Hop.

Vegard: I was more into US-House and Garage. 

Chris: I realise it’s quite confusing, because we’ve always had the same DJ names and you never know what you’re going to get. Musically we’ve been all over the place. I think reference-wise, we can be influenced by absolutely everything; even a sound in a Nick Cave record.

Do all these eclectic influences feed into this one project?

Vegard: We’ve grown a bit wiser now, so we’ve chosen some monikers. 

Chris: We do produce music under different names, so we have three names that we release music under. 

What are the other two? 

Chris: They’re both secrets. One of them has released a lot of music. Now it’s easier, if something sounds like Of Norway, we’ll just continue as Of Norway. We enjoy being secretive, because we’re men in our mid forties, and if people knew that they probably wouldn’t sign us. 

Tell me about your relationship with the label Connaisseur and how that started.

Chris: Vegard had the first contact with Connaisseur.

Vegard: It was a very long time ago. I don’t remember how we got in touch, maybe Myspace. I know why they signed us. It was because we were called Of Norway, and we looked like a black metal band. 

Chris: Our press photos were in black and white and high-contrast, and we had this hand drawn necro logo. It was completely different from what you hear musically and that caught their interest. 

Vegard: The tracks had titles  like Karpatian Thirst.

Chris: Yeah, they were all metal names. After that, we were included on the compilation, and we thought that’s it. Then they invited us to play a place called Bar 25 in Berlin, which was this hedonistic, legendary club in Berlin. After that the ball started rolling with Connaisseur and they signed more and more stuff. 

Vegard: They are also friends now. We even made a track for his (Alex) daughter. 

Chris: Song for Eva is dedicated to his daughter. All proceedings go to her educational fund.

I assume they were based in Offenbach back then. How did you hear about Connaisseur recording in the first place?

Vegard: I had some records from them.

Chris: They had a massive hit, years ago with Patrick Chardronnet called “Eve by Day.” Soundwise, we’ve never sounded like anything else on the label. 

Vegard: We’ve never sounded like anything on any of the labels we’re signed with.

Chris:  Everytime we get signed to a label, we think; “why the hell did you sign us?” (both laugh) We don’t fit in anywhere. 

Vegard: So therefore we fit in everywhere. 

That’s a testament to your music. It can reach a large audience. Do you feel that your music translates better outside Norway than in Norway?

Chris: There’s no reason for it, but I definitely think so. It’s definitely Germany and the US that are the biggest territories for us. We’ve had a few releases on an American label called Do not sit on the furniture.

Vegard: I think it’s because we’re not so actively part of the Norwegian scene as DJs anymore. 

Chris: It’s not been on purpose, it’s just happened. 

After this record and the gig in berghain, what else is on the horizon for Of Norway?

Chris: We’re releasing a record for Darkroom dubs. We’ve got some stuff on Bedrock. We have something on a label called Sum over histories (Frankey and Sandrino). Otherwise on the DJing and live side, we were unfortunate after corona, and lost our agent. We’re free agents so we’re not getting many gigs at the moment. 

Hopefully having Berghain on the CV will help, hopefully…

 

Words: Mischa Mathys

Oslo World lineup and tickets announced

Jaeger is back on the Oslo World programme for 2023 with an extensive lineup across four days as we help the Oslo institution celebrate 30 years.

30 years is a long time and we’re proud to be a part of that tradition for as long as we care to remember. The world descends on Oslo for a music festival celebrating the sonic bedrock from the four corners of the world every year and 2023 will be no different. From right here in Norway, to India, to Lebanon, to Ukraine, and via Berlin we cover the furthest reaches of global music for one week in the year as Oslo World arrives at Jaeger. From the esoteric to the exotic, in the universal language of electronic music, Jaeger celebrates the extensive sounds of the world over two dance floors with appearances from Nefertiti, Dara Woo, Gela, Nur Jabber, Soju Princess, Olga Korol, Sous Vide, Suchi, Det Gode Selskab and a host of Jaeger residents and friends. We kick off on the 1st of November.

Programme schedule:

01.11 Oslo World: Nefertiti + Dara Woo + Gela
02.11 – Helt Texas: Nur Jaber + Soju Princess
03.11 – Frædag x Sous Vide: Olga Korol +  Per Hammar + Thomas Skjaerstad
04.11 – Nightflight x Det Gode Selskab: Suchi  

Tickets are now available at ticketco with more tickets available on the door on the night. Watch this space for further information coming soon.

Obsessing with with Sommerfeldt

Marius Sommerfeldt is back. The other half of De Fantastike To is releasing records again under the eponymous Sommerfeldt with a couple of notable releases in the last year. While he’s remained a fixture in Oslo’s DJ booths throughout, most notably as a member of the UK-leaning Løkka FM collective, his output from the studio has been limited until 2022 “Colours” on Paper Recordings and reinforced by the most recent “Tell me What to do” via Vinny Villbass’ label, Badabing. 

“Tell me What to do” sees him working with Løkka FM colleague, Toshybot (legs 11) in a signature Norwegian House aesthetic bridging worlds between US House, UK Garage and Space Disco. Toshybot’s baritone rides ebullient synthesisers, bubbling in the lower regions crisscrossing the trellis-like percussive section. 

Last year’s “Colours “ saw him rely on the same formula with vocals supplied by Sigmund Floyd on this occasion. Textures evoked a dreamy soundscape through a dazzling haze of synthesisers that seemed to arrive on a milky cloud. 

There are obvious similarities between his and Mikkel Haraldstad’s 2010 breakout track “Neste Stopp Morra Di” in as much as it maintains that infectious “Norwegian House” formula, but it’s updated for a modern dance floor. Besides a change of name and a new palette of sounds, Sommerfeldt carries the same spirit in his music and finds the artist refining his sound in collaborating with other artists yet again. 

What is it about these collaborations that bring out the best in Sommerfeldt and what does this new era in music define for the Norwegian artist? We sent over some questions to Marius via email to find out more as he prepares for his upcoming visit to Jaeger for Olle Abstract’s LYD

Is it fair to say that you were on a musical hiatus as an artist for a while, and what were some of the determining factors for that break?

That is fair to say. And truth to be told, the break was all about finding my own sound as an artist. I’ve been working with people in groups most of my career, so I spent some time searching for inspiration and developing my own sound.

What is the current status of De Fantastike To?

It’s currently on hold, but we might go back in the studio again. We’ve been talking about it, but I guess that life just happened for both of us.

And what eventually brought you back to making new music as a solo artist?

The never-ending fascination of making music. I have so much music in my head that needs to come out! It’s kind of an obsession, really. Fine-tuning a kickdrum or adding some reverb on a synthline is meditative.

How do you feel your solo stuff differs from DFT’s work?

There is a slightly more jazzy aspect in DFT’s productions. A good combination of Rave-Enka and Sommerfeldt in there, I would say.

In between you were still DJing and it seemed most of your efforts were concerned with the Løkka FM project. How did you arrive in that collective and what was it about the UK sound specifically resonated with you?

We were just four people having a strong relationship towards british club-music. We met over a couple of beers and started talking about the lack of a proper UKG night in Oslo. Needles to say, we did something about it! I mean, UK did the American house-sound, but on steroids…

What’s not to like?

How has it informed your work beyond the DJ booth and in the studio?

I’m producing house, but with a pretty huge amount of swing in basically everything. I even did a upcoming remix for Center Of The Universe and Nikki Oniyome, which is pretty similar to garage 

One of the people that was involved there with you, Toshybot, also makes an appearance on your latest Badabing record. And this is not the first time you’ve both worked in the studio together. What planted the seed for this creative collaboration, and besides adding vocals to your tracks, how has he influenced your work?

We have been friends for a long time, and music-wise he introduced me to stuff I haven’t heard before. It’s just a joy to work with him, and our studio-sessions are so much fun!

On your 2022 record Colours, for Paper Recordings you also featured a couple of vocalists in the form of Sigmund Floyd and Nora. What is it about the vocal craft that draws you to singers in your music?

I love working with vocals! It’s even more complicated in terms of leaving room and space for a vocalist in a track. I mean, vocals can be at times horrible in a club-track, but when done correctly it just makes sense, right?

What do you look for in a vocalist?

Some edge, a roughness, soul, I mean the voice goes deeper than just singing the right notes! I usually leave some happy accidents in there from the sessions. Sigmund did a first take on our latest release, and he did miss slightly in a part towards the end, we were just.

Nah.. fuck it!

At what point does the vocalist enter into your creative process and how much input do you have in the writing process including the lyrics?

It differs, I usually do the sketch of an instrumental and send the rough demo. Then we do maybe a rec session or two while I finish the production, constantly sending the vocalist new versions for approval.

You worked with Sigmund Floyd (Palace of Pleasure) who is also in Legs 11 with Toshybot.  What is your relationship with that crowd and are there any plans to work more with the people behind those two groups?

Yeah. They are my friends. I love those guys! We used to share studio as well…

I’ve never played in a band before, so we might form Legs 12? A collab would be really cool!

They are very much in that indie electronic pop world, while your work very much lives in the House music circles. Where is the crossover between these two worlds for you?

I like independent music! Both genres usually work with synths, drum-machines combined with organic instruments. It feels playful and live.

What first got you interested in House music and how has it developed to this point?

My brother’s cd-collection and Olle Abstract on P3 as an early teenager. I mean House-music? It was out of this world right? Made by machines, computers and stuff, it was like a one-man band. Needles to say, I absolutely loved it!

Your sound on a record like Tell me What to at times flirts with that Norwegian nu-disco aesthetic. It’s very ethereal at times, with dubby rhythms and charming arpeggios floating through the record. What kind of influence has that Oslo scene played in your own development as an artist if any?

I guess I try to produce house, but I don’t like that way too formulaic stuff, so I just throw in a lot of my influences to make it interesting for myself and hopefully, the listener. I guess I’m a product of the DJ / Oslo scene in that way. We usually have to include different genres, tempos and styles,otherwise me, and the crowd get bored.

What do you consider the effects of people like Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas and Todd Terje on the artists that came after them, artists like yourself?

They paved the way for a quirky more leftfield Norwegian approach to club-music. DIY stuff, I mean it’s a hard country to break trough, producing underground electronica. They just did it by themselves. That still inspires me!

What have you taken from that scene that came before you into the music that you are making today, and how have you made it your own in your opinion?

It has always been a huge inspiration as the early generation paved the way for disco, house and techno in a country which is ultimately pretty remote. Prins Thomas was even the first person who signed us as the now defunct  Sommerstad (together with Mikkel Rev) That helped me alot in terms of my career and also the way I work with and hear music.

After a few singles/EPs over the last two years, what’s next for Marius Sommerfeldt and what is the ultimate goal for you when it comes to making music?

First of all, this is what I want to do. I had other jobs in my life, but music is my passion. I keep getting better, and I’m slowly taking my studio-setup to the live-stage. I’m testing the setup abroad in Lisboa this September.

I want to record an album, hopefully at my cabin this autumn with Sigmund Floyd.

I’m also releasing a new EP, a remix and some more tracks as Sommerbad (me and Boblebad) and also on Full Pupp as Cocktail Sport (with From Beyond and Boblebad) So to summarize it: make tracks, DJ, travel,  play live and generally have a good time doing it!





The Need for Music with Simon Field

We sat down with Simon Field during Øya week to talk about his debut LP, Need No Music and his journey to this moment. He celebrates the album release at Jaeger this Friday.

It’s taken Simon Field 10 years to produce his debut album. At 53 years of age, it might be assumed he left it pretty late, but stretching  behind this watershed moment, is a vast experience that covers a very large spectrum of  the music business. 

A song-writer, composer, producer and lyricist, Simon’s accolades span the length and breadth of the music industry and yet you’d be hard pressed to find his name anywhere. An artist working in the shadows, he’s penned and produced music for the majority of his life, and while you probably haven’t heard of him, it’s likely that you have heard his music before. He’s created music for film, written pop-songs, played at esteemed venues like Ministry of Sound, and worked with some of the best in our scene yet for the most part he’s feigned the recognition in favour of the creative endeavour.

10 years ago he made the leap to solo artist releasing his first House-infused records, mostly  via Perfect Havoc on Spotify, culminating in a lengthy discography that has garnered millions of streams and half a million monthly listeners. Tracks like “Shake the tree”  have made him a household name in regions as far afield as Mexico –  a tour on the horizon there – while remixes for the likes of Kelis and Nina Simone have bridged the divide between the accessible and functional in Simon’s music.

His music is supported by most house music veterans from David Guetta, Oliver Heldens, Mark Knight, Chris Lake, Claptone, Dombresky, Freejak, Benny Benassi, Majestic and many more.

His debut album, No Need Music, arrives filling the gaps more effectively between these two worlds. With a foot in two worlds, Simon Field is both an accomplished recording artist and a DJ, and in his  efforts to consolidate these two aspects of his artistic identity he has created an album that pushed his sound closer to the dance floor. Tracks, specifically “made for the club moment in mind,” and an ambient finale bear the fruits of this labour. 

We meet in the middle of Øya week with the dominant pulse of a kick drum playing staccato thuds in the background. The Bergen born, Oslo native has been indulging in the music in Tøyen park and beyond, but he’s perky and perched on the edge of his chair. Never taking himself too seriously, he interjects often with a stifling laugh and while he he stops short at name-dropping he is eager to broach any musical subject and very excited to talk about his new LP:

“They are all club tracks, besides one beautiful ambient” piece that concludes the LP.  “Last summer I did so many cool festival gigs, and I decided that I want to do new original material at every gig,” explains Simon for context. He set himself a goal: “alright I’m doing ten gigs, let’s do ten new songs.“ Each track was specifically created to suit a moment at each gig, with factors like previous DJ and moment in time taken into consideration and the result is a 12-track LP that covers a wide range of situations. 

 

Even the finale and the only beat-less indulgence on the record, Es Vedrá was a conscious effort to “reset the room” in the knowledge that the previous DJ would drop him off at the region of 136 beats per minute. The track’s dominating synth swells through the air while a “persian” vocal flutters sporadically in what Simon describes “as one of the best tracks I’ve ever written.” It’s the only introspective departure from an album that is firmly rooted in the predetermined foundations of House with little more than one breakdown per track diverging from the obstinate rhythms. Percussion and bass dominates, in unceasing movement with even the ever-present vocals moving through the tracks in stochastic “ahhs” and “oohs”. Listening to track like “Gack Gack” where there’s so much emphasis on the lower frequencies, I’m not surprised to find it is in fact in the bass where Simon’s musical roots took hold. 

Born in Bergen his musical education was passed down from an older sibling. “Growing up my brother listened to Earth Wind and Fire, so my first music was Funk and Soul, and that’s been with me forever.” Those sounds awoke an appreciation for the bass guitar and “the first thing I wanted to do when I picked up the bass was learn how to slap.” 

Learn to slap, he did, and it went much further than that, as Simon set his sights on that precursor for Funk and Soul, Jazz. When he moved to Scotland for school, he took evening courses at a Ronnie Scott tutorial programme while studying towards a degree in Science management. “I spent four years figuring out what I don’t want to do with my life, ” laughs Simon. “By the end of the study I was doing more gigs than being in school,” and an interest flourished whereby he “just leaned into every bit of literature and videos I could find.”

Returning home to Bergen he started playing in “several bands,” most of who modelled their sound on the likes of Donald Fagen. “We all wanted to be doing Steely Dan,” he remembers, playing “as many chords as possible” which would later prove to be an important aspect of his writing skills especially as he started producing House music. 

“I can actually put that into my music and it’s beautiful when working with singers,”  he insists. In House music’s pretty conservative constructions where there’s little room for the kind of thematic movement that is usually associated with the likes of Fagen, this adds a dimension to Simon Field’s music that sets him a little apart from the status quo and perhaps part of his international appeal. This harmonic intervention on the part of the artist helps humanise this stark machine music. It often also sits alongside Latin rhythms, a familiar trope in House music and something that is close to his heart, as the determining factor from which all Simon’s groove is distilled.

“Everything I do in music is played with that (latin) quantising,” expresses Simon. It’s been a feature of his music in all forms for as long as he played bass, and he feels that it’s “fundamental to every music genre” and the source to all music. “You get into this groove and your job is to get those asses to move.”

Getting those asses to move on his debut album, he calls on his extensive experience working on a myriad of music from Country to Hip-hop. It has taken him to places like LA, where he’s written and produced songs for prominent artists and producers that he is not able to mention by name. It was during these surreptitious musical activities that he would start developing a sound forged in electronic music. “While I was doing all that other stuff, I started programming to make the writing more clear for the people I played with.” He had a “huge love for synthesisers” from his band days in Bergen when he started switching out his bass guitar for synthesisers – “the band didn’t always like that” (laughs) – and “started collecting synthesisers and making music” based around those electronic instruments. 

“My publisher said you can send off stuff to films, so I started sending off portishead-like songs that I thought no-one wanted.” People did wanted them nonetheless. It wasn’t his first foray into music for tv. Back in his band days, his group Elle Melle contributed the title theme to TV2 Frokost TV, but this time his music would find an international audience through placements in series like Calfornication. “A lot of music for Californication which is a Funk-House kind of blend” and “that really kicked it off.” Funk being much of the predecessor to House “definitely” bridged a gap between Simon’s work as a bassist/composer and House music, but House had not been an unknown entity either.  It was “there all the time” but it had been a kind of “party music” until one point ten years ago, when things started to click in place for Simon. 

In a pitch for something that would most likely be assigned to another artist on disco:wax the label said: “we could release this as it is and you could be the artist”. That track was, “The music is you” and it “totally switched everything” for Simon who dropped everything else for a more singular pursuit. ”I just said ‘no’ to anything other than House music from that point.” 

A decade later with an extensive discography behind his back, Simon is confident he made the right decision. “I’ve done this project for ten years now and listening back to my first demos and first releases, that’s coming full circle now.” The essence of what he created in the beginning with a track like “The Music is you” is still there in “Need No Music” with Simon’s rhythmical foundations and his insistence for vocals remaining central to his work. 

On the album the vocals often favour a more abstract approach, but Simon’s presence of mind in his musical pursuits is still there. “I’ve been trying to get to this place all along,” he suggests. ”All these people putting money into your music, are saying you should do this or this” he dismisses today, blowing a raspberry as he says it and it’s paid off in his favour. His music has featured on the likes of BBC Radio 1; he’s remixed and been remixed by the likes of Todd Terry and Erick Morillo, and with  a DJ touring schedule that sees him play in the venues like Café Mambo in Ibiza he doesn’t need the validation either. 

He’s not playing as much as he was before covid – ”travelling in Europe every week at least” – but the gigs are still rolling in, and while he’s something of an unknown in Oslo, in London  his “music works really well,” especially since his home-label Perfect Havoc is located there. What started out as a hobby, just developed naturally for Simon and now he loves nothing more than to DJ. 

“Playing live has always been my favourite thing and DJing is just the same. I’m really living the music when I play.” His next DJ event will be at Jaeger to celebrate the release for the album and he’s asked Monojack, Blichteldt and old friends Tube & Berger for the occasion. “There are definitely many DJs that I have played with over the years that I would like to bring (to Jaeger), that’s why I’m so glad that Tube & Berger said yes.” 

It’s through club nights like these that Simon is looking to recontextualise his music for the next audience. “I feel like what I’ve done on Spotify, I should have made it more club from the start,” he considers for a moment before adding; “Then again, I love those songs, and they work on radio and they’ve taken me places.“ “Need no Music“ will move his audience closer to the heart of the dance floor, but as it remains destined for Spotify, he has no intention of disappointing his legion of fans; fans, including people like Erick Morillo and David Guetta and stretching as far afield as Mexico. 

 

Be A Man You Ant – 10 years of André Bratten

We go ten years back in time to the release of André Bratten’s debut album to look at the lasting legacy of Be A Man You Ant before he performs live in our basement this week

There was a time in Oslo where you couldn’t get away from André Bratten’s Trommer og Bass. It seemed to be spilling out of every DJ booth in in the city, the sheer force of the track decimating every track that had come before or after it in the same set. 

Its impact couldn’t be overstated. Even before it was released Jennifer Cardini, who had sent that track to be mastered for her Correspondant VA, quickly understood its power. “The sound was so powerful; the sound was so big,” according to Jennifer Cardini. “When we got Trommer og Bass, I wrote to him (André Bratten) and asked; ‘hey can we get a pre-mastered version, because the version you sent has a compressor and limiter on it.’ He wrote back to me saying no it hasn’t, ‘that’s the premaster actually.’” It says something about André Bratten’s mastery of the studio as an instrument, and the complete nature of his music, but that alone doesn’t count for the sheer appeal of the record. 

It was a Techno record with just enough of that Norwegian melodic nature to make it appeal to a broad audience, while finding its own lane in a scene that would soon be dominated by the draconian influence of Berlin. It could be played at a peak time House set, and be admired outside of the club context. It was a big room track with all the trappings of a dance floor hit that would reaffirm the name André Bratten in a new sphere of club music. He put the track out again on Math Ion Ilium after it appeared on the Correspondant VA in a move he thought would be “smart to do” and which offered the bridge into new sonic possibilities from his previous LP, and debut Be A Man You Ant.

Trommer og Bass took from that album’s more demanding Techno inclinations and expounded on it, but it was the striking debut that had enshrined the name André Bratten in the electronic music scene in Norway and beyond. Be A Man You Ant hit a nerve with Disco riding a tidal wave of popularity across the globe and the album quickly found its own sweet spot just ahead of the curve. 

André Bratten was not unknown by the time Be A Man You Ant saw the light of day. He had carved out a name for himself in Oslo as a member of the delphic Hubbubbaklubb with its quixotic melodies and its mechanical rhythms. As a founding member of the group, he was instrumental in the early success of Hubbubbaklubb, playing a significant role in their breakout hit Mopedbart. Most would have been content as a lynchpin in that group, but such is André Bratten’s personality, that he is always looking to explore new worlds and new sounds in music.

He had already established himself in a studio across the hall from Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas and as the younger upstart amongst these relatively older heads of the Norwegian Disco scene, Bratten set out on his debut LP, tongue firmly in cheek.

“(M)y first record sort of started over dinner with Prins Thomas.” recalls André in an interview with Deep House Amsterdam from 2015. “I was just being a little kid trying to prove myself, and we were talking about this whole space disco sound, and I was bragging like ‘Making a disco record is easy!’ so I made a disco record even though he was obviously much better at writing disco than I was.”

André Bratten might not have the same prowess as Prins Thomas, but he definitely made it his own. His mastery of the studio would prove to leave no stone unturned in his approach to music and Disco too would not be left unchallenged. “I am a technical geek,” Bratten once told Electronic Beats during an interview and this fascination with the technical aspects of music has cemented in an impressive arsenal of vintage synthesisers and machines which are often talked about in venerated and covetous tones. Using these old machines seemed to play in Bratten favour when he was recreating the sonic signatures of this retro-fitted music, emphasising their inherent character which in part laid the foundations for the original genre. 

Happy arpeggios flit through dramatic soundscapes that contain all the drama of a Disco anthem without sacrificing the danceable beat. The opening- and title track paints by numbers as syncopated beats echo through vintage effects while euphoric bass-lines dig towards the centre of the dance floor. In a happy dichotomy however, there’s very little tying the record to compatriots like Prins Thomas, Lindstrøm and Todd Terje, who had already planted a flag. Bratten’s sound was bolder, and more striking and when you get to a track like Aegis other elements start coming to the fore in a serious divergence from the national tropes. 

“Aegis was a more Techno-ish, more British, more border community kind of vibe,” André Bratten told us in an interview with this blog. With just a “twist of Techno”, he produced something that sat outside the Norwegian Disco trends, and yet couldn’t be completely extrapolated from it either.  “I had to think a little about politics, I couldn’t do a super weird Techno record first,” he said, but elements of what was to come in the following EP was already there. It’s true that most of Math Ilium Ion was created and produced before his debut LP, but like everything else, Bratten’s approach was nothing but a calculated response to what he was hearing around him and finding his own niche within that. 

He didn’t want to be compared to Lindstrøm, an easy task for the media, who sought nothing else to pigeonhole him with his studio neighbour.  “It’s hard not to becauseI share studio space and use analogue synthesisers and drum machines,” he told Electronic beats, but Bratten was intent on making his own mark, and used tracks like Aegis, and his singular approach to the studio to make an indelible mark. 

There’s something more stark and at times abrasive to Be A Man You Ant and even when dealing with uplifting melodies, it’s clouded in a perpetual darkness. “You can’t make music that is not personal, sure, but that’s my arena, and it’s not for anyone else,” he said when we talked about the mood he creates on tracks like Aegis and Trommer og Bass. Whether he’s being manipulative or aloof is unsure, but he’s less inclined to talk about these “feelings” behind the music. “I don’t want to be a dictator of what people feel. I find people that need to talk about the personal input in their music need to see a shrink.” Yet, even to an uninformed listener they are ever-palpable in his music. 

Later in the André Bratten catalogue records like Gode and Pax Americana would emphasis and enhance the emotional depths the music can flow to in pronounced soundscapes orchestrated around melancholy electronica, but for Be A Man You Ant, they are very much subverted for the overall estascism of the Disco beat. There’s a depth there that belies the happy-go-lucky nature of the Disco formula as chirping synthesisers clash with dissonant harmonic movements, infusing the music with a sense of drama that only somebody like Arthur Russell could achieve. 

It was a brief dalliance with the Disco genre, but its impact some ten years on is no less significant. While André Bratten would go on to make everything from wavy pop-electronica to warping bleep Techno, Be A Man You Ant would be left to its own devices in the artist’s catalogue, a hermetically sealed slice of perfection for its time and beyond.

Bratten moves on quickly in terms of music, and you’ll never find an artist repeating himself in the studio. At times this even makes it hard to pin-point the results with any kind of artistic identity, but each record, including Be A Man You Ant has tis time and place in his wide arching catalogue. When we spoke to him back in 2015, he said;  “I think the Norwegian scene is missing a proper Techno guy, so I’m trying to be that guy.” For a while he was that guy, playing blistering live sets and making uncompromising Techno on records Math Ilim Ion or skiddish broken Electro on records like Valve, but what he established on Be A Man You Ant remains intact. Ten years on it’s a modern classic and a record that still garners some fanfare whenever it comes on. 

From the Archives: DJ Food with Jennifer Cardini

We head back in time to 2016 when André Bratten and Jennifer Cardini last played together at Jaeger in this interview from the archives. The pair reunite at Jaeger this Frædag for a special 10 year celebration of Bratten’s record Be a Man you Ant.

Jennifer Cardini doesn’t require an introduction. She’s been an integral part of the underground electronic dance scene since the nineties. She’s paid her dues on the DJ circuit, lugging  record cases all over the world and if you ever needed proof of her prowess in the booth, it’s been documented in the past on labels like Kompakt. As a producer, she’s featured on the likes of Mobilee, and her own label Corresponadant, which itself is releasing a record a month today. Like I said, she doesn’t need an introduction, but she’s coming to Oslo, and after falling in love with the French DJs style last year during our “Into the Valley” pre-party, we’ve really been looking forward to inviting her back and couldn’t resist the temptation of calling her up to ask some questions about her DJing, her productions, the label, and André Bratten, but somehow we get sidetracked by food. It’s a Monday when I dial her up in her home in Cologne, and her buoyant French accent breaks through the receiver with, hello.

Hi Jennifer, how are you?

Like a Monday.

Were you playing over the weekend?

Yes, I was playing in Spain and if you don’t go to Madrid or Barcelona the situation for travelling in Spain can be such a nightmare as Iberia is not the most organised airline. You need to fly to Madrid and then you have to wait for hours to get on a little plane to fly to Gijon. But it was all worth it as the party was really nice.

It’s a shame about the travelling, because it’s such a lovely country.

Yes, totally! I went for a walk on the beach and it was beautiful but I have to say that I’m more an Italy girl than a Spain girl. Sorry (Laughs)

Do you go to Italy often?

Yes, Uh now you’ve got me on the subject of Spain vs. Italy. I actually don’t like Spanish food that much. I always find it’s really heavy, and you really need to know the good places, to find good food. For example when you go to Sonar, and you don’t know Barcelona, you’ll eat like shit the whole week. It’s all really greasy and In Italy you can eat almost anywhere and it’s way more delicate. But I’m half Italian so maybe that’s why, (Laughs)

We had this conversation with André Bratten, because we are really good friends. We made a list of best countries for food and Spain was not in my top ten.

I’d be interested to hear what André’s top ten was. 

Well he tried to squeeze Norway in there, but I was like ‘hello dude’. I mean you’re very cute and we love you, but this is really not going to work.

Japan and Israel came first and then Italy and France and also Cambodian and Vietnamese food. I just came back from Japan when we had this conversation and I had the best dinner of my life, I nearly cried. It’s one of the best sushi places in Tokyo, but it was like 200 Euro per person, and that’s where I nearly cried (Laughs)

And speaking of André, how did you get to know each other?

I just bought the ‘Be a Man you Ant‘ album, and I was totally flushed by it. More by the tracks that were more electronica and slow compared to the dance floor hits that were Aegis and Be a Man you Ant. I wrote to him and told him I really liked the album and that I was running a label called Correspondant. We have this annual compilation and it’s a mixture between, artists from the Correspondant family and crushes that I have in the year, and for that reason I got in touch with him and was hoping he’d have a track for us. The communication came direct. We started exchanging emails and I booked him. And then it was love at first sight.

Trommer and Bass was such a big hit too.

Yes, I still play it. It’s one f those tracks: you know it’s a hit, but without all those tricky things of a hit. A hit can only be played for a certain amount of time and then it gets washed out. Trommer og Bass took like six months before Dixon, Harvey or Seth Troxler played it, from the release. It totally grew on the dance floors. I remember I played at this festival and everybody was playing the track suddenly, and it was in June and the compilation came out in March.

Have you heard Gode yet?

Yes, it’s brilliant. Everything he does is brilliant.

He’s incredibly talented.

And not only in a creative way, but also in a nerdy production way. When we got Trommer og Bass, I wrote to him and asked; ‘hey can we get a premastered version, because the version you sent has a compressor and limiter on it.’ He wrote back to me saying no it hasn’t, ‘that’s the premaster actually.’ The sound was so powerful; the sound was so big. I sent it to the sound guy that masters at kompakt and he wrote me back directly saying; ‘what the hell, who’s that’.

You’ll be following André with a dj set on Friday. Do you ever adapt your set to accommodate a live show?

Not really. Sometimes I plan a little bit of what I’m gonna do, and when I’m there it depends on how many people are there. I know André plays this type of Polygon Window kind of thing at the end of his set at the moment. I don’t play as hard, so I’m probably gonna start with an intro to try and change the vibe. I prepare a lot at home and I always think about other possibilities. There is what I like to do, and then if the setting is not perfect for that I adapt a little bit.

Are you still predominantly a vinyl DJ?

No. I do buy a lot of vinyl and I do go to a record store once a week and I encode a lot of stuff. I’m 42 now and I’ve played since I was twenty. I did carry vinyl around enough for a lifetime. I know people are having this vinyl over digital fight, but I find it so stupid. As a label we produce vinyl and always will, the idea that the only thing remaining is a mp3 on a cheap hard drive is too sad. Laurent Garnier plays digital; Barnt plays digital; Job Jobse plays digital. It doesn’t mean that they are less talented than before. Still I think it’s important to dig, because it gives your selection character, but I don’t believe it’s important to carry 25kgs of vinyl every weekend.

I ask, because when you pack vinyl it also limits the direction a night like this can go I assume?

Yes, and many times my bag got lost. I remember days when I was in my hotel room burning CDs because my records never arrived. I had to download everything I had in my record case by memory. Burning CDs for 5 or 6 hours; that’s something you don’t want to go through.

Well that’s why technology advances in the first place, to make things easier for us, right?

Yes, and I had huge back problems and they’re all gone now. I would go to a set with one of those big metal record cases without wheels; you know the ones we had in the nineties. I was carrying two of those.

Didn’t you have the luxury of the guard carrying your cases for you? 

No. That goes with the position of woman in the electronic scene. (Laughs). I had to carry them alone. Sometimes it was really crazy, and I would pick them up from the belt, and go out to the lobby of the airport, and the promoter would greet me, but he would never offer to carry my cases. I would walk to the car, and would think; is there a moment he’s gonna offer to carry my cases? (Laughs)

I carried them for a while, so I’m really happy now when I can carry three USB sticks, a computer, and an external drive as a backup in case something happens.

While we were trying to set up this Interview, your manager mentioned that you were currently in the studio. What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m trying to finish remixes, but the problem is that the label is taking up a lot of space in the time that I have in the week. So it’s going really slowly. Right now I’m trying to finish a remix for some artists for the label. I won’t tell for whom, because if it doesn’t happen, it sounds a little bit stupid. (Laughs) I’m also just playing around to see if something happens that I eventually want to bring out. I always consider myself more of a DJ than a producer. I know I want to make music more than I did before. Before I was really focussed on the DJ part, but I don’t want to stress with that.

You mention that your work a lot with the label. Does it distract a lot from making music, when you have to check emails and that type of thing?

Yes, that’s why it’s so very difficult to make music. I have a very good label manager and we are getting on a better rhythm that would allow me to shut down all communication for two days. We produce one record a month, and that’s quite a rhythm, but we don’t live in the same city, so that always makes things difficult.

Are you still based in Cologne?

Yes, but we are leaving in July. To Berlin.

Is that for accessibility? 

Yes, because the label manager is there and the booking agency is based there. And I also have a lot of friends there. More than I do in Cologne. My wife and I just want to move. The social life is much more interesting there. When I was living in Paris, I was very involved in the queer scene and, without any disrespect; the queer scene in Cologne is terrible (laughs). So I’m also looking forward to taking a bigger part in the Berlin queer nightlife.

Getting back to being a label boss. How has it influenced your music and your sets? 

I think it made me a better DJ, because you learn to listen to the music differently. I can feel that in my selection. It’s getting more into a direction that’s weirder. I actually have a selection now called weirdo, because I can’t really classify it. It’s House, but it’s not House; it’s Techno, but it’s not Techno. That comes from the label. Most of the things in there are things from my label, or things from Discodromo records or things from Optimo, which are leftfield and Techno at the same time. This has really shaped by my work at the label.

Do look for something that could both work on the dance floor and work on playing a record at home, for instance?

Yes, some tracks can cover both, and I actually like those. You know, on a big sound system it will totally destroy the dance floor, but at home it’s not aggressing you. That’s the case with the Mr TC release of Optimo tracks. It has this indie mood to it, which is quite suitable for home, but the bass is quite massive so it’s also quite danceable.

Almost like André Bratten’s music. 

Yes, exactly.

It’s funny that you mention your taste in music, because recently I saw one journalist describe your sets as experimental Techno. Do you care to weigh in on that? 

The description of my sets in the last twenty years is quite weird. First of all, I got this big sticker on my back which was minimal or Tech House, because of releasing music on Mobilee and releasing music on Crosstown Rebels, and everybody forgot that as a DJ I’m more of a Clone girl. This sticker on my back followed me for many years. I play so many different things. I play Chicago house classics. I play left field stuff. I’m not such a big fan of trying to pencil what genre will fit. I can play slow stuff’ I like some Berghain stuff; and I also like MCDE. In a two or three hour set I like to jump from one to the other. It can really go from Techno to House, from House to the weirdo folder.

Can you give us an example and give us a little preview of your set at Jæger on Friday?

I got some remixes from Lena Willikens that she did for Golf Channel. The track is really making me crazy.

She was at Jæger last weekend actually.

Yes, I know. I really like her. We are starting a party together called nicotine, because we both like to smoke a lot….

I also finished a compilation that would be finished in June so I guess probably some Correspondant stuff like the new Man Power, and a new Vox Low. I also got a as promo a new Digitalis and there is a fantastic remix with Roman Flügel who is also one of my favourite producers and remixers, so that might also make it’s way to Jæger. Also Benedikt Frey who is producing outstanding stuff at the moment and a lot of stuff from Dark Entries probably.

Maybe we should not give too much away, and leave some surprises for the audience on Friday

I’m really looking forward to coming to Jæger and hanging out, and this is my last gig before I finally go on holiday, so I’m really going to enjoy it.

Excellent, we’ll try our best to get you into that holiday mood.

 

Feeling good with Fredfades

Fredfades is a prolific talent. An artist, a producer, a DJ, a facilitator and a label boss, he has his fingers in a host of pies, while maintaining a regular 9-5 throughout. A founding member of the Mutual Intentions franchise, his musical projects extend from producing records for the clan including Ivan Ave, solo records, a host of collaborative projects like those with Jawn Rice and Tøyen Holding.

In the past year alone he’s released a solo record, a collaborative record with Sraw, a Tøyen Holding record and oversaw a host of Mutual Intentions releases, all while DJing regularly in Norway and abroad. With the increasing popularity of Tøyen Holding, Fredfades has also become a household name in Norway, syphoning some of the group’s open-minded fans into the world of electronic music, and specifically House. 

Alongside his other efforts, Fredfades has positioned Mutual intentions in a unique position in Norway and beyond as a label, whose bread and butter is in Hip Hop, but whose musical exploits go into the farthest reaches of the dance floor and even Jazz. Alongside an increasing popularity for club music Fredfades star has risen with his classic-leaning House aesthetic finding the ears of new audiences everywhere. 

His latest record Caviar showcases his mastery of vintage synthesisers and drum machines alongside a knack for effervescent melodies and accessible arrangements. The album, like his previous records, straddles that elusive gap between the functional and the approachable, where they can exist both in the club space and a set of headphones. 

He’s just about to play Trevarefest in Lofoten when I call him up. “The weather up here can be pretty crazy, but this year it was alright, especially the first day which was amazing.“ he says. Trevarefest precedes his upcoming appearance at ØyaNatt for Jaeger on Wednesday in what is already a busy summer for the DJ. Between playing, making records and his efforts with Mutual Intentions he still has to maintain his day job and it’s at his computer I find him at this pursuit when we talk. 

*photos by Christopher Næss

What is your day job, is it still graphic design?

Kind of. I studied graphic design, but at the time there was nothing like UX. I changed jobs last year, and before that I worked for a company that does a lot of apps, for Norwegian and international companies. I’ve been doing that for 11 years. 

When you mentioned the work you do, some things kind of fell into place for me, because there’s quite a visual and physical component to the merch and extra’s you and Mutual Intentions produce; From the packaging on the vinyl to things like the silk head scarves. What’s in those kinds of things personally for you and how do you think it contributes to what you do musically? 

Yes I mean designer is my profession, and it’s kinda been all the way back since 2008 ish. But for the past twelve years I’ve been working non-stop with technology and user experience. I’m a very practical person, and that’s easy to see in my daily work as a designer/UX guy. I’m about solving problems, not designing in a way that creates problems, as some people choose to do.

 When it comes to our label and merch, I still don’t do much myself, we use Hans Jørgen Wærner (our in-house designer) and hire various external designers, and I do some very strict art direction and feedback with these designers/illustrators to get the most out of them and maintain the loud and clear way of design and communication that I do believe we (our label) tend to have as the only design principle/consistency across our projects. 

But to answer your questions properly: most people don’t have a record player but still like to support the artists they listen to. That’s why we spend a lot of time making nice products for all listeners, and not only record collectors and deejays.

I think I’ve asked you this before, but how do you find time for the music and everything around it, and manage to be so productive?

I just always make music on the weekends. I think it started out when I grew up. I lived in a very small apartment with my father and I was never comfortable making music when he was there, so I just did it when he was working on Saturdays and travelling.

What kind of music were you making when you still lived with your dad?

When I first got into it I started producing Hip Hop. I bought the SP303 – that was the first sampler – in 2005. Then I bought the MPC the year after and then in 2007, I got the SP1200, that’s when I really started making beats.  

I assume that you were still learning how to operate the machines back then, but if we return to the present, when you do work on music, are you working to get a song out each time you touch these machines or are you still exploring creatively?

How I started making beats was very primitive in terms of the process. It was always about over-dubbing. I would start out with some samples and then some drums, and overdub with some samples, and then overdub again with something else.

I never had a proper soundcard (used to capture the sounds on computer recording software). So I always arranged and mixed everything in the boxes, which meant that I had to make everything sound nice before I sampled it and then hit play on the MPC (sampler)

It’s not until recently – probably 2018 – that I had a proper soundcard with multiple inputs. So now I work very differently. It’s kind of a more jammy approach to making music. I make rough drafts, with like six layers of sound and then I just dump it into the computer and open stuff later on and if I like it when I hear it later on, then I get to the actual production. 

Then you must be working on songs all the time at the moment, and from the outsider perspective it seems you are in this very productive creative period. 

Actually, I feel like I’m producing less. I’m definitely doing more sketches. I do hundreds of demos, but I only set a few aside for working on properly. 

With all these projects you’re constantly working from Tøyen Holding, to your solo stuff and the collaborative projects like with Jawn Rice, do you know what you’re working on from the moment of inception or do you only consider that part when you’re opening up one of these “demos”?

I never have any plans for my music, I just make it. For example, when I saw I had a few solo songs finished, I decided to put them together in a mini album. If I would have six or seven songs with Jawn, maybe we will finish a record. With the Tøyen Holding stuff, there’s a goal to work towards, like an actual Rap album with 18 songs. 

I guess the process is very different from making a Rap record to making a Fredfades record?

Yeah, the Tøyen Holding stuff is completely sample based. It’s not about composing or producing, it’s about having the backdrop and rapping over it. 

Do you feel like you have to be in a particular state of mind for working on music in general and does it differ for different projects?

I only make music if I’m feeling good. I’m not the type of person that gets inspired by stress or emotions. I’m always positive when I’m in the studio, it feels fun to be there and I always have a good time. 

Out of all these projects, it seems that Tøyen Holding has hit a nerve. Why do you think it’s so popular at the moment, and do you think it spills over to your other projects?

Yeah, I think it helped my Caviar album a little bit. Previously, it’s been a bit hard to sell the House releases in Norway, but this one went extremely well. I think a big part of it is because people know me from the Tøyen Holding project. I also think that club music has become very commercial and it’s a very normal thing to say you are enjoying Techno music and House music, which it was not 5 years ago. 

Between all these elements that you experience working with Mutual Intentions, between Hip Hop, dance music and even Jazz, what do you think is the main draw these days?

Our label has always been hard to grow as a label, because we have too many hats on. For us to put out Hip Hop music in Norway is definitely easier than to put out electronic music. Rap is the world’s biggest genre, so it will always appeal to more people than electronic music.

As I said, I also feel that electronic music is more commercial. It splits the scene in two; the people like myself, who tend to believe that I understand the history of the music and on the other hand you have the people who do festivals and spotify playlists, who mixed what we would consider genuine with what we consider sell-out. In my opinion the festivals should be responsible for teaching people about proper music, but sometimes it’s just “babes” in black leather bikinis playing 150 BPM techno.

Yeah it seems like it’s become about aesthetics rather than musical content, because everything is so determined by social media, good looking people playing terrible music and it’s spilled over into the clubs, especially the big room kind of places.

How I see it is people just know how to sell themselves, jump on the wave, and use it to generate money, or attention or whatever they’re seeking, and it’s not about the music. 

Of course, it’s a subjective matter. I just feel that together with the whole genre becoming commercial, problems (if you want to call it that) will appear.  

Let’s talk about Caviar for a bit, because as you say it is a club record, but it’s also something that is more accessible than your average House record, because of the vocals and the nature of melodies.  Was that a conscious decision on your part?

Not really. I like to DJ a lot and  play club music, but whenever I make music myself, it tends to be more introverted and laid back, which is more natural for me. I’ve always used jazzy chords and I make mellow music and it affects the way I think. I’ve never seen myself creating bangers. Some of them will be 128 BPM but they would still be a bit more mellow. 

There’s the definitive bridge in your music between Hip Hop and House, which reminds me of the early 90s and late 80’s when these things were a bit more interchangeable. Are  you trying to bring these two worlds together in the way you approach your own music?

No, it was never my intention. I guess it’s just where I came from. The very first House songs I liked were sample based, just drums and some loops, but after a very short time, I figured out the songs I really liked were composed and produced. 

Can you give me an example?

I think it was when I first discovered Larry heard and realised he didn’t sample anything. That’s when I really got interested in electronic music. That was the first thing I loved.

Was there any overarching  musical theme to Caviar, or was it simply the period that they were made in?

It was made over a couple of years. The way I did this, I had this playlist with all these other songs, and I tried to divide them into two different projects, where I prioritised the best cuts and spread them over two records. So I have another finished ready, which sounds similar because it was all from the same time.

Why did you decide to put out two mini records instead of just one for Caviar?

I mean – it’s not two mini records, I just had so much music that it made sense to turn it into several projects. It’s already 8 tracks on that Caviar album, which is a lot for the format, if you know what I mean? Some friends even wanted me to release them as classic 12″s/EP’s with only four songs on each release. But I kind of like to give as much value as possible to the customers that buys my music, and a lot of the music I make is kinda introvert and not very clubby, so it’s natural for me to think that it will be consumed more in an “album listening context ” rather than having the songs ending up played by DJ’s in clubs. That’s why I felt that it made sense. I’ll probably do the same with eight more songs, then go from there over to a more “Maxi-EP-focused” approach. 

So, was there any creative impulse that fed into these two projects, something like a synthesiser or a sound?

I really enjoy this sound from Italy and the UK from the mid-nineties, where they just used the stock sounds of the synthesiser. So when I buy a synthesiser, I just factory reset it, and I don’t create too many patches or stuff. I think it’s fun to use the ready-made stuff. I really like the references to the classic patches. That’s why I like these Italo and British records from the nineties, because it all just refers to the machines. 

In terms of writing the music, how much do the machines dictate the direction your songs take, or do you have a preconceived idea that directs you to specific machines?

When I do hiphop stuff, I like to sequence the beats I make on the SP1200 inside the SP1200’s sequencer. But when I do use that sampler for House music, I prefer sequencing the sounds stored inside the SP from an external sequencer, which in my studio would be my Sequentix Cirklon or my MPC 3000. I always work very layer based, because that’s where I come from. It always made me approach music production in a very primitive way. Sometimes I copy my sequences around and reprogram and arrange it slightly on the hardware sequencers first, but when it’s time to actually produce and process and arrange the music, I usually disconnect my Mac from my studio setup and work with headphones in Ableton and might then go back and hook it back in the studio setup if I would need another layer or sound or something. I’ve been making beats on the MPC 2000, the 2000 XL and the 3000 since probably back in 2007. 

This record, like your others, also features a ton of collaborators. Was there any reason you wanted these people on this record, and what do you usually look for in collaborators?

I feel really confident composing the foundations of the songs, the grooves, the chord progressions and stuff, but I often struggle with, for example solos. So I use people like Arthur (Kay) on my records. Otherwise it’s just random people that have been in the studio, where we’ve been drinking beers and making music together.

What about the vocalists, because a lot of them are American?

Yeah, they are all American. One of them is MoRuf from Jersey, he’s one of my favourite rappers. It was the first time for him rapping on a House song. The other guy is just somebody I stumbled across on instagram. His name is Kristian Hamilton, and he’s an extremely talented musician. 

While we’re on the subject of collaborations, I really want to talk about the SP1200 record. It’s something the geek inside of me really enjoyed because of the process of making the record. What planted the seed initially?

Sraw has always been an Internet friend to me, since back in the Myspace days. He was always one of the producers I really enjoyed listening to. We had so much similar equipment and similar interests. At some point, around 2012 (when we started working on this record), I decided to fly him over and hang out for a few days and create some beats. I’ve visited him in Sweden and we’ve just been going back and forth a few times. Obviously it wasn’t enough and as you can’t change the music digitally, we had to actually ship the floppy. 

Was there ever a vague idea of what the tracks would sound like completed, or was it a matter of getting the floppy back and it would be completely changed?

It was more about a layered approach, so we wouldn’t fuck up each other’s stuff too much. 

It was that raw beat-type feel to it, that really emphasises the character of the machine.

Yeah, you really don’t need that many elements with that sampler, because  you get so much free texture. It automatically sounds nice.  

Do you think you’ll do it again?

It took  a very long time to do that record. I don’t think we’ll do it again. I’m happy to release Sraw’s music on Mutual. It’s extremely great. 

 

ØyaNatt 2023 lineup and tickets announced

International and local acts fill the week in August as Jaeger yet again hosts two floors during ØyaNatt tin 2023 again. Tickets and lineup are up now.

When the sun sinks on Tøyen park and the last of the live acts echo down the hill we give in to nocturnal habits and make a beeline for the city where ØyaNatt starts to simmer and dir with the sounds of club life. In the annual tradition, Jaeger hosts two floors across the week including the Wednesday in 2023. Telephones, Fredfades, Teebee, Dave Clarke, Anémi, Chloé Caillet, Paramida, Slindre and Ellka join our residnets and residencies for a week of club music where we pull out all the stops and things like budget and common sense go out the window.

This year BigUP hosts a floor from the basement with a night of Drum n Bass and Jungle featuring a local treasure and a world-class drum n bass icon Teebee. We’ve got the Baron of Techno, Dave Clarke on the other side of Helt Texas and this Frædag showcase some rising stars in Chloé Caillet and Paramida alongside Oslo club concept, Lokomotiv. In a turn this year, Sunkissed takeover the sauna for the closing party with Elkka and a live performance from Vinny Villbass.

Here’s the full lineup and schedule:

09.08 – ØyaNatt x Bigup

Fredfades (NO)
Telephones (NO)
Teebee (NO)
Drunkfunk + Fjell + Tech + Simon Peter (NO)

10.08 – ØyaNatt x Helt Texas!

Dave Clarke (UK)
Anémi (NO)
Normann + Ole HK (NO)
Manu Rochina (NO)

11.08 – ØyaNatt x Lokomotiv x Frædag

Chloé Caillet (FR)
Paramida (DE)
g-HA & Olanskii (NO)
Slindre

12.08 – ØyaNatt x Sunkissed x Nightflight

Elkka (UK)
g-HA & Olanskii (NO)
Vinny Villbass (NO)
Sunkissed allstars (NO)
MC Kaman & Kash (NO)

 


Tickets are now available via our ticketco page and you can find more info about the events on our program page.

 

Percolating at BCR with Perkules

In the BCR triad of creators we’ve spent a lot of time focussing on two, namely Anders Hajem and Henrik Villard. Always at hand with the next release, a mix or some kind of musical news, Anders and Henrik are responsible for the majority of BCR’s output, seemingly, but not actually, neglecting their third, Perkules aka Jens Wabo. 

While Jens has been the quieter member of the group, his presence is no less trivial. As a founding member he orchestrates much of the label, events and now mix franchise, even while as an artist he favours a more conservative output. Apart from a couple of singles in 2021, he’s remained content with his duties behind the decks, and when he does release something he offers a little outlier to the norm both at BCR and any concurrent dance floor trends. 

His latest, “Show me Right” is an infectious exercise in crossing the lines between saccharine bubblegum melodies and functional House grooves. With a percussive palette going off-script in the Roland X0X annals and with uplifting chords issuing from some distant nostalgia, there’s a lot to appreciate and much that entices.

It’s only his third release, all of which come via the BCR platform, and challenges any generic status quo in terms of sound if any did indeed exist. It arrived on BCR last month and with more slated for the near future including a remix from Justin Cudmore for Perkules, there is much percolating on the Perkules front, so we took at as a premise to finally interview the third member of BCR and complete the triptych. 

We caught up with Jens during a sunny day in June, the week after launching the return of their Summer Residency, Sundaze at Jaeger. Like Anders and Henrik, Jens is a reserved character, a stoic quiet kind of person that seems mature beyond his years. We have much to discuss, and to me he’s still very much a blank slate, a piece of the BCR puzzle that will finally complete our purview of the Oslo label and events series. 

Where do you fit into the BCR universe?

Anders and Henrik are super ambitious in their artistic pursuits. They  are constantly in the studio making three to five songs a week, and their music keeps getting better and better. But my output is not that consistent, so it’s hard for me to have that as my main thing.

Were you producing music before you met them? 

Yes, but not that much. Anders and I had grown from mainly Rock music into (House) music together. I was kinda dragging him in. I make music 20 minutes at a time in these bursts of inspiration. 

Did you start off with DJing or were you still playing in bands when you started discovering House music?

I guess both. Bands were way before. When Anders and I met, he had recently bought some DJ gear and then we started playing around with that together. 

What sort of stuff were you playing in the band?

Anders played guitar and I played drums.

And in terms of music, what did it sound like and what were you drawn to?

Where I’m from, in a town called Tonsberg, which only has 40 000 people, having to play in a band is all about compromises. It was bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Turbonegro, and scandi-wave bands like Hellacopters. 

What  got you into electronic music?

I feel like anybody that has an interest in music, has some cool uncle figure that just pushed music in their direction. I have two older brothers like that. Since I was  5 or 6 years old, every christmas and every birthday I would get really cool CDs, like Discovery from Daft Punk and Melody A.M by Røyksöpp. But I had to re-access it when I was a little bit older.  

I guess when you were learning to play drums and as a teeneager you really got into a one track mind where you avoid anything that is not related to Rock music or drumming and it takes a while to rediscover music that was always there in the background?

Probably. I think around the time Daft Punk’s Random Access Memory was released, which was a good bridge into House music.

That record celebrated 20 years this year. What was it about that album for you?

The way I assess that album is that they tried to make a synthesis of all the records they sampled in the past. It’s kind of like George Duke, early Michael Jackson, and Chic with Nile Rogers on the guitar. 

And that got you into electronic music in terms of DJing or producing? 

I’ve always been interested in how things work. So, when I found Daft Punk again, I was straight into Youtube to find some videos of how they sampled and everything. It probably all came at the same time, the sample stuff and listening to “alive” and some of their DJ sets, even though it was more machine based. 

From there you slipped in House and deep House. 

Yes, and more commercial stuff. 

What kind of stuff?

That was early Spotify days, around 2011, Probably whatever was cool back then. I have no clear picture, but it was mostly deep stuff and French-wave too.

In the structure of BCR, how do you differ from those guys in terms of the music you DJ?

They are hungry in a way that I don’t feel I can match. If you are going to get that good in something like music, you have to be monotone in a good way. They have that, and I’m all over the place. Henrik is good at keeping his sound, in terms of building his identity as an artist. For me that goes beyond music. I have some other things I would like to do. 

That brings me to your last release, “Show me Right,” because that’s almost like a bubblegum track and very different from the other stuff coming via BCR. Was that a conscious decision?

Yeah. I feel like we’re privileged by having our own (platform) that we can experiment in that way. That song has been ready for release for over a year. As we started playing at Jaeger a bit more we tried to incorporate a bit more proto-House and synthesised-bass disco. I got super-inspired and tried to make something like that. It was hard to nail the sound. We had originally been in touch with Storken to help us release it on other labels, but that fizzled out, and we released it ourselves.

Which helps with expanding the catalogue of the label again.

I feel that the releases should have a strong identity, that’s most important for us. 

Listening to your next release, Echelon which has more in common with nineties  big-room House music, it seems you’re easily swayed into new avenues in music.

Exactly. It’s hard for me to do stuff that I’m not 100%  into and that shifts all the time.

Justin Cudmore is on that record too as a remix artist. How did you meet?

We never met, actually. We are super fan boys mainly. That’s our first identity and our second identity is producers. So, we just reach out everywhere. We wrote to him and he actually lived in Oslo for some time. 

Why did you want him to remix that track specifically?

Anders and I, when we got super into more club music, Justin’s Twisted Love EP was a top ten EP of all time. 

What’s your process as you start making music, what instrument kicks it all off?

Drums mainly or I find one specific song that I love and I just have to figure it out. I feel like when you listen to as much House music as we have to, it tires easily. You wouldn’t eat the same pizza for days in a row, for example. 

Do you think knowing how to play drums has an effect on how you approach electronic music?

Probably. If I’ve read an interview with a producer and in the interview it comes out that they play drums, it often makes sense to me. The music is mostly rhythmical instead of melody-based for me. It’s more important where the notes are located than what note they are. 

Playing at Jaeger as much as you do, especially in summer for your Sundaze residency, do you believe it has had an impact on the way that you DJ?

Yes. We felt more confident to look broader; I think that is one of the advantages of Jaeger, the musical identity is broad. 

Do you ever feel the pressure in the current climate to pitch up your tracks in a scene that is going faster and harder all the time?

When we started in 2019, that’s when it really started to happen and we were also more into Techno and faster stuff at the time. Then we thought let’s see what goes on in the other direction; to look in the cheesy department and see what’s the least cool thing and rather play that if the songs are good rather than being in a coolness arm-wrestle with those guys. 

And it’s not like they are not drinking from the same fountain. It might be faster and harder, but there’s always a vocal line and a melody. 

I agree. It’s 2000’s pop stuff with an acapella over a fast rhythm track. 

Does Sundaze have any effect in the way you’ve approached your sets?

What we talked about after last summer was, playing 5 hours every Sunday over summer is the best way to get better. We’re just trying to explore more, take more risks and trying to take advantage of having a consistent 5 hours together. When you play once a month you have to go back some steps every time. We can just start wherever we ended last week. 

Dorm!tory – Where the Homies play

We speak to the creators of Dorm!tory to talk queer theory, music and a safe space to play ahead of their event this Wednesday.

…And when the lights go out… “that’s when the Homies play”. 

Dorm!tory arrives at Jaeger this Wednesday. A new concept from some of the people behind Evrysome, Dorm!tory expands on the queer philosophies of its predecessor in an event that redefines queer as  “something more related to the fluidity of gender” in the club context. Its creators, Pedro Leal, Eduardo Miranda, Johannes Strand, Daniel John and Terje Dybdahl represent every corner of the globe as “a gay group inside the queer group and a queer group inside humanity.” From the Philippines, to Mexico, to Brazil to… Mysen, the group are a multicultural mix that cover a couple of generations of club enthusiasts. 

For their first event they’ve invited kindred spirits Por Detroit’s Perfect Lovers. As their Mexican counterpart Por Detroit reflects some of the same queer ideologies Dorm!tory will set out to adopt and alongside Bears in Space, Dick Dennis, DJ Brødskive, globaldrama and O/E they’ve amassed a musical lineup that will soundtrack Dorm!tory’s conceptual designs.  

We met the creators behind the event on a rainy summer’s day in Jaeger’s bar where they spread themselves over a couple of chesterfield sofas. Besides Terje Dybdahl (Tod Louie / Dick Dennis), introductions are necessary before they dive into the creation of this new concept.

“In the queer discussion masculinity is a topic that is outside of the identities that are inclusive, because of how toxic masculinity has become through the years,” according to the creators and they hope that the event will be a “solution for the toxic masculinity that affects everything inside or outside the queer world.” They want men to take ownership of the topic of masculinity. Why “should we have the feminist do all the work” they ask as they seek to create an “event that can bring back masculinity and men as the focus group,” which they then hope will add to the discussion of “new perceptions of gender and patriarchy.”  

All of this happens in the abstract, and for Dorm!tory to succeed it needs to be a party. The name reflects “something sexier and kind of secret” to appeal to their audience which still include gay men in every hue of the rainbow spectrum to a point where it can include “straight men that enjoy other men’s company.” 

They want to “build an infrastructure where we can all thrive and dance with each other” even if you fall between the gaps of every identity group out there. The collective hopes Dorm!tory will be that space where the exclusivity of certain events and spaces would be negated. 

For the youngest generation that might have “lost something, especially with covid” in what was already an era fraught with minefields in social interaction this is more important than ever for the group. “Growing up with social media,” in the way that this generation has, there’s a “different way of approaching people.” There’s an inherent “scepticism” which has only hardened with the “social isolation” we encountered with covid. As a group they hope to create a space where it’s “ok to just have a chat with someone” without the judgement that is taken at a superficial value through something like Grindr.

“At the end of the day we are humans with different needs and the friendship and the connection is most important.” Dorm!tory seeks to have a truly democratic space where you can stand “shoulder to shoulder” with somebody different, and there’s no better place for that than the dance floor in their opinion. 

In that context the soundtrack plays an important role and as such they’ve decided the programming at this party will definitely be rooted in the 70’s and 80’s; “First and foremost disco and house from the eighties.” They’ll look to “gay icons” like  “Patrick Cowley and Sylvester” for inspiration, paying homage to the roots and early “history of house music and queer culture.” They’ve assembled a host of DJs to relay that message for the very first session with even somebody like long-time Dick Dennis favourite, O/E abandoning his stoic Techno uniform for some 80s hi-nrg disco. 

They’re especially “honoured, having Perfect Lovers and Victor Rodriguez” from the queer concepts “Por Detroit” and “Bears In Space” from Mexico City in L.A. The booking happened almost as a “calling from the universe somehow.” On top of that, the burgeoning Oslo queer- and ballroom phenomenon Globaldrama and the established DJ Brødskive start a very busy billing with the incorrigible Dick Dennis completing the lineup across two dance floors. 

In what they describe as a “celebration of the night,” at the apex of the witching hour they’ll go completely dark in the basement, simulating the situations of collective dormitories where the Homies play, when the light turns off. It’s an opportunity to “explore each other blindly and not be judged by appearances,” and even “break the rules” a little. 

With so much of the queer scene being infiltrated and co-opted by a straight majority, it’s important for Dorm!tory to retain some of that rule-breaking and non-conformist ideologies that permeated queer culture from the start. “Dorm!tory doesn’t assume the queer identity as an umbrella, but we take the demand of people who are escaping out of that umbrella.”

Swan song with Deadswan

We discuss safe zones, being provocative, Oslo’s queer scene, everything about satan and sex, and the legacy he leaves behind, as Deadswan bows out of the DJ booth.

Reidar Engesbak is the absolute anathema to every pearl clutching conservative out there. He is a queer artist that has re-appropriated every stigma middle-establishment could throw at him and co-opted it in a provocative creation that is part politics, part performance, and consumes every fibre of his being. It imbues his many different guises; Deadswan the DJ, Enegesbak the journalist, Reidar Deadswan, the eternal club kid, and when we go further back, Genitalia and Sadomaoistan too.  

For over thirty years, he’s been a pillar of non-conformity on Oslo’s queer scene (although he’s originally from Bergen) with some confluence between the extended LGBTQI+++ and DJ scene, pre-dating even some of Oslo’s most established selectors. His club nights Strictly Kinky and Iconoclastic, live on in infamy today, while his progressive politics continue to find an outlet through the written word as one of the leading voices of Norway’s LGBTQI++ magazine, Blikk. At the height of his notoriety, performances as part of Genitalia shocked and caused outrage as he and his peers paved the way for the next generation of queer people. 

At the heart of all these different projects that Deadswan’s created over the years is something that is “always sex positive and always very queer” and in terms of music this would be captured in “dirty samples and raunchy sex stuff” and include “everything that is about satan and sex.” 

Strictly Kinky would give queer people their first space in Oslo; Iconoclastic would brandish banners admonishing any form of facism; while Genitalia would rebuke any form of homophobia. In one of Genitalia’s most notorious exploits, they doused Eurovision star and “pray-the-gay-away” advocate Carola in beer during their performance at Rockefeller. The incident caused quite the furrore, leading Reider to write an op-ed piece explaining the group’s actions through Blikk, incidentally laying the foundation for a career in journalism through those very pages.

Today he’s one of the elder statesmen of the scene and he’s more likely to start a conversation than cover an unsuspecting audience in blood (more on that later). While by his own account he has “mellowed” with age, he remains politically active and continues to be a visceral voice and face on the leading edge of the queer scene. His provocations have tempered with sobriety and married life and in his husband – “who’s handled so many of my quirks” – he’s also found “a rock”. And with this new clarity in his life, he’s decided that there will no longer be any Deadswan to direct some of his energies in the future.

As of the 1st of July 2023 during a DJ appearance for Olle Abstract’s LYD, Deadswan will be laid to rest, the final swan song and a celebration of one of the most thought-provoking and exciting DJs to emerge from Oslo. Why is he choosing to bring it to an end now? I met up with Reidar over a reserved coffee to talk about this and the impressive career and legacy he leaves behind as he retires the moniker. 

Deadswan: Let’s get one thing straight. I’m hopeless when it comes to years and you know, remembering. So we have to wing it. 

Mischa: That’s fine because what I want to start off with was something recent; the fact that you’re stopping Djing. Why?

Deadswan: I don’t know. I’m at this place in my life where… Okay, this is what my therapist said: “You need to find out who you are without the DJ thing.” When I get invites, it’s always as Reidar Deadswan. I think I’ve felt kind of trapped in working this face on the gay scene. So I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do. 

Mischa: And what’s that?

Deadswan: Move out of the city. We have a house in the country. I really liked my own company. I’m not afraid to be alone. 

Mischa: Earlier, you talked about being provocative. Have you always been provocative; even as a kid growing up in Bergen?

Deadswan: When I was growing up at school they tried to bully me, but you can’t bully me because I always knew that I was different. Every week on Fridays for instance, we had this class hour where you could bring music and play it to the classroom. I always had to play last, because then the rest of the kids could leave. It was just me and the teacher playing new wave. They didn’t get me at all. The teacher got me. 

Mischa: Was music an important part of being provocative right from the beginning?

Deadswan: Yes, I remember when I discovered Soft Cell. That was an eye-opener for me.  That’s always been my group. 

Mischa: From the first album, the Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret? 

Deadswan: Yeah, that one and before that it was Adam and the Ants. I went on a school trip to Oslo and they had this shop in Grensen; where they sold t-shirts and bondage gear and stuff.  I came home with an Adam and the Ants t-shirt with bondage imagery, and my mother was like,” what?” I  wore that to school and my bedroom walls were full of Adam and the Ants and then Soft Cell.

Mischa:  Tainted Love would have been huge, though. That was in the charts. 

Deadswan: Oh, yes. It was a huge success. People write them off as they were one hit wonder but they had hits. I mean it was really memorabilia and non-stop erotic dancing –  which is picked to be the first ecstasy record – I never heard anything like it. 

Mischa: So when you are playing this kind of stuff to the kids in the school, even tracks we consider hits today, they still thought it was weird?

Deadswan: They didn’t understand anything. 

Mischa: Following these acts, were you just listening to the music or were you also trying to emulate them in terms of how they presented themselves, like what they were wearing?

Deadswan: Yes, I went to school with my homemade bondage trousers, based on Adam Ant. You know, obsessed!

Mischa: At what point do you think like;  okay, I’m playing all this music. Let me try and put it together as a DJ set.

Deadswan:That was when I moved to Oslo. Because when I moved to Oslo, I got involved with queer activism, and we had this group called the pink rebels. We were running around at night, spray painting walls and having demonstrations.

And then we started taking over London pub (Oslo). One of the guys who worked there, who was also in pink rebels, got the opportunity to use the back room. It was an empty space so we got to make our own club there, called Shame Club. That’s where I started DJing. 

That was during the whole Madchester wave. So, it’s Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and British dance music like S’ Express, but of course Georgio Moroder, Donna Summer, Sylvester. 

Mischa: Was there a big scene in Oslo for that kind of music back then?

Deadswan:  No, we were one of the first places to play Acid and British Dance, but I always mixed it up with stuff like Deutsche American Freundschaft, Nitzer Ebb and Front 242. 

Mischa: Was there a bit of a queer scene happening in Oslo at that time? 

Deadswan: No queer scene. It was just the gays. Even there, we were the weird ones, we were the queers and they were the gays.

So then we started Strictly Kinky. Trying to cater to the more alternative crowd, but without sexuality being the main issue. So, we knocked on So What’s (where jaeger is today) doors. 

They were really reluctant. Because we had already started this group called Genitalia, which was doing performances. So they were like, “we’re not sure if this fits here,” but we were regulars so they knew us. 

They gave us a Sunday during Christmas and we redecorated the whole club. We built a huge vagina that you had to walk through, which we could never do today because he was made of plastic. If there had been a fire we would all perish. (laughs). We covered the walls in anime japanese porn.We made a real fetish club and people who dressed up got in for free. There were strictly no photographs allowed and we had performances, like a guy in the corner polishing boots. 

Mischa: It sounds like a torture garden.

Deadswan: Yeah, it was absolutely based on torture garden and it was a success. So What started giving us more dates, not like proper Fridays or Saturdays because it was still too alternative. But eventually, they saw that we could pull the crowd, and then we got very big headed. 

So we thought; “Let’s take this back to Bergen.” We rented a big pink bus and called it, “The magical Oompa Lumpa tour.” We filled it with freaks and drugs and went over to Bergen, where my parents were sitting on a patio looking down with a glass of white wine watching the freak show unfurl. 

Mischa: At what point do you start doing the iconoclastic stuff?

Deadswan: When So What closed we moved Strictly Kinky over to Kraftwerk, with Chris Lynch. And then after a while Little Wolf came along, So then that’s when we started, Iconoclastic. And then we moved it to Kill Your Ego.

Mischa: Was it a continuation of Strictly Kinky?

Deadswan: No, it was separate, it became more about the DJ. 

Mischa: This would have been around the time, or even before the time of our Electroclash became popular?

Deadswan: Yes, it kind of co-emerged.

Mischa : There was something in the air where people got tired of House and Techno. Did you go through the same thing? 

Deadswan: I didn’t get tired of it. It was more about looking backwards and finding the more obscure electronic sounds and movies. Liquid Sky was a huge inspiration for being weird and alienated, you know.  It was kind of tongue in cheek, but electroclash was still really frowned upon.

Mischa: Is that the kind of DJ style you always liked and preferred? 

Deadswan: Yes, I didn’t beatmix at all.

Mischa: When did that start?  

Deadswan: It started at Kill Your Ego, when I started playing with Lynch and Little Wolf, because they are really turntablist. I hung out there after hours iust playing and mixing and recording every night.  I could never beat mix on vinyl though. I have a huge library of CDs, and I’m not sure what I’m gonna do with it after Deadswan. (laughs)

Mischa:  At the same time you were doing Iconoclastic in Oslo, we  also had parties all around the world, especially in London, doing similar things, like Erol Alkan’s Trash. Was something in the air at that time for you? 

Deadswan: Yeah, We travelled to Nag-Nag a lot. I got to know Johnny Slut and Fil OK. Which was amazing because they were doing the same thing as we were doing. But the thing that differed Nag-Nag in London to Iconoclastic was everyone was speeding their tits off in Oslo. We brought over Princess Julia and we brought over War Boy and they were just shocked by the amount of drugs in Oslo. There was a kind of punk energy in the clubbing here.

Mischa: That reminds me of what you talked about earlier Genitalia. There was a very punk element to the performances that somehow also found its way on national TV.  From what I saw in a Youtube clip it was something like Club Kids doing sesame street. How did that happen?

Deadswan: We got this call from NRK and they said you want to come on an audition and I was like, no, I don’t want to be on national television. But we got there and dressed up like we used to, and we said:  “If we’re going to do this, we have to do it our way.”  I mean, they’re really strict, but they bent the rules for us. We did it for a year or something every Thursday. 

Mischa: What was the theme?

Deadswan: The theme was trend. We got sex-exploitation movies that we reviewed on air. We showed clips and then we talked over them. Describing what we were seeing and stuff. It was really trashy. It was kind of a talk show. Tongue and cheek, absurd. 

We got these really weird fan letters from jail from a guy who watched us religiously. He had this business idea that he would go to Germany and dig up all Nazi skulls and make them into piss pots and go to Israel to sell them.

I put this letter on facebook many years later and somehow that post ended up with this guy. So he sent me a message and befriended me. (laughs)

Mischa: Did he end up creating his business?

Deadswan: No, he didn’t. He had some issues, but he came out on the right side.

Mischa: Genitalia was a performance group, first and foremost however, was there a musical component to it?

Deadswan: Well, we got a record contract, and the guy who ran the record company also wanted to be our manager, and we were like; “what? This is weird”.  We didn’t end up doing that. 

Mischa: But you did end up in a musical group, Sadomaoistan. 

Deadswan: Yeah. But that was just the performance part.

Mischa. And what did that entail? 

Deadswan: Things like cutting ourselves…  On one occasion, I got this cleaning bill from Rockefeller because of that. Genitalia were Siamese twins, so we had these corsets joining us. And then we just got out our razors and started cutting each other.

This was at an AIDS benefit. Because we thought, “What’s the most scary thing that queers can experience?” Yes, sperm and blood! Nobody got it. We had such fun, but backstage was just full of blood so we had to pay for that.

I have this great picture of me with all the cuts. And then the photographer was “just one more, just one more” and I fainted. 

Mischa: And what did the organisers say, they were not happy?  

Deadswan: No. It was the same when we went to euro pride in Copenhagen. We were booked on the main stage and pride had become such a corporate thing. So we thought “let’s do something provocative.” The vocalist ate a lot of chilli con carne. And at the end of the show, we attacked him and – I’m not sure what we put into his mouth – but when he had to vomit, he vomited a rainbow flag.

The organisers came and took our badges, and ordered us to leave and “don’t come back!” We were always kind of more queer than gay. And we wanted to challenge the whole idea of this gay community thing. Sometimes with intentions and sometimes just for fun.

Mischa: I think people like you probably paved the way for a lot of what’s happening now especially in terms of being queer and being a DJ, but at the same time that kind of thing would not fly these days.

Deadswan: Yeah. The thing is, now, it’s all about safe spaces, you know. Everyone has this list of things you’re not allowed to do and we never had that. If we had any trouble, we had to deal with it. And I’m kind of worried that people are lulling themselves into this safe zone thing. There is no such thing as a safe space. You have to maintain it.

I think everybody should be woke, I can’t see the problem with that. If you have these kinds of strict rules; no homophobia, no transphobia, no racism, no sexism, you have to consider how you deal with it if it occurs. That’s where you have to have the focus. 

Mischa: Although you were in Sadomaoistan, you never tried your hand at music?

Deadswan:  No, I had always been a fan. I tried to go into the studio, but sitting listening to the same sound bites over and over and tweaking just bores the shit out of me. I always think that the best music has been made or someone is sitting making it now so i’m gonna discover it eventually. 

Mischa: Do you feel like the music that you played had to be an expression of who you are?

Deadswan: Yeah. That’s why I always loved everything with dirty samples and raunchy sex stuff. 

Mischa: What are you playing these days?

Deadswan: Yeah, that’s a question. I don’t want to say Deep House but I mean, I like epic, K-hole, tunnel stuff. I really like (I can’t say this,) Nina Kravitz. I mean what the fuck happened to her? I don’t understand but I really like her. I think it’s really hard to pinpoint what I play. I go back and forth. 

Mischa: Is there any period that stands out for you in terms of Djing?

Deadswan: Iconoclastic. Because we mixed everything up from, a-ha to Plastic Bertrand to Leila K to Kraftwerk. I remember DMX Krew was booked at Kill Your Ego. He played upstairs, and we had Iconoclastic in the atrium. He was just standing there looking up at us, and he was just; “what the fuck is this?” He did not get it at all. I think he came when we played “I’ve been losing” you by a-ha.

Then I wasn’t limited to beat mixing. But once you start beat-mixing, it’s really hard to get out of that loop. I was much more free when I didn’t beat mix. And then it becomes kind of like, you don’t want to fuck it up. So, I think that’s the drawback. 

Mischa: That brings me back to why you’re not DJing anymore. Is that part of the reason?

Deadswan: I’m not into the party scene anymore. Everything goes in at 140 bpm now. 

Mischa: I thought 140 BPM would have suited you?

Deadswan: Well, it’s the same as getting into black metal, if you really dive into it, you find the piece in there. And I guess that’s the same with the Techno that’s being played now, but I’m not really invested.

Mischa: That’s interesting. Because I thought this would have been the perfect time for a character like Deadswan to exist.

Deadswan: Yeah. Well you know like bands they always do come back so you never know, I just want to go out without this. I want to focus on other stuff. 

 

Flux takes over the basement in July

We give the keys to the basement to Flux Collective for every Friday in July.

This is what the sound in the basement is made for; machine music with designs on the bottom end and a dance floor. For one month in July, we’ll explore the soundsystem’s limits with a residency from the Flux collective. The Flux collective take over the basement for a whole month as Naboklage, Skodde, Anémi, and Bjerregaard bring their Techno concept to Jaeger with a host of friends and international guests joining the collective at Jaeger. Featuring appearances from Rove Ranger, DJ Broke, foufou malade, Nattl4mpe, Alsén, Betong, Take Kataka, The Unborn Child, Minus Magnus, Olav Eggestøl and BUGRUPPE90. 

With a host of international guests and a fair few local friends, Flux make the basement their home in the first of a Frædag x Flux joint venture. Frædag keep it cosy in the Gården with g-HA presiding over the weekly residency with guest appearances by Vinny Villbass, Mental Overdrive and Hetty while Flux shake the foundations down in our subterranean liar.

You can find all the events on our programme page.

Musikkfest 2023 – guide to Jaeger’s stage

Musikkfest 2023 is upon us with Jaeger hosting a stage from our gården featuring a whole bunch of artists and DJs. Here’s our guide to Jaeger Oslo’s stage.

With so much going on during Musikkfest 2023 it is always hard seeing some of your favourite acts, and harder still seeing new acts that might become some of your favourite acts. So, we thought we’d make it a little easier on you with a guide to the artists we’ve got playing on our backyard stage in order of appearance. You can check out the full lineup here. 

True Cuckoo (13:00 – 14:00)

Synth-wizard, You Tuber and “happy electro” button twiddler, True Cuckoo makes his second appearance on Jaeger’s stage. With a big international following of 160k+ subscribers on YouTube, Cuckoo is famed for his synth bleep jams, his invaluable tutorials on complex synthesisers and groove boxes, and for his unusually recognisable, positive, bubbling electronic musical style, which has become a bit of a signature for this bearded synth ninja. With a successful LP in the bag from last year and a prowess for the stage, he’s adept skills extend beyond the internet too. Here is playing in the basement earlier this year:

Why Kai? (14:00 – 15:00)

Oslo-based Jazz ensemble, Why Kai has been a staple on our Musikkfest stage since as far back as we can remember. A live band with a hand on the pulse of a dance floor, elements of soul and funk imbue their meticulously honed orchestrations. Blending bold experimentalism with beatific melodies and chirpy rhythms, the quartet’s sound is uniquely Norwegian as technical ability and curiosity find accessible outlets. Their last album Deep Fishing is only a year old and well worth the dip. Why Kai? … Why Not?

Mutual Intentions (15:00 – 18:00)

Mutual Intentions are back in that sweet spot for Musikkfest at Jaeger and we’ve given them the run of the stage in what is becoming an annual tradition. The Oslo-music collective is a highlight in the city at the moment,  and  we can’t stop singing their praises. With live performances from Ivan Ave, Arthur Kay, Kristoffer Eikrem, DUMMY THICC and Sigmund Vestrheim interrupted by DJ sets from Stian Stu and the rest of the Mutual Intentions crew, Mutual Intentions have a busy programme this year.

Mutual Intentions’ star has been embedded in the firmament of Oslo’s music community and with a release schedule that simply won’t quit they have remained at the forefront of genres like Hip Hop and House, garnering an international audience in their efforts. Just this year they’ve released All season gear from Ivan Ave, the 3rd album from Tøyen Holding, and two albums featuring Fredfades. they are operating on another level, and the stage offers a rarefied glimpse of the extent of their musical reach. Here’s Ivan Ave doing his thing and here’s an interview with him from our archives.

LAFT (18:00 – 18:45)

LAFT are Håkon Vinnogg (Vinny Villbass) and Tomas Järmer (Motorpsycho). Combining their efforts they make House music with a penchant for the organic resonances from live spontaneity. Their bio reads: “Together they seek to explore functional dance floor communication built around unique improvisations. Their structural and compelling sound is carefully composed and expertly performed with real musicianship and thrilling rhythms at its core.” With Håkon’s established dance floor credentials and Tomas’ reputation for beating the shit out of a drum the pair have found a unique sound on their first record, New Objectivity. Have a listen:

Charlotte Bendiks & Nefertiti (18:45 – 19:45 & 22:00 – 23:00)

It wouldn’t be Jaeger without a DJ set or two and besides the Mutual Intentions’ interludes Charlotte Bendiks and Nefertiti will prime the dance floor during the first of two sets from the sauna. Charlotte Bendiks is back! The Tromsø native always conjures a vibe for the dance floor with her corporeal approach to dance music. Between Techno and House, and with a focus on the percussive rhythm, Charlotte Bendiks’ DJ sets are forged in the mystical impulsiveness of ritualism. She’s an established artist to boot with releases on the likes of cómeme and love OD.

Charlotte is not alone this time as she  joins forces with a DJ that has  been a feature in Jaeger’s booth fo late, Nefertiti. Building on those same rhythmical impulses as bendiks, Nefertiti takes them closer to home, indulging images of Africa as she combines euro-centric elements of House- and Techno music, with Afro-beat, GQOM and Amapiano. Together, Charlotte Bendiks and Nefertiti leave no course uncharted in dance music. Here’s Charlotte Bendiks doing her thing on Rinse FM:

Ost & Kjex (19:45 – 20:30)

Ost & Kjex (Petter Haavik & Tore Gjedrem) are a comic strip brought to life in 4D. Fuelled by a Dadaistic approach to music, art and life, they’ve drawn an international audience to their work with records on Crosstown Rebels, Solomun’s Diynamic and more recently Snick Snack Music. Snick Snack is the label Ost & Kjex, alongside Truls & Robin, have been dedicating all their time too. Featuring artists like Robert Owens to Øyvind Morken, the label is making waves here and across the seas, set in motion by Ost & Kjex LP, Songs from the end of the world. On stage however, Ost and Kjex continue to travel the world as a live act with stamps from Panorama Bar, Fabric, ADE, Sonar, Rex, and tons of other famous clubs and festivals smudged through their passports. Ost & Kjex bring an indelible energy to the stage as they channel the sounds of their vast discography into jubilant live shows. Here they are performing for Oslo Clubcast. 

Third Attempt (20:30 – 21:15)

As we’ve said in the past, the third time’s the charm for this young artist. Whether DJing or more likely, playing live, Third Attempt is now an established artist in his own right. His last record found it’s way out via the internationally acclaimed and scando-favourite label, Paper Recordings as they started highlighting the next generation of artists following in the footsteps of the likes of  Bjørn Torske and Rune Lindbæk. With affiliations to Tromsø and making his own mark in the landscape Third Attempt is a descendent of that legacy and one of the torch bearers for new electronic music in Norway. His productions utilise those live performative elements of Jazz, Soul and Funk and re-establish them in a progressive, House aesthetic.

 Karolinski (21:15 -22:00)

Karolinski is a force like no other. The artist and DJ approaches everything with a kind of unbridled enthusiasm that charges the air and touches eveybody and everything in its wake. Whether she’s DJing, playing saxophone, making remixes, producing, and most of all playing live, she arrives with a palpable energy. Last time she played live at Jaeger she literally rattled the very foundations with her bass-heavy set from the basement. Between Dub, Techno, Drum n Bass and House music, Karolinski’s touch knows no bounds. This will be her first live set at Jaeger in some time, so who knows where her musical inclinations will take us. Best to just strap in and enjoy the ride. Here are some possible clues from her recent discography.

 O. Blom (23:00 – 00:00)

O. Blom (previously Ra-Shidi) is back in the fray in Oslo and like her compatriot Charlotte Bendiks she has a proclivity for percussion. She’s starting to become a fixture again in the city after a brief stint in Bergen and while tempos have eked out to unattainable heights everywhere else, O. Blom has remained steady in her pursuits in finding that balance between the dance floor and musical enlightenment. Here she is in a cathartic mood for the most recent Jaeger mix.

g-HA & Olanskii (00:00 – 03:00)

Sunkissed residents and Frædag mainstays g-HA & Olanskii conclude proceedings for this Musikkfest. The DJ duo assume the position in our Sauna as we go from festival to club night. As two of the pillars of our little establishment, none know Jaeger’s dance floor better than these two veterans of Oslo’s clubbing scene. From Foot Food, established back in the days of Skansen by g-HA to every Friday at Jaeger, their combined efforts have laid the foundation for much of the city’s clubbing scene. g-HA & Olanskii are an event, a club, a DJ duo, and a musical authority for Norway.

Masterclass with Louie Vega

From his earliest days as a young DJ and enthusiast around the likes of Paradise Garage to his award winning work as one half of Masters at Work, Louie Vega is a House music institution today. We sat down with the DJ and artists between soundcheck and a set at Jaeger to talk about legendary sound systems, DJing as a 15 year old, MAW and the next  step in the Vega dynasty.

Louie Vega has played on some legendary sound systems throughout his career, especially when he was starting out. He was there during the dawn of the club sound system in New York, when people like Richard Long and Alex Rosner were designing some of the best sound systems for the likes of the Loft, Paradise Garage and Zanzibar. These places and systems would become the archetype for everything that we know today and inform much of what Ola and Jaeger’s been creating down in the basement over the years. 

Louie Vega is as much a disciple of these sonic prophets as he is the continuation for their work and legacy. He was there at the source and is one of the direct descendants of audiophiles like Rosner and Long and the DJs that made those sound systems great like Larry Levan and David Mancuso.

It takes a while for that to sink in as Louie darts between each speaker enclave in Jaeger’s subterranean sonic liar; his enthusiasm for a sound system has not tempered in the slightest. 

“That was a special time,” intones the New York DJ  through a smile, when I ask about those early days in New York. “Those were the pioneers and the ones who laid down the blueprint.” New York at that time was a mecca for sound system culture, and from the impromptu street battles (which Louie knew all too well) to the legendary clubs that were born during that time, we still hold in much esteem as the catalyst of our culture today. It was like the city “had 25 Ministry of Sounds,” according to Louie and it’s this legacy that still informs everything he represents today. 

“I’ve been around great sounding sound systems as a kid already,” elaborates Louie. He was “not even playing the clubs yet,” when he started “going to the clubs and listening to the DJs and absorbing” everything. He might have been half a generation too late for places like the Loft, but as soon as he could, he started going out to the likes of Paradise Garage with his older siblings. Louie recalls his first acquaintance with Paradise. “I was 15 when I got into the Garage because of my sisters. I went to a members-only night. That was the first time I saw Larry (Levan). I’ll never forget hearing all these great records like ‘street player;’ all these records that we love now, we heard them there early.”

At 15, Louie was already a veteran DJ, having started from the impossible age of 12. By his late teens he would be established. Hosting block parties around the Bronx from a young age –  ”I had a big soundsystem too; six stacks” – Louie started amassing followers in their thousands and by the time he got his first  shot at an established club, he “brought all the young kids’” with him. That led to his first residency at New York’s Devil Nest, and every Friday and Saturday night he would have the place packed. “I had 2500 – 3000 kids in the club at that time, I was only 19.”  Alongside the other established DJs of the time like David Morales and Tony Humphries, Louie was “the kid” and the honorific “little” stuck because of his relative age. 

Over the years Louie dropped the “Little” misnomer as he became one of the elder statesmen of House music and DJing during the late 1990s. As a solo artist and one half of Masters at Work with Kenny Dope, Louie Vega is a household name today within House music echelons and beyond. 

“How are the ears,” I wonder after all these years listening to these punishing sound systems. He says he’s been “lucky” that they’ve been holding up all these years, without much extra thought to protection – although he has an appointment to be fitted with earplugs soon. 

Louie’s unalienable American ability to engage and his ebullient character makes conversing a pleasure; a humility that’s down to earth. Throughout his career he’s become a monolith in House music circles, a true legend that stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan and one of the pivotal figures in bringing House music to the masses. “That’s what they say,” he says in a coy smile that suggests he doesn’t agree, but with 8 grammy nominations and one on his pedestal, Louie Vega has the accolades to validate that claim. 

He continues to be a giant in our scene today, with a legacy that spans generations and continues to hit a nerve even if it’s out of the influence of popularity. Judging from his social media he is always playing or on his way to playing somewhere and yet he still finds the time to release a record… or four. 

His latest, Expansions in the NYC is a quartet of records that celebrate his hometown and offers a birds-eye view of the sonic quality of the party-series that Louie operates under the same name. Elements of House, Funk, R&B, Afro, gospel and those omnipresent Latin influences converge on the extended LP with the help of some heavy collaborators. Moodymann, Kerri Chandler, Joe Clausell, Honey Dijon and many more assist in Louie’s love letter to New York city. It’s a family affair with the presence of his wife Anané and son Nico, really reinforcing the connections across twenty two classic House tracks and on Cosmic Witch things get eerily serendipitous as a song originally composed by Dwight Brewster.

“The crazy thing” says Louie “is Dwight Brewster, he wrote that song – and he was in my uncle’s band on the first album.“ That uncle is Héctor Lavoe of course; the latin crooner who worked with the likes of Willie Cólon and Fania All Stars in congress with a successful solo recording career. Between his uncle and his father, an accomplished musician in his own right, Louie found a firm foundation from which to build his own musical dialect. His formative years in music had cemented something early on for Louie. “When it’s around you,” he says of the music, “it instils itself in your brain and in your ears and you start developing.” 

It seems this has gone full circle in the Vega family, with Louie’s son now showing the same kind of potential for music as a younger Louie did. As the son of an accomplished DJ, Nico Vega used to follow his father and mother around the globe as a kid, joining them for the likes of their various Ibiza residencies and Miami winter conferences, where daytime events allowed the younger Vega to be around them as they worked. “It’s always been in his blood and in his mind,” suggests Louie, but it seems he’d been pretty reserved about exploiting the family business.

Although he played piano and guitar, he never showed much interest in his father’s home studio, ironically called Daddy’s Workshop. It was “not until I invited him,” that Louie says he saw some potential in his progeny. After hearing him play and programme keys in the studio, Louie gave his son an Ableton studio setup from which he could explore this latent talent further. Louie “started hearing bass-lines and beats, and I was like what is going on, this sounds like records I would play.” It ended in Nico Vega actually mixing down a track on Expansions in the NYC. “It’s amazing… He learnt it on its own,” beams Louie like any proud father would. 

Later that evening Jaeger’s basement is filling and people are starting to press closer to the front. The air seems suddenly charged with something. Towards the back, where there’s more space, a crew of younger dancers, have been breaking out some fancy footwork the entire night, but even they seem to turn their attention to the DJ booth as people cheer on the guest of honour. Louie, wearing what has become his signature wide-brimmed hat, cuts in the first track and sets off. 

The crowd is a heady mixture of young and old, touching on most of Oslo’s cultural sectors, much like Louie’s music touches on those eclectic sounds of New York’s diaspora. I remember Louie’s last appearance at Jaeger and it’s a very similar crowd and I brought it up with him during our conversation earlier. “When you go to my parties it’s a mix,” he says happily and he’s become aware of the generational spectrum that occupies his dance floors. “That’s the way it is now,” he agrees. “I get the parents and the kids, which is beautiful.” Some of the parties he plays in New York, still bring out those original faces that followed him from the Bronx into the city all those years ago. “They kept on following me wherever I would go,” he claims. “Even to this day, some people that come to see me play in the clubs, they were there 40 years ago, it’s crazy.“

The main difference between then and now however is that Louie has a lifelong career as a DJ and producer and when it comes to House music records, the name Louie Vega and Masters at Work has become synonymous with the genre and he maintains that position by staying relevant, with an incredible enthusiasm that just won’t seem to wane. Does he ever feel he needs to stay contemporary though?

“I’m doing my own thing, and the goal is to create your own lane,” comes his reply. He has dominated that lane for his entire career, and his sound has become so intertwined in the sound of House music it’s often difficult to extricate the name Louie Vega with House music. As a recording artist, he’s “dedicated 35 years” of his life to the genre and from the first record he did in 1988 to his latest that dedication has been determined and consistent. 

It all started innocently enough for Louie. He was still cutting his teeth in New York’s club scene, playing his records to the dedicated few he brought with him from the Bronx, when record labels started noticing his skill. It was still a time when label heads and A&R guys would be visiting clubs to hear what works and what’s hot. “They always wanted to know who’s new and who’s happening,” and Louie ticked all those boxes for Joey Gardiner, the A&R man for the legendary label Tommy Boy records.

“There’s this record that I picked from Minneapolis, called Running by Information Society,” recalls Louie about their first meeting. Running “became the biggest record of that club and when we got the band to perform there was a line around the corner.” Joey Gardiner sought to licence the record for Tommy Boy and with Louie’s predilection for the dance floor in mind, enlisted the DJ for remix duties on the record. “I never remixed a record,” thought Louie at the time, “what am I gonna do? Gardiner said; Louie… just come into the studio and tell me what you hear.” Suddenly all these elements that Louie hadn’t heard on the original jumped out at him from the mixing console. “I heard all this movement,” remembers Louie gesturing in the air.

“Next thing you know, that record became huge and from there things started growing. I did another one for them, ‘What’s on your mind,’ and that was a pop hit.” It was Louie’s first foray in touching the charts with a House track but wouldn’t be the last. 

“I was doing pop music,” insists Louie, “but trying to give it a little dance thing.” Working from little more than a drum machine a keyboard, pop artists like Debbie Gibson started enlisting Louie for remix duties, and when Marc Anthony eventually called for Ride on the Rhythm, the success and cross-over appeal of that record, would lunch Louie Vega into the upper tier of recording artists and make him a household name across the globe.

Everything coalesced with Ride on the Rhythm including Masters at Work. It was right around that time that he first met Masters at Work partner, Kenny Dope. Louie tells the story:  “I was in the studio  for six months, I wanted him to make beats for some of the records and he ended up working on a lot of it. From there I was like we got this thing that feels good, let’s make a record from scratch and we did that Ride record on the B-side of Ride on the Rhythm. And I was like; there’s something here, it’s a different feeling- this happens when we’re together.” 

From there on Louie Vega only existed in the context of Masters at Work. They would continue remixing pop artists like Debbie Gibson and Marc Anthony, but these remixes would take on a different form, stripping back the originals to their essential parts and reconstructing them in what would become a uniquely Masters at Work sound. Louie and Kenny would “use the B-side of records and put Masters at Work dubs” on the other side which used little more than a hook.  

“Imagine hearing Britney Spears today,” explains Louie searching for the analogy, “and  there’s a dub in there that’s underground. That’s what we were doing. And then everybody wanted a Masters at Work mix.” And everybody is hardly an exaggeration. In the 1000’s of remix credits MAW enjoy, names like Michael Jackson and Diana Ross make regular appearances, and  with names like Bjørk and Ce Ce Pensiton dotted throughout, there was nothing that Louie and Kenny’s midas touch didn’t reach. 

It cemented the Masters at Work sound and also put those records in the hands of an ever changing audience. Coming across a MAW record today in a used shelf, it still elicits a special feeling, like you’re holding something of innate quality and extraordinary power. It’s the result of “working 14 hours a day for ten years,” according to Louie. “That’s why it had such an impact – it was a big body of work and it was consistent.” And there is still more to come from it. Recently Louie and Kenny have been unearthing a treasure trove of forgotten sessions from that time in a new series called MAW Lost Tapes.

“MAW lost tapes are all those old tapes from those ten years,” explains Louie. “We took them out of storage and as we looked through them we found new music we didn’t hear before.” Pieces of records that landed on the “don’t use” piles all those years ago are now being recontextualised in a series that’s 3 releases deep so far and has much more to give. 

It’s just another project in a never-ending stream of projects for Louie Vega. His work ethic is incorrigible and yet when you talk to him there’s effortless ease to the persona, like he’s just stepped off a beach somewhere. Making time for our conversation between a soundcheck and a dinner reservation, while trying to arrange a lost bag from the airline, Louie doesn’t wear even the slightest sign of stress on his entire demeanour. It’s something that he carries with him to the booth as well and its effect is infectious. There’s an enjoyment there that has diminished little and it encapsulates everything, from making records to playing records, and hearing a new sound system for the first time.

It’s hard to let him go, I could ask a million questions. We barely skate over his time during New York clubbing’s heyday, the creation of MAW and what it was like to win a Grammy. He talks in reverent tones about wife Anané’s music, label and their DJ collaboration for The Ritual – “That came by mistake” – and in the laundry list of names he praises, people like Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles make regular appearances. There’s a humility there that seems unusual in the context of his own contributions to this music.

Listening to Louie later that evening in the basement, that affable nature permeates through the music, and its effect on the dance floor is visible. People crowd the booth, and at the end of the night, everybody is eager to get a picture with Louie Vega. He respects every request, a smile never leaving his face, and then he is off to his next appointment. 

Words by Misha Mathys

Get that funk out of the trunk: 20 years of Trunkfunk with DJ Nibc

This article was originally scheduled to appear in 2020, but due to the pandemic and closed borders we had the postpone NIBC’s visit and the related content. With an appearance scheduled for the 16th of May at Loving Tuesdays, it made sense to finally release the article. Although Trunkfunk is now almost 23 the questions remain relevant. 

Between the end of the nineties, and the first few years of our new millenium, when Y2K fears were quelled and Hip Hop’s success finally caught up to the hyperbole their lyrics conveyed, a small independent dance music label with big room aspirations was born in Gothenburg Sweden. 

Gestating within a healthy electronic club music community that went beyond Gothenborg and even Sweden, a label called Trunkfunk came to be as the brainchild of Fredrik Nyberg, better known as DJ Nibc. It was the product of the newfound enthusiasm for electronic music that came in the late nineties, and an environment conducive of experimentation across genres.

The label took shape around a group of live electronic artists spearheaded by Nyberg, and what was initially meant as an simple outlet for the music he and fellow producers were beginning to make, simply blasted out of the gate with a split release by two Swedish powerhouses in the House and Techno scene. Chuck Cogan and Gunnar Underground launched the label with a bang on the collaborative effort “Summer Breeze,” which moved in the same circles of Filter House trends established by the likes of Daft Punk and Armand van Helden at the same time.

It brought immediate attention to the label, and just like that the label went into hiatus…. Oddly it would take another five years for Trunkfunk to return, but as it did, the artists behind the label and specifically DJ Nibc, began to define the label’s sound as something that was built on the DIY foundations of House, Techno and Electro, with a focus on the funkier elements of those genres.

Since Trunkfunk started, a “feature of the label” has been its “three distinct phases” Nyberg tells me over a telephone call from Gothenburg. While Trunkfunk has gone from flirting with commercial success in Sweden to pulling the label and its sound closer to the underground in Berlin (where Nyberg lived for some time), there’s been succinct evolutions through the label’s history. It has, for the most part,  revolved around the artist, DJ, producer and club night promoter at the core of the label, DJ Nibc and as Trunkfunk moves into its 20th year, another new phase for the label is imminent again.  

With a 20th anniversary compilation primed, featuring the likes of Skatebård, Voiski, Art Alfie and many more for the end of 2020, and the Trunkfunk events  going forward after Nyberg has relocated to Gothenburg, the Trunkfunk name will continue to be a dominant presence. With a pre-emptive celebration looming at Jaeger this weekend for label affiliate Vinny Villbass’ Badabing, I phoned up Fredrik Nyberg for a quick trip down memory lane ahead of the event. 

20 years, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Yeah, it’s crazy how time flies, it doesn’t feel like twenty years. 

It feels like only yesterday when I heard your track “Without a Trace,” and that was on the 15 year compilation. 

It feels that between 15 years and now, it’s gone superfast. It feels like that when it started and between 5 and 10 years, that was way longer between those things happening. 

How has it been possible for you to run a label for that long?

I think the main motivation and passion has always been connected between running club nights, DJing and music. Music has been my main thing in life. Looking at the label side of things it’s a bit strange, because I’ve been doing so many different things. The label has been living its own life and it’s almost like a diary of different eras. It’s been a very organic way of running the label. 

So, are you celebrating twenty years of the club night too, or did the label come first and then the club night?

The label came first and ten years ago I started the club night. I had been doing club nights before then as well, but they weren’t called Trunkfunk. Instead of starting another concept I wanted to do everything under one name. So roughly, it’s been ten years for the parties, in Gothenburg and I’ve been doing trunkfunk parties in Berlin and Stökholm too. 

And the club night is an extension of the label, I assume.

Yes, exactly. It’s also been two different storylines. Not everything from the club night has been connected to the label or the other way around. They have lived parallel lives. 

It’s curious, because a couple of weeks after you’re celebrating twenty years, we’ve got Dial celebrating twenty years too and there are a few more labels that also sprang into existence at that time. Was there something conducive of that time that contributed to the insurgence of small independent labels at that time?

I think so. It was an interesting time between 1999 and 2000 when we started. We didn’t have a clue about what we were doing. It was me and two other guys doing live shows. We saved up from doing the live shows into the first record. Everything happened randomly. It was very much a process of learning by doing, and it took almost 5-6 years before we understood all the legal aspects of how everything worked. We were making music, performing and getting some gigs and a following, but we didn’t know anything about the music industry. 

Did the label start off as a vehicle for your own releases?

That was the original idea, but the very first release was from another Swedish artist. We didn’t feel our own tracks were strong enough. Our tracks were more like live performance tracks. That was (some of) the motivation for the label, but it was also about creating this kind of community. 

Was it Sweden or was it largely focussed on Gothenburg?

We were touring, Stockholm and Copenhagen, all around Sweden. About Twenty years ago there were some decent clubs in smaller cities in Sweden to play live.

Tell me about that first release for Gunnar Underground and Chuck Cogan, how did it arrive on the label?

They were two talented producers that had already released on some bigger labels in the UK. We just admired their music and they had so much talent we just wanted to put their music out first. We didn’t have any pr strategy, other than making it available to the world. It was a strange experience, but we were super excited by the release. 

In terms of the sound of the label, was that established with that first record, or did you only have a vague idea of what you wanted the label to sound like eventually?

This was around the trend of the late nineties and that big French, filter house sound. That was our take on that, but also some of it was Chicago influenced or like deep House. We had a lot of tracks, but the thing was after this first release, we didn’t have a plan for the next one, so it took some years before we released the second release on Trunkfunk. In some sense it started  again five years later with the second release. 

After this second release did the focus turn to your own releases?

Actually yes, but also the people I was working with at the beginning of Trunkfunk, they left. It was me and Carl Ryden (together as Tyken) that started again as the Trunkfunk brand and took my earlier ideas, and made new versions. Then it became an outlet for my own music. 

Did a sound start to coalesce more around the label as a result?

Yeah, we worked together closely for a couple of years. 

It seems that the funk aspect to the name plays a prominent role in the music, where what is largely House music, always has that element of funk to it. 

Definitely. I think the original name came from a nineties Hip Hop record, and before there was Trunkfunk records, there was Trunkfunk brothers. Which was me and two other guys, and we kept that kind of funk vibe, but took it into different territories. It’s always been a mixture of that vibe, throughout the journey, but there have been very different styles throughout the years. 

When you are looking for other artists to contribute to the label, what usually draws you to their music?

We try to reach anyone we can get in touch with. We are really open to hearing new and interesting stuff, and it can be anything, from Electro, to Techno to House. The main part of this journey so far is about being on the move to the next thing. We never really stuck with one style. Of course there is always this retro element from when we started in the nineties. 

You’ve been releasing music steadily since that second phase, but was there ever a time, when you were a little dismayed by the music out there?

There’ve been a lot of times when we were not that inspired about what was going on, where there wasn’t anything for us to contribute. Like the minimal tech sound happening about 12 years ago, when I moved to Berlin. We had to find our own place within that sound. 

There was also a period where we thought we’d put out one release a month to see what would happen. Then for me it became about keeping track of a lot of admin stuff, which killed the vibe. I could see the effect of the popularity of the label, so it had both good and bad qualities. 

Did you notice that between Sweden and Berlin, your perception of music changed, and that it might have affected your own music and the label? 

Definitely. When I was living in Sweden I was more influenced by commercial music. When we started in 1999, there were underground Swedish DJs releasing big commercial tracks. We were trying to do the same, and we had a lot of Trunkfunk releases that were being played on BBC1 and national radio. 

That was my purpose when I lived in Sweden, but when I moved to Berlin, and saw how big the underground culture was, and noticed how many places you could play in a more underground way, that affected my purpose with Trunkfunk. In the last 10-12 years it went a lot more underground in terms of sound. 

Do you think it is easier today, in a digital landscape where there is so much space for new music, than before when you had to put out a record to get it into a DJ’s hands?

Yes, in some ways it’s easier now, but in some ways it’s much harder, because you have social media and all these PR responsibilities that go with it and takes some time away from the studio. It’s so saturated today, that good music will get lost in a sea of loads of releases. 

Do you find some joy in doing the promo and PR?

I think I enjoy all the different aspects of music, including the label, Djing and making music. It changed for me around 2 or 3 years ago, when I started a secret new label and alias, because that gave me the freedom to not look back at Trunkfunk, and following the same line that I’ve been drawing in the sand. Then I got some new energy for it, like a blank slate, creating something from scratch and being anonymous about it. I wasn’t being judged from what I did in the past. 

Speaking about the label and the motivation on PR; it’s funny because you can be pretty artistic in new ways now that you couldn’t before. I like to use Varg as an example; he does a really cool social media thing, where he portrays himself like a Hip Hop artist. It reminds me of how Green Velvet was a “punk guy” and had his own take on being an artist and creating a persona. 

You’re still releasing music as NIBC on the label. How has it affected the change in your own music through the years?

At the time of the very first NIBC track (Deliverance), the time I spent working in the studio to finish one track would take about one year. Now I make a lot of music, and I make a lot of rough sketches, which I treat almost like remixes, and that’s the work process for me now, as opposed to when Trunkfunk started. It’s so much easier to work with stuff that you haven’t spent too much time on. 

Going forward with the label into the future, and into the present. What do you have planned for Trunkfunk and how do you see it evolving after this milestone?

It’s going into a different direction. I remember when we turned 10, we were still in that era of doing more commercial stuff. I had just moved to Berlin and it was hard for me to choose where we were going, and the stuff we had already released. The way I solved that situation back then was having a lot of remixes on the label. So I could have a banging Techno remix of a poppy track. That was the intersection of those two eras, while now for me, it’s moving back to where we started with twenty years of experience. With the parties, we’re going to be a bit more selective, because I moved back to Gothenburg and my focus here is not doing a club concept for another ten years, but keeping it rare and more special. 

And you’ll be doing another compilation for this anniversary. 

This anniversary there will be twenty tracks from twenty different artists. They all sound similar, whereas in the past there were a lot of different styles. This twentieth anniversary will have a more unison-sounding release. 

I imagine that your set at Jaeger will gravitate towards that sound. 

Yes, I will play a lot of the tracks from the compilation.

 

Free falling with Steffi

Steffi has been there at every stage of club music. From playing the dark bunkers in her native Netherland to that 5am slot at Berghain where she holds a residency, and then back to some obscure hole-in-the-wall in a  2nd city, Steffi’s range as a DJ extends far beyond the scope of whatever style-du-jour-box people try to place her in. There’s an instinctive quality that tugs at the core of the body and a sensibility that goes way beyond the immediacy of the beat. 

It’s something that extends to her work in the studio too, where she can deliver the enthusiasm of peak time at one end of the spectrum, or delve deep into the inner workings of her machine with scientific-like precision at the other end. At the core of her work is a innate understanding of the legacy of this machine music, hewed to a pristine perfection that has covered a fair few albums and Eps, most of which for Berghain’s Ostgut Ton imprint if not for her own labels, like Klakson, Dolly or the newly established Candy Mountain imprint. 

Candy Mountain marks a new chapter in Steffi’s career, coming at the same time as a permanent move for her and her partner Virginia to Portugal from Berlin and providing a platform for her latest LP and the first album outside of the Ostgut franchise, The Red Hunter. A label, studio, retreat and much more, Candy Mountain sits alongside Klakson and Dolly in Steffi’s extensive scope on club music. As an artist, Red Hunter took Steffi’s sounds on the borders of the dance floor with broken beats, and brooding synthesisers floating through the arrangements. Dedicated to her late mother, the record finds Steffi in a reflective and serene mood, without completely disengaging with the sound of her club sets. 

There’s a lot that’s in flux with the sound of Steffi’s sets at the moment and a lot in congruence with the sound of her Klakson label. Where Dolly took up most of her time during her tenure in Berlin it seems Klakson has focussed Steffi’s attention towards the sounds of Electro, EBM and the dance floor’s outlier genres. It’s taken up a clarion call for these genres and styles with artists like 214, Fastgraph and The Hacker contributing to the label alongside Steffi’s own contributions and her collaborative projects like Negroni Nails. 

Does this mark a new phase for Steffi, and how has her move to Portugal affected her music and her pursuits as a DJ? With these questions and more burning, we sent off an email to Steffi ahead of her appearance at Jaeger tonight. 

Let’s start with Candy Mountain, and your  move to Portugal. It seems like you are establishing an electronic music community down there with studios, a label, a retreat. What is the history behind Candy Mountain and what does it all entail?

We bought a house in Portugal in 2017 to spend our time between Berlin and the Portuguese countryside. In 2020 we wrapped up our lives in Berlin, ended up moving everything to Portugal permanently and we set up Candy Mountain. Candy Mountain is a label, studio space and creative hub. It is an artist-driven platform based here in the countryside of Portugal but operates on a global level. The studio sits in the middle of nature. artists can live and work under the same roof with zero distractions in a tranquil environment. The perfect space to work and also connect with the local scene in Portugal. we both feel that it’s important to give something back to the place we moved to and welcomed us so we hope to do so with this new concept

.I know you and Virginia had already been living between Portugal and Berlin in the past, but what inspired the permanent move?

We wanted to move eventually but covid 2019 came and we were in lock down in our house in Portugal and realized it was not going to be a small one so we decided to pack up Berlin as traveling up and down became impossible.

And from what I understand, it’s a little outside Lisbon, and somewhat remote. Why there?

Nature!

I know this might be a bit of an abstract thing, but do you think it’s had an effect on your music and anything in terms of DJing since the move?

It had a massive effect on my mindset in the positive sense. It’s much easier to unwind here than in a city and I am focussed on different things here. 

So far Candy Mountain is an exclusive vehicle for Steffi, but I assume that will change as the results of these musical residencies come to fruition. What’s going to be the first release from a guest artist and what’s going to be the process for selecting music for this label in particular; does it have to come out of that studio specifically?

CaMo002 will be a 12 inch by Tracing Xircles with an amazing D-Bridge remix! Nothing needs to come out of the studio in the end but it’s there if people want to come over and use it for a possible release. Locals or artists abroad. It’s all about options and making things happen in the end. The idea is all about collaborations with people we appreciate in our inner circle and opening the door to the scene here in Portugal.

Tell me a bit about the studio, because your Berlin studio was well documented in the past. Has it basically been transplanted from Berlin to Portugal and what if any fundamental changes have affected your workflow?

It’s basically a mirror from what I had as a set up in Berlin merged with Virginia’s studio. The workflow is pretty similar actually. On top of that, we have a great outdoor space for small parties and get-togethers and the ground floor is a super cosy studio apartment to stay in with a dj set up.

I am aware of the thematic concept behind Red Hunter in terms of a record dedicated to your mother, but was there a specific musical concept or goal behind it?

I have been writing this album over the last 3/4 years and the foundation of these songs were done in so many different settings and places rather than writing it in one go what I normally would do. Looking at it from a more conceptual aspect I really wanted to dive deeper into my rhythm sections and take that to a next level. More definition and detail was my main goal. Small melodies on top of complex and heavy beats. Rhythm becoming an melodic element. The red hunter, it’s the first track I have written in this particular vain/mood and also defines the sound of the whole album perfectly for me. When I finished this track I knew I wanted to write a whole album in around this song and it was clear where the sound needed to go. It gave me the kickstart of the whole creative process for this album basically.

Candy Mountain finds itself in what is already a busy label franchise from you, alongside Klakson and the Dolly suite of labels. Where does Candy Mountain fit into that spectrum in terms of sound and concept?

It has no stylistic boundaries so we can just jump and take a free fall :-)

How do you decide what gets the attention and what goes where, especially in terms of our own music?

Well klakson and dolly have shaped themselves up quite well during the last 20 plus years. Dolly is more house and techno related and klakson has always had a focus on electro so that line is quite clear. I don’t feature myself too much on those labels because I always wanted to release other people’s music and build up artists for those platforms. I have worked with ostgut ton for my solo stuff mostly and when it was time to spread my wings it was the perfect time to found a new imprint for my album with Candy Mountain.

It seems in recent years Klakson has also taken over a bit from Dolly in terms of your focus. I know you’ve said in the past Klakson is a label you’ll pick up when the time and the music is right for it. What is it about this period and the music you’re bringing out on the label that has encouraged this flurry of activity recently?

The beauty is that I can play around so much and one does not exclude the other. Important for me is though when there is nothing to tell on one label, it just takes a pause so it never loses quality but just takes a nap. klakson woke up because the time was right and had a lot to tell. It’s a great dynamic to juggle between brother and sister. Stay tuned because there will be some interesting new stuff coming on Dolly. She has new stories to tell. 

Photo by Stephan Redel

Personally, I feel that it is the perfect time for a label like Klakson to exist, with something a little more cognitive for the dance floor. And I feel from listening to your last LP and some of your recent mixes online, that you might feel the same. Where do your musical allegiances lie at the moment when it comes to what you’re listening to, playing and making?

My pallet is so wide when it comes to playing and making music. I find it very unattractive to focus on just one thing as my taste is simply too diverse. I am a music freak and I buy whatever I like to hear and play whatever I feel like. I love being able to have a side of me that produces and plays abstract electro, IDM and broken stuff and the other side that loves dance floor stuff like house and techno. It’s always been like this. It resonates on my labels, dj sets and through my productions and remixes. 

If we listen to an early track like Yours, and then most of Red Hunter there’s a clear distinction there, but then if you throw in a track like All living things from 2017 there’s an evolution too. As an artist how do you reflect on these different periods in relationship to where you are now musically?

Evolution. For me it’s a journey and I have dreams and goals and ideas on the horizon I wanna reach. All of what I have done so far are logical steps in my creative development. Like I said I love being able to go abstract and push the boundaries there but I also love to write straight up dance floor stuff. Over the years as a producer I became more and more skilled to be able to do that and this is amazing for my creative expression.

Is there any relationship to the music you’re making today compared to what you were listening to and playing back when you started in the Netherlands as a DJ and promoter?

Yes, I knew all along that one day I wanted to make an album like the red hunter one day and of course the musical influences shape you as a producer big time.

What was your focus back then in terms of music and how did it inform what would become a  career? 

The passion of music has been the main drive. Always. I never had any plans to be making money from dj-ing or producing music. This all went gradually to be honest. I do have to say when I moved to Berlin in 2007 I was aware that this could be a possibility for me to drop my work as a free-lance graphic designer and live off of my dj gigs but even then I wasn’t focussed on dj-ing being a career. Is it a career or am I just doing what I love most, making music, throwing parties, dj-ing and releasing other people’s music? When it all gets serious, yes it becomes a business but the main focus is and will always be music, music and music. 

Going from somewhere like the south of the Netherlands to Berlin and then to somewhere remote like Candy Mountain, is there a sense of coming full circle for you and what’s the biggest fundamental change for you as an artist and DJ between those early days and now?

I am from a small town in the south of Holland and I could not wait to move to the city when I was 19 because it was suffocating me big time. I lived in Australia in 1996-1997, then Amsterdam for 10 years and then Berlin for 13 years and at some point I closed a certain city life chapter for me and really wanted to be in nature and moved to a village with 200 people. How ironic hahahahah!. That’s quite the full circle journey I’d say. like technology, the biggest game changer in the scene. For example virtual reality and the global impact it has. Quantity over quality, visibility over anonymity, virtual reality over living in the moment. So on so on so on ;-)

Ok Steffi, that’s all the questions I have. Thank you for indulging me and I only have one more request. Can you play us out with a song?

Last Days Of Innocence by Driven By Attraction

I can’t pick just one song, because I love the whole EP!! :

17th of May – Full-lineup released

With a whole host of guests, including an international visit, this year’s 17th of May promises to be like no other.

Away from the honking brass of marching bands, tucked in an alley just beyond the slow moving procession of Norwegian banners, Jaeger offers a brief dalliance with a dance floor. A dance floor filled with everything from Brunader to sneakers, in a sunny courtyard in May, with soundsystem contirubuting to the festive noise that swathes the city for Norway’s National day.

This year is a little different… with a national holiday the next day, allowing us to extend the annual DJ marathon a little longe into the night with more DJs than ever, including a visit from Skatebård and DJ Boring on the same day. We kick off from 12:00 in the courtyard and pace ourselves throughout with some of our closest friends joining our residents across the two floors.

You can see the full lineup below as well as on the official event.  We’re doing limited guestlist spots for those that want to secure entry early, so please contact us at info@jaegeroslo.no for more information.

Gården

12:00 Kash & MC Kaman
15:00 Anders Hajem, Henrik Villard, Perkules (Boring Club Records)
17:00 Olle Abstract
18:00 Guy, Fritz, Nordiks (Futoria, French Voyage)
21:00 Skatebård
23:00 Dara
00:00 g-HA & Olanskii

Diskon
21:00 Mapusa
22:00 Synne
23:00 Ole HK & Normann
01:00 DJ Boring

In the booth with Chaos in the CBD

It’s fair to say Chaos in the CBD lived up to their name when they arrived in Oslo on the 10th of May 2022. By the time the brothers Helliker-Hales landed in the booth at Jaeger, a ceiling had caved in on another dance floor down the road and when they reached the middle of their set, there was a sense of reckless abandon on Jaeger’s dance floor. Images from the night show an audience reciprocating en masse for a night that is eared into our collective memory and brings back all kinds of feelings as we get chance to share a portion of the mix with you today.

Chaos in the CBD have become a touchstone for a new generation of fans and old heads alike. Their music and label, “In dust we trust” continues to honour the origins of House music with an affinity for the deeper end of the spectrum on the vinyl format while as DJs their enthusiasm for the energy and dynamic range of the dance floor is unparalleled. Their social media accounts, interviews and Boiler Room sets show a pair of DJs that get as much a thrill out of playing as their audience gets from dancing to it, with a pretext on the hedonistic value of this music. 

“We want to play the stuff we want to hear in a club,” says Ben Helliker-Hales, who introduces himself as Beans when we meet in Jaeger’s courtyard. ”We are very considerate of what we feel the crowd wants to hear as well,” chimes Louis as if taking a subliminal cue from the younger brother. The New Zealand brothers have been playing music together in one form or another since their teens and share what Beans refers to as a “telepathic” connection through music today. They’ve developed that instinct into a production force, a label and as one of the most exciting DJ duos around at the moment.

They have a sincere “passion for the stuff” as Beans tells it, going “deep into the sub-genres” where they draw from a diverse range of tastes and styles. “And keep the energy right,” interrupts Louis. Their set from Jaeger delves deep into an array of sounds, largely anchored to the roots of House music, casting a sprawling net from the deeper ends of the genre to the upper reaches of the dance floor, all for the sake of facilitating the dance. They would rather “play what we want to hear in the club at the point of time” according to Beans than try to force their own songs on a club full of eager punters. 

“If we played the music we produced… and the circumstances aren’t right, then it’s a bit boring,” Louis agrees. “At three in the morning we want high-energy, we don’t want Deep House,” insists Beans. It’s around that time when they kick into a stripped-down, functional House tool that’s little more than a drum machine and a vocal, giving no quarter to the dance floor even as their set winds down. 

We are figuratively and literally world away from where Chaos in the CBD started out when we sit down for our interview. It’s a fact that New Zealand is probably the closest landmass you’ll reach if you were to dig straight down from Norway and yet oddly the two countries share similarities in both landscape and music scene. Like Norway, “the scene was always very small in New Zealand” according to Beans and they had very little access to it growing up.

They “started getting into it, in 2006,” says Louis who instigated Beans to do the same. “We were in a band together and I went to Australia and heard a couple of records. It was around the time of Boys Noize records and The Klaxons were about to take off – I guess there was a lot of crossover appeal for bands.” “It was still ingrained in band culture, but with an electronic aspect,” relays Beans who shortly followed in his older brother’s footsteps: “We saw the Carl Cox and took ecstasy for the first time… and I was like fuck-it, I like dance music!” 

In what was to become a common theme for the time the band got rid of their instruments and picked up computers. Beans, who had been the drummer in the band, was bringing his “whole PC down to band practice and triggering samples on fruity loops and it came to a point where I realised, I don’t need to be in a band.” 

As Louis “was discovering new stuff” during a period of exploration, Beans “dropped out of high school and studied audio engineering.” They made a formidable duo through Louis’ guidance and Beans’ skills. They found a small but dedicated scene in Auckland, developing their skills as DJs while getting to grips with the production aspects of this music. “Back then you had to go and find it,” says Louis of his native scene. The “first couple of years we were the most excited ones, playing these tracks that no-one else knew.” They played mainly “bass” music according to Beans, informed by a sound of London at that time and associated with artists like Ramadanman and Peverelist. “A lot of people that ran Serrato (a NZ based company), they were into that kind of stuff and we would play parties with them” forming “a little community for it.” 

While Chaos in the CBD were cutting their teeth as DJs and producers in Auckland, the advancement of social media and the Internet started connecting them to an international scene including the record label that would facilitate their first release, Young Guns. “We met on Myspace.” recalls Beans “We used to speak to them over AIM and Skype and we became… almost like pen pals.” The French label which shared much of the roster to ClekClekBoom label, brought out “Never Ending” from Chaos in the CBD back in 2012. 

It’s no surprise that the record and its follow up on ClekClekBoom bears similarities to that UK bass sound from the time, but as you get into their third record, “816 to Nunhead” there is a distinct shift in their music. The cold ratcheting rhythms and stark metallic percussion liquifies into soulful melodies and syncopated rhythms as it submerges into the deep. The record coincides with a move to London around the same time for the brothers, but it was “never a conscious decision of what to make,” affirms Beans about the direction their music took. “At that time it was all about the trend,” according to Louis and they were still “trying to find our place” within it all. It was only natural for them to turn to the “deeper kind of stuff” as “that was the music that we liked,” declares Beans. Acts like St. Germain and a mix CD of Deep House that they inherited from a friend’s mum, were staples in their playlist since the start.

“I think” ponders Louis, “by 2015 when we did the Midnight in Peckham record, that came really naturally.” That record, facilitated by a chance encounter on a train with Rhythm Section boss Bradley Zero, helped cement Chaos in the CBD’s sound as artists. “People reacted really well to it,” remembers Louis “which just encouraged us to do more of the same.”

That sound also infiltrated their label when they eventually established it in 2017 with Jon Sable. The vinyl focussed label remains an exclusive vehicle for the founders’ output including Chaos in the CBD, with Beans taking immense satisfaction in the tactile form of their music. “We would always want the music we make to have a physical copy, it gets lost otherwise,” he explains. “It’s history, a timestamp. There’s a physical interaction with it, and it evokes a memory of where you bought it, who you were with; That’s important to us.” The colour coded records take pride in place in his collection, even if he rarely brings them out. 

While the music of the label doesn’t always resonate with what they play in their sets, that spirit does. “A lot of the music we buy now is older stuff,” says Beans and whether it’s a digital file or a record it retains a fervent connection to the past, especially in the booth. They continue to relate more to the past with Beans proclaiming that their sets are all rooted in “early House music” a form of music that “has never gotten better.”

And even with Louis’ “love” for the “convenience” and immediacy of the “digital side of things,” he can’t help but echo that sentiment. “It’s a preference thing,” he explains. “Especially since the pandemic, I’ve gone even deeper into the nineties.” It’s reached a point where he hardly considers new music or records for his sets. “I found that if I went back and found a label or an artist that I like, I just found hit after hit. There’s so much that I haven’t heard.” Djing to a younger generation, who will most likely share those experiences, he can relay music that sets him apart with a sound that is unique in a modern landscape.

It’s “the production quality, the swing, the rawness,” suggests Beans of its appeal. “If it still resonates with you now, it must mean it’s fucking amazing. It’s timeless music!”  

While their own records continue to bring new fans to their work as artists, as DJs they connect a modern dance floor with the roots of this music. They’ve re-affirmed the classics in the contemporary club setting while developing a unique voice. “As DJs, it’s our duty to showcase that music from the past for people that might not have heard it in that context… or at all,” interprets Louis. “If it excites us, you will be able to see it when we perform.” And that’s exactly what they did when Chaos in the CBD landed at Jaeger for a Frædag in May, 2022. 

Share your soul with Chez Damier

Chez Damier’s legacy is dotted through the history of club music. From its early days in Chicago to its heyday in Detroit and its satellite adventures in New York, Chez Damier was there. What started on the dance floor went on to the booth and beyond as he became an uncompromising epitome in the nascent sound of House music with tendrils of influence that extended towards styles like proto-Techno and to new regions like Paris. 

He played pivotal roles in the creation of  KMS (Kenny Saunders’ label), the legendary Music Institute in Detroit and the Belleville Three (Techno’s original figureheads) before going on to establish his own path with Ron Trent in the creation of the now legendary Prescription and Balance Records. Besides contributing to some of the label’s biggest releases like Foot Therapy and Morning Factory, the labels also offered a platform for the likes of Romanthony and Stacey Pullen, from which they went on to achieve greatness.

Chez Damier’s contributions to dance music in its earliest forms were fundamental to the development of the scene and its eventual popularity. By the late nineties he and Ron Trent had been installed in the annals of House music as legends, but such was Chez Damier’s integrity and dedication to the music that when he could have easily cashed in on his popularity he instead took an hiatus. When Ibiza and festival stages came calling, it was so far removed from those humble beginnings, that he took some time off and waited out the storm.

After what would become a lengthy absence, he came back even more determined and more enthusiastic. He took up Balance records where he left off, established House of Chez alongside, and immersed himself back in the scene as a DJ and an artist. As a producer that always sought that collaborative artistic process he has engaged with many new and exciting producers, establishing projects like Heart 2 Heart, and channelling that impetuous spirit of House music’s origins into the present for the next generation.

He is, needless to say, an accomplished and seasoned DJ with the accolades of a veteran in his field and yet he is still buoyed by that enthusiasm of his 15 year-old self, discovering House music for the first time. His sets are undeniably unique in today’s landscape and as he prepares another for Jaeger we caught with the DJ, producer and label owner to find out more. He talks about those early days; his hand in coining the term Techno; new beginnings; and having that last dance with Frankie Knuckles.

*Chez Damier plays ByPåskefestivalen this Wednesday

Hello Chez. It’s truly an honour to be speaking to you. I believe we’re catching you at an interesting period with the new label House of Chez and a lot of new music coming from you. Is there something particular about this time and place that‘s inspiring these new projects?

Yes, it’s a new generation. With a new generation there’s always new inspiration. So, new inspiration and being able to continue to sow back into the community or the culture that we’ve worked so hard to keep going.

House of Chez alludes to your interest in fashion. I’m reminded of something that Sadar Bahar told me; that House music was a lifestyle more than a genre of music back at its beginnings. Is this you bringing these two worlds together again and where is crossover for you in these two creative outlets?

Yes, since I started out, I’ve been inspired by the fashion aspect, so now I’m going to incorporate that in probably doing some merchandising, some shirts and t-shirts. I think it’s a full circle for me in particular, more than anyone else.

I believe there’s a Heart 2 Heart album on the way too. What can you tell us about it and what does it represent in terms of where you are at the moment in terms of the music that inspires you?

That’s like my baby now. That’s the first album project that I’ve ever worked on. It’s just special all the way around. I can’t tell you if there is anything particularly special, but the sessions were amazing. It was all written and recorded in Paris over a four and a half year period; going to Paris four and five times a year, for about a week at a time. So, it was a long process because of the distance. We never once brought the project into our own world, only when we came together. H2H is a super special project for me. 

This new project is you working with another artist again. You’ve worked with so many people in the past, and some legendary figures to boot. How is H2H different, and how is it the same as the other collaborations?

Actually to be honest with you, the only thing that changes when working on this project or collaborating with other people, is that you grow. So you learn how to put the egos down, you learn how to put the muscle flexing down, you learn how to cohesively understand people’s energy, and that’s something only time could have taught me. Especially someone who has as much energy as you, so this makes it more special than all the other ones. 

Funny enough, I was talking to MK about doing a mix on this project, because he was the first person I was a student of and it was kind of funny talking to him about my first new album project versus the very first time we worked together. What makes it special this time around, is maturing. 

In H2H’s case your partner is somebody with strong Techno associations. Back in the day there was a lot more of a fluid approach between dance floor genres, and over the years it’s gotten more reductive. As somebody with a foothold in both the origins of House and Techno, how do you get around those strict parameters, especially today?

Actually technically, I’m probably the first in the electronic business to combine House and Techno. Because my roots were in Chicago, dance culture was also in New York, but my experience of music was in Detroit. So, Detroit is where I learnt my sound, and its combination (of all that). I don’t get around it actually, I just look at it as energy. Here’s what I want to do, I want to share my soul. I know it could be easy to follow the trends and do the 3 seconds hands up in the air. I just refuse to do it. If I have to do it, I quit. Don’t get me wrong, the person who has energy has energy from the start. I like it all, and I’m always going to incorporate it in my music and my sets. 

You’ve not only been a part of a scene, but actually helped establish it. What keeps you motivated and drives the momentum in your creativity and work these days?

It’s always knowing that you don’t know. It’s always having the wish that you want to try something you haven’t tried before. It’s also learning more about your energy and how to work with other people’s energy. So, to me that’s the inspiration. I’m not an on-demand artist, I’m not a machine. So when God gives me the inspiration to do something, I’m just doing it. I’m just being a vessel at this point. 

I know you took a little break from it all back in the early 2000’s and I admire your resolve at that time in not going down the hyper-commercial rabbit hole. Ultimately it was the right decision, but what brought you back into the fray? 

What brought me back is this young artist out of Paris named Brawther. He brought me back, because he made me realize the initial mission was never completed. When me and Ron started Prescription records, it was the intention to find like-minded artists like us, we created Balance to be that extended service of artists that also were motivated and inspired by different sounds. When we divided, I shut the whole thing down. So it was always like cutting something off and never seeing the continuation of it. Years later, Brawther gave me the inspiration to realize it wasn’t over. 

What was the hardest part of coming back into it?

There was no hard part at all. It was very welcoming, thanks to Red Bull, thanks to Cyber distribution in Paris, thanks to my publisher in Paris. All of these people were very supportive, encouraging me to either reissue things or come back into the game. These people made it possible for me to do it without being stressful. I have Secret Sundaze to thank, because Secret Sundaze were also responsible for letting me be the first one to sign to their agency. That was really inspiring to work with them. 

I heard it mentioned that you actually coined the original and first Virgin “Techno” compilation record, which went on to label that whole sound as Techno. Do you remember the circumstances around that and your involvement with that legacy?

Yes, I was the one that suggested it to be called Techno. I was just joining KMS at the time, and Derrick (May) was one of my DJs and the music institute. It was just like being ahead of my time, understanding what Juan Atkins was doing and trying to create something that I thought would collectively speak for what was happening at the time. Yes, along with Neil Rushton, I was the one that made the suggestion that we call it the Techno album. Many people don’t know that.

Do you have any regrets today in how Techno has been adopted as this kind of catch-all term that has somewhat gentrified the esoteric origins of that original Detroit sound?

I don’t really like what’s happened in Detroit today, to be quite honest with you. Because Detroit has narrowed the focus to Techno when it was a music capital since the beginning of time. I just don’t like where it’s going, I don’t like the whole kind of ”this is our situation,” when it took many people. It’s like; if you don’t understand the history, you don’t understand the future.

You were there for those seminal moments of House music’s creation from Chicago to New York. What were some of the key experiences for you personally during that time?

Actually it wasn’t even about personal experiences. It was about the newness. We were all fascinated by the fact that there were music bars and conferences that were built around this new music that we were being a part of. It was really inspiring to be face to face with other artists that were behind it. We didn’t have press at that time to show who these artists were. So when we were going to Chicago or New York it was always amazing to finally meet, greet or see these other artists. It was a very inspiring time, at least for me. 

As somebody with this incredible legacy that you have, and the experiences you have from the booth, what were the most fundamental changes you’ve experienced in the scene over the years and what are some of your thoughts on where we are today compared to when you started?

One of the things that I would love to see more of when I have the pleasure to play, is people engaging and enacting with each other more, being inspired by one another. This will always be amazing to me. The things I don’t particularly care about, is what I see at a festival level. This quick sensation that people are getting for this peak moment, is complete suicide, if you ask me. To me, at the end of the day I don’t find it edifying. At the time, I think it’s going to cause some future problems. 

Listening to a Chez Damier set today, Is there an element of something that people would find instantly familiar as Chez Damier, even as you play music from others?

Yeah, I mostly play music from others, and I’m still playing demos from myself, so people don’t know it’s me until they ask me. For me it’s more or less the same. In the beginning, I played more classics, because it was something that I had to prove my roots. This time I actually have the freedom. Before I was coming in with all my guns, but now I get the chance to tell a story. I think over time, people will be able to recognize me by the energy I bring and not necessarily about what they see.

Communicating with an audience is essential to the DJing experience and for that there’s usually a common ground between them and you. How do you maintain that connection with audiences that keep getting younger and younger and what other factors do you feel you are constantly having to adapt to as a DJ today?

I always put myself in their position. I was fifteen years old when I first got mesmerized by House music, and I was sixteen years old when I had my first Frankie Knuckles experience. So for me, I’m just giving back what I was given. It’s easier to relate to a younger audience when you can remember when you were young. 

And besides that… what are you packing these days in terms of music and are there any records you’re particularly eager to bring to Oslo and Jaeger in a couple of weeks time?

Apart from a couple of cuts from the new album, just my presence, I’m eager to bring. And hopefully the spirit of Frankie Knuckles, because the last dance with Frankie k was in Oslo 9 years ago , which is also the anniversary of his passing. So for me, it’s an emotional moment, this year in particular. So it should be exciting. 



Bypåskefestivalen 2023

The full lineup for Bypåskefestivalen 2023 at Jaeger will include Chez Damier, Dan Shake, Traumer and Funky Loffe

Apres ski in the city with a whole load of bass. We descend from the mountain slopes to the heart of the city, where a wall of sound awaits. Insulated in the warmth of our funktion one system our basement cabin offers a refuge in sound for the city dwellers and nocturnal pariahs. We host a weekend of uncompromising talents for our annual Bypåskefestivalen again at Jaeger. Featuring guest appearances by Dan Shake, Funky Loffe, Traumer and House legend Chez Damier,  alongside our residents and their local guests. See the full lineup below and head over to facebook for more event info

05.04 Bypåskefestivalen:
Chez Damier
Prins Thomas (6h set)
O. Blom

06.04 Helt Texas!:
Traumer
Normann + Ole HK
Capodanna + Ida B + Sondre

07.04 Skranglepåske x Frædag:
Dan Shake
Oskar Pask + Petter Celius + Umulius
g-HA & Olanskii

08.04 LYD:
Funky Loffe + Olle Abstract
MC Kaman + Kash

09.04 Foot Food x BCR:
g-HA & Olanskii + Vinny Villbass + diskJokke
Anders Hajem + Henrik Villard + Perkules

10.04 Mandagsklubben:
André Bravo + Thomas Sol + Jennifer Bravo

 

Slindre’s heart beats for House – in conversation with DELLA

Hi all, DELLA here. This week I took the opportunity to chat with, Slindre (formally Snurrebass), an up and coming House DJ and founder of Norway’s fiercest queer club night <LOKOMOTIV>. This Saturday, he will be joining me in the basement for Della’s Drivhus and together we are going to set the club on FIRE. Are you ready to get your groove on? I am!

Slindre, thank you for taking the time to chat with me. Let’s get down to business. 

I am so excited for Saturday! Can’t actually believe that I’m going to play at Æ with you!! A friend of a friend attended your event in Gøteborg a couple of weeks ago and absolutely loved it. I’ve never played B2B with anyone before, but hey, it’s gonna be fun to do it for the first time with you. 

You and I just recently met and our love of House music made us instant friends. Please, can you tell us more about who Slindre is? 

Slindre’s heart beats for House music and melodic techno. I love a groovy bassline, cheeky lyrics and soulful vocals. And I live for sweaty dance floors. 

How long have you been DJing?

I ordered my first DJ gear in January 2022, so that makes it one year and three months to be exact. 

What made you want to begin DJing?

I’ve been listening to House, disco and techno for as long as I can remember. Music has always been a source of happiness and a sense of freedom for me. I’m always searching for new music. I love the feeling when I discover music that makes my jaw drop and gives me chills from head to toe. The last couple of years I started to get more and more fascinated with how DJs managed to build up sets like stories, with a narrative and exciting twists and turns. I wanted to start DJing quite some time before I actually did, I guess it was something as boring as janteloven that held me back. But, luckily that wasn’t enough to stop me from going for it. I was immediately hooked. 

You formally went by DJ alias Snurrebass, why did you decide to change your artist name to Slindre?

Hehe, well. When I got my first gigs last spring, I couldn’t completely own that I was a DJ, and Snurrebass had a kind of an ironic twist to it. Now I don’t feel the need to distance myself from being a DJ anymore, so Slindre just feels more right. 

Who are the producers & DJs that inspire you most?

I keep finding new inspiration almost daily. There is almost too much good music out there! But, I definitely draw inspiration from Honey Dijon, Todd Terry, Dennis Quin, Green Velvet, Mr. G, Superlover and Saison. Lately, I’ve also been listening to Roy Rosenfeld quite a bit. He produces really smooth and beautiful downtempo tracks that move me emotionally.

Do you produce music?

Not yet! But I am definitely planning to. 

You are the founder of the new HOT queer concept LOKOMOTIV. Can you tell our readers more about your club night? 

LOKOMOTIV is a passion project created by me and my husband for lovers of electronic music and dancing. Everyone is welcome at LOKOMOTIV, but our target audience is gay guys. So far, it’s been a massive success with a packed dance floor on all four events. It’s been a blast! We even took the event to Stavanger in March. Check us out on Instagram @lokomotivclub

What inspired you to start Lokomotiv? 

Well, there were two reasons. Firstly, we wanted to create a club concept we ourselves felt was missing in Oslo. Secondly, in the beginning it wasn’t easy getting gigs at my favorite clubs. LOKOMOTIV became an opportunity for me to share my passion for music with a big crowd.  

Do you feel there is a lack of queer club nights in Norway?

Yes! That’s why we started LOKOMOTIV. We’ve been saying for years that there aren’t enough queer club nights, so instead of sitting at home complaining, we decided to do something about it. 

Why do you feel it is important to showcase queer artists in music? 

Representation is important everywhere. But when it comes to House music, club culture and queer history, they share an important bond. The underground clubs were a place for queer people to get together, party and be themselves long before we could do so openly. I play music with a lot of gay references in different ways, mostly because it’s really good music, but also as a nod to gay and queer history.  

What are your thoughts on current social issues such as USA wanting to restrict drag?

It makes me sad. 

Have you personally experienced any obstacles being gay and being an artist?

No, not at all! And I don’t expect that to happen either. 

Do you work full-time as a DJ? What is your day job?

I’m a psychologist, specializing in family and couples therapy. So that’s really a contrast to grooving it out in the DJ booth. 

Do you intertwine the two into your music? 

Haha, well. I can’t say that I do. Not directly, anyway. The common factor is that I have a passion for both. And that both therapy and DJing a set is a process, which hopefully leave you feeling better with yourself and the people around you at the end of it. 

Other than the obvious (LOKOMOTIV), what is a favourite club / club concept you’ve experienced?

Oh, tough question. Some of my best nights out have been in NYC. I think I’m gonna say Battle Hymn, by Ladyfag. Elli Escobar is a resident and he is someone I hope to book for LOKOMOTIV one day.

Tell us what we can expect this Saturday in your set at Della’s Drivhus.

You can expect one very excited DJ who’s going to play the House music you didn’t know you needed. It’s going to be impossible for you to stand still.

Any upcoming gigs or events you would like to inform our readers about? 

We have many exciting plans for LOKOMOTIV in 2023. The next event will be in May and is going to be something special. I’m also looking forward to Pride at the end of June. I can’t disclose specifics just yet, but let’s just say that it’s going to be a good week for those of us who enjoy House music.  

 

I look forward to sharing the booth together at Della’s Drivhus! Together we are definitely going to create nothing but pure, rainbow vibes. It is going to be good fun, especially our B2B set. ❤️

 

Check out more of Slindre’s music here:

Have a listen to my opening set for my former guest, Mood II Swing. What a night! 

See you all on the dancefloor this Saturday. 

Follow me on my socials to stay updated! 

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/djdella_official/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/djdella

Kisses, 

DELLA

Intergalactic sounds with Alienata

Alienata occupies a unique space in the world of Techno with an all-encompassing approach that encapsulates everything from IDM to Electro. She’s thrived in the culture’s underground corners since taking to the decks in 2004, where she’s carved out a sound in sets that span “obscure electro, ACID, dub, IDM, dark disco, jakbeat, hypnotic techno, industrial atmospheres, break beats, cosmic jazz , UK electro, Detroit and Chicago” influences.  Traversing the outer regions of club music, Alienata truly channels an inter-galactic language through her musical tastes.

Originally from Spain, Alienata has been residing in Berlin since 2011 where she joined the Killekill (Krake festival) family on her journey to become one of the city’s most dedicated figures. Admired for her approach to club music, her sets pulsate with the energy of the dance floor as she pushes the dynamics across the whole spectrum of club music.  From the furthest recesses of Techno’s reach where artists like Aphex Twin reside to the functional club constructs that motivates movement, Alienata has a very unique approach to her selections. 

It’s not often that Biosphere and Neil Landstrumm are mentioned in the same breath, but like her sets, Alienata is both, not obvious, and distinct in her musical designs. It trickles down from her sets, to her production and her label, Discos Atónicos, where she has channelled her musical tastes into an equally determined platform over the last 5 years. Although versatile, she maintains a unique sound which is hard to pin down to one specific element and it’s through this that she stands out in the larger Techno landscape. 

Ahead of her appearance at Jaeger tomorrow night, we caught up with the DJ, producer and label honcho for further insight into her musical tastes and her approach to DJing and music. 

Hey Alienata. Where are you at this moment and what are you listening to right now?

Hello : )

At this moment I’m enjoying touring a lot! I’m having great experiences & connections in all the places I visit. In terms of listening 

I’ve read somewhere that you’re a fan of Biosphere. That obviously resonates with us here in Norway. To me, a record like Patashnik is one of those perfect records to play after a night out. Do you have a record like that; something you like to put on after a particularly good night?

Yeah, I deeply love Biosphere!

And regarding your question I think Substrata is that record I always found perfect to listen to after a good gig (or even after a bad gig! haha) Another one: Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin. 

I often hear Aphex in your sets too. Where is the crossover between the music you listen to at home and the music you play out?

Well, when I’m at home I tend to listen to slow beats, downtempo, I love that flow so much. Obviously “that flow” influences me when I make my musical selections. 

Versatile would be an understatement when considering your music and DJing and yet there’s something there that ties it all together. What is that fundamental element in your musical tastes in terms of making and playing music?

I think that fundamental element is a mix of galactic sounds, a sense of funk & groove & and a touch of psychedelia.

What first planted the seed for these musical tastes to develop and when was that? 

I used to help a friend who distributed records to most of the DJs in my city. First in a record store and then he would do it from home and I would give him a hand. I spent all my time listening to all kinds of music. I didn’t care about the genres or styles. were being trained without my realising it.

Has it always been about electronic music or was there a point or event that initially brought you to the sounds of synthesisers and drum machines?

Let’s just say that I have always loved rhythm and atmospheres, since I was a child. I used to listen to classical & psychedelic music all the time when I was about 12/13 years old. It was a kind of therapy for me. Through sound I was inspired to write and build parallel worlds where I could escape from reality. There were a lot of problems at home and I needed to transcend them in some way. Music has always had that “magic” component in my life.

Was there a big community of kindred spirits in Valencia when you were discovering this music and how did it influence your own evolution from fan to DJ? 

Totally! Actually I am originally from Murcia (not Valencia!) and yes, I have always had the good fortune to surround myself with spirits who were quite advanced in every sense of the word. Not only in electronic music, but also in krautrock, post punk or wave. Let’s say that when I discovered the language of music I did it almost in a shamanic way. 

How did you get into DJing and what do you remember of those initial experiences behind a set of decks?

It all happened when I was living with my friend who I was helping distribute records (I mentioned before) He had a brutal collection of vinyl, all kinds of stuff. We were all the time listening to music. And my curiosity grew and grew, so when I was alone at home, I used to sneak into “the magic room”, pick up records randomly (because I knew I was always going to discover something interesting) and start playing. And I would practise for myself, without anyone knowing it. It was almost a ritual for me. 

Were you exploring those bridges between IDM, Electro, Techno and EBM right from the start and what did you establish in your approach to DJing even back then?

I never had any barriers when I started to play music. Everything that fit or caught the attention of my ears had a place in my initial sessions. I didn’t care about styles. I could fit in the same session some Neil Landstrumm with Miles Davis’ Doo Boop and many other things in between. The music, beyond the styles, had a strength, a way of telling stories that in my way of understanding the sound at that time fit in. A bit mystical I would say.

Has it evolved in any significant way since then?

Of course, it has evolved in terms of knowledge. But the spirit is the same. 

I assume Djing remains your first love.

I deeply love to play music, from the deepest part of my heart. It’s the language with which I have learned to communicate with the world. Sometimes complicated to explain in words!

…and Discos Atónicos a close second?

Discos Atónicos is my baby.

I was previously involved in other record labels with my other collectives but in the end I was always left with the feeling that I couldn’t do 100 percent of what I wanted to do.

So after years and when I felt the time was right, I started with Discos Atónicos, Being my own boss and having all the freedom to edit whatever I wanted to edit. 

When you do make a track or remix something, is there an instinct to try and express a similar sound or mood in these pieces and how would you describe that mood or sound?

If I’m honest I don’t usually have a certain mood in my head when I make music but it’s true that there are certain patterns that I repeat: the broken rhythms, the atmospheres a bit dramatic, the bleeps and… I love pads! I need depth in some way. 

In an interview from 2019 you said you were in the process of re-inventing yourself. What was the reason behind this re-invention and what did it entail or lead to?

I believe that in the end, life is a process of reinventing oneself all the time. I have a terrible fear of boredom! I could say now, in 2023, that I am still in the process of reinvention and I hope it never ends! I say this with all the positivity in the world. 

When I think of Techno (and maybe this is just a generational thing) I tend to think of the kind of music people like you play. But Techno’s popularity has brought new, not always positive connotations to the genre. What are your personal experiences in the scene regarding Techno’s popularity today?

It is a bit confusing at times. Suddenly you hear “techno” everywhere. in clothing stores, on buses, at the dentist’s office! Even my mother suddenly has techno notions!  It has become something “popular” indeed and with it has come mediocrity, banality & sometimes pure entertainment.

I guess the popularity of the genre is certainly beneficial to everybody playing or making the style, but in general terms it seems to have marginalised the original counter-cultural spirit for the sake of a business model. As somebody that represents the former to me, how are you able to find  your place in this paradigm shift today?

Of course it has its benefits, at this moment in my life I can make a living from it, something that would not have been possible in the past. For me the most important thing is not to lose one’s own essence.  Don’t sell your soul. Keeping real for real. Keeping curious. Sometimes I get the feeling that it is almost an extravagance to say that but it is crucial. I feel it’s almost a kind of mission, to educate the ears, the fantasy, the magic of rhythm. I want to share everything I have learned (and am still learning) along the way. 

Where do you see it going, because at some point I think we’ll have to start making a distinction, by the time Beyoncé brings out a Techno LP at least?

Techno is like Pop Music, yes. Even writing this sentence I find it hard to believe, but it’s true. To be honest, I am a bit confused about this… but at the end of the day I always find originality, hybrids and fusions of styles which, although in a more accessible way, still seem interesting to me. 

What does this all mean in terms of finding new music or do you find yourself turning more to older records and re-issues?

I always check all kinds of music. There are a lot of current sounds that I love. I think that in the middle of all that we were talking about, there is quite a lot of quality, at least if you know where to look for it. And the reissues are also good, and of course, I always keep an eye on them, you always rediscover things that you might have missed at another time!

Quality is the key, old, new, whatever!

It seems more important than ever now for labels like Discos Atónicos to exist. What are some of the challenges of releasing a record today in the contemporary landscape and how do you overcome them?

It is definitely becoming more and more complicated in terms of economics and waiting times.

Especially for underground labels. In my case there is even an extra complication because I self-distribute it. Prices have risen sharply since the pandemic times.Shipping costs have gone up. 

Everything has become more expensive, shops are buying less copies… it is a loop. I am currently considering releasing more material digitally and limiting the series on vinyl. After all, as a consumer I use digital a lot, I love bandcamp. 

What keeps you motivated in terms of releasing records and keeping the label going?

My motivation is always to share music that somehow feels timeless, fresh, with quality.

Things that I would immediately play and that I will never get tired of listening to.

One way or the other, I’m always lucky to find what fits in my label. Sounds that give me goosebumps. Tracks that are like little movies. Artists who I admire so much or new artists that I just discovered and I can feel their potential and I want to give that opportunity.

So you create a kind of small family.

And playing this music to an audience?

That’s a fantastic feeling. When you know something is good and you can’t wait to share it!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Elena. One last request. Can you play us out with a song?

Ohhh only one???

Then my choice is Underground Resistance – Death of My Neighborhood

A beauty. 

Thanks for having me!

 

Ukraine DJ Marathon fundraiser update

The Ukraine DJ marathon raises over 10 000kr for Musicians Defend Ukraine

We’re happy to announce that we raised 11 800kr in ticket sales and donations for the Musicians defend Ukraine foundation during last month’s Ukrainian DJ marathon. We flew in some of Ukraine’s established and unknown Techno and House talents for a night that marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the start of this war.

Stanislav Tolkachev, Nastya Muravyova, Danilenko, Serge Jazzmate, Pavel Plastikk and human margareeta showed a united force from our two floors for a night that we won’t forget anytime soon. A special thanks to Pavel Plastikk for helping us put this event together and Serge Jazzmate for letting us interview him on the blog, even as he deals with the realities of living in Kyiv right now.

Thank you to everybody that came out to this night and the people that donated.

In the Twilight Zone with Anthony Rother 

To say Anthony Rother is prolific would be an understatement. Whether releasing EPs and 12 inches for the likes of Marcel Dettmann’s Bad Manners label or extensive (21 tracks) albums like AI Space via his Bandcamp page, the German artist’s output is unyielding. It’s built on an unrelenting work ethic that serves Anthony Rother as a self-contained artistic universe, complete with world-building concepts and a distinctive sound. From his online jam sessions to his hybrid Electro sets, there’s a determined purpose before he even lays a finger on the record button with an ideology that’s deeply rooted in the sound and aesthetics of Electro.

Anthony Rother has been at it since the mid nineties and after releasing his debut LP Sex with the machines, he’s been championing the sounds of the Electro genre for a whole generation. He became a prominent figure in the electronic underground in the early 2000’s with legendary records like Hacker and Popkiller combining his love for dark impulsive rhythms and humanoid vocals channelled from the formative experiences of listening to Kraftwerk. He established Datapunk during this time, a label that launched the careers of many established artists before the business end of the music all but consumed Anthony’s efforts and he took a break from music altogether around 2008. 

In the process of getting some distance from the industry, he came back to making music eventually, and in a big way. Today his output schedule rivals some of his most productive years of his early career, and with a sincere and dedicated approach to Electro, Anthony Rother is more determined than ever. He is always working on music with an endless wealth of creativity spurring the artist and producer  forward.  His pursuits towards new avenues of exploration in the Electro paradigm have taken to extremes of the genre’s stylistic traits. 

When it comes to Anthony’s music it’s pure Electro, but it’s never complacent. Always striving for something new in his music, Anthony is propelled to new frontiers and each production only functions as a way to the next. In seeking new languages in this machine music, he is always one step ahead of his curve.  Albums like AI Space capture these musical developments in intricate and expansive Sci-Fi tableaus while his hybrid Electro set seeks to find a bridge between Electro and the club. It’s a self-contained musical world that he has created through his music and ever since he came back to this music, Anthony Rother has extended this immersive universe. 

We caught up with Anthony Rother via telephone call to talk about this world he’s developed and his approach to Electro. Our conversation drifts into AI, Offenbach and his hiatus, but it always returns to Anthony’s first love, Electro and his eternal quest for a fresh take on the genre. 

Anthony  Rother plays a Hybrid Electro set  at jaeger this Friday.

Mischa Mathys: Where are you at the moment?

Anthony Rother:  I’m here in Frankfurt in Offenbach. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Offenbach; it’s the town where the Robert Johnson club is located.

MM: Yes, I’m familiar. We’ve had a few guests from your neck of the woods at Jaeger in the past. People like Roman Fluegel, Ata and Gerd Janson. 

AR: Yes, these guys are from Frankfurt but Robert Johnson is in Offenbach. 

MM: And your studio is also there?

AR: Yes, it’s in the old Logic Records building, a record company from the eighties and nineties which released Snap! amongst other things.They owned the building and that’s where I have my studio. Roman also had his studio there. It’s a very famous place and has a bit of history in the electronic music scene.

Logic entrance

MM: Does it still have a musical community around it, or is it like everywhere else at the moment, every man is an island?

AR: Yeah, every man is an island. I can only speak for myself, but I go there I make my music and I leave. When I was in this building in the 2000’s, I had more to do with people on the other floors, but now I’m more concentrated in making music, than having fun, and drinking and making parties. I think my interests have shifted a little more to a different place. You know how it is?

MM: As you get older, your priorities change, right?

AR: Of course, yes. (laughs)

MM: But the music never changes?

AR: No, the music stays the same. I think today I’m more focussed on music than when I was younger. 

MM: You’ve had such a prolific output, and it was a bit difficult for me to find an entry point for the sake of this interview, but I thought we could start with Bad Manners 9, which came out last year. It feels like it is a bit of an outlier to what I’ve come to know as the Anthony Rother sound in recent years.

AR: Bad Manners does not reflect what I do today. The EP is an EP that me and Marcel (Dettman) put together. 

MM: It was only a brief dalliance with this style of music.

AR: You can’t say that either; because over the last ten years I’ve always worked on four on the floor tracks and experimented with these kinds of tracks, but I didn’t release the material. I just started releasing in 2017 again, with tracks on Danny Daze’s Omni Disc label. Since then they all reflect a continuous Electro style searching for a sound that works well in the club and has much energy. What I do today is purely based in Electro and writing about human problems in a digital computer language. 

MM:  Considering these concepts of human stories in a robot language in your work I also find you recontextualise them in a dystopian universe, but how do you arrive at these worlds; Do they come from books, movies, music or is it something that happens naturally at this point?

AR:  If you see my artistic life as this evolving thing, I would say that on my debut album Sex with the Machines, I was heavily influenced by Electro from the eighties, like Karftwerk and of course sci-fi movies. It was a melange of all of this. I’ve invented some kind of language for myself based on my influences that I recreate every time I work on a new album. It’s not something that I have to work at, it comes natural to me. 

MM: Is it rooted in something in your subconscious at this point and does it start with the music or at a point when you start adding lyrics or vocals to your music?

AR: Mostly it starts with the music. When I’m working on an album, I’ll have a title for the album and at this point I’ll form the ideas. Let’s take AI space (the latest album), it’s an evolution of artificial intelligence that we are witnessing now. When I started writing this album, AI wasn’t such a mainstream theme as it is now. It was the stuff of nerds. I did some research on it and got ideas for stories or personal experiences that I coat in this kind of language. It’s a back and forth, but it starts with the music, then I get a theme, and from this topic I derive all the other things. 

MM: Tell me a bit about your research into AI for this album. What conclusions did you draw about the future of AI?

AR: I must be careful about what I say about the reality of the situation, because I’m an artist. I’m not a professional AI programmer, so my knowledge as an artist is to paint a picture and to discuss it in an artistic way. It’s a mainstream question, and I don’t have an opinion, because you can approach the answer in different ways. It’s a diverse subject for an artist though and you can either paint a dystopian picture of an AI that takes over a world or on the opposite end a utopian world where an AI is our digital butler. 

MM: But do you have any thoughts on the reality of AI in terms of music?

AR: So, if we debate AI making music, does AI replace me as a musician? I’ve thought  about it, but I don’t feel threatened. Everything that is standard music is threatened because AI is very good at learning. So for me as an artist it’s very important that my music is so special, and so forward-thinking so that AI can’t reproduce this as a cliché. But as soon as I release it, it gets into the learning stream of the AI and I have to advance myself again. I’m always in a kind of race with AI. 

MM: Have you experimented at all with AI in making music yet?

AR: I have tried it, not in terms of making music, just to see what it will do. I asked an AI to make music like Musique Non Stop from Kraftwerk.  And it proposed 4 tracks to me. Most of them had an Electro beat, but it was nothing like Musique Non Stop, because Musique Non Stop is such a unique piece of music that it was impossible to reproduce it.

Personally I would not use AI, because making the music is the first and the best thing, the result is just the last step. Making the music is the most fun. 

MM: My experience with AI is that it lacks the imagination in that process to get to the end result, and I think this is something that is particularly unique to your music. It’s almost like you create these fantasy worlds that you are able to escape into when you make music.

AR: Exactly. In German we say, the way is the goal.

MM: I like what you said about having to be one step ahead of AI to stay progressive. In the scope of the Electro paradigm, and the stylistic traits of that music; How has it developed through your own artistic pursuits?

Anthony Rother

AR: That’s a hard question, because there have been so many phases and I’ve worked on so many different aspects of it. I’m still working on it, because in the last few years I’ve been trying to produce a kind of Electro that could be played in the club, and has the energy of Techno, but is still considered a 100% Electro. 

My plan is to work in different aspects of Electro and to try and find new elements to it. I’m willing to break from the stylistic concepts to try and find something new in terms of Electro. I might have to surrender some classic elements to get to that point.

MM: What are you finding you have to surrender in terms of making it work in a club these days; is it about stripping it back and making it more functional?

AR: This is a good question. It’s a kind of energy that needs to be in the track. You can have a complicated production and it will still work in a club. You have to play it out to find out. I usually play it out and from that I know what needs to go into the next production.

MM: You don’t go back to the one you played out or an older production?

AR: No, the concept is to be one step ahead. I’m always in a kind of twilight zone, not knowing what’s going to work. I think this is the best position to be in when you’re writing music if you wanna do something fresh. 

MM: Do you specifically make everything for the purpose of playing it out in your hybrid Electro set or are some things made purely for just the recorded format?

AR: I produce the music for the hybrid Electro set and I play it like a kind of DJ. I’m basically my own record shop. I produce so much music that I can play only my own music. This is the concept and this is where all the music comes from. I’m in the studio everyday, because I need so much material for the hybrid Electro set. From ten tracks that I produce, maybe one or two I can use in my set. 

MM: Is the intention to release as much of that music as possible?

AR: At first it wasn’t. But now I’m releasing my albums on bandcamp. You can see it as a full artistic concept. The hybrid Electro set represents my work as an artist in all different media. 

MM: So it’s its own self-contained ecosystem with you in the centre of it. 

AR: Exactly. 

MM:  Are you able to adapt to a crowd like a traditional DJ would?

AR: I can adapt to the crowd within the limits of my own material. I have a lot of material, because I’ve produced so much stuff and I try to produce various instances of Electro. It’s not just a show. It’s not so easy to explain without using the word DJ, but I don’t consider myself a DJ. 

MM:  And it’s very much contained within the universe of Electro?

AR: Exactly, I tried to do it years ago with some four on the floor tracks, but then in 2016 I started shifting to Electro. During the pandemic I decided that I will play only Electro in my hybrid set.

MM: Why did you decide that?

AR: Before that I was in between, but during the pandemic I wanted to prove if it was possible to do an Electro-only hybrid set. I want to be a 100% Electro artist. If I do something else I’ll use a new project name. This is my mission till the end of my life; to find all the different aspects of Electro available. 

MM: That’s a serious dedication. What is it about Electro that makes it so appealing?

AR: I think this is my nature.

Anthony's control panel

MM: It seems that you clearly set out a path for yourself, which is quite the contrast to a few years back when you went on a bit of a hiatus. That  seems at odds with your work ethic. Can you tell me what happened there?

AR: Yes around 2007 -2014, after the Datapunk hype, I lost myself for various reasons. One of the big reasons was that I was dragged into a kind of a business thing, which I had not enough knowledge about. I think I made every business error I could make as somebody that has no experience. I was exhausted. Everything looked so positive, but it turned out that everything was just business. 

MM: What did it take for you to get back to a point where you could  start making music again?

AR: For the longest time I was just trying to find myself again. I was ripped into a 1000 pieces, and I had to find the right pieces that really reflect me. In 2013 I produced Netzwerk Der Zukunft and this album helped me to put together the pieces of the real Anthony. Today I can say I’m complete in a sense that I know who I am again. I can trust myself and the decisions I make. Today I can distinguish between the business and the real stuff and the real stuff is the most important thing in my artistic life. 

MM: Did you feel that when you got back to it that it was the same as that initial spark when you got your first synthesiser, when you heard Electro for the first time or when you made music for the first time?

AR: When you’re creating in a sense that you do something real, it’s always a very deep experience. It’s not the same but it’s very different in depth. When I first created Sex with the Machines (my debut album), this had deep moments, but what I do today is deeper. I have more knowledge and have more possibilities. 

When you’re young, being naïve has a certain magic. This is something you lose because you get more knowledge and you gain more experience, and  I’m jealous of my younger self in that regard. On the other hand when you are naïve and young you’re often two-stepping into the wrong spots. (laughs) 

MM: What is your relationship today with an album like sex with the machines?

AR: I’m still listening to it. I’m still amazed by it. It’s not part of my creative process today, because that album has its own tone and is of its own time. For me it’s a great moment in my artistic career and it always gives me good energy. 

MM: Is it something that you ever reference in your music today?

AR:  I referenced parts of Sex with the Machines for my 2018 album 3L3C7RO COMMANDO, so yes.

MM: Looking at your studio from what I’ve seen online, it seems that you are still using many of the same old machines you would’ve used back then. How do you continue to use these machines in music that seeks to progress too?

AR: I work with old machines but I also have tons of new machines. I’m always cycling around. I have a basic setup and I change it in different ways. I’m always shifting with technology in search of that freshness in this style of music. 

A glimmer of hope in sound with Serge Jazzmate

Serge Jazzmate, is a rarefied phenomenon in the club music scene. The DJ and event organiser has remained a determined presence in Ukraine despite the war and in an extremely difficult and terrifying situation he has helped retain some semblance of a scene in his native Kiyv. Between the sounds of air raid sirens and Russian projectiles, Serge’s music also permeates the air, offering a glimmer of hope in sound for a scene under serious duress. 

A resident and co-founder of LOW, and frequent guest at ∄ (k41) Serge Jazzmate has been a fixture on what was burgeoning scene in Ukraine since 2007. A true facilitator, he helped arrange events and parties when he was not playing sets that trip across vast musical borders. He can be found operating in that record-enthusiast/selector universe where all the attention is focussed on the music and the DJ is an enthusiast and entertainer. 

Before the war broke out with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he had also been a prominent figure appearing on lineups like Brave! Factory, Strichka and Rhythm Buro Natura as well as playing abroad in places like Berlin. His nomadic sets, moving  between everything from “Brazilian bossa nova to Electro,” have become a staple at his LOW residency, which recently celebrated its 14th anniversary with an event in Berlin.

Today, the festivals are on indefinite hiatus but LOW and the spirit of the people behind the scenes, people like Serge, continue to bring some kind of momentary relief to Ukraine’s clubbing community. It’s only fleeting under the current curfew, but it’s there, an allegory to that unyielding Ukrainian spirit.

We caught up with Serge via email, and he was kind enough to give us a few moments of his precious time to find out more about the current situation and his own history ahead of his set in Jaeger’s sauna with Pavel Plastikk this weekend.

Hello Serge. Perhaps you can start by giving us a brief glimpse of what life is like in Kiyv at the moment. 

Hello, Misha. People live their lives, go to work, and children go to schools and kindergartens. Of course, it is not a normal life when your country is being destroyed and filled with blood, but we have to adapt to the situation when you, your family or your neighbors can be killed by a rocket or drone in a moment in a peaceful city. It’s about every single settlement across the largest country in Europe.

This war has been going on for a year, and it seems to just be intensifying leading up to the anniversary. Can you tell us how it’s affected you personally and the toll it continues to take on the Ukrainian people?

Complex issue. The ongoing war is taking a significant toll on the Ukrainian people’s mental health, with many experiencing trauma and anxiety as a result of the violence and uncertainty. Defenders and peaceful people die daily, infrastructure and industries are being heavily damaged, and significant damage is caused to nature. We apparently have no other choice than the retreat of the aggressor’s army, otherwise Ukraine will cease to exist as an independent state. This will provoke, firstly, a previously unprecedented new wave of emigration from Ukraine, and secondly, it will unleash new wars and global changes since WW2.

A lot of your peers and fellow DJs have left Ukraine for places like Berlin. What is keeping you there and how are artists like yourself surviving there at the moment and what about the conscription?

I have the opportunity to leave the country, but I am kept by the business (I run a company), my favorite city, exceptional people and favorite clubs and Closer. To make a living only as an artist is not possible right now. I passed a medical examination and I can serve in the army but I have postponement.

I see you are playing regularly in Kiyv, even now. How are you able to maintain some kind of semblance of a scene there?

All businesses have adapted to the new reality and continue to adapt. The city somehow has managed to maintain a music scene, with local artists continuing to perform in various venues. There are even some brave djs from Europe coming to Closer from time to time which deserves huge respect. I guess there are about 3 million people in Kyiv now.

What are some of the main obstacles in putting on events and DJing in the city at the moment?

First and foremost, the curfew from 23-00, so all events end no later than 21-45, since employees need to finish their shifts and guests get home in due time. Secondly, the lack of electricity. Almost every venue has a generator that solves this issue.

What’s happening with concepts like LOW and do you see a time ahead when you can simply pick it up again where you left off?

Thanks to our friends from PRU Y RVU, we just celebrated the 14th anniversary of LOW in Oxi Club in Berlin. All our residents arrived from different countries and we picked up our two favorite dj’s who previously played LOW in Kyiv – Tako (Music From Memory) & Maurice Fulton (BubbleTease Communications). It was a truly unforgettable and amazing night full of love, music and unity. Obviously, we won’t be able to hold events at home, and we’ll probably continue to hold special parties in different countries.

Clubbing has often been an outlet for people during periods of great distress as an escape for the harsh realities. I know in Serbia for example, club culture offered people a lifeline during their time of war. Is there anything like that happening in Ukraine at the moment, or is the war simply consuming all?

Absolutely. When you live in a constant negative emotional field, in fear and anxiety, with many restrictions, music and dance positively affect the state of people. Each participant buying a ticket directly helps various units of the army, funds, etc. Most venues collect and share profits. It’s win-win. Everyone is working on ways to help our defenders in an affordable way on the home front.

You’ve been involved in club music and club culture for a couple of decades. How did you get into this music and how did you get your start as a DJ?

Music has accompanied me since childhood. When I was at school I began collecting CDs ranging from Detroit techno, Brazilian bossa nova, Trip Hop, Disco, House, Reggae, Electro, Funk. It was a collection of many thousands. Later I started collecting records on the basis of my CD collection. I bought two Technics 1210s and a Pioneer DJM 300 mixer and in 2005 started training and playing extended sets at home.

My first paid gig happened in 2007 and after that more invitations followed. By that time, I had already met my partner in crime and the best Ukrainian dj Pavel Plastikk. We started playing together, and in 2009 LOW Party was launched at Xlib Club. On a separate note, Berghain/Panorama Bar seriously influenced and inspired me when I visited it as a clubber in 2008 and dreamed of the day when I would play upstairs.

What was the scene for electronic music like there before the war?

It grew rapidly from 2014-2015, new clubs opened, the young scene developed, first-rate international electronic festivals were started such as Brave! Factory, Strichka and Rhythm Buro to name a few.

Even when Covid happened, the Kyiv clubs managed to stay afloat. A striking example of which is Brave! Factory Festival 2021, which attracted over 10 thousand visitors (with a huge proportion of foreign ravers) and a club located on Kyrylivska Street (), which was launched a few months before the pandemic and also gathered full planes of European tourists. Europe was in full lockdown at the time. Our economy could not afford it, so businesses worked within the existing rules and adapted to the situation without proper governmental help.

You’ve eschewed the producer/DJ paradigm. What is it about DJing that fulfills your creative pursuits and why have you avoided producing your own music?

Well, I’m a DJ and a collector. I’m happy with what I do, where I am and what moves me.

Your musical selections are quite broad with sets that can go everywhere from Disco to Techno. What is behind this eclectic approach?

It’s basically dependent on the club and the party. Sometimes I would play more straight sets, sometimes eclectic. Mixing genres came from the beginning when I started listening to the records. DJing just reflects your tastes, your mood and your understanding of the dance floor in the moment. This skill is experience, you should live them in time.

Is there anything specific that draws you to a piece of music and what is the main thing you look for in a piece of music to play out regardless of genre?

I think drama is the most important thing to achieve, regardless of genres. 

What have you found people are gravitating towards today in these trying times and why do you think this style of music works so well in the current situation?

It is difficult for me to answer. Perhaps this is something other than what is being played elsewhere, like the same type of house or techno, when it is difficult to distinguish whether something has changed over the past three hours, if you understand what I mean.Some people like 140 BPM, some people like 160 BPM. Some people just like more meaningful music where there’s a soul and emotion.

In the past, there had been some sense of collaboration between Ukraine and Russia’s Djs and artists, but I assume the war has completely broken any sense of camaraderie. Has succeeded in alienating a whole generation of Ukrainians?

I can’t answer for everyone, but in general of course, there is a very small number of artists, citizens from a neighboring country, who supported Ukraine. We keep a close eye on every artist and promoter.

What’s going to stop this war in your opinion and how can we as club- and music enthusiasts continue to help the Ukrainian people? 

Those who started the war can stop it very quickly. Keep helping Ukrainian people in any possible way, keep pressure on your governments with more & more weapons and sanctions. I understand that you also suffer from the economic consequences now but it is incomparable with other consequences which could happen later.

Ukraine DJ Marathon and fundraiser

A year on from the war in Ukraine we host a Ukrainian DJ Marathon to raise funds for the cause

It’s one year on from when Russia invaded Ukraine and to show our support, Jaeger is hosting a Ukraine relief benefit with a Ukrainian DJ marathon this Friday. We’ve assembled a iost of Ukrainian DJs and given them the keys to our basement and sauna with all proceeds going to Musicians defend Ukraine. Stanislav Tolkachev, Nastya Muravyova, Danilenko, Serge Jazzmate,Pavel Plastikk and  human margareeta represent Ukraine for this event hosted by g-HA & Olanskii and Frædag. Jaeger and Frædag present an evening with Ukrainian DJs as our effort to continue to place the spotlight on this war in the only way we know how, the music. It’s a peaceful protest of dance and camaraderie with our Ukranian counterparts and we give them full rein of both floors for this Frædag.

More information about the charity can be found here: https://shpytal.com/musicians-defend-ukraine/

More information about the event can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/488518603454373/

and tickets here:
https://jaeger.ticketco.events/no/nb/e/fraedag_x_ukraine_takeover_stanislav_tolchachev__nastya_muravyova___serge_jazzmate__human_margareeta

Future robot overlord or useful tool: Interviewing an AI

AI is here. It’s already making waves in fields from academia to art, with discussions descending into arguments about the role and the threat (warranted or not) of this new technology. Will AI be our future robot overlords or is it simply a useful tool that could take care of the mundanity of everyday life? The jury is still out, but one thing is for certain it’s here to stay and people are already investigating the power and shortcomings of this nascent technology, especially in the corners of music that we operate in.

In a recent interview from Test Pressing with electronic outfit Plaid, Andy Turner suggests; Personally I think AI could be a brilliant assistant to us. It could really open up creativity and things that we’ve never even imagined. So it’s kind of the best way we can look at it. And it’s impossible to stop.” He is not alone in his assumptions. Other forward-thinking artists like patten have already started incorporating it into their work to realise new pieces and possibly new musical languages through AI. And there’s also David Guetta on the other end of the spectrum which could argue for the negative effects of the technology. (But is it the AI or the human to blame for that one?)  

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that electronic music artists have adopted the technology so freely (some would say recklessly). As music made from machines the robot has always been central to the music. It’s in the human influence of said machines where the music has always taken shape however, and for the moment it doesn’t seem that AI has quite garnered the idea of creativity. You could even argue, humans have completely extricated that creative soul in the context of modern House and Techno, but that’s a whole other conversation. 

What I would like to know is how this technology is taking shape and what are the pitfalls and the opportunities awarded by this technology. So I went right to the source and started interviewing open AI’s ChatGPT on the topic of… well it… I guess. 

At no point do you get the sense you’re talking to a person throughout, but what I did get was a suspicion that I often get when I’ve interviewed real artists and people. There’s an underlying sense that the answers I receive are somewhat scripted, conditioned by unconscious social dogmas that permeate through online interviews. It never aims to offend or be critical, always following up one argument with another and curiously, it lies. Possibly ingrained in its programming to always deliver the task at hand, it will often colour facts with random sentences. The links it offers are the perfect example, most of which bring up a 404 code. 

At times during our questions, especially when I questioned something it answered, chatGPT would start writing something only to throw up an error and make the point moot, much like an artist or DJ that won’t feel too comfortable in a certain line of questioning. 

At the end of the day it supports many of the ideas artists like Plaid and patten (curious it didn’t reference those artists) had for AI, as a tool for musicians to exploit to make music. It supports a more embracing approach of AI technology, but then again… isn’t that exactly what it wants?

Hello ChatGPT. Do you have time to talk?

Of course! I’m always here to help with any questions you may have. What can I help you with today?

I’m curious about the role AI will play in the future development of music. Are people using you to make music yet?

Yes, AI is already playing a role in the future development of music. There are several ways that AI is being used in the music industry, including:

  1. Music generation: AI algorithms are being used to generate music in various styles, such as jazz, classical, and pop.
  2. Music composition: AI is being used to assist composers in the music creation process, from generating musical ideas to composing complete pieces.
  3. Music production: AI algorithms are being used to automatically mix and master tracks, making it easier for music producers to create polished recordings.
  4. Music recommendation: AI is being used to recommend songs and playlists to listeners, based on their preferences and listening history.

Can you give me some examples of people using AI to make music with links to the music?

Sure, here are some examples of people using AI to make music, along with links to the music:

  1. OpenAI Jukebox: A generative model that creates music in a specific style, given a prompt such as a piece of lyrics or a genre. You can listen to samples of music generated by the model at https://openai.com/jukebox/.
  2. Amper Music: A platform that uses AI to generate original music tracks for videos, presentations, and other multimedia projects. You can listen to samples of the music generated by the platform at https://www.ampermusic.com/music/.
  3. AIVA (Artificial Intelligence Virtual Artist): A platform that uses AI to compose music in a variety of styles, from classical to pop. You can listen to samples of music composed by AIVA at https://aivamusic.org/.
  4. AUBot: A platform that uses AI to generate music in the style of specific artists. For example, you can have the AI generate music in the style of Aphex Twin or Radiohead. You can listen to samples of the music generated by the platform at https://aubot.com/.

What has the critical reception been like for some of these pieces?

The critical reception of AI-generated music has been mixed. While some people appreciate the creativity and uniqueness of AI-generated pieces, others feel that they lack the human touch and emotional depth that makes music so powerful.

Critics of AI-generated music often argue that it lacks the nuance, expressiveness, and spontaneous nature of human-created music. 

On the other hand, proponents of AI-generated music argue that it has the potential to broaden the musical landscape by generating new styles and forms of expression. 

What is your opinion on this discourse?

As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions or emotions. My goal is to provide objective and accurate information to the best of my abilities based on the information and training data I have been given.

However, it’s clear that AI has the potential to play an increasingly important role in the music industry, both as a tool for creators and as a source of new and innovative musical styles. How this potential is realized will depend on the continued development of AI technology and the evolving opinions and preferences of listeners and industry professionals.

In what ways does an AI generate music or assist a musician in the creation of music?

AI can generate music or assist a musician in several ways, including:

  1. Music generation: AI algorithms can generate complete pieces of music, including the melody, harmony, and rhythm. These pieces can be based on pre-existing styles or can be completely new and unique.
  2. Music composition: AI algorithms can assist composers in the creation process by suggesting musical ideas, such as chord progressions or melodic motifs. This can help to jumpstart the creative process and provide new inspiration for the composer.
  3. Music arrangement: AI algorithms can assist musicians in arranging and orchestrating their compositions, by suggesting different instrumentations or suggesting ways to enhance the overall sound of the piece.
  4. Music production: AI algorithms can assist music producers in tasks such as mixing and mastering tracks, by automatically adjusting levels and equalization, compressing and limiting audio, and adding effects such as reverb and delay.
  5. Music analysis: AI algorithms can analyze music to determine its structure, key, and tempo, making it easier for musicians to understand and work with existing pieces.

In terms of music generation, how does it generate sounds?

AI-generated music typically uses a combination of machine learning algorithms and music theory to generate sounds.

One approach is to use generative models, such as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) or Variational Autoencoders (VAEs), which can learn the patterns and structure of a particular musical style and then generate new music that fits within that style.

Another approach is to use rule-based systems, where specific rules and algorithms are programmed to generate music that follows certain musical conventions and structures. For example, a rule-based system might generate a melody by randomly selecting notes from a certain scale, while following specific rhythm patterns and chord progressions.

In both cases, the generated music is typically refined and post-processed by human musicians or music producers to ensure that it sounds polished and professional.

Can it generate sounds?

Yes, AI can generate sounds. AI algorithms can generate musical notes, drums beats, and other musical elements, which can then be combined to create complete pieces of music.

The sounds generated by AI can be synthesized using software synthesizers or can be created using samples of real instruments. In either case, the AI algorithms determine the pitch, duration, and volume of the generated sounds based on the musical style and structure that it has been trained on.

It’s important to note that while AI can generate musical sounds, it is still limited by the quality of the training data and the sophistication of the algorithms being used. As AI technology continues to advance, it is likely that the quality and expressiveness of AI-generated sounds will continue to improve.

Would it be correct to assume then that AI would be more suited to making electronic music at this moment in time?

It could be argued that AI is well-suited to generating electronic music, as electronic music often relies on repetitive patterns and well-defined structures that are easier for AI algorithms to model and generate. However, AI can also be used to generate other types of music, such as classical or jazz, if the training data and algorithms are designed to capture the relevant musical patterns and structures.

What about Djing; has AI made any strides into that artistic field?

Yes, AI is beginning to make strides in the field of DJing. There are already AI-powered DJ systems available that can analyze music and automatically create seamless transitions between tracks. These systems use machine learning algorithms to analyze the tempo, key, and structure of the music, and then use this information to find tracks that are compatible and match well together.

In some cases, AI-powered DJ systems can even generate new music on the fly, using algorithms to create transitions and remixes that are unique to each performance.

While AI-powered DJ systems can be very effective in creating smooth and seamless transitions between tracks, they still lack the creativity and expressiveness that comes with human DJing. 

It seems you are very keen on the continued human influence in music. Are there no ambitions to remove human involvement completely from music in the future?

There are certainly some who see AI as having the potential to completely replace human involvement in music in the future. However, it is unlikely that AI will completely replace human musicians and music producers in the near future.

Music is an art form that requires creativity, expressiveness, and emotional connection. While AI can generate music that is technically sound and follows certain musical rules, it still lacks the intuition, soul, and emotional depth that comes with human musical expression.

In addition, music is often created and experienced in a social context, and many musicians and music fans value the human interaction and collaboration that comes with creating and experiencing music together.

How did you come to the conclusion that music requires “soul” and “emotional depth”?

The conclusion that music requires soul and emotional depth is based on the long-standing tradition and history of music as an art form. Throughout human history, music has been used to express emotions, tell stories, and connect with listeners on a deep, emotional level.

Many musicians and music fans value the emotional impact of music and believe that music can have a profound effect on the human experience. They see music as a form of expression that goes beyond technical skill and musical rules, and that incorporates elements such as creativity, intuition, and emotional depth.

This view is supported by scientific research, which has shown that music can have a powerful impact on the brain and emotions. For example, studies have shown that music can affect brain activity, mood, and behavior, and that different types of music can evoke different emotional responses.

It seems that AI’s methods are very much based on the musical parameters laid out by humans in the past. In what way does it innovate or improve on music or musical techniques?

AI has the potential to innovate and improve on music and musical techniques in several ways:

  1. Automation: AI can automate various tasks in the music production process, such as mixing, mastering, and even composing. This can save time and resources, and allow musicians and producers to focus on other aspects of the creative process.
  2. Experimentation: AI can be used to explore new musical possibilities and techniques that might be difficult or time-consuming for human musicians to achieve. For example, AI can generate music that spans multiple genres or incorporates new and unusual sounds and textures.
  3. Customization: AI can be used to generate music that is customized to specific needs and preferences. For example, AI-generated music can be tailored to a specific mood, style, or tempo, or it can be generated to match the style of a particular artist or genre.
  4. Inspiration: AI can be used to inspire and stimulate the creative process for human musicians. By generating new and unexpected musical ideas, AI can challenge human musicians to think outside the box and push the boundaries of their own creativity.

Does it have to adhere to standardised forms of harmony, melody and rhythm?

AI can be programmed to adhere to standard forms of harmony, melody, and rhythm, but it can also be programmed to deviate from these standards and generate music that is unconventional or experimental.

In other words, the musical parameters that AI follows are determined by the humans who design and program the AI systems. If a human programmer wants the AI to follow certain musical rules, they can code the AI to do so. If they want the AI to generate more experimental or unconventional music, they can program it to do that as well.

It is important to note that the musical parameters that AI adheres to can also change over time as AI technology and musical tastes evolve. As AI systems become more advanced and humans gain a deeper understanding of how to use AI in music, the musical parameters that AI follows are likely to change and expand.

What are some of the most common technical challenges facing AI in terms of creating music currently?

There are several technical challenges facing AI in the creation of music, including:

  1. Understanding and capturing musical structure: One of the biggest challenges facing AI in music is understanding and replicating the complex structure of music. This includes understanding the relationships between melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre, as well as the ways in which these elements interact to create a cohesive and expressive piece of music.
  2. Creating music with emotional depth: Another challenge facing AI in music is creating music that is emotionally impactful and that connects with listeners on a deeper level. This requires the AI to understand the nuances of human emotion and to generate music that conveys those emotions in a meaningful and authentic way.
  3. Overcoming the limitations of current AI technology: Current AI technology is still limited in its ability to create music that is truly original and innovative. AI systems often rely on large amounts of pre-existing musical data to generate music, and they are still limited in their ability to generate truly new and unique musical ideas.
  4. Interfacing with human musicians: Another challenge facing AI in music is developing systems that can effectively interface with human musicians. This requires the AI to understand the musical language and processes used by human musicians and to integrate those processes into its own musical generation process.

And what will be the absolute limitations of music created by AI, considering even the most technically advanced iteration of AI?

While AI technology is rapidly advancing, there will likely always be some limitations to the music that AI can create. Some of the limitations that may persist even with the most advanced AI systems include:

  1. Lack of originality: AI systems are currently limited in their ability to create truly original and innovative musical ideas. They often rely on pre-existing musical data and algorithms to generate music, and may not be able to generate truly new musical ideas on their own.
  2. Emotional depth: AI may struggle to create music that is emotionally impactful and that connects with listeners on a deeper level. This is because music is a deeply human and emotional art form, and AI systems may not be able to fully capture the complex emotions that are expressed in music.
  3. Human connection: Music is often created to connect with other humans and to evoke emotions and experiences that are shared among people. AI-generated music may not have the same ability to connect with listeners on a human level, as it does not have a personal connection to the experiences and emotions that it is expressing.
  4. Creative intuition: Many of the most impactful and innovative musical ideas are the result of a human’s creative intuition, which is a unique combination of experience, taste, and imagination. AI systems may not be able to replicate this type of creative intuition, and their music may therefore lack the same level of originality and impact as music created by human musicians.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me Chat GPT. Did you at any point during this exchange give answers that sought to placate?

As an AI language model, I do not have personal opinions or motivations. My aim is to provide objective and accurate answers to the best of my ability based on the information I have been trained on and the inputs I receive. I do not seek to placate, but rather to provide helpful and informative responses to the questions posed to me.

Thank you again.

You’re welcome! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I’m here to help.

On Trains, Planes and Automobiles with Biesmans

In 2021 Biesmans released his debut LP P Trains, Planes and Automobiles via Watergate Records. The record was created in the void of the idle routine of a world-wide pandemic and it brought Biesmans work to a world craving stimuli from mobile devices in lieu of the tangible. It solidified around the multi-media tendencies of social-media with the artist working in the strict confines of a concept and a specific work ethic. The result was a series of video clips, taken from iconic eighties movies soundtracked by Biesmans’ ebullient machine music. 

Contextually, it couldn’t be more perfect. Biesmans love of vintage synthesisers and his Belgian musical heritage set a modern backdrop for these nostalgic images. It coexisted in harmony with Biesmans’ previous EPs, which he was able to transpose perfectly for a multimedia experience. After a few aliases and projects going as far back as 2007 and an earlier career as a working DJ, Biesmans had landed on a sound that could adopt an eponymous moniker, and it was  facilitated by his close relationship with Watergate.

Going from the technical staff to an artist on their roster, Joris has a family-like bond with people behind the Berlin superclub, record label and agency. Although he is no longer one of the house’s sound guys, today he can still be found in the booth, playing vinyl alongside people like Sven Väth at the club. He has channelled his enigmatic sounds as an artist to the decks where Djing has been a creative outlet for the artists since his days as a teenager. 

With his next stop being Jaeger’s basement, we called up Joris Biesmans to find out more about what is a fairly unknown biography. Over a glitchy telephone call, I hear a friendly and relaxed Joris Biesmans and in the distance I can hear cicadas chirping and birds calling, interlaced with the hustle and bustle of a busy city. 

It sounds very tropical where you are.

It is very tropical; I’m in Goa! 

What are you doing there; are you on holiday or are you playing? 

A bit of both. I just want to take it slower in January. I’m playing here on Saturday, and I’ve been travelling with my girlfriend. I’m mixing business and pleasure. We did Egypt, Cyprus, and Beirut, and from Beirut we went to New Delhi and visited the Taj Mahal and everything, and then we went to Mumbai and Goa. 

I want to start talking about your roots in Belgium. There’s obviously that huge tradition of synthesiser music there with New Beat and some of the original Techno pioneers and I feel that I can hear it in your music too. Is that something you felt growing up there? 

I discovered that stuff later on, I have to be honest. I grew up with Eurodance and Trance stuff. This was in the ‘90’s. I started playing music in ‘96 when I was 13 years old. I hear all the hits from back then now; the young kids love them again. That was the thing I grew up with. 

Later on, I dived into this EBM stuff like Front 242. When I studied music Luc van Acker (Front 242 collaborator) was one of my teachers. I was very much focussed on House and Techno in my early years. I had no classical music training, and that would come later on and that’s how I got into that heritage. 

What were the Trance records that you were listening to back then?

Like the Bonzai stuff, and also a lot of German imports back then. Records from artists like M.I.K.E and Yves Deruyter. Back then we called it retro House, but then it was not even 10 years old. I remember there was a bit of a hard House, but also more Trance from artists like Marino Stefano or even early Tiesto records. Later on I also imported music from DJ Deeon, DJ Bone and Juan Atkins, all over the place. I still have these records, scattered between Belgium and Berlin. 

Was electronic music always around growing up, or was there some kind of realisation that happened in the nineties?

It was always there. You had all this Eurodance stuff on the radio and as a 12 year old you’re not immediately drawn into underground music. So you have to first get into it, and the electronic music you heard on the radio planted some seeds. 

The club culture in our little town was actually not that bad at all. There were lots of places where you could hear this stuff. We would go to a bar after school which would play really good House and Techno. In this genre, we had a lot of opportunities to listen and to discover new music. Today, they traded that all in for huge festival stages. 

I read somewhere that you were very young when you got your first synthesiser. At what point do you start making your own music?

It happened simultaneously. My brother and I had a clubhouse in our backyard. My brother was more on the technical side, and I just started getting into electronic music and he brought home – literally in the same year – some software called fastracker. I was never a trained musician and I found it so intriguing that I could make music (without any formal training). 

I was recording music on cassette and playing it in the little clubhouse. It was very innocent. It was so basic, but it was cool. 

At what point did you think this could be a career?

This was really playing around. I think I released my first music only around 2007. Weirdly enough when I was 16/17 years old I was really into this thing that I felt this was something I wanted to do for a living. It took me really long before I could live from it. I was always doing it, but it’s only been a few years that I have been doing this for a proper living. 

Yes, I wanted to ask you about that because the first Biesmans record only surfaced  in around 2018, but it sounds like you’ve been working away at it for some time.

Yes, it’s a fairly new act. 

There were aliases and you had been part of a Hip Hop act… 

Yes, Wooly, the Hip Hop act was from my school days. 

So what solidified for you around the time of Biesmans in terms of music? 

I started studying again in 2009. I did three years in music school. Before that I was playing a lot, mainly in Belgium. These were the myspace times. Things were going really well, and at a certain point I wanted to learn more. This broadened my horizons. I started making completely different music. I discovered some electronica stuff that I completely missed out on previously. 

And then moving to Berlin, I was all over the place. I was making music as TV(e) and I had this ongoing project with Cashmere. I was  making so much different music, I was a bit stuck. I felt really lost. I really had to regroup myself in Berlin, and becoming a technician at Watergate, there was so much musical education. 

My entire weekend was clubbing and you get to hang on club music again. That’s why I decided to focus on one thing. I was going to go back to where I started again, back before the school started, but with the information I learnt from the school. I was going back to club music and just using my own name.  

When I listen to your music I pick up on a lot of Italo references…

I’m a big fan. What  shaped my Italo love the most, was the actual machines. I love vintage synthesisers. Honestly I don’t have such a big Italo background but you take a Juno 106 (synthesiser) and it immediately sounds like you’re going to make music like this. These machines really inspire me to make music like this. 

Is that where most of your creative influences come from, the machines?

Yeah. The machines shape the sound a lot.When I have an idea the main thing for me is to just get the music out there. I’m not a purist. 

If you are listening to other music, are you taking  in those references as well?

I start with a blank slate, but I’m always taking in references. I love to DJ, and I love to look for new music. This is an essential part for me. The stuff will get absorbed somewhere and that will be released when I’m in the studio. 

This ties into what I wanted to ask you about your debut LP, “Trains, Planes and Automobiles.” The concept of pairing these video clips with your music seems quite strict. Did they have a strong influence on the way the music sounded?

Definitely. It went 50/50. I was also making songs and finding the right video for it, but I was also finding videos, and making songs. No matter which direction I started, it was always starting with a very visual image in my mind. These are references you definitely hear on the album, because you have some downtempo and atmospheric stuff that’s not designed for the dance floor.

It was Corona time, so I was watching a lot of these old movies. The film scores of this stuff are always so good. 

Why did you choose this particular era of films?

That’s also the moment I felt more nostalgic. Being in this eighties sound and having  these machines I was really drawn to it. This was always my trademark, that vintage sound, but updated for a modern club use. 

Was it about making a new soundtrack for those clips?

I wanted to be active on social media. So, the idea of the album was not initially an album. Everybody was using social media a lot, so I thought  let’s find a way to trigger all these senses. I was doing these POVs, and they were working well from my studio. So to give it a different direction, I thought, let’s do some film scores. And that worked really well. It was a good bridge to stay in the picture.

Did it start off as a vague idea and then quickly turn into a strict set of parameters?

It started off with an idea to do three tracks a week for a month, just to give myself a challenge. You make it really explicit, three tracks a week and you get your audience involved. Afterwards, a friend of mine told me; “hey but this is actually an album that you are making.” 

I did the whole thing in a month and then after I started making edits of the songs and more recordings and fine-tuning it. For me it’s the closest thing I could get to an album, it’s really just one thing. It was just one concept within this time frame. It was making a picture of that moment of my life and being as close to it as possible. That worked really well. 

That record came out on Watergate and you’re close to the people at Watergate. Does it help being in an environment like that for the freedom it presents?

I actually wanted to release it myself via bandcamp. It was a bit rougher at the time. Alex (from Watergate) was like: “why don’t work at it a bit more and you can release it via Watergate.” Then they wanted to give it the proper attention with gatefold vinyl, artwork and the whole thing became much bigger. They just heard the album and they said let’s do the album together. 

How did they feel being that person working in the background, working on the technical aspects, to being an artist on the label?

Now, I don’t do the technician job anymore; I stopped about two years ago. When I joined the agency, I told them I didn’t want to be a technician anymore, because my intention was that this was always my way into the music scene in Berlin. I’m still very closely connected to the club. If I’m in Berlin, I  visit the club at least once a week. It’s a bit of a second home.

What effect has being a technician had on what you do as a DJ in other clubs?

I don’t think it’s affected the type of music that I play. What I think is really important is the sound in the DJ booth, and I notice these things. At Watergate we had a very high standard of what we would like to meet. This is also contributing to the best possible outcome for a club and the artist. I notice that this is not common. You see it from both sides now and I have my eyes open. 

I’m sure you’ll enjoy playing at Jaeger then. 

Yes, I’ve seen videos of this very nice DJ booth which is also very dedicated to sound. I’m looking forward to that. 

International Deejay Gigolo Records: The Electroclash years

“Do you know Frank Sinatra… He’s dead… he’s dead,” Miss Kittin cackles in a distant tattoo as the Hacker’s electro beat chugs along. Few memories play out as vividly as when I first heard “Frank Sinatra” by the Hacker and Miss Kittin. I distinctly remember where I was, who I was with and the feelings that the record elicited. Today, it still evokes a visceral memory of surprise, awe and humour; not for its content within the current landscape, but for what it meant back then. 

Taken from the now highly acclaimed Miss Kitten and The Hacker’s “First album”, that formative experience with “Frank Sinatra” laid the groundwork for a musical taste that sought some distance from the mundane of what electronic music had to offer at that time. It was provocative for all the right reasons and brought electronic dance music back to something that was always intended to be; indifferent and at times completely at odds from anything in mainstream culture.

Not only did it cement an admiration for The Hacker and Miss Kittin both as a duo and individually, but it was also my introduction to a label via a compilation with some curious cover art and a name that would be difficult to forget; International DeeJay Gigolos Volume 2

Baptised by the record label that bore its name, International DeeJay Gigolo – which is often shortened to just “Gigolo” – the compilation left an indelible mark and informed a big part of my musical education; not merely for the music from the label but for an entire musical universe that would come before and after it. It’s a label that would grow as my own musical tastes evolved, and in the process of presenting new music, it would also be my introduction to an entire musical history that was distant and elusive to a still somewhat uninformed and still naïve enthusiast. Gigolo leads to Jeff Mills, takes a sojourn via Tuxedomoon, is entangled in the existence of Kraftwerk, and makes connections with contemporary labels like R&S. Throughout it all it keeps introducing the listener to new music and artists like Tiga, Mount Sims, Terence Fixmer and Adriano Canzian, and at the centre of it all; DJ Hell. 

Gigolo Records has been a significant chapter in the annals of club music. Even esteemed DJ,  DJ Harvey professed his admiration for it in DJ mag back in the day and for many DJs and enthusiasts of the same ilk it remains an important touchstone. It will be forever associated with the electroclash moment, but for anybody with eclectic tastes it goes way beyond that moment, tying the dots between Punk, Disco, Hip-Hop, Techno and Electro.

Gigolo came at a crucial time for club music and it not only found the perfect zeitgeist for its own ideologies, but went a long way in establishing that zeitgeist. It stood out amongst its peers for its unique and singular vision, driven by its sole owner and musical visionary DJ Hell (Helmut Josef Geier). It established a moment in music history we aren’t likely to witness again with that intensity. It wasn’t a specific sound – more a lack thereof – but an attitude that was at the heart of Gigolo and it all starts with the man behind the label. 

To understand Gigolo, you’ve got to take a trip through the history of one of the most enigmatic and individual DJs that has ever lived. A true and determined underground figure, DJ Hell’s history moves through club music history like Dante traversing the nine circles. Key figures and moments crop up in his own biography as if he’s recounting the story of our global scene, the faceless narrator of unflappable character. He’s never stealing the spotlight or craving the attention of his counterparts, but he’s always there, in the shadows working on the fringes like a true uncompromising underground hero. 

His career as a DJ starts with the advent of the nightclub, a concept still indistinguishable from the discotheque during the eighties. In Munich, or more accurately, a suburb outside Munich, a young DJ Hell is cutting his teeth, playing music from his local discotheque’s collection – DJs did that back then, when the music policy was still dictated by the sound of the place rather than the disc jockey. DJ Hell had shown a knack for picking the right records from the communal collection, consolidating it into a career as a DJ and then later a producer. 

Moving from the suburbs to the city DJ Hell became one of the first House DJs in Germany, parlaying his skills for mixing records into A&R for the Disko B label before becoming an artist and producer with his breakout single “My definition of House” on the then burgeoning R&S label. His work as A&R took him from Germany to New York, possibly sowing the seed for an eventual move to New York to be a resident at the infamous Limelight club alongside Jeff Mills.

This is where a large part of the story of International DeeJay Gigolos begins. In 1993 DJ Hell was a resident, sharing the booth alongside Mills in one of the most iconic eras and places for club music. It’s here where the story of the club kids of New York begins and ends with Michael Alig’s eventual descent into murder. Yes, DJ Hell was there for the beginning of that too.

It was DJ Hell’s close associations with Mills that planted the seed for Gigolos to exist. After hearing a couple of Disco “edits” from the wizard being turned at limelight, DJ Hell approached Mills with a proposal to release the music. Both DJs knew that the music wouldn’t suit any of Mills’ Techno labels, and he agreed to give the music to Hell to establish International Deejay Gigolos. This was a big deal. Jeff Mills hardly ever licences his music outside of his own labels and here is giving DJ Hell these tracks for free! 

“Shifty Disco” wasn’t the first catalogue number on Gigolos – no that honour goes to D.J. Naughty and David Carretta – but it was released in the same year the label sprang into existence and set the tone for what the label and this music would become. It turned it all on its head. Here’s the original Techno innovator, making Disco-inspired House, and what do you know… he’s very good at it. That raw impulsiveness that is Jeff Mills, is all over this record, but it’s channelled towards the fringes of Jeff Mills’ known universe, where vocal samples and strings sit buoyantly alongside syncopated hi-hats.

Shifty Disco and Gigolo came as a revelation in the late nineties. As we were marching into the millennium, Electronic club music became more and more codified. Lines began to be drawn in the sand, between House and Techno and Trance and its quickly-emerging subgenres where there had never been any distinctions before. Some factions started garnering superstardom on the basis of playing records to a dance floor, while others were happy toiling in the underground benefiting from the hype. It was a time of hyperinflation for club music’s equity stake in popular culture and DJs were playing to millions at the likes of Love Parade while producers like David Morales and Paul Johnson (original underground figures) got played on MTV. As it became trendy without much resistance from people that saw an easy buck, all sincerity went along with it and by the time the troubadours were playing saxophones alongside fedora-clad DJs playing “lounge House” nobody with any taste would be caught dead listening to a DJ, except maybe one – DJ Hell. 

DJ Hell and Gigolo were one of the few instuítutions that not only remained unique during this period, but also bridged a lot of gaps for people moving to and from electronic club music. As the owner, A&R and creative director for the label, DJ Hell’s punk-informed attitude to music and the business of music was one of the most authentic for a time of uber-commercialism for electronic music. There was no specific promotion, no hype, just an ideology and a look that resonated with an audience either coming to electronic music or moving away from the tawdry aspects of the music. 

As the label started to take shape and by the first compilation an aesthetic started to emerge based somewhere between the pop-sensitivities of Andy Warhol and the kitsch machismo of  the Arnold Schwarzenegger artwork for the label. (Later Arnold’s people would sue Gigolo for the use of his image, but that’s a whole other article). It was all carefully orchestrated by DJ Hell and even today a Gigolo record still jumps out at you from the shelves for its curious artwork featuring Amanda Lapore and Sid Vicious. 

Early releases from likes of the disco industrialist David Carretta, the eco-nihilist turned Hi-NRG punk Chris Korda (“save the planet, kill yourself”), House cadettes the Foremost Poets and Electro stalwart DMX Crew, not to mention the Hacker and Miss Kitten set a road map through electronic music that looked like a Jackson Pollock painting created by an AI. Even when Gigolo was releasing straight up House music, there were elements of something more going making unlikely connections between distant musical universes and it was quirky but above all idiosyncratic. There was an approach in breaking down barriers that permeated through it all, and although it was in the air with people moving away from what House and Techno became, Gigolo played a significant role in defining this period as Electroclash. 

If there is one track that defined this era and this spirit in music and offered something of a breakthrough, this would be “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation. Today that song has been immortalised in football stadiums the world over, but before it was that it set a watermark for what Electroclash would become. It’s instantly gratifying melody and fervent joviality, becoming an instant earworm for a whole generation of club-goers. It cemented the career of the artist and synth-wizard Florian Senfter, defining an era and a sound that would soon be immortalised through Gigolo. Right now, it might be as far removed from the original context as it was intended as a football stadium chant (or not actually considering DJ Hell’s own love for football), but even back then it was also probably the biggest crossover success for the label and the artist. Between the saccharine melody and the rocky nature of the synths that called to mind more Emmerson Lake and Palmer than it did Oakenfold, the record has clearly stood the test of time. It was and remains the definition of Electroclash and you can hear its influence on everything from Alter Ego to Boys Noize. 

Much like the whole ethos of International Deejay Gigolo, Electroclash was based on the absence of a particular sound rather than a specific genre. The prefix Electro is something of a misnomer, referring more to an epochal sound and character rather than the literal understanding of the genre Electro. It would fold in everything from Synth Pop to Disco to Techno with a focus on electronic sounds and an iconoclastic approach that tore down institutionalised barriers installed by “purists.” Electroclash held a middle finger up to the dogmas of electronic club music, establishing one of the most fertile and unassumingly progressive periods in electronic music. It came at just the right time at the end of the nineties when electronic club music was becoming more rigid and formulaic in the wake of some crossover success. 

DJ Hell saw all of this from his vantage point at a point where he himself had been established, and positioned International DJ Gigolo Records right at the centre of this incredible creative mælstrøm. There would be nothing expected or pastiche that came out of this period for Gigolo. Records like the electro-rock of Zombie Nation would live side by side with the rest of the catalogue, with the only common thread between these records being their raw and impulsive nature. There was an energy that sought to decimate the conformity gathering momentum in electronic music, offering a lifeline to a musical scene that was getting complacent.

The label  would never fall victim to this complacency and a record would never deign to cash in on the success from the last. The diversity of the label’s output was something like collage for someone with an attention deficit disorder. If for example “Kernkraft 400” was the record that broke the mould, it wouldn’t assume to take centre stage, and DJ Hell would pivot to something  completely different again and again. There was no blueprint or method, it was purely the impulses of a DJ with remarkably eclectic tastes and a laser-like focus, proven by the early success of a record like Zombie Nation’s and Dopplereffekts “Gesamtkunstwerk”. That last record had almost nothing in common with the first even though they were released around the same time, and today, much like “Kernkraft 400”, “Gesamtkunstwerk” stands as another classic record from that same era.

During a recent interview for Tiga’s podcast “Last Party on Earth”, Hell talks purposefully about this record as one of his greatest achievements as a label boss. From the artwork to the title, and of course the music, “Gesamtkunstwerk” is a masterpiece. Arriving, anonymously, via one of the legends of the Detroit scene, namely Gerald Donald (previously one half of Drexciya), it might seem like an obvious choice for a successful record, but at the time people were still just discovering the truly underground sounds of Drexciya and their other Detroit counterparts. Dopplereffekt was still unknown with some mystery around the main actors of the group, but you didn’t need to know the origin story to fall in love with the record’s dystopian grooves. 

Hell and Gigiolo brought Dopplereffekt to the fore with this record. It was probably the purist from of Electro that Electroclash would assume, demonstrating a mass appeal value for the Electro genre that we hadn’t experienced since Uncle Jams Army in the eighties. Electro had been a DIY indulgence for comic book nerds and synthesiser geeks, but even a stubborn rocker  hearing “Gesamtkunstwerk” for the first time, it was all s/he wanted to hear after. In 1999 when the LP was released, it stood as a linchpin for the whole Electroclash movement. The comical panic of Y2K, makes for a perfect backdrop in the group’s fantastical prose about sexual congress with mannequins and obstructing human fecundity, while machines drummed out rhythmic devices like a automatron motor city factory. 

There was a sense of absurdity at work even when the music was quite serious and it came to define the likes of the roster at Gigolo. Things like providing a platform for the aforementioned Chris Korda’s and his “church of euthanasia”; releasing Mount Sims’ “Hate Fuck” as a single for radio; and putting Amanda Lepore on the cover of records obviously provoked, but the intention was always with sense of fun, DJ Hell’s tongue always firmly cheek. A kind of Roy Lichtenstein for the new millennium, Hell and Gigolo took a slanted approach to pop-culture through a soundscape only JG Ballard could envision, and it worked. The records would be released into the world without any pressure from the label for the artists to do interviews or promote their work, and a whole generation flocked to them without much goading. There was something considered about the final product around a Gigolo release, which extended from the music to its packaging and it stood out on every record shelf.

It was an entire world contained, built around a cult-like family of freaks that Hell cultivated like Charles Manson without all the killing and with some actual musical talent. It’s possibly best represented in the funny, almost outlandish 2005 Gigolo documentary, Freak Show, where Hell takes the gang on the road, from Germany to the states, featuring a young Tiga, Miss Kittin, Traxx and a host of characters you couldn’t possibly write today. 

With so much music being released via the label one can’t simply dip a toe into the Gigolo catalogue during this period. There’d be tracks like Vitalic’s “Poney,” Tiga’s “Sunglasses at night” or Fischerspooner’s “Emerge” that would keep you engaged with the label though its popularity, but it would inevitably lead to records like Terenece Fixmer’s “Muscle Machine” or David Caretta’s “Dominion”. At the same time it could lead to a rabbithole to post-punk darlings like Tuxedomoon; resurrect forgotten gems like Shari Vari; or really turn everything on its head with a P. Diddy record. That’s not to mention DJ Hell’s own vital contributions throughout this period, including masterpieces like NY Muscle.

It’s in fact NY Muscle that stands as the fulcrum point for the electroclash era for me personally. With collaborators like LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Traxx, and Suicide’s Alan Vega, this record was something of the barometer from which we gauge the Electroclash period. Rock motifs and tunnel-vision like Techno live side by side in this record from 2003, which also started to mark the height of the success of the label sandwiched between tracks like Sunglasses at night and Justice v. Simian’s “never be alone.” 

Gigolo would honour the legacy from which it arrived and in some chaotic kaleidoscope of sound it would reconstitute and re-invigorate what had become stale and formulaic. In what is only a laboured analogy Frank Sinatra was truly dead, but the rat-pack survived in the form of Micahel Alig’s club kids born in the parallel world the label and its founder created. It was the right label for the right time and as much as it brought a whole new generation (this writer included) back to electronic music. It remains a significant label even today, and today its back catalogue often warrants some double-takes, like “wow, they released that!

From Gigolo’s heyday, electronic music’s success quickly rose in the popular consciousness, perhaps even leaving Gigolo behind somewhere between the stark minimalism of Berlin’s endemic influence. Those barriers that Electroclash broke down were quickly reinforced and only strengthened in its resolve to institutionalise a music that was always thrived in the obscure and impulsive. But it’s still some of the world’s best producers and DJs working today that came to the fore during that time. DJs like Tiga, 2 many DJs, Boys Noize, Erol Alkan and Ivan Smagghe (many of which collaborated or were featured on Gigolo) rose to prominence during this period too, and it’s no surprise that they continue to be acknowledged as some of the best in the world. Whatever was ingrained during Electroclash (even if Ivan Smagghe hates to admit it) has established them as unique entities on our scene today. 

And much like those DJs, Gigolo stands as a watermark in electronic music history. Some twenty years on, many of those records (and I have a fair few of them) stood the test of time. They haven’t been in the zeitgeist for some time but every now and then you’ll hear a DJ play a track and it immediately stands out amongst whatever else is being played, much like it did when it was in its prime. There are some similarities we can draw with the current era and the original Electroclash scene. Electronic music has reached a state of popularity it has never witnessed before, and at the same time has been diluted into bland tropes facilitated by accessibility and the economics. There are a lot of similarities that can be drawn to that time and now, and is setting a good precedent to set the scene for a new iconoclastic genre to exist, much like it did when Gigolo was there to establish it. Frank Sinatra is well and truly dead!

Schneider’s House with Anja Schneider

Anja Schneider has been a broadcast- and club DJ for 25 years. She cut her teeth in the world of DJing back in the nineties when the culture was still underground, precocious and even a little menacing. By the early 2000’s she was established, moving from DJing to label owner and eventually production as one of the founders of Mobilee. That label remains a touchstone for a very specific time in club music history as Techno and House went deeper and crossed over into popular culture. At the height of its popularity, Anja left Mobilee and almost immediately she established her own imprint Sous. Anja Schneider’s presence has been a fixture in the culture, especially through her work as a radio host and an electronic music facilitator for airwaves. 

Radio is something that she has always embraced, but even for all its positives it could also feel like a quagmire for a progressive club DJ like Anja, whose strong connection to the underground often left her stymied with her day job. Recently that has changed. 

“Now I’m radio free,” says Anja Schneider over a telephone call with some reserved excitement in her vocal chords. After twenty five years in broadcasting Anja Schneider has called it quits for radio. “To make a long story short… I had enough,” the German DJ and producer begins. It started when her programme at radio Eins ended abruptly when they pivoted to an all-rock programme during the pandemic. “Imagine, in Berlin!”, she mocks incredulously. She fielded a lot of offers from other stations and took on the monumental task of a daily drive time show at classic radio with a programme called Beats, which was all about “independent deep house.” She did a show for a year, “and then I couldn’t do it anymore,” she says, sounding exasperated. “It was too much and I couldn’t hear any new music.”

There had always been a sense of “frustration” for Anja working in “these big companies”  where it seemed “you’re always fighting” to get that “new shit” on the air. After 25 years she was “tired” and compounded by the situation, in general, Anja has taken a well-deserved break from the airwaves. It’s given her the opportunity “to breathe a little” and refocus her energies on the club dance floor. “Everybody from outside just saw me as a radio producer,” reflects Anja, and today she is looking to shed a little of that perception of her skills as a DJ.

Anja Schneider’s associations with radio run deep, especially in Germany. Since the early nineties she has been at the forefront of German broadcasters bringing electronic club music to the masses. 

It was all predicated by an interest for electronic music that started in her hometown of Cologne, where she first heard the sounds of Chicago and Detroit spilling out from a local record store. “I worked in an advertising company, and underneath there was this little Chicago record shop,” remembers Anja. There were all “these cool guys hanging” out in front of the shop, and her curiosity piqued, she went on to discover what electronic club music was all about. They turned her on to the likes of Underground Resistance while DJs like “Hans Nieswandt from Whirlpool production” exposed her to some of her first DJ mixes. She went deeper with fanzines and started buying the music, before she eventually made her way to Berlin and found a refuge on the dance floor at Tresor.

There she was “blown away” when she saw “Jeff Mills for the first time” and alongside influences like the “charismatic” Sven Väth, a nascent career as a DJ awaited, but it would have to wait a little longer. 

Anja’s focus had always been as somebody that “worked behind the scenes.” Her work in advertising which led to broadcasting kept her rooted in the background as a kind wizard of oz for club music, when it was still in its infancy. Instead of keeping it on the dance floor, Anja  turned her efforts to bringing what she heard in clubs on the weekend to the bigger audience of the radio. “I always wanted to make it (electronic music) more popular,” she explains. She started off as something “like a consultant” before moving on to become a “programme manager,” a position she enjoyed at Fritz radio for some time before her boss convinced her to take to the microphone as a DJ. 

After an initial reticence, it turned out to be the “best decision of my life.” She became “very successful” as a radio DJ and shortly after DJ requests started flooding in. A thought struck her; “if I can play for 80 000 people on the radio of course I can play in the club. This was the most stupid thought!” she now considers with a snicker. “I failed the first gigs and I had to learn to mix properly.” That didn’t take long. Moving over to a set of decks, after the simplistic push-button selections of radio programming, Anja Schneider’s reputation became two-fold. Already known for her cutting edge selections as a radio DJ, she became a double threat as a DJ that had the chops to back it up in the club too. 

Soon an “offer to start a label” followed. That label turned out to be Mobillee, a club music label that became home to artists like Sebo K, Pan Pot and more recently Gheist, and has been a significant fixture on club music since its inception, with Anja playing a large part in its success…

Anja trails off while recounting these early years. It’s always struck me and especially now speaking to her, that Anja Schneider lives in the present with an eye on the future. She’s never been one to reflect too heavily on the past in other interviews and talking to her she covers much of her career, with “…and the rest is history”. It’s reflected in what she does as a label owner with most of her efforts are focussed on bringing new artists and music to the fore. Recently she has established Clubroom, a mix series,”which is syndicated to several radio stations;” worked with up and coming artist, Joplyn for an amazon music exclusive; and released a compilation, featuring many new artists via her own Sous music label. 

The fairly young imprint has been around since 2017 with the debut LP coming from Anja Schneider herself. The record, called SoMe, seemed like a significant moment for the artist, producer and DJ, and much like the position she finds herself in today, after 25 years of being a radio DJ, it seemed like a watershed moment for her career. It established a new label, marked her departure from Mobilee and hinted to a more eclectic approach in her sound, as something she likes to refer to as “Schneider House.” Anja is not so sure however what really inspired this watershed moment or any of the others. “I’ve never been a person to make plans. It’s always been chaotic and organic” and creation of Sous records and the LP SoMe, could simply be an extension of that. 

Her decision to leave Mobilee, the label she helped create and cultivate in to its position today, “was not an easy step” for Anja.”It was quite difficult for me when I quit,” admits Anja and the fallout from that was a huge risk on her part too, but she was adamant on this new recourse. “With Mobilee, it was established, there was a lot of business,” says Anja. It was “too much pressure” to deliver in the end. She wanted a record she could put out without considering the practical commitments that go with being a label boss, things like paychecks and bills. “I wanted to do it whenever I wanted to and how I wanted to do it,” and that’s how Sous came to be. She was determined and it didn’t take her much time to establish herself again in the position she is now, with a new successful label and a very busy musical output. 

SoMe laid the foundation for her to explore new avenues in the larger network of her Schneider House sound. It extends to the label where “everything is possible” which reflects again in her DJ sets too. It’s a sound she’s established over the course of her career and much like everything else it’s a direct result of this chaotic and organic process to everything she touches.

It’s hard to believe today that Anja Schneider never wanted to be a producer. ”Everybody was asking why don’t you deliver a track?”; but she was quite aware of her own limitations. “I can’t do it,” she used to tell them until her friend Sebo K convinced her otherwise. She teamed up with that producer first and the result was a record called Tonite. All those latent ingredients are there that make this an Anja Schneider track. Melodic and immersive, yet thundering, it is a dance floor track that looks to the deeper end of the spectrum. Bubbling basslines and syncopated percussion keep it rooted on the groove while playful elements flutter through the arrangements.

Ever since her first release, she has always worked with a production partner and she picks no bones about the fact. “I love to work with different people,” exclaims Anja. “I like the interactions and the fights that you have with people,” she says with a laugh. 

Her latest production partner is her husband and renowned producer, Toni Planet. There haven’t been any fights yet according to Anja who has found the whole experience to be “super easy and fun” so far. In her relationships with any producer, it “has to click on a human side,” and working with her husband certainly has that covered. “On the other hand it’s really important to have something unique or authentic.” Anja “can hear quite soon, if somebody is trying to be trendy,” and music for her has always been about having an “authentic” experience. 

This is one of the biggest faux pas Anja has witnessed in her extensive career, as a DJ,  producer and label owner. “If you have to adapt, you are losing that authentic part of you.” She considers “it would be completely stupid” to have to adapt at all to what’s going on around her, especially now with a trend for harder and faster music prevailing. In what she claims is now her “fifth wave” of a new trend, she certainly doesn’t feel the need to compromise the authenticity of Schneider’s House for this new immediacy in club music. 

Anja’s music today actually  lives on the opposite end of the spectrum of the trend, yet she is still an in-demand DJ, which says much about her own authenticity as a producer and DJ. Her latest release Turning my Head, is a deep thriller operating on the lower ends of the BPM wars. A moody track that simmers between tension and resolve, it maintains that sound of Schneider’s House for lack of any other description. 

“It’s always deep,” she says of this sound. “I’m not a person with big breaks and drama”  and in her music you’ll find something that is tempered and introspective with a groove that undulates throughout. “This groove can also be a little breaky,” suggests Anja with tracks like WMF from SoMe as an example, but it’s always there and follows the artist from the studio to any DJ booth she commands. 

Much like her music, “everything is possible” when it comes to an Anja Schneider set and yet there is something specific to her sets that can live happily under the roof of Schneider`s House. Her only regret recently has been that due to the pandemic, “the last EPs were really slow and breaky” and like DJing she is looking forward to get back into the club “and make music for the dance floor again.’’ 

It’s hard to believe that it would take that long for Anja Schneider to achieve her goal. With the world back on its feet, her presence on the dance floor has been noted. Her touring schedule is back to where it was during her time at Mobilee and with more releases primed from her and her label, including a “big breaks” remix from Dense Pika, Anja Schneider is riding a new wave of success already. With the commitments of broadcasting now firmly behind her, she has retrained her efforts and set her laser-like focus back on the club dance floor. She’s setting the scene for a new generation of producers and DJs through her label and efforts like clubroom in that same altruistic approach  that has followed her through her entire career; to bring that “new shit” to the people. 

Palace of Pleasure is looking for their Spellemann

If you have Palace of Pleasure’s Spellemann prize, bring it to Jaeger and we’ll give you and a friend free entry to the concert

Palace of Pleasure have a history of not holding on to their Spellemann prize. The first one they raffled out to a lucky fan, and the second one they repurposed as a door handle to Jaeger’s predecessor, Garage. It was the nineties! It was time of blasé excess and when not giving a fuck was a cool, but that was then and this is now.

Unfortunately with the end of Garage, the door handle disappeared and neither we nor Palace of Pleasure have had eyes on the much-coveted prize. Palace of Pleasure would really like to be reunited with their much-coveted prize, and we at Jaeger would really like to see what’s behind that door. We’ve not been able to open it since we took over from Garage, and the pot for “what’s behind the mystery door” is no joke.

If you return the Spellemann, we’ll ask no questions and we’ll even go as far as to reward you wand a friend with some tickets to the live show. (Please contact editor@jaegeroslo.no)

Tickets for the event are available via ticketco. 

 

Luke Solomon: The unsung hero of House music on his own terms

It takes some kind of legacy to be called one of the unsung heroes of House music, especially when the accolade is bestowed by one of the best in the business, Andrew Weatherall. Luke Solomon is that unsung hero and has forgotten more about dance music than any of us can ever begin to know. He’s been a monolith in the scene since the nineties, but working in the background, behind the scenes, few people have acknowledged his presence like Andrew Weatherall, but that is about to change. 

We all first felt Luke Solomon’s presence on the scene as the resident of Space @ Bar Rumba alongside the legendary Kenny Hawkes. From there he established the Classic record label (Classic Music Company today) with Derrick Carter and set about defining the sound of House music in the mid and late nineties in Europe. A facilitator in the truest sense of the word, Space lives on infamy today as one of the infallible House concepts in the history of club music, while Classic has been responsible for some of the most legendary House records ever to be sealed in wax, many of them Luke’s own. 

As an artist he’s been active for the better part of his career, most notably as one half of Freaks together with Justin Harris, with whom he enjoyed (or rather not) also his first crossover success with the Creeps. Over the years, he’s carved out a career as a producer with a midas touch and it’s extended from his work with Harris and his solo work to a place where today he has hundreds of production credits on records for Honey Dijon, Horse Meat Disco and Beyoncé.

Yes, that Beyoncé. Together with his writing partners, Chris Penny and Honey Dijon, Luke Solomon penned the music for “Cosy” and “Alien Superstar” from her last album Renaissance and with a couple of Grammys pending, the fates have smiled on Luke as he steps into what many might say is his twilight years of a musical career, even though hes far from done.  

It’s not been without its struggles, losing friends like Kenny Hawkes and peers like Andrew Weatherall, and with all the other misfortunes and strifes that follow a DJ, it has only strengthened his resolve and he has taken it all into his stride. “I’ve been through a lot,” he says via a telephone call but it’s also been worth it on some level. “I get a lot of inspiration from the darkness and the parts of my life that I stumble and I feel that helps me creatively and that’s the greatest therapy.” 

Today he’s “writing with people like Seven Davis Jr.” and with “more queries coming from the pop world to make music” from his work with Beyoncé,  he’s found a new urge that has taken him back to that youthful spirit of the nineties and coming through as a new DJ and producer. “For instance, I was just in New York now working with Honey and loads of different writers, it was so much fun. I felt like a kid then. Nothing mattered and we could do what we wanted and any idea was a good idea.” 

It’s this work that he’s doing behind the scenes outside of the spotlight that in many ways defined Luke Solomon as one of the unsung heroes of House music in Andrew Weatherall’s eyes. Between his production work and his A&R activities, he’s laid the groundwork from which artists like Derrick Carter, Honey Dijon, Horse Meat Disco, Camelphat and many many more have built very successful careers. Today he continues to do the A&R for Defected, with many industry experts claiming his efforts have played a pivotal role in that company’s latest successes. 

And throughout it all he still DJs and continues to tour the world on the skills he first laid down at Space @ Bar Rumba. It’s at the UK club he first met Olle Abstract and with his appearance at LYD pending it’s here where our conversation begins. 

Luke SolomonWhat do you remember of the nights at Space @ Bar Rumba?

Absolutely nothing… (laughs)

So it must have been a really good night then?

Yeah, I’ve been having to think about this alot at the moment, because me and a couple of people from the club have done a compilation, which is dedicated to Kenny Hawkes. I’ve been thinking about the different nights and the different DJs. I think we captured a moment in time. The stars aligned for what was this really special place. 

If I’m not mistaken Classic was established around the same time. 

Actually, Girls FM happened, which was the Pirate station I played at with Kenny. The club night started as a result of the radio station and our relationship, and Classic sort of happened around the same time. It’s a bit of a blur. 

Does that mean the music policy at Space kind of reflected the sound of the label?

It was Deep House, the original version of Deep House coming out of Chicago and New York and led by labels like Prescription and Cajual. It grew and became more eclectic. We would play Disco and the sound of Brit House, and then the Nu Disco sound happened. 

What were people like that came out to the event, because it would take a huge commitment to come out every week, right?

It was chaos. A  lot of industry people would come because it was the middle of the week. That was always fun and hedonistic and then you had what we called the Deep House 150; which was about a core of 150 people that were dedicated Deep House fans that would come out every week. If it was a big night, and with a guest DJ like Andrew Weatherall, Harvey or Derrick Carter it would be a roadblock. 

You mention Derrick Carter there, the co-founder of Classic. Would you often have Classic artists on the lineup?

Yes, and a lot of people that used to play for us, ended up becoming Classic artists. It was a mixture. People like Gemini and Ron Trent were regulars. It was interesting, because when we first started, we had Ron Trent and Chez Damier and we had like 50 people. And then fast forward 12 months and we had 300 people. I think we broke that sound in London before anywhere else was playing this kind of music. 

What led to the night coming to an end?

Kenny was in charge of running it and I was the resident DJ. He realised that what was happening in Soho and in the west end was that music was shifting more towards the east end. We thought it would be better to end it while it was on a high, rather than feed it every week. We were both playing every weekend, the labels were firing on all cylinders and Freaks was just happening for me. So, there were lots going on so it was a good time to pull the plug.

Did it cement anything in terms of you and DJing going forward at that point in your career?

Yeah. I still stand by the fact that it taught me how to be a warm-up DJ and it’s still the thing that I enjoy more than anything else. Starting a club from the beginning when there is nobody in the room and filling the dance floor, I learnt all that playing from Bar Rumba. It was the time when you could break new records and keep things mellow. That was valuable for me and I carry that with me.

Do you still get opportunities to warm up?

All the time, that’s my favourite time to play. Especially if I play before Honey Dijon or Derrick. Recently I played in New York and I opened the club elsewhere in the 2nd room, and I played all night, and I love that. It’s on your terms. It’s quite tricky when you’re coming in after a DJ and you’re the guest; a lot of the time DJs don’t warm up for guests anymore. 

Let’s backtrack a bit. We know a bit about your history and how you came to electronic music through cassettes, then records and raves. What were those first records and what do you remember from the raves?

The eighties are a little foggy (laughs). In my hometown, on Monday nights, we had DJs from London that would play and educate us. We learnt about records like early Frankie Knuckles’ “baby wants to ride.”  And then Acid House, like Joey Beltram’s Energy Flash. We were exposed, early on to those records alongside Soul II Soul and rare groove records. I was fortunate enough to hear a lot of different DJs, maybe not well-known, but really good DJs play a mixture of proto-house music. I remember hearing stuff like “love can’t turn around” and “promised land” before it went into the charts. They were anthems to us long before they became crossover records. 

There’s been this mythic view of that time and the nineties, especially with this new generation coming through. As somebody that’s lived through that time and with the level of your success, what was your experience of that time looking back?

I think we realised we were living through a Golden age. It was very different being an 18 year old in 1988, living through the summer of love and going through outdoor raves. And then moving to London being exposed to club culture and seeing that part of things. You just knew that if you went record shopping, you’d find some incredible records. Being in amongst it, we were quite spoiled, especially looking back at it now. It’s interesting, you were in something, but when you were in it, you didn’t realise it quite so much. 

What do you think of this nostalgic view of that era today, because for me it feels a lot of it has become pastiche?

I agree with you. I think technology is to blame for a lot of that stuff. It’s so easy to make those records now, but making them with the spirit of the originals is a very different  thing. I think it almost regresses, and nostalgia has a very bad effect on dance music. It’s important to be progressive. 

I guess when you started out, you and your peers would be working on rudimentary equipment, and it was about experimenting. 

I think that’s why modular (synthesisers) have their place in the world, but I think that has almost gone too extreme now. I feel that stripped down chaos (from the nineties) is missing. It was still that kind of raw, black funk that was born from Motown, Disco and Prince and then going into Acid House. The laziness  of making music is a strange thing for me, especially when there are so many great musicians around. I do think that is changing. I hear dance music, especially coming out of America that’s pushing the boundaries again. 

I feel artists like Byron the Aquarius and Galcher Lustwerk are exciting in that regard.

Yes, exactly.

But, you’re also a big part of that I feel, with the stuff you’re doing with Honey Dijon and where that has taken you.

I feel like I’m part of something, but I like to surround myself with young, inspiring people. To get that energy from the new generation and be part of that new movement. 

Luke SolomonHow did you and Honey start working together?

We’ve known each other for a long time, since the mid-nineties. We’ve been friends for that long and we kind of grew up together. I think there was a point where she started making more music outside of DJing and we put a couple of things out on Classic, and then we started working together and that led to her album and Beyoncé. It happened organically. We’ve got very similar tastes. Alongside Chris Penny (Luke’s writing partner), it’s like being in a band. 

While we’re on the subject of Beyoncé, how did that happen?

Her creative director is a big fan of Honey’s and we got a mysterious email during lockdown. They told us that she was working on a new album, and they wanted to take black music and dance music back to its roots, and she wanted team Honey Djon to be involved. It grew from that to having two songs on the album. It was a very bizarre and amazing process which ended up in two grammy nominations. (laughs) I laugh every time I think about it. 

What is it like working in that tier of the music industry, coming from House music, which has always been more DIY?

You know the greatest thing about it was that it has been completely on our terms. To imagine the music we make anyway with Beyoncé singing on it, it’s like a dream. We just made the music we make. We may have to move the tempos, or be more creative with the arrangements. It was still based on very cunty records, records from the ballrooms in New York, music that me, Honey and Chris had grown up with. 

We are just applying all our knowledge and all our history and giving it to someone who would understand it. What you hear, beats-wise and samples, that’s what we did. They didn’t change a thing. The only thing we had to do was slow down “Cosy,” that’s when you realise you’re making something for the pop world. 

It’s not your first flirtation with success and being at the top of the music industry. You were there before with The Creeps as one half of Freaks. I read an interview where you said that with a song like Creeps, the money didn’t justify the sacrifices you had to make.  Was there something that has since changed your mind and put you on this path to working with more pop artists?

The Creeps wasn’t really on our own terms. That version of Creeps that came out, came from a remix we never approved. I feel like we ended up making a record that I didn’t get behind 100%. We were young and suddenly money is appearing and people are putting pressure on you to make another record. Lack of experience puts you in a very strange headspace, and I really battled with it. 

Now that I’m older and I’ve learnt from that experience, I know exactly how to do it without making the same mistakes. This is on my terms. We’re doing it without any compromise. In terms of the financial aspects; I’ve been through the loss of a record company, where I’ve had huge debt.  I’ve been in a position where I wasn’t getting any DJ work. I had to get a job and work for Defected. I’ve had to go through so many different versions just to stay in dance music. Now I’m at a point where I’m really comfortable with that. 

You certainly took it in the stride and I think your hundreds of production credits on other artists’ records stand as testament to that. Were there ever any regrets about directions you’ve taken working with other artists?

I’ve never been good at playing the game. I know what to do and how to do it. Throughout all of this, I don’t think there’s a moment in my creative career where I have had any regrets. Even looking back at the Creeps, I don’t think I could’ve made the Beyoncé record without going through that experience. Great music is great music, and I’m not drawn by the spotlight anymore, I just want to make great music. 

And do you approach the music differently when you make music for somebody else than working on a Luke Solomon track?

100%. When I make a record with Honey, I have to be inside her head. It needs to sound like her, it needs her spirit. That comes from intimacy. I like to have intimacy with music that I care about. You have to become somebody else to be those people. When it comes to me, I’m just in my head. 

When it comes to your own music, there’s still a prolific output. Between all your other production projects, your daily A&R activities and Defected and DJing, where do you find the time for all of this; what’s essential to that work ethic?

I’ve always been able to manage my time. If I make a record a week, and I’ve done that for the last 25 years, then I feel like I’ve accomplished what I need to do. Whether it’s a remix, or working on a Honey record, or producing and writing for someone else, as long as I do that I’m good. 

Outside of that, the A&R is just; every Thursday and Friday I just sit and go through music. I listen, I buy records, I travel to buy records, that’s A&R. It’s about attaching yourself to things that you see coming and artists that you might see developing. DJing then feeds from that. I don’t think it’s that difficult to do a lot of things in 24 hours if you are just dedicated and obsessed with it. The only thing I’ve had to change was my day to day at Defected. I’ve got so much production work, so I’m just doing A&R. I’m not the guy that’s on the ground everyday like I was. 

I’ve had to kind of move things around now, because we are in a position where there alot of new opportunities. Obviously off the back of the grammys there are doors opening. Things are shifting and changing, but I’m still the same person doing the same thing, it’s just in a different world I guess. 

Since we’re the subject of Defected. I’ve heard people in the industry acknowledging your role at the label and how you’ve changed things around there. Is there something specific you’ve done there that has contributed to this perception?

(laughs). It’s interesting. Somebody else said that to me, and it’s a lovely thing to hear, but I never really thought about it. My relationship with Simon Dunmore (Defected founder) over the years has always been that I’ve been the yang to his ying. I offered an alternative perspective to dance music, which I think allowed Defected to reach or attach itself to other places or people. 

That kind of just happened. I still have an ear. When Camelphat’s Cola came through the door, I could hear it was a big record immediately, the same with the Oliver Dollar’s Pushing on. I knew they were big records, so I could stand there quite confidently saying, sign these records. It took a long time for people to really acknowledge my place in the industry, and it’s only happened in the last two years.  

Andrew Weatherall once labelled me the unsung hero of House music. I loved him and cursed him for that. I never wanted to be the unsung hero, I wanted people to acknowledge that. Getting that recognition now feels good. 

Working in the background like that as the person that makes these moves that make waves on an international scene, what do you personally get out of that?

(Laughs) That’s a really good question. I spent a lot of time not putting myself first, and doing a lot of things for the culture. Recently it reached a point where I decided that I have to think about myself a little bit more. This next part of my career is where I have had opportunities that I’ve never had before and I thought I would never have. The possibility of winning a grammy and these doors opening that I’ve never had before. I feel like I’m getting reimbursed. 

You’ve seen your fair share of people come up alongside that managed to break into that upper echelon of the underground scene. People like Derrick Carter and more recently Honey Dijon. Has there ever been any frustration on your side?

I’ve watched so many people push past me, and I don’t think I was ever ready. I don’t think I was a good enough DJ or producer. I think I was still learning and I’ve now reached a point – even though it’s this late in my fucking life (laughs) – and I feel like I have an equal standing with those people now. 

I’m not big on resentment and regret, I’ve always been an optimist. If I’ve ever seen on of my peers be in a position where I felt that could have been me, I always thought, that is going to be me someday. I’ve always been an “I’ll show you person.” 

There were so many times I could have walked away. Besides that, losing dear friends, and actually ironically it’s some of that grief that I suffered that’s kept going. If Kenny hadn’t died, life would have been very different for me now. He’s the reason that I got sober; he’s the reason I took my job more seriously; he’s the reason I do what I do. I feel very fortunate.

So you’re able to compartmentalise all that industry stuff from the personal stuff and from the music that you make?

Yeah, now I am. Because I’m comfortable in my own space. I don’t think I have to make a big record, because it’s going to help my DJ career. I don’t have any interest in that at all. You know, I’ve been asked to do a House master’s compilation for Defected, and the first thing that came to my head was; “are you sure?” And then we went through the list of other DJs and artists that have done it,  and I was like; “actually I do get to stand by my peers.”

 

Everything starts with a beat: An interview with Dusky

There’s a sound inextricably connected with London on Dusky’s latest LP, Pressure. From the tangible Garage-influences to the atmospheres, heavily imbued with the weight of a post-dubstep experimentalism, the whole album echoes with the sounds of the English capital and the production duo’s heritage.  

“We both grew up in different parts of North London” explains Alfie Granger-Howell while Nick Harriman carries in a cup of tea in the background of a video call. The pair have been making music together for the better part of a decade with 4 LPs, a few dozen EPs and a record label (17 steps) bearing the fruits of the labour as Dusky. 

Coming to the fore during London’s explosive post-Dubstep era, Dusky established a sound in the fusion between House and Dubstep, bringing the heavy drones of the UKs bass traditions to the slower tempos of House. They broke through with tracks like Flo Jam, and as their contemporaries started solidifying their sounds around traditional genres like Techno and House, Dusky remained fluid in their approach and their style, based on a tradition of Djing that sees them channel a combined record collection through their work.

In different epochs, they’ve focussed their sound on different elements in their own music education only to land on where it all began for them as teenagers with the sounds of Garage. In the recent revival and new appreciation for these sounds, Pressure finds Dusky in yet another phase of their sound together, while retaining that thread with a track like Flo Jam, which was also re-issued this year on their own 17 steps label.

As a record, Pressure picks no bones about its designs on the dance floor, launching into a rhythm and bass combination that anchors the entire record in the club experience. Those familiar disembodied ‘90s R&B vocals that’s centrals to Dusky’s sound drift in and out of tracks, while two-step beats and those hollowed out bass sounds bring an eager Funk to the record. The record shows their evolution and growth as artists continue to hit a nerve, while that virtual melting pot of sounds that makes London such a unique musical entity on the world map, continues to feed their work. 

As Alfie and Nick sit down with a fresh cuppa, we get stuck into a conversation about how the city has influenced their work and how they have channelled various aspects of a UK sound through their work and DJing. We jump straight in with Pressure. 

With those Garage sounds and two-step beats, this record sounds like London. Is that something you were trying to achieve?

Nick: We had a few Garage-inspired ideas, because there a lot of new Garage we were enjoying and playing out in our DJ sets. It snowballed, and before we knew it we had a load of Garage-influenced material.  

Alfie: There was one track from the previous album that started it, called “Eros”. We really enjoyed making that and it came together quite quickly. It just kind of feels like the right time (for this music). There’s also a lot of reference to that era. It felt like the right time to hark back to that era. 

I think it would be safe to assume it’s quite different from your last two LPs Joy and Outer. Was this an outlier record for you or just a natural evolution in your sound?

Nick: It’s definitely natural. It makes sense (in the context) of our influences growing up. We used to listen to a lot of Garage; it was everywhere on the radio during our teenage years. In the narrative of all of our albums, it’s probably a bit of an outlier. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s good to switch stuff up and be a little different.

Another thing that I also noticed that is a little different is that it’s also more immediate. There’s no ambient preamble, it just kicks off with a … kick and goes straight into those dance floor tempos. Was that conscious?

Alfie: I think that is something that is very different to our other albums. The other albums were compiled as a listening experience, whereas Pressure is a lot more club focused. In a sense it is wanting to reference classic Garage tracks and our record collection. Everything starts with a beat and it’s a DJ friendly way of starting tracks. It just felt right for this stuff, because there’s this established thing out of Garage and classic House.

Garage is having a bit of a revival right now. It seems that you are pretty sensitive to what’s going on around you. Or is that just a happy coincidence? 

Alfie: No, it’s definitely influenced by what’s going on. Even going back to when we were telling you about when we started making music, both of us were DJs by then. Obviously we were not doing gigs when we were teenagers, but we were buying records. It’s always been a passion of ours, following what else is going on and seeing how scenes grow and evolve.  When we make something to a certain degree, whatever we feel like will be a blank slate and then the other part of it is referencing what else is going on in the zeitgeist or whatever. 

Nick: You need to be aware of what’s going on, but not try and chase what’s happening. Otherwise you’ll just be trying to catch up. You just need to take influences from what you were enjoying from music. You just need to take that into the music you are making, and inevitably it will be different from what other people have made. As an artist you’ll be bringing your unique take on those influences, whether from the past or present. That’s worked well for us over the years. 

DuskyYou mentioned, Garage was big when you were teenagers. Is that around the same time you started to make music?

Nick: Pretty much.

Alfie: I started making very rudimentary things, when I was 13/14 and that was the kind of peak era, end of the nineties. Garage was everywhere in London. The other big influence around that time was Drum n Bass and the very end of the Jungle era. Both of those things always stuck with us because they were such formative years.

So you were teenagers when you started making music individually, but how did you first meet, and what encouraged you to start working on music together?

Alfie: We met when we were 16. We both studied music in different places doing different things. We had this project before Dusky (Solarity), that we released a few EPs on via AnjunaDeep. 

Actually the first LP as Dusky, originally it was going to be an album under Solarity. It was only halfway through that we realised it drifted quite a lot from the Solarity sound. The label pointed out it was quite different, and you need a new alias.  

That would be around the post-dubstep era. Coming up in that scene, was there anything that particularly facilitated your music and your career?

Alfie: I think we were very lucky in that era that we started Dusky, it was a very interesting time. It was fertile ground, because there were a lot of people coming from these different scenes, which were merging. Dubstep got very noisy, and that put some people off. For whatever reason that “Deep House” sound seemed to attract different people from different scenes. 

Nick: I think what helped push us in that hybrid scene was Loefah. He supported our music on the Swamp show (rinse FM) and at that time that was the shit everybody was into. Even though we weren’t doing anything specific with post-Dubstep, that was the connection with that world and it opened up a lot more gigs for us. 

I think what facilitated a lot of  the creativity in that era was the openness to experimenting.

Nick: For sure. There was a lot of variety, and that’s what I was saying about that time being very (reminiscent) of what the younger people are doing now. 

It also seemed that there was a real platform for new artists to emerge. 

Nick: There weren’t any gatekeepers. You didn’t have to have the approval of anyone to be a success. There were less barriers

Alfie: It was a level playing field.  

The other record that piqued my interest this year was Flo Jam which you re-issued via 17 steps. Flo Jam wasn’t your first release, but certainly a breakthrough record. Would you agree?

Nick: Yeah for sure. A lot of DJs playing across the board played it. We just re-released it because we got the rights back from the label. 

Why reissue it now?

Nick: It was originally on Dogmatik for 10 years…

Alfie: Well they are no-more. It just came down from Spotify one day, and that’s how we realised the rights had come back to us. People were like; “where’s flo jam” and we thought; “we should re-release it.“

Listening to that record today and then Pressure, there is certainly a leap in terms of sound. Is there anything significant change between those two records for you?

Alfie: It’s quite hard to tell. It’s interesting going back analysing our music like that. Often we don’t try to think about it too much when we are writing it. I think they are quite different, but they do have some common influences. 

Nick: There’s definitely a common influence in the sense that Flo Jam was very much influenced by Garage, but at a much slower tempo. Everything was slowing down. Dubstep was quite fast and then House was just coming a bit slower. That nineties R&B vocal is the thread that ties in the stuff with pressure and some of our earlier tunes.

And what’s stayed consistent in terms of the creative process throughout it all in your music?

Nick: Our setup hasn’t changed much, it’s remained in the box. We are actually still using the same speakers.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

Alfie: Yeah, we tried some other ones and then went back. There are some things that keep track of the Dusky sound just in the way things are mixed and layered and the way we sample. I think most of it’s this kind of automatic thing that there’s this consistent sound. Broadly there’s this continuum. 

You’ve remained consistent as a duo too. Whereas some groups may go off into different directions, you’ve stayed together. What is the key behind that?

Nick: I guess it’s because we started making music together when we were quite (young). It’s always worked well, and it’s continued to keep developing.  It’s still enjoyable.  

Alfie:  And we’ve got complimentary skills. I was most interested in composition, whereas Nick was more focussed on the production side of it. That made it a good marriage. The other thing is that we have very similar tastes, but not exactly the same. If it was exactly the same it would be quite boring. 

There’s an idea that working in a duo that the music can go in a direction that you never thought it would, working as a solo artist.  Do you feel that’s true for you and your music or are there more distinct roles?

Nick: It’s completely mixed. It’s the same as when we’re DJing as well. If one of us is playing something the other one didn’t expect, then it just sparks new ideas. 

And while we’re on the subject of Djing; you mentioned earlier that you’re quite aware of what’s happening around when you’re making music. Is that the same for Djing?

Nick: For sure, because we need to be looking for new music all the time, right. To keep our sets fresh. 

The last few sets I’ve heard from you, were leaning to the sounds of House with some connection to the sound of your Joy and Outer records. Will it be leaning more towards a UK sound off the back of Pressure. 

Alfie: Definitely. There’s a lot of really cool straight-up garage or Garage-influenced stuff going on. There’s a nice little crew of people doing that stuff. Labels like time are now which are part of Shall not Fade and Instinct.

So it’s mainly new artists making that style of music, not so much the original artists?

Alfie: Mostly, we still play some old Garage records. 

Nick: Garage is quite an old sound now, so you want to play some of the old records to educate people that didn’t get to enjoy them the first time around, but equally, you don’t want to just turn the whole thing nostalgic. There’s loads of new stuff going round, which is pretty good. It’s about finding that balance between the old and the new and keeping it interesting. 

While Garage is big in London, it’s not always recognised in other parts of the world. In your travels as DJ’s have found it is easy to translate those UK sounds, or do you find yourselves having to adapt?

Nick: You have to adapt for sure. In Germany, for example, they are not as keen on stuff that’s not as straight up four to the floor. And in America they are quite open, but if you play something that is Disco influenced, sometimes they really hate it. 

Alfie: It’s different in the States, since when we first started (playing there), they didn’t want anything too experimental, whereas now it’s been very open crowds. We’re playing Garage, which is very specific UK stuff, and the kind of stuff that would maybe not have worked that well before, but it seemed to go down really well on the last tour there. Each club or festival is different. 

I’ll find my place: An interview with Move D

We talked to Move D about his prolific career as a DJ, producer and record label owner through various stages of electronic music. In an extensive interview we cover highlight from the early nineties through his revival and his latest Pandemix Live Jams series ahead of his appearance at Skranglejul.

David Moufang (Move D) hadn’t owned a pair of turntables at any given period of his career until the pandemic. The 56 year old DJ, producer and record label owner has avoided the traditional DJ setup at home, but like so many other things that changed with the pandemic. With the prospect of long periods of isolation at home, he thought “I’ll get a pair of Technics.” David’s intention turned to streaming some mixes via social media channels during the down time, but he soon started “running into problems”. Over-eager bots would shut down his streams with even some of his own work causing copyright conflicts. 

It was unsustainable, and David found he had to change his approach. He would need to circumvent these issues and the only way he’d be able to do that was with unreleased, original material. He packed away his new, pristine pair of decks and brought out his well-worn synthesisers and drum machines. He would “play new stuff with the gear,” making only original tracks in the moment for a virtual audience tuning in from home. He called the series Pan de mix

As the pandemic eased out of lockdown and the world started getting back on its feet, David was left with all this music on his harddrive and “offers from other labels” started to follow. Doing some minor post production on what was essentially the unaltered live performances, some of the tracks found their way onto Smallville Records with the rest of the music consolidated as a series of releases and eventually an album called the Pandemix Live Jams.

Pandemix Live Jams is just the latest in a prolific career as a recording artist and DJ, one that has its origins at the beginning of DJ culture and has continued to evolve and contribute to the contemporary history of electronic music. The record finds itself at the revival of he and Jonas Grossman’s legendary Source Records and its sound can be seen as a direct descendent of the sounds and spirits that influenced the start of the label. There’s the warmth of analogue equipment and the imperfect touch of human improvisation ebbing through the entire record, much like it did on that first record he and Jonas released as Deep Space Network almost thirty years ago.

Coincidental encounters

“That’s why they are called jams, because they really are jams,” says David from a telephone call via his hometown Heidelberg in Germany. He’s called Heidelberg home throughout his entire career, and it’s in the small town that he started his career as a DJ back in the eighties. 

“Life is just a stream of coincidences,” he ponders when thinking back to that time. “Born with the Beatles,” David moved through “Led Zeppelin and probably AC/DC,” during his formative years while he was learning to play the guitar. At that time, Heidelberg was the headquarters for NATO, and with “30 000 American soldiers in a town of 150 000” American music was in the air… literally. As a youth he could tune into the American radio station broadcast from the GI barracks, exposing David to a wider range of music than local stations would offer. The Americans “played stuff you wouldn’t hear on German radio like Parliament and Hendrix’s voodoo child” and it piqued a latent interest in music that eventually went beyond rock music. 

As he was coming of age, he started frequenting one of the “mainstream” discotheques in town where two DJs with “American GI backgrounds” would hold court over a record collection seven days a week. ”There was a shelf behind the DJ,” remembers David. “The club owner would give the oldest, most respectable DJ in the club (some) money to go record shopping and those records would go into the shelf.” While most of the crowd was dancing and having a good time, David was “watching, kind of nerding” and taking notes on where all the “good records” were kept. 

On an occasion when one of the American DJs got into “some trouble” with the local police and the discotheque was left in a crunch without a DJ, David stepped up to challenge. He persuaded the owner with; “I come here regularly and I know where the good records are.” That was all it took and David was inducted into the resident DJ lineup. 

By that point David had already been into electronic music for a while. An initial interest came “when the technology arrived” around “1976, the year before the prophet 5 (synthesiser) was invented.” Not being able to afford a piano, his mother bought him the more affordable (then not so much now) electric Fender Rhodes piano, planting a seed for manipulating electronic sounds. It evolved from there with the first “major milestone”, a Tascam four track cassette recorder, before Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” eventually saw David fall into a rabbit hole of machine music. “That was a very important track for me,” insists David, “it changed my life”. That track encouraged him to buy his first drum machine and started the decline in an interest in rock music altogether.

By 1985/ ‘86 he heard the first DJs beat mixing on trips to Italy, where clubs were  “spearheading” the evolution of the dance floor at that point. At his local discotheque however “beat mixing wasn’t really a thing.“ It was more of a “mainstream place” where you “would hear Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder every other night when it was somebody’s birthday.” David stepped into this role on a pair of rudimentary belt driven turntables, spending a couple of hours every night practising beat mixing, before the audience would inevitably flock in and start requesting the last chart hits. 

He never considered it a job, thinking this was going to be a mere stepping stone between school and university, “like a bartender or waitress.” His first inkling that this could be a job, was meeting a friend of a girlfriend who had been “Djing for 12 years,” and even then it seemed incredulous. “To me this was shocking!” snickers David. “I was full of pity for this guy.” The money David had been earning at the discotheque “was barely enough to pay rent” and he “couldn’t” even “afford to buy vinyl with my money,” but the fiscal focus took a back seat to the music he was playing and starting to make in his free time.

Rock n Roll is dead

While playing in bands, he had had access to a studio and like so many of David’s stories, it was mere coincidence that he started making music for “short movies or advertisements” out of that studio during this time. It put him on a “path moving away from the band” and towards early prototype Techno without even knowing it. “I was making Techno in a way like all electronic music, without thinking this could actually be released. I hadn’t heard my first house record yet.”

“It was all thanks to D-Man really, who started putting on Acid House parties around ‘88” in town, insists David about his introduction to this music. The DJ, who is a little older than David, brought characters like Ron Trent and DJ Pierre to Mannheim, a town just outside Heidelberg, with people from as far afield as France and Switzerland frequenting what would become a scene. David ”got to hear these amazing DJs” and it had “a huge influence” on his own nascent prospects as a DJ and producer, but it wouldn’t be until he met Jonas Grossmann that these efforts started to take shape as Deep Space Network and Source Records by the early nineties. 

Source Records and the scene that he and Jonas created around the label which included KM20 studios and the local “hangout” Milk! has remained a touchstone on the history of Techno and House music. Aphex Twin would stay with David when he was in town, while the KM20 studio would feed into Milk and become legends in their own right. Milk! was an ambient café, “a kind of hippy place” according to David, where you could get your coffee served by Jonas or David while being served the latest creations coming out of KM20. We were playing this music and we were the people making this music” and this “really drew people.”

Move D

Those rose tinted glasses aren’t looking so rosy

David rambles through these pivotal moments in his career in a matter-of-fact tone that places all the emphasis on characters like D-Man – and later in the conversation, Lakuti – without much concern for his own incredible achievements. He almost brushes over his entire career in the nineties summing up a decade in a few concise sentences before moving on again to the present.

“It’s easy to be nostalgic,” he says before warning, “but I wouldn’t over-idealise it.” Yes, it was originally “ grounded in this freakish thing,” where impromptu parties would pop up in abandoned buildings and the woods,” but it was also the dawn of Techno’s commercial success and with that came pitfalls. 

Deep Space Network and Source records would be part of this momentum too. “People were ripping the albums out of our hands,” says David without hyperbolic inflection, while he and Jonas were being flown to London for NME photoshoots. With Source Records they had found a niche as Techno was booming with the advent of what David defines as “listening Techno,” but we would probably call ambient today. There was certainly something in the air at that point which coincided nicely with things like Warp’s Artificial Intelligence releases, and they all soon found they had become the darlings of the media. But trends moved quickly, and in “one year Aphex twin was god and two years later the headlines were ambient is dead.”

Source Records remained prominent during this period, with classic records like Roman Flügel’s “Ro70” and Move-D’s “Kunststoff” entering the label’s catalogue, and even during ambient’s death spiral they were still introducing new and exciting artists like Lowtec to the world. 

Throughout all this time however David’s career as a DJ remained suspiciously low key. “It didn’t really matter in the nineties,” he says of Djing. “It was all local or German clubs.” He was “doing ok, making money” from selling records, and the label would sustain him as he became a stay-at-home dad. He would play “Techno parties,” both as a DJ and a live performer, and while there “was extra money” in that at a time when the fees were particularly high, he never considered it a career. 

And by the “end of the nineties the introduction of the cd burner and then Napster was finally it for the prospect of making money as a label” too. “Winding down the label” during this period for the first time,  “less and less gigs,” started coming David’s way and in that unique catch 22 for any DJ, if “you’re not active, you’re forgotten in no time.” By the early 2000’s, David says; “my career was rock bottom. Nobody cared, neither for the records nor for the Djing. I was at a point, where I thought eventually I have to find myself a job.”

The job search never had materialised however.

Revival

“Again, it’s one of those lucky instances,” says David. With the global village shrinking in the shadow of the internet, David found fortune in the advent of social media. A friend had introduced him to MySpace and then suddenly, without much prompting, people from places as remote as the British midlands were reaching out. One of those people was Lerato Khathi, better known as Lakuti and synonymous today with her label Uzuri records. At that point she was still “putting on illegal warehouse parties in London” and invited David as a fan of Move D. 

“I didn’t even have a proper record bag,” remembers David who also recalls being “really nervous.” Playing after another DJ with a minimal set, the trepidation of following the stark sounds of his predecessor was getting closer. Luckily, the transition between DJs coincided with a power outage; a “ twenty minute break” and time for David to compose his thoughts while the crowd re-adjusted. It turned out to be a “good thing” and he was able to “reset the mood with cool Deep House.” It hit a nerve with an audience possibly somewhat fatigued from those minimal bleeps and “people lost their fucking minds.” It was pure kismet that it happened at a time that coincided with an era of Deep House’s own revival and in that scene Move D yet again became a vital proponent, bringing new audiences to this music and his own back-catalogue. 

He became a fixture on the scene, playing places like the much lauded invite-only Free Rotation festival, while releasing music again with labels like Workshop, Running Back and of course Uzuri knocking on his door. And while his working methods might have “been changing drastically” based on a curiosity that continues to go unsatisfied, there’s that consistency in the warm analogue sounds, and the imperfection in human improvisation that has remained consistent. It’s still there in Pandemix Live Jams finding a natural home in the 2nd phase of Source Records as an exclusive vehicle for his own music.

Move D remains a constant presence in the underground, and as a DJ he’s staked out a claim as one of the best. This is possibly his greatest claim. His ability to find some common ground with crowds, while playing on the dynamics of his own musical history has garnered a reputation as a DJ other DJs like to admire. 

I’ll still find my place

Today his sets can go “from more broken beats” to “Chicago acid” with a focus on “mixing styles” through his set. It’s what he admires most in other DJs too –  “That was my biggest complaint about the early 2000’s; I could be there for two hours and it was like they were playing one track.” And he’s not eclectic for the sake of casting a wide net, it comes down to his own personal tastes. ”Do what you believe is right and don’t try to please because you think you know that’s what people expect from you,” he says in some grand philosophical gesture. 

David doesn’t often talk in platitudes like this, so when he does, you have to stop and take a beat to let it sink in. There’s a wisdom there that only experience can bring, and he carries that over to a sincere commitment to the music he plays. “I want to entertain them, but I have to like it as well,” he adds as he considers the statement. We’re a long way from the eighties where a person like David “would get into a fucking fight about music,” and today he’s eager to share the optimism of an interconnected world where people are less stubborn.

He can see the positive aspects of being more “open-minded” about music, even if it might not be to his favour. He’s realistic that perhaps he’s not in that sweet spot of popularity like Source Records was in the 90’s or Deep House was in the early 2000’s, but “it’s ok” says David.” I’m aware my personal taste could be right and the pinnacle of what is hip and other times… they are far apart. Now we’re at a point where it’s medium far, but I’ll still find my place.” 

That place is enshrined in the history of electronic music today. 

Romjulsfestivalen 2022

Our annual Christmas celebration returns unfettered with a full lineup and some new concepts

After a couple of years of compromised Christmas celebrations we’re pleased to announce that our Romjulsfestivalen returns in full force, featuring international and local guests for the week-long Christmas celebration. Jaeger and Natt&Dag present Move D, Dusky and the newest Ostgut signee Fadi Mohem alongside our residents and a couple of new concepts between the 25th-30th of December.

Our stalwart concepts, Øyvind Morken’s Untzdag, Boogienetter, Skranglejazz and BigUP! take their places, while new concepts, Helt Texas and Flux join the lineup for the first year.

It kicks off with Øyvind Morken’s annual 1st day of Christmas foray, with the DJ celebrating an incredible year for his music, before moving on through Boogienetter and ending up at BigUP! Oslo’s Drum n Bass and Jungle crew are in the basement for this edition on a Friday no less, with a marathon DJ lineup that will make the foundations shake.

Ole HK presents Helt Texas on their usual Thursday spot with Dusky, Vibeke Bruff and Synk, after a Techno assault midway through the week with the Flux collective. After their last visit to the basement, Flux takeover both floors with newly inducted Ostgut resident, Fadi Mohem. Skranglejazz are back in their usually spot with House veteran Move D returning to Jaeger.

Tickets are already on sale via ticketco so make sure to grab a ticket to avoid the queue.

Premiere: Henrik Villard – Jordbær (BCR)

Henrik Villard pre-empts his latest release with an email claiming “Jordbær” and its two companions on his and BCR‘s next release, “Sveve” is a “slightly different style from me.” On the first listen it’s familiar alongside Villard’s efforts for the BCR label. Its deep groove carves trenches in the recesses of traditional House, while the artist’s effervescent touch for atmosphere remains at the fore of its appeal. Pads and synthesisers establish a heady firmament of textures, anchored in a low end rumble. A lysergic 303 bass-line emerges from the lower register, growing into the central motif alongside the determined groove.

It develops into fully formed song inspiring another listen and then another, and it’s at that point when you hear it. There is something different here. Whispers of noise stick to the atmosphere and the low bass takes on a menacing character. There’s something raw and visceral operating in the background behind the established  melodic ideas and pristine production touches.

“Jordbær” and the rest of “Sveve” finds Henrik Villard explore a new realm, something indefinable and far from obvious. It’s not exactly a new direction from the artist, but hints at some new terrain from an artist whose musical prowess has been established with records for the likes of labels like Mhost Likely and more recently for Tensnake’s True Romance. We’re excited to premiere “Jordbær” today ahead of its official release this Friday and caught up with Henrik to ask about the exact nature of this new direction. We and ended up going deep into his production processes and the nature of BCR in this lengthy email exchange.

Henrik talks about the BCR nights at Jaeger; his “sound”; and how Sveve came together in this Q&A. “Jordbær” and “Sveve” is out this Friday via Bandcamp and catch Henrik Villard and BCR in the booth in December.

Hey Henrik. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. You introduced this record via email as “slightly different style from me.” What makes it different?

Hey Mischa! Thanks for having me. Yes, I did. The whole EP, Sveve, is a product of some intense hardware-jams, which is a shift from my usual in-the-box process of making music to being more hardware oriented. The limitations imposed by hardware made me realise that I need to approach the music making-process in a new way – which led to me being more open minded in terms of the ideas that came from jamming on the synths.

A typical Henrik Villard-sound might be a lot more lofi and not necessarily something you’d hear in a club setting, while the tracks on Sveve still have a slight lofi-feel to them (especially on the pads, in my view) these are tracks I’ve played out in a club setting.

What influenced the changes in your approach this time around?

It’s kind of two fold. I’ve felt for some time that I’ve been stagnating with the music I made, and sometimes it was not even that fun to make (a bit frustrating). So I decided to experiment more and try different approaches to making music – to make it fun again!

You’ve released quite a bit on other labels in the past. Was there any intention to make something for BCR this time and what changes when you do something for our own label?

Yes, I recently released an EP on Tensnake’s label “True Romance”, which I’m very proud of. The intention to make a release for BCR kind of grew at the same time as I started to experiment. And I knew that no matter what, I’d have Anders and Perkules’ blessing to express myself. I feel a lot more confident to experiment (even though it’s not really wild experimenting) with my tracks when the intention is to release it on BCR. It feels like I’m much more free to do what I want.

What in your opinion is the defining Henrik Villard sound in records like these?

To be honest I have a hard time pin-pointing what “my” sound is – maybe it’s in the way I imagine a baseline. To me, that’s been my main focus for a couple of years when I make music. I’ve let my TD-3 run hot on these tracks, and I like to think that how I process and automate it as it runs throughout the tracks is part of what makes up “my” sound for these tracks. Where does a certain element come in in the track? What kind of atmos/background sounds are used to “lift” the track? I think the three tracks are firmly rooted in a house-tradition, I use 909 and 707 drums and acid-lines, bass-motifs that are meant to be something that keeps the groove going throughout the track. This release really is an exercise in house-music as I’ve perceived it at the time.

You specifically chose “Jordbær” as the premiere. Why did you choose that track from this record?

I really like Jordbær cause the idea came together real quick. I just had an idea of what the track would be and mashed it out. It’s hard to pick favourites, but I think this track stands just a tad bit closer to my heart.

In what context would we usually find this record in one of your DJ sets?

I’ve played it out a lot. I think it works well to set the mood in a set, and I like to think that it has some sort of dubby-quality (especially The piano). Not really a peak track, but before and after, hehe.

The thing that strikes me first is the bass, that deep rumbling consistent underneath the track. Tell us a bit more about how this track started and took shape?

The track started with the rimshot rhythm that goes through most of the track, then came some more drums. Then I made a pad sound, and also “jammed out” a baseline. After that I tried out a couple of acid-lines until I got the one you can hear in the song.  

Any specific records that influenced this sound?

Genius of Times’ “Sunswell” and Qnete and Carmel’s “Vierfecta”. The “floatiness” of Sunswell and the static nature of the drums and rhythm on Vierfecta.

At its crux though it’s that acid refrain that comes in during the height of the track, breaking through the atmosphere. It’s more like a song than a track.  From where do you draw your ideas for arrangement and melodies?

Oh, I feel like I’m the least creative when it comes to arranging tracks. I usually work with 16-bar sections, and I work a lot with filters. So I usually introduce an element (a stab, vox, etc) in the start of a 16-bar section, and use the filter to fade it in. For melodies I love to make a sound on a synth, and while I’m turning knobs something (like a meloyi, a motif) usually just catches my ear.

At what point do you realise a track like this is good enough to find a spot on a record? 

That’s a tough one. Because when you make the track, you listen to it over and over again. And it can sometimes be a bit hard to judge whether a track is good or not. I think we all know the feeling of working on a track the whole day, and then when you listen to the same track the next day, it sounds like garbage/crappy/bad. In my case I go off the tracks (and ideas) that don’t sound bad the day after, and if I like the idea I’ll keep working on it. It is also very helpful to get input and feedback from Anders and Perkules.

BCR has now been fully inducted in the Jaeger roster. Tell me what you guys take away from your nights here and how it folds into what you do at the label? 

For me, our summer residency (Sundaze) helped me evolve my taste in electronic music, it really helped broaden my horizon. We’ve also talked about that through our nights at Jaeger we’ve learned a lot about crowds, DJing together, and I’ve learned a lot about what kind of tunes work out (or not). A key takeaway is that I’ve noticed when a crowd reacts to a song, I’ve tried to take the memory or the sense of the crowd with me when I make music.

From the stuff I’ve been hearing from Anders Hajem and Perkules coming via the label, it seems there’s a general progression towards that new plateau. And you saying there’s a slight difference in this record, suggests there’s some evolution there. Is that right?

I would very much agree that there’s a progression or evolution of our respective sounds. Over the last 12 months I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from tracks and ideas that Anders and Perkules have shown me. They have been a great source of inspiration, and I like to think that the same goes for them. So I think we are able to inspire each other to take things towards a new plateau. Also I’ve had a sense of need to do something new in my music, and tried my best to act on this. 

And where do you see that evolution taking BCR and your own music in the future?

I’d really like for this evolution in sound to take BCR to new heights, I’d love for our music to reach more people. The same goes for my own music. We’re planning some exciting things for BCR so keep an eye out for updates.

Watch Digitizer (live) from the Jaeger Mix

Stream the video from the last jaeger mix session featuring Digitizer and his machines live from the sauna.

During the last Jaeger mix Electro descended on the backyard, curated by Elektro Romantik’s Robotic (Robin Crafoord) and featuring Digitizer. The Oslo native brought his machines to the sauna, to take an intrepid trip through some of his recorded works. Besides recording the live set in audio, we also trained a couple of camera’s on the artist for a video that you can stream now.

Read the interview with artist and find an audio only version of the mix here. Digitizer talks extensively about his history, electro and why he enjoys the live format.

The Jaeger Mix returns in December with Keecen and Olefonken.

Keep ’em Dancing with Boris Dlugosch

“My main goal when I play… I want everybody to have a good time.” Boris Dlugosch speaks from experience. “When you’ve played music for thirty years” like Boris “and you’ve played all kinds of styles of music,” all sense of ego and hubris falls away and what’s left is the music and dance floor. 

Boris Dlugosch has made a notable career for himself built on this foundation. He was there at the start, back in the eighties at the legendary Hamburg club called FRONT. He rode a wave of success as a producer concurrently with House music’s rise to fame in the early nineties with people like Masters at Work clambering for his work. He introduced Mousse T. to the world during a time when the track “Horny” propelled that artist to the mainstream. He found notoriety as a remix artist, adapting some of the world’s most revered pop songs for the club, and throughout it all he remained a steadfast figure in the booth. He continues to be a touchstone for some of the world’s recognised DJs like Gerd Janson and our very own Olle Abstract, and today it his profile as a DJ is encapsulated in something like mythic lore.

Boris Dlugosch plays LYD this Saturday

He started his career during a time when New Beat, House and Synth pop lived in  harmonious synchrony in the mix. He was an earlier adopter of Chicago- then New York  House. He played the latest from the French electro scene when acts like Daft Punk were still in their infancy and continued to adapt and evolve through the ages. Today he can be found playing at places like the Golden Pudel at home and while he still releases original music, most notably through Running Back, he remains a DJ’s DJ. His latest record, courtesy of Running Back stands testament to that. Unlike 2017’s Traveller on the same label, this is not an original work, but the second instalment of a compilation series, celebrating the music he played at FRONT. It’s the place where Boris had made his debut and retained a residency until closing in the mid nineties and probably the first highlight on his illustrious career. It’s here where I want to start our conversation when I call him up for an interview. 


The compilation ties a red thread from his beginnings up to the present day, and as reflection of a time and place, it’s significant, but coming out in a contemporary backdrop it stands on its own with its raw inhibited energy and indefinable sonic aesthetic, it captures a certain spirit through this timeless music. But before we get there, we have to acknowledge the city from which it was born. 

Boris Dlugosch is in Hamburg when I call him up; a city with a lot of music history especially club music. With artists like Helene Hauff, Boys Noize, Digitalism and Koze also hailing from the German city, there’s certainly a legacy there that’s hard to pin down. If ”the Beatles coming to Hamburg” has anything to do “with the first House club or the record store where Boys Noize and Jens (Digitalism) worked,” Boris can’t say, but he recognises “certain things bring other things” and there has certainly been a hive of musical activity ever since, and perhaps even before the fab four (then five) set foot on Hamburg soil. 

Unsurprisingly, Boris too “was always into music.” He had a keen ear and “picked up a lot of new music from the radio.” He played drums in a heavy metal band amongst other things and listened to everything from rock to electronic music. It was, like so many other things in Boris’ career, “a coincidence” that led him to the decks initially and eventually on a path to becoming a FRONT resident. 

The story goes that he had been working as a checkout bagger at a local grocery store and the till operator at the time was the mother of the cover guy at FRONT. On one fortuitous afternoon “he invited” Boris “to his house” where Boris found the lure of “two turntables… and a huge record collection” all too appealing. Boris realised immediately, “I want to do this” and as luck would have it (again), his new friend was looking to part with  setups.

Boris inherited a “pair of rubbish turntables and a mixer” and started learning the craft of the DJ. He was still “too young” and looked even younger, to enter FRONT at that point and had to “wait a year.” Meanwhile he already “had the tapes from ‘83 and ‘84 from the club,” and he could hone his craft through what he heard on those tapes. Boris had “always had an ear for music” and seemed to understand the mechanics of DJing intuitively. Apart from being able to distinguish the music being played, he also started to grasp what the DJ was actually doing. At FRONT particularly, “it wasn’t about the show or how good you were,” he remembers, “but more about the selection of music.” Eventually he put a mixtape together with that focus, which landed in the hands of the owners at FRONT. His selections had particularly resonated with the forces behind the club and by 1985 he joined Klaus Stockhausen as one of the club’s only two residents. 

“I was about 16 when I first went to the club.” Boris remembers a completely “different universe” when he walked through the doors for the first time. It was a largely gay crowd wearing “a lot of leather” with “all kinds of weird people” in the mix. Pictures from the time show a dance floor of men in various stages of undress, and by all accounts it was not about what you wore at FRONT, but by what you didn’t wear. The leather, the moustaches, the marble-like physiques, and even the name, all exuded masculinity, but what struck Boris “the most was the music.” In a matter of a few visits. He had become “totally hooked.” Boris “had been to two or three other clubs before, but nothing like this.” 

“The music was 80’s, high energy, some disco and pop music.” Klaus Stockhausen played 12” versions of familiar tracks “being played on the radio,” remixed by the likes of Shep Pettibone and reconstituted for the dance floor. The DJ booth was nothing but a “box,” obscured by “dark windows,” where the DJ or crowd could only distinguish silhouettes on the other side. It was all “part of the mystery” of the place, but it was also a time when the “DJ wasn’t such a big thing.” People didn’t come to see a DJ, they came to hear the music and at FRONT the selection of music was in a class all on its own.

By the time Boris stepped into the booth at FRONT in ’85, the “first House music records from Chicago came in.” It ”sounded different from anything we heard before” and Boris’ musical ear gravitated to it. “I was always into electronic music and weird sounds” considers Boris. “I was also into melodies and vocals and House had all of that. It had soul and Funk, but at the same time it was something completely new, from another planet.” These records would be part of a “great mixture” of sounds that would include everything from those early pop records, Belgium New Beat and eventually the sounds of Acid coming via the UK. 

Literally hundreds of mixtapes exist online from FRONT during that time, and skimming through them is a window into a long lost forgotten world, where some things are instantly familiar or at least accessible and every track permeates with an infectious groove. “Maybe listening to the mixtapes today,”  considers Boris, you might feel like the DJ is “only playing the hits,” but back then you only “pulled out the best and strongest records.” There was “no ego, no showing off” from the DJ according to Boris –  how could there be you could barely see the DJ – and everything the DJ played or did was in order to “keep ‘em dancing.”  

For ten years this was Boris Dlugosch’s only objective as a resident at FRONT. Together with Klaus Stockhausen, they had created their “own little Paradise Garage,” but they were still an anomaly. At the time Boris “was probably picking the same records as David Morales or Frankie Knuckles,” but without any knowledge of these DJs, it was pure coincidence. He had no reference point, or mixtapes to influence these decisions. “The good thing about back in the day is that you didn’t know about anything else,” remembers Boris. “Now you think the epicentre of the music is London and New York,” explains Boris, “but all over Europe there were little tiny clubs all playing the same music and had the same vibe going.” In Hamburg especially, they were their “own little island,” isolated even from the rest of Germany who had largely been focussed on the sounds of Trance and Techno at the forefront. House music was still largely unknown, but people like a young Gerd Janson would flock to FRONT to hear this new unusual music. 

As the nineties rolled in and House music’s popularity grew in a world that became more connected, Boris too was swept up in the furore around the genre. The music he had been playing for years at FRONT had finally reached an international audience, and where before in Hamburg, they had very little connection beyond the city, suddenly they were part of a global phenomenon, thanks to the Americans.  

By that stage Boris Dlugosch had started remixing and editing his own records. As a DJ “you start thinking this record could sound better,” and with more “access to studios and gear” he developed these skills while still working the floor at FRONT. The “big breakthrough” came when he stumbled across a record at his local record store. “It sounded poppy, there was something there,” he remembers today. There was a phone number on the record – yes, people put their phone numbers on dance records back then – and he called up the artist. That artist turned out to be a nascent Mousse T. Boris made the journey down to Hanover, to a big studio complex, where he met with the young artist and they “immediately clicked and started producing together.” Adopting the pseudonym BOOM! they released “Keep Pushing.” in 1996. 

Boris had already started touring as a DJ, mostly in Germany alongside visiting American dignitaries like Todd Terry, which led to invitations to industry events like the Miami music conference. It was in Miami, purely by “coincidence” yet again that the new record found their way into some influential record bags. Stuttering vocals by Inaya Day sit alongside striped percussive work with gritty synthesisers pulsing through the mix. It had that immediate crossover appeal and the industry responded in kind. Faxes from the likes of Tony Humphries started coming through praising the track, and the record was eventually licensed to Louis Vega and Kenny Dope’s Master’s at Work label. 

It was an “absolutely crazy” time for Boris as “things came together.” His ear for a melody, his intuitive sense of rhythm and his experience of the dance floor culminated in a style of House music that was primed for the commercial market, but it never really came to fruition for Boris like it did for Mousse T. While his colleague and production partner found success with his track “Horny,” Boris’ efforts remained largely relegated to the underground. Even though Boris Dlugosch was on the A-side on the original “Horny” promo release with “Live Your Life Your Way” – a track with as much merit as its B-Side counterpart – it was the Mousse T. original that garnered most of the attention (it’s controversial title for the time probably influencing it) leaving at least one Discogs user to ponder: “Quite why this little gem from Boris Dlugosch never saw a commercial outing remains a mystery.”

Boris Dlugosch

The music industry is a cruel mistress and Boris Dlugosch, whether unlucky or overlooked, never saw the mainstream successes that many of the people he worked with enjoyed. “After a couple of years, you are not getting your royalty statements and you’re not getting paid and these guys have Maseratis and Porsches,” you can’t help but question the nature of the industry. While people like Todd Terry were getting well “40 000” for remixes on the same records that Boris were doing for free, and royalty cheques from the success of “Keep Pushing” never found his pocket, Boris remained seemingly content in his own success. Talking to him today, there is no sense of anger, frustration or regret. “In Germany, we were still the outsider because Techno was big and our music was still in small clubs,” he insists. Even while he would often hear his tracks on the radio in places like Ibiza and Italy during the height House music’s success, it seems Boris Dlugosch prefers to exist, in the small clubs that thrive in the underground.

He still prefers to be considered more of “ a DJ than a producer” and rarely plays out his own music, with one of the few exceptions being his last EP of original music on Running Back. “That’s the last track that I really loved that I did.” He is more focussed playing at places like the Golden Pudel in Hamburg and as a DJ he’s remained a fixture at places like these throughout different phases of club culture and club music, adapting with each new zeitgeist.

During his days at FRONT, at a time “when the music continued to get harder,” he changed direction literally overnight. “From one weekend to the other I switched over to playing only New York underground music.“ The same happened again in 1999 and 2000 when, at a time when House music was on MTV and entrenched on the radio, he decided to focus on the French Electro sound at the forefront of a new scene. “I was just bored,” remembers Boris of that time. “Hearing a mixtape by 2 many DJs,” he found music that played on nostalgic feelings, and yet remained contemporary. “They (2 Many DJs) were mixing all this music I loved from childhood (rock music) together with club music,” and again  Boris found a voice in that sound too. 

Throughout he’s remained a relevant figure on the scene, and still plays all over Germany, perhaps only taking a break during the pandemic. Respected by the underground, Boris Dlugosch has remained a significant DJ, and there’s few working in the DJ and clubbing scene today that haven’t been in awe of his prowess in the booth at one time or another. His days at FRONT is enshrined in club music history, reflected yet again in this Running Back series, and as we as a clubbing industry and community continue to move away from those early underground roots into commercial avenues, those times still echo with the raw and inhibited emotions that is at the core of club music for any given epoch. Few embody that spirit and that attitude to a dance floor quite like Boris Dlugosch. 

Chop Chop: An interview with Glitter 55

The tempo in Jaeger’s basement is creeping up to that 150BPM mark. It’s not even midnight yet, but people are literally bouncing off the walls as they push past the wall of bass to get a glimpse of the DJ. I’ve become accustomed to hearing these excessive tempos  recently, but there is something unique to this particular experience. Where those tempos usually exist for saccharine melodies inverted in some functionalist dystopia, there is something more enticing and esoteric about what I’m hearing at this moment. Exotic textures, heavily borrowed from African and Arab traditions, weave through monstrous electronic kick drums to make an intricate lattice of unique rhythm structures and ethereal melodies.

This is Glitter 55 in full effect. The Moroccan DJ has cultivated a unique sound as a DJ over the last 5 years as she consolidates music from the Arab World and Africa with the stark sound of western electronic music. “I play music from the UK and US – bass music mainly”, she confirms, “and I try to put some influences from home or from Africa in there.” Home is officially in Rabat, but Glitter 55 speaks in a melodious French accent, the Morocco inflections softened by years spent in France. She introduces herself as Manar and we sit down in the backyard to the sounds of House music playing in the background. She’s just finished her soundcheck, and I was lucky enough to get a private sonic glimpse for the night ahead.

Her sound unfolds like a collage of disparate influences of a global diaspora, deconstructed and re-assembled for the purpose of the dance floor. At heart of it all is her unique musical heritage. Taking elements of “percussion from local (Moroccan) music called Chaabi”,  “vocals from Raï” or drums from South Africa’s gqom artists like DJ Lag, Glitter 55 reconstitutes these pieces alongside those UK and US bass sounds that she finds via soundcloud and bandcamp. It lends a well-travelled aesthetic to musical constructions that would be familiar to any club goer, especially those that came out to hear her play for Oslo World on the night. It’s world music, not in its truncated form as a non-western music, but rather in its most obvious description. It’s music that truly represents the world, or at least more of it than just one region.

It’s a sound Glitter 55 seems to embody in personality more than just taste with very few references or similarities being drawn to other DJs or artists. In a mere five years she has created the type of artistic identity in a sound that usually takes a lifetime to master, starting with a passion for music and leading to Djing; her Frissa nights  (“It means chop chop, always in a hurry, and a big mess”) and soon the recorded format (“Hopefully it will be released next year”) consolidating all her early influences and contemporary electronic music. 

Growing up in Rabat, Morocco, Glitter 55 was exposed to music from all over the world from a young age. Her mother listened largely to “Egyptian music” while her father gravitated towards the “fusion” pop sounds of something like the Moroccan equivalent of “the beatles”. She also remembers her “uncle listened to a lot of French pop music” and she still admires pop music with everything from “Egyptian and Lebanese pop,” to “Dua Lipa” informing her tastes today. Hearing all these “different styles of music… growing up” instilled an early passion for music, leading to enrolling in the Royal Gendarmerie’s music conservatory at a very young age, where she studied “music theory and singing”. 

At 16 she moved to France, arriving at Amiens, before moving to “Lille to study cultural studies and then to Paris.” It was in Paris where she started working as “an agent in the music industry”. Taking care of Arabic artists like Tinariwen amongst other things, she was certainly busy in the scene, but had made no significant steps towards her own career as a DJ until later. If she was a precocious music talent it’s hard to know at this point, because she worked largely behind the scenes, but there was clearly a nascent talent when she took to the decks for the first time. 

“I had a friend who was promoting a party, and was doing everything during the party,” she recalls about her first furore into Djing. “He was having issues with a band, and he asked me to play some songs for 10 minutes. I was like, ‘no, I don’t know how to use this machine.’” It went from trepidation to excitement, but she quickly found an experience she “enjoyed a lot” and wanted to learn more. “Thanks to youtube” and “a lot of tutorials” she learnt the basics and started taking her first steps towards a DJ career. She took on the name Glitter 55 as an homage to her Grandma (55 representing the evil eye of local tradition) and her personal affection for glitter socks (which I hadn’t noticed she was wearing on the night) and set on a course to a career in Djing alongside her work in the industry.

Manar had not been a stranger to DJing and electronic music in Morocco however. Attending “some festivals” and “rave parties,” she encountered a sound that leaned to “Trance and psychedelic stuff and hard Techno,” but it wasn’t until she started DJing herself that she started to explore the vast expanse of her own musical influences. It’s “music from Morocco or Africa, mixed with music that I love and discovered in France,” she considers. 

Today she “can play hard Techno and Disco and other stuff,” interwoven with those Arabic and African influences. With few others exploring these eclectic dimensions from the booth today, she has been left largely to her own devices and has prospected the limits of her own formative tastes extensively through her sets and her radio show on Rinse FM.

A mere two years after making her debut as a DJ Glitter 55 was inducted in the Rinse FM family as a resident for their French station and soon thereafter started playing around Europe and further afield. She “was amazed” when the call from Rinse FM came so soon after picking up DJing, but she is certainly a unique entity on the Radio’s programming schedule today. Her show “Atay Time” sees her “invite the artists that I love” from “all over the world” retaining that obvious connection with her own roots as  guests like Lara Sarkissian and Jabes represent a vast global diaspora. 

Artists and DJs like these and Glitter 55 herself  have brought a distinctive Arab sound to these western contexts in what is beginning to feel more than just a moment for our scene. Ignoring for a moment that people like Acid Arab and Asian Dub Foundation have experimented with Arab and Eastern sounds in electronic club music for some time, artists like Glitter 55 are breathing a new life into the clubbing landscape, by bringing something unique and contemporary to fore. 

In Paris, she has found a scene that shares the ideology. “It’s not a specific place,” however, “it’s different venues and promoted by collectives, who get people from all across the Arab world.” It’s “represented by artists from Africa living in Paris,” people like ”Deena Abdelwahed from Tunisia” but it’s not merely contained in Paris either. It’s also “in Amsterdam, where there’s a lot of parties being promoted by people from the Arab world.” 

The sound has reached Oslo too on occasion, with the likes of Sama AbdulHadi and Omar Soleymann making visits to Norway in the recent past and it certainly has captured an audience here too as we witnessed from the turn out for Glitter 55 and Acid Arab for the Oslo World event. 

Even within that wider appreciation for Arab and African sounds within a western musical dialect, Glitter 55 remains different. Her Chaabi influence which is “more about the  melody and the drums, the rhythmic structures of the sound” make for interesting bedfellows with the bass heavy rhythms of gqom and the blank slate that Techno and Bass music provides for these sounds as a platform. “You can mix the two quite easily,” says Manar “with the rhythmic structure” finding an interesting sympathy between genres like “bass music” and the very same “Egyptian music” she grew up listening to as a child. It’s music that resonates with western audiences as well their African and Arab counterparts, with the only difference being that “people sing along”  to the music back home.

People might not be singing along to the music at Jaeger on the night, but regardless, it’s made an indelible mark on the crowd as the 150 beats per minute subsides into quiet before a cheer erupts in the quiet. 

Charting a new trajectory with Interstellar Funk

Sitting down with Dekmantel artist and DJ, Interstellar Funk ahead of a showcase at Jaeger to talk about the evolution of his sound as an artist and his trajectory into one of the most respected DJs on the circuit today.

Interstellar Funk (Olf van Elden) is an anomaly in our musical galaxy. His music, whether he’s indulging early influences of Detroit House and Chicago or stepping off the grid into new ambient realms, is incredibly hard to categorise and illusive in its appeal. There’s always something functional lurking in the background, with a sense of a tranquil melancholy delivered in bristling synth melodies and uninhibited rhythm sections. 

His records have found their way on labels that thrive and indulge that sonic aesthetic – labels like Rush Hour, L.I.E.S, Berceuse Heroique and Dekmantel – and as a DJ he’s expounded on that sound, cultivating a unique reputation amongst his peers and audience alike. His music has always been very “synth based” with a nod to the vintage sounds. “I always use old synths,” explains  Olf, “and it’s always based on little melodies, less sample based, less drum based.” 

Between his associations with Dekmantel; his earlier work at Rush Hour; and his various connections with the people behind Club11/Trouw/De School he is something of an Amsterdam institution in his own way. A regular fixture at the Dekmantel festival since its inception, Interstellar Funk is practically part of the crew there. He is one of the most-featured artists on the lineup, and when they are touring the Dekmantel festival around clubs around Europe, he is on the figurative tour bus.

It seems only apt that his debut LP comes via the Dutch label. After nearly a decade of 12” and EPs Interstellar Funk has finally made his debut on the long player format in 2022 with Into The Echo. The record, coming together during the pandemic, sees the artist channel the sound he’s cultivated across his previous records towards a softer, more organic sound, suited for the album package. 

Delving into his past experience at Rush Hour, the Amsterdam-based record store of some repute, where he started as an intern, Interstellar Funk charts a journey through those formative experiences digging through the record store’s shelves on this album according to earlier interviews. The result is an LP that surprises at times in the context of Interstellar Funk’s more club-orientated work and yet again defies categorisation. Into the Echo reflects on an introverted time for humanity in a way that only Interstellar Funk could, and while it moves away from the club, it hardly breaks all contact in the machine-heavy aesthetic of the artist. 

It’s something he is carrying through to his next record at least, a 12″ on his own label, created around the same time with his piano teacher and friend Loradeniz. “It sounds quite similar” to the album says Olf with the pair bonding over “same kind of music” and recording the record pretty fast during the same pandemic period as the album. It suggests an evolution in the artist’s sound and when we sat down to talk to him before his appearance for the Dekmantel showcase last Frædag at Jaeger it was one of the many questions we had lingering. 

 

Let’s start with the album. Why was this the right time for you to put out your debut LP?

I wasn’t really planning to do the album. I always wanted to make an album, but time-wise it was always a bit difficult, because I was playing a lot and I needed more time in the studio. I was supposed to release a 12” on Dekmantel in 2020 and then the pandemic started, and I pulled back the 12” because it was a bit more clubby, and it didn’t make sense. And then I was like: “I’m just gonna keep on working on the project and see where it goes.” 

So the tracks weren’t ready ahead of the album?

I had those four tracks ready, and I took those four tracks as the direction of the album. In the end only two tracks made it onto the album and the rest didn’t. It was more like now I have the time, and it was nice to have a project, because I needed something to work on. I just decided to try to make an album and see how it goes and this is what came out. 

Did you have an idea for the record like what you wanted it to sound like?

I had some inspiration and some ideas. Like with electronic albums, I always like it when it touches more genres and not only club stuff. With an album you can go deeper and different directions than with 12”. I took the freedom to go a bit further from the dance floor. 

That’s something I picked up from listening to it, it sounds very organic compared to the past 12’s you’ve released.

I think, because I had this in mind, and that I spent so much time in the studio, it probably changed my sound a little bit. It evolved into something.

Do you think it might make it into future records?

Yeah, I’m not only interested in club music, I like other stuff. The idea of making albums and doing whatever you like, that freedom you have, it’s really interesting.

My association with your music has always been strongly toward beat music with a dark, wavy sound. Are you stepping away from that sound?

The problem is people always compare you with something. If you play a few wave tracks, people suddenly think you’re a wave DJ, but I like it all. I was  always into Detroit, Techno and Chicago. I like really dark, experimental and I like wave a lot, but it’s not like I’m only focussing on those things. There is a lot of experimental ambient stuff I like, and maybe you can hear that on the album. 

Yes, I can certainly hear some of that ambient influence. I read somewhere that your time at Rush Hour influenced it too. How did the record store influence it?

I worked there for eight years and I discovered a lot of music there. When I started working there I was mainly listening to Detroit and Chicago, like Omar S and Theo Parrish. They also did a lot with Brazilian music and African music (at Rush Hour), so I learnt a lot about different genres there. You’re also surrounded by records and people that know a lot about music, so you definitely learn to appreciate other styles. Maybe more than when you’re only a DJ and focussing on club music. A little Disco and Italo, but a lot of Jazz, Brazilian and African music. 

When did you start working at Rush Hour?

I started there as an intern in 2012. I worked out of the office, mainly for the label.

How did you end up at Rush Hour?

I went to art school and I had to do an internship, and my direction in art school was in music. I was already going (to Rush Hour) to buy records and stuff, and my dream was always to work there. 

And this was before you started DJing?

I was already buying records. 

I read about your brother being involved in club 11 (predecessor to Trouw and De School). Was that your initial introduction into clubbing and Djing?

Yes, club 11 was a really good club and they did loads of cool parties there. I always went there with my dad to support his (Jorn van Elden) parties. 

How old were you at that point? 

15 or 16. Because my brother was doing the parties it was fine (to get in). I don’t think they were that strict. 

And your dad would go with you?

Just to support. He still comes to parties now and then, he was at the (last) Dekmantel festival. 

Does he have an interest in this music?

He’s more interested in what I do. Just a proud dad, standing in front. 

What kind of music was he listening to when you guys were kids?  

I don’t think he was interested in music at all. They were listening to music, but it wasn’t like I grew up in a musical family or something. 

I guess, because club culture has been so ingrained in Dutch culture, that it’s not unusual for the older generation to go to club nights or music festivals.

Yeah, maybe it’s more accepted, that’s true, but my Dad was an (athlete) so he wasn’t drinking or doing any drugs. He wasn’t into club music at all when he was younger. Maybe people that grew up in the eighties, they got into club music, but my dad is a little older. In the 70’s you didn’t really have that. 

So, since you weren’t really into that music and didn’t grow up in a musical family or anything, what drew you to club music initially?

I just liked the parties and the festivals. It was just a new world opening up. I wasn’t necessarily interested, but I did like the music. It was either really heavy Techno like DJ Rush or it was minimal like the Villalobos stuff. I liked it all and just partying. People showed up at afterparties and we had a turntable; we had one Technics and one shitty turntable and people just started to learn how to mix.

You came up at the same time as Dekmantel and I remember at that point Detroit House was huge in Amsterdam. Was that the stuff you started buying?

When I started going to Amsterdam, that’s when Dekmantel started going with their own parties, and that period from minimal shifted to Detroit and Disco. We saw Theo Parrish for the first time; it was a really interesting period. My first records were really shitty, but I remember buying the first 3 chairs double LP (Moodymann, Marcellus Pittman, Rick Wilhite, Theo Parrish), and I still have that record. I was also a huge fan of Omar S and I’m still a huge fan. 

At what point do you go from Detroit House and start digging further into other genres?

I don’t know. I think you find a new genre, and you go deeper and you start buying and playing those records. I also used to buy a lot of Disco, because I saw Theo Parrish playing it, but I figured out maybe it wasn’t really my thing.

Were you making music throughout  all of this?

No, I started later. 

What was the catalyst for you to start making music?

I had a group of friends and one of the guys, Deniro used to have a lot of gear, an 808 and  909 – all the cool stuff.  Because of him, I collected money for my birthday and bought a Juno 60 (synthesiser). I always tried to make music on Ableton (computer software), but I couldn’t’ really figure it out, it was too complicated for me. I got a Juno 60 and a 707 (drum machine).

And then the debt starts… 

(laughs) It was definitely  an addiction.

You started around the same time that Dekmantel started. Did you always have a close relationship with them?

Amsterdam is pretty small and back then the scene was even smaller. There were a few parties. You had the Rush Hour that was pretty big, and then you had a party every Thursday at this club, everyone used to go. They (Dekmantel) used to play there and they had their own party in a small club in Amsterdam. It was a dirty place, mirrors on the walls and a dancing pole in the middle. It was a trashy, shitty place, but in a cool way.

Because the weekends were really long; you would go out on Thursday, then you go to an afterparty and thgo out on Friday. You hang out with the same people for hours and days, and you build up friendships quite fast. 

You’re probably one of the most frequent return guests to the festival. 

By now I might be. 

So doing the record for Dekamntel must solidify something?

I already had a few tracks on compilations (with Dekmantel). It was just a natural relationship, and it’s always nice to work with somebody you can trust and that you know really well. 

Getting back to your sound, do you think it marks a new chapter in your sound as an artist?

I think your sound always changes. If you look back to legendary producers, their sound always changes. If I listen back to my first record, it’s not something I would play now, but I also don’t hate it. It’s a lesson you keep learning. Your next release should always be better.

The Cut with Filter Musikk

I was watching the video for David Morales’ Needin you from 1998 recently. I’ll save you the trouble of watching it, (it’s quite cringy): It’s Morales, wearing enough bronzer to cover a small orca, indulging in the hedonistic pleasures that Ibiza had to offer. The New York DJ and producer appears in various stages of undress inter-spliced with scenes from club nights, with some familiar DJ faces from a distant past taking the focal point. Morales goes from shorts and vest on a plane to running on a beach in his speedo, but in each scene, he is carrying a record under his arm. 

Watching that video today, all I can think is; why is that guy taking his records to the beach? I hadn’t seen this video for a while, and I had to conjure a younger me, before I realised why this was: it was because back then that’s how we distinguished the DJ from the rest of the folks! At the time the DJ was still the faceless dude (yes they were mostly guys) in the back somewhere, playing records, and the only you would recognise him, was by the records. The DJ was that guy, and in 1998, the only guy with the record under his arm; even on the beach apparently. It was a time when the DJ as a superstar was only just starting to make its appearance, so few people really knew what David Morales and his kind looked like yet. So I guess he really wanted people to know he was a DJ.   

That association between the DJ and the vinyl has long gone. Music libraries that used to contain entire living rooms are on USB sticks and everything that used to be so exclusive with vinyl in the nineties is now much more accessible, and more importantly cheaper, online. Back in the day however the DJs and their records were an enigma. As a teenager, my only association with vinyl was my dad’s musty 70’s rock collection, and the DJs I admired were certainly not playing the Average White Band or Frank Zappa in their sets. They were playing futuristic music, on what the rest of the world believed was a redundant format, and you had to be a DJ or have a serious interest in these sounds to become a part of this elite club, at least until you started making strides to becoming a DJ. 

Obviously that exclusivity has disappeared with digital music and modern tools like Shazam opening up a door to what was this previously exclusive world. There are those moments however when even with these modem tools, you’re still left none-the-wiser, there’s still some mystery and intrigue behind these records, and 9 out of 10 times, it will be coming from a track pressed on vinyl.

Those connotations between the DJ and the vinyl format might be long gone, but one thing that remains, and is probably more prevalent than ever, is that mystery. It’s a sense of discovery, something that you would’ve never heard before. That’s why a place like Filter Musikk still exists; for those rarefied moments in hearing something that’s not on Spotify, those treasured pieces that you can still be unique to you as a DJ. And it’s those records that make the cut…  

 

Ike Release “Leisure Devices” Bliq BLIQ21

Bass modulations swelling from the deep; flinty chords bouncing over the clouds; and a groove you can step to. That’s our gateway into this record; the remix of the title track from Iron Curtis luring us into the Ike Release’s latest contribution for Bliq. The remix is only the start we soon find out, as it opens a doorway into a world of heady breakbeats and classic House from the Chicago artist across the rest of the record. 

You come for the remix, but stay for the rest. It’s one of those records that has a little of everything for any portion of the night, the record that will free up some space in your record bag. 

 

Nathan Kofi “Voltage Controlled Love Affair” De Lichting DLEP06

 

…My heart will go on? Those words will forever invoke the image of a young Leo DeCaprio on a cgi boat mirroring the image of the French-Canadian wraith Celine Dion belting out “near far, wherever you are” over a set of midi panpipes. 

Luckily that is where this analogy ends for this record from Nathan Kofi. If there is a love affair to be expressed at all here, it’s a menage-a-toi between an artist and his drum machine and synthesiser. The romance is cultivated in wispy atmospheres and grooves that penetrate deep beyond the immediate. From the lethargic acid-tinged opener to the shuffling Electro of “Candy Girl,” Nathan Kofi delivers an engaging and soulful record across these four tracks.  

Textures envelope the listener, swelling between drums that remain subverted in the overall atmospheres of these tracks. It’s hard not to fall in love with this one. 

 

O-Wells “Moldoom” Die Orakel ORKL-X-96 

 

Across dance floors currently dominated by excessive tempos and cheesy refrains that figure closer to Hard House than Techno, it’s good to hear some hi-tech soul still in the background. Lennard Poschmann is back as O_wells on the Die Orakel. Uhe producer takes another sojourn via Detroit to Frankfurt through this record, instilling that timeless sound of Techno the rest of the scene seem to have forgotten.

Moldoom lives in that funky realm between Techno and Electro, before they would become disentangled, possibly best reflected in the stuttering kick drums and irreverent bass of “Rhytim”.  Even when Poschmann goes straight with a 4-4 track like the title track, there’s something unusual like an accent on the upbeat or an eerie resonance, taking the focus away from the strong beats.

At the record’s highpoint “Coscio” delivers an Electro cut that would make Drexciya proud, swimming in cinematic sounds and a toe-tapping rhythm section.

 

Jensen Interceptor, DeFeKT – Free Your Mind (Tresor) 12″

 

Jensen Interceptor’s records are like that elephant in the room. It’s like – “o-shit! There’s a freaking elephant in this room!” There’s nothing subtle about it and the production is so big that playing it alongside any other Electro record, it simply takes over and drowns out anything that’s come before or after it. 

We wouldn’t expect anything less from the producer when he teamed up withMatthew Flanagan’s DeFekt for  Tresor record. In fact putting those three things together was like throwing magnesium on an open fire. What else would you expect and if anything this record lives up to expectations and some more. 

There’s nothing timid about this record, as Jensen Interceptor and DeFekt deliver with a blistering sound that is centred around big kicks and piercing acid refrains. Even at low volumes, it’s an oppressive sound, the sound of armageddon descending down you, and you just want to grin and bear it. 

Through raspy synthesisers and derisive drum machines, the production duo delivers a sound big enough to swallow a town, pummeling the listener into a subservient dancer. 

 

Downstairs J – Too (SUZI) 12″ 

 

This is another one of those space-saving records… a track for every occasion.  While “Mana 4000” and “Orion” do the heavy lifting on the dance floor, “Soothsayer” and “Symbioses” offer moments of serene reflection, skirting ambient realms through broken beats.

There’s some nostalgic reverence for the likes of Carl Craig during the early nineties, those times where a record could be anything, a House record, a Breakbeat record, and even Hip Hop if you’re with the right crowd. The soundscapes echo the sentiment with immersive sounds that intrigue in their unusual metallic guise while the bass moves in large swells that reflect modern technologies. 

At its most captivating, it’s the slower tracks on Too that really stands out, but it’s only for their deference to what is already a brilliant record from Downstairs J.

Country girl: A Q&A with Kristin Velvet

Imagine a line-up including Kerri Chandler, Honey Dijon and Carl Craig, all on the same night. Even in our wildest dreams at Jaeger, we’ve only managed to showcase these amazing talents one at a time. So, consider the triptych of DJ legends, with Kerri Chandler being the opener! Now imagine this is your introduction to a nightclub.

This was the case for Kristin Velvet when she first set foot in Watergate. It’s no surprise she immediately fell in love with the place. Today, that introduction has blossomed into a residency, where she’ll regularly feature on Watergate lineups and often alongside legends of that ilk.  

Kristin Velvet is a DJ, producer and label owner with some well-traveled credentials. From her origins in rural Australia, her start as a DJ in Tokyo, to playing in London, and her eventual relocation to Berlin, Kristin Velvet has channeled an extensive musical experience through what she does as a DJ, a producer and record label head.

Taking care of the daily activities at Arms and Legs, a label she runs alongside founders Daniel Steinberg and Nils Ohrmann, Kristin Velvet has carved out an incredible career, going from the “euphoric” House of her youth to playing groove-focussed House for peak time, often featuring mostly music from her label. She is a frequent contributor to Arms & Legs too, making important contributions, like the P-Funk sampling, dancefloor monster “The undertaker” or the 90’s House delight that is “It’s a game”, when she is not working alongside legends like Felix Da Housecat or being remixed by others like Paul Johnson.  

It was in fact her daily activities as a label head that she got her foot, followed by some Arms and Legs, in the door at Watergate, making her debut with a special label showcase featuring none-other than Paul Johnson. That was in 2017 and now Kristin Velvet is an integral part of the Watergate roster, often representing them in visiting showcases. With the Berlin institution celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, she has secured another seat on the tour bus, and as she and Kid Simius make their way to Jaeger this Saturday, we sent over some urgent questions to Kristin.

She talks about her rural upbringing, how she found dance music, her time in Tokyo and her relationship with Watergate in this Q&A session ahead of her appearance at Jaeger this weekend.

Tickets via @ticketco

20 years of Watergate! That’s a momentous occasion. Do you remember how you became aware of the Berlin clubbing institution?

Momentous indeed! So around 2007, I was living in London, there was a lot of Berlin hype at the time. My friends from WetYourself played at Watergate and all our crew went over for it. I remember it clearly because I couldn’t go, but everyone was raving about how great Watergate was. I dreamed of going there one day. My heart still bursts when DJs from other countries play at Watergate and their pals all come to Berlin for the occasion, it’s a vibe. 

Why do you think its legacy has endured the way it has? 

It’s the team people who make the place, the culture, and the legacy. You can have the best venue, best location, the best sound system, and the best DJs but without a good solid team the club is not going to work, or maybe for a short while but not for 20 years! Shout outs to all the people working behind the scenes week in week out who bring these spaces we love so much into existence. 

Its reputation precedes it. It was the first kind of super club I was familiar with before I even came to Europe and I guess you might have had a similar experience coming from Australia. Why do you think it’s had such a far-reaching appeal?

Word of mouth. DJs and dancers from all over the world come to Berlin, have amazing experiences, and go back home and tell their mates. 

Arriving in Berlin, what was your first encounter with the club

To be honest I can’t remember my first encounter, those early Berlin clubbing years are a bit of a blur, but I do remember the first time Watergate left a deep impression on me; it was Jerome Sydenham’s 50th birthday. I arrived at the club just before it opened and Kerri Chandler was warming things up on the Waterfloor, then we headed up to the main floor where Honey Dijon was busting it out, followed by Carl Craig who played on of the best sets I’ve ever heard, then back downstairs to hear Dennis Ferrer in full flight. Everyone was on fire that night, Jerome had lots of his friends and family there, people were jumping on the mic, hugging in the DJ booth, it was such an amazing vibe. I was so inspired after that night I sent an email to the booker, which led to me eventually becoming a resident…. 

How did you end up becoming a resident there?

Around 2017 Paul Johnson did a remix for Daniel Steinberg on our label Arms & Legs, so I wrote to the booker at Watergate (after Jerome Sydenham’s 50th) to see if we could do an Arms & Legs label night together with Paul. The booker didn’t write back for 3 months or so, but then out of the blue and much to my delight, he did! It was such a huge thrill to hear Paul play. Shortly after that Eats Everything and Maya Jane Coles both booked me for their nights at Watergate, then we did another Arms & Legs label night together with Felix Da Housecat. At this point, I was playing at the club almost every month, so the agency invited me into the office for a coffee and asked if I wanted to join the agency. It happened very organically. 

You’re on the lineup often, and with a varied selection of guests. How do you approach each event and what remains central to it all when you play at Watergate?

Every time I get booked at Watergate it’s still a huge honor and not something I ever take for granted. I approach each event thinking about how I can give the ravers the best possible experience, so they leave the club with wonderful memories and big smiles. 

What’s the prevalent charm of playing at Watergate, and what do you think you can do there as a resident that you can’t really get away with at other places?

I think you can get away with whatever you want wherever you want if you do it with conviction! As a resident though it’s a privilege to be familiar with the sound system and the space which comes in handy for testing new unreleased tracks. 

How do you present that to a new audience when you do these kinds of Watergate tours?

I love doing the Watergate showcases because I genuinely adore all the other residents, we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company and I think the people in the club feel that. We differ quite a lot musically which is great, it makes for an interesting and varied night of music.

There’s also these other aspects to you… Kristin Velvet, the artist and the label head. How do all these things fold into what you do as a DJ?

It all works together – the music, the label and then of course the DJing. The majority of what I play in the club is our Arms & Legs releases. 

I’ve read that you grew up in rural Australia, and it was country music that first got you dancing, but it was your time in Sydney that introduced you to clubbing. What was the music that specifically bridged those two worlds for you?

The bridge was house music, Armand Van Helden, Ultra Nate, Soulseacher, Phats & Small, Mousse T, Black Legend, I had just started sneaking into clubs, it was euphoric feel-good music and very accessible even to a country girl like me.

I imagine like for most of us, it started on the dance floor. What eventually led to Djing?

I started DJing when I lived in Tokyo. I became friends with the people who were running club nights there, which led to me DJing and eventually doing my own events. It was a very inclusive community, everyone played at each other’s nights it was lots of fun.

What were you playing at the beginning and how did it evolve from there?

Back then in Tokyo it was very different, I played everything from The Rapture, Le Tigre and LCD Soundsystem to The B-52’s, Daft Punk, Violent Femmes and Whitney Houston. It wasn’t until I moved to London around 2006 that my tastes started to change. 

Tell me a bit more about Tokyo. I simply love the record- and music culture there. Did you pick up anything specific to your time there that has followed you as a DJ?

Tokyo blew my mind. I worked in Shimokitazawa which had incredible record stores, it was a long time ago though so I wouldn’t say musically there was anything that stayed with me from back then. 

From Australia to Tokyo and then Berlin, what was the thing in Berlin that set it all apart for you, that thing that makes it such a special place for nightlife and club-culture?

The history, the culture, the lack of rules and the long opening hours. 

Yes, in Berlin the nights are pretty long, compared to somewhere like Sydney or Oslo. How would  you adapt your sets, for these shorter nights?

I’ll just pack the bangers! Kidding… it depends on the set time, the crowd and on so many factors. 

This is a return visit to Jaeger. What did you pick up from the last one that will affect the way your set might go?

I’m so thrilled to be back, I had such a blast last time. Honestly one of my favorite DJ booths I’ve ever played in. This time I’ll use your incredible rotary mixer. The sound is so warm! 

And how will Watergate and that celebration hopefully be reflected in your mix? 

I have a track coming out on the Watergate 20 years compilation album which is set for release in November, so I’ll probably give that one a spin.

Primal frequencies with Kid Simius

Kid Simius stands out in the current electronic dance music landscape. Performing live in the type of context others would DJ and channelling a flair for the balearic through the stark minimalist textures of Berlin Kid Simius is an anomaly on an international scene. 

Kid Simius is José Antonio Garcia Soler. Born in Granada, Spain and residing in Berlin, Germany, he operates in the no-man’s-land between those very distinct worlds with music that travels from DJ Alfredo to Modelsektor on its own unique path. He’s been releasing records since 2012, mostly on his own Jirafa Records, but he’s been playing live longer still. 

Although his chosen moniker might allude to something primal, it’s only in the way it works alongside the cerebral. Known as something of a synth wizard in music industry circles, he’s performed on- and contributed to chart-topping success stories, and when he’s not behind a set of keys, he’s behind a set of decks. As Kid Simius he programmes “unorthodox beats” between  a fusion of electronic and organic sounds that move from the dance floor to a spotify playlist.

Stretching across his output, are individual pieces which can go from the dub-step infused noise of a track like “King of Rock n Roll” to a bubbling, cut-n-paste House EP like Chicken Mango. Likewise his albums have gone from the digital  surfer-rock of his first LP Wet Sounds to the galaxian Disco of his second LP Planet Of The Simius, all offering a different perspective from his vast musical lexicon. There is no musical genre or style that uniquely defines him and yet the fluid movement between his records are expertely honed into a distinct voice that emerges through his live performances.

From festival stages to cosy clubs, and even a toilet, Kid Simius’ live shows pack a punch, utilising a formidable array of synthesisers, drum machines and computers to deliver striking shows, both sonically and visually. 

As a resident of Berlin’s famous Watergate club and he has been installed in one of the elite clubbing institutions in the world, and as he and they make their way to Jaeger next week for the official Watergate 20 celebrations, we caught with José to find out more about his music and his live show. 

He talks about the year he spent in Oslo, his life at Watergate, his music, his live show and how he came to be where he is today in this extensive Q&A session. 

Hello José. I think the burning question is; What is your relationship with Watergate and what significance is there to 20 years of the club for you personally?

My relationship with Watergate started in 2005 when I saw a documentary about the Berlin scene called Berlin Digital in which the club was featured.

Then the first time I went to Berlin my German friends took me there and I had an amazing time. It was amazing to be 19 years old and after watching so many documentaries about electronic music in Berlin, listening to the label’s releases and suddenly being there and being able to experience it in first person was great.

Watergate is an incredible label, their compilations are legendary, the DJs, the club everything, and to be able to stay at that level for so many years shows what a great job these people do.

I joined Watergate when my agent Max joined the agency. From the first moment they have made me feel at home and are giving me a lot of support, they accept me as an artist just as I am and that shows that not only professionally but in the human aspect they are excellent people. 

It’s certainly one of those iconic venues today. What in your opinion makes it so special?

The two dance floors are amazing, the big one with the LEDs and the small one with the river views, it is a super nice place and incomparable with other clubs. Then the bookings they do in the club are very diverse, so I always find DJs that I like that I want to see, they are very focused on having a good balance between known people and being open for new talents.

You’re no stranger to Oslo either, I believe. Tell us a bit more about that? 

I lived in Oslo one year from 2007-2008 when I was studying psychology and I used to hand out Flyers and stick posters in the street for The Villa in exchange for a Guest List.

At the end of the year they let me perform in the small room, I still have photos of it, I enjoyed it so much. It was an amazing time and I got to see a lot of Great DJs at The Villa.

I remembered I contacted them via my space and sent a couple of sets and demos of my tracks. They replied that they had a dj from Barcelona playing next weekend and that he didn’t speak English very well and that if I wanted to have dinner with him before the show and take care of him a little bit during the night. So I started, I just wanted to be there and help out.

Kid Simius performing at Villa

Do any of those great DJs stick out in your mind now?

Yes of course, I saw Modeselektor, Diplo, DJ Koze local heroes like Ost & Kjex

So it be safe to say you have something of a home advantage when playing here. Do you think it will influence the way your live set will go?

Well it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Oslo so many people I had contact with no longer live there. I don’t know how it will influence my show to be honest, what I do know is that it will be a super special show for me and I will be super nervous and excited because Oslo and The Villa were extremely important in my development as an artist. The year I lived there was a super inspiring and very influential year for my future.

My neighbour at that time was from Berlin, we became friends and later through him I moved to Berlin. In Berlin he took care of me a lot and today he is not only one of my best friends but also my manager.We are super proud of the amazing things we have experienced in the last years and it all started in Oslo, in a place called Kringsjå.

You grew up in Granada, Spain. Can you tell us a bit about the area and the musical sounds of the region?

Granada is immense. It’s crazy for the things that have happened there. Many cultures have lived together for many thousands of years and that is what makes it a super attractive city.

That’s why artists like Leonard Cohen, Joe Strummer, Lou Reed or Patti Smith were fascinated by the city and its culture. 

Musically, although it has often lacked a lot of support from public organisations with respect to clubs, studios, rehearsal spaces or festivals, the amount of musicians and artists that coexist in it make it super special. There are always new bands, new artists, new collectives, new djs, it is a very young city. Musically it’s very eclectic, something between flamenco, indie rock, techno and break beat…hahahah

At what point did electronic music enter your life, and what were the bands/producers/DJs/genres that informed your earliest listening adventures through electronic music?

For me there were several key moments, to name one was my visit to the FIB in 2005, I think I was 17 years old and coming from a small town where not many bands came to play suddenly going to a festival like this marked me completely.

I always bought on cd, the compilations of that festival, when I got to the festival I told my friends, someday I will play here, my friends laughed but 10 years later I got it. Sometimes when they ask me about my musical influences I say, the line up of FIB 2005 is my musical influence.

To name some of the artists that played at that festival: Pan Sonic, Mouse on Mars, LCD Soundsystem, Ladytron, Underworld, Basement Jaxx, Milo Nick Cave, Oasis, Andrew Weatherall, Four Tet ….

How has Berlin informed you as an artist?

Berlin is a crazy city, things are happening all the time, the amount of new artists, new clubs etc. is incomparable with other cities, the freedom that exists is beastly and obviously to make electronic music there is no better city, also compared to other European capitals it is still not so expensive and that makes it a very comfortable place for artists.

The only bad thing for me coming from the south is the winter and that it gets dark very early but well you know that here in Oslo.

What significance does the name Kid Simius have?

The name came to me in less than a minute and I never thought it was going to be something serious. At the time of myspace me and my friends made an account as a collective and when we had to put the artistic names of each one, I was the youngest of all of us by far, so I was the kid and I have a lot of hair on my body and didn’t like the word “monkey” so I chose “simius” which is “monkey” in latin… and all of that in less than 30 seconds. That’s about it.

Back in 2012, you were involved in a song with some commercial success called Lila Wolken. What effect did that moment have on you as Kid Simius if any?

It’s complicated to measure the impact it had for the kid simius project since I wasn’t the main artist and only the composer, I guess the people in the scene and the industry knew who was involved in the song, but that’s all, I just kept my way.

It was, anyway a very nice experience in somehow, I was very young and I don’t know, suddenly you make a beat, you send it to some friends, they write a song, it comes out and suddenly it’s number one in the single charts, double platinum, you hear it on TV, on the radio, everywhere…and you think wtf 

It’s very different from anything you make today. When you reflect on it, how does it fit into the Kid Simius universe?

Well, to be honest, I’ve tried to do what I like at all times, I’m super eclectic and I don’t like to pigeonhole myself with anything. I always like to have fun in the studio and have a good time.

Sometimes I see my tracks as if they were photos of a certain moment in my life and they remind me of that time. Once I read something like “ if Yamaha can make pianos and motorbikes at the same time , I can make jazz, techno and grime, don’t label the music, let the music just be music”.

Would it be safe to assume that there was a shift in your approach/sound around your solo record, your LP “Planet of Simius,” and what inspired this new direction/evolution?

Yes well, I am constantly inspired by many things, especially moments, the beginnings of disco music, then house and techno are very beautiful moments in our recent history that have inspired me a lot.

Everyone no matter what colour they are, no matter what social status they have and no matter what clothes they have, all together on the same level dancing around the DJ.

The figure of the DJ surprising with new styles of music, mixing new things, Larry Levan Paradise Garage etc. etc. that inspired me a lot in that LP.

Also the idea of mixing different styles of music together was very attractive for me.

There’s been more of a balearic nature to your music since. Perhaps that’s just me inferring, although I did read an interview where you mentioned DJ Alfredo. How has that sound influenced your records and your live show?

Well , DJ Alfredo represents the romantic way of electronic music, eclecticism, all together we are one ,freedom & hedonism. He didn’t produce so much music but his legacy as a dj is crazy.He inspired so many people, he is The Velvet Underground of the djs. I had the opportunity to interview him on my radio show and he is one of a kind.

O really, we have to hear it. And about the live show… What is it about playing live that particularly appeals to you, and why have you chosen to present your music in that way?

It’s like a way I have to express myself, sometimes as a teenager or young adult you don’t think why you make things, you just do it and you do it because you need to do it, because you need to express yourself and I guess for me to play live is one of the best ways I have to express myself since I am a young adult.

Is it about recreating the sounds of records like Chicken Mango?

Yes

Does playing the music live factor into your creative process when you sit down to start recording and/or music?

Sometimes yes sometimes not, I try not to be functional when I am making music and not think if im playing live I should do like this or that. But sometimes it influences me. The beauty for me of making music is that every time is different, sometimes starting with the guitar, or with the keys, other times it is programming a beat, other times is sampling something…

Most of your releases come through your own label, Jirafa Records. How do you compartmentalise the aspects of running the label from the creative pursuits of making music?

Here I have to say that we practically don’t release other artists on the label, it’s almost only to get my own music out and we only work when there is a release, the rest of the time it’s on stand by.

On the other hand I have my friend and manager Chris, who I met in Oslo who takes care of the communication with the distributor, pitching for Spotify etc. I am not doing it alone. What was a bit more work was to set up everything , like publishing code for the label , Bandcamp account, Soundcloud, insta, Facebook etc but once you are set up it’s ok.

We also use the label as a platform for other artist to release their dj mixes // podcast …basically I upload the mixes to our platform and then play the mixes on my radio show I have monthly on the German fm radio where I had artists like Octo Octa, DJ Tennis, Ellen Allien, Cinthie or Sofia Kourtesis.

Then again there must be a sense of creative freedom that you don’t get from releasing on other labels?

Well, at the beginning to be honest it was because it was difficult for me to find a label to release my music, I don’t do music on demand, first the music. The thing is when you release on another label , you send some tracks you have done, they pick the tracks they like and that’s the release.

When you have your own label you have to make this decision, too. You have to select your tracks ,on one hand its freedom because you choose what you release, but on the other hand sometimes it gets tough to decide things on your own the whole time.

I’ve noticed there are a few things happening on the record front for you this year, and you’re playing live often. It seems it’s a busy period for you. What’s been the inspiration behind it and what has it again inspired?

I just love to do different things the whole time and stay busy. The live set is for me a kind of a challenge of how I should play electronic music live. There are no rules on how you should play electronic music live, that’s why the amount of possibilities or stuff to do is unlimited.

Is there anything you’re super excited about coming up in the near future?

Yes, I´m super excited about my show at Jaeger !!!! I got a release coming out on the “20 years Watergate” compilation and now I’m working on a EP with Rhode & Brown coming out next year probably.

Will we hear any of it during your live show at Jaeger

Yes, 30% of my live set is unreleased stuff coming soon.

Normann & Ole HK present Helt Texas!

There’s nothing subtle about a Thursday night out. It takes commitment and a certain devil-may-care attitude to spend the precursor to the weekend on the dance floor. It’s a culture all on its own and over the last year we’ve seen it flourish into a night all onto its own. Music and mood with a predisposition for the unencumbered, it has established itself as one of the highlights on our week-day calendar in no small part to Normann & Ole HK. 

The DJ duo have become a fixture in Jaeger’s sauna over the last year, playing alongside Finnebassen during his residency at Jaeger. They’ve become known for their charismatic sets with a broad appeal that is able to unite a dance floor. As we bid farewell to Finnebassen, it was only natural that they would step into Thursdays and with some pretty big shoes to fill, they too are going big, as they bring their new concept Helt Texas! to Jaeger’s sauna in October.

Launching this Thursday, Helt Texas! consolidates all that experience Normann & Ole HK have garnered over the course of the last year, reconstituted as its own. It fosters the cult of Thursdays with a style of music and a mood that they’ve mastered in their short tenure here already as they seek to develop it even further with guests that share their approach. As familiar fixtures on this scene, both in the booth and beyond, they’ve amassed a significant collection of friends and together they will call in a new era for Thursdays with  Helt Texas!

As Normann and Ole HK take the helm this week, we sent out some questions to ask about Helt Texas! and what the significance of the new night from the DJ’s perspective. They might be a bit hazy on how they met, but they are clear on their new concept and what they look to establish for Thursdays at Jaeger. 

So Helt Texas! There’s certainly no mistaking the vibe of the night based on the name, but what does it reflect in terms of music?

Normann: Who knows? I don’t think we know ourselves… but expect a lot of groove and energy. We might end up playing slow and steady, but we can also end on 30 trance, soo.. I know – Helt Texas!

Ole HK:  For me the name of the concept is more about seeing our Thursdays at Jaeger in a bigger picture than only the music. We want it to be “Helt Texas” in the way that the backyard is packed with the best people we know and where you can go mental to the best underground music 

You guys have been doing these Thursday nights for a while, often stepping in for Finnebassen, so what does it mean for you and the night as you officially baptise it?

Ole HK: First, I have to give Finn a big big big shout out and say thank you for that he invited me to be a part of his “Finnebassen Thursdays crew”. For me as an up and coming DJ it was pretty huge to be invited into his DJ stable. He showed me so much music and gave me so much inspiration over the last years that I will be forever grateful for what that talented man has given to me and my DJ career. So the fact that me and Edvard are taking over the Thursdays  is pretty huge and something I’m really proud of. We have been playing every second Thursday this summer so I feel the backyard is in safe hands, so for now it’s all about counting days to kickstart our “Helt Texas” concept 6th October!!! Can’t wait! 

Normann: Yes, It means a lot! Both of us have played, both at Jaeger and other places for years, but to have a concept of our own is a dream come true! Jaeger is by far one of our favourite places to play, and to be able to have a residency here is great. The soundsystem, the mixer and of course the people here are just amazing!

Can you give us the musical direction of the night in a couple of words?

Ole HK: Couple of words? Impossible. Come check out instead! We’ll not disappoint

Normann: As mentioned we don’t have a really specific sound, but what I think will be common for our nights musically is firm and steady grooves. Probably a bit darker than straight up disco, but hey expect the unexpected; sometimes it will be as pure disco nights.

Ole HK: Often when we start our Thursdays we build it up from some funky/oriental 105 bpm stuff and finish it with some banging house/techno around 126-128 bpm. We love it like we love all kinds of genres and tempo in electronic music. 

You appear to be very busy, playing at least twice a week, alone and together and at different places. How does what you plan on doing with this night differ from what you’ll do at these other places?

Ole HK: Yes I’m playing every week around town, but it’s not that often where I’m playing a club gig from 22:00 until closing 03:00 actually. So the fact that we have five hours all alone to build and create our musical story is kind of special with the night. 

Normann: In terms of music it’s hard to say how it will differ, but because Jaeger is such a unique place with a certain vibe it will for sure be one of the highlights during the week (at least in my opinion). It’s a free space where everyone is different, but at the same time alike in many ways. Of course we will play a lot of music that we know people in general like, but we will also try to “educate” people by playing things they didn’t know they liked. That’s what DJing is to me at least, and Jaeger is a place where this is possible.  

What do you bring out in each other when you’re in the booth together?

Ole HK: First of all it’s very easy to play with Edvard cause he is insanely good and talented. Edvard is a real musician, DJ and producer so he knows what he is doing. But to answer your question it’s always nice to be two on it. If I’m struggling a bit to find the right tracks or I’m in a “bad mood” we can discuss and help each other. Edvard has more experience so he can spice it up sometimes when I’m too focused on going safe and “pleasing the crowd”. Also after a year as b2b-partners we have been close friends so sharing moments and nights together is just awesome and more fun than doing it alone. I love Edvard as a DJ and partner, but also as a person and friend! 

Normann: I think we fulfil each other really well! And for the last year or so it has only gotten better. We don’t have to physically communicate, we just kind of know where the other one is. Even though  we have the same taste in music, it is not identical of course – but that’s a good thing I think. So hopefully we would be able to surprise you guys as much as we surprise each other. 

How did you guys meet?

Ole HK:  I met Edvard first time in 2018 at The Villa. He doesn’t remember that, haha, but I said hi to him and that I’ve heard him playing around and that I liked it. And to confirm what I said about him in the previous question he was so humble and kind and took his time to talk with me when I was the new guy in town who moved from the North of Norway. So in 2020 I started working as an event organiser and booking manager for DJs at a venue and nightclub called Pakkhuset. Edvard was of course one of the first guys I contacted and since then the relationship has been growing to be bigger and stronger every month.

Normann: I honestly don’t remember that night at The Villa, but if you say so! Haha.. But we started to play together during corona lockdown basically. Doing small sets/nights for friends and also some live streams. From there on we became great friends and now also partners in crime. 

In terms of music, where do your tastes converge?

Ole HK: Our taste is pretty similar of course, and we both like to mix in the same way. But I think the fact that we both love all kinds of music (not even just electronic music) makes our relationship very good and easy to work with. When we are together in the booth we can play, share and handle all types of electronic music, independent of genre and just enjoy each other. That’s so cool.

Normann: Our taste is similar, but also very different from time to time. Which is perhaps the main reason I think we go so well together. There is an individuality and personality there even though we play as one. 

How do you think it will be reflected in the guests you’ll be inviting to Helt Texas?

Ole HK: We want to have a mix of established and up and coming DJs. Like we have booked for the opening night of Helt Texas. Those two bookings are very representative of what we want and what we’re gonna book in the future.

Normann: Hopefully a lot of new and upcoming musicians with different styles, but also established and experienced people would be fun. There is so much talent in this city now, and especially women! Watch out – because they are reeeeally good!

Let’s talk about this first one. You’ve got Marcus Hitsøy and Henriku coming to inaugurate the night. What was the thought behind those guests and what do you hope to establish going forward?

Normann: They are great DJs and also pretty new to the scene. They really deserve to play in my opinion. I remember I first met Henriku when I moved to Berlin back in 2017. We immediately became friends because of our similar taste in music, and he continued to stay and evolve after I moved back home. Now also with his first release together with Alexander Skancke (which is dope). He is also a frequent DJ around in Berlin, so again a perfect fit for our opening night!

I think the opening night will be a good representation of what to expect in the future. It would be fun if these Thursdays turned into a hangout spot for people of any age with a passion for electronic music.    

Ole HK: Therefore Marcus Hitsøy and Henriku are the perfect booking for our opening party. Marcus is new to the scene and a really talented and passionate DJ. He is a part of the Sous-Vide label and have been playing groovy house and minimal a few times already in the backyard when they had their Sunday residency. Can’t wait to have him back. 

Yes Ole, I guess your relationship with Sous-Vide paved the way for this one too. 

Ole HK: Yes I really like the minimal groove and I was working and playing with Marcus in SVR. I saw how talented and passionate he is and Edvard knows Henrik, who also playa and produces the same style of electronic music – so then the line up of our opening party was complete! 

That’s all the questions I have for now. Anything you want to add?

Ole HK: Come to Jaeger 6th of October! It’s gonna be HELT TEXAS!!!!!!!!!!

A Ukrainian woman: Interview with Nastia

“What a way to end a set!” echoes through the crowd as the last remnants of an amen-breakbeat fade out. Nastia takes a reverent bow while the people in Jaeger’s basement press up against the booth, some of them still holding up phones, illuminated with the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Nothing she played alluded to any Ukrainian nationality, but there was an obvious and visible acknowledgement and you would have to have been living under a rock this past year, to avoid news of the ingoing war in Ukraine. I hear messages of support in English and what I assume is Nastia’s native-tongue, and while people file out of the basement as I’m reminded yet again of Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton’s iconic quote form Last Night a DJ saved my life; “Dancing is political, stupid!”

It’s a quote I was eager to bring up when I sat down with Nastia earlier that day in the hotel lobby. Did it resonate with the Ukrainian DJ under the circumstances? “To be honest I don’t have an answer to this question,” she considers for a moment, “because the opinion is so big and there are so many sides to it.“ Even so, she can’t seem to draw a definitive line in the sand for politics, because in her opinion “we’re all dependent on it!” It’s “pure ignorance,” she pressed to propagate a “message that music is out of politics.” 

Nastia’s fortitude and resilience in the face of the terrible atrocities facing her homeland has been an inspiration to witness. She has been a vocal critic since the war erupted with Russian troops invading Ukraine and continues to show a determined front under what I can only assume to be difficult personal circumstances. 

“It’s a hard situation for everybody,” she remarks ”not just for me and I still believe I’m one of the lucky ones.” Even though Nastia and her daughter are technically refugees, they’re not dependent on their refugee status and have declined the help of foreign governments. While other women in the same situation rely on international aid, Nastia and her daughter want for nothing. I’m super lucky to be an international artist,” she admits with her language skills and experiences as a well-travelled artist giving her an advantage over most. 

She currently resides in Amsterdam. The “cute and cosy” Dutch capital was the “only city” she considered when she had to relocate. Its accessibility to an international DJ circuit and its central location within Europe had a big influence on her decision, but I doubt it has given her any respite from being away from her home in Kyiv and the family and friends she left behind. 

At the time of writing her daughter will be enrolled in a boarding school in the UK, and with her daughter’s father returning to the front-line after recovering from injuries sustained on his last tour, Nastia’s family is currently spread across Europe while she continues to work, travelling around the globe. I can’t imagine this is easy for the DJ. “Why?” she replies. “I have to be an example,” she says flatly. “I truly believe I have a purpose. I have a responsibility.” It’s the nature of “being a Ukrainian woman; We don’t wait for help.“ 

It’s that very same resolution that propelled Nastia forward on the 24th of February 2022, when she woke up to the news of the Russian invasion. She packed her car with her daughter and drove to the Polish border. “We were supposed to fly to Turin,” she remembers, but  “the war arrived earlier” than expected, closing the airport on the day of their proposed flight. Nastia had two options; take the train or drive. She chose to drive, thinking it would be safer and  “more independent,” but having never driven across a border she admits she “was not prepared.” She “left, with a half empty bag, because I couldn’t understand what I needed at the moment,” and stressed continuously about whether she had the correct documents to get across. After twenty four hours of driving, most of which was stuck in long queues at the border and between borders, she and her daughter finally made it safely across the border. It was a harrowing ordeal even with the “incredible” job by the Polish border. 

Unlike the Polish border and much like Nastia, most of Ukraine was blindsided by the news of the Russian invasion. “Nobody knew,” the war was coming , because in Ukraine they had kept news of Russia’s advancing forces scant. “They were keeping it till the end, because they didn’t want people to panic,“ explains Nastia.  She and most of Kyiv were having “a normal day,” and “personally” she, like most of us watching events unfold remotely, “didn’t believe it” would ever happen. We were all, except perhaps for the American politicians, taken by surprise. 

We were all under the impression that a relative peace had reigned in the region after a tumultuous decade. We saw the uprising of the Maidan revolution as the start of a political revolution for the  country, one that would be sadly bookended by the eventual annexation of Crimea by Russian forces by 2014. It seemed a compromise was reached, but unbeknownst to most, tensions continued to simmer. 

From Russia’s point of view the situation was exasperated at the arrival of pro-European/pro-west leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The ex-actor/comedian was elected in 2019, with huge public support rallying behind his efforts after the 2014 revolution. It seemed that the people finally had their man,  but with Russia’s Vladimir Putin proclaiming a “nazi” force was at work in the Ukrainian capital, it didn’t go down so well in the east of the region.

“Before the revolution in 2014,” explains Nastia, “he (Putin) was sure (Ukraine) was going to be a Russian country like Belarus,” kowtowing to Russian trade agreements and political demands. When Ukraine’s people lead by Zelenskiy, “took the direction towards a European union” and refused “to join Russia in a trade agreement” this was the straw the camel’s back for Putin, who insisted now that he wanted to “denazify” Ukraine in what he deemed a “special military operation.”

That, now familiar rhetoric, “is just one man and a toxic propaganda,” according to Nastia. It’s no secret she has been a staunch supporter of Zelenskiy and his efforts. She voted for Zelenskiy and is in favour of a European Union. She believes in a free Ukraine, not some soviet hinterland smothered in the tight grip of Putin’s fist. “If this had been Poroshenko,” Ukraine’s previous president, she continues, “he would’ve given away Ukraine.” Even while Poroshenko formed the first government after the 2014 revolution, Nastia is certain it took Zelenskiy’s resolution to free Ukraine from Russia’s nostalgic fever dream of a reunited USSR. “There is no other politician in Ukraine that would’ve defended Ukraine like Zelenskiy,” she insists.

Images of the resilient president, dressed in fatigues like a live-action G.I Joe, cut a determined image at the outbreak of the war and continues to do so in the media today. The young president refused to flee his country even at the insistence of his foreign counterparts, a stark contrast to Putin, hiding away in his “humble” abode. As fighting intensified, driving Russian troops eastward, his fortitude inspired a nation and a whole European continent for Nastia. “European leaders believed that Ukraine could win, and they started to help,” she believes. “Most of the people didn’t accept Zelenskiy as a serious president and it was only when the war started,” that the public opinion shifted.

Unfortunately, this public opinion didn’t seem to reach the Russian people. In what she believes is one the “most shocking” developments in this war, Nastia says it has “completely” broken down the relationship between Ukrainian- and the Russian citizens. “We felt that we were on the same page,“ but after the war broke out “we clearly saw it was not like that.” Part propaganda, part ignorance and part misremembered history, have skewed the Russian narrative on the situation. Nastia thinks there’s “no way back” in mending these broken fences with her neighbours and in some sense her fellow countrymen.

Born in Fabrychne, a small village rubbing shoulders with the Russian border in the Luhansk region, Nastia was born into a Russian speaking family. For all intents and purposes she might have been Russian, depending on your perspective at that time. Nastia spent her formative years in this “poor” village, making regular trips to the closest big city, Donetsk. Her sisters had established residence there and when Nastia finished her schooling, she moved to the city to pursue a tertiary education at the University of Donetsk’s Marketing faculty. It’s then she starts dancing “in the best club” in the city, setting off on a path toward her eventual career as an internationally acclaimed DJ.

Today, her father remains in Luhansk, and her sisters have been living in Donetsk and Crimea respectively, all places currently under Russian control. I’m curious what people like her father and her sisters make of the situation. “My father is absolutely out of the whole thing,” she answers. “He’s an ignorant pacifist.” Nastia understands, but doesn’t defend, the 65-year-old’s position, refraining from dragging up politics when they talk, but I sense there’s frustration there that we’re all currently feeling with that generation. It’s different with her sisters though. “My older sister, of course she sees things, but she can’t do anything, and she’s accepted the conditions she has to live in. She doesn’t think it’s black and white, she believes there’s fault on both sides.” And what of the middle sister that has been in Crimea since before the 2014 revolution? While Nastia believes, “Crimea became a better place,” in terms of infrastructure, she concurrently believes it has robbed the region of an independent will. 

A holiday destination to Russians and Ukrainians alike, Crimea has always relied on the enterprise of its citizens to take advantage of seasonal business. With the arrival of the Russians, this has taken the agency away from the Crimeans, and has dwindled the opportunity for new businesses to thrive. “The roads, the kindergartens and the renovations, don’t compensate for the quality of life of the people,” insists Nastia. “You have to live your life independently,” and since the Russian occupation, independence has been a distant reality in the scope of the faux-socialist dogma of the oligarchs. 

This is perhaps why there has been a lot more resistance coming from Kyiv than these regions according to Nastia. “I think it’s all about education.” Growing up in the Luhansk region, she’s witnessed many who have fallen victim to the “poor” mentality that these rural regions encourage. “If you were able, like me, to move away from the small village to the capital,” clarifies Nastia, “then you have something in your mind; you have ideas, knowledge and skills, it makes you stronger.” Other “people that were born and going to die in the same village” don’t have that perspective and Nastia suggests that they have become “slaves” to their own limitations, and thus Russian demands.

It will take more people like Nastia, who although born in a Russian-speaking family,  “identifies as Ukrainian.” It might just be a “state of mind” for most, but in Nastia’s case, that state of mind has given her purpose in what she does as a DJ, a label owner, and event organiser today. It extends from her work in the booth to her own charitable foundation, which raises money for children’s hospitals and animal shelters in Ukraine. Her Nechto nights and record label have become something of a platform for these fundraising efforts and from every set she plays, she has been able to direct some of her personal earnings to the cause, significantly funnelled into the military effort of her homeland.

“Every gig is a challenge” however. The “hardest thing” has been “to focus on the music” while the war rages on, she understandably admits.  She”checks the music news much less” while  her inbox continues to fill with unopened demos. “I’m not ready for that. It invests so much effort.” She still experiences “heart-attacks” before taking to the booth, and was taking prescribed anxiety medication from the onset of the war up until August. Yet she perseveres calling it her “purpose” at the moment. Besides the label Nechto, releasing records from Ukrainian artists, she is also aiding Ukrainian DJs and artists in their quest for visas and temporary discharges from the Ukrainian military (“most of them are men”) to play in Europe. 

She goes back to Kiyv at least once a month for the moment, and notices while there’s still a tension in the air, there’s also been “a lot of discussion about how to live: “Shall I feel guilty that I’m trying to live the life I’ve had before the war, while other people are dying on the frontline. Some people figure that we can not go out, go to the party, or go to the restaurant because people are dying in the front. But other people are saying that yes but they are dying for us. We need to live so that their efforts are not (in vain).

Either way, there haven’t been that many electronic music events cropping up in the city “because of the curfew,” but there have been some cultural events, keeping up the spirits of the population. Nastia has feigned to create any events in the city herself, believing that “you have to be part of the scene” to do anything there. She hopes to eventually see an echo of what happened after the 2014 revolution when “we came back to parties in the summer and the scene went to another level,” but is reluctant to get her hopes up just yet. “I don’t see an end,” she says in a discouraging tone. “I don’t think anybody else has an idea of how or when it’s going to finish, even Putin.”

If it were up to the people on the dance floor in Jaeger’s basement on that evening, this war would already be over. Nobody else seems to want it either, except one man and the sycophantic yes-men that surround him. The only hope we have is that something befalls the Russian leader, but as Nastia so eloquently put it; “the war doesn’t only depend on him.” 

As Nastia’s set came to an end, she was smiling in response to the audience. Eeking across 140BPM, her set was built on a sense of groove that often belies those tempos. The people on the night responded in kind, whooping at quieter intermissions, and always ready with a cheer when she transitions into something familiar. There’s respect and familiarity involved in the turnout and their appreciation, but one can’t simply dismiss the extenuating factors of a war in Ukraine in this situation, especially when people are visibly waving Ukrainian flags. Even as the media’s coverage wanes and a world view turns more apathetic, it seems that people are still here and still willing to make a stand; even if it’s just for a few hours on the dance floor. 

Words: Mischa Mathys

Photos: Johannes Krogh

My best shot with Johannes Krogh

You might not recognise Johannes Krogh. Most of the evenings he spent at Jaeger, his face was obscured by a camera lens. He has been our photographer in residence for the last six months and from SPF.DJ to Nastia, he’s been there to capture the moments leaving physical documents of fleeting and hazy memories for us to pour over for future times. 

There’s an obvious voyeurism associated with photography; a mechanical eye winking at you from somewhere in the dark. In club culture it is often met with protest, considering the nature of the scene. Yet, photography in clubs has been there since the dawn of the counterculture with images telling a story of a time, a place and a scene that words simply can’t reflect. Celluloid memories, often frozen in black and white are some of the only insights we have to forgotten scenes today.

It’s that documentary approach that feeds Jaeger’s desire to have a photographer present on some nights. Only some nights however, because other nights are better left as mere memory, special only to the people that were there and experienced the event in person. For those nights we wanted to document, it was Johannes Krogh behind the lens. 

As his tenure at Jaeger ends and we bid him farewell on a sabbatical in Brussels, we sit down with the young photographer, DJ and aspiring architect to look through some of his favourite pictures from that time, and find out a little more about the method behind the lens. 

Photo of Boys Noise at Jaeger

This one just really captured the vibe that night. Pure joy in the audience and in the booth. The floor somehow felt 10 times larger than usual. I knew the second I took the pictures that it was all I needed that night.

 

Do you remember your first camera?

Yes, definitely. I received it as a present  for my confirmation. It’s one of those traditional gifts, I feel. It was a good gift. I didn’t really have any photography interests before that.

Do you remember the brand and model?

Pentax single lens reflex digital camera. It was nice and small. It was a decent camera. It was entry level and it felt kind of professional. You could swap out lenses and buy better stuff. It was a good beginner camera.

Did you garner an affinity for it quite quickly?

Yes, in terms of  how it works. How light travels and what you can get with different lenses; documenting stuff and getting good pictures.

What were you documenting at that stage?

Typical vacation stuff. I took a lot of pictures of my dog. To be honest, I have never felt comfortable taking pictures of people. It feels quite personal.

I started studying after high-school and then I did a lot of portrait photography. It always felt very intimate. If I’m taking pictures of people now, I’d prefer that they don’t know it, but that feels almost a bit creepy in a way. I’ve never wanted to approach people and ask to take their picture, I prefer a more fly on the wall approach. 

What did you study?

Media with an emphasis on graphic design. I was really drawn to the technical aspects of photography. I know some photographers that just see it as a tool, but I’m really fascinated in how a camera works. I got a really good sense of the technical aspects of photography, which I think is as exciting in a way. 

Photo of clubber at Jaeger

This one was was at spfdj in the basement. It was just so very techno

You’ve DJ’d as well and you’ve had some experience with photographing bands. Do you think that interest in music has an effect on what and how you photograph?

Yes, I think so. I like photography, but I’ll always use it to get into other hobbies as well. Doing the bands at festivals, it’s not because I’m really into photographing bands. It’s because I wanted to go to concerts. It’s a fun way of doing multiple hobbies at once. I’m into the music, the vibe, the people. 

I’ve noticed that most of the pictures we’ve gotten from you managed to capture that vibe. 

Yes, I like to partake and not just observe. I try to document it from the inside. 

What are your experiences of people in the club when they have a camera trained on them?

You get a really good sense early on of who doesn’t want to be photographed and who gravitates to the camera. It’s never been an issue. Most people that have had an issue with it, it’s been more about the principle; “like should you photograph on a Techno night?” I’ll avoid photographing those people. 

I guess, Jaeger being small, you’ll recognise the people and are able respect their wishes.

Yes. Usually the first hour or so, I’ll just go around and I don’t expect to get much. It’s just about getting comfortable and getting the people comfortable with me being around. 

We’ve only had one request to have a picture removed. 

Yes, I remember the picture, and she actually asked me to take her picture. (laughs) Some people might come up to me, and ask me not to take their picture before I even start, and that’s fine. It’s more important to show a vibe anyway than it is to show a face. 

What nights have been best for capturing that vibe?

It’s been different between upstairs and downstairs. I feel I have had some really great shots, on both the dark, heavy nights and really light fun nights. 

Do the new lights in the basement help?

Yes, definitely. There’s also the fact that for every thirty pictures I take in the basement, there’s one good one. You have to almost be lucky, because the flashes are so quick. You have to either time it perfectly or have a long shutter, but then it gets  blurry, but that can also be the vibe. You can see people moving. It’s really hard when you freeze people, to show the movement. Especially when you use a flash, it gets very static and frozen. 

Photo from Jaeger

I like because it shows the variety in the Jæger type. All kinds of people united on the dancefloor.

Do you have any nights that stand out in your memory?

When it’s packed it’s obviously a good vibe, but it can be really hard to capture, because it’s almost impossible to move and get a good perspective. Sometimes it’s about having a group  of people that are really comfortable and dancing, but maybe not too packed. 

Some of the Techno nights have been good, because people can often be introverted and shy, so people give each other enough space.

As a fan of the music, do you ever get the chance to enjoy the night?

Yes, maybe an hour in the beginning, then I would do some intense photography and get all the angles. If I feel I have enough good material, I can just enjoy the rest of the night. I really liked the first night when SPF.DJ played. Maybe it was a personal experience, and I feel that I got really into the crowd, because they were all kind of skeptical in the beginning. 

People came up to me and asked if it was morally ok to be taking pictures on that particular night. Later, those very same people were asking me to have their picture taken. 

I guess their moral fortitude dwindles as a night progresses?

Yeah, I guess so. (laughs)

In safe hands – Profile on Mano Le Tough

“Thanks to Mano Le Tough I’m not afraid (for) the future of house music.” That’s what Âme and Innervisions’ Kristian Beyer reckoned back in 2012 when the Guardian asked him to peer into his musical crystal ball. Beyer and Innervisions cohort, Dixon had been staunch supporters of Mano Le Tough’s (Niall Mannion) music, his tracks regularly making an appearance in their DJ sets. The Irish producer and DJ had become a sought-after presence in some of Europe’s most lauded DJ booths, and while the Innervisions confirmation was welcomed, Mano Le Tough’s career hardly needed the reinforcement, even then. ou don’t become a meme without having some clout on the scene, after all.

By the time Beyer’s quote surfaced, it’s fair to say Mano Le Tough had already established himself, forging a distinctive path as a DJ and artist, putting him in that upper echelon where the kind of people cheering him on resided. “2012 is when things really started to speed up, when I started doing over 100 gigs a year, and released my first album,” he confirmed in The Irish Times. It was year zero in becoming a household name, but he wasn’t exactly an overnight success either. 

Growing up in Ireland, we don’t know much about Niall Mannion’s life before Mano Le Tough. Bits from interviews suggested he was a quizzical music fan, but with early influences like Radiohead being referenced and the fact that he had “been in bands” when he was younger, it seems Mannion was more at ease with a guitar than a synthesiser during his formative years. At some point the switch to electronic music must have happened because by 2007, he had garnered a following on Myspace and made the move to the electronic music capital, Berlin. 

Mano Le Tough in the studio

“It was fairly meagre when I first got to Berlin,” Mannion told The Irish Times, reflecting on that time. “I was working in an Irish pub, actually a couple of different pubs, and running small parties with friends.” Earning his chops in what would have been a very busy and competitive Berlin scene at the time, he put in his time as Mano Le Tough and  his efforts were soon rewarded. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t determined,” he told XLR8R during an interview a while back. “Chasing the dream” during this period, there were a couple of key events that set him on the trajectory. 

Going to Red Bull Music Academy in 2010 was “one of the most important developments” and then when everyone started playing his track Primitive People, it too became a “cornerstone” of his career. It was the first release from his debut LP and with people like Tale of Us and Dixon jumping on the remixes, it played a seminal role in propelling Mano Le Tough to the  forefront of the world stage as a DJ. And where most would shrink in the shadow of some of the world’s most renowned DJ booths, Mano Le Tough, dominated it. Abated by his experiences when he was still a burgeoning DJ, he became a familiar headliner all across Europe, with the prowess to back up his rising reputation.

He can easily go 10 hours behind the decks, and still “routinely” does without breaking a sweat, and it’s that skill that installed the name Mano Le Tough beyond Primitive People, and continues to be a drawcard for old and new audiences alike. 

“You really have to look after your relationship with DJing,” Mannion explained in XLR8R. “If you do it too much, or you play in the wrong places, the love for it can fade, and you can’t really come back from that place—unless you have a break from it.”  The tight-rope act he walks has secured his precarious position between the underground electronic music scene and the big rooms he plays week in and week out. 

Known for his immersive journeys, Mano Le Tough’s sets are fluid expressions through his unique vision of House music which concurrently had a broad appeal on the dance floor. When the likes of Resident Advisor were still doing DJ rankings, he would often be in the top tier of these lists, and when Boiler Room came along he would be one of the first guests to break a million views on the platform.

Such was and is his popularity as a DJ that it often overshadows his work as a producer, but it’s exactly for his records that the Innervisions guys first singled him out (and for records not even on their label) and why he remains in the purview of our scene. 

In his work in the studio we have the same kind of ethos that drives his experiences as a DJ. “If you try to produce records to fit in with trends then you’re already two steps behind,” Mannion told XLR8R around the time his second LP Trails was released. A lot had changed since his debut LP Changing Days by the time of Trails. “I’ve developed a lot in terms of production technique, and I trust myself a lot more in terms of taking chances. I was much more open with the process, and I had a lot more confidence.” 

The LP coincided with a move to Switzerland where it was quite a different experience than his time in Berlin, where “the line [between home and work] was far more blurred.”  Moving to Switzerland was “a really positive thing for everything, music included,” he explained in XLR8R. “It’s given me so much energy and that has given me clarity of thought,” he continues. “It’s offered me the opportunity to really develop as an artist.” The result was the “deepest, most personal” work to that date. It came during a time of manic creativity, but  reflecting on the LP much later he would also say:  “In fact, after Trails, I said I’d never do another one because it didn’t go as well as I wanted it. I rushed the whole thing. I should have just stepped back and given it more time.”

This is something he felt that he could correct by the time he reached his third and latest offering in the long format, facilitated in part by the first wave of the pandemic. “I’d wanted to make a new album but that process was getting interrupted every year by being on the road too much,” he told Musicradar at the time.” This time, although it was extremely difficult for many reasons, being at home gave me the chance to work properly on the record and finish it.” The result was At the Moment, an album that’s a departure from anything else he’s done in the past, moving the furthest from those House-music inclinations into a more organic realm. 

Mano Le Tough at the keys

Time seems to slow during the record as inert guitar licks and slothful dubbed-out rhythms collide in miasmic atmospheres. Mano Le Tough’s sterile touch prevails in a glossy exterior that hides tumultuous layers. His voice dominates on this record more than ever and there is something in those youthful influences like Radiohead and some new ones like Steve Reich that certainly come to the fore here. “I felt that I was going full circle back to the music I grew up with,” he confirms in Musicradar, “but filtering it through the lens of my electronic music or DJ career.”

He stopped short of calling it a complete evolution in his work. “I wouldn’t say it’s a change in direction, just the logical next step.” It’s a dramatic step nonetheless, more like a leap, and it certainly changes the perspective of his music. Is it still House music at this point? It’s up to the listener, but it certainly channels some obvious references from House music, enough for  people from Resident Advisor to be able to still associate. In Henry Ivry ‘s review of the record, he called it “a surprising and refreshing record” marking specifically the “swaggering guitar hero” tone that it sets throughout.

I’m curious what Âme’s Kristian Beyer would think of it and if he’d still stand by his 2012 quote. My guess is yes, because if you hear what the likes of Bonobo, George FitzGerald and Ross from Friends are doing in House music echelons, we’re certainly moving towards the very same sound Mano Le Tough is perpetuating through his last record.

How does this influence what he does in the booth today? Probably little. While the nature of the recorded format has changed, especially in the realm of albums, the DJ is still a facilitator for a dance floor, and in that respect Mano Le Tough is a master at work. We’d expect nothing less than the cumulative experiences of a DJ that has made an indelible mark on the scene. 

Watch Center on the universe perform live for Jaeger Mix

In a first for the Jaeger mix, we present a video recording of Center of the Universe’s contribution to the Jaeger Mix series.

At the Center of the universe is man. He is a curious man. He plays a clarinet, and conjures obscure alien sonic aesthetics from noisy machines. He channels a diverse collage of musical languages through his work, always underpinned by a catchy beat. When he is not making beats he is proliferating others’ music with artists that orbit him and his label, Metronomicon. He is a musical maelstrøm at the Center of the universe, and he is our first guest back for the Jaeger mix after a long hiatus for the series.

Jørgen Sissyfus Skjulstad is the man at the Center of the Universe. The musical project has been a fixture in Oslo and Norway with records and live performances transmitting the artist’s singular voice across formats and contexts. Perfectly at home in a DJ booth, as well as a stage, Center of the Universe’s music moves effortlessly between worlds, often bringing disparate musical planets together in the process. 

Between non-western scales and pop-culture musical references, a post-modern spirit moves through his records, his videos and his live show. It was indeed a live-show he insisted upon when he asked him to revive the Jaeger mix series, encouraging the series to capture everything on camera and in audio for this occasion. Carting some synthesisers, drum machines, light-bulbs and a traffic sign into the sauna, Center of the Universe captivated with an esoteric live show, one which we’re happy to have captured in the visual format for the first time. 

In an unprecedented event of the Jaeger mix series, we have a video of the performance. Re-live the moments from our sauna, where Center of the Universe performs some of his latest hits like  Track ID, MP3 and NFT.  You can read the full interview with Jørgen and the audio recording here.

Keep the party going at the end of the world with Ost & Kjex

In today’s content-driven society, it’s so easy to drown in new records. Demanding release schedules leave us weary with even some of our favourite artists saturating streaming platforms and record shelves with their work. It has reached a point where five years between releases seem an absolute age and any longer interval between records is presumed a comeback by media outlets.

That’s why when Ost & Kjex announced their latest LP, “Songs from the end of the world”, with a seven-year gap between their last, “Freedom Wig,” people started calling it a comeback album. It simply wasn’t the case. They’ve continued to release records, like the mesmerising Private Dancer; set up their own label; and remained a presence on Oslo’s and Norway’s live stages. And that’s not including the Tore “Ost” Gjedrem’s side project Sex Judas

They’ve been busy, and in Oslo they’ve been a constant presence, noted for their jovial and ebullient dance floor creations and engaging live shows. Their latest album is very much a “continuation” of the Ost & Kjex sound and Dadaist approach to the dance floor,  as they traverse through sequenced rhythms and enigmatic melodies. Return guest WhaleSharkAttacks feature alongside other collaborators, as “Songs from the end of the world” makes a stand at the centre of the dance floor.

Between enchanting vocals and grooves, there’s the spectre of a soul that permeates through the record counterpointing the glossy sheen of its electronic counterparts. There’s an element of Ost & Kjex’s live performances at work, which infer that human touch, and lets the caricatures that they’ve created around this project run rampant across the record. Like a couple of comic strip characters brought to life, there’s a sense of playfulness that provokes at a visceral level, even though the subject matter of this record might appear bleak on its cover. 

We were eager to find out more about what exactly influenced the record and what planted the seed, as well as what this record actually means in the story of Ost & Kjex. We reached out and Ost obliged with some answers to our questions ahead of their next appearance at Jaeger.

This will be your first LP away from the Diynamic; the first Ost & Kjex LP on your own label Snick Snack Music; and the first LP in 7 years (wow, feels like Freedom Wig came out yesterday). Would it be safe to assume that this is a new chapter in the Ost & Kjex annals?

I must say we are as shocked as you by how fast time flies, and in relation to this the new album feels more like a steady continuation than a new chapter. To some listeners it might seem like a new start, but we live, think and dream about this project every day, even though our output is quite slow.

Can we ask what inspired the decision to set off on your own towards a distinct path with Snick Snack?

After we parted ways with Diynamic we felt the need to control every aspect of the creative process. One thing is the music itself, another is the release schedule. It’s hard for an artist to wait months, sometimes a year before the actual product comes out. We move on so quickly to the next thing and the music easily seems dated. 

Another major inspiration is the current state of affairs in the Norwegian electronic underground. The quality and amount of music coming out locally was just too good to ignore. We also wanted to see if we could use some of our experience from the business to help the local scene. 

What does “Songs from the end of the world” signify for you and your career?

Not too much, even though it felt nice to get a new album out. For attention in some parts of the press like the dailies, you have to release albums. Some journalists even called it a comeback album, even though we have released quite a few ep’s since “Freedom Wig”. I think our release rate is the worst possible when it comes to keeping the attention of the listeners and media in today’s over heated SoMe driven society. On the other side, I can’t keep up with the release schedule of even some of my favourite artists, as they are flooding the market to keep the attention up.  

It’s quite an apt title for an album in these trying times, but most of the music subverts the theme as ebullient constructions that are very familiar as your sound. Is there a thematic significance to the title and how does it tie in with the music?

The title is definitely a comment on the times we are living in, with the Pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, climate change and the rise of the new Right with its Neo Fascist ideals. It is also a comment on Norway’s position on the outskirts of Europe and the music world.

It’s not a gloomy album, even though it has some dark parts. The idea is to keep the party going, even though we are going down first class. 

Have you guys changed or adapted to anything in the environment beyond music that is specifically significant for this LP?

The pandemic affected this album big time. We originally planned a totally different approach with lots of musical collaborations, field recordings etc. The virus forced us to make this one by ourselves, bouncing ideas back and forth between our studios. Artistically I’m quite happy it turned out this way as it forced us to pay closer attention to our own productions and not rely on the magic of others. 

As always, your music skirts that border between the dance floor and a set of headphones. What context were you particularly leaning toward on this record?

We specifically wanted to make a club album, something people could dance to when society opens up after Covid. That being said, there will always be an introspective, sound geek aspect to our music. We are deeply in love with that side of electronic music. 

How much is it informed with what you’ve been hearing on the dance floor lately?

Not much.

We’re all getting a bit older, and Saturday nights are spent with a good bottle of wine at home rather than at a nightclub these days. So how do you satisfy those dance impulses that used to come from going out every weekend to a club on an LP like this? 

The club experience is our ideal. Even though we are getting quite old, we still think we are the energetic ravers we once were. Even an honest look in the mirror doesn’t seem to cure this disillusion. 

One element that stands out on  “Songs from the end of the world” is the collaborations. There’s more here than before, I believe. Why have you started working more with other people, and what does it bring out in your own work?

Actually there are a lot less collaborations on this album than on any of our previous ones. 

That being said, we always loved to work with other people as they bring in a different approach and energy to our work. I believe all my best creative work has been made in collaboration with others. 

WhaleSharkAttacks is on a couple of tracks, and you’ve worked with her before on the unforgettable Private Dancer. What is it about this enigmatic artist that first encouraged you to collaborate with her in the first place, and what makes you guys click so effortlessly? 

It’s her self-assured style and effortlessly cool vocals that drew us in. Also we are very impressed by her productions and ability to mix genres into something entirely her own. Viviana is also a very intelligent person with strong and interesting perspectives on the world.

So the social aspect is also important, we love to hang out with her.  

With like-minded artists like WhaleSharkAttacks and Wildflowers (Øyvind Morken & Kaman Leung) joining you guys and Trulz & Robin, there’s a small family that’s come into existence around Snick Snack. Who and what do you look for in the label to join the catalogue?

We look for artists with an original sound that seem to exist in a world of their own, even though they are part of a bigger scene. Artists that can make interesting albums as well as a few dance floor bombs. We look for Norwegian artists or people living permanently in Norway, as we see Snick Snack as a vehicle to help develop the local scene. 

Are there any exciting new artists joining the lineup in the near future?

Plenty! We are really excited to release an EP by the duo Synk this autumn / winter. Helene Rickhard is currently working on an album for Snick Snack that I think is gonna be something really special. First thing to come out this autumn is a fab. solo EP by Øyvind Morken with some post Italo bangers. And there is more to come. 

What were some of the positive experiences about releasing the LP on your own label?

Above all, full artistic freedom. Even though this freedom also comes with a lot of responsibility. If something goes wrong you can blame only yourself. And also you don’t have the promotional help of a big team that often comes with a larger label. Another major plus is that you gain so much knowledge on how the whole music business works. You are no longer a passive bystander the second after you deliver the music to the label. We can now influence the whole process from start to finish.

Ost, you’re also doing a lot with your other project Sex Judas at the same time. What takes precedent when you’re working on music these days and how do you compartmentalise those two projects individually?

It’s quite easy actually as Ost & Kjex is something Petter and I do together. So anything happening with that project is something we do in tandem. Stuff happens when we stick our heads together. As for Sex Judas, I started the project as an outlet where I could experiment and draw inspiration from a lot of the music I love, that don’t fit in with the Ost & Kjex sound. I felt a need to start with clean sheets. Tabula Rasa as they say. 

At the same time, as releasing the LP for Ost & Kjex, there’s also a remix Sex Judas EP. Tell us a bit more about how that came together and how Cosmic pioneer Daniele Baldelli alongside his long-time production partner, Rocca ended up there.

Nothing more fancy than I wanted some “club” remixes from the “Night Songs” album. I always had a big appetite for electronic music and club / dance music. From jazz, funk, disco, boogie to braindance, idm, house, breaks etc. Danielle Baldelli is a major cat in the dance floor continuum and most importantly a cosmic messenger. It is a great honour to have such a foreseeing artist remix our music. 

It’s an incredibly eclectic mix of artists and sounds coming together on that remix collection, with a very eccentric delivery. Was that always the intention or was it a happy coincidence due the artists you picked out for the assignment?

It was intentional and hopefully in tune with the aspirations I have for this project.

Why these songs and will there be a second volume with some more from the LP?

I picked out Slow Down for Danielle Baldelli as I thought it would be a good match. The original is quite long and cosmic, although in another way than disco. As Roe Deers and Utheo Choerer they picked their own favourites from the album. I don’t think there will be a second volume of remixes. 

But I digress. We’re here to talk about Ost & Kjex. In terms of presenting your music, you prefer the live format. Why do you feel most comfortable in that context?

We come from a band setting, so we brought this element with us when we started making electronic music. There were so many, I wouldn’t say boring, but introspective live acts around when we first hit the scene. People staring into their laptops and little boxes. 

This perspective changed dramatically when we first experienced Jamie Lidell, Herbert and above all Nozé perform live for the first time. It blew our minds and opened up new possibilities for energetic live performances. Also there is the simple fact that we love to perform and entertain. It’s a very rewarding way to play music where one interacts directly with the audience and feeds off each other’s energies. 

You mentioned in your last email, it’s going to be a collection of mostly new music, and some “Golden Oldies.” How have you adapted the “oldies” to fit into the set, and does the fact that it’s in a club setting change the nature of these familiar songs at all?

Indeed we have. We updated quite a few of the oldies to fit better with our current sound, which is currently a bit harder. Also we mix elements from the songs like dj’s do in their sets. This brings out some magic from time to time. I suggest people get their sexy arses down to Jaeger this Friday to hear for themselves. 

 

 

A very British institution with Alexander Nut

Alexander Nut beams with delight, holding a small bag of records at Råkk & Rålls in Oslo. He  insists there’s probably much more to dig through in the vast catacombs of music that constitutes the record store’s cellar, but luggage space is limited. Next time he considers, he might bring a bigger bag. 

Half an hour earlier, we’re sitting down in a shady spot in Oslo’s Spikersuppa. A brass band is marching their way down Karl Johan Gate with a honking brass noise drifting over the whole park. I have to repeat the question: “Will there ever come a time when you stop buying records?” “Probably not, ” he says confidently. “It’s a habit and that’s the way I grew up, interacting with music. I still love it.” 

He still travels with around 50 records (not leaving much space for new finds)  and when he’s not playing records, he’s “manufacturing” them through his record label Eglo; a label that has been championing the call for new UK left field club music since 2009 through artists like Floating Points, Funkineven, Fatima and most recently Shy One. 

Cutting his teeth on pirate radio, Alexander Nut became something of a tastemaker for a new sound of electronic music coming to the fore in a post-dubstep landscape in the UK. Through his early work at Rinse FM, back in the mid-2000’s, he turned a whole generation of music fans onto the emerging sounds of London’s post-dubstep set, providing a springboard for record labels and artists alike, some of who have gone on to become household names today. 

Guided by his own eclectic tastes, which include “anything and everything,” it continues to inform the sound and attitude of Eglo. He left an indelible mark on Rinse, before moving on to NTS, where today he feels that he can “do whatever I want” and there’s an audience out there that will listen to it. It’s given him the opportunity to play the music he didn’t get a chance to play at Rinse, with shows folding in everything from Roisin Murphy to Shy One, tracing a dotted-line through Alex’s own experience in music and his record collection, rather than an obligation to a scene.

That scene has largely dissolved today, diversifying into branches of Techno, House, Grime and UKG, but when it started it was a hive of activity with a “nice mix of east London ghetto kids, mixed with all these nerdy producer guys” interpreting the dance floor in new and original styles of music, predisposed by the same thing that informed Alexander’s eclectic nature.

“The UK music scene was quite tribal” back then according to Alexander when we start reflecting on this time in London. At the time, even at the no-holds-barred Rinse FM, he was “the odd one out.” When he started at the radio station, “there weren’t any platforms really,” and besides perhaps Giles Petterson and Benji B on BBC, there “wasn’t any leftfield, mixed-up shows.” With an objective of “filling a void,” he played only “new underground music,”  influenced largely by the “mutation of Dubstep, Garage and Jungle happening” at that time.

Permeating through the nocturnal habits of the UK metropolis at the time, it was music that gestated in the melting pot that is the UK’s diverse cultural backgrounds alongside a youthful inquisitiveness satisfied by the advent of an accessible internet – “Myspace was a hotbed for all kinds of people sharing music” – and a “record scene” that “was still strong” according to Alexander.  

Legendary clubbing institutions like Plastic People and FWD played a seminal part in this new underground with Alexander right there at the epicentre “aggregating all this new shit,” for Rinse  FM and his growing audience. He stops short of calling it “an obligation,” but feels that he had “a slight responsibility” if only for the people tuning every week. It’s always hard to relay the significance of this time and this scene in the UK for people with no reference point,  but as a writer I’ve always believed it should be appreciated in the same respect as what Acid House became through the Hacienda. It wasn’t a specific sound –  in fact it was exactly the absence of some musical consolidation –  but rather a spirit or an attitude. 

“You got to say,” explains Alexander  “it comes from  black culture, it comes from black music.”  By the time Rinse FM and FWD came to the fore however, and on the back of the Internet, it had taken on a  whole new significance. “It came to a point when I was a teenager,” he remembers, “and we were listening to that whole time-line; Reggae, Hip Hop, House, Drum n Bass and Garage.”  It was, in part, reflected in all “the different communities all living on top of each other,” who “all had these scenes” that were now influencing this next generation’s augury view of future sounds. 

The importance of Rinse FM and Alexander Nut could not be downplayed in this legacy. There are still people who come up to him, reflecting on the influence of his show on their formative years as teenagers listening to his broadcasts from their bedroom. It might make him feel “old as fuck” but he conceeds it “planted a seed.” After 8 years at Rinse FM however, he felt ”it was other people’s turn” and he could pass “on the batton” allowing him to move on to NTS where he could change the format to what we hear today. 

There’s no need to play the latest, groundbreaking work, giving him the opportunity to delve a little deeper into his own collection. Now it’s more about the  “past present and future,” on NTS whereas before “it was all about the future” on Rinse FM. 

Reflecting on his own past, Alexander is humble and respectful of the scene he grew up in, emphasising those formidable experiences growing up in Wolverhampton, in the UK’s west-Midlands. The town, located in the UK’s steel belt, is a town lost to an industrial age today, but curiously holds some key moments in the UKs music history, most significantly as the origin story for Goldie, the UK Drum n Bass pioneer, actor and yoga enthusiast. It is there in the same estate where Goldie grew up and tagged buildings, that Alexander Nut’s family has its roots. 

Raised in the council estates where you have all “the different communities, all living on top of each other,” the culture, funnelled down to Alexander, found outlets like skateboarding and graffiti before it solidified around DJing. “Seeing Goldie tags” around his neighbourhood,  “blew” Alexander’s mind as a youth and he soon realised he “wanted a piece of that.” In what is a familiar trope in DJ stories, graffiti and skateboarding went hand in hand with music and on the back of his older brother’s record collections which went from Hip Hop (“Wu Tang was huge to me”)  to Iron Maiden (“I still love Iron Maiden”) Alexander found a real appreciation for the pirate radio stations in his area. “There’s a really strong pirate radio scene in Wolverhampton” and “Skyline FM” run by Dread Lester (“Rest in Peace”) was a particularly strong draw for Alexander. As he was getting into DJing, largely playing Hip Hop, the objective had always been to have his own show on Skyline, and he would eventually realise his dream before moving to London.

Everything from “Jazz, Hip Hop, soul to funk” would inform his listening habits at the time. Fold all of that into the cauldron of London’s effervescent music scene where Grime, Garage, Drum n Bass and Dubstep were being co-opted into House, Techno and Electro, and we have that vibrant “cultural melting pot” that would lay the foundation for Alexander Nut’s career on Rinse FM and eventually Eglo. 

Yet again the Internet, Myspace’s and Plastic People’s importance cannot be overstated in Eglo’s existence. It was through Myspace that Alexander Nut first found Floating Points (Sam Sheppard). He had been playing a track called “For You” on his radio show at Rinse FM, when during a CDR night at Plastic People he heard the track being played through the club’s legendary bass-heavy sound system. CDR, like Alexander’s radio show, was a night that championed new producers, allowing unknown artists to bring in their music to hear it through a proper club sound system. The Floating Points track was announced, and Alexander asked the MC, “ where is he, point him out”; his only previous contact with the producer being through Sheppard’s Myspace page. 

It turned out Sheppard had been listening to Alexander’s radio show too, and when the two started talking it lead to the creation of Eglo with Floating Points establishing the label through the labels first 7”; the very same track that had been playing on Rinse FM and CDR on that significant night. 

“It  sold well” remembers Alexander who says  it “ignited the flame” and he proffered “I guess we’re a record label now.” Records like Funkineven’s Rolands Jam and Fatima’s Circle followed, with that very same eclectic approach, ebbing through Alexander’s own personal tastes. R&B, Garage, Chicago, Jazz and everything happening around the label in that time, were channelled through Eglo. It’s a “very British institution on these strange overlapping things”, considers Alexander when I ask about the ideologies behind the label. 

Eglo “is the sum of its parts.” It’s about “Funkineven, Fatima, Floating Points, Rinse FM and NTS. All these things play a part and it has its own identity. ”Even though Alexander might “listen to everything,” he feels Eglo is not necessarily a representation of his own listening habits, but rather a  “a true representation of all these connected things.” It all “started in the basement of plastic people”, and today it represents a network spreading across the world from “Australia to LA” as he continues making new friends and making connections.” It’s an honest, unique pure creation” he feels, based on those interactions in his musical world. It extends from that first Floating Points record to the latest Shy One 7″ today with every record offering a new node in this expanding musical universe.

Unfortunately, it’s probably also one of the last bastion’s for this kind of label in our hyper-commercialised landscape, which according to Alexander had become “a bit elitist and discriminatory” as more people cottoned on to the music. “As things became more accessible it killed some of the grassroots origins;” possibly represented in time by the change in sound system at Plastic People, right before it closed down. “It went from this monstrous bass-heavy system to an audiophile thing” remembers Alexander and he noticed the “crowd and promoters changed.” 

It probably came to its ultimate  conclusion by the time Boiler Room came on the scene with Alexander laying blame directly at their feet for this change in musical pursuits. “I’ll say this on record – Boiler Room ruined everything!  I‘m not trying to shit on the people that work there now,” he says but at a time when he was still promoting events in London they would often poach artists from his lineup and let Alexander foot the bill.

Putting up “A grand of my own money,” these artists would also play for Boiler Room for free on the promise of promotion, and it left Alexander dumbfounded; “‘You’re doing a free gig for these guys, when they all sponsored up’”. It was “killing grassroots promoters” like Alexander.

Even though he concedes that the platform’s impact in proliferating music is significant, he’s surethose same people” that found music through Boiler Room ”would’ve been introduced to the same music in a more illegitimate way” regardless. “All these platforms present themselves as these authentic grassroots organisations, but they are just auction sites. It’s all about numbers, what they can sell to their sponsors.” 

It’s certainly a world away from anything our generation experienced growing up and anything that Eglo continues to present to the world. I revel in Alexander’s honesty in his objections in a landscape that’s become somewhat careful of these criticisms, for fear of reprisal. Criticisms like these are very rarely brought to light and only spoken in hushed tones and off the record. It takes some real courage to come out and say these things we’re all thinking. It’s probably the reason why Alexander is one of the most respected DJs out there and Eglo records remain a formidable touchstone for us. 

Alexander admits, “I’m no longer the bastion of what’s the hottest, what’s the latest thing you know,” but that has only seemed to spur on a drive to contribute only what’s significant, whether it’s the music he plays or the music he puts out there in the world through Eglo.

It might be a cliche to label Alexander a melting pot of these diverse influences, but no other description would suffice on this occasion. From his early Hip Hop and graffiti roots in Wolverhampton; the influence of pirate radio; his own work on the radio; his influence on and from the likes of Plastic People and FWD; and the fact that on a sunny day in Oslo, he’d rather spend his time in a musty cellar looking for records, he’s a uniquely British institution and one of the few positive things that statement infers today. 

The Cut with Filter Musikk

As you try to wedge in another record into a collection that has outgrown its presumptuous and downright foolish dimensions, something seems to give. The DiY flatpack ikea record shelf/DJ-platform/speaker-balancer shows its true integrity and buckles like a politician caught in a lie. You consider your fate, being crushed under the weight of a record collection, you’ve barely had a chance to play once and see the headlines flash: “obscure knob-twiddler dies under the weight of archaic hobby.” Be honest… would you have it play out any other way? Didn’t think so…

For while there it seemed pointless to maintain this little feature. It seemed after the pandemic even more people shifted away from the format. Labels that had staunchly dedicated to vinyl were now cropping up in different guises on Bandcamp. The people that bought the records concealed themselves in darkened rooms, illuminated by the sickly glow of computer screens.  Suddenly vinyl-DJs were showing up to sets with fanny packs rather than record bags; their previously carved right biceps, flapping in the wind with barely any resistance.

Resistance to the 21st century’s technology finally seemed futile, but as we started opening up again the truly determined emerged, unfazed and stronger in their stubborn pursuit of their love for vinyl. 

In a small city like Oslo, they’ve only consolidated into what can be described as a tribal cult. There’s nothing really social or network-like about it, and except perhaps for the acknowledging nod or brief greeting, the introverted nature of the people and this pastime is very much a solitary affair for most. The dedication however is unparalleled and as the majority turn further away, the vinyl collectors and enthusiasts have only become more entrenched.

We’re on a precipice of the unknown as factors like the environmental impact and the rising costs of production take precedent, but that has only fortified their efforts with more selective tastes and selective outlets informing these tastes. There are few selective outlets that can be trusted to share the enthusiasm, and fewer still that will truly alleviate at least some of that burden of potential unwanted additions to overgrown record collections. Luckily, in Oslo we have Filter Musikk

Filter Musikk continues to be the holy grail for record enthusiasts in the city and a bastion of good tastes regardless of style or genre. In recent times its tastes have expanded from proprietor Roland Lifjell to the next generation of tastemakers, Sverre Brand and Erik Fra Bergen (Sagittarii Acid) who’ve started to become regular fixtures behind the counter.  They are carrying the baton for vinyl to its next phase and when I send an email to ask Roland where his particular tastes might lie in this week’s selection, I’m pleased to receive a reply from his younger counterparts. It’s the cut with Filter Musikk

Catch Roland Lifjell and Filter Musikk next week in the Sauna 

 

Indio – Phoenix (Detroit Dancer) 12”

It’s John Beltram in a feisty mood. Adorning his Indio alias, the legendary US producer, steps out of the ambient realm into a Techno prototype. The melody remains central with a bubbling loop that refuses to resign. Machines stutter along involuntarily, building through to the inevitable tension supplied by ecstatic strings that evaporate into the ether towards the end. 

It’s Detroit at its best, taking a page out the original pioneers, bolstered in the clarity of modern technology. ERP sends it to the future, on an electro-beat in his rework of the track, while Stryke brings that humid Miami vibe to the fore. Both remixers retain that melodic appeal of the original, but while E.R.P puts his mark on there with a skipping 808 kick, Stryke subdues it in the presence of a bouncing booty bass. 

 

Acid Synthesis – Acidwerk (Planet 303) 12”

Aceed! What else would you expect from an Acid Synthesis record called Acidwerk on a label called planet 303? I’ve hardly heard a 303 sing so sonorously. It takes a certain dedication to maintain this level of discipline for a sub-genre in the way that Keith Farrugia does it here for this project and this record. 

There’s no sample-pack-pick-mix at work here as the producer manipulates the 303 around grooves that truly show the vast expanse that the Acid genre can cover. From the practically-coined, dance-floor focussed Acid to the melodically-rich craftsmanship of the Acidwerk there’s a little bit of everything for a variety of music heads to dip their toe into. Even though titles like these leave little to the imagination, the songs – and they are songs – are rich in depth, with a sterile sheen covering the textures of tracks. 

Acid Synthesis and Keith Farrugia’s other projects remind us very much of the quality and versatility of E.R.P/Covextion’s work and, thanks to Erik and Sverre, definitely an artist we’ll want to hear more of in the future. 

 

Tim Reaper / Dwarde – Shiftpitchers / Not Afraid (Beyond Electronix)  12”

There’s definitely been something in the air when it comes to Drum n Bass and Jungle lately. It’s been on a few lips over the last couple of years, and a few lips we wouldn’t have expected it on. It’s having a moment and not in that hyper commercialised way of a few years back, but more rootsy and sincere. 

As with anything, it’s always hard to make that distinction between good and bad versions of a new encounter with a genre, but it seems people are garnering more discerning tastes when it comes to Drum n Bass and Jungle these. Those stadium metallic sounds, that borrowed heavily from the likes of Skrillex are dwindling with the attitude and sounds of the roots of this music stepping more into focus. 

This is the case for this 12” split from Furthur Electronix imprint Beyond Electronix. Tim Reaper and Dwarde, two artists that have been working together since 2012-ish, appear on  their latest, which happily falls into that good category when it comes to the genre . Between the heavy breaks and crushing bass, these tracks deliver in their own unique way. While Dwarde channels those soulful, sample-based inclinations of the genre’s origins, Reaper seems to fold in the entire history of UK bass music  and soundsystem culture with elements of dub and reggae weaving through the energetic rhythms. 

The too-pristine metallic-nature of a lot of modern DnB and Jungle is replaced by a chaotic and rich anthropomorphic noise.

 

DJ Backspace – Blackout (Altered Sense) 12″

It used to be called intelligent dance music or braindance, but It was always Techno. I guess because people had no handle on how this music was created in the beginning they thought people like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher were electronic music savants. It’s more likely they hardly had any idea what the results were going to be themselves when they pressed play on their machines in trying to emulate what they were hearing from Detroit.

It was and is, simply Techno, but as the term Techno itself gets modified and commercialised, we need something to distinguish this form of Techno from what most people associate with Techno today… you know, those people. While the terms Braindance or IDM still sit awkwardly on the tongue for most, it makes a good case for separating the wheat from the chaff on this record. 

Broken beats and glitching synthesisers find an elusive middle ground here as stark melodies and jaunty atmospheres forge through random arrangements. There’s a human touch interspersed throughout brazen computers vying for the listener’s attention. In a manner that reflects the best of that dichotomy, DJ Backspace delivers four engrossing tracks. 

The Electro-leaning rhythms and spastural melodic work counterpoints wonderfully against the barbed playfulness of the breakcore elements. “Electromo” and “C.I.T.Y” exemplify the best of these worlds, while “Blackout” and “New Experience Of Living” offer something more rugged and challenging, if only a little. 

 

DJ Fett Burger – Astral Solar, Edge of Galaxy, Planetary Exploration (Sex Tags)  12”

It’s all about the remixes on this one. Consolidating the digital releases from Fett Burger’s Digitalized Planet B in 2020 to vinyl, DJ Fett Burger gets these tracks on their intended  format. 

Astral Solar and Planetary Exploration is unmistakable Fett Burger; that eccentric versatility core to his work as he moves between the collage-House of Astral Solar to the galaxial- Electro of Planetary Exploration. While these tracks have made the rounds since their initial release in 2020, the attention on this record turns to  it is his own jackin’ take on Edge of Galaxy and SVN’s downtempo treatment of Planetary Exploration.

The Bad Booy Lenght V.IIbe PTX take on Edge of Galaxy is bass-heavy killer,  switching between filtered breaks and drumline snares with synthesised bass dragging the whole thing down to murky depths. Submerging the listener in a frothy wake of low-end frequencies ebbing through the track in lysergic movements. It digs deep trenches with its slow groove, only perhaps lagged by the tempo of SVN’s interpretation of Planetary Exploration.

A downtempo electro masterpiece retaining all the appeal of the original, but presenting it as this not-quite-ambient synthwave track. Filters gape in stifled breaths, giving the track an  organic pulse, moving slowly across the rhythmic beat. 



Star Gazing with George FitzGerald

I didn’t want to talk about the pandemic. For something that consumed two years of our lives and continues to take its toll, most of us –  and I’m sure George FitzGerald included – want to put it behind us. Its gravitational pull remains strong however and every conversation with artists and DJs I’ve had lately seems to skirt the event horizon of this cultural blackhole. Inevitably, our conversation too, falls headfirst into the subject and it’s the context of FitzGerald’s latest LP, Stellar Drifting. “It’s not a pandemic album, by any means,” insists FitzGerald, “but it’s impossible to separate that time from the music, because how could it not.” 

“At the beginning of the pandemic, A lot of people thought, ‘cool I’m gonna write my masterpiece now’ and then it went on for so long.” Stellar Drifting is not that type of album and the artist wouldn’t pander to these illusions. Like most, he “found sitting alone in a room on his own,” during the pandemic “isn’t that conducive to writing music. You kind of need the stimulus of going out and meeting people and having new life experiences.” He found “watching Tiger king and making sourdough bread, before hitting the studio” didn’t have quite the same inspirational effect  so while much of Stellar Drifting was finished during the pandemic, it doesn’t tap into the solemn and introspective concepts that mark those now-stereotypical “pandemic” albums.

Back in 2018, before the pandemic, George FitzGerald was cementing a new phase in his career as an album artist with his determined sophomore record, All that must be, blazing a trail ahead from his dance floor roots. He was touring the album with a live band, playing as far afield as Morocco and the USA on the back of the record and the remix album that followed. Clash magazine, for one, called All that Must be “a simply gorgeous listen, one that displays a striking producer operating in full confidence,” at the time, with that confidence establishing George FitzGerald as an album artist. 

Stellar Drifting however is no carbon copy of his last record. Instead, it marks another evolutionary notch in his sonic approach to the album. “It’s subtly different” from his last, he confirms, but it’s hard to pinpoint from the listener’s perspective. The expansive melodic and harmonic textures, gathering around stoic club-inspired rhythms remain central to his work, with the artist claiming that the whole album is “a little more major key, a bit more positive” than the last. “I wanted a broader palette harmonically than I have done in the past” and that also meant changing his approach to the creative process. “I went down a rabbit hole thinking how does my art matter in this world – what place does largely instrumental dance music have in a world where so much is going wrong?”

Relying on the tried and tested tactics from the “old friends” that constituted the familiar synthesisers and drum machines in the studio, wouldn’t suffice for this new creative pursuit. Instead FitzGerald turned his focus to “trying to build sound in different ways.” … And for that he looked to the stars for answers.  

“Building synthesiser oscillators from photos (from Nasa space probes)” George FitzGerald found new textures, but more importantly new ways to “give the sound some meaning.” He asked himself: “What would it sound like if you took this photo of a nebula from the Hubble telescope and loaded it into Ableton?” And while the listener might still only hear what sounds like a synthesised pad or a bassline, FitzGerald revels in the fact that “50% of that is made of something like a nebula or Jupiter.”

Listening to Cold, the second single from the LP, there’s a warmth there that usurps its title and the origins of the album’s theme. Deep bass-lines swell, alluding to George’s dance floor roots, while melodies enchant, pulling the listener through starry atmospheres. It’s music that sits in that elusive realm of electronic music between a set of headphones and a club dance floor, where George FitzGerald occupies a space amongst other boundary-defying luminaries, like Caribou and Bonobo. There’s a moment on Cold however when everything seems to slow down, and a chopped vocal sample emerges in the stark mix during one the song’s quieter moments. It’s instantly familiar as Geroge FitzGerald, and in the wave of the deep bass that surrounds it, I’m suddenly transported back to 2012, when I first encountered the artist’s music and his breakout record, Child.

Hea had already cut his chops with six singles and EPs to date for labels like Hotflush and AUS before Child seemed to propel him to a whole new level. It seemed impossible to escape the magnitude of the record at that time, especially in the UK. It was being played in bars and clubs all over London, long before it was released. “That track changed a lot of stuff for me,” reminisces FitzGerald. “I have good memories of it.” It’s a track that still holds its own today. The chopped vocal, the keys, and the warm bass simply seems to roll through you, energising an ephemeral spirit in the pit of your stomach. 

Child came at a time of great experimentation in the UK’s club music scene. In the post-Dubstep landscape, artists and DJs like Ben UFO, Joy O, Blawan, Midland and George FitzGerald were advancing to new territories  in electronic club music, with Dubstep’s deep and tumultuous bass, and experimental attitudes informing new styles of House, UK Garage, Techno and Electro coming out of the region. Later these artists and DJs would all go “off into slightly different directions,” with more focussed pursuits towards traditional genres and styles, but for a moment the UK was buzzing with a creative air in the context of club music, and George FitzGerald was a part of it. He produced Child as a “deep house track made off the cuff,” while holding court over the Deep House section of a record store he worked, but it impressed on the scene and the DJ circuit a different approach to Deep House, one a fair few attempted to mimic. 

“That was fun for a bit,” reminisces FitzGerald, “but honestly that’s not what I wanted starting off.” As the other artists from the post-dubstep scene grew and moved into different directions, so did he. “I stopped writing music for club sets a long time ago.” Never really one to write “four tunes in a day,” he was always looking for something more substantial in his music, and for him the album format had always seemed like this intangible purpose of his pursuits, perhaps even planting that initial seed to the questions,” how does my art matter in this world.”

“I always wanted to see if I could do it”, he says about the idea that spurned on his first album, Fading Love. “When I started, the thought of writing a ten track album on my own, it just seemed insane,” but it turned out to be something he instinctively mastered. Fading Love was an immediate success. The Guardian called it  “an intimate and beautifully textured record” and it went some way in establishing a nascent crossover success. The benchmark he’d set himself it seemed had been achieved. “I really enjoyed the process,” and the confidence set him on a path, leading up to today and his latest album, Stellar Drifting.

In his continuous evolution through these records as an artist, George FitzGerald has emerged as a more-than-capable song-writer, on par with his technical skill as a producer. Over the last couple of records, the cut up vocals have matured into fully rounded pop songs with guest vocal appearances, from the likes of Tracey Thorne on All that Must Be and Panda Bear on Stellar Drifting validating FitzGerald’s song-writing skills. “I wanted to scratch the itch of writing songs,” he says. It’s an itch that has been with him since adolescence, listening to the likes of Gary Numan and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins.

“A lot of people have asked me about the Billy Corgan influence,” he says with a laugh when I pry. “The funny thing is that when you’re fifteen for six months you’re a Garage kid, and then suddenly you’re like ‘I’m just gonna start dressing differently and go watch the Smashing Pumpkins” when youthful “tribal” instincts kick in. “The thing with Billy Corgan is he’s obviously an amazing song-writer, but there’s also this other gothic side to him. There’s this kind of grandeur to the best Smashing Pumpkins stuff and I’ve always loved that.“ FitzGerald suggests you can hear those “maximalists” elements in his first single from the new album, Ultraviolet with its cascading arrangements and bold orchestration. 

It’s certainly the furthest, I’ve heard George FitzGerald travel from his dance -floor roots, and I’m curious how he would channel a track like that into a DJ set, and the answer is unsurprisingly, he wouldn’t. “I find it quite difficult,” he says about making his album pieces work in his sets. On the rare occasion he might try to accommodate a request, he’s all too aware of the “rules in clubs” and the “ways of directing energy” through a set. He started out as a DJ after all, and while he might not consider it a central node to his artistic identity today, it’s still very much there and it makes for a welcomed change to his live sets. “Djing is just a really nice counterpoint. It’s very spontaneous and a lot less heavy than a live show.” 

Most significantly it’s a way of maintaining that connection to club music and the dance floor. “Writing albums doesn’t reconnect you with audiences and clubbing, and what got you into the music in the first place, like DJing.” It’s something that he was particularly aware of during the pandemic. “What I missed; travelling around and meeting new people and going to new places, was a really important part of how I write my music, I didn’t know that before.” He hadn’t been gigging much during the pandemic and after, as he was finishing off the album, and before that he’d mainly been focussed on his live sets. Through DJing, in part, he’s looking to “get that connection back with a scene.”

“Weirdly” he says, he’s “quite desperate to release an EP” too, going full circle back to his roots after a trio of albums. Stellar Drifting will arrive four years after his last, “and that in modern music is an age,” FitzGerald muses. Not that long ago it would’ve been considered a come-back record, but for an artist like George FitzGerald who is “always evolving as an artist,” it’s another evolutionary step. “So much has happened since the last record and the world is completely different,” and it’s only natural for these elements to feed into the growth of the artist. Whether he’ll eventually receive an answer to his question: “does my art matter in this world?” after the release of the album, remains to be seen, but one thing is certain; it would certainly matter in the context of George FitzGerald’s artistic legacy. 

The Jaeger Mix returns

Jaeger’s mix series returns for a new monthly session, as we revamp and re-install the series on select Wednesdays

The Jaeger mix is back! After a long hiatus brought on by the pandemic, and two years of an unrelenting stream of streaming sessions, the time is finally right for a new edition of the Jaeger Mix. It’s the Jaeger mix 2.0, with the same objective of shining a light on Oslo and Norway’s  electronic club music scene, but we’re casting a wider net this time around.

As a monthly, rather than a weekly series, it will go on to highlight individual artists, record labels, live acts and of course DJ sets, with both recorded sessions and live streams dotted throughout. With our staunch and unwavering resident Ivaylo at the helm, we’ll take the Jaeger Mix back to the club night is was always intended to be as we record these session throughout the night.

These sauna sessions will go on to be featured on our blog and various social media platforms, with interviews as we’ve done in the past. First up is Nan and Center of the Universe (live) in August with a live stream of the latter from the night.

The ultimate facilitator: Q&A with Pete Herbert

Pete Herbert has been a dedicated statesman for all things electronic music since the 1990’s. He came to the fore during the heyday of House and Acid in the UK, starting out as a pusher and consumer of the music. Working in record stores like Daddy Kool from a young age, music and Djing was an early pursuit. 

Eventually he established his own record store in the form of Atlas records, along with some friends on London’s infamous vinyl alley, where people like Andrew Weatherall would frequent and haunt the record store’s well-stocked shelves. Pete and the crew would curate an esoteric assemblage of electronic music treasures informed by the sounds of the underground at the time.

Moonlighting as a DJ, Pete Herbert cut his teeth in some of the world’s most legendary booths at the same time. Fabric, Ministry Of Sound, 333, The Blue Note and Sancho Panza at Notting Hill Carnival, were some of the legendary spots he called home. It was a time when the DJ was still a facilitator and you were only ever as good as your record collection. He eventually moved on from the record store  to a full-time career from the DJ booth by the beginning of the new millennium.

He’s a well-traveled patron of the artform, with residencies in some of the farthest flung corners of the world. For a little over a decade Pete has spent the winter months based in Bali as the music director for Potato Head Beach Club. From Bali as his base, he’s played all over south-east Asia, expanding on the exotic sounds of his early balearic pursuits both as a DJ and an artist. 

As an artist, Pete Herbert’s discography is formidable, well into three digits with original material and remixes for some esteemed colleagues, like Optimo and Röyksopp dotting his extensive efforts. When he’s not making music, he’s proliferating it; from his early days, working record stores in London, to establishing record labels. From Maxi Discs to his latest, Music for Swimming Pools – a sunset mix series turned label – these labels build and perpetuate the sound he’s cultivated as a DJ and artist with those initial balearic sounds remaining a key influence in his interpretations of House music. 

He’s enjoyed an extensive and prominent career, and with a visit to Jaeger looming, we shot him a few questions over email, to learn more about those early years in London’s vinyl alley, his music, origins and his work as a true facilitator.  

Pete Herbert lands at Jaeger this Friday

Hello Pete and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I imagine you had quite a varied musical experience growing up, having lived in Trinidad as a kid and experiencing the London music scene in the eighties. How do you think it affected your tastes as a DJ early on?

Hello Jaeger and firstly thanks for inviting me to your fine establishment, I can’t wait!

Yes I would say my older sisters musical taste and growing up in Trinidad then Eighties London suburbs very much shaped my early years of music. That would have been essentially new wave and pop primarily with some Soul thrown in as I remember, then towards the mid eighties discovering pirate radio and inner London record shops got me into much wider sounds that shaped my London teens such as rare groove/ funk and hip hop and then electronic music.

Where did you eventually find your place within that larger scene?

I began working in records shops from my late teens, and would carry on doing that until into my mid thirties pretty much full time all the way, so that became my home from home. Most days were.. work in the record shop, then go to a gig or club, then another club etc, home, up then repeat.

How did you go from being a fan, to DJing yourself?

It was often the natural  progression back then when you immersed yourself in buying and selling records to that degree. Starting with warm up slots anywhere you could get them, and practicing like hell.

I would imagine that Atlas would have been a pivotal point in your life. Were you a collector/consumer before you set up shop and what was the catalyst for you wanting to open a record shop?

A collector/consumer of course first but after working in a few shops, especially the reggae shop Daddy Kool, and being exposed to the workings of it and how not to run one, the urge to do it myself was eventually too great. Plus there was a lack of a specialist shop that sold all the stuff I was into, so I saw a gap in the market shall we say.

What kind of records were you stocking and how did they inform your tastes as a DJ and eventually the music you created?

We stocked an independant cross section of leftfield house, dub, disco, electronica, jazz, techno, collections/2nd hand, and whatever else we were into that we could get hold of. We avoided any commercial releases and mainstream stuff.

There was an interesting crowd there, I believe with people like Andrew Weatherall frequenting the place. But do you think there was anything like a sound or a scene around Atlas that perhaps stood out amongst the other record shops in the street?

We never ‘pushed’ music on our customers, we offered the selection and would recommend stuff .. but otherwise we shunned the record shop ego nonsense that was rife back then.

Leaving the record stores behind, did you find that getting away from that world had any effect on your experience as a DJ and music enthusiast?

By the time I closed the shop and then worked in a few others, the way you got music and played it had already started to change. CDJS were starting to appear in venues and WAVS and AIFFS were taking over from DATs. You could get emailed promos, burn cds etc, so If you were open to embracing new technology you could benefit from it. But what that meant was a real vacuum left by the demise of the record shops as a focal point/community for many record buyers that was never replaced in the same way. I think it affected a lot of djs and buyers at the time.

Besides residencies at places like Fabric and Ministry of Sound, you have  also been a booker for Bali’s Potato Head. How do you see the role of the club in relation to this music, and how has it changed in your opinion?

Music and its delivery are still the pivotal point to the club for me, whether the club has changed and is now an event or happening. Getting the right balance isn’t always easy though. Potato Head in Bali was an amazing venue, so the music had to live up to that.

It seems that new scenes are less-likely to be built around a club today and more likely to be built around the internet. As a DJ, a producer, record label owner, and previous record store owner what effect do you believe this has had on the music?

I think a club can offer a place for people to feel inclusion and a sense of belonging. So that you might feel you could go there regardless of knowing who’s playing/what night it is. That for me is the sign of a good club. I know if I go there I will feel welcome, the music programming is thought through and the sound is spot on, nice staff etc. That is a scene right there for me..

For some time now, you’ve been doing Music for Swimming Pools. It’s an intriguing project, can you tell us a bit more about it?

MFSP started as a radio show maybe 14 or so years ago on Ibiza radio station Sonica. I was out there a fair bit djing and guesting on it regularly and it progressed from there. It was an outlet for me to play non dancefloor sets of an emotive/electronic/balearic nature and a few years later became its own free 24/7 streaming platform.  With no jingles or chat, It plays a continual mix of that sound that can be accessed anytime and place. It’s quite low key without any advertising or fanfare and I’ve recently relaunched the label side of it, with a new EP from me due out the night I play in Jaeger. You can check the site here: 

https://musicforswimmingpools.co.uk

Besides being a facilitator, you’ve released something like 400 records and counting. What keeps you motivated in the studio, and how do you believe your music has changed since those first records in the mid nineties?

I guess I’m just still as obsessed with music as I was as a collector, then as a seller, then playing it and making it. I would hope my production skills have come on a bit in the last decade or so, though I’ve never had any formal training. Maybe that has been the key to being so prolific. I’m not quite the perfectionist many studio trained producers are, I’m more of a pragmatist shall we say.

Balearic is something that often gets associated with your music, based perhaps on the downtempo and eclectic nature of your music. Is there perhaps a singular objective when you create original music and what if anything continues to inform your approach?

I find inspiration for production in the music I collect and go digging for every week.  Be it an old 70’s obscure album or a brand new producer’s first release. The approach for me is usually the aim of an end product I would play out or happily listen to lying on a beach.

You have a lot of experience playing in different venues across different parts of the world. How does a place or location affect what you pack in your bag for the night and how do you think that will go when you come to Jaeger?

Luckily I have been in Jaeger before as a punter, and actually quite recently too, so I know a little bit what Jaeger is all about, and that counts for a lot. I know I will be made to feel very welcome, that the music programming is thought through and the sound is spot on, and they have nice staff. For me that’s the perfect kind of environment to play music in. See you there.

 

Staff Picks – Simen Tennøy

In a new concept, we take a staff member record shopping for new records to add to our shelf.

After two years of no new additions to our record shelf, we’ve become a bit tired of the records that stayed in rotation, while the records themselves have become just little overplayed. It was time for some new music and with new additions to our staff, tastes have changed too. But we couldn’t just get new records, we wanted to make a song and dance, and with this comes a new feature for the blog.

The concept? It’s simple: We take one of our staff members record-shopping and afterward we sink into the chesterfields to have a chat while we listen to our latest acquisitions. 

Our first guest is Simen “Lorenzo” Tennøy. Simen has been a barman at Jaeger since pre-pandemic times and has now assumed the assistant manager role. When he is not at Jaeger, he is an eclectic music fan and you can either find him at one of Oslo’s many forest raves or playing bass and keys in his band, The Eternal Page. 

Yes, he’s in a band and yes they are very good. A psychedelic rock ensemble, The Eternal Page is about to record their debut LP and Simen says they’ve got one song down and about nine to go. With that in mind we drop the needle on the first record, and delve into Simen’s selections. 

Molly Nilsson – Extreme

 

How did you come across Molly Nilson?

She’s a Swedish artist living in Berlin, and while I was living there, she was playing a DJ set in a bar alongside my appartement. I randomly passed by and I really liked her music. A few months later she was playing before mgmt and I saw her live. Since then, I’ve really been fascinated with her music. She has eight albums already. 

What do you like about it?

It’s darker but it’s pop music. Eighties vibes. It’s a bit cold. I’ve seen her live a couple of times.

You also picked a Depeche Mode record. Do you like that 80’s synth music?

I guess. It’s dancy and it’s pretty dark. It’s just something I’ve liked since I was a teenager, darker synth pop music from the eighties. 

So you grew up listening to that stuff?

Not much before I was 18. I discovered OMD and Gary Numan and I went deeper into the genre. 

 

Depeche Mode – Construction Time Again

 

How did you come across this record?

Randomly. I play a bit of synth music. I think I found it on Spotify. 

Why this particular Depeche Mode LP? 

It’s one of the bigger albums from that period. I think everybody should have a copy of this album. There’s a few songs I really like on this album. I’ve been listening to it here and there. 

What music were you listening to before your teenage years?

I grew up listening with my dad listening to a lot of Pink Floyd and Rock music, 80’s Rock bands. I think my first CD was MGMT, Oracular Spectacular. And then I started going into psychedelic Rock. My father had this Pink Floyd live record for ‘67 which started it. 

And you were playing guitar at that point?

I started playing guitar, because I wanted to play MGMT. And then I bought a keyboard to play “kids” or “time to pretend” from MGMT. I would play alongside the songs in my bedroom.  

And how did you start playing with your band, The Eternal Page?

I worked with one of the guys and they needed a new bass player. I had a session with them and it worked out. I’ve always wanted to be in a band. There aren’t that many psychedelic rock bands in Norway. 

 

  Velvet Underground

 

I assume this Velvet underground record is a familiar favourite for the Eternal Page. 

Yes, we’re all inspired by this record.

Do you have a favourite song on this record?

Yes, Venus in Furs. Run run run is also very good. I like all the songs, so it’s pretty hard to pick. 

I’ve always liked Nico’s voice on the record. 

It’s pretty dark. I think it’s one of the best records from ‘67, because it’s so different from anything else that was released in that year. It’s from the east side of New York, which is not quite Punk, but almost. I think this is the beginning of it, but still it’s in the category of psychedelic rock. 

There’s never been a band that sounded like this after either.

They had their own sound. I tried to listen to it a few times, and then I was suddenly, fuck this is really good. 

 

Building connections with Lara Palmer

In the spectrum of Techno’s expansive history, we’re living in an age of supremacy for the genre. More popular today than the previous height of success in the late nineties, its adulation is only really surpassed by its more accessible cousin, Tech-House. It’s a golden age for Techno, with everything from brutalist marching rhythms to soulful dub inclinations broadening the scope of the genre. Being a fan is no longer a singular pursuit, with individual tastes as varied as the people that follow them.

With so many new artists and DJs coming to the genre, each with their own approach and style of playing and making music, there’s a subjectivity that arises and it takes a unique individual to come to the fore in this landscape. Lara Palmer is such an individual. A DJ, music writer and editor for mnmt.no she arrives at the genre with a sense of objectivity that few are able to concede in their activities in Techno.

A DJ that avoids the ubiquitous DJ/producer tag and a writer that avoids the perilous cavern of reviews in favour of proliferating artistic voices, Lara is a distinctive entity in today’s musical landscape. A  Norwegian/German, who spent some time in Norway in her youth, she’s done her bit in securing that ineffable bridge between Norway and Berlin in music. Alongside factions like flux collective, techno kjelleren, ute.rec, and all the raves happening around the forests each summer, Norway’s occupations with Techno have seen the genre’s popularity grow exponentially in the last few years.

Lara and her work through mnmt as a blog, event series and festival have played no small part in growing appreciation for the genre. As writer and editor, she continues to shine a light on the great producers of the genre, while as a DJ she avidly supports the scene by buying the records and distributing it to anybody that will listen. 

She arrives at Jaeger next Friday to play alongside SGurvin in the basement so we turned the tables on her for a bit of Q&A time with our next guest. We talked to her about influences, her love of Techno and drawing the line between music writer and DJ. 

Hey Lara. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. What is your earliest memory of a piece of music?

The earliest one must be my mother singing Norwegian lullabies to me. I also have vivid childhood memories of music by Édith Piaf, Caetano Veloso, Jan Garbarek or Glenn Gould playing on the stereo at home. I remember being quite captivated by it.

I played classical violin throughout my school days, but did not really like practising on my own. I much rather enjoyed playing in the orchestra, building a body of sound together. This might have been some of my first experiences of people being gathered in a room filled to the brim with frequencies, something I have been drawn to ever since. 

 What was your introduction to electronic- and club music? Has it always been about Techno, and what first drew you to the sounds of the genre? 

I started getting interested in electronic music around age 14/15, when I was living in a small city in Northern Norway. (I grew up in Berlin, but lived in Mo i Rana between age 11 and 15.) We were a group of friends that were somewhat nerdy about music, spending many hours on Myspace, exchanging playlists or wandering around the quiet streets with our headphones on, listening to stuff like Kim Hiorthøy, Ratatat, Xploding Plastix, 120 days or The Knife. We also listened to a lot of indie bands, and I remember especially liking stuff where synths were involved.   

When I moved back to Berlin and started going out – to open airs around the city, the so-called Sexy Döner parties, Club der Visionäre and Fusion festival – I gradually listened more and more closely to the music being played. That interest never let me go again, but it was first during the time I lived in Oslo to study and worked at The Villa on the weekends, that I became able to clearly distinguish what I actually resonated with genre wise, which evolved towards what I would call minimalistic, atmospheric and trippy techno.  

You say you’re drawn to the atmospheric, minimalist and trippy sounds. What are some of your influences and touchstones for this kind of sound?

Even though he plays varied, in my opinion Freddy K is a great example of the stripped back, no-fuss kind of techno I enjoy most. Mike Parker and Markus Suckut have perfected a minimalist approach when it comes to production, each in their own way. In terms of atmosphere and trippiness I can mention Dasha Rush, Jane Fitz, Sandwell District, Rødhåd, Yogg, Synthek or natural/electronic.system. as some of the artists that have left a strong impression on me.       

As a trained musician, did you slip into DJing with ease and what were some of the main obstacles in the transition from a music lover to a DJ? 

I did my first attempts at DJing using timecode vinyl and CDJs, and struggled a little with those media. When I switched to vinyl, I found it easier to build the sort of connection to and understanding of the music playing that is helpful for DJing. (Thanks to Korpex who provided the time and space for me to get introduced to the craft!) My musical ear trained by years of conscious listening was surely helping, but I think practice helps even more – and I still have a great deal of that to do.  

Do you have any aspirations to make music?

In an ideal world I would, but at this moment in my life I do not feel that I can prioritise it.

You’re not only a DJ and admirer, but you’re also a writer and editor who proliferates this music through your work at mnmt.no. How did you get into that aspect of music?

I have enjoyed writing for a long time, and am a social and cultural anthropologist by training. So researching, interviewing and writing about interesting people, trying to get across a glimpse of an artist’s world is simply very inspiring. If it helps them promote their art, it gives me a sense of purpose.

More specifically, I started writing for Monument five years ago, when I bumped into a part of the crew at a festival in the Spanish mountains and they needed someone to edit the review of it.

How does that aspect of your life and work influence what you do in the booth or your musical tastes?

Being part of the collective gives me a frame to develop within, and a community of like-minded people to share thoughts and ideas. Of course it influences my focus of listening, but there is not a complete overlap between the sub genres of techno associated with Monument and what I like the most, so there is always room to explore different avenues. 

How do you maintain a sense of objectivity as a fan and DJ of this music when you are writing about it or presenting it via Monument?

Listening is a very personal experience, so when music is concerned, maintaining a sense of objectivity is difficult. To circumvent this, I have for instance very rarely written reviews. I prefer interviews, where I can stay in the background, letting the artists speak. Yet my subjectivity will always be part of the exchange somehow.  

You seem to spend your time between Berlin and Oslo. How do these two cities influence how you might approach a set?

I live in Berlin but visit Oslo regularly. I don’t think the city itself influences my approach too much, I rather think about the room I will be playing in and think about what could fit the setting. 

While Berlin is the epicentre for Techno, Oslo’s certainly found an idiosyncratic scene in recent years. How do you distinguish the sound and style of these two places and where do you think they share a common ground today?

I would say that the Oslo scene has “traditionally” been dominated by house and disco, but has become increasingly receptive to techno in recent years – even though it is hard to judge from a distance. But since I moved back to Berlin six years ago, I somehow got the impression that there are more artists and crews popping up beyond the Oslo-disco/house-continuum. Another sign of good health is the Ute.Rec crew, who do really inspired stuff that you maybe would not expect from Oslo.  

Pinning down a specific sound or style of Berlin is hard because here you have literally everything. What might bind it all together though could be the urge to constantly push towards new territories.

Berlin is such a mecca for a vinyl enthusiast. Where do you like to go to find music to DJ, and what preferences do you have when it comes to buying old vs new? 

I have found many great records – old and new – at Spacehall over the years. A more recent discovery has been The Consulate, a hidden place run by three Belgians. Bikini Waxx is great for finding used gems. 

What do you look for in a track to make into one of your sets?

There is of course a certain frame given by the kind of aesthetic I like, but in the end I chose a track if I can hear an artistic inspiration behind it and if it speaks to me. Either it clicks or it does not. On the other hand, I often find tracks on records I bought quite some time ago for other reasons that I suddenly enjoy very much, so I think what you perceive in a track has a lot to do with the state you are in at a specific moment.

Any secret/not-so-secret weapons that will be making it in your bag on the way to Norway?

 You can expect anything from this

 to this



A beautiful thing with Roman Flügel

You don’t simply dip into Roman Flügel’s discography. The Frankfurt artist has been nothing short of prolific. Whether working alongside Jörn Elling Wuttke on the myriad of projects, ranging from Acid Jesus to Alter Ego, or his own extensive solo discography (under some more aliases), there is an expansive undertaking awaiting those willing to venture into Roman Flügel’s catalogue. In a career stretching a little over three decades, including his collaborations with Wuttke, his work has become seminal touchstones through the various epochs of club music.

You wouldn’t assume that from his demeanour. Humble and friendly, he’s accommodating when we sit down for a conversation in the bar at Jaeger. A regular visitor to our club, we’ve come to know Roman as one of the nicest DJs to pass through our booth. He cuts a striking figure. Tall with angular facial features which have only seemed to sharpen with age. Sitting across from him, it’s hard to believe Roman Flügel is 52 years old and that he’s been there since the very beginning of Techno music. “Talking about age,” he says in his familiar German accent, “I don’t think too much about it, you can’t do anything about it anyway.” He finds it “really interesting” to play alongside the next generation of DJs, and he’s quite aware that the music he buys is often made by people who “are probably younger,” but he’s only content in that fact.  “That’s the way it is,” he says completely deadpan, “and that’s the way it should be.” 

“Touring and what I am doing,” he continues “is something I always dreamt about. When I was young I wanted to live the exact life I’m living, so why should I complain?” 

Roman grew up in Frankfurt, coming of age in what was probably the most crucial time for Techno, not least in Roman’s hometown. While the wall was coming down in Berlin, opening up a world of music from places like Detroit, Frankfurt was experiencing its own revolution in sound, almost independently. ”It was an interesting time, because you had all these scenes in different cities,” remembers Roman. “Even cities within Germany had completely different scenes.”

As technology and intent conspired, it developed into a new musical frontier called Techno and House music, and at Frankfurt they were right there on the cusp of this new wave of music. (It’s even believed in some circles that the term Techno was coined in Frankfurt, but Roman is not so convinced.) Clubs like Dorian Gray and Omen became influential bodies in the landscape, stepping out of the sound of Belgium New Beat, New Wave, Synth Pop towards the more functional domain that these dance floors soon demanded with DJs like Talla 2XLC and Sven Väth adopting Techno and House in their sets early on. Roman Flügel was a sprightly 16 year-old when he first started frequenting Dorian Gray.

“I sneaked in with some girls I knew – You always had to go in with girls otherwise you wouldn’t come in,“ remembers Roman. The club had “no curfew”, because it was located at the airport, and Roman distinctly recalls “polishing his shoes in the airport toilets” before visits. It wasn’t a mere coincidence that Dorian Gray would be his first choice, because the club’s reputation preceded itself even then. His first taste of electronic music came via the iconic club, sometime before he even set foot in the place. 

His older brother had been a Dorian Gray regular and would bring home bootleg tapes from the club. ”People would copy sets from Dorain Gray,” he explains, “and sell them for 50 Deutsche marks.” That was a lot of money back then, but it was also the “only way to get information” about this new music according to Roman. “You would hear the music in the club and then it was gone afterwards,” so the tapes were instrumental in proliferating the sound of House and Techno at that time. 

“As a young kid, a 90min cassette would open a whole new world for me,” recalls Roman. Naturally, he started out as a “fan,” and his love for this music only solidified with time, especially after the appearance of the Omen. After Dorian Gray, “The Omen was the place for me to be,” insists Roman. As House and Techno developed out of their initial prototypes, the Omen became the “main place for House and Techno” in Frankfurt and continued to open up a new world for the young Roman. 

Although he had been playing as a drummer in a band, the lure of electronic music was stronger. Curiosity eventually got the best of him and at some point he asked himself: “how do they do this kind of music?” He started visiting local musical instrument shops, “trying synthesisers and finding out how they made the sounds” he had heard on his tapes and at these clubs. Eventually he thought; “Maybe I should use a drum machine instead of being a drummer” and his fate was sealed.

The rhythm remained central to dance music’s appeal for Roman as he found a new outlet through the sound of machines. He started putting his efforts to demo tapes via a four track recorder in a bedroom at his parent’s house, playing them to friends who would orbit the same indie bars he would haunt at that time. Eventually somebody told Roman: “You better give one of your demo tapes to Jörn (Elling Wuttke) because he has a better studio than you at your parent’s house. He has a studio at his grandfather’s house in the garage!” Jörn was a singer and guitarist in a band that moved in the same musical circles as Roman, and the pair quickly found a common ground between their creative personalities. 

“It’s always a different dynamic when you start to have an interaction,” remarks Roman about their working relationship. “Things become very tense and at the same time very different. Somethings would pop up that you would have never created on your own.“ They started bringing their demos to their local record store Delirium, another iconic name in the early Frankfurt scene, run by ATA – long before he moved on to establish legendary Frankfurt club, Robert Johnson – and Heiko Schäfer. “They liked them a lot” and put out the first Acid Jesus record, cementing a production partnership that lasted over 15 years and went through many different guises from Acid Jesus to Alter Ego during the course of their career. 

Why all these … alter egos? “It’s a bit strange, ja” Roman agrees. “The beginning of an era, you would have a lot of different people asking you to put out a record on their label, but then they would ask for a different name“ to perhaps distinguish their label from another that the artist might also appear on. It did “become very complicated at some point,” but it was all consolidated as Alter Ego eventually in the early 2000’s at what was probably the pinnacle of their success together. 

Alter Ego had been around as a project for almost as long as Roman and Jörn had been working together, but as they stepped out of the nineties into the next millennium, the sound of the project changed and suddenly made an incredible impact on the scene and beyond. For an entire generation it was Alter Ego and specifically the track Rocker that brought people to the work of Roman Flügel. The gnawing synthesisers and accessible melody of the track was the perfect crossover point from guitars to synthesisers at a time when rock music’s dominance was finally waning. Arriving at the time of electroclash, it brought a whole new, and different kind of audience to club music.

We were amazed by the success of the record,” says Roman. “It was a crazy time,” for them with world tours and notoriety following Rocker and the album, Transformer. “The rooms became bigger and bigger” as they rode the success of that record, sustained by a newfound popularity for electronic dance music. “After that electronic dance music became super big, especially in the US,” remembers Roman “but we weren’t taking part in that mega-success, we were at the edge of it.” It was a double-edged sword however and although Rocker was somehow the peak of our success, at the same time “it was the end of our studio-working relationship,” says Roman, looking back. The intensity had exhausted both Roman and Jörn. “At a certain point when you play your own music all the time, it becomes quite tiring. We didn’t have the power to reinvent ourselves.”

Amicably and cordially, Jörn and Roman went their separate ways. In their time together they had accomplished what most established artists only dreamed. Successful records, touring on an international stage, and remix and production credits for everybody, from Sven Väth to The Human League, all the while maintaining the elusive connection to the underground purists. There wasn’t anywhere else they could go, and it was up to Roman to reinvent himself, now working under his eponymous moniker. 

He continued to work on dance floor focussed 12” with the purpose of something to “play as a DJ,” but at the same time there came a shift in his approach to albums. “I think especially after I finished working with Alter Ego back in the day,” confirms Roman. “That was a very dance floor oriented project for many years” and Roman wanted to take a step back from that, especially in the longer format. “My solo albums; all of them are more a listening experience for different environments than clubs.” 

Three albums for Dial records; a conceptual audioscape for ESP; and his official debut on Frankfurt label Running Back, constitutes this period of albums over the last decade. From the minimal incantations of those Dial records to the lush ambient and break beat constructions of his latest, Eating Darkness, these records sound and feel like you’re at the entrance of a club; that moment you’re about to step through the doors. The rhythms take on abstract forms with only the faint glimmer of their four-four roots peaking through the shadows. 

I suggest to Roman that even when he is not pursuing those impulses, the dance floor still echoes through even the most ambient incantations of a record like Eating Darkness. “It’s stored deep in my brain,” he agrees. Roman Flügel has an incredible instinct for this music. Over the course of 30 years, it’s been deeply ingrained. “It happens naturally,” and “it’s not conscious” on his part. “I use bits and pieces that I’ve heard in my life before,” he continues and when I suggest that I can hear glimmers of that first Warp 69 record through Eating Darkness, he merely gives a wry chuckle. I’m not sure if it’s the reference or perhaps that there is indeed a red thread between a song like “Jocks and Freaks”(2021) and “Floating”(1992) that has amused him, but it says something of the work that has, and continues to stay the test of time.

There’s an elusive quality that even underpins his collaborative works with Jörn, and it has a broader appeal than most dance floor records. Whether it’s your first experience with Alter Ego’s Rocker or finding a new favourite record in the form of Acid Jesus’ Interstate 10 years after that, no-matter where your finger lands, there’s bound to be a record and sometimes even a period where Roman Flügel has been either a significant or pivotal figure on the electronic music scene ordained for clubs.

Even as our conversation winds down, he talks about re-issues of records that I’ve never heard of before. “Tracks on delivery” stands out amongst these not merely for their rarity on Discogs, but the fact that the re-issue will see Roman Flügel playing live again, for the first time since his Alter Ego days. It evokes a memory of seeing an age-less Roman Flügel peering over a computer screen at Fabrikken in Oslo for Sunkissed around 2007. It’s that image I see later again in our basement on the day of our interview. He seems happier, somewhat more content behind the decks than the screen. The crowd, most of whom are younger, is reciprocating and I’m reminded of something he told me earlier that day. “It’s a beautiful thing to travel and play music and meet interesting people.”

We’ll keep flying the banner

We’ll stay open tonight to show our support for Oslo’s LGBTQI++ community

In light of the a heinous attack on Oslo’s LGBTQI++ community outside of London Pub, our first thoughts are with the victims and their families. We are completely lost for words and perplexed that something like this can still happen in 2022, but we want to send a message of support for all those affected by this act.

As a club built on the foundations of House music, we’re all too aware of the history and legacy of the queer community on our scene. We always try to honour and respect those roots in everything that we do, and when we hear about an attack like this we feel it on a personal level.

So, considering the events and based on the information we’ve received thus far from the authorities, we’ve taken the decision to stay open tonight in a show of solidarity. After discussing it at length with our staff, our security team, Oslo’s city council and some of the other venues in town, we are planning to remain open with the scheduled programme to offer some support for this community and do our utmost to allow a safe space for Oslo’s LGBTQI++ community.

We have been informed by a member of the city council that extra precautions are in place and while they had to cancel a high-profile event like Pride, they have assured us that the smaller events will and should go on.

The incident, which from the information we’ve received thus far, seems to be an isolated occurrence. We feel, as House music club we have a certain obligation to the queer community to offer a safe space for all. We don’t further want to legitimise these ignorant assaults of discrimination in this scene, city and country. We will take extra steps to keep everybody safe, and we urge people to stay vigilant, especially as they make their way through town.

We’ll keep monitoring the situation and update this website if there are any changes or new information. Stay safe.

 

Nastia gets new date in September

Nastia will return to Jaeger on the 2nd of September to the basement for Frædag

After Nastia had to cancel her last visit due to the invasion of Ukraine, we’re pleased to announce that she will return to Jaeger on the 2nd of September. Since we had to cancel her last visit due to the harrowing circumstances she was facing in her homeland, we’ve been eager to show our support to Nastia and the Ukrainian people as Russia continues their brutal and unjustified invasion of the region.

As well as our initial fundraising efforts, we’ll continue to show our support be dedicating most of September to the Ukraine with visits from three Ukrainian DJs during the month, starting with Nastia on the 2nd of September.

Advance tickets bought for the original date, that weren’t refunded, will be valid for this new date and all valid ticket holders will receive a message via ticketco shortly. There will also be a limited amount of advance tickets added for the night, as well as tickets on the door. We look forward to the return of Nastia and hope to see a full dance floor in a show of solidarity for Nastia, Etapp Kyle and Daria Kolosova throughout September.

BCR presents Sundaze: a summer residency

   Sundays are back at Jaeger with the Boring Crew Records taking over the sauna as Sundaze

The summer, brings with it new life as we return to Sundays at Jaeger.  The boring crew have been making tranquil waves around Oslo for there last year, not least at Wednesdays at Jaeger, and from June they’ll be bringing that vibe to Sundays.

After a long hiatus, Sundays are back at Jaeger, with a new summer residency called Sundaze, spearheaded by BCR. Anders Hajem, Hendrik Villard and Perkules take the keys for the sauna for this new residency with their take on House music. Hazy days and sweltering nights. A sauna tick, tick, ticking in the heat under a sun that refuses to retire from the horizon and a dance floor that won’t surrender the weekend.

BCR, like everything, started with a chat over the internet. Exchanging ideas about music over soundcloud,  Anders’ studio eventually planted the seeds for a label and a collective to form. Hosting parties out of their Grünnerløkka studio at night and releasing records during the day, Henrik, Anders and Jens have established a small community around BCR over the course of the last year.

Find out more about the event here.

Sexy Music with James Hillard from Horse Meat Disco

We speak to Horse Meat Disco’s James Hillard about pork pies and voulevants, sexy music, queer nights that are open to all and the enduring legacy of Disco.

“Vi skal sees,” says James Hillard at the end of our phone call. I pause, not knowing if I heard him correctly; the Horse Meat Disco DJ is English, afterall. He shoots off another couple of sentences in practised Swedish too fast for my poor second-language Norwegian to catch. “I speak some Swedish,” he says, expecting my surprise. As a student he took up the language on a “totally random” impulse decided by chance. “I literally took out a map of Europe and waved my finger over it and then landed on Sweden,” he explains with a little chuckle. James speaks a few languages in fact, and he’s something of a word-smith in the way he engages the listener.

James is easy to talk to. He is eloquent and bubbly, and even when he says he says he’s “rambling,” he’s concise, following facts with anecdotes to questions he must have heard a thousand of times before. He knows his audience, and he’s always at hand with a quip that sticks in your mind like a song lyric to quote later. He converses in the way you’d expect a Disco DJ to speak. Earnest about the details, but never taking himself too seriously with a sense of playfulness, even at the cost of being self-effacing. Isn’t that what Disco is all about and isn’t it just what Horse Meat Disco has always been about too?

Alongside Luke Howard, Jim Stanton and Severino Panzetta, James has helped install Horse Meat Disco as an international clubbing institution. Residencies in New York and Berlin; an intense touring schedule for its DJs; a radio show; and records, including mixed compilations like their latest Back to Mine contribution, have made them prominent figures on an international stage. “And we’re still there every Sunday at the Eagle,” says James jokingly. Like we needed reminding. “A queer night that is open to all,” the club night has remained unwavering in it’s spot in Vauxhall, London and continues to draw crowds on a weekly basis some twenty years on after it’s initial party.

*James Hillard and Luke Howard represent Horse meat Disco in our booth next Frædag.

It’s reached that untenable position for most club nights with its success based on the mere fact it exists. They don’t need to book headlining DJs or do much in the way of promotion; “the people come to see us,” says James. The reputation precedes the name wherever they go, extending far beyond the fairly inconspicuous roots at the Eagle to an international DJ circuit and it all started with a humorous name – taken from a newspaper article that read “Horse meat discovered” – and a very simple idea…

“Playing disco to gay boys is hardly rocket science,” says James. Up until the point Horse Meat Disco arrived on the scene “the UK club scene was circuit music,” playing what James refers to as “Tribal and House” music. “Electroclash was probably the closest thing… otherwise it was trashy music.” He and Jim Stanton established the club night in this environment back in the early 2000’s. Starting out on a Thursday night in a venue in London’s Chinatown, they eventually found their way to the Eagle (née Dukes) when they hosted a New Year’s Day party for the predominantly bear crowd. James and Jim had been regular punters at Dukes, taking advantage of the “free supply of pork pies and voulevants” at the Friday night buffets while working as poor interns for “trendy” record companies and magazines. 

“To begin with it was more like the electroclash and bear scene colliding with a few daddies thrown in,” when Horse Meat Disco arrived. “There was a feeling that we hit on something,” remembers James. There “weren’t many clubs that play that kind of music,” and especially not in gay clubs. “You heard Disco in the straight scene more than the gay scene” making James and Jim question, “why aren’t gays listening to Disco, it’s music for them?”

They stepped into the void effortlessly and called on long-time friends Luke Howard and Severino Panzetta, whose experience abetted where Jim and James’ skills as DJs were still developing. “They would be the main DJs and I would do the warm-up, and a few years later Jim started DJing” until eventually “we became a soundsystem.” Spurred on by a shared love for music from an era roughly between 1975-1985, they set in stone a sound that remains consistent, and more importantly, consistently good. 

Their latest contribution to the Back to Mine series is a testament to that sound today. The iconic DMC compilation, which re-surfaced in 2019 added Horse Meat Disco to their esteemed alumni last month. Alongside artists like Danny Tenaglia and Pet Shop Boys, Horse Meat Disco appears like it was always meant to be there. They invariably understood the assignment and delivered a mix that is all about the after-party. It’s a “reflection of things that we’d really love to play in a club, but never get a chance to, or feel it’s not appropriate to,” explains James. Slow, chugging pieces emerge throughout the compilation mix, skirting the fringes of the dance floor, often touching on some experimental plane, while never veering from that elusive common denominator which has always been, Disco. 

But why Disco, I ask James? What is it about Disco that remains so consistent and refuses to die, why does it survive to this day? “First and foremost it’s the quality,” he suggests. He believes that decade was a “peak level for musicianship, artistry, production techniques and hifi sound.” And in the current epoch, when dance music is all about tracks and beats, there’s a craft there that has only solidified over time. It’s all about “songs, emotions and release” with “great songwriting” at the heart of it all. Then again he might be biassed, his “first love was Disco.”

Growing up in a house full of records collected by his dad, who used to moonlight as a DJ, it’s assumed that James was born with Disco in his ears. He would often “sneak into the attic” and listen to his dad’s records until a time when he started collecting his own records. His first music job was in a contemporary dance music label,” but Disco remained central to his personal pursuit. Disco was and remains a “great leveller” for James but it’s also a “broad church” and can easily travel from those early organic sounds of Soul to the fast-paced electronic sequences of early House music. It’s “different things to different people” he explains. “From rock to House,” it’s always a fleeting construct and “always eclectic” but central to it all and most importantly, is that it’s “sexy music.”

And the longer Horse Meat Disco has gone on, “the… more discerning” their audience has become in terms of their tastes for this music. Tracks like “in the evening” by Sheryl Lee Ralph and “the boss” by Diana Ross have become staples and are still requested by a crowd that “has remained” consistent, albeit getting “younger” according to James. “We’ve had people play a gospel set and we‘ve had Andrew Weatherall not really playing Disco, but just doing what he does. People are receptive and as long as it’s quality music, we’re down.“

The eponymous connection aside, Horse Meat Disco’s success is also in part due to that audience they attract, and the association of Disco’s roots. As music that was, if not born from the gay community, certainly adopted as such, Disco’s connection to queer lifestyles is something that is also deeply rooted in Horse Meat Disco’s platform. the club night was one of the first nights to establish the open door policy that permeates through most clubs today; a queer night that it is open to all. It’s something we’ve witnessed more in recent years, as club culture’s popularity has been appropriated by the mainstream. But how do you define queer, in this sprwaling landscape, I wonder?

Photo of Horse meat DiscoJames doesn’t feel queer is a “sexual statement,” but rather an ideology. “I know cis straight woman who identify as queer,” he says as an example. For James, queer is about a “rejection of patriarchy” and a the celebration of “alternative lifestyles” on dance floors. “As long as they bring love and joy to the dance, then everybody is welcome,” insists James. Even though the party they “do in New York is a different crowd to the one in London and the one in Berlin is different to both of those,” that queer element remains at its core and James “loves the fact that it’s all things to all people.” Much like Disco, queer is an ideology and in many cases the music and that ideology is inseperable. 

In recent years Horse Meat Disco haven’t merely been content in capturing this spirit as a soundsystem, and have turned their attention to the recorded format. Imbibed by the sound and quality of those early Disco productions, Horse Meat Disco’s approach has been to facilitate the magic, more than create it. “We are not producers,” insists James, “we work with other people.” After years of making edits, remixes and the odd demo, they finally made the leap to becoming a fully fledged album artist back in 2020 with their debut LP, “Love and Dancing” arriving on Glitterbox. They were “sitting on the demos (for the album) for a long time,” before Luke Howard played them to Luke Solomon (classic records) who thought; “I can do something with this.”

“Love and Dancing” is a modern Disco classic, emerging on the convalescence of those old organic sounds and modern electronic wizardry. Syncopated beats move between sequenced drum machines, while bass guitars in an artificial disguise bounce through arrangements. Synthesisers whistle where expansive string sections used to reside and elements of House music live harmoniously alongside its Disco matriarch. 

Remix requests for the likes of Dua Lipa and David Holmes followed the LP, establishing the name Horse Meat Disco as a verified triple threat. Recording artist, club night, soundsystem and of course DJ collective, Horse Meat Disco commands all these facets of modern club music today. And yet, even with all these new commitments they still maintain that original Sunday night party at the Eagle. They might have the occasional stand in when they are all away on different DJ assignments, like their upcoming Pride weekend showcase in Camden’s roundhouse, but they remain the driving force behind the night and continue to draw new audiences to Horse Meat Disco on the prowess of their skills in the booth. We’ve been doing it for so long, that ”it all just kind of falls into place,” says James and that place is enshrined in club legend today. 

It’s a Sin! – Guilty pleasures from a reluctant Pet Shop Boys fan

I don’t like the Pet Shop Boys… or at least that’s what I tell myself. I thought Neil Tennant’s voice was just a little too saccharine for my tastes and Chris Lowe’s sound palette and programming just a little too cheesy. And yet here I am adding another PSB record to what is becoming a collection. 

I’m joking of course… Niel Tennant’s voice and Chris Lowe’s music production are nothing if not exquisite. Songs like West End Girls and It’s a sin are classics and you don’t sell over a 100 million records, without being good. You don’t establish iconic song titles without having some impact on society. But for a somebody that still collects vinyl that’s Spotify fodder surely, the stuff of nostalgic fun at a Saturday night cheese and wine soirée. But here I am at Filter Musikk, forking out more money for yet another Pet Shop Boys record. Why!?

Away from the charts, the top of the pops appearances (they always look bored), the television cameos, and their relevance today as gay culture icons, they were one of first to establish that connections between sequenced electronic music, the dance floor and most importantly a mainstream audience. The remixes, side projects and B-sides all point to an innate understanding of the relationship between the DJ and the dance floor. Moreover the Pet Shop Boys have been able to capture the masses with little more than a synthesiser and a drum machine. From live shows (yes, I have seen them live) to theatrical ballets (yes, I’ve seen those too), the Pet Shop Boys have taken this rudimentary dance music to every imaginable corner of the arts. 

The Pet Shop Boys discography spans 5 decades and their records count into the 100s, and the simplest way to gain access to it is obviously through the hits. Everybody, at least most people with an interest in music knows these, but every now and then Pet Shop Boys do something that’s like an open love letter to club music , and some of these have become highlights for a reluctant pet Shop Boys fan. Here’s a look at a handful of them in no particular order.

Disco – LP

This record has the BPMs in the tracklist! Disco was the remix album to Pet Shop Boys’ debut “Please” and its intentions are right there in the title. I love the cover art for this one, and it’s your favourite Pet Shop Boys tracks, reconstituted for the dance floor. According to wikipedia “the album was released to showcase music the duo deemed non-radio friendly.” DJs must have loved this! It features esteemed remixers like Arthur Baker and Shep Pettibone. Imagine Shep’s remix of West End Girls being played somewhere in Ibiza at the time. People would’ve lost their shit!

Domino Dancing (remix) – 12”

It got a raised eyebrow from Sagitarri Acid when he rang this one up at Filter’s counter. Domino Dancing is a classic and from the serrated edges of the “base” remix to the lo-Fi demo version PSB cover a fair few dance floors on this one. That beat on the demo version sounds so much better than the one that eventually made it onto the record. I could just listen to that intro on repeat. 

Heart – 7”

While Heart is arguably one of the greatest love songs ever written, it’s all about the B-side on this one. “I get excited (you get excited too)” is a balearic gem. From the 707 percussive onslaught to the Juno’s relentless bass movements if this doesn’t get you excited… well… But just in case it’s not enough, here’s a version being recreated on an original Fairlight. 

Psychological – 12”

I didn’t know this was Pet Shop Boys until Roland Lifjell pointed it out to me. The one-sided record held no clues to its origins other than a PSB catalogue number. Pitch it down and it turns into this wavy nu-disco track, as it swells through different phases. Niel Tennant’s voice is notably absent on the instrumental version and it’s some Chris Lowe’s best work behind the synthesiser. 

Electronic – LP 

It’s true that your first experiences in music are that of your parents. My parents listened to a lot of Pet Shop Boys and especially this record, which I didn’t quite understand at the time, but I keep returning to as I got older. I didn’t know it then, but this  was my first taste of the diversity of the Pet Shop Boys, and most likely my first connection to dance music, as a Factory records record and its connection to the hacienda. 

Is this perhaps the first electronic super group! An ensemble based around Bernard Sumner (New Order, Joy Division) and Johnny Marr (The Smiths), the record also featured Niel Tennant and Chris Lowe, although the latter was never officially credited. You can hear his synth work dotted throughout, as subtle as Tennant’s backing vocal. It’s just a record full of great Pop Songs. “The patience of a saint” is something that has stayed with me since the first time I heard it on a CD back in 1991.  

An intense kind of feeling: The story of Skansen by g-HA & Olle Abstract

g-HA & Olle Abstract recount the story of  Skansen (public relax) and the legacy that it left on House music in and beyond Norway. It’s the story of Skansen in their words.

Skansen has left an indelible mark on Oslo’s nightlife and club culture. The space where the club used to stand is hallowed ground today and any other club that has tried to open in its place has had to live in the shadow of its monumental legacy. Skansen has played an integral part in putting Oslo’s House music scene on the map as well as exporting the sound of Norwegian House to the wider world. 

Resident DJs, g-HA and Olle Abstract alongside guests like Erot and the Idjut Boys redefined the sound of House in the region through the club as something loose and flowing, a kind of skrangle House, that has seen a scene and whole generation of artists and DJs grow up alongside it. 

In Oslo Skansen’s legacy has been installed as one of the most significant places and eras of House music in Norway and on an international scene, it’s still talked about in reverend tones. Skansen saw the world of House music descend on Oslo at the height of the genre’s popularity and the DJs, clientele and residents that passed through its doors, can still be found working in Oslo’s nightlife and music scene. 

As residents of the famous club, g-HA and Olle Abstract had played a hand in establishing a sound and a cultish legacy in Skansen; one that continues to exist in lore, and has helped establish House music in Oslo, and in some way Norway. Both are still significant figures in Norway’s DJing- and clubbing community. They continue to spread the gospel of House music in the scene, often at Jaeger while g-HA’s Skansen mix for Glasgow Underground continues to live on as a testament to the iconic sound of the time and the place.

Who better to relay the story of Skansen and this important era of House music in Norway. This is the story of Skansen as told by g-HA & Olle Abstract.

Geir and Olle DJing at Skansen

Olle Abstract: Geir and I met for the first time in ‘89 in a record store where Omar V used to work.

g-HA: In the subway station in Grønland.

O: This is the record store that would become Platekompaniet. They were always good at bringing in people that were interested in imported records. We would then bump into each other, buying records in stores like these with people like DJ Tony Anthem (Future Prophecies) also in the mix.  

g: I also used to hang out with Olle’s old roommate at their place, and I’d sneak into Olle’s room to play your records while he was away. He would get so pissed off about it. 

O: They used to play my records while I was playing at raves. I was  involved in (XS) to the rave zone, and euphoria back when Geir was still starting out as a 16 year old DJ at Marilyn (where Jaeger is today). We would all hang out together and go to Marilyn to look at the wet t-shirt show while Geir DJ’d. Then we would run back to good music at some of Oslo’s other clubs…  Geir was quite commercial back then. 

g: You had to be commercial down at Marilyn. The owner would check the VG liste every week for the latest pop charts, and you had to have those tracks. One week I didn’t have a track from the list and he fired me. 

O: Geir got involved with Matti from kings and queens after that in ‘92. The scene, the one we were involved in, it all starts around Kings and Queens. In ‘92 before the other clubs started, you had Marilyn and you had two more commercial places. 

The only place to listen to underground house music for a while was Enka, which is now Villa. Suddenly there were 100-150 people coming into Enka to listen to House music and then the scene just exploded. 

After Marilyn, Geir got a residency at Pure. It was a big club in storgate run by Yugoslavian gangsters. People like Tony De Vit  played there and they even got Geir a flat that was soundproof. 

g: Yeah with long halls with many doors  and a double shower. 

O: It was like a brothel… Geir broke Ace of Base and Faithless in Oslo at Pure, in fact he was the first DJ in Norway to play Insomnia. People took notice and eventually he teamed up with Matti from Kings and Queens, doing all these raves around town, while I was doing (XS) to the rave zone. 

This was between ‘92 – ‘94. Then Geir got picked up by Per Haave and Cecilie Hafstad  in ‘95 to help with the bookings at Skansen. 

g: Skansen was supposed to be an Internet café, but that never happened. It turned out to be  more fun doing a club.

O: It was basically a toilet that they refurbished and spent too much money on.

g: It was actually owned (and still is) by Oslo kommune who used it to store signs. Then I think Per got the idea to use the spot. 

O: The owners were a generation older than us. They were around for the first party scene in Oslo, back in 88/89. They would have been hanging out in Project in Lillestrøm when they came up with this plan for Skansen. The name Skansen actually came from an old restaurant that overlooked that hill. It was an art-deco building that was a really popular place after the war for like 20 years. They borrowed the name and called it “Skansen public relax” in the beginning  with a focus on being an Internet cafe. Then Geir came in and the computers were out. 

Picture of Skansen Restuarant

g: I kind of only helped out with the bookings in the beginning. 

O: At that point on a Friday night in Oslo, you had Headon, you had Pure, you had Christiania and one-offs on a Saturday that played House music….  then Skansen came along. 

By the time I first started there in march ‘96, it was a full blown club space and one of the few places you could hear House music. Geir had been Djing there for a few months already, and opened up the possibilities with his Footfood night on Fridays which was all about House. 

 g: I remember Paper recordings, classic records and that kind of stuff. I remember getting 10 promo records a week and playing a bit more of an English kind of club music at that point. I would take trips to London if I had a free weekend. I’d go on the first flight and come back in the evening after visiting a few of my favourite record stores.

O: Major labels were putting out House remixes on 12”. But it was the same period as Moodyman’s earliest KDJ stuff. We played a lot of that kind of stuff and the obscure British stuff that was influenced by Detroit and Disco. It was anything from Cleveland City to early Paper Recordings. There was also the whole disco end of it with London and Idjut Boys. I guess Geir wanted to play deeper in Skansen than at Pure and it started developing this sound as a club.

g: I can’t remember how long it was an Internet cafe before it eventually became a club. 

O: That was like four months. Geir talked about it in the autumn and by January it was a club and that’s when he asked me to do the Thursday nights. He wanted me to do something different than Footfood and I had already started to jam a bit with Bugge Wesseltoft at Christiania at that point, so it was natural to bring in musicians on Thursday night. The night was called SuperReal.

g: Everybody started hanging out there from the start. 

O:  Geir and Omar V were the first residents and after a while I brought along Truls and Robin. Torbjørn Brundtland from Røyksopp used to be there all the time before they moved to Bergen. Even Fardin (Faramarzi) was involved in the beginning. He was on the door primarily, but he would also DJ from time to time. 

g: And Per Martinsen (Mental Overdrive). Besides DJs like these, we also started booking foreign DJs almost straight away.

O: We booked the Paper Recordings guys early on, Kenny Hawkes and Luke Solomun. Then I met the Idjut Boys at Bar Rumba in London. People started talking, a community of DJs across Europe. We got to know Jori Hulkkonen, Jesper Dahlbeck and Stephan Grieder from Svek.

g: They would’ve just taken the bus from Sweden. I remember it was a really really big thing at that time, because Svek was really hot, and later they would licence one of their songs to the Glasgow underground mix I made, they’d never done that before. 

O: At that time most DJs from England were like 200/300 GBP. I mean we did a lot of swaps, so people wanted to come to Geir’s club and Geir got invited back to England, and the same with me. It was all by telephone or fax and quite a few of these people I met in record stores in London like Atlas, Vinyl junkies and Black market. 

By the summer  of ‘96 there started to be a buzz and by the autumn of that year it was really picking up. We started getting 100 metre queues outside on most nights. 

The crowd was made up of older hippy-like free thinkers with a mix of the “It” crowd, like young photographers, creative people and dancers; your alternative club people. It might have looked the same if you went to Moscow or Italy at the time; a small club scene with cool individualists. 

g: We were just distributing flyers and word of mouth reached everybody. Even though it was an Internet cafe, ironically there was nothing online.

O: I also had a radio show on NRK from ‘93, when people still checked the radio for new music. It was a good time to be on the radio. Radio was mostly for people outside of Oslo; people in Oslo went out on Saturday nights, they didn’t sit at home and listen to the radio. After a while people came round from all over the country to check out Skansen. 

They adopted it quite well. It was such a small place that if you didn’t like it, you left,  because you had to be part of the party to have a good time. It wasn’t a place to stand in the corner to observe. 

g: It was a very intense kind of feeling.  

O: It was a small room and you were on top of each other.  A lot of the people made new friends there. 

g: It was a busy time for that end of Oslo too. Jazid was in Pilestredet and Headon was in rosenkrantz gate so there was this straight line going through them. 

O: There was basically 500m between the 3 main clubs in Oslo. Headon were doing more funk stuff. Jazzid was so much more trip-hop, downbeat drum n bass. So it was easy for Skansen to be more House based, and have a strict difference between these 3 venues. We had a kind of a deal in the beginning not to push each other. 

g: I played at both Jazid and Skansen for a while, when it was still ok to play House music at the first one. 

O: Geir had your Fridays and I had my Thursdays. Geir and Cecilie were taking care of Saturdays and then we had some weekends together where we were co-operating and bringing in guests. 

The bookings were still dominated by that sound in France, of motorbass, Étienne de Crécy, paper recordings, and Erik Rug. You had that London scene, And then you had that more high energy Chicago and New York type of House sound, which was run by Classic , but then you had a local sound too that started to get recognition abroad too.

Collage of Olle Asbtract and Guests at Skansen
g
: Yeah, that Erot and Bjørn Torkse sound, called Skrangle or whatever. 

O: Skrangle, means sloppy in a way, which is not strictly 4-4, but more sloppy. Bjørn or Erot basically in the way that they move and also play.

g: It was a term we used here in Norway, but it is not an internationally recognised word. 

O: We didn’t use that word at all back then. We could say that something was Skranglete if it wasn’t really accurate. We both came from sequenced music, which was not the case for Skansen, which was more open. 

g: The Idjut Boys stuff kind of encapsulated that mood. 

O: Meaning more dubs and echoes, and percussion that was off; a bit more live sounding. We weren’t really thinking about creating a sound or anything, we were in the middle of it.

Of course loads got influenced by it, with all these Jazz musicians coming in through Bugge and Niels Petter, and they all started doing electronic albums after being at Skansen for half a year. 

g: It was just something in the air at the time. The ones playing in the scenes we admired abroad, were also the same people we were booking so it felt very connected. 

O: We were basically all stroking each other’s backs and trying to make our way through the scene. I guess everybody was doing the same thing; whether it was Sheffield, London Stockholm or Paris and in Oslo it became this fluid thing between us and Bergen.

We had lots of contact  with Mikal Telle, and we knew all the players in Bergen, but mostly it was Bjørn, Erot and Kahuun. Erot actually played his first gig at Skansen

g: That was a legendary set. 

O: Annie was with Erot at the time and they slept on top of my records. They stayed  for a week, just eating spaghetti and ketchup. They didn’t have any money, I didn’t have any money, nobody had any money back then. 

Tore (Erot) was only just starting to make music. I actually met him at a rave in Drammen before and then Bjørn told me about him and then we brought him over.

It was one of my most memorable nights there, besides another with Omid 16B playing live. This was SuperReal’s first birthday and Omid was actually an act that fitted more into Footfood’s night. But since it was the birthday, we had Geir as part of the party. It was amazingly good. 

g: I can’t remember that specific night, there are just too many. 

O: There were some great nights with the Idjut Boys. Back then it was only vinyl and they went a lot to New York. They were a few years ahead of us when it came to weird, hard to find stuff. Also some mad nights with Simon Lee from Faze Action. 

This was at the height of Paper Recordings, when they would release a 12” every ten days and most of their tracks went into the top 20 of club charts in that time. They also released the Those Norwegians LP, Kaminsky Park in ‘97.

g: It was very kind of hot for a while with Ari B and an article in the face. For its popularity however during this time, it was kind of hanging in the air the whole time. Per and those people weren’t really that good with the paperwork. There was always something threatening the existence of the club, but they always kind of got it back on track. 

O: And then in ‘99 it just stopped.

G-HA & Olle Abstract today and the Skansen Mix CD cover
g
: I had just finished the Glasgow Underground Skansen mix, and it was just suddenly closed one day. It was a really big thing for me to do this mix when it came out. We were going to have this release party at Skansen, but it lost its licence on the same day. 

O: Then the indie rock scene took over from ten years of House and Techno in Oslo. Suddenly Hip Hop started being played in more venues. The years that followed from 2000 – 2003, you had to be more versatile as a DJ. I had to play so much different stuff to get gigs. Uptempo Hip-Hop, like Timbaland instrumentals and mix it with House. And then you had Mono and Baronsai coming up which had a different profile.

g: I actually moved Footfood to Baronsai. It was really hip to be around all the places in youngstorget so it was suddenly very far for people to go down to Skansen. We tried to re-open it, after that but it didn’t last very long. 

O: The main years for Skansen was early january ‘96  til late ‘99 with the same ownership. We were young as well. 

g: I mean, I was 23 in ‘96 when it had been open for a year. 

O: We were like kids. We felt like grown-ups, like we were important. 

g: But, we weren’t so grown up.

O: I made loads of friends. Loads of us got bigger through Skansen.

g: There was a generation that disappeared with Skansen

O: It was the first experience for quite a few.  It was magic for that period of time, it’s always hard to recreate something like that. Most of the people that went out at that time were 28 by 2000 and moved on in their life, most of them except for us and a few others (laughs). Everyone that tried to be there after that tried to make their version of it.

g: Nothing has really worked though. It is so difficult to do something else down there because everybody will always want to compare it to Skansen and that time and era in club music in Oslo. 

 

Fab 5 with Øyvind Morken

Yes folks, here is another go at spreading the gospel of some records that I love away from my weekly spot in the sauna or in the booth down in the basement. Peacefrog Records used to be one of my favorite labels when I was in my early twenties. And I thought I would highlight some of the reasons why. Ps… Yes I know Peacefrog’s operations are questionable with re-issuing records behind the artists backs. But I still hold these old records dear to my heart. 

Luke Slater – Inductive Channels

Such a beautiful piece of emotional techno music from the punisher himself, Planetary Assault Systems‘ Luke Slater. On a totally different vibe than his usual brutal stuff. 

 

Glenn Underground – May Datroit

I just can’t stand the gospel house that GU sometimes makes, but this is just out of this world. Proper Detroit Techno that’s not from Detroit. Gives me goose bumps thinking back to 10 years ago when I started DJing on Wednesdays at Jaeger. This would feature heavily and would tear the roof off. Or should I say tear the awning way in the backyard. 

 

Stasis – Mnemic Image

So good. Stasis made so much good stuff around this time. I think it was Gatto Fritto who referred to this type of British techno as Romantic UK Techno, which I think suits it much better than IDM, or deep techno etc. Late night/early morning vibes. 

  Robert Hood – Who Taught You Math

It’s funny how some moments stay with you for the rest of your life. In 2004/2005 I had a weekly Thursday night residency at a really small dirty smelly tiny little club called Sikamikanico. It was frequented by speedfreaks, gangsters, outcasts and also a decent amount of people interested in music. A real shit hole, but also something that is totally missing in Oslo’s night life these days. It was great, and also at the time, one of the few music focused clubs. I will never forget the face and moves of some of those freaks when this got dropped. 

Recloose – Dust 

Finishing off in a lighter mood with one of the newer things I bought from Peacefrog. 

Joe Dukie from Fat Freddy’s Drop on vocals on this modern boogie monster. Super uplifting and should have crossed over to the pop charts just on the fact alone of how good it is. From the great vocal and lyrics to the amazing production and musical craft.

* Go to Fab 5 #1 here.

Antony Mburu and Rolf Riddervold present Rhythm Dynamics

Antony Mburu and Rolf Ridderlvold are no stranger to Jaeger’s booth. The longtime friends can readily be found in the booth and on the dance floor on any given night at Jaeger. Fans of the music first and foremost, they carry that spirit over from the dance floor to the booth, with a special camaraderie forged in time and defined by a curiosity for outlier beats. Their infectious energy and appreciation is only matched with their sincere and individualist approach to music. 

The duo have been regular fixtures in the booth for Wednesdays at Jaeger, imbibing the spirit of Øyvind Morken’s original Untzdag concept, bearing the torch for that eclectic sound for the next generation. Sets that walk a wide path through “club music” accompanied by an adoration for the vinyl format, have seen Rolf Riddervold and Antony Mburu establish a reputation for a dynamic and rhythmic sound. 

After a little over a year of playing together at Jaeger they’ve decided to finally baptise their efforts as such with a night called Rhythm Dynamics. They officially launch the new residency today, cementing the DJ duo on Wednesdays at Jaeger and looking toward an established future event. We sent them a quick email to find out more about the night, their history together and their ambitions for Rhythm Dynamics.   

Tell me about Rhythm Dynamics. What’s the idea behind the name and the concept?

Through the years of sharing music we’re still developing our taste. Both Rhythm and Dynamics are important to our sets to keep it interesting. 

You’ve been playing together for a while now, why did you guys decide to baptise it officially?

We’ve had the idea to conceptualise our nights at Jaeger for a while. Given the opportunity, we found something that unites us. 

How did you first meet? 

High School. 

What was the catalyst that made you decide to start DJing together? 

Sharing music, then the opportunity to mix it on proper equipment. 

Did you guys have similar tastes in music when you started, or was there an evolution to a point where your tastes converged?

We converged early but still have our distinct music styles. 

If you were to imagine handing over to the other in the middle of a set, what would the perfect crossover track be between you at the moment?

Maybe one of the tracks  from Dan Lissvik’s Midnight. 


How has DJing together affected either of your approaches to playing out?

A back to back set always inspires and makes us more playful. 

What influence does Jaeger have on your sets that you haven’t experienced elsewhere? 

Jaeger has a more open audience that makes us feel free to take chances that we can’t always do elsewhere. 

Is there any point at which you guys completely disagree on a style or sound?

Yes, and then we fight about it. 

Rolf, I know you are also a sound engineer and dabble in production too, but Antony do you have any other musical indulgences or future ambitions beyond Djing?

Not right now, but I have some edits in mind. 

What track is going to kick off the first Rhythm Dynamics at Jaeger?

A great one, come listen. 

How do you hope the night goes and what are some of your aspirations for it?

We can’t ask for more than a playful vibe, to show you what Rhythm Dynamics really is about. Good times and good music. 

 

Profile: 100% Galcher Lustwerk

Over the past few years, a handful artists in America have begun to reclaim House music for the next generation. Artists like Galcher Lustwerk, Byron the Aquarius and Channel Tres, have used House music as a more inclusive platform in a new wave of the genre that might see it return to a time at the height of its popularity. Elements of Jazz  Soul, Hip-Hop and Funk form a bedrock from which modern composers weave their unique and esoteric musical language. 

From Byron the Aquarius’ jazzified Rhodes incantations to Channel Tres’ crossover rap-vocal appeal, there is no singular sound or scene that unites these artists, only an intangible vibe. It sounds like New York, Chicago and LA in the of breezy attitude that underpins it and colours outside the predetermined lines that have defined the genre for some time. It breathed new life into a House movement that has been caught in the deep end for far too long.

*Galcher Lustwerk performs live this  Friday at Jaeger.

*tickets available 

In many ways Galcher Lustwerk paved the way for this trend or phase in House music with his seminal mixtape “100%” back in 2013. He completely broke with the entrenched sound of Deep House, largely informed by Europe, for a sound that was more free and dynamic. Infusing that sound with vocals that would be more at home with Trap than House, it was a completely new and inventive approach. Following this debut release with a predominantly LP-based discography, Galcher Lustwerk’s music stayed the course through another 2 albums before it reached the archives of Ghostly International to cement Galcher Lustwerk’s music beyond his own Lustwerk music imprint and White Material affiliations.

“Information” saw Galcher Lustwerk reach the next sphere in House music’s institutions. He hardly needed the validation of a flagship label like Ghostly however, but “Information” impressed nonetheless, building on that momentum from “100%” and catching the ear of a wider audience. Amongst those that heard his work was Azealia Banks, with Galcher Luswerk claiming a production credit for 2021’s “F**k Him All Night” from the controversial pop icon. There’s certainly a kindred spirit in those two artists’ approach to music, as they reappropriate elements of Hip Hop into House and vice versa, but where Banks’ work favours the crossover into the limelight, Lustwerk’s music stays the course in the shadows of House music’s counter-cultural roots.

Much like the man, his music is an enigma. Galcher Lustwerk moves like a fog through sound, with lush pads and woolly rhythms ebbing on a swell. At times, you have to turn up your collar against the cold indifferent breeze that floats through his work, but it retains an intriguing human quality, like a Tom Clancy novel’s mood captured in the album format. His vocal drifts like a morning mist across lichen marshes, revealing peaks of reality through an opaque abstractionism. It’s a sound he’s cultivated from that first mixtape, and through the albums and EPs that followed it’s something that has remained central to his work. 

Yet, Galcher Lustwerk’s origins are as elusive as the feeling you get from listening to his records. It seemed that he arrived with his debut mixtape, fully formed and developed as an artist. The man behind the work, Chris Sherron, was largely unknown before Galcher Lustwerk, but the production on “100%” is not that of a novice. 

Sherron grew up in Cleveland. Talking to Bolting Bits, he called it “a fine city” and its influence on his adolescent years made him a “more creative” individual. “There isn’t very much youth culture or arts culture compared to other cities,” he claimed ”so if you’re interested in that type of thing like I was – you had to pursue it at all costs and do a lot of things alone or in a cultural vacuum.” He had some basic grounding in music, playing the sax at school, but a “lame as fuck” Teacher who would wear piano ties and listen to Deep Purple in his PT cruiser (much like a character in a Galcher Lustwerk song), had quickly put the young Sherron off a formal musical education. 

Seemingly that set him on a path to electronic music: “I would say the biggest influence for me is Underworld,” Sherron told Reverb. “I was really into the ‘electronica’ stuff, so anything like the Chemical Brothers or Underworld, the Prodigy, Groove Armada,” which would put Sherron around his teens in the mid nineties. 

Among some of the other influences he also mentions indie rock, but on more than one occasion in interviews, he would recall that “hip-hop music was out of my grasp at the time.” As a “sheltered kid” growing up in the Midwest, the music was largely prohibited at home “because a lot of the rap music had parental advisory [stickers],” he elucidated on Fader in 2018. “I looked at other black music that didn’t. I gravitated towards Massive Attack and Tricky and the British stuff like drum and bass. That was the stuff I was super psyched on and wondering like, ‘Damn, how do they make those sounds?’ and wanting to learn about production.” 

He taught himself how to use the sample-based music software Fruity Loops, which set him on a road towards production, but there’s a huge gap in his biography between then and Glacher Lustwerk. At some point he moved to Rhode Island to study at the famous school of design, and it’s there he seemed to fall into a musical crowd. “I caught the last hurrah of the scene,” he told Spex magazine, but it’s there where he met the other White Material co-founders, DJ Richard and Young Male; a significant twist in the plot towards Galcher Lustwerk. “At the time there, it wasn’t really about quality but intensity, how intense you could be,” remembers Sherron of that scene.

White Material’s debut self-titled EP reflects some of that intensity. It’s fast-paced House music with a Lo-Fi attitude, but a considered sound palette. The sounds aren’t brash or harsh, but you get the sense that they are quickly assembled, the impatience of youth reflected on the serrated resonances of a sawtooth wave. White Material shares some similarities to labels like L.I.E.S, aligning with that DIY New York sound; that is until you get to the last track on the record. At first “Put On” sounds like much of the rest of the record, and then Glacher Lustwerk’s gruff vocal appears through the ratcheting rhythms and misty keys. It’s a track that sounds almost at odds with the rest of the record now and it’s only when we hear it again in Galcher Lustwerk’s debut mixtape, that things fall into place. 

White Material came out around the same time as his “100% Galcher,” but  “Put On” sounds more at home on the longer format than the EP. The mixtape saw Sherron establish Galcher Lustwerk as an artist right from the start and showed a side to House music that we’ve not really experienced in the past. While R&B- or Gospel vocals were no stranger to chart-topping House music, Galcher Lustwerk’s trap-like raps on this kind of “underground” House music was a new phenomenon. It captured the zeitgeist of a contemporary streaming society and resonated with a new kind of audience that were broadening the borders of clubspaces and club music. It had crossover appeal, but Sherron’s affiliation with a more underground scene thwarted any attempts at the mainstream.

“100% Galcher” and the first White Material release wasn’t exactly an anomaly, and indicated more to something in the winds of change, but by the time Galcher Lustwerk’s official debut Dark Bliss came out in 2017, he had played a significant part in establishing a particular sound on to its own and one that certainly would have influenced an artist like Channel Tres, whose Hollywood approximation would take it to a more accesible realm.

“I believe I may have set some sort of trend and now people in other music spheres are making similar music,” Sherron admits in Bolting Bits around the time “Dark Bliss” came out. While people started rapping over House beats and Hip-Hop started making more of an impression on House music at that time, Galcher Lustwerk was different and something more considered. It was a more natural infusion of these two spheres, and came down to his skills as producer. This wasn’t some pre-paid beat or a rhythm section shoehorned into an existing vocal, it was a fully-formed concept. “I want my music to feel luxurious,” he explained. There’s a softness in his sounds and the sense of space he creates in his productions offer an inviting sonic meadow for the listener. Kick drums loop in the background, almost always immersed in a cloud of pads, repeating like a mantra towards hedonistic escape, while a vocal sails through the arrangement. 

In the production itself, Glacier Lustwerk isn’t necessarily groundbreaking nor exceptionally unique as a well-ingrained style Deep House. But that changes with his vocal. We don’t know much about how he arrived at incorporating vocals to his music and when asked about his rap influences, he’s often cagey, but we do know how he came to his unique lyrical style. “My friend Alvin Aronson, who is also on White Material [Records], was like, ‘You need to make your vocals like less literal,’” he recounted in Fader. “Ever since then I kind of veered off into trying to get almost as absurd as I can; not absurd in a stupid way, but just as stream of consciousness.”

The “stream of consciousness” can take surprising and very obscure turns. He can go from making love songs about music software templates to repeating a phrase or word into infinity, to a point where it comes apart, devoid of all meaning, or re-purposed and re-defined.

It’s best appreciated in the album format, where these lyrics take on a narrative like a Charlie Kaufman script. On his latest “Information” it moves through some specific themes in what we can only assume is personal experiences of a working DJ. It’s “about learning to move in a certain way through a world that parties, a hedonistic world” he told Fader, and he truly immerses you in that world, as drug references are re-established in mirror images and  modern life reaffirmed in restrained music.

“I think it’s just a nice chunk of time to be immersed into a world,” said Sherron of his preference for the album format in Reverb, and “Information” is probably his best effort yet in the longer format. Whereas “Dark Bliss” and “200%” carried that same inclusive approach to the first mixtape, where it becomes a collection of songs, “Information” comes together in a more cohesive sense with a record that flows between peaks and troughs of energy. “It made sense to have some more slow songs in there as interludes,” he told Spex and it makes for an album that retains the attention. 

It might also suggest that Sherron is starting to explore new territories in his music. “I’ve been making more downtempo stuff anyway,” he confirms in that same interview. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m clubbing less, or just getting old,” he stresses, but it might also indicate an evolution in his work. It feels like he’s thoroughly established the sound of Galcher Lustwerk and it might be time to take it to that next step.  

 

New dates for Jaeger’s Light technician course: club lights

Due to rescheduling, we have more spaces available for the light technician course.

Jaeger, with kind support from Kulturrom, are pleased to offer a six part crash course in club lights. The course will run across 5 days over the course of three weeks in May 2022. The course also includes a trial run at showtime on a following Friday at Jaeger in the winter/spring period.

The course is free, but spaces are limited. Spaces have opened up again after we have had to reschedule the course. 

Course days will run 10:00 – 16:00 with a lunchbreak. There are two course groups run on different dates as per below. The trial date run is across half a show during the night and paid accordingly.

The light course consists of six parts:

  1. Lights and GranMA. Basic introduction to GranMA wing and the house lights at Jaeger. Course day is run by Jaeger’s head light technician Eva Krpalkova
  1. Set-up and problem solving. Basic run through of how to set up lights in GrandMA, and how to problem solve DMX issues, lamp settings, issues with Hazer and so on. Course day is run by Eva Krpalkova.
  1. Video projection used as club lights. (visual content typical for concerts et.al will not be covered here) Includes set-up, basic philosophy and the running of Resolume for the purpose. Course day is run by Are Kim Rønsen.
  1. Theory and application. What we want to achieve with the lights and the space in between. Different approaches and thinking around how lights best can create the club space and help fire up a dancefloor. Course day is run by Kyrre Karlsen from KyrreLys and Jaeger’s booking and managing director Ola Smith-Simonsen.
  1. Workshop. Open session with Kyrre Karlsen and Ola Smith-Simonsen.
  1. Trial run. Running half a night/show along with one of Jaegers house light techs.

Course dates:

Group 1 / Group 2

Course day 1 Monday 2nd May / Tuesday 3rd May

Course day 2 Wednesday 4th May / Thursday 5th May

Course day 3 Monday 9th May / Tuesday 10th May

Course day 4 Thursday 12th May / Friday 13th May

Course day 5 Thursday 19th May / Friday 20th May

Trial run date Agreed individually, but will be 2 hours during 23 – 03 on a Friday night in the following months.For more information or to apply for one of the two course groups please contact:

Ola Smith-Simonsen

ola@jaegeroslo.no

 

 

Solo Super with Frantzvaag

By the time Mats Frantzvaag stepped out of the booth at Jaeger after his 2019 Boiler Room set, he had the crowd in a frenzy. People were literally hanging off him, hugging and high-fiving Mats as he made his way out of the basement and into the open air. He’d stirred the dance floor appropriately, laying the foundation for the night ahead with a punchy and effervescent House set that saw the dance floor swell in anticipation and excitement for the young Norwegian producer and DJ.

As Frantzvaag he had already released a couple of EPs on Smallville’s Fuck Reality imprint at that point, but in Norway he was still something of an unknown entity;  a record producer with more notoriety outside of the country than in it. That Boiler Room night had all the hallmarks of a pivotal moment for Frantzvaag. Building on those first two records, the event only cemented our belief in this young artist, as a producer with some serious skills as a DJ.

Mats could have easily taken that momentum and channeled it into a string of EPs or singles to install the name Frantzvaag on the scene. Instead, he bided his time. He was not one to succumb to the hype, but rather took his time to cultivate his craft further. When I first interviewed Mats back around the release of his first EP, there was no doubt that he would eventually be a notable figure on Oslo’s scene with an international following, but he has been in no rush to get there. He DJs when he wants to –“if something cool crops up, not the ones I think I should do for money” – and he hasn’t released anything since 2018’s Fuck Reality 5.

He’s focus has been elsewhere. While he’s had enough material to release at least an EP a year, since, he’s ultimate objective over the course of these last 4 years has solidified around Frantzvaag’s debut in the LP. In yet another watermark in this artist’s young career, Solo Super is only Frantzvaag’s fourth release and its an album. It arrived at Easter, “a happy coincidence” according to Mats with a title that conveys some of that dry sense of Norwegian humour and the inherent sense of fun that remains at the core of House music’s purpose.

Solo Super is a House record that thwarts the obvious tropes that dog House music LPs; strengthening allegiances with the dance floor while at the same time stepping away from the functionalist loop-driven patterns. There’s an album there, something you could put on at home, without having to skip the obvious ambient track, and yet you could slip almost any track into a set, without missing a beat. There’s something entirely refreshing about Solo Super (pun intended) as you drift through the charged progressions. A layer of sonic dust covers everything in a warm and embracing atmosphere, while rhythm patterns strike an impulsive chord.

Depth and consideration follows the record through its nine tracks, and from Mats’ early Hip Hop influences to the passage of time that has passed through this record there’s a lot more to consider beyond the superficial nature of a House record. I sat down with Mats at Baklengs, an Oslo record store he runs with a few others, and over a conversation and an email, we tried to unpack the infectious charm of Solo Super.


 

Solo Super is available at Baklengs today.

What was the transition like going over from those two EPs into an LP?

It happened very naturally really. I did the two EPs and then I just kept sending him (Julius Steinhoff) tracks to choose from, and in the end was like, let’s go with these nine. It’s been in the books for a few years actually.

So you were working towards an LP, but not necessarily making the tracks with the thought of making an LP?

 Not really, no.

Did the tracks on the LP overlap with the stuff you were making for the EPs?

 Some  of them. You can see some of the oldest tracks from the album were made in 2016. So that’s around the time when the first EP came out. I gradually added some stuff and removed some stuff.

And a theme emerged as you tried to bring tracks together that would fit amongst each other?

 Yes.

That’s interesting, because one of my initial thoughts when hearing the LP was that this sound a little bit different from the EPs, but I guess that would just be me inferring something that isn’t there?

Yes, but once I knew that the album was about to come, I made some tracks with that in mind also. The last track on the album for instance, is something that I thought we were missing. So it’s a gradual thing that evolved, rather than me sitting down to make an album.

It’s obviously a House record, but I would suggest that it’s perhaps not as focussed on the dance floor as a functional 12”.

 Yes, so it’s basically me and Julius coming up with the track listing.

As you were coming up with the tracklisting, what were you looking for the tracks to make up the LP, and how would it have differed from the EPs?

I put more emphasis on finding tracks that represent different styles and moods than what I would normally do on an EP. More tracks = more chances to showcase different aspects of what I make. Moreover, I wanted the album to make sense and be interesting when listening through the whole thing, both in terms of which tracks were included and the order that they´re in.

Are you hoping this record will be finding its way into DJ record bags?

 That’s also something I hope, at least some of the singles. I think it’s a nice thing to listen to throughout as well. I remember putting together the track list, and I was spending a lot of time going on long walks and listening to the tracks all the way through to see if it made any sense.

Did your approach to making music change at all throughout the period in which these songs were made?

The first EP it’s very sample-based, but on this there is a variation, because some of the tracks were made in the studio across the road, where I had access to more equipment.

I thought I could hear more analogue sounding synthesisers in the LP, than perhaps from the EPs.

Few of them are actual synthesisers and the rest of them are more me trying to process these sounds in a certain way.

There’s a very organic sound to the LP throughout. Is that from the samples or do you actively try to create that feeling somehow?

Some of the tracks don’t have that many samples either. It’s both that or it’s something I try to achieve, either through the use of samples or the method of processing the sounds.

Why was this the right time for an LP, because it sounds like you could have had a few more EPs out of this one record by the sounds of it?

 It was more about having this one product that is more cohesive and shows the depth of what I can make. It’s more like a standpoint.

Was this mainly your idea or did Julius push towards making an LP?

 It was a common goal, I think. We started talking about it when he was in Norway in 2018. Then it gradually appeared.

Besides that one Full Pupp record, you pretty much stayed with Smallville. It must be pretty conducive for your work.

Yes, I think so. I really like the aesthetics of the label, and they are really cool people. I haven’t put out that much really. I’ve been waiting to do this bigger project and see where it goes from there.

I was reading this interview with Joy O, about how he refrained from calling his last full-length an album, but rather a mixtape, because there is a bit of stigma around House albums. Do you think that is true?

 Could be. But if you listen to my album, the tracks stand out for themselves as EPs too. So it’s more like a collection of tracks than a cohesive story, told through nine tracks made in a very short period. This is a collection of tracks that fit really well together.

It is definitely not the usual House album, with the two ambient tracks and a pop hopeful single with vocals. Every track is very much a dance food track on this.

That can get a bit uninspiring as well, when you force in an ambient track just to be there.

One thing that I noticed a lot on the record, is that there is a lot of dub stuff happening in the background.

 I really like that. A lot of my tracks are very heavy on low pass filters and have stuff a bit muffled. So it doesn’t stand out that much, but it’s still there creating some kind of atmosphere.

Were there any specific influences or listening habits that informed this?

There is so much. I listen to a lot of dub and reggae at the shop and at home and all kinds of electronic stuff. What I listen to is usually not that similar to what I make.

And the Hip Hop Influence is still there. Everything from the sampling to the dusty feel of the entire record. Is this something that you have to consciously apply to your work?

It happens naturally actually. It’s just become part of how I make music, I usually just sit there and try to make this loop sound interesting, putting textures behind it.

Well that’s something else about this record, it’s not just loops.

 No, but it starts out like that.

There’s a lot more progression through the tracks, and am I detecting more of a melodic element to these tracks compared to the EPs?

Yes, probably some of them.

Like Blommenholm. Was that one of the tracks that came after most of the LP was made?

Yes. That is also one of the few tracks that is a little bit slower and has a different vibe.

What do you look for in sounds when making music, because there’s not that 808-juno combination that dominates most of House music still?

 They should stand out in some way and they should have some feeling to them. It’s not just a straight 808 drum; I’ll try and process it or use a sound that has some character. I usually layer quite a lot and try to make my own sounds.

How much input does Julius or the label have, when it comes to these production touches?

The only input he might have is about the length of a track to fit into the album, but nothing really on the production side. At the point of sending something away, I’ve already mixed it and done all of it. In my head it’s a finished product. It’s more that I send tracks to friends.

Like who, people involved in the industry?

Not really. Some childhood friends that are also into making music. I send it to Hacir (Payan) of course sometimes

He must have opinions?

 He has opinions and often good ones.

Tell us a little more about the influence of the shop. At the time of your first interview with us, you were already talking about how the shop was having an affect on you.

 Then I was only starting to get involved, and since then the shop has grown into more of a community. It’s a really nice place. Everytime I’m here I get exposed to so much music that I wouldn’t hear otherwise. Also you meet so many people and discuss music, so it’s a super big influence, I would say.

Was there anything that didn’t make it on the album that you would’ve liked to have on the LP?

 There is always stuff, but that’s more recent stuff that didn’t really fit in with the rest of the album.

Do you think you’ll have another LP worth of tracks soon?

Could be…

Would there be a similar approach to making this last album , or would you try to make something more concise?

Would be fun to do the more concise thing. I have no clear plans yet. I might do a few more EPs before then. 

 

 

Fab 5 with Øyvind Morken

Øyvind Morken digs through his bag of tricks for a dose of fab 5 from his expansive and eclectic collection.

Frædag resident and digger-selector extraordinaire, Øyvind Morken has a record bag like Pandora’s box. It’s bulging at the seems with the eclectic sounds of a self-diagnosed schizophrenic DJ. It’s a journey through music only the bravest would dare attempt to venture. Every Friday (and some other days) he assembles this vast discography into a diatribe in a stream of conscious only he understands. Connecting dots from the extensive spectrum of “dance music” he delivers his esoteric groove on to the world to facilitate the impulses of the dance floor.  Here are 5 records into the event horizon of Øyvind Morken’s record bag.

ps… Øyvind Morken and Kaman Leung present their debut record as Wild Flowers  next week at Jaeger.

Plaid – Anything

Crazy breakbeat idm or whatever trend you want to call it this week music. Totally separates the dance floor when I play it when I DJ. It usually gets all the right people on the floor, and all the wrong out the door. Perfect. 

 

Dez Williams – Abort Task

From the super underrated album Elektronik Religion comes this shuffle-y synth work out, full off emotions.It  just makes you want to cry, beautiful and powerful stuff. 

 

Klaus Nomi – Icurok

I see you are Ok – No you can’t be when you made something like this, Klaus. Totally spaced out art-funk-opera-proto-techno from 1983. 

 

Attica Blues – Blueprint (Slakked Plastik Remix)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. This though, is Riche Hawtin at his best. Spitting out a heavy drum workout that just rips it up. It will unite techno and hip-hop heads. 

 

Tilt – Seduction Of Orpheus (Tilt’s Mythology Mix)

Progressive House, not much of that stuff was very progressive. This however, Was/Still is. Spooky Orchestral samples and dialogue sample nicked from Jean Cocteau’s film Orpheus, are perfectly mixed with heavy heavy tribal drums. And it has the best sped down section on a dance record since Lil Louis`french Kiss, complete with a tripped out acid line that rides a nasty groove. Feels like the shark from jaws  coming at you when it speeds up again and goes into full on tribal mode.

In conversation: DELLA and Bomström

DELLA interviews Bomström, the first international guest to DELLAs Drivhus since 2019. They talk about Locus Soundsystem, classical music, Djing and keeping it koselig before they head to the sauna this Saturday.

DELLA: Hello there Mr. Bomström, I’m looking forward to sharing the booth with you this coming Saturday, it has been some time! Once upon a time you were a resident of Oslo, where are you based now?

Bomström: Hello there Kristina, Likewise –  yeah, it’s been a way too long time now. But finally even Swedes are welcome in Norway. I’m super stoked about getting back to Oslo, to Jaeger,  and seeing you again! Göteborg is my homebase. Best coast it is.

D: Ah, lovely Göteborg, one of my favourite European cities! An adorable seaside city filled with lovely cafes and pubs, vintage shopping, and culture. Each visit, I was there to play at some amazing underground party in secret locations, at a children’s puppet theatre or a giant warehouse in an old shipyard. And of course, the bouncing balloon bars (it’s legal!). Oh, you crazy Swedes. Tell us about your role in Göteborg and being the creator of these underground events.

How did it all start?

B: It started, some ten years ago, with this studio that I shared with a friend. It was way too big for being a music production studio / creative playground. But since it wasn’t really suitable to split up with further people, we decided to start throwing ug parties there instead. It was this intimate family thing, members only kind of events, off fb and all that. Since people seem to be into parties that are sold out, it quickly became popular. The main reason for that was because the venue was so tiny. But nobody noticed and the parties went on. Once a month. Damn, I’ve even seen the sweat dripping from the ceiling at one of these parties. And that was the start. From there on I started exploring the Gbg industrial areas and the beaches, searching for new locations in order to do bigger events. Eventually I started doing more and more co-labs with the Locus crew. Until one day, even if I did my own thing, people would still consider it a Locus party. It’s pretty weird huh. But we jacked the same kind of house, you know. So I got hijacked! Some five years ago I became a member of Locus Soundsystem.

D: What kind of events have you arranged?

B: Well, when I think of it, it seems I’ve done them all. The open air parties, warehouse parties, beach parties, forest parties, island parties, festivals, smaller club nights and big club nights. But since it sounds a bit odd to put it like that, it’s probably a better idea to mention something I haven’t done, and that is a big size festival.  I guess I will never do that either haha.

D: Tell us more about your musical journey, when did you begin djing and where has it led you?

BSince I was a kid I have always been into music, playing piano and church organ etc. I am a trained church musician actually. But I injured my arms because I was rocking the piano too hard (true story). So I had to figure out a new way to express myself as an artist. I got into fine arts and stuff and during those years I found the electronic scene. Now, as I think back, I figure it must have been because of the frequent use of keys in electronic music, that I got hooked in the first place. I always loved soul and jazz, as well as hiphop etc. But generally I think that electronic has more similarities with classical music – when it comes to harmonies. They’re pretty basic after all. You don’t need to know all these super complicated chords and scales, that jazz music, for example, is entirely built upon. Being a fan, going to raves and stuff, I stumbled into these two ladies in Oslo, Della and Vibeke (former No Dial Tone), who took me under their wings and brought me into the Oslo scene. I remember you guys booked me to play at The Villa. It was my second gig. So, yeah – thanks a lot for believing in me back then!

During the years, since then, I have been traveling around djing at clubs and festivals around the nordic, as well as in many european countries.   

DYou are currently a resident of Locus Soundsystem, who / what is this?

BLocus Soundsystem is a dj collective and the longest running concept for underground deep house music up in the north. We have thrown our club night at Pustervik for some 22 years now. But we are also infamous in Gbg for our secret NYE celebrations, as well as for the occasional activities in shady industrial areas. But our style of music is perhaps better suitable for beaches. At least we tend to think so. But maybe it’s just that we prefer breathing fresh air, who knows.

DI know that you are classically trained in music, can you tell us more on this?

BYeah, my parents listened a lot to classical music. Both my parents and my sisters always played the piano. So what the heck, I thought. It didn’t take long before all I was doing was playing the piano and I even went to the music academy. Until I played so much I injured my arms. I had to quit just like that and start thinking of something else for a career. That’s the short version of the story. I have no problem playing the piano now. But I am currently expressing myself in a slightly different way as a musician, and it’s all fine with me. And the classical music scene, well – I guess there was more rock and roll in my veins so to say.  I mean – imagine me in a tuxedo?

D: Primarily, you are a DJ, but production is something you are devoting more time to. What are you currently working on?

BAt the moment I’m into many different genres. Because I have this idea that I can achieve a lot from trying out a style I have never been into before. Even the kind of music I don’t listen to myself. Because doing that pushes me into new workarounds. Into playing around with new techniques, instruments, effects, melodies, chords and samples, etc. But since I am not into that style of music, I will never do it entirely “correctly”, right. This has got me thinking I might eventually come up with something unique. I don’t know if I’m right. But it certainly is lots of fun. I am currently working on my first album. But I’ve always been a huge fan of hip hop. So I’ve been producing beats for some good friends of mine who are very talented rappers. And! Believe it or not – I’m working on some house music too!

DNow that we are finally seeing the light from the end of these strange 2 years we’ve been living, summer plans? Gigs, festivals, or planning events?

B: We have this summer club at Nefertiti in Gbg called Locus 2.0 premiering next week (30.5). Then we always have a lot of secret open air events going on during the summer, as I mentioned before. Another good one is the special gathering that will take place in the end of the summer, in a village up north. It’s called Tillvaron. When it comes to gigs abroad I am looking forward to joining the Rehab crew in Naples and hopefully I will make it back to Berlin also this summer.

D: This will be your first time joining us at Jaeger, what will you be playing?

BHouse

D: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

B: During my years in Oslo I always wondered how you guys could always be so goddamn happy all the time. Then I noticed you always tend to say “det er koselig” no matter what is going on. Everything is so koselig. At the doctor – it is koselig. At the car mechanic – it is koselig. In the middle of a riot – it is koselig. I always thought for myself, as a depressed Swede, that it just cannot be koselig at all at the police station. I never went to a Norwegian police station, so what do I know. But at least it shouldn’t be, right? But now that I have grown older and as I am about to head back to Oslo, I finally figured you guys out. You were right. It is koselig. Pretty damn koselig, in fact. Oslo – jeg gleder meg!

 

Della’s Drivhus is a concept dedicated to the root of dance music, the tribal drum, and the vibration that syncs with the heart. As my first int’l guest since 2019, I welcome you. Saturday is going to be a galactic evening! 

Soundcloud:

Blawan: through the tracks

The essential Blawan listening experience from “Fram” to “Blika.” 

For little over a decade Blawan has been at the forefront of a definitive shift in the sound of Techno as one of the new vanguard of the genre. An intuitive approach to rhythm and sound, he has been the harbinger of a new futuristic ideology for the dance floor that has seen his star rise alongside a rising trend in the genre. 

Although Blawan came through during a wave of “future” genres out of the post-dubstep era in the UK, he is now firmly installed amongst the Techno elite both as a DJ and a producer. From the first provocative rhythms of Fram to his latest contribution to the XL catalogue, Blawan has delivered an idiosyncratic sound throughout a career that has evolved through a revolution of electronic music destined for the dance floor. 

With a visit to our basement in the near future, we delved through the enigmatic producer’s vast discography in an effort to investigate the continuous appeal and ingenuity of the artist and producer. 

Advance tickets to Blawan here. 

 

Fram (Hessel Audio)

This is the one that grabbed everybody’s attention. Fram and its sister track Iddy not only cemented Blawan in the aftermath of UK’s dubstep explosion, but also established the burgeoning Hessel Audio label. Hessel would eventually become a future tastemaker for the more progressive end of electronic club music as Blawan would move into the realm of punishing Techno.

Fram is one of those tracks and Blawan is one of those artists that came about at the end of the hype of Dubstep. The track is a testament to that era and the innovative forms of music coming out of London at that time at places like plastic people. The polyrhythmic percussion and alien sound sculptures didn’t sound like anything on the dance floor at that time. Moving to electronic music from behind a set of drums, you can hear Blawan’s inherent mastery of the rhythmic form in Fram. Between drum machines, and some live percussion, there’s an expressive approach that gave his largely machine music a human feel. 

“A twitchy but muscular number bristling with hollowed out, ligneous beat,” John Doran from the Quietus described it. It veered on the abstract electronica realm, but fell well clear of the experimental as sound systems like that of Corsica Studios’ room 2 would attest at the time.

Building his tracks from the percussion up (a common theme in his music), Blawan created an intense and foreboding sound that conjured the mood of cinematic horror. “It’s funny,” Blawan told The Face in a recent interview, “every time I bring tracks from the studio, my partner says ​‘why are you always writing stuff that sounds like it’s in a horror film?’ And to be honest, I’ve no idea…” It’s something that’s congruent in Blawan’s approach to dance music and something of a trademark of the artist’s sound, even today.

 

What you do with what you have (R&S)

It wasn’t soon after Fram and Iddy that Blawan started to gain recognition in dance music circles. He stood out amongst his peers for his innovative approach, infusing elements from diverse sources one his way to establishing a Blawan sound. Today he might mostly be known for that kind of brutalist sonic signature that he reserves for his own Ternesc imprint, but on his way to establishing that signature Blawan sound he stopped off at R&S with a record that fell deep for the lysergic impulses of Acid. 

What you do with what you have is a snarling monster, bearing the grisly grimace of a 303 loop seemingly jutting out from the lacquer surface. Everything in this track has a percussive quality; from the drums to the galvanised plucks of the main melody. But it’s a vocal, repeating various snippets of the same sample at different pitch intervals, that lures the listener closer. 

“Yes. What I really want I guess is to add a human, emotional touch to the track… rather than getting super in someone’s face like I used to!” Blawan said at the time. The vocal sample comes from that now infamous Red Bull Music Academy lecture with Moodymann. The main line, “it ain’t what you got, it’s what you do with what you have” is not only great advice, it also seems to offer some clue to Blawan’s philosophy to his sonic identity. 

Blawan’s music doesn’t pander to the industry-approved sound palette. Although What you do with what you have is clearly an acid Techno record, there is more to the record than a couple of machines slugging it out. It builds on those reserved minimalist foundations of his early records, but it’s a sound that would be more at home at Berghain than at Plastic People. 

 

Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage (Hinge Finger)

By the time What you do with what you have was released, Blawan was already courting the big rooms, even though not quite fully inducted into them. He would be no stranger to Berlin’s dark and intimidating Techno lairs, but at same time could still be found playing more intimate venues in London. By the time this next track came out however, it would propel Blawan towards a level amongst Techno’s top tier.

Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage was huge! It came at a time when music blogs still had some sway in the world, and when DJs were still breaking records on the dance floor, sometimes up to a year before they were released. Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage managed to court both factions and had everybody in a frenzy before it came out. By the time the record eventually was released it was already sold out everywhere… and I’m not exaggerating – Even today the popularity of that record has waned little with copies going on discogs for a hefty €50 and up.

“I was surprised at how it took off. And it scared me as well, if I’m honest,” Blawan told the Quietus at the time. “It was a direction I didn’t want to go in.” It’s rumoured that it started life as a joke, but by the time Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage came out the level of success it achieved was nothing to scoff at. Blawan had arrived at the mainstage!

That dark, brooding architecture is not only behind the title of the record, but also in the atmosphere of this record. The vocal; titillating and intimidating, only bolstered that appeal, and if you were a fan of electronic music around 2012, you’d have to be living under a rock, if this track didn’t reach you at any point. Perhaps its appeal lay in the simplification of Blawan’s polyrhythmic nature, but it didn’t distract from Blawan’s otherworldly sonic signature. 

 

Talatone (Ternesc)

And just like that Blawan stopped releasing records. Directly after Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage, there came an hiatus in Blawan’s recording output. He left it on a high-note with that record. For those only arriving at his music however, it marked a career in its infancy and only left them hungry for more of the same, with his earlier records and their divergent sound hardly satiating the masses. 

Citing health issues, which included a trip under the surgeon’s knife, Blawan was forced to take a break from the scene and take stock of his life in music going forward. His appeal hardly waned during his time away as records like Why they hide… were coveted by the discogs mania speculating for the future. Blawan’s music refused to fizzle out in the background, and  by the time he did come back into the fray with a new record, a new label, and several new projects he didn’t just arrive back on the scene, but stamped a formidable mark on it with tracks like Talatone.

Talatone was the first cut from the first EP for his new label, Ternesc and it asserted Blawan’s return in a dominating and forceful Techno thriller. A more intimidating approach to sound design, Talatone is a functional monster that bears some comparisons to Why they hide… while foregoing that immediacy of the previous record. If Blawan was perhaps a Techno producer with associations on the wonkier spectrum of the genre before, Talatone picked no bones about being a Techno tool for any DJ with the stamina for this kind of music. 

Talatone, Ternersc and Blawan’s return came at a time when Techno’s momentum just started picking up again towards a moment in the present when it’s one of the most popular music genres in the world today. Unsurprisingly it propelled Blawan on that same trajectory where his name and music have become synonymous with the genre’s modern vanguard. 

 

As Bored Young Adults – Shy Dancers On Bungalowdorf Beach (Trilogy Tapes)

…and then for something completely different. This is Blawan on a divergent course again. Bored Young Adults is reportedly the alias he created for a style of music he made for home listening, but the one-time fooray into this realm is hardly easy-listening. Bored young adults arrived at a time of a massive creative spark for the artist it seems. The music he made between then and now has only strengthened the diversity of the artist’s sound. While his other side project with Pariah, Karenn was dedicated to peak time on a dark dance floor, Young bored Adults channelled those same formidable sounds towards after-hours and slower tempos. 

A slow chugging track, Shy Dancers On Bungalowdorf Beach taps into that downtempo balearic feel while harnessing that element of foreboding that Blawan applies to his work. Elements float and glisten on a sea of ebbing bass that showcases Blawan’s prowess as a sonic auteur. That mood he creates through his records are never stagnant; they move with the progression of the track, which comes to the fore on this slower track and the other tracks from this record. 

Judging from his shows with Pangea as Karenn and some snippets of interviews at the time,  Blawan almost certainly fell in the rabbit hole that is modular synthesisers, and it took those minimal percussive sounds he relied on in earlier records to a new dimension. His textures developed and grew into cinematic creations, but remained focussed on that rhythmic pursuit, underpinning the artist’s work.

It’s curious why Blawan has never revisited this alias. There’s a lot of potential locked in those grooves, that could certainly have made for an interesting LP. 

 

Tasser – from Wet will always dry (Ternesc)

Even though I’m of the opinion Bored Young Adults would’ve been a more intriguing LP project, Blawan’s eventual debut LP didn’t disappoint. It’s reminiscent of the classic Robert Hood LP, Minimal Nation in sonic character and in spirit. Not as bold as the EPs and the 12” from before, but retaining that elusive mood Blawan cultivates in his music, he channels it effortlessly into the domain of an album narrative while tracks like Tasser maintain that indestructible connection to the dance floor. 

Even indie chin-strokers Pitchfork couldn’t help sing the album’s praises enough. “Wet Will Always Dry isn’t an album that will rewire dance music or revolutionize modern electronics, but at its best it succeeds in pushing against the expectations of modern techno, bringing vulnerability, warmth, and oodles of enchanting noises to a musical genre whose pursuit of the future sometimes seems to have gotten lost in po-faced respect for the past.“

I tend to disagree that there’s no connection to the past here. That Detroit influence is strong here, and I would even argue tracks like Fram were perhaps even more futuristic. But that’s not the purpose of a Techno record in the long format. It’s something that needs to capture the feeling of going from a club to lying on your living room floor, ears still ringing and head still spinning as you decompress, and Wet will always dry achieves that.

There’s something engaging in the sonic palette that borders on the intellectual without getting too contemplative and introverted while at the same time there’s no mistaking it for anything other than club record. 

 

Blika 

While Blawan’s success hit stratospheric proportions there was something that eluded those records even as he found popularity amongst the larger audiences. Those early rhythms he thrived in  and what first drew us to Blawan as an artist, were starting to get subverted in the pursuit of Techno’s marching orders and familiar rhythm patterns.

Those polyrhythmic clatterings of tracks like Fram and Getting me Down (which actually deserves an honourable mention here) never quite truly found a place in the sonic world of Techno that Blawan cultivated since his return. 

That has changed again over the last few releases on Ternesc and especially over on Blika, Blawan’s induction into the XL recordings family. In the context of the records that immediately followed it namely Make a Goose and Soft Wahls, Woke Up right Handed marks a shift in the artist’s output again with a return to those enigmatic rhythmic patterns that earmarked his earlier music, fusing it with that unparalleled sound he’s cultivated over the last 7 years. 

“I’m trying to step away from spending one whole week making one modular patch,” he admitted in the quietus recently, and it seems to have taken him back to the more impulsive approach that dots his earliest creations.

Blika stutters and glides through the percussive realm as a tumultuous wave of noise and distortion crashes over each phrase. That sense of trepidation in his sonic texture seems stronger than ever as it limps through the progression, dragging menacing cantations through that harsh frequency band of human hearing. 

Does it suggest yet another new epoch in Blawan’s career as an artist? It’s perhaps not as clearly defined as that shift after his hiatus, but there’s something there that in world drowning Techno, sets it apart from the rest of the noise. It’s something that has shadowed Blawan’s career the entire way through; whatever he applies his craft to, has an innate ability to stand out from the backdrop of the Techno genre. 

 

Make something you want to hear with Christian Engh

The pieces have fallen into place for Christian Engh and his music recently. Over the last 3 releases he’s found a sonic identity that has seemingly eluded him in the past. Starting with his 2020 release Voltage and arriving at the Detache, a sound has coalesced around his work that has now been reaffirmed by the fourth edition to this series of records, Skywae. It’s a long way from the Italo sounds of his first split release, Kyllingsmak and even further still from his dalliance with Techno on 2017’s suburb Snurrbass EP. It’s not necessarily even in that comfort zone of the label Full Pupp’s sonic signature, and yet it signals an artist that has certainly found his comfort zone.

“I think you’re right,” nods Christian in agreement as he takes a sip of his beer in Jaeger’s  backyard on a cold, but sunny Saturday afternoon. It’s here where I first met Christian and it’s here, I still regularly bump into him on a night out on Jaeger’s dance floor. We share some stories of recent nights out in the backyard/gården which was largely empty on the day we met for this interview, save the furniture and one other patron. 

I had just listened to Skywae for the first time and I was unable to shake the nervous energy it’s relayed through its gritty kick drums and warm soul-stirring bass. There’s no particular earworm to hang on to, nor is there anything specific like a sound or a particular rhythmic structure that stands out, but there is a definite mood there. It’s something that touches on a nostalgic pulse from House music’s earliest vibrations, but it’s more than that. It’s bold and aggressive, but not in a brutish way and it comes together on a record that is just screaming to be played through a hefty sound system.

It’s “just the way it turned out,” says Christian, almost dismissively. Skywae is the latest in a series of records that has seen the artist cultivate a sound based on his earliest influences and finding form through the artist’s voice. It was all supposed to come out on one LP, but the pandemic and Full Pupp’s backlog of records prevented the album from coming together. Instead both label and artist opted to put the music out through a few EPs and together these EPs create a watershed moment in Christian Engh’s discography.

“I really want to make House music with that American sound,” explains Christian about this new phase in his music. “That’s what I grew up with.” He’s found a stride in this approach, and it turns out, it has resonated with a few influential tastemakers on the upper echelons of the scene too.

“I started to get some recognition from the producers and DJs I really look up to,” says Christian coyly, and he’s being modest. DJs like Cinthie and Honey Dijon have been getting behind his music for the last two years and through them Christian Engh has reached a larger audience. At the time of writing Ctairs has almost a 100 000 plays on Spotify thanks to a Honey Dijon playlist, and it’s given Christian the much-deserved credit that continues to compel him to make and release music. “Hearing something I made in a club and people dancing to it, that’s just so cool,” says Christian and it’s that which has driven him since he first started releasing his music.

He started merely “dabbling in electronic music” early on in his life, but he’d mostly avoided presenting his experiments to others. The chance to eventually release something at all was little more than a happy “coincidence” that came about being in the mix at the Full Pupp stable at a social level. 

Through a common friend he had been introduced to Magnus International and Magnus introduced him to Daniel “Blackbelt” Andersen, and the Full Pupp stalwarts became fast friends with Christian very quickly. “I started hanging out at Blå at their (Full Pupp) nights and got to know (Prins) Thomas after a while too,” continues Christian. He hadn’t played any of his music yet in their company, but as they became more familiar, Magnus, Daniel and Christian would “have some beers before going out” and eventually those turned into listening sessions where Christian “would show them what I had done.” During one such session Magnus latched onto what would become Kyllingsmak and after playing it to Thomas during a Full Pupp night at Blå, Christian’s fate was sealed. 

Witnessing the physical response of a dance floor reacting to something he made for the first time ”was such a rush,” for Christian and it sparked a desire to create more. 

Christian admits there’s a “huge difference” between those first few releases and the music he makes today. He explains it’s all down to the production. “I’ve learned a lot” and everything from Voltage up to now stands a testament to that. Consulting youtube and talking to Magnus and Daniel with some input from Prins Thomas, Christian believes that his productions have reached a point that even though “I still hear stuff that I’m not happy with, it’s not as severe.” 

There was an “a-ha moment that happened in the last two years” when he started to “learn how to use effects” and got more comfortable with aspects of compression and reverb in his work. He waves it off as “a technical thing,” of little interest for people outside music, but you don’t need to be an expert to hear the difference between those early releases and these latest ones. 

“I should have probably taught myself that years ago, but I just suck at being structured,” says Christian jokingly. For somebody that is only doing music as a “hobby” it’s never been a priority” to release records and there’s no reason why he should be so particular about his work, but I sense th